WISH Essay Awards: A Display of Intellect Good for the Soul 

More than 20 participated in the WISH Essay Awards ceremony on Zoom. Shown here, top row, l to r, Irene Andrea, CAS assistant; Julia Hormes, associate professor, Psychology; Kristen Corbosiero, associate professor, DAES; Noreen Guilfoyle, prize winner; CAS Dean Jeanette Altirriba. Middle row: Mary Fucci, prize winner; Distinguished Professor Marlene Belfort; Lauriana Gaudet, prize winner; Janice Pata, associate professor, Biomedical Science; Elga Wulfert, professor, Psychology. Bottom row: Rebecca Orrison, prize winner; Anne Messer, professor, Biomedical Science; Clare Miller of Scientista; Kahini Sarkar of Scientista; Keith Earle, associate professor of Physics.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 28, 2020) — The time, place and medium needed tweaking, but the commitment and enthusiasm held steady for the 2nd annual WISH Awards essay competition, where two undergrad and two grad students successfully delved into the topic of “Excellence at the Intersection of Science and Life.”

WISH — Women in Science and Health — an organization of women faculty at UAlbany that fosters scientific networking and skill-building opportunities for students, postdocs and faculty in the STEM fields in order to promote gender equality and work-life balance, extended its essay deadline due to COVID-19 and also took its April 17 awards ceremony online via Zoom. The awards were open to students and postdocs of any gender in a STEM field.

“We were very pleased to receive 11 essays, all from outstanding women in STEM across our campus,” said Kristen Corbosiero, associate professor Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, a WISH member and the event’s organizer. “They were all fantastic and we decided to give a first and second place award at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

Undergraduate first prize went to Mary Fucci (Physics) for “Pursuing Your Own Version of Excellence” and second prize to Noreen Guilfoyle (Biology) on “How is Excellence Defined? Graduate prizes went to two students in Atmospheric Sciences: first to Lauriana Gaudet for “Service in Academic and Greater Communities,” and second to Rebecca Orrison for “A Scientifically Based Call to Action.”

In various ways, each prizewinner, reading her essay aloud at the Zoom ceremony, spoke about achieving excellence and service beyond the classroom. “It’s really important for us all to integrate outside passions with our intense academic lives,” said Distinguished Professor Marlene Belfort, a biologist who founded WISH in 2014 with then dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Elga Wulfert, a professor of Psychology.

“So, it was a real pleasure to hear how these impressive young women juggle various forms of outreach with their studies,” Belfort said. “Also, the event was a great morale-booster at a time when most of us are preoccupied with the fallout of COVID-19.”

The Zoom-based ceremony was well attended by the WISH steering committee, CAS Dean Jeanette Altarriba, WISH members, and members of Scientista, a student-led group advancing women in STEM.

“Marlene and I welcomed everyone to the event and gave some history of the group and the awards, and then the dean shared a few words about the importance of community and supporting each other during this time,” said Corbosiero. “The students then each introduced themselves, spoke a bit about their successes and challenges working from home during the pandemic, and read their wonderful essays to the group.

“I think I speak for everyone who attended in saying that I came away from the meeting feeling connected to a community of women that are engaged, creative, supportive and leading the way in their fields. It was something I think we all needed at this time and it was good for the soul.”


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