A Sumner to remember: Long hours in the lab yield excellent results for junior researchers

Published: November 08, 2019

Two Queensborough Community College graduates, mentored by Dr. Sharon Lall-Ramnarine who collaborated with colleagues at Yale, Rutgers and Brookhaven National Lab have been published in two high-ranking peer-reviewed papers, a rare achievement for undergraduate researchers at any university.

“This is something that graduate researchers at some of the nation’s most prestigious facilities don’t get the chance to do. To be published before you get a bachelor’s degree is truly exceptional,” explains Professor Shiang-Kwei Wang, Dean for Research in the Office of Academic Affairs at Queensborough Community College.

24-year old Rawlric Sumner and 25-year old Jasodra Devi Ramdihal, both from Queens, co-authored papers on ionic liquids in recent editions of The Journal of Physical Chemistry A and The Journal of Chemical Physics. They helped prepare and analyze compounds never made before, which could have applications for the energy and industrial sectors.

“You may recall some issues with exploding or combusting cell phones in the past. The work we did could better stabilize high-capacity batteries, for example, and prevent unwanted thermal interactions," explains Sumner, who together with Ramdihal, put in hundreds of hours at Brookhaven and Queensborough this summer on both projects.

The lab work was made possible through CUNY’s acclaimed Research Scholars program according to Queensborough’s Professor Sharon Lall-Ramnarine. The pilot program funds Associate degree student research.

“Its purpose is to increase participation and persistence in STEM disciplines,” Lall-Ramnarine says. Students receive 400 hours of mentoring from faculty members and other benefits.

Sumner lived in Canada and studied marketing at college before he moved to New York in August 2015. Marketing was not a good fit, so he applied to CUNY to pursue something entirely different.

“I had not taken Science since high school, but the interest was there. I took an introduction course with Steven Frishman, Biological Sciences and Biology, and received an A. From there, I had Chemistry 151 with Dr. Lall-Ramnarine and the rest is history,” said Sumner.

 “I’ve been to labs at Princeton, NYU and Florida State. They may have larger facilities and bigger budgets but the people, the professors, don’t compare to Queensborough,” Sumner declares.

“Queensborough’s Chemistry department is leagues ahead, especially when it comes to faculty-led research. It’s breathtaking, what the professors do here,” he adds.

Sumner participated in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, which provides funding for the Bridges to Baccalaureate Research Initiative to Maximize Science Skills (RIMS). The grant, secured by Dr. Patricia Schneider, Biological Sciences and Geology Department at Queensborough, is a partnership established between Queensborough, Queens College and City College to achieve the long-term goals of improving Queensborough’s ability to train and graduate under-represented science students, and to facilitate their transfer to baccalaureate programs in biomedicine or behavioral science.

He also published in Materials Chemistry and Physics in 2018 under the supervision of Queensborough’s Chemistry Associate Professor Dr. Tirandai Hamraj-Benny.

Ramdihal was also supported by the former MSEIP (Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program), headed by Dr. Nidhi Gadura. In addition, Rawlric and Jasodra were funded by a (CUNY Research Scholars Program) CRSP transfer program.

Both Queensborough alumni are in their last year at Queens College.

Chanele Rodriguez ’16, joined Dr. Lall-Ramnarine’s research group in her first semester. She was awarded two internships at Brookhaven for two consecutive summers, and was a co-author on four published papers while a student at Queensborough, including an article in the Journal of Physical Chemistry A. Upon her graduation she continued to work with Dr. Lall-Ramnarine and Brookhaven’s Dr. James Wishart. She is now a student at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

Former student Kristina Papacostas was also a member of the research team. She commented that, “Dr. Lall-Ramnarine gave me the most rewarding research experience a student could ask for.” Papacostas will complete her Bachelors in Bioscience at Farmingdale State College at the end of this semester with intentions of going to Physician’s Assistant School.

Another Queensborough graduate, Eddie Fernandez, ’15, worked under the supervision of Dr. Lall-Ramnarine from 2014-2017. He was supported by the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LS-AMP) Program. All students received research stipends at various times through Dr. Lall-Ramnarine’s National Science Foundation (NSF) collaboration with Rutgers University, and also through the Department of Energy summer internships at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

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Contact:  Alice Doyle

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