School strikes out in ‘Science All-Stars’

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This past summer, CUNY featured its 2012 All-Star Science Team in commercials during New York Mets games, but a representative from Queens College was not in the lineup.

In order to be selected as an All-Star, each student went through an application process which stipulated that the individual must be of legal status, a college graduate and enrolled in an accredited school. They also asked for a personal statement, transcript, three reference letters and statements of past research involvement as well as proposal of future research.

In the end, 16 students were awarded a $126,000 scholarship from the National Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

The NGRFP, funded by the National Science Foundation, supports and financially aids students pursuing a master’s degree or doctoral degree through research within the science, technology, engineer and math disciplines.

The team was commended by CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein in numerous advertisements, while CUNY described it as the most prestigious award a graduate student in the STEM disciplines can receive.

The team was represented by students from Hunter College, CUNY Graduate Center, Baruch College, York College and City College.

No QC students won the fellowship award and therefore, were excluded from the team; the school was represented in 2011 by student, Arthur Jacob Parzygnat.

Ross Wheeler, director of the Macaulay Honors College at QC, said the lack of participation might be because most of the school’s students do not go to graduate schools, and instead attend professional schools, which may be why they don’t apply in the first place.

Wheeler, who has worked with numerous QC students in the scholarships application process, further said “there is no correlation between school programs and student’s strengths or the results of the All-Star team or any scholarship.”

“Queens College did not participate in the 2012 CUNY Science All-Star Team, but that doesn’t mean Queens College doesn’t have exceptional students in the disciplines of math and science,” Wheeler said.

Some of the school’s 2012 excelling recipients of awards include: Christopher Navas, who won the CUNY Salk Award and has continued his education at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire and Umussahar Khatri, who was awarded $100,000 for the Math for America Scholarship.

Referring to the lack of the school’s representation on the team, QC professor—who teaches lower level classes—and biology chair PoKay Ma, believes “students come to college underprepared; high school doesn’t prepare them well enough for college.”

“Students should be better prepared for upper level courses,” Ma said.

Ma knew about the NSF but had only first learned about the CUNY Science All-Star Team after an interview with The Knight News.

The lack of awareness about such scholarships as the GRFP can be a deterring factor when it comes to QC’s participation in awards like the CUNY Science All-Star Team. But it is something that will now be addressed, according to Larry Liebovitch, the dean of the mathematics and natural science department.

“I am working with our departments and faculty to make them and their students more aware of graduate fellowships opportunities, such as the NSF-GRFP, so that more Queens College students will apply for and be awarded these fellowships,” Liebovitch said.

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