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STEM Stories: Students of the Semester Spring 2023

July 2023
  • STEM Students of the Semester
    From left: Adam Plummer, Brittany Soompholphakdy, and Jessica Oberle
  • STEM Students of the Semester
    From left: Timothy Dziedzic, Ebenezer Yaw Ahiator with QCC President Luis Pedraja, and Tue Lac (far right) with family
  • STEM Students of the Semester
    Frances Fernandez (second from left) with family and Omer Rona (center)
  • STEM Students of the Semester
    Rose Duchemin and Luke Harmon
  • STEM Students of the Semester
    Elion Sholla and Octavia Zahoruiko

In April 2023, QCC Deans Betty Lauer and Ben Benton announced that 48 QCC students were recognized as STEM Students of the Spring 2023 Semester. Below we feature profiles of a second group of these students, sharing why they were selected and stories of their journey on the road to achieving student success. Congratulations to all!


Adam Plummer – selected by Environmental Sciences Program Coordinator Professor Anita Soracco, who wrote, “Adam is a persistent and committed environmental science major. He has persevered through the rigorous curriculum in hopes of making the planet a better place. Adam's quest to discuss environmental issues from a place of inclusion and multiple perspectives greatly impressed me. He is always looking for ways to open dialog with people on climate change and communicate with reputable science and peer-reviewed data.  This is a very important and admirable quality for an environmental scientist.”

In telling his story, Mr. Plummer wrote, “I grew up in Worcester, MA. Ever since AP environmental science class in high school, I was taught about the importance of the environment and wanted to strive to change the world for the better. At first, college wasn’t even a thought. However, to pursue my learning of environmental science, I felt that college would be the utmost important thing. So, at the last second, a week after classes started, I enrolled. I chose this major because in high school it was the class I most enjoyed. Also, being a boy scout really excelled my excitement for the outdoors and helping the earth we are all on. With my major, I hope one day to work for the United Nations or another branch of government surrounding the environment. Another aspiration I have is to maybe open a business that would be friendly for the environment and to lessen the impact that humans have left.”

Brittany Soompholphakdy – selected by Chemistry Program Coordinator Professor Hirul Patel, who wrote, “Brittany is a transfer student and doing a chemistry major in our college. She is a hardworking and focused student. She is consistent and always prepared to take the challenges. Brittany is having an outstanding academic record with a GPA of 3.84. She is a very good helping hand in the lab and is always ready to help her fellow students.”

In telling her story, Ms. Soompholphakdy wrote, “I, like many, was forced to prioritize financial and job security over academics during the unpredictable years of COVID. After working full-time for two years, I enrolled at QCC because of their generous financial aid, flexibility in online and in-person classes, and the extra support of the MassTransfer program when it comes to completing my bachelor’s degree. My favorite areas of study involve chemistry and psychology. I found that chemistry is a study of patterns and once you can identify a few patterns, it’s easier to visualize the rest. Psychology is interesting to me because it is very different from chemistry. Answers and solutions tend to vary from subject to subject and not everything is definitive. The nature versus nurture debate is so intriguing and I find that it applies to everyone everywhere. I have a background in patient care, laboratory, and administration, which makes it incredibly difficult for me to choose one specific area to explore for the rest of my life. I currently work in behavioral health part-time, and I find that parts of it explore the small overlap of chemistry and psychology that I enjoy greatly. I enjoy research, experiments and learning so I have a feeling that I will stay in academia for some time and see where that takes me. I found that designating time to study/do homework while also designating time to be free from gadgets and engage in extracurriculars has helped me organize that time, reducing burnout from over-studying or procrastination from understudying. In school I have different schedules for different days depending on my class load, however, each day has a general schedule that includes times for snacks, meals, meditation and exercise. By doing this, I’ve been able to trick my mind into becoming more disciplined and motivated. Additionally, by implementing the self-care time I am making sure that my internal dialogue is uplifting and encouraging to avoid negative self-talk.”

Omer Rona – selected by Chemistry Program Coordinator Professor Hirul Patel who said, “Omer is one of the outstanding students of chemistry. I found him hard-working and focused. He has a strong desire to make his future in the field of chemistry. His consistency and focused nature are helping him to achieve his goal. Omer is proving his academic achievement by getting a GPA of 3.41. He is one of the most regular and attentive students. He is also working as a tutor for chemistry in our tutoring center.”

In telling his story, Mr. Rona wrote, “I love to study and learn about everything I enjoy. I have dedicated a significant portion of my time to understanding Brazilian jiu-jitsu, chemistry, physics, science fiction and fantasy. I am extremely passionate about my areas of study and love to build mechanisms for understanding them. My aspiration is to become a chemical engineer working in developing new plastic production techniques for use in modern energy production.”

