CUNY Research Scholars Program
Mentor Profiles

HOMAR BARCENA
I am a professor of chemistry in the Physical Sciences Department and I am the director of the Honors Program of the college. My research interests include the use of proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study living systems, specifically by looking at their metabolomic profiles. Research projects will include the development of methods to recognize samples from a disease state versus a healthy state, as well as the development of methods to differentiate metabolic outputs given a variable change. Students will learn the foundations of NMR spectroscopy and use the data obtain to perform multivariate analyses.

SANTINA BENINCASA
Professor Benincasa is a geologist, spatial scientist and educator. She currently works an adjunct lecturer for Kingsborough's Department of Physical Sciences, teaching both geology and environmental chemistry-based courses. When not teaching she conducts research through the University of Southern California in Geographic Information Science and Technology, of which she is a doctoral candidate. Her areas of interest and research include GIS, remote sensing, natural disasters, climate change, sedimentology and stratigraphy. 

DMITRY BROGUN
My research interests focus on the Metagenomics and multi-drug resistance genes. Viral discovery is critical to understanding the evolution of viruses inside humans and other organisms. When viral discovery is combined with the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance (“Antibiotic resistance,” n.d. Perhaps the WHO report on Ab resistance), it is clear that these two areas of research will have strong implications in human health and medicine.  Also, I am interested in clustering algorithms for the Phylomic analysis of large gene families and whole genomes across all domains of life.

KIEREN TORRES HOWARD
I run an X-ray Diffraction (XRD) Laboratory specializing in characterization of primitive meteorites at Kingsborough Community College (CUNY) and I'm a Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).  I try to infer the nature of asteroids at the point of accretion from the mineralogy of meteorites. Inside of asteroids high temperature phases formed in the solar nebula reacted with water from molten ices to form clay like minerals. My research is attempting to reveal the nature of the environments where these reactions took place and the evolution of asteroids during hydration. Mineral abundances for meteorites, determined by XRD, are also aiding astronomers to match meteorite samples to asteroids and to understand what asteroid surfaces are like today.

PATRICK LLOYD
Our efforts include developing chemical soil testing methods for use in local community gardens and farms. Kingsborough Community College has developed a successful urban farm on its campus. Soil samples are currently sent to commercial testing sites to evaluate nutrient levels including phosphate, nitrate, and calcium. We are working to develop wet chemistry techniques that can be used at our campus by students. We are currently testing spectrophotometric methods for analyzing phosphate and nitrate ions and potentiometric methods for analyzing soil pH.

MARIE MCGOVERN and DR. DAVID MICHAELSON
As a team are working in collaboration with the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to use DNA barcoding techniques to analyze the quality of soil samples particularly focused on nematodes present in their soil and compost, but potentially also attempting a wider ecological analysis including fungal and annelid species. Regarding the nematode species, some are beneficial and therefore desired for organic gardening while others are agriculturally harmful. Beneficial species include nematodes that prey on bacteria, fungi and insects that damage or destroy plants. Harmful species include ones that prey on helpful bacteria such as nitrogen fixing bacteria and ones that are directly parasitic on plants. It is our goal to help the Botanical Gardens identify nematodes that are present so they can better manage the garden. Our same techniques can potentially also identify harmful vs helpful annelids as well as the fungal environment of their soils. Together, these data will assist the gardens in assessing the overall ecological quality of their soils and the composts they use to enrich their soils.

JOHN MIKALOPAS
John Mikalopas received his Ph. D degree in Engineering from the University of California, Davis in 1991. He was a research scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Research Laboratory, a Postdoctoral Assistant and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Cincinnati.   In 1998, he was appointed as an Assistant Professor at Kingsborough Community College of The City University of New York.  For 15 years he has served as elected Chair of the Department.  His research interests include computational studies of sensing applications of THz technology.

