Standout Seniors: Meet Rebecca Abraham (Software Engineering)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Rebecca Abraham: 

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Major: Software Engineering

Hometown: Mumbai, India

On choosing her major: I have always aimed for a career in a STEM field. My parents and uncles all work in STEM.  In my senior year of high school, I did a computer science project and developed an interest in programming.

The best of both worlds: The individual work and teamwork involved in a software programming career appealed to my personality. Sometimes I enjoy thinking and working alone, and sometimes the energy and ‘joie de vivre’ of a team brings out the best in me. Hence software engineering, which offers the opportunity for both, was for me.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: There is no one single event. My whole journey at Behrend has been an uplifting experience for me. From being offered the Multi-Campus Research Experience for Undergraduates, a summer research program at University Park for students across the commonwealth campuses, to serving as president of South Asian Student Organization (SASO), life has been a series of happy accomplishments.

Campus involvement: I helped re-activate the SASO Club in 2021-2022 and was recently awarded the “Most Outstanding President of SASO” by the Multi-Cultural Council.

What people would be surprised to know about her: I look very serious, but I am fun loving.

What makes a good life good life: A good education, a strong support system made up of family and friends, my Catholic spirituality and mindfulness.

What she is passionate about: Learning, connecting, and software engineering.

Advice for first-year students: The primary focus should be to attain one’s undergraduate degree, but also remember to experience college life through friends and events on campus. Finally, do not feel pressured to belong to a group or ideology detrimental to healthy lifestyle choices.

After graduation, Rebecca plans to attend graduate school for a master’s degree in software engineering.

Standout Senior: Meet Danielle Kosslow (Mathematics and Secondary Education in Mathematics)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Danielle Kosslow: 

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Major: Dual major in Mathematics and Secondary Education in Mathematics

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I have received the Chancellor’s Scholarship, Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship, Riley Ride Alumni Scholarship, Schreyer Honors College Scholarship, and Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship.

On choosing Behrend: I felt right at home when I walked on campus. It feels like we are tucked away in our own little world. Also, the opportunities are endless. Because Behrend is a smaller school, it allowed me to develop great professional relationships with my professors, while also gaining life-long friends.

On choosing her major: I started at Behrend as a nursing major. It was a big switch to mathematics, but I love math and I have always loved working with people and helping others. So Secondary Math Education allowed me to do both. I added a Mathematics degree because I am a big nerd and math is a perfect fit for me, so why not?

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I am on the Behrend volleyball team, so my proudest accomplishment here would have to be winning the AMCC championship twice and getting to participate in the NCAA D3 volleyball championships. I learned and played a new position, and made first-team, all-section, this year, which was just awesome. From an academic standpoint, my proudest accomplishment would have to be maintaining a 3.96 GPA while at Behrend.

Campus involvement: I am on the Behrend women’s volleyball team, the National College Athlete Honors Society (Chi Alpha Sigma), and the Math Club.

Awards and recognitions: I received the President’s Freshman Award, Academic All-AMCC, First Team All-Conference AMCC, Third Team All-Conference AMCC, and All-Academic AMCC.

What makes her unique: What sets me apart is that I am a student athlete, a dual major, a Noyce scholar, and I work at three different jobs at Behrend. I am involved in many different activities, and I juggle all of them while also having time to have some fun with friends.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I think people would be surprised to know that I used to play the drums and had a full set at home.

Her passions: I am deeply passionate about contributing to teaching the next generation. I have loved every second of working with kids so far, and I am excited to continue. I am also extremely passionate about volleyball. It has been a part of my life for the past ten years, so it plays a significant role in my day-to-day schedule. I want to keep incorporating this sport in my life and plan to coach my own team. I volunteer as a coach every summer, so I would like to build on that.

Advice for first-year students: My main advice would be to just get involved in many different things. My freshman year I was shy and nervous about everything I did. As the years went on, the more involved I got, the more I grew as a person. If I had not forced myself to get involved around campus, I would not have made as many friends and had the same opportunities I have now. Study hard but make sure you have some fun. It goes quick and you never want to look back and say to yourself, “what if?”

