A New Journey: Class of 2020 Prepares for Graduate School

May 22, 2020

When they entered St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. John’s University just a few short years ago, students in the Class of 2020 were unsure of where their journey would lead them. Today, as they prepare to graduate, several students have chosen to continue their academic journeys and will attend some of the top graduate programs in the nation.

“Our graduates complete their degrees during the most challenging semester in the history of American higher education,” said Jeffrey W. Fagen, Ph.D., Dean, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Professor, Psychology. “Their resilience and commitment to further their education is admirable. In the words of psychologist Angela Duckworth, our graduates have ‘grit,’ by which she means ‘the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.’ This grit prepares our students for success in their future educational endeavors.”

According to Alison G. Hyslop, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Chemistry, the Class of 2020 is academically gifted.

“This group of students is one of the strongest we have had, and they have been a pleasure to work with,” she said.

“They have excelled both in the classroom and in the laboratory. What makes them special is how they encourage each other to excel. In the future, we expect to hear about all of their exciting work.”

Beshoy Farah

A native of Westbury, NY, Biology major Beshoy Farah begins classes this fall at Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine, confident that he is well prepared for the rigors of dental school.  

“St. John’s Department of Biological Sciences is top-notch,” said Beshoy, who minored in Theology and Religious Studies. “My experience in the classroom allowed me to do well on the Dental Admission Test and get into my first choice for dental school.”

Beshoy took advantage of every resource available to him as a biology student and as a member of St. John’s Pre-Dental Club. “My peers and I would mentor each other and participate in academic enrichment programs, dental shadowing experiences, and even community service events,” he said. “They kept me on the right track throughout my time at St. John’s.”

Service played an integral role in his growth at St. John’s. Beshoy participated in Relay For Life, Midnight Runs, and other activities. “These experiences were truly eye-opening,” he said. “It was astonishing to see how much poverty exists in one of the most expensive cities in the world.”

Beshoy was also a member of St. John’s student chapter of the American Chemical Society(ACS), an experience he cherishes. “I participated in ACS for three years because I am passionate about expanding my knowledge within chemistry,” he said. Each year, the group participated in a national competition with other ACS student chapters. “During my second year, we came in third place. During my final year, our chapter took home first place for St. John’s.”

Jonathan Farshadmand

Jonathan Farshadmand of Roslyn, NY, majored in chemistry with a biology minor at St. John’s, and plans to attend Hofstra University’s Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine.

As a student with medical school ambitions, Jonathan saw a need for an honors program dedicated solely to premed students, so he and a friend created Omega Phi Theta, a premedical honors organization.

“Our organization’s mission is to help students achieve their dreams of becoming doctors by providing a road map for the steps to get into medical school,” he said. “It started out as just an idea, but it has become a cornerstone for premedical students at St. John’s University.”

Today, the organization has 300 members and is officially recognized by the University. It provides a wide range of services and events for premed students, including the annual “Dinner with Doctors” networking event.

“I created this organization to assist all current and future generations of premedical students at St. John’s,” he said. “Along my journey, I learned how to be a better leader.”

Yekaterina Fyodorova

Born in Taraz, Kazakhstan, Yekaterina Fyodorova moved to the United States seven years ago and lives in Brooklyn, NY. A chemistry major at St. John’s, Yekaterina is one of three students who will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Originally interested in a medical career, she decided to explore chemistry after volunteering at a hospital. “I realized medicine was not for me,” she recalled. “I spoke to a number of faculty at St. John’s who explained to me the many different career options I could have with a chemistry degree.”

When the time came to consider graduate school, Yekaterina again reached out to faculty for help with this important decision. “I asked them many questions, and together we weighed all of the pros and cons of my options,” she said. “This helped me greatly in making my decision.”

Dalia Hassan

For Dalia Hassan of Westbury, NY, chemistry has always been a passion. Inspired by the support she received as an undergraduate at St. John’s, Dalia is enrolling as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with the goal of one day inspiring students herself.

Dalia feels extremely well prepared for the challenges of graduate school, thanks to the research opportunities she was granted both on and off campus. “I was able to conduct research within the chemistry department over the summer of 2018,” she said. “During the summer of 2019, faculty helped me apply for outside research opportunities.”

Her ultimate goal is to combine her love of teaching and research by becoming a professor and opening her own lab. Dalia volunteered at the New York Hall of Science during the institution’s “Chemistry Day” during her junior year and helped fellow students by tutoring first-year students in general chemistry.