LARBI RDDAD
Dr. Larbi Rddad received a PhD in ore geochemistry, MS in organic geochemistry, Masters in Education, and BS in Geology (Hydrogeology/Geophysics). My research interests revolve around three themes with significant implications for society: mineral resources, organic geochemistry, and groundwater. These themes highlight the interaction between Lithosphere, Hydrosphere, and Biosphere. The objective of the first theme is to constrain the genesis of mineral resources using stable (C-O-S) and radioactive (Pb-Nd-Sr) isotopes, micro-thermometry, and trace elements/Rare Earth Elements (REE). Besides my current focus on Mississippi Valley Type (MVT) ore deposits, I am developing projects on volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) and magmatic-related ore deposits in the U.S. and North Africa. My ultimate goal is to constrain the geological and the geochemical factors for ore emplacement. Such factors have immense implications for ore exploration. The second theme aims to identify potential source rocks for hydrocarbons in sedimentary basins using mainly Rock-Eval analysis. The identification of the source rocks and potential traps would help locate potential hydrocarbon sites. The goals of the third theme are (i) the identification and distribution of trace elements such as arsenic, boron, and fluoride in the Triassic rocks of the Newark basin, and (ii) the contamination of groundwater by these trace elements. The identification of the source(s) of contamination would help target the potentially hazardous sites. Soon, I will launch a project on comparative paleontology (e.g. Dinosaurs) in the Newark basin in USA and Northwest Africa. This project will shed light on ancient life during the Triassic-Jurassic period in both northeast America and northwest Africa.

LAURA SPINU
Laura Spinu has taught at several universities in both the US and Canada, but it is not until she landed at KBCC that she felt it was a matter of destiny. Laura does not draw a line between her roles as a professor and researcher and her mentorship duties. Rather, she uses her accomplishments in each of these capacities to successfully inform the other aspects of her professional persona. Ideas for future research and relationships conducive to fruitful mentorship are often formed in the classroom. For her research grants, Laura consistently obtains support for undergraduate student research assistant positions. She credits her own success as a researcher in the fields of phonetics and psycholinguistics to the inspiration and enthusiasm generated by the mentorship of outstanding student scholars, with whom she has presented work at multiple conferences such as, most recently, the International Symposium on Monolingual and Bilingual Speech (August 2019), the 178th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Diego (December 2019), the Northwest Linguistics Conference in Seattle (April 2020). Upcoming student presentations include the 179th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Chicago (December 2020) as well as the International Symposium on Speech Production in Providence, RI (December 2020). The valuable lessons learned from CRSP have led her to initiate a collaborative research bootcamp (K-CORE) for students interested in collaborating with each other and developing research projects on speech-related topics for presentation at various conferences. This synergistic growth and the individual successes of her mentees are the most rewarding aspect of Laura's participation in the CRSP program or, as she likes to call it, her CRSP family.

FARSHAD TAMARI
Professor Tamari is a molecular geneticist. He received his Master’s (M.Sc.), and Ph.D. from the Department of Biology at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He completed a three-year post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Human Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Kingsborough Community College in 2009. Currently, Professor Tamari’s research revolves around technical aspects of DNA extraction and its optimization in plants. He also conducts pedagogical studies to determine best classroom/lab practices.

JODIE DELSOL
Jodie Delsol is currently the STEM Physical Sciences advisor who assists students with course selection, career goals and science research recruitment. With a background in Chemistry, she taught high school and middle school science for 7 years. Jodie’s goals include improving science retention rates and promoting science diversity.

CHRISTINA JOHNSON
Christina Johnson has worked as an administrator at Kingsborough for over 15 years, starting as a college assistant while enrolled as a student of Engineering Science at Kingsborough in 2004. As a CUNY alumnus of both Kingsborough and Brooklyn College, she is dedicated to the enrichment and improvement of career and technology programs for other CUNY students through activities funded by the Perkins Grant Program at KCC. In the course of her professional journey, she was also recruited to assist with the CUNY Research Scholars Program, and she is grateful to the CRSP scholars, mentors, and team members for providing her with new insights into student needs. She looks forward to her continuing work with the program and seeing CRSP alumni students excel in their own journeys.

FRANCES SAMUEL
During the Fall of 2018, Frances began working at Kingsborough Community College as the College Assistant for the CUNY Research Scholars and Perkins Programs.  Prior to this, she worked for fourteen years as a Mathematics Educator in middle and high schools in Brooklyn, New York. Frances is an avid proponent of higher education and assisting students in being able to discover their personal pathways towards success.