Stony Brook University Office of Research Services
Category: Research Highlights

Stony Brook Receives Four NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Congratulations to the winners of  the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for 2014: Dara Bobb-Semple (Chemistry), Stephen K. Lee (Biomedical Engineering), Marisa Lim (Ecology & Evolution), and Micah Mumper (Psychology/Cognitive Science).  This year’s competition attracted a record 15,000 applicants from among the nation’s top STEM graduate students.  In all, 2000 GRF awards were made across all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.  This fellowship award, which is portable and provides a yearly stipend of $32K for each of 3 years, is made to students at the beginning of their research careers who show outstanding promise, both in their intellectual merit and in the broader impacts of their work to benefit society and to strengthen and diversify the nation’s scientific workforce.

The announcement was made early on April 1 on NSF’s FastLane web site, prompting one of the winners to react: “I hope this isn’t an April Fools joke!” Fellows Lee, Lim, and Mumper plan to deploy their awards within their graduate programs at Stony Brook; Bobb-Semple, a Stony Brook senior, plans to deploy hers at Stanford University.  At least one incoming Ph.D. student, Sarah Bannon (currently at University of Iowa), will also deploy her GRF award at Stony Brook (in Psychology).

A total of 1920 students across the U.S. won Honorable Mention, including 10 from Stony Brook: Amber Bonds (Pharmacology), Nicole Calma (Psychology /Psycholinguistics), Santiago Cassalett (Anthropology), David Charifson (Ecology & Evolution), Moises Guardado (Genetics), Anna Gura-Krasniqi (Physics), Irvin Huang (SOMAS/ Oceanography), Roxanne Moadel-Attie (Psychology/Social), Vihitaben Patel (Biomedical Engineering), and Rafal Piersiak (Physics & Astronomy).

Students typically compete for GRF award as senior undergrads (Level 1), or as first year (Level 2) or second year (Level 3) graduate students; they must be US citizens or permanent residents, and cannot yet have earned a Master’s degree.

For more information on NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program or for advice about the application process, please contact Prof. Susan Brennan.


Dr. Sabine Brouxhon Receives SUNY Research Foundation TAF Award to Help Accelerate Development of a Novel Cancer Agent

The research evaluates a targeted agent to treat chemoresistant disease

Sabine Brouxhon, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, has been selected to receive a 2013 SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF) award of $50,000 from the SUNY Research Foundation. The award supports innovation by SUNY faculty and students by providing funding to accelerate development and commercialization.

Dr. Brouxhon has been working in the field of epithelial biology for more than a decade and has an active research program at Stony Brook Medicine funded by the National Institutes of Health and prior funding from the Komen Foundation. She and her research team discovered a novel cancer therapy that targets multiple chemoresistant pathways. The approach could revolutionize treatment for patients with breast, lung, skin and other epithelial-derived cancers.

“The Research Foundation’s initiative to fund research that has potential to be commercialized is an important catalyst to advance groundbreaking research in healthcare and other scientific areas,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr, MD. “This vision to support faculty at Stony Brook and other SUNY schools will help enhance the position of SUNY research programs.”

“Dr. Brouxhon’s research in developing this novel cancer therapy is an example of where a scientific discovery at Stony Brook has great bench-to-bedside potential,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, MACP, Senior Vice President of the Health Sciences, and Dean, School of Medicine. “We are optimistic that the successful commercialization of Dr. Brouxhon’s work will impact the long-term treatment of thousands of cancer patients.”

“The most significant drawbacks from current conventional or targeted therapies is that despite increases in progression-free disease and survival, patients often develop resistance within a year of therapy or exhibit de novo resistance from the start,” said Dr. Brouxhon. “We have discovered a novel antibody cancer therapy that acts through a completely different mechanism of action compared to existing industry drugs, in that it targets multiple resistant pathways.”

Dr. Brouxhon and colleagues have successfully tested the therapy on multiple National Cancer Institute-designated epithelial-derived cancer cell lines and numerous preclinical cancer mouse models, including cancers that are resistant to the FDA-approved drug Herceptin. After proof-of-concept studies in cells and in mice, Dr. Brouxhon and her team have developed proprietary mouse monoclonal antibodies that exhibit a far superior efficacy than anything previously tested. Moreover, studies proved the agent to be toxic only to cancer cells, while not harming healthy cells or tissues. The research team published its preclinical proof-of-concept findings in 
Clinical Cancer Research.

Dr. Brouxhon plans to expand testing a humanized version of their own mouse monoclonal antibody therapy on multiple cancer cells lines and preclinical mouse models, with the intent of progressing towards Investigational New Drug enabling studies and eventual testing in phase I clinical trials.
The TAF award will help the Stony Brook research team to advance this next stage of development of the novel cancer agent.
“SUNY faculty, students, and staff are conducting research and developing innovations that have the potential to change the world we live in for the better, and the Technology Accelerator Fund is one way SUNY can help bring their ideas to market,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.

“SUNY’s and New York’s innovation ecosystem begins with research,” said Dr. Tim Killeen, president of the RF and SUNY vice chancellor for research. “SUNY’s TAF program rewards and highlights the unique diversity of SUNY research and enhances our ability drive economic development by moving more SUNY technologies from the lab to the marketplace.”

Since its launch in 2011, the TAF has invested over $1 million to successfully advance the commercial readiness of 
16 SUNY-developed innovations that are poised for high-impact commercialization.

SUNY faculty, staff, and student proposals were evaluated by the TAF managing director with input from external experts in various fields of science and business development. Factors considered for the awards include: availability of intellectual property protection, marketability, commercial potential, feasibility, and breadth of impact. 

Stony Brook Professor Receives Award for Lifetime Achievements in Cardiovascular Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Shmuel Einav, renowned for cardiovascular system research, awarded the Landau Prize

Shmuel Einav, PhD, has received one of the most prestigious annual awards given to an Israeli scientist for his lifetime achievements in cardiovascular biomedical engineering. Dr. Einav, a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University, and the Herbert J. Berman Chair for Vascular Bioengineering at Tel Aviv University, received the 2012 Mifal Hapayis Landau Prize for Scientific Research at a ceremony in Israel on January 27, 2013.

Established in Israel in 1970, the Landau Prize is named after Michael Landau, who headed Mifal Hapayis, Isreal’s national lottery devoted to funding medical, educational, artistic, and social causes. The annual award recognizes achievements and influence of Israeli scholars who have made significant advances in their fields and valuable contributions to the development of science and research. Previous winners include internationally recognized scientists such as Ada Yonat of the Weizmann Institute, and Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion, a Nobel Prize recipient in Chemistry.