After her graduation in May, Danielle plans to stay in Erie and teach mathematics in a high-needs school district.

Standout Seniors: Meet Chantel Rodriguez (Communication)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Chantel Rodriguez. 

Chantel Rodriquez

Major: Communication

Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania

 Scholarships: Petersen Family Trustee Scholarship

On choosing Behrend: I had heard great things from alumni. My friends said Behrend changed their lives and gave them the option to do whatever they were genuinely passionate about in life. It took me awhile to be able to go to college as an adult, but choosing Behrend was the best decision I could have made. I’ve made lifelong relationships and connections.

On choosing her major: Originally, I was a Psychology major, but then I met Dr. Carrie Payne, assistant teaching professor of English, who thought I would be a perfect fit for the Communication program. Years later, I am grateful I switched because of the many opportunities I’ve had in that field, such as community involvement and creating inclusivity.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment at Behrend is that I still got involved with student clubs and organizations. With a family and a job and academics, it hasn’t been easy, but I make it a priority to involve myself on campus to connect with other students.

Campus involvement: I am a staff writer for the campus student newspaper, The Behrend Beacon, I participated in the Academic Integrity Committee as a student representative, and I earned the Dean’s List honor several times.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: When people meet me, they are always surprised to learn that I’m 27 years old, that I’m a mother of three girls, and that I’ve been married for nearly ten years now.

Advice for first-year students: My advice for the first-year and adult students would be to use the school resources as much as possible and make it a point to reach out for help when things feel like they are crashing down on you. There are lots of people who want to help you succeed.

She loves Erie: I plan to stay in Erie after I graduate. Erie is growing and changing every day, and I want to become more involved in the community and contribute to its revitalization.

Proud to be the first: I am proud to say that I am a Latina first-generation college graduate.

After her graduation in December, Chantel wants to work in public relations as an outreach coordinator for a nonprofit organization in Erie.

Standout Seniors: Meet Alison Huffman (Computer Engineering)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Alison Huffman

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Major: Computer Engineering with a minor in Music Technology

Hometown: Scottdale, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: Nishi Gupta Scholarship in Engineering, Behrend Excellence Award, Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship, Intel Scholar

On choosing Behrend: I chose Behrend because of its phenomenal engineering program and the opportunity to play Division III athletics. I was on the soccer team my freshman year.

On choosing her major: I have always been interested in programming and electronics, specifically with video game design when I was younger. As I approached college, I really wanted to learn about audio products and signal processing in addition to gaining a general understanding of electronics and computers. This led me to choose computer engineering.

Campus involvement: I am the worship leader and weekly meeting team leader for Cru, the vice president of the Computer Engineering Club, the vice president of the Society of Women Engineers, and a member of Tau Beta Pi.

People would be surprised to know: My biggest passion in life is music. I play multiple instruments (drums are my favorite), and I lead worship at two churches in the Erie area. I also co-wrote and co-produced a worship album called “For Your Glory that’s available on Spotify.” Additionally, I love combining my love of engineering with my love of music to better understand how audio works on both the hardware and software sides, so a lot of my school projects were centered around that.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Besides the worship album, I completed a project through the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at University Park that displays data about virology through art, light, and sound. It is a structure mounted to the wall with an interface in front of it for users to interact with and trigger videos and audio. I designed and assembled the interface, and I also created the audio using music programing. The structure was installed at University Park in the spring of 2022.

Advice for first-year students: Don’t be afraid to get involved with clubs and events on campus and get involved early! I met some of my best friends through the clubs in which I am involved, and the clubs have given me great opportunities for leadership, as well.

After graduation, Alison will be working for Northrop Grumman in Melbourne, Florida, as a software engineer in their aeronautics division.

