PRISM Represents John Jay College at the State Capitol

PRISM Represents John Jay College at the State Capitol

In honor of John Jay’s 50th anniversary, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed resolutions to recognize the College for all of its accomplishments, progress, contributions to student success and justice advocacy.

PRISM had the great honor of representing John Jay during these proceedings.  We are very grateful to our hosts and sponsors, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Senator Brad Hoylman.

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20 PRISM students had their research posters displayed near the legislative offices and enjoyed speaking with elected officials, lobbyists, and capitol visitors about their work.  PRISM was also represented by three of its faculty mentors – Professors Artem Domashevskiy, Angelique Corthals, and Shu-Yuan Cheng.  When not chatting about their research, the PRISM contingent sat in to hear the resolutions and received personal recognition in both chambers of the State Congress.  Many students and accompanying faculty mentors were able to meet their representatives and speak in depth about their research and academic goals.

The students and faculty mentors in attendance made PRISM proud for the way in which they represented John IMG_3820Jay and should also be commended for their resilience during the long trip back and forth to Albany.  The trip was a memorable one for many reasons, including three bus breakdowns!

Click here for more pictures!

PRISM Students and Mentor, Dr. Yi He, Conduct Research at USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

PRISM Students and Mentor, Dr. Yi He, Conduct Research at USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

Early this summer, PRISM mentor, Dr. Yi He, recipient of the prestigious, 2015 USDA, E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship Program, afforded five of her lab students, one week of technical training at the USDAimage6 (2)  Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory, located in Beltsville, MD. ARS is one of the world’s premier scientific  organizations. The E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship Program offers faculty and staff from HSIs the opportunity to work collaboratively with USDA to address the challenges faced in the development of a well prepared Hispanic workforce. Dr. He and her students were provided the opportunity to further investigate toxic heavy metals in tobacco products.  PRISM attendees included (l-r in picture at right) Colleen McNamara, Kathleen Lopez, Dr. Yi He, Victoria Mei, Fidelis Tan, and Tiffany Wong.

Students were able to learn lab protocols for conducting trace metal analysis and for using a dry ashing method, and a microwave digestion technique to process plant samples for inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) analysis. All students had hands-on experience in the lab and worked side-by-side with leading research scientists who conduct research in toxic heavy metals. The students training, experience and exposure afforded by Dr. He’s fellowship is immeasurable.

Dr. Rufus Chaney, USDA, Research Agronomist, Crop Systems & Global Change was their host scientist and gave the students a presentation about lead (Pb) in garden soil, discussed metal distribution in some vegetables, how to prevent Pb exposure to young children, and exchanged ideas on how to prepare soil to start a new garden. 20150708_125153 (2)In addition to learning new technical lab protocols, the students were impressed by how the lab was organized, and discussed how they can improve organizing their lab drawers back at JJAY. Students also visited a plant growth chamber and greenhouse where Dr. Carrie Green introduced current experiments and other interesting projects conducted by other researchers in ARS.  Students showed special interest in  heavy metal hypercumulating plants and the concept of “Mine Plant,” which means the metal concentration in plant is so high that the plant can be used as the source of mine. Students are anxious to get back to work at JJAY, to apply all that they learned.

Below read some of their accounts of the experience:

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Fidelis Tan

“Working for the USDA was a fun and new experience for me since I got to visit one of the government laboratories and I also had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Green, the lab manager of the environmental laboratory. At the laboratory, I did a lot of acid cleaning and preparations prior to the analysis. Even though these tasks may seem petty, it is the most critical part for trace metal analysis/research since the quality of data relies on minimal sources of error, and proper sterilization protocol plays a huge part in such. Along with that, I learned to use the microwave digestion system, which involves using organic molecules to dissolve our tobacco samples prior to analysis using ICP-OES (Inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry). Interning in the USDA laboratory helped expand my research skills at John Jay since I got to learn about the significance of each step involved in the experiments and how will it affect the final results –  especially when handling over 100 samples.”  – Fidelis Continue reading

PRISM Sponsored Summer GRE Course

Mark Your Calendars for PRISM-Sponsored GRE Prep Course

All junior and senior level students with plans to attend graduate school are expected to sign up for and attend Dr. Pilette’s summer GRE Prep Course.  It will run mid-June through July on Fridays at John Jay.  This is an amazing opportunity for you to receive expert test prep guidance at no cost to you.  This is a full course with the preparation book also provided to you at no cost.  You can sign up by emailing Dr. Pilette at  Anyone interested but with a schedule conflict should contact Dr. Pilette to discuss potential alternative arrangements.  Sign up ASAP before seats fill up.