Research conducted by Dr. Einav has led to monumental changes in the way we diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “This award signifies the broad scope and contributions of Dr. Einav’s work to basic science and medicine, underscores the impact of his dedication to educating students and mentoring faculty at Stony Brook, and recognizes his achievements advancing Biomedical Engineering, an ever growing field for 21stCentury medicine.”

According to the Mifal Hapayis judges, Dr. Einav received the Landau Prize because of his “innovative achievements and groundbreaking medical research, initiating and constructing the field of Biomedical Engineering in Israel and worldwide, for his contributions to the advancement of research in Cardiovascular Medicine for the benefit of mankind, the development of instructional programs in Biomedical Engineering in Israel and worldwide, teaching and instructing many generations of engineers, scientists and physicians, and extensive public advocacy.”

The organization cited that as a world authority in biomedical engineering, Dr. Einav is “credited with breakthroughs on blood flow and cardiac activity, computational approaches to assess the severity of the disease and efficacy of treatment, and the development of medical devices and implantable systems for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and blood vessels.”

Among the cardiovascular medical devices and systems created by Dr. Einav are heart valves, ventricular assist devices, total artificial heart, a method for opening blocked arteries, diagnosing vulnerable plaques, and the use of nanotechnologies for recovery and regeneration of blood vessels. He is also the holder of numerous patents, including an intra-aortic pumping apparatus, a method for determining the degree of occlusion and elasticity in blood vessels, and a method and apparatus for magnetic resonance imaging of flow.

Dr. Einav joined Stony Brook University in 2004 and was named Associated Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS), and Director of the Medical Technologies Division at Stony Brook’s Center of Excellence for Wireless and Information Technologies (CEWIT). His research at Stony Brook encompasses collaborative work in the Biomedical Engineering within the CEAS and School of Medicine.

The focus of work in his Stony Brook Biomedical Engineering laboratory is investigation of basic physiological flow phenomena in context with cellular and tissue engineering. The research is applied to the vascular system to discover ways of improving the functioning of cells, tissues, and organs of the body.  Dr. Einav and his team apply their methods to the physiological flow in the heart, arteries, veins, and microcirculation, as well as air flow in respiratory airways and urine flow in the kidney and urethra.

The goal of the lab is to simulate biological systems by way of mathematical models and computer systems to help life scientists better understand physiological functions. To facilitate biological studies, the lab develops new investigative techniques, noninvasive diagnostic methods, and advance multi-dimensional numerical modeling. Specific projects include the investigation of hemodynamics (blood flow) as a regulator of vascular biology, and the evaluation of critical conditions that lead to failure of biological organs, such as heart and coronary circulation or failure of circulatory prosthetic devices.

A native of Tel Aviv, Israel, Dr. Einav founded the Tel Aviv University Graduate Program of Biomedical Engineering in 1975 and the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 1993. He also lead the development of more than 15 start-up companies as Director of Ramot, the University Authority for Applied Research and Industrial Development, Ltd, the technology transfer organization of Tel Aviv University.

He has published more than 120 scientific papers and several book chapters. As an educator, he has mentored more than 75 Masters and Doctoral students who have entered science, academia an industry.

In recognition of his achievements and contributions to biomedicine and technology, Dr. Einav has been elected as a Fellow of the International College of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), and American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He is also a member of numerous scientific organizations, including the New York Academy of Science, American Physical Society, and the International Society for Applied Cardiovascular Biology.

Martian Underground Could Contain Clues to Life’s Origins

Research team includes Stony Brook University Geosciences Professor

Minerals found in the subsurface of Mars, a zone of more than three miles below ground, make for the strongest evidence yet that the red planet may have supported life, according to research Groundwater activity on Mars and implications for a deep biosphere,” published in Nature Geoscience on January 20, 2013.

Up to half of all life on Earth consists of simple microorganisms hidden in rocks beneath the surface and for some time, scientists have suggested that the same may be true for Mars. Now this theory has been supported by new research, which suggests that the ingredients for life have been present in the Martian subsurface for much of the planet’s history.

When meteorites strike the surface of Mars, they act like natural probes, bringing up rocks from far beneath the surface. Recent research has shown that many of the rocks brought up from the Martian subsurface contain clays and minerals whose chemical make-up has been altered by water, an essential element to support life. Some deep craters on Mars also acted as basins where groundwater likely emerged to produce lakes.

McLaughlin Crater, described in this study, is one such basin that contains clay and carbonate minerals formed in an ancient lake on Mars. The fluids that formed these minerals could carry clues to as to whether the subsurface contained life.

“We don’t know how life on Earth formed but it is conceivable that it originated underground, protected from harsh surface conditions that existed on early Earth. Due to plate tectonics, however, the early geological record of Earth is poorly preserved so we may never know what processes led to life’s origin and early evolution,” said Dr Joseph Michalski, lead author and planetary geologist at the Natural History Museum in London. “Exploring these rocks on Mars, where the ancient geologic record is better preserved than on Earth, would be like finding a stack of pages that have been ripped out of Earth’s geological history book. Whether the Martian geologic record contains life or not, analysis of these types of rocks would certainly teach us a tremendous amount about early chemical processes in the solar system.”

Co-author Deanne Rogers, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University used data from the Thermal Emission Spectrometer aboard NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and the Thermal Emission Imaging System aboard the Mars Odyssey orbiter to detect and identify minerals that proved to be consistent with a sustained aqueous environment on the floor of the McLaughlin Crater.

“Our understanding of Mars is changing very rapidly with all of the new mission data,” said Professor Rogers. “There have been several recent observations and models that have pointed to the possibility of a vast store of groundwater in the Martian past, and perhaps present. So you might expect that deep basins such as McLaughlin, which intersect the upwelling groundwater table, would contain evidence of this water. And this study found that evidence.”

Current exploration of Mars focuses on investigating surface processes because sedimentary rocks are most likely to provide the best chance evidence for habitability. Evidence suggests, however, that the Martian surface environment has been quite inhospitable to life for billions of years. In future missions, scientists could choose to target rocks related to the surface or subsurface, or perhaps do both by targeting areas where sedimentary rocks formed from subsurface fluids.

Michalski concludes: ‘In this paper, we present a strong case for exploring the subsurface, as well as the surface. But I don’t personally think we should try to drill into the subsurface to look for ancient life. Instead, we can study rocks that are naturally brought to the surface by meteor impact and search in deep basins where fluids have come to the surface.’

Co-author Professor John Parnell, geochemist at the University of Aberdeen, commented, “This research has demonstrated how studies of Earth and Mars depend on each other. It is what we have observed of microbes living below the continents and oceans of Earth. They allow us to speculate on habitats for past life on Mars, which in turn show us how life on the early Earth could have survived. We know from Earth’s history that planets face traumatic conditions such as meteorite bombardment and ice ages, when the survival of life may depend on being well below ground. So it makes sense to search for evidence of life from that subsurface environment, in the geological records of both Earth and Mars. But it’s one thing to do that on Earth – we need to be clever in finding a way to do it on Mars.”

