Undergraduate Research Program
You engage in real-world research guided by faculty mentors who share academic & professional support
Junior Scholars Program
You receive guidance & resources to support your career ambitions in science, technology, health & more
You have resources designed to help you successfully transition from community college to a four-year degree
“My goal is to be a toxicologist whose work helps create change—promoting equity, shaping policy, and increasing awareness on the harmful effects of drugs and chemicals. After interning at a research lab at Mount Sinai Hospital, I was excited to be offered a full-time position at Mount Sinai where I’ll continue to conduct research that advances environmental medicine and public health.”
Why John Jay?
I’ve always enjoyed the sciences, and, like many of my peers, I was a fan of shows like CSI. Because of that, I was drawn to John Jay and its STEM programming. Once I was at the College, I joined PRISM, and through the research projects I conducted, I grew to really like toxicology and decided to major in the field.
How did PRISM make your John Jay experience fulfilling?
Being in PRISM opened my eyes to what was possible with research. PRISM not only reinforced what I was learning in the classroom, it also put me in spaces where I could meet new people, work closely with professors, conduct exciting research, present my work, and find supportive mentors like Dr. Edgardo Sanabria-Valentín and Dr. Marta Concheiro-Guisan. While at John Jay, Dr. Ed and Dr. Concheiro-Guisan guided me, shared their expertise, and encouraged me to strive for more.
How did your internships affirm your career aspirations?
Before interning at Mount Sinai, I interned as a Tri-Institutional Minority Society Summer Scholars Research Program Scholar at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and at Alliance Laboratories, a clinical toxicology lab. All these internships gave me valuable hands-on experience in the sciences. I was able to conduct biomedical research, do forensic work, and see science’s impact on society.
How did your research with Dr. Marta Concheiro-Guisan enhance your education?
Getting to research with Dr. Concheiro-Guisan has been a top-quality experience. As a first-generation college student, being mentored by someone who has worked in a government agency, earned her Ph.D., has a pharmaceutical degree, and is also supportive of her students has been very motivating.
We studied synthetic enzymes and the breakdown of opioids in urine to improve testing detection. Our hope is that a better screening test could enable doctors to more effectively monitor a patient’s use of opioids. Given the current opioid crisis, I was excited to present this project at the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program Regional competition and thrilled when I won first prize.
In 10 years, where do you see yourself?
After earning my Ph.D., I’d like to be working in toxicology at a public health institution, medical school, or pharmaceutical company. I also want to be a mentor and resource to future STEM students. Helping people—especially students of color—is really important to me.
Finish this sentence: Because of John Jay…
I can proudly and confidently call myself a scientist. I didn’t feel comfortable saying that a few years ago, but after the research experience I’ve gained at John Jay, there’s no doubt that I am a scientist.
Major/Degree: Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
Programs: PRISM, CUNY Justice Academy, Math and Science Resource Center (MSRC)
Hometown: Castries, Saint Lucia
Career aspiration: FBI Forensic Examiner
“My dream is to work for the FBI in a position where I can solve crimes and conduct research that furthers the agency’s investigative goals and initiatives. I hope to build on the experiences I gained at John Jay while earning my master’s degree in forensic science. I’d love to publish research papers and work with forensic scientists across the globe.”
What was life like before John Jay?
I was born in New York but raised in Saint Lucia. After I finished my secondary education, I knew I wanted to go to college. I also knew that meant additional costs for my parents. Luckily, my family encouraged me to go after my dreams. I took a leap of faith, moved to New York, and lived with a family friend. I began my college journey at Queensborough Community College before transferring to John Jay through the CUNY Justice Academy.
Why John Jay?
One of my favorite genres to read growing up was crime fiction—I always found that world fascinating. As I did my research on colleges, John Jay and the forensic science program stood out. Before I applied, I met a John Jay alum, and they had nothing but great things to say about the College. That gave me the green light to go for what I wanted. Being at John Jay has felt like a dream come true.
How has PRISM made your John Jay experience fulfilling?
PRISM has given me the opportunity to get real hands-on research experience, make friends, and discover my passion. From the moment I transferred to John Jay, Dr. E. (Edgardo Sanabria-Valentín) has been there, suggesting scholarship programs, research projects, and learning opportunities. He continually encouraged me to apply for internships, fellowships, and jobs. It’s because of PRISM that I had the chance to participate in the McNair Scholars Research Program at Clarkson University last summer, where I examined saw-mark evidence on bones. Because of John Jay and the PRISM program, I got accepted into three forensic science graduate programs at Sam Houston State University, Syracuse University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Were there any fellowships, internships, or research opportunities that helped shape your career aspirations?
