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Check out what Honors students have been up to this semester! 

Honors Biology Students

Honors Biology Students displaying extracted banana DNA. 


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      Click here to read about our November 2020 Civic Engagement Event! 



Aristil, Courtnee

Read about sophomore Courtnee Aristil's summer research project regarding making less expensive medicines here:


Diana DeMottie


Internships are an important part of job readiness and can provide insight into your own well-being and the well-being of the planet! Don't limit yourself to internships tied exactly to your major. Read about Diana DeMottie's experience below. 

Diana DeMottie is a sophomore Honors student at William Paterson. She is majoring in digital marketing, and plans to be part of the Honors Business Track. Diana is a Senator of Academic Affairs for the Student Government Association (SGA), and is a member of the Bioethics Club, the Green League, and the Pride Alliance. She was chosen to be an intern at the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies (PSEG ISS), and plans to go attend graduate school to do research in a STEM-related field. 

What exactly does this PSEG ISS internship entail?

Diana DeMottie: During my Green Teams internship, I worked with a team of 4 other students to complete an energy efficiency project with New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG). We met with company executives at NJNG weekly to discuss our project, which focused on commercial and residential energy efficiency outreach for different municipalities all over New Jersey, to help these municipalities earn Sustainable Jersey energy efficiency points. We talked to municipal leaders of Ocean Gate, Holmdel, and Point Pleasant Beach to discuss the best method of outreach for each, and created outreach materials that were specific to each. Thursday was our training day where we heard from guest speakers who were experts on a variety of topics relating to sustainability. There were 6 different teams each working on different projects with different companies, and at the end of the 10 week program we presented our deliverables to a webinar of over 100 people! My whole experience was on Zoom due to the pandemic, but usually the internship is in person at Montclair State University.  

What are some of the things that you learned there?

Diana DeMottie: I learned so much in only 10 weeks with PSEG ISS. The guest speakers each week introduced me to new and interesting topics, like ethical production of coffee beans, or hydrogen fuel cell powered motors. Through working with NJNG, I learned about energy efficiency in the home and in commercial businesses. Through working with municipalities, I learned so much about each of the three towns. And overall I learned about professionalism, teamwork, and environmental sustainability. 

What has been the most exciting thing about this internship?

Diana DeMottie: The most exciting thing about the program are the training days each week. You never know who will be the guest speaker of the week! Some notable ones were a UN Representative, Professors and Faculty from Montclair State University, and the Green Teams Alumni. Also every Thursday, we were mailed a package that contained a gift for the week. I received a reusable water bottle, reusable chopsticks, snacks, and so much more.  

How do you think this internship will affect your studies?

Diana DeMottie: This internship led me to pursue an environmental science minor and motivated me to make a plan for grad school.  

How might this internship affect your career?

Diana DeMottie: I will definitely be talking about this internship in every job interview I have out of college, as well as any future internship interviews. I also went from 8 LinkedIn connections to 134!  

Is there anything else you think we should know about this internship?

Diana DeMottie: The Green Teams internship is open to all majors and any school! I am a business major and I was selected. I worked with another business major from Montclair State, a graphic design major from Monmouth, an international policy major from Johns Hopkins, and an electrical engineering major from Rowan. The environment of the program is so accepting of all walks of life, and the leadership is truly the best resource that I am so thankful to have met. Dr. Amy Tuininga, the program director, is the best boss in the world. I still regularly talk to my team and the leadership team to this day. Definitely apply for this program! It is also PAID!



Eros Livierators


Eros Livierators graduated from the Honors College in May of 2019, with a double major in English and Philosophy.  While at William Paterson, he completed a novella called A Small Hell with Professor Cioffari that became his Honors Research Project. 

He is currently applying to graduate programs to pursue his Masters in Fine Arts in Poetry. While he’s been accepted into Ohio State’s MFA program, he’s continuing to weigh his options. Although he finished his undergraduate work quite recently, he has already published a great deal. One of his flash fiction pieces, “Suburbs”, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by NUNUM, a Canadian literary journal that blends flash fiction and art. A poem of his also won third place in Into the Void’s poetry contest. His other recent publications include: 

  • “Breathless in Season; Mangled in Form—Chic”, poetry, Into the Void, 2020
  • “The System is Ruined”, poetry, High Shelf Press, 2020
  • “Time & Place” & “The Forms & Self”, poetry, The Notre Dame Review, 2020
  • “Fourth Dimensional Gods Can’t be Blamed for Climate Decay”, poetry, High Shelf Press, 2019
    “On Feeling”, short story, Map Literary, 2019
  • “Bipedalism in the City, Love in Genetics”, poetry, Cathexis Northwest Press, 2019
    “On Art”, poetry, The Esthetic Apostle, 2019

What were some of the unexpected bonuses you discovered while in the Honors College at William Paterson?

