Letters from Former Chemistry Students
Renzo A. Samame
Dear Prof. Svoronos,
This e-mail serves to express my gratitude and appreciation to you. In a few weeks, I will be moving to the University of California - Irvine for a rigorous training leading to a PharmD/Ph.D in chemistry. In the fall 2005, I was young and knew little about what to do with my life. It was after taking your organic chemistry class that I became aware and gained skills that helped me obtaining a job as a synthetic medicinal chemist. What I learned in classroom, had been extended from stereoselective synthesis to metal catalyzed transformations to name a few. I am very thankful to have been part of your extended student family, and for the help that was provided to me when needed.
I wish you the best Prof. Svoronos!
With deep respect,
Renzo was an undocumented student when he first came to my class five years ago.
He has earned his Biochemistry degree from Hunter and has been highlighted as a QCC success in the past.
Dear Prof. Svoronos,
I wanted to update you with my progress at Stony Brook. I am doing really well with my classes so far. Furthermore, as I have mentioned to you, I was able to get into a great research lab in the pathology department. I am truly thrilled about my new research project since it incorporates a lot of details from my previous research at Queensborough under Dr. Soraya Svoronos' mentorship.
I feel that I have such a great advantage in the new lab with my previous background from research and classes taken at QCC.
My current Research Mentor at Stony Brook showed special interest into including me in his lab after reviewing my QCC records and the amount of research and presentations at National Meetings I have done over the last 2 years.He mentioned that he was truly impressed with the quality of the research carried out at Queensborough community college, and that most students at Stony Brook rarely get the golden opportunity of presenting their work at the level of the numerous ACS meetings we attended.
So I wanted to thank you for recruiting me into the Honors program and giving me the great opportunity to get involved in research at such an early phase of my academic career. All the support you have shown your many students including myself does pay off.
You will be pleased to hear that I got accepted into an extremely competitive summer research program at stony brook with the help of your recommendation and my long previous and current research record. So I am really thrilled to be paid and acknowledged for performing research at this stage!
I also just got accepted into my masters program in Chemistry. A little more chemistry never hurts anyone!!=)
And the project I will be working on includes "gallic acid" and polyphenolic compounds (that I worked on extracting at QCC), and they will be introduced to newly designed electospun nanofiber patches for the purpose of speed healing of inflammatory wounds.
So I wanted to share my accomplishments so far with you, and most definitely thank you and the entire chemistry department for your support and for the wonderful experience you have given at QCC through the Honors program and research. It truly helped me achieve goals I never thought could be possible!
I am forwarding this email of our 2009 graduate Rana Said who is finishing her junior year at Stony Brook.
Rana did not graduate with a 4.0 (actually it was only 3.63) but completed 29 credits of Honors classes in chemistry, biology and mathematics- and yes, she did not get As in organic and yes, she also took Calculus Physics and History and Social Sciences and Health and English and Speech and everything else she needed to graduate.
Her email is indicative of what the Honors program opportunities give our students and the impact they have in their post-Queensborough career.
Rana was not a chemistry student. Rana was a Queensborough student. She is the product of what our college has provided our students in the last ten years- something I never encountered in my 19 years before 2000.
I am sure we will be getting more such good from our students news since there are many better days ahead of us here at Queensborough.
Hi Dr. Svoronos,
I just wanted to say hi. I always think about you, but even more so when people start getting sentimental about what they have to be thankful for...I'm constantly reminded of how much I appreciate what you did to get me where I am today.
This was an especially good week for me, academically speaking. I got a 100 on what is supposedly the most difficult test we'll have in physiology...the renal system. It's a tough class for me, not because the material is difficult, but because the exams are multiple choice and that is still my greatest weakness. I finally got my midterm back for pharmacology (I'll admit I was really nervous), and I scored 99/105. I was happy that I did well, but even more ecstatic when I found out that I had the highest score in the class. Our class is comprised of about 30 undergraduate pharm majors and another 35 or so masters and PhD students, and the director of the undergrad program addressed us to let us know that the undergraduates are NOT at a disadvantage by being on the same curve as the grad students, since of the six grades between 90 and 99, four were undergraduate scores. We have quite a few pharmacology professors, and each makes up his own part of the exam.