Jessica Oberle – selected by Biotechnology Program Coordinator and Biology Professor Archana Mudbidri, who wrote “Jessica is a chemistry major who is pursuing becoming a teacher through the ‘MassTeach’ program. She is a hardworking and focused student. She is consistent and always prepared to take on challenges. Jessica has a good aptitude for teaching and because of this quality, she was hired as a peer tutor in General Chemistry II and Organic Chemistry I labs. She is a very good helping hand in the lab and is always ready to assist her fellow students. She has great potential to become a very good high school chemistry teacher.”

In telling her story, Ms. Oberle shared, “I enrolled at QCC because I wanted to stay close to home and some of my family members went to QCC. They all had great experiences and I wanted to experience QCC for myself and I had a great experience. The area of study that interests me is chemistry because I have always had a love for science and I learned and understood chemistry quickly. My career aspirations are to become a high school chemistry teacher and help my students understand chemistry.”


Ebenezer Yaw Ahiator – selected by Computer Science Engineering Technology Program Coordinator Professor NT Izuchi, who wrote, “Ebenezer Yaw Ahiator is a highly dedicated and conscientious student. Despite his challenges as a foreign student, he has never missed a class and submitted his assignments before they are due. He is such a model student that he finished his coursework five weeks before the end of the semester and he is currently serving as a tutor for his classmates.”

In telling his story, Mr. Ahiator wrote, “I am Ebenezer Yaw Ahiator, a foreign student from Ghana, chasing a dream of becoming a cyber security expert. I am a role model and an inspiration to a couple of my peers and my two children back home, so I have a great task of becoming the best that I can be despite a lot of challenges of being an international student, but with hard work, determination, perseverance, consistency and a lot of luck I will get there. I want to be a father who my children will grow up to be proud of. Thanks to Professor Izuchi and all the other professors who are helping me on this path, to my academic advisor Amanda Fregeau and my mentor Anastasia Garcia of The Hanover Insurance Group.”

Timothy Dziedzic – selected by Computer Information Systems Program Coordinator Professor Charulata Trivedi, who wrote, “Tim juggles multiple responsibilities such as family and full-time employment and still maintains a high GPA. He assists many students in their programming work and has created a training tool for his employer. Using the skills that he learned at QCC and his own desire to learn, the training tool will save money and time for the employer.”

In telling his story, Mr. Dziedzic wrote, “After conducting extensive research on the most effective path to secure a job in software development, I came to the decision of enrolling at Quinsigamond. Although a boot camp would have provided a quicker route, I believe that pursuing an associate degree with its supplementary curriculum would offer greater long-term benefits. Throughout my childhood, I held an unwavering fascination with technology. I was that curious youngster who dismantled electronics in order to unravel their inner workings. This exploration eventually led me to the world of coding, and ever since then, I have been consumed by it. I have successfully developed applications that enhanced the efficiency of my colleagues in their respective roles and provided specialized training. Having consistently assumed leadership positions with a strong focus on training, I now have the opportunity to create tools that my peers can utilize. It is an immensely gratifying experience to be able to assist others. My ultimate career aspiration is to work at Cornell University, specifically contributing to the development of their eBird website or their Merlin Bird ID application. Given that my wife, with whom I have shared 10 years of marriage, is a devoted bird enthusiast who relies on these technologies to comprehend, track and educate others about ornithology, I am eager to combine my software expertise with my fondness for birding to help construct these applications.”


Tue Lac - selected by Engineering Professor Dadbeh Bigonahy, who wrote, “Tue is an intelligent, mature, goal-oriented, hardworking, polite, well disciplined and enthusiastic student.”

In telling her story, Ms. Lac wrote, “I was in Vietnam when Covid hit and it made a significant effect on my parents' company. So, in order to help them be less stressed about my tuition fee, I choose QCC. And so far I think I made a good decision because as an international student who came here to the U.S. for education, cultural differences, independence and lifestyles are some of my biggest challenges. QCC made it easier for me to find a social group to fit into, where I found my current friend group with similar interests and life goals. I'm interested in studying mechanical engineering. I enjoy building things and working on the hardware of machines or robots, and since I have a good imagination, I find designing and building them entertaining. My dream job is working at Boston Dynamics. They know best from their highly developed robot's achievement, and it would be amazing if I could have an opportunity to contribute to one of their projects someday.”

Luke Harmon - selected by Engineering Professor Dadbeh Bigonahy, who wrote, “Luke is a hard-working, intelligent, goal-oriented, polite, mature student.”

In telling his story, Mr. Harmon wrote, “I choose QCC because of the great engineering program while simultaneously being cost-effective and having the flexibility to adapt to any schedule. I've had an amazing time at QCC so far and had the opportunity to meet great people during my time here. I've always been interested in engineering. It's amazing to me that through engineering we can bridge so many different areas of study in a way that can be practically applied to the real world. Through engineering, so much innovation is able to take place and the knowledge can be used to make life better for everyone. My time at QCC will soon come to an end and after that, I plan to transfer and continue my degree. I hope to pursue a career in the aerospace engineering field.”