PRISM Attends ASBMB Experimental Biology Conference in Boston, MA

PRISM Attends the ASBMB Experimental Biology Conference in Boston, MA

with signThe ASBMB Experimental Biology (EB) conference is one of the biggest annual biology-based conferences in the country and this year it took place from March 28-April 1 in Boston, MA.  The presentation categories were varied, including such topics as DNA replication studies and cancer genetics. Along with presenters and students, vendors from all around the country set up booths to advertise their cutting-edge instrumentation and kits.  In addition to lectures, vendors, and presentations, this conference offers interactive seminars on such topics as “how to write your resume” and “how to effectively apply for graduate schools.”

This year, PRISM sent two members with mentor, Prof. Artem Domashevskiy, to the EB Conference.  Valentina Aitbakieva presented a poster on her work, “Isolation and Characterization of Different Isoforms of Pokeweed Antiviral Protein (PAP) from Phytolacca americana,”  and David Rodriguez presented a poster on his work, “Studying Interactions Between Pokeweed Antiviral Protein (PAP) and Fluorescently Labeled Tobacco Etch Virus RNA.”  PRISM was also able to send an additional 3 students this year, Karen Conrad, Porfirio Fernandez, and Derek Sokolowski as conference participants even though they did not present their work.

David Rodriguez is a junior student in the PRISM program and this was his first experience presenting at a professional conference.  Below is his account:

Dom and Rod“It was an intimidating experience but an absolute pleasure to attend and present at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston. The scale of the conference could be felt immediately by the sheer number of people just waiting to get their name badges.  This feeling was amplified further when I entered the grand hall where most of the conference was held. Though a little nervous, my colleagues and I dove right in. We spent the several days talking to other students, top scientists, and vendors from all over the country. One of the most inspiring things I noticed was the variety of research going on. The amount of imagination and intelligence that went into some of the research I learned about is nothing short of amazing. I spent the last day of my visit presenting my own research. I had never presented my research to this point, and I was nervous about my first time being at such a huge conference with so many brilliant people who specialize in biology. Luckily I had been preparing with the help of my mentor, friends, and PRISM. Though nervous. I concentrated and presented my research to quite a few very knowledgeable people. When it was all over, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and was actually excited to present my research and interact with interested people again. I can’t wait until next year.”

PRISM Holds Its 8th Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research

PRISM Symposium Highlights

Posters CISA recogroup picrd number of PRISM students (46) participated in this year’s 2015 Symposium on Wednesday, April 29. Projects for every interest and for every track were displayed.  This year’s Symposium showcased our growing population of computer science majors as well as two of our CUNY Justice Academy partner students who perform their research with mentors at Queensborough Community College.  Students impressed the guests with their research accomplishments and their ability to engage others when speaking about their work.  We were treated to a visit by Provost Bowers and President Travis, the latter of whom addressed students warmly and hailed their accomplishments.

After the poster session, there were two oral presentations: Yessenia Lopez, Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher and keynote speaker, Dr. Daniel Cocris.

Dr. Demi Cheng was thrilled to introduce her mentee, Yessenia Lopez, to kick off the presentations. Yessenia then showcased her research, “Manganese-Containing Dithiocarbamate Pesticides Increase B-Amyloid Precursor Protein and B-Amyloid Peptide Expression in PC-12 Cells.”  During her presentation, Yessenia gave the full story of her research journey, noting the significant impact of the deep mentoring she received from Dr. Cheng.

CocrisDr. Daniel Cocris then took over and inspired the audience by talking about his entire journey from leaving his home in Romania to finding his stride at John Jay performing research with Dr. Anthony Carpi.  Dr. Cocris spoke about the value of discovering his niche and his love of science, and about the labor involved to achieve his current success as a dentist.