Additional co-authors of the study include: Javier Caudros, Researcher, Clay Mineralogy, Earth Sciences Department, Natural History Museum, London; Paul B. Niles, Planetary Scientist, NASA Johnson Space Center; and Shawn P. Wright, Postdoctoral Fellow in Geology, Auburn University.

URECA Researcher of the Month: Brian Ralph

This month’s featured student is Brian Ralph, currently a sophomore in the Honors College, double majoring in Biology (Quantitative Biology & Bioinformatics specialization) and in Applied Math & Statistics. While a high school student (Smithtown HS West), Brian participated in the Simons Summer Research program, working with Dr. Alan Turner of Anatomical Sciences on the evolution of body mass in basal Dinosauria, and was an Intel semifinalist (2011).

The summer before starting freshman classes at Stony Brook, Brian joined the laboratory of Dr. Dale Deutsch (Biochemistry & Cell Biology) with support from a Harvard Lyman award, and has continued to be involved in the lab. Last summer, Brian’s work in the Deutsch lab was supported by a URECA summer fellowship (2012).

He is co-lead author (co-authors Dr. William Berger, and Dr. Martin Kaczocha) on a just-published paper (PLoS ONE, December 2012): “Targeting Fatty Acid Binding Protein (FABP) Anandamide Transporters- A Novel Strategy for Development of Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Nociceptive Drugs“, the result of a collaboration between the research groups of Dr. Deutsch, Dr. Ojima (Chemistry), and Dr. Rizzo (Applied Mathematics & Statistics). 

Brian has presented at the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery (ICB&DD) Poster symposium (2011), and will be presenting at the upcoming URECA campus-wide poster symposium (April 24, 2013). He is also Vice President of Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Biochemistry Society, a member of the Undergraduate Biology Advisory Board, the Catholic Campus Ministries and the Stony Brook Running Club; a Martial Arts Instructor for the Toscanini quad; and a cellist in the Undergraduate Orchestra. Brian is actively involved with the Pre-dental Society, has shadowed pediatric dentists and oral surgeons, and plans to pursue a DDS degree, possibly a DDS/Phd, upon graduating from Stony Brook in 2015.

For the full interview/feature, please go to:

Past Researchers of the Month: 

Upcoming Deadlines/Announcements:

Mar. 15- URECA summer applications due

Mar. 29- Abstracts due for URECA’s annual campus-wide research poster symposium  (event scheduled for April 24, 2013)

Stony Brook University Faculty Mentors 34 Semifinalists in 2013 Intel Science Competition

University mentors nearly 50 percent of all Long Island semifinalists

Stony Brook University mentors have guided 34 high school students into the semifinals of the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search Competition, one of the two national competitions in which budding high school researchers conduct and present their research to nationally recognized professional scientists. This number accounts for more than 10 percent of the 300 semifinalists nationally and nearly 50 percent, 26 of 53 semifinalists from Long Island.

The semifinalists mentored at Stony Brook University participated in the Simons Summer Research Program, the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces Summer Research Program or independently under the direction of Stony Brook Faculty members. In addition to mentoring 49 percent of Long Island’s semifinalists, Stony Brook faculty mentored four semifinalists from California, two from New Jersey, one from Texas and one from Oregon, respectively. Since 1998, Stony Brook University has mentored 393 Intel semifinalists and to date, 44 Intel finalists.

Stony Brook University mentors for 2013 Intel semifinalists include, Maricedes Acosta-Martinez, Physiology & Biophysics; Peter Brink, Physiology & Biophysics; Benjamin Chu, Chemistry; Matthew Dawber, Physics & Astronomy; James Dilger, Anesthesiology; Nancy Franklin, Psychology; Dilip Gersappe, Materials Science & Engineering; Paul Gignac, Anatomical Sciences; William Holt, Geosciences; Benjamin Hsiao, Chemistry; Roy Lacey, Chemistry; Jaymie Meliker, Graduate Program in Public Health; Aaron Neiman, Biochemistry & Cell Biology; Iwao Ojima, Chemistry; Miriam Rafailovich, Materials Science & Engineering; Dimitris Samaras, Computer Science; Valentina Schmidt, Medicine; Carlos Simmerling, Chemistry; Balaji Sitharaman, Biomedical Engineering; Peter Tonge, Chemistry; Alan Turner, Anatomical Sciences; Jacobus Verbaarschot, Physics & Astronomy; Lonnie Wollmuth, Neurobiology & Behavior; Gregory Zelinsky, Psychology; and Lei Zuo, Mechanical Engineering.

In the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search, the University mentored eight Intel finalists and the overall grand prize winner Nithin Tumma, a recipient of a $100,000 scholarship, who worked with Dr. Berhane Ghebrehiwet, a Professor of Medicine and Pathology in the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Just last month, Professor Iwao Ojima, Distinguished Professor Department of Chemistry and Director of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, mentored Raghav Tripathi, recipient of a $10,000 scholarship and sixth place in the Siemens Science Competition. Raghav is also one of the Intel semifinalists in this year’s competition.

Please click here for a detailed list of 2013 Intel semifinalists who conducted their research at Stony Brook, their mentors and project titles. Forty Intel finalists from the group of 300 semifinalists will be announced on Wednesday, January 23, 2012. A Public Exhibition of Projects for the finalists will be held in Washington, DC, on March 10, 2013.

Painless Painkiller Research Nets SBU-Mentored HS Student $10,000 Scholarship in Siemens Competition

Distinguished Professor Iwao Ojima guided high school student in Simons Summer Research Program

Raghav Tripathi, a high school student from Oregon who conducted research at the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University under the tutelage of Distinguished Professor Iwao Ojima, PhD, earned a $10,000 scholarship with a sixth place finish in the individual category of the 2012 Siemens Competition National Finals in Washington, D.C.

Tripathi’s “painless painkiller” project, Design and Synthesis of Novel Fatty Acid Binding Protein Inhibitors, began as an idea after his mother broke her leg in a skiing accident and refused to take pain medication because of the side effects. As a result, Tripathi applied and was accepted to conduct his research with Professor Ojima, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Director of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery (ICB&DD) at Stony Brook University. “Raghav showed great initiative. This was displayed even when he applied to do research in my laboratory, since he resides, literally, on the other side of the United States,” said Professor Ojima. “His thirst for knowledge seems insatiable, and he masters every challenge with exceptional speed. He’s extremely creative, focused, determined and persevering.”