Standout Seniors: Meet Caroline Upham (IBE and Project and Supply Chain Management

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Caroline Upham:

Caroline Upham

Major: Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies (IBE) and Project and Supply Chain Management

Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania

Scholarship: Provost Award

Why she chose Behrend: I really appreciate the value the college puts on the quality of education. Behrend adheres to Penn State standards while still maintaining an identity of its own. I love the strong community vibe here. I wanted a smaller school with a strong athletics program, and Behrend offered that, in addition to great academics.

Why she chose IBE: I’ve always considered myself a jack of all trades, so the IBE program which is a blend of business and engineering, was the perfect fit for me. It’s a broad and marketable major as it can apply to so many sectors of business and industry.

Campus involvement: I am a member of the women’s volleyball and track and field teams. I am also an officer for the Behrend Engineering Ambassadors and the National Organization for Business and Engineering (NOBE). I also serve as the Women’s Volleyball representative on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I had one really tough semester where I was able to maintain a heavy course load, do an internship, and participate in long and intense athletics season. I completed my work experience, my team won our conference title and made it to Nationals, and I made the Dean’s List.

Awards and recognition: I have been on the Dean’s List multiple times and earned the AMCC Academic Peak Performer Award for volleyball and track. I have a couple of conference titles on my resume for both volleyball and track, as well.

Her definition of the good life: My concept of living a “good life” has changed during my time at Behrend. I used to believe the most important thing was to make enough money to enjoy my life outside of work. Now, I am more focused on finding a career that mirrors my values and goals. I want to be as passionate about going to work as I am about my personal hobbies. Money will come and go, but the time spent working is precious. I want to do something that matters to me.

Top priority: I want to move away from Erie, at least for a little bit. I want to learn to rock climb, to speak another language, and to travel to as many national parks as possible.

Alone time is vital:  Time with friends and family is great and important but spending time with yourself is an important part of your personal growth. I have learned so much about myself by spending time alone. Become your own best friend!

Advice for first-year students: Sign up for as many clubs as you can, go to a bunch of meetings, and narrow down what you like or don’t like from there. Go to campus events, get free food, meet new people. Even if nothing appeals to you, you’ll start to see the same people over and over, and it’ll be easier to make friends. Get out and walk the gorge! And don’t spend your whole meal plan on ice cream and coffee like I did.

After graduation, Caroline plans to look for work in the fashion or sports industries.

Standout Seniors: Meet Michael Gibilterra (Plastics Engineering Technology)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Michael Gibilterra

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Major: Plastics Engineering Technology

Hometown: Hershey, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: The Joseph and Isabel Prischak Trustee Scholarship.

On choosing his major: Originally, I came to Behrend for Computer Engineering. But, after getting involved with Innovation Commons (see below), I realized I wanted to do more with 3D printing. In doing that work, I learned that I didn’t have a strong knowledge of what happens to plastics when printing. After talking to some of faculty members, especially Jason Williams, assistant teaching professor of engineering, I switched to Plastics Engineering Technology.

About Innovation Commons: It is an open ideation, product development, and prototyping center staffed by students who help guide innovators and entrepreneurs through the early stages of development. It is open to all entrepreneurs and innovators throughout Erie County and the surrounding region, including students, who are looking for support to organize, collaborate, compose, and construct their ideas.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Becoming the first student volunteer at Innovation Commons.  This is where my entrepreneurial spirit grew and where I learned about starting my own company. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities Innovation Commons has created for students.

Campus involvement: I was a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity. I also helped to revive the Entrepreneurship Club and served as president. The club brought in guest speakers, including a variety of entrepreneurs and/or those who support them, and we helped with Penn State Behrend’s Global Entrepreneurship Week activities.

What makes him unique: I can become very focused on a topic, which has been a “superpower” that helps me tackle big problems and led to my ability to develop new products, machines, or designs in a relatively short amount of time.

People would be surprised to know:  That I have autism and it’s one of my biggest strengths. While it has certainly had its hindrances, it has helped me significantly in my professional life and has enabled me to approach problems in a different light.

