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Senior engineer finds she’s happiest in the lab

Valessa St. Pierre was born in Haiti but grew up in Brooklyn, a girl who just loved science.

“I wanted to know why things are the way they are,” she explained.

That insatiable curiosity brought St. Pierre to Binghamton, where she’s double majoring in biological anthropology and psychology. The McNair Scholar, now 22 and a senior, has eagerly explored a number of research settings on campus and off.

She has worked with several prominent Binghamton faculty members, including Robert Ostergard and Patrick Regan in political science, Ralph Garruto in anthropology and Donald Levis and Joseph Morrissey in psychology. She also studied teratogens, agents that can cause malformations of an embryo or fetus, with an off-campus institute last school year.

Last summer, St. Pierre traveled to the University of North Texas for an intense independent study. Her project focused on black women and their hair. During her fieldwork, some of her subjects cried as they discussed their unattainable images of beauty.

“I was a little scared about it being superficial,” she said. “But there are issues some groups focus on that the rest of society doesn’t even know about.”

St. Pierre, who’s in her second year as a resident assistant in Hillside Community, ran her own painted clothing business while she was still a teenager. She put that on hold to focus on her work at Binghamton.

This semester, she was a teaching assistant for Jane Connor’s multicultural psychology course. She’s also working with Morrissey on an honors thesis.

St. Pierre, who will graduate in May, hopes to find an interdisciplinary doctoral program in clinical psychology where she can put her anthropology background to good use.

Morrissey expects her extraordinary self-motivation will serve her well as she continues her studies.

“She’s got a vision for herself,” he said.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08