I was most apprehensive about Dr. Berrios's portion. This man is the Chilean version of you. He's a brilliant lecturer, and he's extremely demanding. The grad students are not required to attend recitation, but if they choose to do so, they MUST participate. He has a flask (a T-25, used to grow cells) in which he has wooden pegs with numbers on them that correspond to our student IDs. During recitation, he shakes the flask and pulls out a peg. That student comes to the board and is subject to interrogation. It is truly terrifying, but just like you, he'll walk us through it. He has ZERO tolerance for "B.S." and if you either try to make up some intelligent-sounding answer to something that he taught already, or don't understand the basics, he will humiliate you just by looking at you with disdain. But if you show that you've been paying attention, he'll simply ask the class to help you along. I was warned about him, not only by former students, but by a third-year Stony Brook ER resident. I was the best-prepared for what he had to throw at me, because he thinks (and runs his classes) exactly the way you do.You'd truly appreciate Dr. Berrios. I know I do.
Then today in lab, the osteoblast cells I treated with protein produced far more bone matrix than the control cells. My PI normally seeks patents before bothering to submit papers, but he thinks he'll try to publish soon, since I have to write up my results for my pharmacology and honors theses anyway.
I didn't get to tell you about this new lab yet. I left the lab I started working in last year because despite my former PI's incredible reputation, he's in limbo (after losing two grad students recently) and basically had the undergrads ordering supplies and doing an assortment of experiments. He decided to shut down research all summer so that he could submit grant proposals and find a new lab manager. I needed a real thesis project, and the director of the blood bank (my Americorps advisor) sent me to Dr. Pentyala for advice. So I'm working in his lab, and he's been absolutely wonderful. He even asked me to tutor his daughter (an eighth grader) and his niece, who's a senior in high school and a brilliant young Intel scholar (working in his lab summers and after school), who is Ivy-bound but having a tough time with chemistry. I was flattered, but I also found it amusing that he was so frustrated with his daughter, who wanted help from a "real tutor" instead of her dad, who's the director of translational research at the hospital. I started working with her recently, and now I'm helping her with her "junior scientist" research program. She's interviewing some of her dad's colleagues for her project, and I'm teaching her how to approach "real scientists" with appropriate questions. We started last week by solidifying her research hypothesis.
Even if I had been confident about my pre-med track when I started school again, I never would have become so proficient in research that my own mentor would trust my advice for his own daughter. He asked me instead of the graduate student who has been working in his lab since he was a sophomore undergraduate. Even Aleef (his prize student) seeks my collaboration in putting together his presentations for journal club. I'm so lucky that I had you to help me get to this place. I probably didn't start soon enough to have a first-author publication, but I'm working with a guy who came here from India, got a post-doctoral position at Stony Brook, and did such amazing things so quickly (patents, etc.) that the school offered him a prestigious position, as well as his own enormous lab space. He refused the latter, because it would have meant displacing the man (a well-respected, NYU-trained, long-tenured faculty member) who took him in as a post-doc. I could have ended up working in another highly regarded lab with someone who doesn't really care about students, as much as he brags about former students' success. You'd never know this, but by setting an example, you taught me to seek those who are interested in helping me (and all of their students) succeed. You not only mentored me, but you showed me the type of mentor I should seek in the future. And indirectly, you taught me how to mentor others. Thank you for that.
Anyway, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Your "other" daughter,
I am forwarding a Thanksgiving email I received from our graduate Emily Hughes in my private email which I finally opened. Emily spent some time at Brookdale CC (NJ) then joined the workforce before coming to us in the Fall 2006 with no definite plans. She graduated as an LS1 student in the Spring of 2008 and went to Stony Brook where she was accepted to the Honors Pharmacology program- the only community college student among the small cohort of only 30 accepted.
So why did she get accepted? Well, she had a total of 25 honors credits and got involved with research under Dr. Jun Shin of Chemistry and Dr. Regina Sullivan of Biology. She made several conference presentations including two National American Chemical Society Meetings in Philadelphia and Boston. She was a second team All-USA scholar and has done extensive PLTL tutoring. Yes, she had some bumps on the way and did not graduate with a 4.0.
What impresses the reader of her email is the optimism, excitement and pride in what she does. She decided to take the challenge and stayed the course. Chancellor Goldstein was impressed with her enthusiasm and achievements and personally wrote a letter on her behalf. I am proud of Emily for all her accomplishments and I promise to let you know of her progress in the Medical School she will join.
This email is a testimony to the importance of the Community College concept that our country gives every citizen. In most other countries it is basically impossible to start in a public college at 20. Not in the USA.
And a final note- Emily met Joseph Mammano in my Honors General Chemistry I and graduated together. Joe is finishing his P.A. degree this summer. I guess Emily and Joe created and applied the "bonding" concept. This has nothing to do with the Chemical Bonding principle I teach in that class.
