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Madisen Caferro

1605

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Finalist

Bio

Hi, I’m Madisen. I am a “Renaissance woman” of many passions. I just graduated early from Fordham University, summa cum laude, where I earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Philosophy. I studied macular degeneration as a research assistant for over a year. This fall, I will begin a Ph.D. in Biology at Boston College. When I am not in a lab or classroom, I can be found teaching yoga, working with kids, tutoring, watching musicals, baking oatmeal cups, walking my dog, or reading a Jane Austen novel. My major career goals are to conduct biomedical research to help the sick, and to teach science students. I see myself tackling medical problems in a lab, to better the lives of those who sadly find their freedom restricted by poor health. I also see myself working as a professor. Nothing compares to the feeling of making something that was once hard for you to learn easier for someone else, and watching them succeed on their own path. As a certified yoga teacher and tutor, I am passionate about mentoring others in a way that empowers them to achieve their goals and stay true to themselves. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities that I have been given. I am seeking scholarships to help offset the costs of higher education and living in the city, as well as to avoid accumulating further student debt. As such, I am very thankful for all scholarship considerations. I hope that those considering me understand that should I be selected, their kindness will be genuinely felt, and put to good use for the future of science, healthcare, and education.

Education

Boston College

Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)
2023 - 2028
  • Majors:
    • Biology, General

Fordham University

Bachelor's degree program
2019 - 2022
  • Majors:
    • Biology, General
  • Minors:
    • Philosophy

Abington High School

High School
2015 - 2019
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Higher Education

    • Dream career goals:

    • Summer Camp Helper

      South Shore Christian Academy
      2023 – 2023
    • Sales Associate

      The Paper Store (Hingham, MA)
      2019 – 20201 year
    • Yoga Teacher

      Emerald Yoga Studio
      2022 – 2022
    • Tutor

      Self-employed
      2013 – Present11 years
    • Research Assistant

      Dr. Silvia Finnemann's Lab at Fordham University
      2022 – Present2 years

    Research

    • Microbiological Sciences and Immunology

      Fordham Undergraduate Research Symposium — Presenter
      2022 – 2022
    • Cell/Cellular Biology and Anatomical Sciences

      Dr. Silvia Finnemann's Lab at Fordham University — Research Assistant
      2022 – Present

    Arts

    • Fordham Marketing Department

      Visual Arts
      Links available upon request
      2022 – 2022
    • Fordham University Theatrical Outreach Program

      Theatre
      Failure: A Love Story
      2020 – 2022

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Camp Invention (Abington, MA) — Camp Invention Leadership Intern
      2015 – 2018
    • Volunteering

      Fordham Dance Marathon — Charity Yoga Teacher
      2021 – 2021
    • Volunteering

      Fordham Biological Sciences Department — Spring Preview Helper
      2023 – 2023
    • Volunteering

      Fordham University Campus Ministry Ignatian Yoga — Ignatian Yoga Teacher
      2019 – 2023

