Faculty profile: Caterina Panzeca

Faculty profile: Caterina Panzeca


Caterina Panzeca has been a faculty member at SUNY Maritime College since the fall of 2013. An assistant professor and vice chair of the Marine Environmental Science program, Panzeca developed the hands-on field course for seniors in the major, and oversees the Marine Environmental Science program. Panzeca holds master’s and doctoral degrees in marine environmental science from Stony Brook University.


What are you excited about in Maritime’s future?

As an environmental scientist, I’m really excited about the great new science labs that were renovated over the summer. We have lots of new equipment to work with so we can really expand what we’re doing outside of the classroom. We’re allowing students to do more hands-on research, and hopefully, work with neighboring organizations in the field of environmental monitoring.

Why teach? What’s the advantage of teaching at Maritime?

I love getting students excited about science, because of how passionate I am. I look at teaching like I’m doing a form of research. I’m really into new teaching methods and technologies to move past general lectures. Teaching can always be new. I try not to do the same thing over and over again.

I think the advantage of teaching at Maritime is our unique setting. We’re right on the river and because of that, the students all feel a strong connection to the water. Also, there aren’t too many marine environmental science programs in the NYC area. We’re able to teach in a way that most other schools can’t.

What is your favorite class to teach?

I love to teach field methods in environmental science. It’s one of the most hands-on courses offered at the school. It’s the culminating class for seniors and it’s taught much differently than other courses–they work more independently.

We’re doing some really great work in that class. We’re monitoring the water quality out here in the East River. We also go out to the Bronx River and the Long Island Sound and compare the environments. The work has such a connection to their everyday lives that it gives them something to think about even when I’m not teaching.

Has a student ever inspired you to go “above and beyond” in the classroom?

It’s my nature to always try to perfect what I’m doing. Whether it’s because of the students or not, I’m not entirely sure. I do know that I’m especially inspired in the classroom when students ask about the path I took to get where I am because it shows their genuine interest in pursuing a career in marine environmental science.

Can you tell me a bit about your research?

I’m really interested in coastal-urban ecosystems and how they change over time. Specifically I’m interested in understanding general water quality and environmental variation in the East River. We’re taking consistent measurements of different environmental parameters over the course of the year. Then we look at how an area so heavily influenced by humans fluctuates and how it’s different from the open ocean and other environments, and hopefully, how we can improve overall water quality.

Silly question: What would the name of your debut album be?

“A Pod of Diatoms.”  The students joke with me about how I’m much more interested in microbes and phytoplankton (i.e. Diatoms) than marine mammals, so my album would be a tribute to that.