MMC Science Student Blog

Welcome to the MMC Science Student Blog! Hear directly from our students about life in the classroom and the laboratory. For information about contributing to the blog, please contact Ashley Pirovano at

Work Study in the Natural Sciences

April 23, 2018

By Brandon Tran, Biology Major ’20

Brandon Tran '20My name is Brandon Tran, and I am a sophomore B.S. Biology major. Attending Marymount Manhattan College (MMC), a predominantly liberal arts college, as a B.S. Biology major is a very unique experience. I participate in many different extracurricular activities, such as the science society and I conduct research alongside Dr. Ann Aguanno and my colleagues Julia Furnari and Kevin Mora. Further, one of my favorite things that I do at Marymount is that I also work as a work study student.

 In my work-study position, I work with the Lab Supervisor, Ashley Pirovano. I do not have an official title, but I like to think of myself as the junior laboratory supervisor’s assistant. I am the first and only student to have worked alongside Ms. Pirovano and it has really heightened my experience at MMC, especially in the science department. I am given the opportunity to understand the preparation of labs for different courses, such as Organic Chemistry I & II, General Chemistry I & II, Biology I & II, Human Physiology, Nutrition, Cell and Molecular biology, and Physics I & II. As a full-time biology student, I am enrolled in a majority of these classes, and so I am able to expand on my current understanding of the course which I am preparing for both academically and physically.

 As the junior laboratory assistant, I have come to love science even more than I thought I did, specifically the “behind-the-scenes” work that goes into making reactions and various exercises work with ease. I thus have a deeper appreciation for the minds that help put together each laboratory, because the way the labs are set up prior really dictates whether or not the students will be confused. It is vital to neatly and clearly provide students with all materials they need; and contrary to popular belief the behind the scenes are the best and most fun parts of labs especially when you have a great team surrounding you. This may be a biased opinion, but I’ve been able to make Play-Dough and agarose gel, to set up dissections, test reactions, and really have become a part of the science department. The feeling of knowing that a laboratory exercise/ experiment that you helped prepare has gone right is the one of the greatest feelings, because it proves that science actually works.

 The atmosphere at MMC is so intimate and everyone knows everyone, so it’s not difficult to ask for some help. The college prides itself in being diverse yet connected and I feel that very strongly given the opportunities that have been handed to me at MMC.I really would like to thank everyone in the Department of Natural Sciences for being a part of my experience at Marymount Manhattan College.

Accepted Science Students: A Night to Remember

April 16, 2018
By Victoria Whalen ’21,  Biomedical Sciences and Environmental Studies Double Major

Victoria Whalen (second from the left) and the chemistry volunteers at Accepted Students Night.Victoria Whalen (second from the left) and the chemistry volunteers at Accepted Students Night.On March 22, 2018, I was lucky enough to have volunteered for the Accepted Students Night for science majors and let me just say: If you weren’t there you really missed out! As a small and close knit section of Marymount Manhattan, it was exciting to see the (hopefully) incoming students join our family!

The night contained a nervous but exhilarating energy as incoming freshman toured the halls and entered the biology and chemistry labs. The upperclassmen students were guiding and answering questions with the one purpose in mind: commit to Marymount! Experiments from past labs were set up to give the new students a taste of what the science department offers.

With all my protective gear on (goggles and gloves included), I awaited to explain chemistry. I have to say the nervous energy went away quickly once they walked through the door and I could show them how awesome science is. My experiment was explaining biofuels and their importance as well as which biodiesel is better for the future. It was a complete hands on experiment and I let the students take the wheel. Each student seemed to enjoy being able to actually touch the equipment and that added to their excitement. Stationed across from fellow student Kyle, we tag teamed explaining how great the school is and what it has to offer with things such as: small class sizes for one on one learning and teachers who truly care about your future.

Reflecting back, my favorite part of the night had to be the food! Just kidding, (even though it was delicious). In all seriousness, just seeing how these students travelled so far to come see us, even with a snowstorm the day before, was so enlightening. It made me remember why I chose this school and the sciences in the first place. The passion on the sixth floor was enough to make anyone commit to this school and all I can say is: the natural science department is the best there is.

Ohana Means Family. Family means a Classification Level of Organisms.