    Future Interests

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Book Lovers Scholarship
    Gus sets down his Hot Wheels, adjusts his little glasses, and folds his sticky hands over his lunch box. He closes his eyes, in that gentle, earnest way that only a five-year-old can—and thanks God for our food… and our friends…. and our health… and just asks that “God please help all of the evil people turn good, in every single country all over the world. Amen.” I have tears in my eyes. Because you see, grown-ups don’t pray like that anymore. Because grown-ups don’t expect such things to even be possible. We are older, and we are sadder than our children, but I refuse to believe we are any wiser. And that is why, if I could have everyone in the world read just one book, it would be To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s choice to tell the story of an innocent black man, convicted for a rape he could not have possibly committed, through the eyes of a child is equal parts devastating and brilliant. Jem and Scout, the defense lawyer’s children, struggle to understand the irrationality and cruelty of the world around them in a way that forces us all to look in the mirror, and remember a time when we could not comprehend (let alone commit) such evil acts either. This loss of innocence may look slightly different for everyone, but it is an inevitable part of being human. It is something every reader can relate to, and feel a little less alone in, regardless of time, place, race, or gender. To Kill a Mockingbird is also a window into many different situations: discrimination against others based on the color of their skin, the expectations placed on young girls, a motherless family dynamic—the list goes on and on. These windows transcend the setting of the book, and remain crucial to increasing our empathy and understanding to this day. But once again, the book’s power extends even beyond the exact situations it describes. Atticus’s advice to his children, to “walk a mile in another person’s shoes” before judging them, or deciding how to treat them, is a piece of wisdom so simple, so applicable, and so universal that absolutely everyone can benefit from it. Everyone needs to hear it. Everyone needs to connect with the child-like goodwill that they once had. Who knows. It might just make little Gus’s prayer come true.
    Taylor Swift ‘1989’ Fan Scholarship
    Edgar Degas once said that “art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” I believe that this is the case for my favorite song from Taylor Swift’s “1989” album: “Blank Space.” At first glance, “Blank Space” appears to simply be a catchy pop song that we have all heard on the radio a hundred times. However, this song distinguishes itself from others on the radio the same way all of Swift’s work distinguishes itself. “Blank Space,” like all our favorite Taylor Swift songs, drips with addictive, intelligent imagery, and glistens with drama, fantasy, passion, and wit. Whole essays could be written just on the meaning of glamorous phrases like “cherry lips, crystal skies,” “magic, madness, heaven, sin,” and “a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” However, the writing prowess Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” demonstrates will not be the main focus of my essay. This lyrical skill can be heard in all of the “1989” tracks. What I believe makes “Blank Space” unique is the greater life lesson it represents. “Blank Space” is told from the perspective of a crazed, manipulative lover, who recklessly throws herself from relationship to relationship, eventually driving each suitor away with her obsession. Taylor Swift has openly explained the origin of “Blank Space” to be a response to the media’s villainizing depiction of her and her own dating life. Swift is honest in admitting that some of her songs are inspired by real people she has dated; however, she often refuses to name names. As a result, magazines, tabloids, and commentators often like to play a guessing game, and pass uninformed and false judgments on who she is dating, or why her past relationships have ended. They also frequently paint an unflattering portrait of Swift, as a woman like the narrator in “Blank Space,” who jumps from relationship to relationship merely to gather writing material and further her career. Initially, Swift said, she was deeply upset about these unfounded character assassinations. But, upon some reflection, she decided to throw her creativity, rather than her reactivity, at the problem. Swift became fascinated by the character the media was describing, and rather than responding to the characterization with indignant outrage, she used it to create an absolutely captivating satire. Rather than letting others’ criticisms get under her skin, she decided to make something good come out of it. She chose to subtly call out the absurdity of her critics’ points in a clever, dignified manner, and to even have some laughs while she was at it. And herein lies Swift’s power. To me, “Blank Space” is so much more than just a catchy song. It is a lesson about not letting others’ hurtful words harm your own sense of self-worth. It is about realizing that you cannot always control what others say or do to you, but you can control how you respond to it. You can choose to let things roll off your back, and to not internalize others’ spite. You can choose to respond to things intelligently, and with a sense of humor. I think it is these choices–choices present in “Blank Space,” and choices that Swift has made throughout her career–that, in addition to her brilliant work, make her so dear to fans like me. Not only is Swift a hard-working artist, but in a pop culture where it has become trendy to be loud and angry rather than smart and reflective, she proves to be an outstanding role model. What “Blank Space” makes others see is the power of knowing yourself–and letting no one take that away from you.