A printing passion: I have an obsession with 3D printing. It started back in high school when I built my first 3D printer using motors from some CD drives, a microcontroller kit, zip ties, cardboard, and the cheapest 3D doodler pen I could find at the time. I really enjoyed writing the code and then getting to see my creation print. I went on to build myself a 3D printer farm selling 3D printed parts and developing new 3D printers that each solve a different problem.

Advice for first-year students: Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get a deeper understanding. I’ve learned so much by just asking why or how something happens. Also, your professors want you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help.

Michael is working to launch his own company, Additive Manufacturing System — a 3D printer manufacturing company that focuses on producing 3D printers, materials, and software for engineering applications in sectors such as aerospace, automotive, and medical.

Standout Seniors: Meet Marie Tomasula (Nursing)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Marie Tomasula: 

Marie Tomasula

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Buffalo

Why she chose Behrend: I love the small class sizes, which give you a chance to really get to know the faculty and staff. I fell in love with Behrend as soon as I toured it. I knew it would make a great home away from home.

On choosing Nursing: I have always been passionate about caring for others, especially in medicine. I want to give back like the amazing nurses who have cared for loved ones in my family.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Stepping out of my comfort zone in my personal and academic life. I joined several clubs and organizations and did things that I could never have imagined myself doing before. Behrend has allowed me to grow in ways that I never thought I could.

Campus involvement: Member of Alpha Sigma Alpha and the Student Nurses’ Association Pennsylvania (SNAP), where I’ve held several leadership positions. I served as a Welcome Week guide in my sophomore year.

On being kind: I would say my ability to easily empathize and relate to others makes me unique. I love being able to connect with people and to hear their stories. Making others smile is what makes me happy. I enjoy spreading kindness, especially to those who need it most.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I played the flute for nine years and participated in the New York State Conference All-State Wind Ensemble during my junior year of high school. Playing flute was my “escape” during my high school years.

Her definition of the good life: Living a life that you are proud of. I am a firm believer that our life should consist of things that fulfill us and make us the happiest. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good and do things that feed your soul.

For the kids: I am very passionate about pediatric oncology. I am currently a member of the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer, a collaborative network of nonprofits, corporations, and individuals from 36 states and five countries, supporting and serving the childhood cancer community. We work to help families experience improved outcomes through collaborative projects, optimizing research efforts, and by creating awareness of childhood cancer.

On helping others fight cancer: I’m currently working as a nurse intern on the leukemia unit at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. It has helped me to understand the role of an oncology nurse, and I have loved being able to help patients and their families during a very hard time in their lives.

Advice for first-year students: Step out of your comfort zone. College can be intimidating in your first year, but going to events on campus and getting involved can really transform your entire college experience.

After her graduation in May, Marie plans to work as a Registered Nurse at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.

Miniature artwork highlights big role of Lilley Library

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

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When Nancy Loker ’13 received a miniature model, “Sam’s Study,” for Christmas, she thought it looked like her workspace at Penn State Behrend’s John M. Lilley Library. So, when Loker, who works on the circulation desk at Lilley, put the model together, she decided to customize it with tiny details to highlight the services the college’s library provides.

Take a close look at the square-foot model, which is on display in the library now, and you’ll notice some familiar artwork, including a tiny bust of Moritz Behrend, a globe, plants, signage, and many other artifacts that can found in Lilley Library.

“When I could, I used real materials that we use in the library,” Loker said. “The boxes and packing paper in them are bits of materials that we use to ship and receive books. The paper covers on the books are exactly the kind you’ll find on interlibrary loaned books behind the circulation desk.”

There are plenty of bitty books on the model’s shelves to represent the stacks at Behrend, which include reference books, works of fiction, and even a children’s book section for the Elementary and Early Childhood Education majors. But, as anyone who has set foot in a library in the last twenty years knows, libraries are much more than books today. On the shelves, you’ll also find board games, newspapers, video games, movies, puzzles, and more.