Dear Professor Svoronos,
It's been a long time since I've last corresponded with you. I'm finally a PA and I'm currently working at SUNY Downstate in the dept of Reproductive Endocrinology, focusing on research. The physician I work with is involved in several NIH granted researches. Currently we are studying the efficacy of Lupron vs. Aygestin in treating endometriosis. I am enjoying myself there and I can't wait to get more involved.
How is everything going at QCC? I hope all is well.
Mary Kwon came to us and completed her STEM pre-reqs before she transferred for her Physician Assistant degree.
She is currently a PA at SUNY Downstate involved with research. One more example how the nurturing of the QCC faculty in conducting research with students can produce miracles.
Good Morning Dr. Svoronos,
I am sitting in my office in Huntington, WV at St. Mary's Hospital which is one of the academic teaching hospitals of the Marshall University School Of Medicine. I am one of 12 pathologists in our department not including people in the basic sciences division. I will spend today looking in my microscope diagnosing biopsies from patients, primarily to identify those patients with cancer. That's what I do.
Sheila and I moved here about 3 months ago so I could join the faculty of the school of medicine. I will begin my teaching duties in February, my position is 90% service and since I enjoy signing out cases that really suits me. I continue to practice surgical pathology, hematopathology and some cytopathology.
Sheila is adapting nicely to living in our small town, Barboursville, WV. I have not really been back to Queens except for very brief visits to Sheila's family (only about 2 or 3 times in the last 5 years. )
Before beginning work here we vacationed in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. I highly recommend a visit there if you have not already visited. The food is outstanding and there is lots of culture. But best of all - they all speak English flawlessly.
The other night I had dinner with a chemical engineer from Ashland Petroleum, we are only 20 minutes away from Ashland, and I was thinking about you. I know you have turned out so many students that have received MD's, pharmacists, physical therapy degrees and other biological and health science degrees. But, Dr. Svoronos - your a chemist - so I am sure you would like some of your students to go into chemistry for the love of chemistry. I hope that you are having equal success with your students becoming organic/synthetic chemists, chemistry researchers and chemical engineers.
I wish you and your family all a very happy, healthy Christmas.
PS - We have a small Greek Orthodox church in Huntington and we had a cute Greek Festival this fall - they make some great Baklava in West Virginia!
Best wishes always
And one more- I guess those letters keep on piling to remind us that yes- we have to grade some miserable finals this part of the semester. Yet, there is always a wide open possibility of seeing some (and why not many?) of our kids excel. And such messages make a good holiday present.
Vincent came to us in 1995 and left in 1997 after completing his STEM classes for his Med School application. No, he did not get an A in either Organic I or II with me (in fact he got A- in both courses). Yet, he made it to the University of Wisconsin Med School and I wrote him the reference letters. But of course he would not have made it unless all of us worked in our own way to get him ready for the uphill battle.
Vincent is now a faculty member in a teaching hospital in WV. Who says a Queensborough student cannot make it to Medical School?
Hello Dr. Paris!!
Sorry I have trouble keeping in touch, This year of pharmacy school is very hectic and I barely sleep. Good thing finals are almost here so I can take break, I really need it.
So far so good, things are going OK with my classes. I lately got recognized along with few other students for outstanding performance in 2 course series in pharmaceutical science department. I also got a scholarship of $8300 in the begining of the semester, and I was the only applicant to get it the whole school of pharmacy ( I cant remember if I already told you that). Well I hope all is well with you. Enjoy the holiday season and I wish you great health FOR 2010!!
With love and appreciation,
One more email from a former student.
Nadia Aboley is a Spring 2008 graduate who has conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. Regina Sullivan of the Department of Biological Sciences and Geology. She has had numerous professional conference presentations accompanied by several awards. While with us she earned the Honors certificate given to all graduates of 3.40 GPA or more who have completed at least 12 honors credits. Her credits involved Honors courses in Biology, Calculus, Chemistry and French. Her photo together with Dr. Sullivan's appear as part of the QCC advertizing poster campaign and I am sure you must have seen it on campus.
Nadia, a Cote d'Ivoire native, transferred to Buffalo's Pharmacy program where she has continued her excellence by earning a scholarship as seen in the email below.
It is gratifying to see how the "extra" stuff in a student's resume- and that includes research, conference presentations, honors classes, induction to the "Who's Who in Junior Colleges" benefit our student. And this of course gets accomplished by the dedication of individual faculty who go beyond the classroom setting to equip the student with the enhanced résumé.
