Undergraduate Research Newsletter

UR as HIP turns two!

Undergraduate research (UR) in higher education institutions is 200+ years old. And Queensborough has a strong history engaging students in research via stand-alone research courses, independent study courses, Honors pro- jects, paid or unpaid internships, and grant-funded programs.

What is new?

UR became an official High-Impact Practice (HIP) in Spring 2014 when a professional development plan to encourage “research in the classroom” was launched. Also, student learning outcomes (SLO) and an assessment plan for UR were developed:

  • self-reported benefits collected from UR students via pre & post surveys (Lopatto’s CURE and SURE III);
  • assessment of student work (papers/presentations) using rubric aligned with SLO for UR;
  • participating faculty members: their own assessments are covered under existing IRB-approved protocol for UR.

Goals of UR as HIP:

  1. to increase and diversify the opportunities for students to participate in meaningful research;
  2. to create a learning-centered approach to UR that stands across disciplines and across research modalities.
UR facultyUR Faculty at the HIPs Showcase, Spring 2016

In This Issue

Number of new UR courses or experiences offered

Impact of professional development (PD) efforts for UR as HIP

number of new UR courses or experiences offered at QCC

Over the two-year period Spring 2014 - Fall 2015,

43 instructors have attended UR-specific PD workshops.

76% have implemented the UR course/experience they designed, with some implementing it more than once.

Instructors that have attended PD come from:

Instructors that have attended PD

Number of students impacted

Students engaged in new UR courses or experiences

number of students impacted
number of students impacted

The Joint Seed Soil Project

The presence of microbes in the soil has important influences for the environment and in human health. Some bacteria can uptake heavy metals and by doing so reduce pollution, other bacteria possess antibiotic resistance genes that could be exchanged with human pathogens. This study proposes to characterize the structure of the microbial community of the soil associated with roots of plants from three different sites in New York City:

  • Thain family forest in New York Botanical Garden;
  • marshes in Newton Creek; Central Park.

This is an exploratory hypothesis-generating project as it will generate data to address environmental and human health problems.

The study received funding from the CUNY ASRC Seed Program and is led by Dr. Monica Trujillo (PI) in collaboration with Dr. Akira Kawamura (co-PI, Hunter College) and Dr. Charles Vörösmarty, Director of the ASRC Environmental Sciences Initiative.

The Joint Seed Soil Project

Dr. Monica Trujillo is an associate professor and chair of the Biological Sciences & Geology department. Dr. Trujillo has been investigating Streptomycetes biology for several years. These gram positive soil bacteria have a complex life cycle and produce most of the industrially available antibiotics. She is currently investigating the role of rhomboids, a family of enzymes that hydrolyze proteins within the membrane, in Streptomyces physiology. Dr. Trujillo has recently become interested in the root-associated soil microbiome and the genes that confer resistance to antibiotics and heavy metals.

Dr. Trujillo is passionate about involving undergraduates in research and has been working with these students since her first years at QCC. She has an NSF-Research in Undergraduate Institution grant supporting her rhomboids work and has recently been awarded a Joint Seed Grant from CUNY to investigate the soil microbiome in NYC. Aspects of this project were incorporated into science and non-science courses at Queensborough so that a wide range of students could be exposed to the research experience. Through collaboration with Queens College and LaGuardia Community College an initiative to support undergraduate research in Environmental Science and Geology was funded by NSF.

Dr. Trujillo has been able to establish collaborations with CUNY senior colle-ges. Dr. Kawamura from Hunter College provides essential support for her work in natural products. She is currently working with faculty at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) in her two research projects.

More than 100 students had research experiences linked to the Joint Seed Soil Project. That is about 50% of all 'research in the classroom' experiences (QCC stats for Fall 2015) Below: Dr. Avrom Caplan (left), CUNY Associate Dean for Research, and Dr. Charles Vörösmarty, director of the ASRC Environmental Sciences Initiative, at the CUNY Research Scholars Symposium held at John Jay on July 22, 2015. Dr. Avrom Caplan and Dr. Charles Vorosmarty

Below: a group of UR students, faculty and staff from several programs at Queensborough (CUNY Research Scholars, CSTEP, RIMS, STEM Academy) posed at the entrance of the ASRC after a guided tour of the facility at City College, August 13, 2015.

Dr. Avrom Caplan and Dr. Charles Vorosmarty


The CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is a state-of-the-art research facility devoted to interdisciplinary work on five initiatives: Nanoscience, Photonics, Structural Biology, Neuroscience, and Environmental Sciences (asrc.cuny.edu), Currently, two funding opportunities are helping to foster collaborations between CUNY faculty and the ASRC:

  • CUNY ASRC Seed Program;
  • CUNY ASRC Cooperative Postdoc Research Grant.