“Those experiences helped me to discover that I really enjoy teaching,” she said. “My time at St. John’s made me realize that I want to be a chemistry professor and teach others the way I was taught and guided as an undergraduate.”

Joseph Marte

Like his classmates, Yekaterina and Dalia, Joseph Marte will head west this fall to attend the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry.

A chemistry major from Queens, NY, Joseph is thankful for the support he received at St. John’s as an undergraduate. “My faculty mentors played a tremendous role and guided me in the right direction,” he said. “St. John’s gave me all of the resources I need to pursue a Ph.D.”

After his graduate studies are complete, Joseph is interested in pursuing a career in the field of chemistry, focusing on chemical biology. “St. John’s definitely influenced my career decisions,” he said. “My professors explained all of the possibilities I had and showed me how I could obtain them.”

Mutasim Mim

A mathematics major from Rajshahi, Bangladesh, Mutasim Mim will attend the University of Delaware in the fall, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. While at St. John’s, Mutasim broadened his view of the field of mathematics by working closely with professors on research projects and attending seminars.

“I had the opportunity to work on a research project under the supervision of Mikhail Ostrovskii, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and through that experience, I acquired the habit of exploring mathematical papers,” he said. “This skill greatly helped me explore the possible directions my mathematical career may take and choose a doctoral program.”

Mutasim was introduced to an expansive mathematical community in the New York area by Assistant Professor Igor Nikolaev, Ph.D. “He encouraged me to attend mathematics seminars at local colleges and universities, such as NYU and Columbia,” he said. “Those experiences motivated me to further pursue the field of mathematics and helped me get accepted into a top doctoral program.”

After completing his doctoral studies, Mutasim hopes to pursue an academic career at a research-based university or a research-based career in the software development industry.

Lan Pham

Born in Vietnam, Lan Pham majored in chemistry at St. John’s. This fall, she will be a little bit closer to home as she pursues her Ph.D. in chemistry on the west coast at the University of California, Riverside.

Reflecting on her four years at the University, Lan is grateful for the positive impact St. John’s made on her as a student, and as an individual as well. “St. John’s really helped me grow culturally, academically, and personally,” she said. “I became a more well-rounded and ambitious person.”

Lan envisions herself working in the field of chemistry, most likely in a research setting, after earning her doctorate. “At St. John’s, my inclination to do research in science was confirmed,” she said. “My plan is to join the industry and continue doing what I really like.”

Teagan Sweet

A chemistry major with minors in photography and international studies, Teagan Sweet of North Attleborough, MA, will take her talents to the University of Notre Dame in the fall. There, she will pursue her Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry.

“St. John’s prepared me for graduate school by encouraging me to ask questions, to understand more broadly and more deeply, and to connect ideas across disciplines in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] and beyond,” she said. “Each professor has been committed to helping me succeed.”

During her time at St. John’s, Teagan was “Head Skull” of the Skull and Circle Honor Society, St. John’s College’s highest honor for students. She was also awarded the prestigious Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, a three-year, international internship program funded by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, and earned the Clare Booth Luce Undergraduate Scholarship.

“St. John’s gave me so many opportunities and resources with fellowships and scholarships,” said Teagan, who plans ultimately to pursue a career as a research scientist at a national laboratory or with the US Department of Energy. “The University has also given me the skills to apply for my dream jobs in science without a second thought.”

Natalie Williams

A native of Jamaica, NY, Natalie Williams will travel north to New Haven, CT, for graduate studies at Yale University, where she will work toward her Ph.D. in material chemistry. A chemistry major with a minor in graphic design, Natalie was also a Clare Boothe Luce Scholar, placing her within the ranks of the most successful women in STEM fields around the country. Like many students, she was unsure of which field to pursue entering her senior year.   

“I honestly did not know what I wanted to do career-wise up until September,” she recalled. “One of my professors told me about science-related research at art museums. I had not given this field any serious thought, but now my goal is to be a scientific researcher at a museum.”

Upon earning her Ph.D. from Yale, Natalie has her sights set on a career with a top museum, such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, or The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Natalie is grateful for the support she received at St. John’s over the past four years. “Everyone here gave me great advice that helped guide me in the best direction to achieve my goals,” she recalled. “Conducting research on art is something that greatly fascinates me, and I plan to fulfill this dream.”