Dr. Anthony Carpi served as the Master of Ceremonies at the PRISM Awards Ceremony, handing out certificatesHooding to all who participated and special awards to our speakers and poster winners.  This year PRISM honored its graduating seniors.  As theses titles were announced, mentors presented these students with PRISM stoles to be worn at graduation.

Awards Presented:

Recognition as Keynote Speaker:  Dr. Daniel Cocris

Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher: Yessenia Lopez

First Place – Poster Contest: Derek Sokolowski

Runners-Up – Poster Contest:  Karen Conrad, Richard Khusial, and Shawn Williams








For more pictures from this event, please click here.

Congratulations to PRISM’s 2015 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher – Yessenia Lopez

P1000652Yessenia Lopez is this year’s honored recipient of PRISM’s Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award.  She joined the lab of Dr. Demi Cheng in June 2013 to pursue a project related to Alzheimer’s Disease, seeking to determine if the pesticides maneb (MB) and mancozeb (MZ) increase the expressions of β-amyloid precursor protein (AβPP) and β-amyloid peptide 42 (Aβ42). During her time in Dr. Cheng’s lab, Yessenia transformed from a science student into young scientist, showcasing her ability to think critically, work independently, and collaborate effectively.  In the words of her mentor, “She takes pride in her lab work, she gets truly excited about results, and the high quality of her research reflects this.” Yessenia has accepted an offer to participate in the competitive post-baccalaureate PREP program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  This is her next step on the way to pursuing her PhD and fulfilling her career goal to be an independent scientist.

PRISM Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 29 – Join Us!

On Wednesday, April 29, PRISM will Celebrate Student Achievement, when all of our current students share their research accomplishments in a poster session from 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. in the Student Cafeteria, on the 2nd floor of John Jay’s New Building.

Everyone is welcome to attend the poster session.  Prospective PRISM students can get a preview of the research possibilities that await them.  Light refreshments will be served.

Email to RSVP or to further inquire about this event or its additional sessions.

PRISM Welcomes Its Newest Members!

Fifteen new recruits are now part of our official PRISM family after having attended the Research Training Workshop (RTW) this past January 20-22.

RTW gang jan 2015

Our newest members are from left to right, above: Nithusha Mayakaduwage, Imani Hargett, Laura Duffy, Brianna Bell, Elmer Morales, Jia Wen Tan, Michael Wu, Zenab Khan, William Aguilar, Jeanine Day, Donovan Trinidad, Gerallynn Eusebio, Ronald Peralta, Khamattie Uzagir, and Brooke Nielsen.  Each trainee met and exceeded our minimum PRISM requirements as there was stiff competition this winter for our limited RTW spots.  Among the students were three members of the CUNY Justice Academy, our partner forensics students who originated at a CUNY community college.

DSC05383During this winter RTW, Professor Rauceo and Professor Roberts addressed PRISM expectations and the important of maturity and integrity when performing research.  Visiting speakers also included PRISM mentors (Champeil, Rosati, Delgado-Cruzata, and Brown) who briefed students on their lab’s projects and opened the door for these new students to inquire about open researcher spots.

DSC05450An important component of this and every RTW is the time that they spend in the lab, learning basic techniques related to solutions chemistry.  Prof. Rauceo and Prof. Roberts, along with lab tech, Karol Alvarez, closely supervise these activities, all the while assessing the students’ abilities, in addition to providing feedback about best practices and problem solving strategies.

PRISM coordinators Dr. Ed Sanabria-Valentin and Fran Jimenez met with students throughout the RTW to speak about PRISM policies, procedures, events, and opportunities for stipends and travel funding.  The new recruits were able to interact quite a bit with our veteran peer mentors, who were kind enough to share their best tips for choosing a mentor, time management, and do’s and don’ts of undergraduate research from a more relatable perspective.

We wish our new students a great deal of success as they get matched with a professor and embark on their undergraduate research careers!  Click here for more pictures from this training event.

Alumni Spotlight – Christopher Pedigo (PRISM ’09) Earns American Heart Association Fellowship and Other Accolades

Christopher Pedigo, a PRISM alumnus who graduated in 2009, is steadily pursuing his goal of starting his own biomedical research lab.  With just one more year to go in pursuit of his PhD in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at the Miller College of Medicine in the University of Miami, Christopher has already published several scholarly articles and received accolades for his work.

