An “Enthralling” Experience: Biology Students Reflect on Presenting at the Sigma Xi Conference

On November 10-12, six Biology students and their mentor Dr. Jodi Evans attended the Sigma Xi Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Students share their reflections on the conference.

students at biology conference

The Sigma Xi Student Research Conference was a great learning experience from start to finish. We first heard about the conference in the spring and decided we would work towards submitting an abstract for consideration. We did not know at that moment what we were getting ourselves into. We spent countless days over the summer performing many tests to get data for which to write an abstract.

Our hard work paid off when we received the email notifying us that our abstract was accepted into the conference. However, that only opened up a new challenge for us to face. We now had to raise enough money to get to North Carolina.

The entire experience gave us the accomplishment of seeing our work through to the end. Every step along the way, from culturing the cells over the summer to hosting bake sales in the Public Square lobby, and then finally to presenting our research in front of the judges, taught us that all of our efforts brought us to that moment. It was the culmination of almost a year’s worth of work, and we got further than we thought we ever could a year ago. Even though we didn’t come home with a medal, we learned that we could accomplish anything if we put our minds to it. And as cliché as that sounds, sometimes that’s all you need to be successful.

Anthony Morante, senior Biology major from West Babylon, NY.

My experience attending the Sigma Xi Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, was nothing short of enthralling. After a little over a year of engaging in highly specific biomedical research, crunching data for hours, and fundraising for the trip, my fellow researchers and I had been excitedly anticipating this conference for a long time. It was the perfect opportunity to share our research with others who felt just as passionate about the sciences as we did.

The most rewarding part of attending this conference was hearing from other scientists about their own remarkable research and findings. We got the chance to learn so much about topics ranging from climate change to animal behavior studies to immunology, all while socializing and networking with scientists and researchers that will someday change the world.

It was impossible not to be humbled by an opportunity like this. My passion for science was inflamed, and my excitement for a career in biomedical research swelled. Upon arriving back home in New York, fresh off of this infectious excitement, my sights sharpened more than ever on enrolling in an institute for my master’s and doctorate in Immunology. I’m so grateful for this experience, and it will remain as one of the most rewarding opportunities my time at Molloy has offered me.

Anthony Ricigliano, senior Biology major on the pre-medical track from Massapequa, NY.

biology students posing with skeleton

Over the weekend of November 10-12, I was honored to go and present my research on mesenchymal progenitor cells and their influence on macrophage phagocytosis through secreted factors and direct contact but with opposing regulation. This entire research experience has been one of the best experiences of my life. All of our hard work was really shown first when we were accepted to the conference and then when judges and peers from all across the country listened to what we did and enjoyed it. Being in that environment was a once in a lifetime experience. It really brought everything we had been doing for the past year to light as something more than just another project. In addition, raising the money for this trip really inspired me as I watched so many family, friends, peers, and faculty support us. I am happy I was able to be a part of it and enjoyed telling everyone about our project at MACUB at the Sigma Xi conference. I also look forward to presenting to the entire BCES department.

I’m grateful to my peers and mentor who I have had the pleasure of working with and getting to know throughout the duration of this project. They are part of what made it such a great experience. I would like to thank everyone for their support.  I will always treasure this opportunity I was given, and it will help me become a better scientist, worker, and person as a whole.

Rachel Rex, senior Biology major on the pre-veterinarian medicine track.

biology students and mentor

First, I would like to start by expressing how proud I am of my colleagues – and myself, of course – who worked so hard over the last year. It all began with long nights of research followed by long weeks of lab work that perpetuated into the summer months and all culminated into a grand final masterpiece. The number of hours that we dedicated to research, lab work, data analysis, and fundraising efforts were more than worth it.

While at the conference we met a plethora of other young researchers who came from vastly different places and backgrounds, all congregating in one city in North Carolina to nerd out together. It was very interesting to talk to these other researchers and find out where they came from, what inspired their work, and how they’re going to proceed in the future. We could also see, first hand, how well received our research was, which made us all feel elated to say the least.

Additionally, we were presenting among both high school and graduate students in addition to fellow undergraduates. Being between these two ages we could vividly see where we came from and what we will progress into one day. It was really exciting to see how much we accomplished at an undergraduate level and how much we can seek to accomplish as we move into graduate schools.

None of this could have been done without my peers and our absolutely fantastic mentor Dr. Evans. She provided us with more wisdom, time and energy than was ever required of her, but really helped us to succeed nonetheless. I am grateful I came to work with a group of such brilliant minds.

Jillian Weiss, senior Biology major on the pre-medical track.

biology students at conference

This past November I had the wonderful honor and privilege to represent the Molloy College BCES program at the Sigma Xi Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. I found myself surrounded by five peers competing in a highly-accredited undergraduate research competition. We had poured our blood, sweat, and tears in the lab to further research in the world of science. We had all worked extremely hard over the past year, including the summer, to pursue our research. I was also fortunate enough to receive a state grant through the CSTEP program.