    Your Health Journey Scholarship
    I was four states away from my family for the first time, desperately missing healthy home cooked meals and showers that did not require shoes. In other words, I was a college freshman. During my first year at Fordham University, I faced a heavier academic load than ever before, and had no idea how I was going to make time for exercise, sleep, and finding new friends with all my new responsibilities. I felt as though I was doing my best to balance everything, but my best was not good enough. My best still left me up past 2am finishing homework, and losing 8 pounds. Matters were only made worse when the COVID-19 pandemic sent all of Fordham University’s students home in March 2020, at the very start of my second semester. Moving home with one day’s notice, losing the freedom I had only just begun to experience, and the uncertainty of when things would be back to normal sent my anxiety through the roof. However, looking back on this rough transition now, four years later, I manage to find gratitude for the struggles I faced. I would now call this challenging time the true start of my “health journey.” It was the motivation I needed to make a variety of lifestyle changes that have since transformed me into who I am today–and I would consider who I am today to be the happiest and healthiest version of myself yet. If every cloud has a silver lining, then the silver lining of the pandemic for me was that it gave me time to work on myself. For instance, I had a stomach ache and required antacids every single day of my freshman year. Being home allowed me to finally look into this issue. I kept a log of exactly what I ate every day, and the symptoms I experienced. It was through this data I collected that I finally saw patterns, and recognized some of my stomach’s main triggers. For example, I learned that I needed to cut out red meat, fried foods, and caffeine. I have kept this up to this very day, and now I rarely have stomach issues. Speaking of mindfulness, perhaps the most significant lifestyle change of all that I made was my decision to become a certified yoga teacher during the pandemic. I had practiced yoga off and on in the previous years, but my practice deepened while I was at home, as I found that yoga was the only thing that consistently brought me peace. Since becoming certified, I have practiced yoga almost every single day. Daily yoga has done wonders for my stress management, my posture, my strength, my mobility, and my soul. Having my routine completely removed also forced me to build a new, healthier one. I prioritized getting a full eight hours of sleep. I began meditating every morning, to start my day with a positive attitude and sense of calm. This allowed me to be more productive during the day, and to finish my responsibilities earlier. With this time in the evening, I was able to begin journaling every night, to help me process the day and identify worries before they could consume me. My health journey, like any journey worth its while, is not linear. As I prepare to begin my studies at a new school, Boston College, I know that many ups and downs are on their way. However, I have faith in how far my health and I have come, and faith in how far my health and I can go.
    Healthy Eating Scholarship
    “You are what you eat.” Annoying, but true. We often look at nutrition labels for sugar, fat, protein, fiber, and vitamins. As a biologist, I have learned that those are just layman words for the more scientific terms: carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, cellulose, and cofactors. And carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, and cofactors are the reactants in the chemical reactions that give us energy, and synthesize new cellular components. And there we have it. What we ingest becomes our cells. Our cells are our bodies. We literally are what we eat. We all want our cells’ building blocks to be plentiful, not scarce. We want our bodies to be made of strong natural materials, not artificial junk. And we definitely don’t want the artificial junk our bodies can’t use accumulating in places like our organs and arteries. This is why it is so important to have healthy eating habits. The more natural, whole foods we consume, the less work our body has to do to find and isolate the nutrients, the strong building blocks. The healthier we eat, the more building blocks we have, and the less junk we accumulate. However, we are all human. Sometimes, that very rational perspective is just not enough to motivate us to eat an apple instead of an apple pie (it’s all fruit, right?!). Sometimes, our feelings can be a much more powerful motivator than reason–and healthy eating is no exception. It is important to eat healthy not only so that we can know our bodies are better off, but so that we can actually feel our bodies being better off. For instance, I notice that when I consume certain foods, mainly fried foods and red meat, I am instantly doubled over in stomach pain. Another example related to my stomach has to do with sugar. If I eat too many processed sweets and not enough natural sugars (i.e fruit and vegetables), I will experience digestive issues after a few days. When I choose to eat more natural foods instead, such as oatmeal, whole grains, and salads, my stomach feels comfortably full, not overly stuffed, and I do not experience digestive issues. I have also noticed that if I consume too much