Dear Professor Svoronos,
This is James! I would like to let you know that I have been accepted to the School of Dental Medicine at Stony Brook. I am so happy about this!! I have an interview scheduled with Columbia in January, but I am thinking whether I should cancel it or not. I am sure that your letter was one of the most important part of my application. Hope you get some energy from hearing this news! Remember I am from QCC, specifically from your classes.
I am forwarding one more email I received today. Another QCC student, this time one of our graduates, is also going to Dental School- this time at Stony Brook and with a chance of making it to Columbia.
Ji (James) Suh started with us about 6 years ago taking Intro Chemistry (CH-127) and eventually graduating with an LS1 degree in 2006. I specifically remember that I convinced him to take SP-211 in the summer in order to graduate before starting at Cooper Union in Chemical Engineering. Cooper Union is free and naturally a very difficult institution to be accepted in. James graduated with a B.S. and was offered a paid fellowship for an M.S. at the same institution. He declined as he chose Dental School- a public institution program but a truly tough one to make it, especially if the student comes from a community college. So why did James make it? He graduated with a high GPA (3.9) but he also took 23 Honors credits (mostly in Chemistry and Calculus). He also conducted research with our Associate Adjunct Professor Dr. Luis Vargas in conjunction with St. John’s University. His findings were presented at several American Chemical Society Conferences including the Regional MARM meeting at Rutgers University and the National Conference in Washington DC.
Once more: James was a Queensborough student- not a chemistry one; not a science one. All departments contributed in grooming him and prepared him to withstand the post-QCC academic experience. Naturally all these extra things in a student’s resume came after Dr. Marti became our president- and that’s honors classes, internships, research, professional meeting presentations, eportfolio. And as a result we have more student successes in Biology research, in Speech and Theater performances, in Business competitions, with the ET robot making, the Physics REU summer experience, the Athletic/Sports Nationals, the Math challenges and so, so, so many more.
Queensborough is now a different community college. My colleagues from other junior institutions point out how more respected our college is. I have served this college for 29 years and I can see how the culture has changed in the last ten years. And yes, we do work harder but we contribute to the success of our kids in an unselfish, inspirational, satisfactory and worthwhile way.
Dear Professor Svoronos,
I am pleased to inform you that this morning I was accepted to University at Buffalo, School of Dental Medicine. All the hard work has finally paid off. Because of your support and others who have believed in me I have achieved my dream of going to dental school.
I am very grateful to have had you in my educational career and because of you I am a better student and a better person.
Now my journey to become the best dentist that I can be begins and I am glad that you are a part of it.
Thank you for everything!
I am forwarding an email I received from a former student of ours Karina Bairamyan.
Karina came to us a few years ago and transferred to Queens after approximately four semesters in 2006. While with us she conducted research under our own Dr. Jun Shin which she presented at several American Chemical Society conferences, both orally and via a power point. While at Queens College she earned her B.S. in Biochemistry excelling in all aspects.
I am proud of her achievements and the significance of research in her success.
I happen to be the lucky person who received this acknowledgement. I am sure several of you received a similar email since she acknowledges the several “others”.
Karina was not a chemistry student. Karina was not a science student. Karina was a Queensborough student who got the help, support and, above all, the preparation for her future career. And it is through this, often unrecognized, extra effort of several of you, fellow faculty, that ensures the molding of lives and brings truth to what America is all about: Nobody cares where you come from; everybody wants to find out what you achieve.
Today was a good day for all of us faculty that care about our kids and turn unguided, confused students into professionals and make our job worthwhile.
I would like to thank all of you for Karina and every other kid whose lives you changed.
Nilda Montes (Honors Graduate, Physician Assistant student at York College)
Hi Dr. Svoronos! I am writing to let you know that all is well. I’am on my 2 nd rotation. My first as I told you was Primary Care and that went well. This rotation is at the Veterans Association Hospital of Queens is my Geriatric Rotation and is interesting. On one side it’s sad because so many of the patients are injured and very ill. They have placed me on two wards- one of which is Palliative Care Unit, which is quite depressing and sad. However I must admit on the other hand that I enjoy it because I try to get them to talk to me and try to get them to smile. So if I can make them feel any better during their time left, it makes me feel good. Now I can appreciate the Honors course disciplines I got from Queensborough!
Other than that all is well. I just wanted to keep you updated. I’ll call you soon. Hope you still haven’t replaced me with anyone else!