When we decided to attend this conference, we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us in order to raise the funds to support our journey. From having bake and apparel sales to hosting a bowling fundraiser to creating a GoFundMe page, we had a fun time reaching our end goal. It is my hope and aspiration to further inspire other underclassmen to get pumped about research and immerse themselves in all the endless possibilities Molloy has to offer them. I am sad that my time at Molloy is quickly coming to an end. However, I am extremely fortunate and grateful for this wonderful experience, including the memories and friendships that I have made along the way.

Christie Catterson, senior Biology major with a double minor in Chemistry and Psychology on the pre-medical track.

biology students in front of poster

Images courtesy of Anthony Ricigliano and Christie Catterson. 

Finding Peace of Mind

By Colm Ashe

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed you wanted to escape? I have.

It was a typical Wednesday on Molloy’s campus. Homework assignments and project deadlines buzzed around my anxious brain, demanding every bit of my conscious attention. I felt disconnected. Like I was just going through the motions.

I couldn’t focus on a single task. Every time I sat down to my work, I kept thinking about everything else I had to do. I couldn’t even focus on procrastinating. I tried distracting myself by mindlessly scrolling through social media and compulsively checking my emails. Nothing could take my mind off all the work I had to do.

I felt this urge welling up inside me. This gnawing anxiety in my chest that manifested as a whirlwind in my head. I don’t know why, but I started walking.

I left Public Square and headed through the back lots towards Mercy Medical Center. Just past Mercy was a highway and a thick line of trees on the other side. Curiosity pulled me towards it. By this point, I had given up all hope on getting any work done.

Just beyond those trees, I saw Hempstead Lake for the first time. I didn’t expect to stumble upon this massive pocket of nature hidden amongst the highway traffic. I walked until the sounds of rumbling engines were replaced with rustling trees and my racing thoughts were carried away by the autumn air.

Eventually, I sat down and stared out at the lake. There was something hypnotic about the scene. Smooth ripples pulsating outwards as if echoing the whispering winds. The slow, spiraling motion of an occasional falling leaf. The feeling of the sun on my skin.

While paying attention to these simple little details, I felt this deep sense of peace. The chatter of my to-do list had faded in the face of this powerful stillness.

Sometimes I get caught up in my schedule. From school to family to friends to work, it can feel like I’m being pulled in every direction by obligations. In this frantic state, I neglect my own emotional and mental health. That stuff builds up without me even realizing, causing even more anxiety down the road.

By carving out some time for myself every day to relax in a distraction-free environment, I can avoid feeling like I’m constantly rushing from A to B. I’ll still have my busy life, but it will be much more manageable. Rather than impulsively reacting to situations, I’ll feel more capable handling responsibilities. Rather than half-heartedly attending to every task, I can learn to focus on one thing at a time.

As I left the lake, I experienced a surge of creativity. Inspirations and solutions emerged from the depths of my mind. Stress gave way to a relaxed state of flow, which carried me back to school and straight into my work. With my renewed energy, I was ready to tackle the day.

Making Magical Moments: My Disney College Program Experience

jackie bassey pooh characters

By Jacqueline Bassey

I have always had a set plan in life: finish school as fast as possible at the top of my class so I could start being successful young. I was focused on getting internships, going to every networking event I could find, and making connections. Taking a semester off to work at Disney was never in my plan. One day I saw an advertisement online for the Disney College Program, and I decided to apply for fun. I had heard it was extremely competitive, and people I knew who applied waited weeks or even months to hear back from the recruiters. I went through all three interview stages in two weeks, and was accepted. My parents had never heard of the program and thought I was going to drop out of school for good and ride Space Mountain all day. After conducting a lot of research and convincing my parents and myself that this was a good idea, I made the decision to enroll in the Disney College Program this fall.

Everyone gets a role in the program. Because I am a Marketing major, my first choice was to work in sales and merchandise. I was accepted into this field but I did not know where I was going to work until a week before the program began. I am located in the Emporium on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom; specifically, the Emporium is on the left side of Main Street and is that gigantic strip of stores that are all connected. My costume is very familiar to me. I wear a plaid skirt, which was my uniform in Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade. I did have to adjust to a new schedule. My location is the last place that closes in Magic Kingdom, so getting home at 4:30 am is now normal for me.

The second part of the program is the school. I take two classes: “Organizational Leadership” and “Creativity and Innovation.” The course load for the four-hour classes is time consuming, since I also work 45 hours a week. However, my classes are very interactive, and I get excited to go each week. My teachers have had several different management roles throughout Disney with years of experience. The best part is the field work: I get to go into areas of Disney and observe how businesses run and the different consumer behavior styles that guests exhibit. I am learning leadership skills that can only be taught by leaders of a Fortune 500 company with excellent guest service.

The final component of the program is the fun! I have made friends from all over the world. I have a roommate from Puerto Rico, one from Texas, and one from the one and only Long Island. When we are not working, we go to the parks as much as we can. We also have opportunities to attend special events. We got a backstage tour of Fantasmic and sat in the front row for the taping of the holiday parade.

My absolute favorite part of the program is making magical moments for guests. I have been part of proposals and birthday celebrations, and I make little girls become princesses for a day. It does not matter how old a guest is; they came to Disney for the magic, and it is my job (with the help of my boss, Mickey) to create homemade magic with a little pixie dust. In the words of Walt Disney, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, dreams are forever.”