Find out more at http://www.cuny.edu/research/faculty-resources/internal-funding-programs.html

Dr. Urszula Golebiewska, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences & Geology

Dr. Golebiewska received a M.S in Physics from Warsaw University (Poland) and a Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics from Stony Brook University. She did postdoctoral training also at Stony Brook. Dr. Golebiewska shares the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics with other investigators of Neutrino Oscillations. At Queensborough she has implemented various high impact practices, such as service learning, collaborative assignments and projects (a.k.a. SWIG), intensive writing, and UR. She has published extensively on her research and on pedagogy. An ongoing collaboration with the Science Education Alliance - Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) Project from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has allowed Dr. Golebiewska to engage Queensborough students in authentic research since Spring 2011. Participation in the SEA-PHAGES project has resulted in several publications for Dr. Golebieswka and has motivated her to engage in assessment efforts. She has presented at the HHMI Annual Symposium about QCC's participation and contributions to the project. Dr. Golebiewska credits her colleague, Dr. Patricia Schneider, with first establishing the connection between QCC and HHMI.

Course: BI 202, General Biology II. Fall 2015
Research project: Annotations and genomic analysis of a genome of Mycobacterium Phage
Description: Students used bioinformatics tools to analyze and annotate genome of a mycobacterium phage (the DNA sequence is provided by HHMI).

In Spring 2011, the then SEA-PHAGES project director Dr. Tuajuanda Jordan visited QCC and was impressed with the quality of the students and their commitment to the project. Those first impressions proved right.

Queensborough students co-authored three Gene Bank Submissions (two more are under review) and co-authored presentations for the HHMI Annual Symposium winning awards almost every year. In addition, students from several classes were listed as co-authors of a peer-reviewed publication in eLife. Several students presented the genomic research at regional and national conferences and won awards.

Some students got accepted to work in labs specifically because of the experience with bioinformatics research of bacteriophages (e.g. Kevin Chavez was accepted in the laboratory of Dr. Kruger at Stony Brook due to his work on Mycobacterium phage EricB; Marjorie Morales was accepted into the HHMI Exrop Summer program).


"The Science Education Alliance (SEA) works with science educators at colleges and universities across the United States on pilot projects designed to advance science education on a national scale". The SEA Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) project is "built around a national experiment in bacteriophage genomics. Students isolate, name, sequence, and analyze newly-discovered mycobacteriophages." - http://www.hhmi.org/programs/science-education-alliance

Dr. Joan Petersen has a Ph.D. in Microbial Ecology from Fordham University. She joined Queensborough in 2002 and is currently an associate professor in the Biological Sciences & Geology department. For the past 10 years, Dr. Petersen has been co-director of QCC-STEP, a Saturday program for middle and high school students, many of whom she has mentored in research. Dr. Petersen has implemented service-learning, Honors, and undergraduate research into her courses in several ways and is working to establish a new Environmental Science program at the college.

Course: BI 311 Principles of Microbiology, Spring 2015
Research project: Authentic Research Experience in Microbiology (AREM)
Description: In this project, student groups collected samples from various locations on campus and extracted DNA from the organisms present. The bacterial DNA in the sample was amplified using PCR and next generation sequencing was used to determine a) which bacterial types were present in the sample, and b) the relative abundance of each bacterial type. Students' results are presented on the AREM website.

Course: BI 480 Environmental Science, Fall 2015
Research project: The Joint Seed Soil Project
Description: Students collected soil samples, extracted community DNA, isolated antibiotic-resistant bacteria from soil samples, gram stained bacteria from isolated colonies, and identified isolates using the Biolog Microplate system.

This school year, Dr. Petersen is working with about sixty students (and their teacher) at Cardozo high school. Through varied research activities, high school students contributed to AREM and soon will start contributing to the Joint Seed Soil project as well. The collaboration with Cardozo was possible thanks to funding from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology - Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement in Science (ASBMB HOPES) program (http://www.asbmb.org/outreach/grants/HOPES/).

Authentic Research Experience in Microbiology (AREM)

"AREM investigates the microbiome of New York City across its boroughs, its streets and parks and across time. AREM is the first large scale genomics approach to understanding makeup of microbial communities in the urban environment."

Led by Dr. Theodore Muth (Brooklyn College) and Dr. Avrom Caplan (CUNY Assoc. Dean for Research), this NSF-funded project has expanded across several CUNY campuses.