This multi-disciplinary research project, seeking to discover a novel form of pain medication with minimal side effects, was conducted under the guidance of Professor Ojima and a team of collaborators from the departments of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Applied Mathematics and Statistics and Chemistry.

“Professor Ojima’s innovative applications of chemical synthesis and biological assays to medical advances were strongly aligned with my fascination with medical research,” said Tripathi. “Through my research and under the guidance of my mentors, I worked on optimizing a compound that the lab is developing which has the potential to decrease pain through increasing concentrations of the body’s natural painkilling molecule.”

Professor Ojima demonstrated the methods that he uses on cancer and tuberculosis research for Tripathi to apply to his own project. Tripathi created the drug and tested it on human cells and enzymes. “This is an extremely promising project, at the cutting-edge of multidisciplinary research at the biomedical interface,” said Professor Ojima. “Test results so far have been consistent with the predictions of our computer models that this technology may have multiple medicinal applications, including novel anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics. Of particular interest is the potential to relieve pain with a non-addictive compound that mimics the body’s own pain mitigating mechanisms. This has enormous implications not only in medical practice, but also in reducing the problems of drug dependency and abuse in our society.”

Back home in Oregon, Tripathi founded and serves as president of the Westview High School Pre-Medical Association, the largest high school pre-med society in Oregon, is captain of the speech and debate teams and plays varsity tennis. He won first place for “Best in Category” in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. He aspires to one day become a neurologist.

Professor Ojima has mentored numerous semifinalists, regional finalists, finalists and winners in the nation’s largest high school science competitions. In 2007, he mentored the Siemens Competition grand prize winners (team category), Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, who at the time were both seniors at John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview-Old Bethpage. They shared a $100,000 scholarship for their project FtsZ Inhibitors as Novel Chemotherapeutic Agents for Drug Resistant Tuberculosis.

In addition to Professor Ojima, Tripathi’s mentors included Professor Dale Deutsch, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology; Professor Martin Kaczocha, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology; Professor Robert Rizzo, Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics; PhD candidate William Berger and  Anuthree Kamath, Department of Chemistry.

American Association for the Advancement of Science Elects Nine Fellows from Stony Brook University

Assanis, Citovsky, Eanes, Ginzburg, Sprouse, Sternglanz, Kenneth Takeuchi, Jin Wang, Stanislaus Wong to be honored for contributions to science and engineering


Nine Stony Brook University scholars have been elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and will be honored for their contributions to science and engineering at the Fellows Forum held during the AAAS Annual Meeting on February 16, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Stony Brook’s eight recipients are among 702 newly elected members who will receive a certificate and a blue and gold rosette pin as a symbol of their distinguished accomplishments.

Among the new AAAS Fellows are Dennis N. Assanis, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; Vitaly Citovsky, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology; Walter Eanes, Professor and Chair, Department of Ecology and Evolution; Lev Ginzburg, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution; Gene Sprouse, Distinguished Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy; Rolf Sternglanz, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology; Kenneth Takeuchi, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Chemistry; Jin Wang, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry; and Stanislaus Wong, Professor, Department of Chemistry. This class of honorees joins 28 other Stony Brook University faculty members who have been recognized with this honor. Election as an AAAS Fellow is bestowed upon members by their peers.

“This year’s election of eight distinguished scholars, many of whom are internationally recognized, into the ranks of AAAS Fellows is evidence of our faculty’s scholarship and vast contributions to their respective fields,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD. “Their meritorious work not only serves the University, but it serves society by pushing the frontiers of scientific advancement, research and discovery in engineering and the sciences.”

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Each steering group then reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

Dennis N. Assanis, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, was elected for “distinguished scientific contributions to improving fuel economy and reducing emissions of internal combustion engines, and for lasting contributions to engineering education and academic leadership.” Provost Assanis, Stony Brook University’s Chief Academic Officer, is also recognized internationally for his innovative development of modeling methodologies and experimental techniques to shed light into complex thermal, fluid and chemical processes in internal combustion engines so as to improve their fuel economy and reduce emissions. He has published, with his students and collaborators, more than 300 articles in journals and conference proceedings. He is the recipient of numerous teaching and research awards throughout his distinguished career.

Vitaly Citovsky, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, was elected for “distinguished contributions to understanding plant microbe interactions, particularly for refined models describing virus movement in plants and crown gall tumor formation in plants.” His research focuses on three main projects: genetic transformation of plant cells by Agrobacterium, intercellular transport of plant viruses and plant cell proteins and the remodeling of plant chromatin by histone modifications. Professor Citovsky is the winner of the 2012 Noel T. Keen Award for Research Excellence in Molecular Plant Pathology from the American Phytopathological Society and is a member of Faculty 1000 Biology and serves on numerous editorial boards for research journals. He has published more than 160 peer-reviewed research articles, edited three books and holds three patents.

Walter Eanes, Professor and Chair, Department of Ecology and Evolution, was elected for “distinguished contributions to the field of evolutionary and population genetics and in particular to the development and application of Drosophila as a model system.” His research interests are in the area of population genetics and evaluating the effects of natural selection on the genome. A particular focus is in connecting the consequences of natural selection on the fruit fly (Drosophila) acting through life history and metabolic pathways down to individual genes and their genetic variation. Dr. Eanes’ laboratory attempts to interface life history variation and physiology, population genetics, pathways and the effects of individual metabolic enzymes on aging. He is a former member of the Genetics and Evolution editorial boards, is active in the Genetics Society of America. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed research articles and four book reviews.

Lev Ginzburg, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution, was elected for “distinguished contribution to the field of theoretical and applied ecology.” He is a theoretical ecologist (a relatively young field of science – less than a century old), whose research centers on the principles involved in formulating questions for population and ecosystem dynamics. He has recently been focusing on an approach for modeling trophic interactions and the theory of population cycles based on maternal effects. His second area of interest is applied ecology for which he has been developing methodologies for ecological risk analysis based on stochastic models of population growth. He has published more than 150 research articles and 50 reviews, book chapters and published letters. He has conducted over 100 invited talks at conferences and seminars.

Gene Sprouse, Distinguished Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, was elected for “distinguished leadership in the nuclear-physics community and for dedicated and innovative service as Editor-in-Chief of the American Physical Society since 2007.” Professor Sprouse’s research interests include nuclear structure, laser spectroscopy of radioactive atoms, and neutral atom trapping. He joined Stony Brook University in 1970 and has served as the Director of the Nuclear Structure Laboratory from 1984–1987 and again from 1996–2007. He also served as Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 1990-1996. In 1999, he received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has published more than 130 articles in peer reviewed journals, and was a Sloan Fellow, Humboldt Awardee and Argonne Fellow. He is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and currently the APS Editor-in-Chief, serving as one of the Society’s three operating officers with responsibility for all APS journals, Physical ReviewPhysical Review Letters and Reviews of Modern Physics.