dairy, I will experience congestion. If I limit my dairy intake, my head feels much clearer. On top of these physical benefits, I find that healthy eating improves my mental health as well. Taking the time and spending the money to prepare healthier food for myself sends the message to my brain that I am worth the effort, and that I deserve to be taken care of. For instance, if I had a child, I would make the effort to prepare the healthiest of foods for that child every single day. Why wouldn’t I love and care for myself in that same way? I think this message we send to ourselves when we properly nourish our bodies can be incredibly empowering. I know that it makes me more compassionate towards myself. Not only is that a comforting feeling and a healthier mindset to live with, but it also fuels other forms of self-care. Healthy eating can be a snowball effect: “I made the effort to eat healthy today, now I am going to make the effort to exercise and get enough sleep as well.” The importance of healthy eating should not be about calorie counting, appearances, or guilt–it should simply be a way of loving and taking care of ourselves, and laying our own foundation with high-quality materials. It is about building ourselves to last.
    Mind, Body, & Soul Scholarship
    From an early age, I came to see that education is the metaphorical shoulders of giants. It is simultaneously uncharted territory, and a record of everywhere we’ve ever been. I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who took me to libraries, science exhibits, museums, ancient ruins, art galleries, and other testaments to what humanity could achieve when they set their minds to it. I came to see that education is joyful, wondrous, and a privilege denied to many. To this day, this sense of wonder is still what excites me most about college. The feeling of standing in the middle of a college campus, knowing that anything you want to learn, you can learn right there, while simultaneously feeling that there is so much more yet to be discovered, is what excited me most as an undergraduate at Fordham University. It is also what excites me most now as an incoming Ph.D. student at Boston College. At Fordham, I had the opportunity to major in biology and minor in philosophy, two completely unrelated and yet equally fascinating disciplines. I vowed to be a lifelong learner and an unabashed school-lover, forever. As much as I love school, however, I am not immune to its challenges. I am no stranger to the time-consuming paper, the impending deadline, nor the cry of the lower back after many long hours spent in a desk chair. These challenges provide direct threats to one’s health. I believe that we should all have more than one strategy when it comes to the cultivation of a healthy mind, body, and soul, and that these strategies can and should look different for everyone. As for myself, however, my strategies mainly stem from one secret weapon: yoga. I first started practicing yoga during my junior year of high school. I continued my yoga practice off and on throughout the next couple of years. My yoga journey truly took off during the COVID-19 pandemic, a period of uncertainty and upheaval for myself and many others. I found that doing yoga was the only thing that consistently brought me peace. I knew then that I had to deepen my practice, and during my sophomore year at Fordham, I decided to complete a 200-hour yoga teacher training. To say that becoming a certified yoga teacher has been a blessing throughout college would be an understatement. Since completing the training, I practice yoga daily, and I cannot think of an activity that more wholly benefits my mind, body, and soul. The way that school forces us to engage our minds is a gift, but it can also be a curse if we do not know how to turn our minds off. Yoga helps me find the off switch, as each stretch and each pose demands that I rest my mind and drop into my body. Yoga counteracts sedentary activities like sitting and studying, to keep my body flexible and strong. Furthermore, the quiet meditation time in yoga allows me to tend to my soul: my feelings, my desires, and a higher power of my choosing. Not only is yoga the main way I maintain my health, but it has opened the door to other ways that I now maintain my health. The mindfulness I have gained from yoga has led me to other self-care strategies, such as journaling, healthy eating, and creative writing. It is my hope that school will continue to excite me and challenge me, so that I may continue learning new ways to nurture my mind, body, and soul.
    Connie Konatsotis Scholarship
    Like Connie Konatsotis, I would consider myself a “young, smart woman.” More specifically, I like to call myself a Renaissance woman. To wit, I just graduated from Fordham University this past December with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences, and a minor in philosophy. This fall, I will begin my Ph.D. studies in Biology at Boston College. I am also a certified yoga teacher, and an avid patron and participant in the arts. I write poetry, play the clarinet, go to plays, and thoroughly enjoy a 19th-century novel or ancient Greek treatise. With this smattering of passions, it is evident that many STEAM topics interest me. However, the one that I have chosen to dedicate most of my time and education to is S, “Science.” One may think that I chose to pursue an education in biology because it is my favorite passion, the one I find most interesting of all. But I fear this answer does not capture my true motivations. Molecules and dissections are great and all, but the truth is, biology itself is not my main interest. I am far more interested in how science