A clipboard, markers and a bottle of water are meant to represent the many student workers, who often arrive for work with hydration in hand.

Next to the display is a list of the library’s services that are represented in the model. It’s like a tiny 3-D version of the “Look and Find” puzzle in the beloved Highlights children’s magazine.

Loker’s artwork is a small-scale reminder of the very big role that libraries, and librarians, play in the lives of college students.

This week, April 3-9, is National Library Week and the staff of Lilley Library will be celebrating with several activities, including a Board Game Day to highlight the library’s circulating game collection of games, and a Doodle/Adult Coloring Day to promote the library’s ongoing efforts to encourage students to find ways to relax, including taking study breaks for their mental health.

Additionally, library visitors will find a display of “staff picks”: books, movies, podcasts, games, and other media that help students discover new things, and maybe even connect to a staff member (“Hey, I love Star Trek, too!).

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Standout Seniors: Meet Phoebe Will (Biology)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Phoebe Will

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Major: Biology – Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior option

Hometown: McKean, Pennsylvania

 Scholarships: Aaron Meehl Biology Excellence Scholarship

On choosing Behrend: I thought the campus was gorgeous and really liked that there was wildlife surrounding the campus. Since attending, I’m even happier I chose Behrend because the professors in my program are amazing and have been so much fun to work with!

On choosing her major: I really love working with animals and always knew I wanted to work with them in some capacity, so I thought biology was the best option.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Participating in three years of salamander population dynamics research with professors. I also designed “Amphibian Crossing” signs that were installed on Technology Drive to help protect a lot of different types of amphibians that cross the road each spring from the forest to the spring breeding ponds near the AMIC building.

Campus involvement: I was vice president of Tri-Beta (Biological honors fraternity) for two years and a Resident Assistant for two years.

What makes her unique:  I’m one of only a few biology majors who chose the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior option.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I have twenty-four pets: a dog, three cats, six chickens, two ducks, four axolotls (a type of salamander), a betta fish, five snails, a snake, and a gecko.

And those pets are her passion: I can’t imagine living without them. They’ve made college stress so much easier to deal with.

Advice for first-year students: Do some research on what your options are after college, so you can plan accordingly. You don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to do, but think about your next step and whether you want to find work right away or go onto a master’s program.

After her graduation in May, Phoebe plans to attend graduate school to earn a master’s degree in biology.

Behrend to Host Prehistoric Egg Hunt!

cartooon dinosaur

In a big (T-Rex size) twist on the traditional Easter egg hunt, the Penn State Behrend Biology department is hosting a Prehistoric Egg Hunt for children on Saturday, April 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Kids in preschool through sixth grade are invited to sign up to participate in this fun event that will include individual dig sites to excavate plastic eggs, dinosaur-themed trivia games, fossil-making, and a recycling project to celebrate Earth Day.

Dino décor, a costumed character, dinosaur game prizes, and cookies are all part of the fun.

“I have wanted to do this event for so long,” said Dr. Beth Potter, associate professor of biology. “Kids find dinosaurs fascinating and we need to celebrate their first love in the field of biology!”

The event is free, but attendance is limited and registration – in half-hour time slots — is required. Students must be accompanied by an adult caregiver to the event, which will be held in the college’s Science Complex on the second floor of Roche Hall.

Planetarium Director Jim Gavio will be doing 15-minute presentations beginning at 11:00 a.m. about the Chicxulub Crater, a 125-mile-gash in the Yucatan Peninsula’s Gulf of Mexico created by an asteroid. Researchers have new evidence suggesting the asteroid blocked the sun’s light on earth for decades, explaining the extinction of the dinosaurs.

While you’re there, catch a show at Yahn Planetarium: The 1:00 p.m. show, “Unveiling the Invisible Universe,” for youth ages 9 and up; or the 2:30 p.m. show, “The Sky Above Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” for children ages 4 and up.

All Yahn Planetarium programs will be free on April 16.