Rolf Sternglanz, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, was elected for “major discoveries in yeast genetics concerning topoisomerase action, the mechanism of SIR2 activity, and the relationship between gene silencing and perinuclear localization.” His laboratory uses the budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to identify mutants and characterize genes affecting structure and function of the nucleus. This includes genes encoding proteins involved in gene regulation, DNA replication or chromatin structure. Among many accolades, Professor Sternglanz is a Guggenheim and a Fogarty International Fellow. He has published more than 90 research articles, 19 book chapters and reviews.

Kenneth Takeuchi, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Chemistry, was elected for “distinguished contributions to inorganic chemistry, through novel synthetic design of molecular and solid state materials, and through outstanding mentoring, teaching, and diversity efforts.” His research involves the development of synthetic strategies yielding control and variation of both crystallite size on the nanometer scale and non-stoichiometric chemical composition of inorganic materials, and the subsequent utility of these inorganic materials towards energy storage. In 2011, he was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS).  In addition to his research efforts, Professor Takeuchi has received over 20 awards for excellence in teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.  He was named the New York state recipient of the Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year award in 2010, and in 2008 was runner-up for the National Inspire Integrity Award from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He has also been recognized with an ACS Stanley Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences, and a Responsible Care National Catalyst Award from the Chemical Manufacturers Association.

Jin Wang, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, was elected for “pioneered contributions to computational theoretical chemistry, particularly for theoretical conceptual development and modeling of protein folding, molecular recognition, single molecules and cellular networks.” His research interests include theoretical biological physics and biophysical chemistry, specifically single molecules, protein dynamics, protein folding, biomolecular recognition, cellular networks and systems biology, neural networks and ecology and evolution. Throughout his career he has received numerous awards and honors including the National Science Foundation Career Award, the K.C. Wong Foundation Research Award and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He has published more than 125 research articles and conducted more than 200 seminars and invited meeting talks.

Stanislaus S. Wong, Professor, Department of Chemistry, and joint appointee with Brookhaven National Laboratory, was elected for “distinguished contributions to the covalent surface chemistry of carbon nanotubes as well as the sustainable synthesis, characterization, and applications of novel non-carbonaceous nanostructures.” His research is focused on two main areas (namely, nanotube chemistry and nanostructure synthesis) that will broaden the potential impact and practical applicability of nanostructures. He has published more than 115 peer-reviewed articles and nine journal covers, earned 13 patents, and has been a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, and the Buck-Whitney Award from the Eastern New York Section of the American Chemical Society.

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more.

Stony Brook Professor Receives International Award for Lifetime Achievement in Infectious Diseases Research

Eckard Wimmer’s work on Poliovirus and Synthetic Biology makes him Robert Koch Gold Medal Awardee for 2012


Eckard Wimmer, Ph.D., a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at Stony Brook University was selected to receive the 2012 Robert Koch Gold Medal, a prestigious international scientific award by the Robert Koch Foundation under the patronage of the German Minister of Health. The award recognizes Professor Wimmer’s lifetime achievements in infectious diseases, specifically his groundbreaking research on the poliovirus and as a pioneer in the new discipline of synthetic biology. He accepted the award on November 9, at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

The Robert Koch Gold Medal is one of Germany’s most prestigious awards given to scientists. Since 1960, medal awardees have included accomplished international scientists in biology, microbiology, and other biomedical research disciplines. The award is named for Robert Koch, a German physician who discovered the cause of several infectious diseases, including the bacteria causing tuberculosis. He received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905.

“For decades Dr. Wimmer has had a tremendous impact on the advancement of infectious diseases research, from his unraveling of the poliovirus to his more recent work in the emerging field of synthetic biology,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr. M.D., President of Stony Brook University. “A long-time professor at Stony Brook University, Dr. Wimmer’s expertise and insight as a researcher remains invaluable to his Stony Brook colleagues and students.”

According to the Robert Koch Foundation, Dr. Wimmer is “a pioneer in modern virology whose research on the poliovirus, the causative agent of infantile paralysis or poliomyelitis, is a milestone of infectiology.” The Foundation classifies Dr. Wimmer’s body of work as one that has “defined our understanding of the interaction between the virus and its host, and at the same time has yielded important new approaches for fighting the disease. He can be considered as a pioneer in the new discipline of synthetic biology.”

“This award recognizes Dr. Wimmer’s monumental contributions to bioscience research on an international scale,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D, Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine. “Dr. Wimmer’s findings have been essential to the understanding of how polio and other viruses cause human disease and revolutionized the approach medicine is taking to create novel ways to address a myriad of infectious diseases.”

“Dr. Wimmer’s work over many years in the area of poliovirus genome research has been astounding and has opened doors to new and groundbreaking areas of microbiology research,” says Jorge L. Benach, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor, Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, and Director, Center for Infectious Diseases, Stony Brook University. “This award recognizes the magnitude of Dr. Wimmer’s work. Our department is privileged to have him as a lead researcher, faculty mentor and educator.

“I am honored to receive this prestigious award from the Robert Koch Foundation,” says Dr. Wimmer. “Those of us who have received this medal hope to honor it by continuing to work diligently toward new discoveries that impact the successful treatment of dangerous infectious diseases around the globe.”

A faculty member at Stony Brook since 1974 and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology between 1984 and 1999, Dr. Wimmer has worked for decades predominantly on poliovirus. He is internationally known for this work, which includes the elucidation of the chemical structure of the poliovirus genome in the late 1970s and subsequent discoveries based on the mechanisms of poliovirus pathogenesis and the human receptor for poliovirus. These landmark discoveries have served to stimulate international research in virology and cell biology.

More specifically, Dr. Wimmer published the first de novo, cell-free synthesis of a virus (poliovirus), which greatly stimulated molecular studies of viral replication. This was capped in 2002 with the first chemical-biochemical test-tube synthesis of any organism (again poliovirus) in the absence of a natural template. This strategy has led to studies of the structure and function of a virus to an extent not possible before.

