Spotlight: Lucinda Zawadzki

There is a common saying among college students: A college student has three options—grades, sleep, and a social life. And of those three, you are only allowed to choose two. Any attempt to juggle all three at once will end terribly.

For most students, this is more of a prophecy than a saying. But Lucinda Zawadzki, a senior and star student at Macaulay Honors College at CSI, has managed to do it all–maintaining a 4.0 GPA, conducting academic research for the biology department, and keeping up with her favorite artist Taylor Swift, all while painting sceneries and writing poetry in her spare time.

Lucinda Zawadzki goes birding in Staten Island.
Lucinda Zawadzki bands a Gray Catbird during its fall migration in Sandy Hook, NJ. Photo courtesy of Lucinda Zawadzki.

Lucinda—a Goldwater Scholarship nominee—also gets enough sleep and has time to hang out with her friends.

The key, Lucinda says, is time management. “I do need time to relax and give myself an hour or two throughout the day,” she says. “Currently, I have my schedule pre-planned for the next three weeks. I get all the stuff done in order, and it all just works out.”

As a biology major, Lucinda conducts research in Dr. Shaibal Mitra’s ecology lab, analyzing the migration and vagrancy patterns of the Western Kingbird on the East Coast. Specifically, her current findings show a change in arrival period and duration of stay of these kingbirds, suggesting that they are engaging in a form of long-distance dispersal and establishing new wintering grounds. This could possibly be attributed to global climate change, a factor which she plans to further explore. Her findings, along with her passion for biological research, led to her 2014 nomination for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship; Lucinda hopes to work towards a doctorate in the future.

When asked how she stays motivated, Lucinda responds that she strives to be a lifelong learner–staying curious in every step of the journey. “I like learning, and try to be the best at what I do. Even if it’s not something I’m interested in, I give it my all because I might get something out of it,” she says. “Learning keeps me motivated. It makes a person more worldly.” She also credits Dr. Charles Liu, an astrophysicist and the director of the Macaulay Honors College at CSI, for frequently making inspirational speeches to students.

Another motivator on Lucinda’s list is her idol, Taylor Swift. “Taylor Swift is hard-working and never stops. She thinks of new ways to reinvent herself and is willing to try new things–welcoming new influences.” Like Swift, Lucinda looks to different professors for inspiration and tries to stay open-minded. Lucinda also admires Swift’s independence and tenacity as a woman–for staying true to who she is and not what society pressures her to be. Similarly, by working towards a doctorate, Lucinda hopes to inspire and empower women to enter the sciences.

As for hobbies, Lucinda loves to draw and paint subjects like galaxies and oceans, while also incorporating aspects of her life into her art. She also loves to write poetry about her college life, her aspirations, and influential moments in her life. She hopes to one day publish her own anthology. Lucinda believes that the acts of painting and writing are like taking snapshots in the timeline of her life. In addition to relieving stress, putting her emotions on canvas allows her to relive those moments later in life.

Excelling in college alone is hard enough. To excel in college, maintain a social life, and have hobbies is almost an impossible task. But Lucinda has proven that the impossible is possible and gives the following tip to all college students: “Do what you love, and be willing to try new things; it took me three years to figure out what I love. College is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so take advantage of it.”

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