Rose Duchemin - selected by Engineering Professor Dadbeh Bigonahy, who wrote, “Rose is an intelligent, mature, goal-oriented, hardworking, conscientious, considerate and enthusiastic student.”

In telling her story, Ms. Duchemin wrote, “I was motivated to enroll at QCC by my older sister Ali Duchemin who was, at the time, earning her psychology degree here. She showed me how easy it was to start taking classes to see what I like and I also had friends who encouraged me to think about engineering. After I took the placement test, I signed up for some classes and found out that I really enjoyed them, especially my first few math courses. I had not thought about going back to school ever, but my classes were going so well that I spoke to my advisor about some career paths and getting an engineering degree. The rest is history! I have been loving the courses and everything I’m learning about engineering and myself. Currently, I am planning to transfer to WPI to earn my bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. From the start here at QCC, I have been excited about math and physics, especially real-world applications and problem-solving. I believe this is partially due to the amazing STEM department that supported and inspired me, especially when I was first starting the engineering program. I also grew up loving nature and the outdoors, always wanting a better understanding of the world around me. Interested in finding ways to take better care of the planet and those of us on it. After earning my education, my goal is to get a job in Massachusetts as an engineer, making a lasting impact on the environment. I hope to have a better idea of what I want my job title to be after gaining some experience during local summer internships and co-ops.”

Frances Fernandez - selected by Engineering Professor Dadbeh Bigonahy, who wrote, “Frances is an intelligent, mature, goal-oriented, hardworking, motivated, reliable, well disciplined and enthusiastic student.”

In telling her story, Ms. Fernandez wrote, “I was attracted to QCC's Biomedical Engineering program and association with schools such as WPI and UMASS Amherst. I'm interested in math, science and engineering. I have always had an inquisitive mind. I like to understand how things work at their fundamental level. I aspire to be a biomedical engineer that creates devices and technology that can enhance someone else's life.”


Elion Sholla - selected by Mathematics Professor Luke Parker, who wrote, “Elion has very good habits in academia where he always comes in for help on any questions he's had in calculus and makes sure that his notes are impeccable. Both in class and outside he takes his time to make sure he understands the topics and why certain things are working rather than just simply accepting a procedure. He's very excited to learn a new topic and how it applies in engineering.”

In telling his story, Mr. Sholla wrote, “I decided to enroll at QCC because of the affordable tuition, being close to home and the option for flexible schedules. However, the deciding factor was a recommendation from a QCC electronics engineering alum. He advised me to enroll at QCC to benefit from the excellent mathematics and engineering professors provided by the university. I became interested in the intersection of two fields: engineering and mathematics. Mathematics quickly became one of my favorite subjects because it is the foundation that involves using mathematical principles to solve problems in engineering and physics. I am particularly interested in civil engineering, which involves designing and constructing buildings, bridges, roads, and other infrastructure that is crucial to civilization. In terms of career aspirations, I want to become a civil engineer and work on projects that make a real difference in people's lives. Although I was born in the United States, my ancestral homeland is Albania, Korçë, which is a third-world country. Eventually, I would like to contribute my civil engineering skills to increase the safety factor of buildings from the earthquakes that occur there. Before I end my story, I would like to share an intriguing part of my life. Initially, I was not interested in mathematics or engineering. But at QCC, I decided to challenge myself and continue with mathematics and engineering. I realized that this decision was life-changing because I had always thought that I could never succeed in mathematics courses. Now, I know that my potential is much greater, and I am excited to see where my passion for mathematics and engineering takes me in the future. I hope my story inspires incoming QCC students to show them that they should never give up. Now I always keep in mind that passion, discipline, and dedication lead to success and enable anyone to achieve anything.”

Octavia Zahoruiko - selected by Mathematics Professor Philomena D'Alessandro, who wrote, “Octavia is a determined and intelligent student with a strong work ethic and positive attitude. She has grown in confidence and works collaboratively with her classmates.”

In telling her story, Ms. Zahoruiko wrote, “I decided to enroll in QCC to complete my general studies before transferring to a four-year university to pursue a career in nursing. As someone who is cost-conscious, QCC offered a more affordable option for my education, while maintaining high academic standards. The school was easily accessible and offered flexible class schedules, which accommodated my part-time job. During my high school years at Blackstone Valley Tech, I got accepted into the cosmetology program. It was during this time that I became interested in the beauty side of nursing. Cosmetic nursing is a specialized field that focuses on providing cosmetic treatments to clients. I found myself drawn to the innovative techniques used to enhance one's natural beauty.  As someone with a long-standing fascination with the field of biology, I realized that cosmetology and nursing are two fields that seamlessly align with my interests. I am thrilled to pursue a dynamic career that combines my passion for helping others and my interests in the aesthetics industry.”