The Robert Koch Foundation cited Dr. Wimmer’s many discoveries, all of which contributed to his selection as the recipient of the 2012 Gold Medal. The Foundation summarized Dr. Wimmer’s body of work and its significance to science: “The sequencing and clarification of the gene organization of the polio virus; the discovery of a new mode of protein translation; the first cell-free synthesis of a virus in an extract of non-infected cells; and the first de novo synthesis of an organism (polio virus) without involvement of a natural matrix. This last research has later led to the development of new strategies for producing viral vaccines based on computer-generated genomes with hundreds of mutations. These are currently being tested not only for polio, but also for other viruses that are pathogenic for humans.“

Trained as an Organic Chemist, Dr. Wimmer says he chose viruses as a subject for his scientific inquiries because throughout his career he has been intrigued by their dual nature as chemicals and self-replicating, pathogenic entities, that is, as “chemicals with a life cycle.” This is apparent in many of his nearly 300 research papers.

Earlier this year, Dr. Wimmer was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His other honors include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Research Foundation of the State University of New York (2008); Fellow, Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina von 1652 (1998); Fellow, American Academy for Microbiology (1994), and two Merit Awards from the National Institutes of Health (1988, 1998). In 2010, Dr. Wimmer received the Beijerinck Prize in Virology from The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Interdisciplinary Faculty Cluster Hiring Initiative

Interdisciplinary Faculty Cluster Hiring Initiative:

This is an exciting new inititative, undertaken as part of SUNY 2020, to hire 100 faculty members over the next five years to rejuvenate the intellectual capital of Stony Brook University and expand teaching and research in emerging fields of study that cut across traditional boundaries of academic disciplines.  The interdisciplinary faculty cluster hires are aimed at addressing society’s most vexing challenges through the collaboration of natural, life, and social sciences; technology; medicine; humanities; policy; business; and the arts.  The positions are designed for faculty members whose research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary.  The goals of this initiative are to strategically place Stony Brook University on the emerging frontiers of research and knowledge and to enhance our ability to shape new fields of discovery, learning and engagement. 

Faculty Recruitment for Specific Clusters:

Behavioral Political Economy: Behavioral Political Economy studies how individual-level mechanisms, beliefs, and decision-making processes relate to economic decisions. Grounded in the psychology of decision theory and primarily relying on experimentation, it is a bottom-up approach to understanding actual market behavior as opposed to relying on theoretical assumptions of how rational consumers should behave in a global economy. With this new cluster, Stony Brook will become a national leader in behavioral economics, political economy, laboratory experiments, and income inequality. Scientists from the Departments of Political Sciences, Economics, and the College of Business will be part of this cutting-edge, world-class research group, while building on their existing strengths in these areas. This cluster initiative is spearheaded by Dr. Matthew Lebo, Director of Graduate Studies with Stony Brook’s Department of Political Science.

Biomolecular Imaging: Imaging biological molecules at the molecular level is the key step in understanding their function and interactions with other biomolecules, providing a starting point  for the design of drugs that bind to a bimolecular target to prevent or treat cancer and infections.  With the new faculty who will be hired in the cluster, recent investments in NMR faculities at Stony Brook, and the proximity to the new National Synchrotron Light Souce II at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook is poised to become a world leader in imaging of biological materials at the molecular level.  Over the next three years, we will recruit five junior faculty whose research interests span a range of imaging modalities, including NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, ultrahigh resolution light microscopy, cryoelectron microscopy, and positron emission tomography coupled with radiotracer synthesis.  Academic appointments for cluster faculty will be based on their areas of research, and will be in the Departments of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacological Sciences, and/or Neurobiology and Behavior.  This cluster initiative is spearheaded by Dr. Robert Haltiwanger, Professor and Chair of Stony Brook’s Department of Biochemistry, and Dr. Peter Tonge, Director of Infectious Disease Research, Director of the Translational Experimental Therapeutics Laboratory, and Professor with Stony Brook’s Department of Chemistry.

Coastal Zone Management and Engineering: Stony Brook is well-positioned, both by its geographical location and its existing expertise, to develop a first-rank effort in understanding the coastal zone waters and adjacent land ecosystems, to seek innovative technical solutions to looming problems facing our harbors and coasts, as well as to sustaining the modern marine structures vital to renewable energies.  The cluster in coastal zone management and engineering creates a synergy between experts in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), the Departments of Ecology and Evolution, Geosciences, and Mechanical Engineering, as well as new programs in Civil Engineering and Sustainability Studies.  The focus of this cluster’s research will combine finding better ways to solve known problems unique to the coastal zone, while simultaneously studying the underlying scientific and sociological causes.  This cluster initiative is spear-headed by Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz, Distinguished Service Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences; Dr. Martin Schoonen, Director, Sustainability Studies Program, Department of Geosciences; Dr. R. Lawrence Swanson, Associate Dean  and Director, Waste Reduction and Management Institute; and Dr. Harold Walker, Director, Civil Engineering Program, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

JPSI Photon Sciences: The cluster hires in photon science will enhance Stony Brook’s leading role in the Joint Photon Science Institute (JPSI), a joint Stony Brook University-Brookhaven National Laboratory initiative in photon sciences that will capitalize on the unique capabiliities of Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Scource II (NSLS-II). Once completed, NSLS-II will be the brightest synchrotron light source in the world and will offer unique possiblilities for the study of structure and properties of materials over a broad spectrum of science disciplines.  Scientists in the new cluster-which spans research interests in Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Geoscience, Material Science, and Mineral Physics-will be at the forefront of research in materials design and function, energy, and health/drug design.  This cluster initiative is spearheaded by Dr. Lazlo Mihaly, Professor and Chair, Department of Physics and Astronomy and Dr. John Parise, Distinguished Professor, Department of Geosciences.

Smart Energy: This cluster addresses the broad range of challenges of modern power generation through transmission and distribution, to delivery and consumption.  These challenges include issues like networking, cyber security, modeling of power grids, all the way to business and economic aspects of grid systems.  This cluster will leverage Stony Brook’s existing DoE Smart Grid Demonstration Project (jointly with LIPA and Farmingdale State College), as well as involve the Advanced Energy Center (AERTC), Center for Wireless Information Technology (CEWIT), and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL).  Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Technology and Society, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and the College of Business will be brought together to build a world-class research and development (R&D) program in smart energy technology.  At Stony Brook, the R&D results may easily be transitioned to industry through the New York State Smart Grid Consortium (NYSSGC) and Stony Brooks’s incubators.  This cluster initiative is spearheaded by Dr. Erez Zadok, Associate Professor with Stony Brook’s Department of Computer Science.

Susan Larson’s Research Appears in Science

Susan Larson, a professor in Stony Brook’s Department of Anatomical Sciences in the School of Medicine, wrote an article that appeared in the October 26 issue of Science, a journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Did Australopiths Climb Trees?”  discusses the lifestyle of Australopithecus afarensis, early members of the human lineage. Specifically, it addresses the debate over whether australopiths upper limbs enabled them to climb trees or not since their skeletons display a mix of humanlike and apelike characteristics. Some scientists “see their apelike upper-limbs as an indication that an ability to climb trees continued to have survival value while others suggest that these features were simply retentions from an ancestral condition.”