Pedigo Blog 1While at John Jay, he worked under the mentorship of Dr. Yi He on a project published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, titled “Bioaccessibility of arsenic in various types of rice in an in vitro gastrointestinal fluid system.”  After he graduated, Christopher spent two years as an adjunct instructor at John Jay and Borough of Manhattan Community College, while continuing to perform research in the labs of both Dr. He and Dr. Nathan Lents.

In 2009, Christopher was accepted into his PhD program and started research with his PI, Dr. Sandra Merscher, and co-mentor, Dr. Alessia Fornoni.  Their work investigates novel causes of Diabetic Kidney Disease (DKD), which affects 40% of diabetic patients, as potential therapeutic targets.  Consequently, Christopher and his lab are looking at the role of circulating factors on the glomerulus in vivo in mouse models and in vitro in the podocyte.

He is co-first author on the publication, “Sphingomyelinase-like phosphodiesterase 3b expression levels determine podocyte injury phenotypes in glomerular disease,” published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. In this study, Christopher and his colleagues show that SMPDL3b levels are differently regulated in two glomerular diseases and that these levels determine the type of damage caused by certain circulating factors (more specifically sUPAR).

Christopher earned an American Heart Association Fellowship to help him continue his research and eagerly awaits word on his pre-doctoral NIH F31 fellowship application.  Travel grants awarded to Christopher are allowing him to visit various U.S. locales in order to advance his research and develop his expertise. Christopher is one of five PhD students nationally to receive the Tutored Research and Education for Kidney Scholars grant that will afford Christopher the opportunity to take a week-long kidney physiology class in Maine.  Other travel grants also allow him to attend the Kern Lipid Conference this summer in Vail, Colorado and to attend the American Society of Nephrology Conference in Philadelphia this fall.

PRISM is very proud of Christopher’s accomplishments since graduating John Jay and wishes him the best of luck in all of his academic endeavors.

What Can I Do with a Forensic Science Degree?

You may know that John Jay offers three different forensic science major tracks – molecular biology, toxicology, and criminalistics.  But before you focus in on your chosen path, why not consider all the doors that can be opened with your forensic science degree?

The American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) recently sponsored a series of career webinars, all hosted by a distinguished professional in the given field.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, you can also access the presentation slides that accompany each session.

These webinars will help you find out:

  • What a forensic odontologist is and does…
  • What a typical day in the life of a medical examiner is like…
  • The level of education needed to advance as a criminalist or a toxicologist…
  • What kinds of salary expectations you should have…
  • Much more!


PRISM Students Makes Their Mark at the SOT Conference!

AM2014_HomePageThe Society of Toxicology (SOT) Conference is the largest of its kind for this discipline.   SOT brings together 6,500 toxicologists SOT All - Editfrom more than 50 countries.   This year, it was held March 23-27 in sunny Phoenix, AZ and some of the toxicologists in attendance were our own PRISM students: Christine Ta, Bik Tzu Huang, Jazlene Montes, and Yessenia Lopez, as well as mentor, Dr. Shu-Yuan Cheng. Who better to get the details from than the student attendees themselves?  Read below for their insights and first hand accounts of their experiences and click here for pictures from the trip that showcase both the conference and the sights of Phoenix.


An account from Jazlene Montes, attending for the first time…

The whole experience in general was very eye-opening for me. I’ve always liked science and knew I’d like a career in science, but I never really knew what options there were out there in the “real world.” What was I going to do after I finished school? What would I become and how? Those questions were answered for me at SOT. I got to interact with people in various positions from many different science backgrounds, which was all very cool and informational. I feel calmer knowing what I’m working   for in the long run. Having a goal to work towards has helped reinvigorate me.   I know now that I’d like to continue my education by obtaining a PhD. I’d like my work to be on toxicology with a focus in public health. After finishing school, I can either continue into more schooling or have a career in an industry, the government, or even a college. My final goal now is to one day be a professor at a college teaching students, helping them, and motivating them as so many teachers/professor have done for me. Without them I know I would have never made it to where I am now. I’d like to pass that along to student both in a classroom and/or in a lab. SOT has given me the insight and knowledge I have long been seeking for. Now that I finally know whats possible, the sky is the limit.

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