Beacons of Excellence

July 30, 2014

Every June since 1993, the Beacon Conference has showcased the research efforts of outstanding students at two-year colleges throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Simply to be selected to present their work in the one-day competition reflects an exceptional level of scholarship and originality.

This year, two BMCC students—Humoyun Musaev and Anastasia Sidorenkova—were not only selected, but their oral presentations of their work each placed first in their respective disciplines.

Musaev, whose presentation was submitted in the Natural Sciences category, emigrated to the U.S. with his parents from the historic city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan in 2010, “primarily because they felt I could get a better education here,” he says.

After graduating from Forest Hills High School, he considered several community colleges before settling on BMCC “because there was just something different about it,” he says. He began his studies at BMCC the following year, with a plan to transfer to Queens College/CUNY, upon graduating and eventually going to medical school.

Ridding water of pollutants

In the summer of 2013, Musaev began working on a research project with his mentor, science professor Abel Navarro. The focus, he explains, “was on developing ways to eliminate heavy metals, such as copper, zinc and cobalt, from wastewater using low-cost, easily obtainable materials such as used teabags.”

By his own account, Musaev knew little about the topic at first or what was expected of him. “But Professor Navarro was incredibly helpful and supportive,” he says. “With his guidance, I did my own reading on the subject, and when the Beacon Conference was announced, he encouraged me to prepare and submit my paper and helped me pull together all the information that would go into it.”

By beginning his college career at BMCC, Musaev believes he gained invaluable research opportunities that might otherwise not have been open to him. “Friends at senior colleges have told me it can be very hard to get into a science research project with a mentor,” he says.

“The labs have limited openings, and the waiting lists can be as long as a year. This is just one reason why I’m glad I chose BMCC. This is a school that is really committed to helping its students succeed.”

Like Musaev, Anastasia Sidorenkova was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, arriving in New York from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, when she was 20.

“My main area of interest is media studies and, within that, gender studies and cultural studies,” she says. Her presentation at the Beacon Conference in the Communications category was an outgrowth of an honors project begun in the Spring 2014 semester for her Mass Media class. The topic: The representation of women in advertising.

How advertising promotes gender inequality

“As a communications student and as a young woman I have long been troubled by the sexualized representation of women in advertising images, so I decided to look closely at the real ways it affects women in our society,” Sidorenkova says.

“My thesis is that sexualized representation disempowers women socially and politically and contributes to a culture of misogyny that perpetuates violence against women.”

Sidorenkova was mentored by Professor Naida Zukic of the Department of Speech, Communications and Theater Arts. “Professor Zukic is truly a great mentor,” she says. “From the beginning she guided me in terms of the reading I’d need to do to gain a good grasp of the topic. She helped me design my research methodology, and was with me every step of the way.”

After graduating from BMCC, Sidorenkova will most likely continue her studies at Columbia. Her long-range plans include graduate school in media studies, gender studies and communications. Meanwhile, she plans to submit her paper to scientific journals.

“If it’s not accepted, I’ll do additional research—a prospect that I’m very excited about,” says this high-achieving scholar, adding without a hint of irony, “I really have to get started.”


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  • Anastasia Sidorenkova and Humoyun Musaev present papers in the Natural Sciences and Communications categories at the annual Beacon Conference
  • Oral presentations place first in their respective disciplines
  • Both students set their sights on graduate study

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