Larson’s research focuses on primate and human anatomy, experimental functional morphology and biomechanics, and human and primate evolution. She is involved in a project that uses state-of-the-art computer modeling and lab-based experimental techniques to study the mechanics, energetics and control of bipedal locomotion in chimpanzees.

SBU Demonstrates Largest Resolution Immersive Visualization Facility Ever Built

“Reality Deck” designed to assist scientists, engineers and physicians in tackling modern-age problems requiring vast amounts of data 

Stony Brook University unveiled its latest engineering feat, a 1.5 billion pixel Reality Deck, at a demonstration held at the University’s Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT) on November 15. The Reality Deck, a 416 screen super-high resolution virtual reality four-walled surround-view theater, is the largest resolution immersive display ever built driven by a graphic supercomputer. Its purpose and primary design principle is to enable scientists, engineers and physicians to tackle modern-age problems that require the visualization of vast amounts of data.

The Reality Deck, constructed with a $1.4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant and a $600,000 match from Stony Brook University, is the first to break the one billion pixel mark with a resolution five times greater than the second largest in the world. To illustrate the resolution, Project Director, Arie E. Kaufman, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department and Chief Scientist of CEWIT, said that the entire United States population of approximately 300 million people could take a “class photo” from a satellite, and “there would be enough resolution for each person to be depicted in five pixels in color demonstrating the super-high resolution of the facility.”

“This technology will be used for visualizing and analyzing big data, such as advanced medical imaging, protein visualization, nanotechnology, astronomical exploration, micro tomography, architectural design, reconnaissance, satellite imaging, security, defense, detecting suspicious persons in a crowd, news and blog analyses, climate and weather modeling, as well as storm surge mapping to fight flood disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy and global warming,” said Dr. Kaufman.

“The Reality Deck is the next generation virtual reality display at the vanguard of visual computing, with the ability to handle tasks involving huge amounts of data,” said Dr. Kaufman. “In the Reality Deck, data is displayed with an unprecedented amount of resolution that saturates the human eye, provides 20/20 vision, and renders traditional panning or zooming motions obsolete, as users just have to walk up to a display in order to resolve the minutiae, while walking back in order to appreciate the context that completely surrounds them.”

Dr. Kaufman added, “We’ve never had a way to analyze and display tremendous amounts of data at one time before. This is revolutionary for visual analytics, which is the most powerful and critically important analyses.”

Images displayed at the demonstration included water level mapping for storm surge due to extreme weather events, satellite imagery of New York City and parts of Long Island demonstrating next-generation Google map, the 2008 Presidential inauguration, Milky Way visualization from NASA and the European Southern Observatory, protein visualizations of the E. coli bacteria and more.

Another feature of the Reality Deck is the “infinite canvas,” a 360-degree smart screen that changes images according to the location of the viewer walking around the Reality Deck, so the same image is never viewed twice and infinitely big data can be explored. Future applications to stream video in real time are also in the works.

“This revolutionary facility will further advance the research impact of Stony Brook University and CEWIT on the national and international research agenda for healthcare, national security, energy research and the STEM disciplines,” said Yacov Shamash, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Vice President of Economic Development at Stony Brook University. “The Reality Deck will spur medical breakthroughs, groundbreaking new technologies and greater partnerships with industry that will help to create new jobs.”

Dr. Kaufman was a pioneer in developing 3-D Virtual Colonoscopy systems that provides patients with a non-invasive cancer screening alternative. A series of patents was awarded to Stony Brook for his work during the past decade, and 3-D Virtual Colonoscopy was approved for colon cancer screening in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. In 2008 Siemens Healthcare and another CT manufacturer signed landmark non-exclusive license agreements with the University for the portfolio of innovations related to performing three-dimensional virtual examination, navigation and visualization, including the virtual colonoscopy.

Reality Deck by the numbers
• 416 high-resolution displays
• 1.5 Billion pixels total (first display to break the one billion pixel mark)
• Five times larger than the second largest display in the world
• Immersive 4-wall layout in a 33’x19’x10’ room with a tiled-display door
• 20-node visualization cluster
• 240 CPU cores – 2.3 TFLOPs performance, 1.2 TB distributed memory
• 80 GPUs – 220 TFLOPs performance, 320 GB distributed memory visualization applications.
   Large gigapixel panoramic images – e.g. 45 gigapixel photograph of Dubai, United Arab Emirates;
   6 gigapixel Infrared telescope view of the Milky Way
• Large architectural models – e.g. 40 million polygon model visualized at interactive frame rates
• High-performance sound system with 22 speakers and four subwoofers

Video of the facility can be found here:

URECA Researcher of the Month: Vihitaben Patel

This month’s featured student is Vihitaben Patel, a senior double majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Applied Math & Statistics. Vihita has worked for the last year under the mentorship of Dr. Clinton Rubin, Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. Ete Chan, a member of the Rubin Musculoskeletal Laboratory. This past October, Vihita and several undergraduates working in the Rubin laboratory presented at the annual Biomedical Engineering Society meeting in Atlanta Georgia. Vihita was selected as a recipient of the competitive, international Research and Design Award by the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) for her work on “Low Intensity Vibration Treatment Tapers Obesity-Induced Type 2 Diabetes by Decreasing the Size of Adipocytes in Mice.” Prior to joining the Rubin group, Vihita had gained research experience working in the BME laboratories of Dr. Yi-Xian Qin and Dr. Helmut Strey. Vihita has presented at the annual URECA poster symposium (2011, 2012);and participated in the 2012 URECA Summer program. Vihita has held the positions of Social Chair for the SBU Biomedical Engineering Society (2012); and Director of the District Safe Kids Training program for the SBU Circle K Club; and has worked as a tutor with the PASS Tutoring Program – Undergraduate Student Government (2011); as a TA for Calculus IV (2011); and as a clerk for Financial Aid Services (2010-present). Vihita also volunteers at Stony Brook Hospital in the pain management ward, and in her freshman year was a member of the University Color Guard. Vihita emigrated from India while in high school, and graduated from Deer Park HS, NY.

For the full interview/feature, please go to:

SBU Team Wins National Award for Railroad Energy Harvesting

Harvester could save millions of dollars in energy costs while cutting CO2 emissions

Stony Brook University engineers have won a national award for an innovative energy harvester that has the potential to save millions of dollars in energy costs for railroads while reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The team’s work, “Mechanical Motion Rectifier (MMR) based Railroad Energy Harvester,” was awarded “Best Application of Energy Harvesting” at the Energy Harvesting and Storage USA 2012 conference, held in Washington, DC on November 7-8, 2012.