EROS: After dropping out of high school and receiving my GED I had expected to keep my head down, earn my degree, and leave. I had no idea how many friends amongst peers and faculty I would make during my undergraduate degree. It feels like every department has experts in their own fields who are always available to work or chat with students.

What are your writing goals?

I want to work in as many mediums as possible and be able to support myself from my work.

What advice might you give to incoming freshman in the Honors College?

Talk to your faculty members. Build a community with your peers, commiserate and celebrate together! 

What has turned out to be the most important thing that one of your professors taught you?

I don’t think I can pinpoint one professor. The English department taught me some invaluable lessons about craft and introduced me to some of my favorite works.  However, one of the most important things I learned in college came from the philosophy department. The faculty in that department were incredibly encouraging and instilled this idea of never presuming something is “beyond my comprehension.” I just assumed someone from my background would never be able to grasp concepts that I went onto write in depth about. I’ll never doubt my ability to learn again and I’m grateful for it.

Following is a link to “Bipedalism in the City, Love in Genetics”. a poem of Eros’ that was published in Cathexis Northwest Press in 2018 If you click on the link at the top of the poem, you can hear Eros reading the poem aloud.

To read the full interview, click here


Dr. Marianne Sullivan: Track Director for the Global Public Health Track


Dr. Marianne Sullivan is a professor at William Paterson in the Public Health Department, and is also the Track Director for the Honors College’s newest track in Global Public Health, which launched in the fall of 2019. Here is an excerpt from our interview with Dr. Sullivan: 

The Global Public Health track provides an intensive and interdisciplinary option to students who have an interest in the health of human populations. For students majoring in fields other than public health, this track will provide them with an opportunity to connect what they are learning in their majors to the overarching issue of human health and its determinants. For public health majors, this track provides an opportunity for deeper, more intensive study with public health faculty. Students who complete the track will be well prepared for graduate study in social sciences, physical sciences, or various programs such as nursing, medicine, public health, law, civil engineering, etc.

What drew you to become a track director?

I wanted the opportunity to work more closely with students on really interesting public health problems that occur both in New Jersey and around the world. Issues like the public health impacts of climate change, emerging infectious diseases, childhood lead poisoning, and advancing US environmental policy.

Your track was new as of the fall of 2019. What are your preliminary goals for the track?

To fill the track with excellent students doing high quality, relevant research.

What kind of research did you do as an undergraduate or graduate student that was particularly useful?

I’ve done a lot of community-based research, which has helped me understand how public health works at the local level. For example, when I was in my graduate program I worked on a project on tobacco control in East Harlem. This was a fascinating opportunity to learn about the devastation that tobacco inflicts, particularly on low-income communities in the US and to come up with strategies, along with the community, to try to change the physical and social environment so that young people are able to remain tobacco-free, and current smokers are able to quit. I’ve also worked on many other research topics such as green housing for asthma control, access to domestic violence services for refugee and immigrant women, and childhood lead exposure near mines and other industrial facilities.

To read the full interview, click here


Michele Boyle

Boyle, Michele

Michele Boyle is a senior in the Honors College at William Paterson, who is majoring in Financial Planning. Michele has won the Schwab Impact Student Ambassador Award; the National Association for Personal Financial Planners Diahann W. Lassus Scholarship and the TD Ameritrade Institutional NextGen Scholarship in addition to the Honors scholarship and various WP Donor scholarships. Here is an excerpt from our interview with Michele: 

QUESTION: Why did you decide to come to William Paterson?

ANSWER: I decided to come to William Paterson because I felt WPU was offering something I couldn't turn down. The scholarships that came along with Honors would substantially help me financially, as well as set me apart as an applicant when applying for graduate school, internships, and jobs. I liked the idea of small class sizes, too. The one-on-one with the professors was something I prioritized in my college search; I liked the idea of being able to stop by a professor's office hours and have them know my name. The campus is located ten minutes from my house, which made for an easy commute, and coming to William Paterson also have me the opportunity to continue playing tennis at the collegiate level. Overall, there was so much offered to me even before I formally enrolled.


QUESTION: Tell us about your Honors Track research project.

ANSWER: I am in the Business Track where you can work on an individual thesis or in a group as a practicum. I worked on an individual thesis. I was the first student to present during research week in Spring 2019. Dr. Bela Florenthal was my project adviser and she was wonderful! She worked one-on-one with every student and met with me in between each section submission. My piece was entitled "Residential vs. Commuter Students: How Students' Living Arrangements Affects Their Workload." I thought this was relevant research because almost every college student is balancing a full class load with a job, either full-time or part-time. 


QUESTION: What are your post-graduation plans?

ANSWER: Passing the CFP test to become a Certified Financial Planner professional is at the top of the list along with gaining industry knowledge and experience. I applied to Texas Tech for a PhD program in Financial Planning. My desire to attain the highest level of education has been a goal since I was little. I have a 5-year plan that isn’t set in stone, but I do have plans. I always have plans. (I’d also like to go to Hawaii).