April 9, 2018
By Hailey Gallegos ’21, Biology major

Hailey Gallegos (second from the left) and her Urban Ecosystems group with Dr. Leri after presenting on Honors Day.Hailey Gallegos (second from the left) and her Urban Ecosystems group with Dr. Leri after presenting on Honors Day.What will it be like? Am I going to fit in? Will I be successful? These are questions that I asked myself so many times before going to college. My whole life I had thought of this moment, the moment that I got to do what I wanted with my life. On the first day of school this past year, I didn’t know what to expect. I wondered if people were going to hate me or be so much better at college than I was… Then I had my first class, biology.

For some, the first days of class are just another week of syllabi; but for me it was about trying to find my place. That first day in bio, I knew that I had chosen the right school. The next few weeks went by and I learned more names, more faces, and more prices of textbooks; but there was something else. I started to feel like I belonged somewhere. At MMC, the science department is small. To me, that makes it special. We are a pretty close-knit bunch. We all have something in common, a love for science. I see people every single day that come to the sixth floor and never have any idea which way a classroom is, that’s how much of a little island we are. Sometimes I don’t even know that the rest of the school exists because I spend so much time with my science family.

I guess we all get along because we are in the same boat. It’s like when you and your sibling have things only you can understand because you live in the same household. We laugh so often, we make science puns, and have our own inside jokes. If I went to another part of the school, students wouldn’t understand a joke that alludes to why Dr. Leri thought the class laughed at Pv=nRT. I met my best friend in the science department and I know that she will be by me for the rest of my life. In the science division, we all know each other. Probably because we never leave school. Just kidding… kind of. Even though science students are extremely competitive, we all support each other in the end. Sounds like family, right? I know that I can always count on people being there for me or helping me out with something, because that’s just what we do. Once, my peer leader Emma stood in the doors of a subway to make sure that everyone stayed together on a field trip (she’s pretty daring). The other day I had a classmate ask me for help with statistics. A few weeks ago, he had helped me with chemistry. We are a team; we help each other without expecting anything in return.

Of course, it’s not just the students who make up the family. The teachers are a big part as well. Although the work can be overwhelming, I know that they want the best for their students. They are there when we need support or a pep talk, but also when you need some tough love. Seriously, they don’t just stand up in front of a class and say pointless words, they teach. When I’ve gotten bad grades on things in class, I have rarely been made to feel like my life was over. Sure, teachers scold us, so do parents, but they all want us to succeed! We literally even have our own Instagram page (@mmcbiology) where our “lab mom” Ashley posts pictures of us because of how proud she is of our work. Each day I know that I can always count on Dr. Leri saying something hilarious in her quirky way, or Dr. Aguanno spelling something wrong again. It’s the little things that make each day bearable when you’re a science major.

Anyway, I’d say that pretty much sums up my love for the science department. We make up a sleep deprived, studied out, crazy family…. And I wouldn’t change a thing.


Exploring the Heart

March 27, 2018
by Julia Furnari ’20, Biology major

Julia with her pig heart (pre-dissection)Julia with her pig heart (pre-dissection)A perfect day in the life of a biology student: you walk into lab and see… dissecting trays! This was my exact reaction when I walked into my physiology lab several weeks ago. A lab on a Friday that ends at 5:30pm… talk about a drag. But, I always stay positive knowing I will leave the classroom with more knowledge than I had before.

We were learning about the circulatory system and all the structures and functions of the heart in physiology lecture. I walk into lab thinking we were just going to take blood pressure measurements. Then I see the dissecting trays. Then I see a big bag of fresh sheep hearts! (Yay?) I’m a student who does their best work in action, and maybe likes a bit of gross stuff, so I was so excited to perform this dissection. My lab partner and I looked at each other in amazement and then got to work!

Our instructor, Dr. Aleyasin, is filled with knowledge of physiology considering he was a practicing physician for several years. He is so enthusiastic about his students learning and encourages us to learn from our mistakes, making a very comfortable environment for us to work and learn in. We first examined the exterior features of the heart to help us distinguish the anterior and posterior surfaces. Next, we opened up the heart and observed all of the structures inside, including the tricuspid valve, chordae tendineae, and the papillary muscle. Everything just popped out to me— colors, shapes, and how the structure is designed to perform the function. It was incredible to see all of my peers just as excited about this as I was. We all went around the room looking at each other’s hearts.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” I can relate to this quote by Aristotle in this lab class. Students come in ready to learn with excitement and curiosity. Opening your mind and heart will allow you to fully absorb the material being taught. I’m looking forward to where my scalpel will take me next week!

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