Research has played such an important role during my time at John Jay. It’s affirmed for me that I’m on the right path. During my time at the College, I’ve had a research paper published and had the opportunity to present at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences—which was unbelievable.
For the last two years, I’ve conducted research on pesticides with my mentor, Dr. Shu-Yuan (Demi) Cheng. We specifically focused on the pesticide propazine and the effects it has on human cells. Dr. Cheng encourages flexibility, ambition, outside-the-box thinking, and independence in the lab. She’s made me feel more comfortable in the research environment. As a future forensic scientist, being able to think about the different possibilities is vital and can be a game-changer in any investigation.
What advice do you have for incoming John Jay students?
Do not let fear stop you from saying “yes” to an opportunity. Before I came to John Jay, I was shy and would avoid participating in anything, but John Jay and PRISM changed all that for me. The opportunities presented to students at the College can lead them to accomplish amazing things and reach their goals. This fall, I begin a master’s degree in forensic science program at Sam Houston State University, with a financial aid package worth $14,000 a year. Because of John Jay, I’m on the path to making my dreams a reality. One day, I know I’ll become an FBI forensic examiner.
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology
Minor: Chemistry and Environmental Justice
Cohort: PRISM, Macaulay Honors
On-Campus Role: Tutor at Math and Science Resource Center
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Career aspiration: Marine Biologist and Environment Policy Advisor
“I always dreamt of working as a marine biologist and helping shape environmental justice policies,” says Kimberly Nuñez ’23, a PRISM and Macaulay Honors senior who is earning a bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology. “It’s why I came to John Jay and joined PRISM, because I knew it would put me on the path to career success. This fall, I get one step closer to realizing my dream as I enter the marine biology master’s program at University College Cork, Ireland.”
How did PRISM help prepare you for graduate school?
It’s made me more confident in my research abilities and helped me realize I belong in science. PRISM was the first time I came up with my own project ideas and drove my own research forward with the guidance of my mentor, Dr. Anthony Carpi. The program opened up a world of opportunities for me—including an internship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of the country’s best marine science research facilities—and ultimately led to my decision to go to grad school.
How did Dr. Carpi’s mentorship help shape your goals?
Dr. Carpi is an amazing mentor who goes out of his way to reach out and help his students succeed at John Jay and beyond. For my research on the effect of water on the transport of mercury in soil, he connected me with scientists who could help me bring my research to its highest potential, he ensured I was on track to meeting my goals, and continually encouraged me to pursue a post-graduate degree. Having him as a mentor demonstrated to me the type of mentor I want to be: forward-thinking, supportive, kind, and persistent.
Tell us about your internship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
It was a three-month internship last summer, where I worked with my mentor, Kristin Meyer-Kaiser, researching how communities on the sea floor in the Arctic are changing. Part of my role was image analysis, where I identified different species, counted their numbers, and gathered data. It was such an eye-opening experience because I was able to see all the good that can be done in the world with a science degree.
What made you decide to pursue a master’s degree at University College Cork?
I’ve always wanted to study abroad and learned that University College Cork had a top-notch marine biology master’s program. Since I’m coming from John Jay, where my background is in cell and molecular biology and environmental justice, I wanted to make sure I enrolled in a master’s program that would provide me with a broader view of the marine biology field. I’m excited to learn about marine mammals and marine organisms, conduct research, be in the marine environment, and work on a boat.
Ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
I hope to be an established marine biologist, researcher, and advocate. I would love to help advance policies aimed at conserving our oceans and planet. The goal is to have worked on meaningful research and, using that research, inform and educate elected officials so that they can create environmental policies that improve the health of our world.
What will be going through your mind when you cross the stage at Commencement?
My mom and my sister. They’ve been my biggest supporters, so I’m dedicating this accomplishment to them. My mom raised us as a single mother while working full-time and going to school full-time to earn her degree. Throughout my life, I’ve seen my mom’s ambition and drive to succeed daily. She inspired me to never give up on my dreams.
The Program for Research Initiatives in Science & Math (PRISM) supports science and math students by preparing them for success in college and beyond through academic and pre-professional guidance.
Our goal is to help our students see themselves as scientists and future professionals and to expose them to opportunities for further training and growth. The National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences and CUNY all recognized PRISM as a model of excellence for improving the number of students from underrepresented communities the STEM pipeline.
Edgardo Sanabria-Valentín, PhD, Associate Director, firstname.lastname@example.org