Division of Science
When she was little, Rebecca Panko lived on Liberty Island with her parents who worked for the National Park Service. She would go by tugboat with the other children who lived on the island to a school on nearby Governor's Island.
But, that romantic life ended at age five, when her father was transferred to Florida's Everglades National Park. However, the Big Apple remained in her heart, and she yearned to move back as soon as she was old enough.
"I did well as a student in high school, but I was stubborn and had other interests," she recalls. "I thought I wanted to become a photographer."
That dream didn't pan out for her. Needing to pay the rent so she could stay in New York, she worked at a series of different jobs, finally landing a position at a retail plant store in Park Slope. It was there that she realized she wanted to go back to school and, ultimately, pursue a PhD in a field of study related to plants.
After taking classes in Latin at Hunter College to help decipher taxonomic names, she transferred to Borough of Manhattan Community College to earn an associate's degree, bring up her GPA and get research experience. She chose City College for her bachelor's because she wanted to stay in New York and she liked the school's location in Harlem and diverse student body.
An advisor introduced Rebecca to Professor of Biology Amy Berkov, who became her mentor and guided her to opportunities included the City College Fellows program and Colin Powell Community Engagement Fellowship. For her community engagement project, she demonstrated the efficacy of using compost leachate to water salt marsh plants instead of allowing it to run off into storm sewers.
Rebecca has been awarded a fellowship to earn a PhD in ecology at Rutgers University – Newark.
"City College has a lot of resources," she said. "When you ask the right questions and expand your network, you can achieve a lot here."
"When you ask the right questions and expand your network, you can achieve a lot here."