QC STUDENTS YITZCHAK LOCKERMAN AND JAMAR WHALEY WIN
GOLDWATER SCHOLARSHIPS TO PURSUE CAREERS IN SCIENCE RESEARCH
-- Whaley, a Stuyvesant H.S. Dropout, to Study at Yale This Summer;
Lockerman Is Focusing on Computer Science to Help Improve Society --
FLUSHING, NY, April 16, 2009 – Two Queens College students looking toward careers in scientific research were recently awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships in an annual competition among top college students across the nation. This marks the fourth consecutive year that Queens College students were named Goldwater Scholars.
The winners are Yitzchak Lockerman, 20, of Jamaica, Queens, a computer science major; and Jamar Whaley, 31, of Flushing, Queens, who is majoring in psychology and neuroscience with a minor in media studies. The two juniors will receive up to $7,500 to help them pay for tuition, room and board, and books in their senior years.
A high-school dropout, Whaley credits his great-grandmother Elizabeth Whaley and support from Queens College for helping him find his science research niche, drug addiction. His great-grandmother, now 87, raised Jamar since he was an infant.
“My great-grandmother always thought there was a chance for me,” says Whaley. “Now I want to help out and do for the world what my great-grandmother has done for me. I want to make sure others can have a life and excel after they have underachieved.”
Lockerman, who is conducting research on microwaves, says that computer science has the power to transform society. An excellent math and physics student, he has turned to computer science as a way to put his skills to work in the world. “There are so many ways to benefit society that we are just starting to uncover,” he says. “In computer science, it’s very easy to see the results of your work. It’s a field where you can do something productive and meaningful.”
Both young men are among 278 Goldwater Scholars selected in the competition involving many of the nation’s top undergraduates who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering.
Lockerman, who participates in the Queens College Scholars program, is working closely with Distinguished Professor Azriel Genack, analyzing random microwave fields. He works on his project full-time in Genack’s lab in the summer, and during the school year he fits it in between his course work. “Last night I was there until 1 a.m. in the morning,” Lockerman says. “As a night person, I find that I’m more effective working in the lab late.”
Professor Genack is impressed by Lockerman’s work ethic. “Yitzchak is willing to contend with challenging problems and can handle a few at a time,” says Genack. “He remains engaged with me and with members of my group over an extended period, is modest about his own accomplishments, willing to help others, and is thoughtful and creative in considering potential directions for research that can benefit our group.”
Having grown up in Jamaica, Lockerman attended Mestiva Chaim Shlomo High School in Far Rockaway. He considered other colleges, but decided to stay close to home and attend Queens College—an 11-minute commute from his home—where he felt he could obtain a quality education at a much lower cost. Active in campus life, Lockerman is an alternate member of the college’s Academic Senate, a member of the Undergraduate Scholastic Standards Committee, and on the board of the Queens College chapter of the Golden Key International Honor Society.
To win the scholarship, students had to write an essay focusing on a problem in American society that they would address through scientific research. Whaley wrote about the project he’s currently working on with Associate Professor Robert Ranaldi: studying the impact of heroin addiction on impulsivity in rats. “The more we can understand about the syndrome of drug addiction, the better we can treat the addicted individual,” says Whaley.
Ranaldi says Whaley’s dedication and ability to work on a team have been crucial in the research lab. “Jamar has done so well so far because he understands that in addition to being smart, success also requires hard work and perseverance,” says Ranaldi. “That brings out the best in people, as does having an open mind in your work and toward the people collaborating with you. By continuing this way, I don’t see why Jamar cannot achieve anything he sets his mind to.”
Although he was told that he scored in the top percentiles on intelligence tests, Whaley did not thrive in high school, dropping out of Stuyvesant H.S. before graduation. After working at several jobs in the information technology field, he obtained an alternative high school degree through the city’s General Education Development (GED) program. Following a series of competency tests at Queens College, he won admission.
“I never felt I had the tools or the capabilities to do well in school,” says Whaley, who recently won the Young Scientist Award from Queens College’s Undergraduate Research Council. “But then I took all the freshmen skills-building workshops offered. There was a fear I had to get over. I faced it head-on, with the help of counselors, and I found out that I could excel. It seems like such a dream.”
This summer Whaley will be conducting research at Yale University’s Biomedical Science Training and Enrichment Program, which provides intensive, short-term research training for undergraduates, especially those from groups underrepresented in biomedical sciences at top universities. He is a participant in the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program, which helps juniors and seniors in groups underrepresented in the sciences gain entry into graduate biomedical research programs. Whaley is also involved in CUNY’s Black Male Initiative at Queens College, which is helping young black males succeed.
Previous Queens College students awarded Goldwater Scholarships are Rachel Schnur, a biology major from Hillcrest (2006); Miriam Ginzberg, an honors chemistry student pursuing pharmaceutical materials research (2007); and Yehoshua Nechemia Laker, who is considering a career in biomedical research (2008).
Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY) is dedicated to the idea that a first-rate education should be accessible to talented individuals of all backgrounds and financial means. Its more than 19,500 students come from over 140 nations and speak scores of languages, creating an extraordinarily diverse and welcoming environment. Founded in 1937, the college offers an exceptional liberal arts curriculum, with over 115 undergraduate and graduate majors and a variety of specialized honors programs. Located on a beautiful, 77-acre campus in Flushing, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. Queens College was named one of the nation’s 25 “hottest” and “most interesting” colleges by the 2008 Kaplan/Newsweek How to Get Into College guide and is rated one of America’s 100 “Best Value Colleges” by the 2009 Princeton Review. The college will open its first residence hall, The Summit, in August 2009. More info on Queens College at www.qc.cuny.edu. Info on The Summit at www.qc.cuny.edu/thesummit .