The current collaboration has the potential to attract additional funding to furnish the high school with equipment needed for research and to provide research experiences to more classes. In her assessment efforts, Dr. Petersen included the use of Lopatto's CURE Survey, one of the assessment instruments used at the college as well.

Jessica Joyner (AREM) goes over the high school students' sequencing results with themJessica Joyner (AREM) goes over the high school students' sequencing results with them.
photo of Dr. Areti Tsimounis

Dr. Areti Tsimounis is an assistant professor in the Biological Sciences & Geology department. She joined the faculty at Queensborough in 2011. She has been taking advantage of the opportunities to teach smaller and more specialized courses to apply UR as a HIP. One of the primary goals that drive her assigned projects is exposing students to the more contemporary scientific literature. She is looking for ways to improve the undergraduate research experience in the classroom for students. Dr. Tsimounis has implemented UR in two courses:

Course: BI 421 Human Physiology, Spring 2014

Research project: Past, Present and Future of Antibiotic Resistance

Description: Students worked in groups researching topics related to antibiotic resistance (e.g., history of antibiotic use, definition and statistics related to antibiotic resistance, alternatives against infections, etc.). Students had to research the primary science literature and reliable public health information sources and presented their results in class (oral presentation and paper).

Students delivered a poster presentation during QCC's Earth Day

Course: BI 325 Neurophysiology, Fall 2015

Research project: The Neurophysiology of Massage Therapy

Description: Students worked in groups researching a topic related to the neurophysiology of massage therapy (e.g. history of massage therapy, established effects of massage therapy on human physiology, physiological effects of massage therapy in specific age groups, application of massage therapy as a form of treatment, etc.). Students had to research the primary science literature and reliable public health information sources and presented their findings in class (oral presentation and paper).

Dr. Kwang Hyun Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Mathematics & Computer Science department. He holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the CUNY Graduate Center and is licensed in Industrial Engineer Information Processing (South Korea). He is the department's webmaster and member of the Math & CS UR committee. He has mentored students in stand-alone research courses and currently mentors one CUNY Scholar. He implemented UR in a regular course last year and is preparing for its second implementation this Spring semester.

Course: CS 203 - Algorithmic Problem Solving II, Spring 2015
Research project: Solving numerical problems in science with programming
Description: Students worked in groups. They looked for numerical problems in their science courses including mathematics and developed the software needed to solve their problems.

photo Dr. Kwang Hyun Kim

UR Presentations

In 2015: student Danny Philanthrope presented on "Numerical Computation of Inverse Matrices" at the QCC Honors Conference; student Seong Ham and Dr. Kim co-presented on the "Online Cloud Systems" used in their class at John Jay PATT Online Education Conference; Dr. Kim was a panelist in "Making the Case for UR in Math & CS at a Community College” at City College, CUE Conference.

QCC Team participates in inaugural CURE SI

The Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science (TIDES) at The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) and the National Academies Summer Institute held the Inaugural Course-based Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (CURE SI) in UT-Austin from June 29 to July 2, 2015. A QCC team wrote a proposal that earned both the invitation and a travel award to attend this institute. The institute brought together teams from 17 institutions of higher education from across the nation, with Queensborough being one of only two participating community colleges. QCC Team members will be implementing their CUREs in Spring 2016. These are their thoughts:

"The CURE SI provided tools and strategies to organize my research project in a way that could be implemented in a classroom. Additionally, it allowed us to network with faculty from different types of institutions; some institutions had well established research programs in the classrooms, while others were just trying to foment it. It was very productive as we were able to grasp ideas from this diverse group of faculty. My CURE is embedded in BI 554 Research Laboratory Internship and will work on ‘Elucidating the role of Rhomboid proteases in Streptomycetes'."
—Dr. Naydu Carmona, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences & Geology

"CURE SI provided valuable information about designing a CURE project, which in turn was helpful for learning better teaching strategies in general, such as planning or assessing a course. I will be embedding a CURE in a section of MA 119 College Algebra. We will be working on ‘Predicting the success of a TV series using data from social media'. I hope to tap into students' interests, increase engagement in the course and deepen their understanding of functions and, eventually, see an improvement in grades and passing rates for the course."
—Dr. Zeynep Akcay, Assistant Professor, Mathematics & Computer Science

"Attending CURE SI was a great professional development and networking opportunity for us. We are fortunate to have Dr. Erin Dolan, TIDES director and co-developer of CUREnet, as our mentor and look forward to remaining connected to this network. My CURE is embedded in a section of MA 336 Computer Assisted Statistics offered exclusively to Criminal Justice majors and we will be ‘Examining the Criminal Justice System with the lens of Statistics'."
—Dr. Maria Mercedes Franco, Associate Professor, Mathematics & Computer Science

