Four BMCC Students Win Panel Awards at Mid-Atlantic Beacon Conference

June 16, 2021

Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) was among 19 community colleges in four mid-Atlantic states represented at the prestigious 2021 Beacon Conference hosted online by Westchester Community College on June 4 — and four BMCC student researchers who presented their findings at the conference received panel awards in their discipline: Joshua Lasciche, William Roman, Zachary Cussick and Maya Wong.

Science Deputy Chair, Professor Abel Navarro mentored the research projects of two BMCC panel winners.

Science for Forensics major Joshua Lasciche won the Environmental Studies panel award for his research project, “Uptake of Radioactive Ions from Aqueous Solutions by Biopolymers,” and Science major William Roman won the Chemistry and Natural Sciences panel award for his project, “Protein-Adsorbents Affinity and Its Potential Use for the Recovery of Proteins from Aqueous Solutions.”

According to Professor Navarro, it has been impressive to see these and other students succeed despite the year’s pandemic restrictions.

“Virtual learning involves many challenges, constant adjustments and time limitations, and these students made space in their already busy agenda to commit to remote research,” he says. “They were able to develop skills in data analysis, statistical processing of data and bibliographic research.”

At the Beacon conference, says Professor Navarro, “Our students were able to calibrate their skills with students of the same instructional and experiential level. Community college students do not normally explore public speaking in their disciplines outside of the classroom, so this is a great opportunity for our students not to only present at a discipline-oriented conference, but also be judged by specialists in their fields.”

Winner of the Biology panel winner was Zachary Cussick, mentored by Science Professor Joanna Giza and whose project “Clathrin-Mediated Endocytosis at the Postsynaptic Site.”

Writing and Literature major Maya Wong, mentored by Academic Literacy and Linguistics Professor Jennifer Delfino, won the Communications, Media, Speech panel award for her piece, “Judging by the ‘Color’ of my Language: Language Appropriation, Raciolinguistic Ideologies, and the Power of Words in Identity Construction.”

Wong’s research explores linguistic appropriation and identity construction, with a focus on African American Language — and her interest in these areas can be traced to a Linguistics course she took at BMCC.

“It taught me to view things from a raciolinguistic perspective,” Wong says. “It’s important to acknowledge the existence of language ideologies and to study them because they show us the racialized systems in institutions.”

She adds that it is possible to harbor prejudice and discrimination towards a community, yet be obsessed with their culture and exploit them for profit.

“It’s a combination of obsession and bigotry, and I felt the need to bring light to these issues,” says Wong, who will enter a bachelor’s degree program in comparative literature this fall at Hunter College, CUNY.

Participants gained critical conference experience

While not all the BMCC participants were panel winners, they all gained critical conference experience, presenting to field experts as well as to audience members.

Schiza Cime and Mohamadia Nassar were mentored by Professor Navarro for their project, “Uptake of Co (II) Ions from Aqueous Solutions by Low-Cost Biopolymers,” which relates to removing toxic metals from water sources.

Art Foundations: Studio Art alumna Fernanda Carvalho Santos, BMCC’s 2021 valedictorian, was mentored by Media Arts and Technology Professor Philip Weisman for her Beacon project, “Synesthesia and Film: An Experience Beyond the Screen.”

Synesthesia, Carvalho Santos explains, is a psychological phenomenon in which two or more non-related senses are experienced simultaneously. It can be applied to film, photography, music, painting, writing and more, says Carvalho Santos, who is now pursuing a Bachelor in Fine Arts (BFA) at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“By identifying synesthetes at an early age, schools are able to adapt learning methods for these students,” she says. “I was always interested in how art can trigger many senses in the human body. If I learn how this works psychologically and biologically, I will be able to make art that evokes more sensations and offers a unique experience to viewers. Besides that, I became even more interested in synesthesia after identifying with synesthesia myself.”


  • BMCC is among 19 community colleges in four mid-Atlantic states represented at the 2021 Beacon Conference hosted online by Westchester Community College on June 4
  • Panel winners include Zachary Cussick (Biology), Maya Wong (Communications, Media, Speech), Joshua Lasciche (Environmental Studies) and William Roman (Chemistry and Natural Sciences)
  • Faculty mentors are Professors Joanna Giza, Jennifer Delfino and Abel Navarro

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