Also, Dr. Tao offered students in his Retirement Planning class to participate in the IARFC Financial Plan Submission. I did so along with another Financial Planning student (Gianfranco Gonzales) who was my project partner for this. The two of us built a plan based on a case study and submitted to the committee for review. This was the first time William Paterson participated in this, so I was thrilled to learn in December that our team advanced to the semi-finals! I am hoping to receive good feedback on the project and hoping too that this will pave the way for other WP students to participate in future years.


QUESTION: What advice would you give to Honors freshmen at WP?

ANSWER: Get involved! It sounds so cliché and you hear it a million times when you are applying for college, but it's true. Just show up to a meeting for a club that you are interested in or that a professor talks about; even if you don't formally join or attend every meeting. You don't know what opportunities or friendships you could be missing out on. Some of the best friends I have made at WPU are from my involvement in the Financial Planning Club, Student Investment Club, and the tennis team. For example, I found my internship through my involvement in the Financial Planning Club. At that point, I was only a sophomore and pretty quiet, but because I showed my face at several meetings, Dr. Tao Guo felt I was taking some initiative. 

To read the full interview, click here.

Honors Coat Drive is a Big Success!

 The 14th annual Honors Coat Drive was a success! Thanks to the generosity of the entire campus community, the Honors College collected 160 coats/jackets and dozens of winter accessories (gloves, hats, scarves, etc.).  Honors students and staff sorted and packed the items and delivered them to Passaic Family Head Start in Passaic and to the Father English Center in Paterson on November 21st.  Representatives from both agencies reported that they are already experiencing a high demand for coats this year, and noted that the donations from William Paterson University make a huge difference in the lives of many local people who are in need. A small number of coats were also donated to the Pioneer Pantry.

Coats and Easel Group at Head Start processing 2


Dr. Joseph Spagna and the Biology Honors Track


Dr. Spagna, who helped develop the Biology Honors Track, has directed many Honors students through successful research projects. The Track is an option for Honors students interested in biological research, and requires coursework and research leading to a field- or bench- based senior project. Students in majors such as Environmental Science, Biology, and Biotechnology majors complete the track, and perform research under the mentorship of professors in the Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology Departments.  .

Dr. Spagna is a proponent of experiential learning. He recently took a group of students to the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia for a private tour of, amongst other things, the 1918 Flu Pandemic installation. Over Spring Break, he will take 20 students to the tropical forests of Costa Rica for a “Field Course and Natural History Study Trip” at the Bijagual Ecological Reserve, where they will conduct research in the field.

 Mutter  Bio Group

To give a sense of the high level of research completed within the Honors Biology Track, here are just a few of the upcoming student research projects which will be presented later this year:

  • “Neuroprotective effects of acute moderate alcohol after traumatic brain injury” by Elika Moallem
  • “Characterization of New Blue-Light Photoreceptors in the Dinoflagellate Karenia brevis” by Alan Abboud
  • Regeneration in Cold Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Exposure in Tadpoles, Xenopus laevis by Ma Veronica Holganza
  • “Neuroprotective Effects of KCNQ Potassium Channels After Traumatic Brain Injury with Acute and Chronic Alcohol Use” by Saul Abreu


Students in the Biology Honors track distinguish themselves through the publications that they have authored or co-authored.  Take a look at the PUBLICATIONS that have come out of the RESEARCH WORK done within the Biology Honors Track:

  • Cera A, Holganza MK*, Hardan AA, Gamarra I, Eldabagh RS*, Deschaine M*, Elkamhawy S, Sisso EM, Foley JJ, IV, Arnone JT. 2019. Functionally related genes cluster into genomic regions that coordinate transcription at a distance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. mSphere 4:e00063-19.
  • Eldabagh, Reem S.*, et al. Systematic Identification, Characterization, and Conservation of Adjacent-Gene Coregulation in the Budding Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. mSphere3 (2018): e00220-18.
  • Gilley, D. C., Miller, N.*, Courtright, T. J.*, & Thom, C. (2018). Behavioral Activity of Hydrocarbons Emitted by Honeybee Waggle Dancers. Journal of Insect Behavior31(1), 83-90
  • Gilley, D. C., Courtright, T. J.*, & Thom, C. (2018). Phenology of Honey Bee Swarm Departure in New Jersey, United States. Environmental entomology47(3), 603-608.
  • Holganza, M. V*., Rivie, A., Martus, K., & Menon, J. (2019). Modulation of Metamorphic and Regenerative Events by Cold Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Exposure in Tadpoles, Xenopus laevis. Applied Sciences9(14), 2860.
  • Weaver, D.* Spagna, J.C., and Mendez, P., Phylogenetic Relationships in Oligophlebodes (Trichoptera: Thremmatidae). Zoosymposia, in review, Jan 2017.