The Stony Brook team, led by Professor Lei Zuo and two graduate students Teng Lin and John Wang from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, developed a new type of energy harvester that converts the irregular, oscillatory motion of train-induced rail track vibrations into regular, unidirectional motion, in the same way that an electric voltage rectifier converts AC voltage into DC.

Professor Zuo estimates that the invention could save more than $10 million in trackside power supply costs for railroads in New York State alone, along with a reduction of 3000 tons per year of CO2 and a half million dollars of electricity savings.

“The U.S. has the longest rail tracks in the world, approximately 140,700 miles; that are often in remote areas. It is very important but also very costly to power the track-side electrical infrastructure, such as the signal lights, cross gates, track switches and monitoring sensors,” Professor Zuo said. “Our invention, the ‘Mechanical Motion Rectifier (MMR) based Railroad Energy Harvester,’ can harness 200 watts of electric energy from train-induced track deflections to power the track-side electrical devices. By using two one-way clutches, the innovative mechanical motion rectifier converts the irregular up-and-down vibration motion into unidirectional rotation of the generator, thus breaking the fundamental challenge of vibration energy harvesting and offering significant advantages of high efficiency and high reliability.” 

The technology of the MMR based Railroad Energy Harvester has been licensed to Electric Truck, LLC/Harvest NRG, Inc., who initially supported this project. It is also supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Research Center (UTRC-II), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), SUNY Research Foundation and private industry.

In addition to the economic, environmental and energy benefits of the device, Professor Zuo said the most important technical innovations in this harvester are the unique mechanical motion rectifier that changes the irregular up-and-down vibration into regular unidirectional rotation of the electrical generator, and synergistically integrating the fly wheel into the energy harvesting system to further increase energy conversion efficiency and stable power output. Another important feature is the creative implementation of MMR in one shaft design, which proves to increase the energy converting efficiency to over 70 percent.

“With the MMR design, the technology advances the traditional energy harvesting, including directly generating high-quality DC power without an electrical rectifier in the vibration environment; enabling an electrical generator to rotate in one direction with relative steady speed in a more efficient speed region; and changing the negative influence of motion inertia into positive, thus reducing the mechanical stress and increasing system reliability,” he said. “Such a design not only avoids the challenges of friction and impact induced by oscillation motion, but also enables us to make full use of the pulse-like features of track vibration to harvest more energy.”

Professor Zuo and his team have been working on vibration and thermoelectric energy harvesting in the past several years to harness power from different sources, including trains, cars, tall buildings and ocean waves. In 2011, the team won a prestigious R&D 100 Award – dubbed the “Oscar of Invention” – for the development of retrofit energy-harvesting shock absorbers that convert vibration, bumps, and motion experienced by the suspension of a vehicle or train into electric power. The regenerative shock absorber for cars can harvest 100-400 watts from the vehicle vibrations under normal driving conditions. The shock absorbers also won the Energy Harvesting and Storage USA 2010 award for Best Technology Development of Energy Harvesting.

Seed Grants awarded to four SBU Postdocs

For the first time ever at Stony Brook University, Postdocs were given the opportunity to submit seed grant proposals in a highly competitive bid for funds to support their research and the chance to act as an independent principal investigator. Of the 26 applications received, four were awarded in the amount of $10K each to Postdocs in Applied Math and Statistics, Pharmacological Sciences, the Turkana Basin Institute, and the Department of Medicine.

The money for the postdoctoral seed grants was generously donated by the Stony Brook Research Office, formerly known as the OVPR, through a 2-year commitment to the administrative support of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Every application was independently reviewed by two faculty members with a third level of review undertaken by committee for those proposals that were closely ranked within the fundable range or that received disparate scores.

And the winners are …

Dr. William J. Allen currently works with Professor Robert Rizzo in the Applied Math & Statistics Department, and his was the only proposal to receive a review with a perfect score. As the reviewer wrote, “This is an outstanding application from a highly qualified candidate to conduct research in an important area. The application is well developed and justified from all points of view.”

Dr. Allen describes his work: “Our laboratory is interested in developing new small-molecule drug leads that target the HIV fusion protein gp41. We use computational techniques that are rooted in principles of chemistry, physics, and mathematics to predict and characterize interactions between small organic compounds and a biological target.” Having completed his PhD degree at Virginia Tech, his long-term goal is to “make a positive impact on global health … through a career of teaching and research in the life sciences. … I plan to seek a faculty position at a primarily undergraduate institution where I can establish and drive a research program in computer-aided drug design.”

Dr. Dino Martins is an entomologist studying the mosquito vector breeding sites at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya who completed his PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Having recently suffered a bout of malaria himself, he is painfully aware of “the importance of controlling and understanding the biology of the malaria vectors in the areas where malaria is endemic.” His work centers on “… discovering new species, incredible diversity and striking adaptations to heat, drought and other factors in the insect world of Turkana.”

Among his many awards and fellowships are the Derek Bok Teaching Award and the Ashford Fellowship in the Natural Sciences from Harvard University. In 2004, he received a Smithsonian Institution Fellowship, and in 2002 & 2003, the Peter Jenkins Award for Excellence in African Environmental Journalism. In 2009 he won the Whitley Award for Conservation and in 2011 was selected as one of National Geographic’s ‘Emerging Explorers’.

Dr. Ka-Wing Cheng’s research focuses on developing novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer with the more specific goal of developing treatment modalities that will cure skin malignancies in patients suffering from non-melanoma skin cancer.

He received his PhD from the University of Hong Kong and, as his mentor and PI Professor Basil Rigas writes in his letter of support, Ka-Wing’s publication record, “… is astonishing for someone just two years into his postdoctoral training: 40 peer reviewed research articles, 4 review articles and 3 book chapters, with 720 overall citations.”

Dr. Cheng’s career goals are to become an independent investigator in cancer research and lead a research team that is highly productive, competitive and collaborative in an academic research institution. 

Dr. Jaime Emmetsberger received both her BS and PhD degrees from Stony Brook University. She works with Professor David Talmage in Pharmacological Sciences, “…  studying two schizophrenic risk factors, ErbB4 and, its signaling partner, Type III neuregulin-1. Specifically I want to address how these signaling proteins regulate neurogenesis in the fetal and adult brain. I am using transgenic mice to study alterations in proliferation, migration and maturation of neural precursors and how this is linked to developmental changes that cause cognitive impairment and psychosis.”

Of his postdoc, Professor Talmage writes, “Jaime is a great lab citizen, a valued new colleague and an excellent communicator. I am confident that she will provide value information on brain development relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders and that she will join the community of scientists dedicated to understanding and eliminating these diseases.”