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Student Spotlight: Alexandrea Safiq '14



Hometown: Tacoma, Wash. 
Majors
: Astronomy and Environmental Science

Why Union:
I discovered there were many opportunities to pursue both independent research and research with a professor. That’s when it became apparent that Union was the right fit. My first term, I immediately saw I wasn’t just a number in a classroom. My Physics 100 seminar, for instance, was so welcoming. There were 15 students, and every two weeks a different professor taught. Each of them took a personal interest in us.

Faculty champions:
I have had support from Union faculty throughout my four years. My advisers, Professors Rebecca Koopmann (astronomy and planetary science) and Jeffrey Corbin (plant ecology), have been immensely helpful in ensuring that I made the most of my double major. They are always there when I need academic or personal advice. I was never told, “No, you can’t take this class,” or “No, this will be too much for you.” In the fall I will attend Rutgers University as a Ph.D. student in ecology and evolution. Kathleen LoGiudice, one of my ecology professors, received her doctorate in the same program. She helped me connect with faculty researchers at her alma mater.

Research:
I have had the privilege of spending several summers on campus conducting research. After my first year, I conducted research with Professor Samuel Amanuel on the behavior of organic molecules under nano-confinement. The following year, I presented my results at the Materials Research Society Symposium in Boston. The summer after sophomore year, I worked with Professor Seyfollah Maleki on analyzing environmental contaminants on nearby Schoharie farmland after Hurricane Katrina. My third summer, I worked with Professor Michael Vineyard on energy dispersive X-ray and micro-raman spectroscopy to complement proton-induced X-ray emission in the analysis of atmospheric aerosols. This became my senior thesis.

Other academic highlights
I did a term abroad in Australia and New Zealand. I took an eight-week course in marine ecology, which included collecting data in the Great Barrier Reef. That solidified my desire to pursue marine biology or ecology as a career. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Outside of my major, one of my best experiences was participating in the Model U.N. at the United Nations in New York City with my political science class.

Activities:

  • Alpha Delta Lambda sorority. I am the philanthropy co-chair. This year and last we organized a fundraiser for animal cruelty prevention in which we baked dog treats and sold them in Reamer Campus Center. We also collected pillows, blankets and towels for the animals at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.
  • Minerva Council co-chair and Breazzano House coordinator. The Minerva Houses offer a way for students and faculty to work together to enrich student and academic life on campus.
  • Union College Observatory. I volunteer at the open houses when the observatory welcomes local residents and stargazers.  

Favorite study spot:
On a nice day, you can find me studying on the lawn in front of the Nott Memorial. You may also find me in the Wold Atrium with a cup of coffee from the Starbucks counter.

Advice for incoming students: 
Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for help. Always take risks. Try to achieve more than what you think is possible.