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Fifty-Ninth Commencement



Fifty-Ninth Commencement Valedictorian
Mariami Kochiashvili

valedictorian Mariami Kochiashvili


Class of 2024 Valedictorian
Mariami Kochiashvili

For as long as she can remember, Mariami Kochiashvili has wanted to become a doctor. “This dream was so deeply embedded in my mind that I never considered choosing another profession,” she confessed. “I have always been interested in biology, specifically the process of making observations, posing questions, and generating hypotheses about several topics. In high school, I was good at biology and chemistry and tried to learn more about medical cases that needed to be further explored. I remember studying severe diseases and their mechanisms of action and hoped that one day I would be able to become a doctor and save people's lives.”

However, she didn’t have access to lab equipment or opportunities to gain hands-on experience for the types of research she was interested in conducting in her native Georgia, where she was born and raised. When she immigrated to the United States in 2022, she enrolled at Kingsborough Community College, where she chose to major in biology and make the most of everything the college had to offer. “My admissions counselor, Rudy Muradov, who is also Georgian, provided necessary information about taking classes, honors programs, financial aid, and more that ultimately helped me adapt to a new environment.”

Adapting to life in a new country was difficult. “For me, most difficult was adaptation to a foreign land, language, people, and principles,” she shared. “Determined to succeed, I knew I had to adapt, make new friends, and excel academically. Since English is my second language, this process was difficult, but with intensive practice and determination, I was able to adapt to this environment.”

With encouragement and support from the college community, Mariami soon found a home at KCC. She served as vice president of scholarship for the college’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society chapter and became a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). "I am grateful for Donna Brigando, my academic advisor, for her support and direction throughout my journey."

She is appreciative of Kingsborough’s supportive faculty, whose guidance and mentorship helped her overcome challenges, discover her strengths, and explore new opportunities. “While all the professors have been influential, I would like to mention my first biology professor, Mary Dawson. Her interesting teaching style and informative lectures and labs helped me explore more about biology.”

Mariami was able to conduct research with Prof. Roberto Mariani, who helped her develop her research skills, as part of the CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP). Her CRSP project explored managing weight with nutraceuticals, a special type of supplement that provides extra health benefits from food-based sources. “By exploring the importance and efficacy of two nutraceuticals, such as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and saffron, we hope to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

While at KCC, Mariami never forgot the importance of giving back. Her volunteer work as a peer mentor has helped other students do better academically. She also collaborated with Prof. Kristin Polizzotto on creating a vertebrate anatomy dissection guide for general biology classes. “Prof. Polizzotto expanded my knowledge of ecology, organismal biology, and evolution.” Creative Commons licensed the guide as an open educational resource, benefiting students beyond KCC by eliminating the need to purchase an expensive textbook.

In the future, she would like to explore the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, for which no cure exists. “Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD) are debilitating conditions that impair memory, thought processes, and functioning, primarily among older adults. There are clinical trials and research, but none focus on the intervention and prevention of this disease. By understanding various disciplines such as chemistry, biology, and psychology, I hope to find effective treatment.” She wants to improve the lives of those affected by Alzheimer's disease by helping to identify dementia biomarkers. “This mission is not just about scientific discovery; it's about hope for a brighter future for all those impacted by this severe condition.”

In addition, she is considering becoming a plastic surgeon. “I want to help people with birth defects—cleft lip and palate, syndactyly, and more—and reconstruct injuries to return them to a similar anatomical appearance for patient health. I want to develop regenerative and transplant medicine more by using skin grafts and several innovative techniques.”

Her larger aspiration is to create a healthcare system that will prioritize people's needs and provide them with appropriate resources and assistance. “Society faces several problems, one of which is the increasing healthcare cost,” she explained. “People can't afford annual check-up visits, necessary medications, and life-saving surgeries. Around the world, many people are uninsured and face high out-of-pocket expenses. Even though their condition is getting worse day by day, they have to endure the unbearable pain because they have no choice. This is especially difficult for patients who require expensive procedures such as intensive chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and dialysis for proper kidney functioning. This goal gives my life meaning and direction and further motivates me to fight to become a doctor and a changemaker.”

She’s off to a good start: Her hard work and dedication at Kingsborough have resulted in a perfect 4.0 GPA, several Dean’s List appearances, and a Dean’s List scholarship. As her final achievement, she will represent the class of 2024 as KCC’s valedictorian.