B.S., January 2013
Home College: Hunter
Mentor: Prof. Ray Gavin, Biology, Brooklyn
Thomas W. Smith Academic Fellowship
Ray Calderon was still working on the career in IT he started in 1998 when he decided to return to college. He’d already earned an Associate’s degree in 2007 and now wanted to pursue a Bachelor’s in Zoology, due to his love of animals and his hope to change careers. He continued to work at his full-time job as a senior support technician at Cornell Weill Medical College, saying “it was hard to attend school part time, but I was able to successfully complete my BA in just a few years.”
He completely immersed himself in his subject. He worked as a research assistant for Prof. Chester Zarnoch, Environmental Studies, Baruch, on Zarnoch’s research on the effects of invasive bivalve species, working both in the field and in the lab. He also worked as a lab assistant for Prof. Adrian Rodriguez-Contreras, Biology, CCNY, on his research on the auditory systems of mice.
Since 2011, Calderon has been a Volunteer Explainer at the Butterfly Conservatory at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). He received training there on butterfly and moth behavior, life cycles and anatomy, and learned to identify several types of butterflies from all over the world. Now he interacts with visitors in the butterfly vivarium, explaining the features and rules of the exhibit, and answering their questions about butterflies and moths. Soon after, he became a Volunteer Explainer at AMNH in the Spiders Alive exhibit. Since receiving training on spider behavior, life cycles and anatomy, as well as learning about the various species and the different types of venom and uses of silk, he explains the exhibit to visitors, answers questions about spiders and other arachnids, and manages the “spider-cart” which holds various arachnid samples for visitors to examine up-close, while also demonstrating the iridescent properties of scorpion exoskeletons with a UV light. His love of animals extended to a year of volunteering for the ASPCA as a volunteer adoption counselor, meeting with potential adopters and guiding them through the adoption process.
Calderon completed the courses for his degree at Baruch, Brooklyn, Hunter and York Colleges and used his work at AMNH as an independent study and an internship.