can be applied to help others. I realized at a young age that I could pursue all of my interests in life (science, writing, reading, music, yoga), regardless of my career path, as long as I had good health. I also realized that not all are fortunate enough to have such good health as myself. This is why I intend to build my skills in biomedical research, and bring them to bear on the health challenges that restrict the freedom of so many. This is the impact I hope to make on the world through my education. During my years at Fordham, I was lucky enough to work in Dr. Silvia Finnemann’s lab, where I worked on the development of an exciting new in vivo assay to study age-related macular degeneration. After just a few semesters of experience in this lab, I learned so much about the power of STEAM and what it takes to be good at it. I felt a sense of purpose, as I recalled the heartbreaking stories my mother, a nurse of over twenty-five years, had told me about her patients with this disease. She told me of people who could no longer make out their beloved grandchildren’s faces, and people who cheerfully asked her to please tell them what color their shirt was today. This job showed me how biomedical research has the power to brighten the big picture. This potential is what I find most riveting, most rewarding, and most essential, about STEAM. The work I did in this lab also showed me how the study of STEAM topics can build one’s character. For instance, in my experience, the successful microdissection of a mouse eyeball (about three millimeters wide) is one part hand-eye coordination–but two parts patience, and three parts humility. In addition to developing these characteristics, research has also challenged me to think on my feet, and to become a more independent problem solver. These qualities assist me in many other areas of my life: creative projects, my own, personal stress management skills, and my relationships with others. Like Connie Konatsotis, I believe that education is something no one can take away from you, and I also believe that an education in STEAM can be one of the most fulfilling educations of all. It is my hope that my future in STEAM will continue to change me, as well as the world around me, for the better.
    Wellness Warriors Scholarship
    As a yoga teacher and college student, I am often asked why tending to one’s personal wellness should be a priority for students. My favorite answer is simple: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” The metaphor is simple, yet profound. Just as an empty cup cannot pour to other cups, an empty human cannot give to others. This means that a college student who cannot do well for themselves–whether it be in terms of their exercise, their diet, their mental health, their sleep–cannot possibly do their best for others, personally or academically. One could argue that it is still possible to learn and to succeed, even without personal wellness. Look no further than the student who stayed up until 3:00am to finish a paper due the next day, ate an entire order of garlic knots by herself, and still got an A on the paper. (That student was me). However, even if an empty cup somehow manages to squeeze out a couple last drops to others, let us remember: it is still an empty cup. It is unable to stand up on its own for long. It is easily tipped over by the slightest disturbance. Prioritizing personal wellness makes my success as a student a purposeful and mindful accomplishment, built on a steadfast foundation–not an anxiety-inducing close call, a teetering seesaw that just happened to tip the right way this time. Achievement without personal wellness is sacrifice of the individual. Achievement with personal wellness is empowerment of the individual. This is why, ever since the freshman-year-first-paper-garlic-knot incident, I have worked hard to create many small, daily habits that maintain my personal wellness while attending college. As previously mentioned, I am a certified yoga teacher. This is a qualification I decided to pursue during the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly tested my mental fortitude and dedication to my studies. I have no doubt that my daily yoga practice has kept me saner and smarter throughout these challenging years. Becoming a yoga teacher lit a fire in me that quickly spread, and motivated me to be more mindful of my wellness in other areas of life, beyond exercise. For instance, I started paying closer attention to my emotions, the foods I consume, and the amount of sleep I get. I now strive to be in bed by 9:30pm, and up at approximately 6:00am every day. Every morning, I start the day with yoga and a cup of soothing lemon ginger tea. I try to get my homework and other obligations done earlier in the day, so that I can unwind in the evening for a better night’s sleep. If I feel my energy dip during the day, I pick it back up naturally, with a walk outside, a quick nap, or a bowl of fruit. I cook most of my own meals, and focus on using real, non-processed ingredients. I end the day with a warm relaxing shower, and a few minutes of journaling to help me process the day. It is from this full, calm, well-rested, well-fed cup that I was able to graduate early from my undergraduate institution, summa cum laude. It is from this proactive, rather than reactive attitude that comes from taking care of oneself that I was able to submit all of my graduate school applications, and to get into my first choice school. But, far more important than any of these accomplishments, it is from this commitment to personal wellness that I am here and in one piece: for the people I love, the work I need to do, and the world I want to see.