Drs. Maria Mercedes Franco, Zeynep Akcay, and Naydu Carmona From left to right: Drs. Maria Mercedes Franco, Zeynep Akcay, and Naydu Carmona snap a selfie over the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, TX –a location also known as "Austin’s Bat Bridge".
photo of Dr. Shailaja Nagarkatte

The Department of Mathematics & Computer Science is pleased to announce the

Opportunities in Undergraduate Research
Shailaja and Umesh Nagarkatte (OUR SUN) Award

This award was established thanks to a generous gift made to the college by Dr. Shailaja Nagarkatte, Professor Emerita of Mathematics and Computer Science at Queensborough, and her husband Dr. Umesh Nagarkatte, Professor of Mathematics at Medgar Evers College.

The OUR SUN Award seeks to encourage and reward students participating in quality undergraduate research experiences in mathematics, mathematics education, or computer science at the college. Eligibility: full-time matriculated status; minimum GPA of 3.0; completion of either stand-alone research course MA 905 or MA 906, with B+ or better; and legally documented student with F1 student visa, permanent UR resident or UR citizen. Starting in Spring 2016, the department’s UR Committee will oversee the application and selection processes for the OUR SUN Award, which will provide up to three $500 cash awards per year.

Math & CS UR Committee members: Andrew Bulawa (co-chair), Maria Mercedes Franco, Daniel Garbin, Kwang Hyun Kim, Azita Mayeli (co-chair), and Sylvia Svitak.

Upcoming Internal Funding Opportunities

Upcoming Internal Funding Opportunities

Community College Research Grant logo

Submission Deadline:

Friday April 1, 2016



Dr. Effie MacLachlan
Director of Grants & Reearch Programs
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research

Track 1: Collaborative Pedagogical Research Grant

"The program supports collaborative pedagogical research efforts of CUNY Community College faculty. The program also seeks to leverage faculty expertise to promote student success. The primary goal is to seed research that will lead to externally funded grant proposals and scholarly publications."

Track 2: Mentored Undergraduate Research Grant

"This program is designed to increase the number of associate degree students who are engaged in faculty mentored research projects. Research by undergraduates is a high impact educational practice, and the program aims to identify and support faculty who can provide outstanding mentored research experiences for students. The Mentored Undergraduate Research Grant program is open to all faculty across disciplines as long as the project involves faculty mentoring of an undergraduate student."



Research in the classroomOrganized by Dr. Avrom Caplan, CUNY’s Associate Dean for Research

Friday March 11, 2016 at John Jay College

This day-long workshop will feature

  • keynote speaker, Dr. David Lopatto
  • poster presentations
  • special interest breakout sessions - including:
    • session for community college faculty.
Register Now

"NOW" IS THE TIME to join our assessments efforts:

Dr. David Lopatto, Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment and Professor at Grinnell College has studied the impact of undergraduate research on student learning outcomes for over a decade. Queensborough’s assessment plan for UR includes the use of two of the surveys developed by Dr. Lopatto:

  • The Classroom Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE) survey has been used by approximately 2,500 students from 51 institutions representing more than 166 research-like courses;
  • The Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE III) survey has been administered to more than 10,000 student participants from 150 American colleges and universities.

The surveys assess student learning gains in 21 areas -such us "understanding the research process in your field", "understanding how scientists work", "understanding how knowledge is constructed", "ability to analyze data", "ability to read and understand primary literature", "self-confidence", "clarification of a career path", and "skills in effective oral presentations" (Lopatto, 2010 and 2012). Free, fully online surveys; both have pre and post components, each takes 10-15 minutes to complete; survey items align well with the college’s UR learning outcomes; a CURE faculty survey allows instructors to indicate what aspects of the research they did/did not emphasize in their courses; part of an ongoing national study. — http:// www.grinnell.edu/academics/areas/psychology/assessments

For questions, suggestions, or to get involved…

Dr. Maria Mercedes Franco
Coordinator for Undergraduate Research

Campus Cultural Centers

Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC)Opens in a new window
Kupferberg Holocaust Center Opens in a new window

Using the lessons of the Holocaust to educate current and future generations about the ramifications of unbridled prejudice, racism and stereotyping.

Queensborough Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window
QPAC: Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window

QPAC is an invaluable entertainment company in this region with a growing national reputation. The arts at QPAC continues to play a vital role in transforming lives and building stronger communities.

Queensborough Art GalleryOpens in a new window
QCC Art GalleryOpens in a new window

The QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York is a vital educational and cultural resource for Queensborough Community College, the Borough of Queens and the surrounding communities.