Christina Tortora receives Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Award

The New York State Grand Lodge Order Sons of Italy in America has selected Christina Tortora as the 2013 recipient of the Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Award.  The Cornaro Award was established in 1978 following the 300th anniversary commemoration of the conferral of a doctorate to a woman, Lady Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Award.  The Grand Lodge initiated this award to recognize outstanding Italian American women in higher education who have made significant contributions to their profession and community.

The award ceremony is Sunday June 23, 2013 in Suffern, NY, and precedes the State Scholarship ceremony.



Cary Karacas Earns Inaugural “Journal of Historical Geography” Award

The Journal of Historical Geography has recognized Dr. Cary Karacas and his co-authored paper, ‘A cartographic fade to black: mapping the destruction of urban Japan during World War II’ (JHG 38, 2012, pp. 306-28) as making the greatest contribution to the advancement of scholarship in historical geography for 2012.

Details of the prize scheme and assessment process were recently announced in an editorial at

 There was strong competition for the inaugural prize according to  Felix Driver, JHG editor-in-chief, and in his letter of congratulations to Dr. Karacas wrote “I am delighted with this outcome, and hope you will be too!”
Press release pending.

[video] NSF Awards CAREER Grant for Study of How Multiple Brains Work Together

CSI's Dr. Dan McCloskey recently received an $800,000 NSF CAREER grant for his proposed work on animal social behavior.

Dr. Dan McCloskey of the College of Staten Island’s Department of Psychology was recently awarded an $800,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant for his proposed work on animal social behavior.

The NSF CAREER grant is the foundation’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Dr. McCloskey is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island, a senior college of The City University of New York.

Dr. McCloskey’s Career Development Plan proposal focuses on creating a research environment that utilizes computational tools for the collection and analysis of data in two complex systems: animal social behavior and hippocampal neuron activity. Both approaches involve studying a fascinating animal called the naked mole rat, and the grant will help fund the participation of two graduate students and up to four undergraduates on the projects.

Queen of the Naked Mole Rats

Naked mole rats are unique among mammals for a number of reasons including an extremely long life span, an apparent resistance to cancer, and, most importantly, their cooperative breeding system. They are one of only two species of mammals who have a queen who is solely responsible for breeding the entire colony.

The reason that the last point is so important is because since worker naked mole rats do not reproduce, everything they do is for the betterment of the group.  They seem to have no selfish motives.

“The naked mole rat hierarchy is very unique,” said McCloskey. “They act more like ants or bees than other mammals, although many human social networks may operate in a similar way.” Studying the mole rats may help researchers to one day understand why humans act the way they do; if there is such a thing as altruism or if every action has a motive behind it.

Social Behaviors Tracked by Super Computer

The researchers insert tiny trackers into the mole rats and, with the help of the equipment and staff at the CUNY Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center (IHPCC) at CSI, track their movements and interactions and compare siblings with different levels of social behavior.

The IHPCC allows McCloskey to track the behavior of each of more than 100 animals in his colony with high resolution as they navigate their way through a complex system of tubes and cages. Each time an animal passes through a tube with a sensor, the identity, location, and time of that event are stored in a database that receives hundreds of thousands events each day.

Algorithmic software written by CSI Vice President for Technology Systems Dr. Michael Kress and Dr. Susan Imberman of the Computer Science Department creates a history for each animal. The history includes where the animal was, what other animals it was with, and whether it was carrying food, nest material, or a newborn to help other animals in the colony.

Networked Science

The next step of the proposal, which will also make great use of the IHPCC, is to then study the naked mole rats at the level of the neuron.

“We will be working with what is called big data,” said Dr. McCloskey when discussing the IHPCC’s ability to process millions of pieces of data. “One file at the neuronal level can fill up gigs of storage within a minute.”

McCloskey’s “network science” approach will involve graphing each animal/neuron and literally drawing lines between interacting animals/neurons using advanced algorithms to shape the graph. In order to weed out coincidences, the researchers will take samples from millions of events. McCloskey’s team eventually hopes to better understand how interactions between neurons coordinate the animal’s interactions with each other.

Discovery Institute Students Benefit

The NSF CAREER grant will provide funding to recruit two graduate students and up to four undergraduate students for the projects that he will help coordinate with the Discovery Institute. McCloskey, who has been involved with the Discovery Institute for more than two years, believes that taking part of this research will help younger students “understand the bigger picture.” To demonstrate his dedication to the Institute and its students, McCloskey has proposed to set up a Twitter account for each naked mole rat so the students can track their progress in real time, using a computer or a cell phone.

When asked why he was so interested in studying animal social behavior, McCloskey responded that understanding how social networks are formed and modified by experience can help to improve situations where those behaviors are impaired, such as in autism and schizophrenia.

McCloskey acknowledges the importance of his social network, which includes colleagues such as Bruce Goldman of the University of Connecticut and Xiowen Zhang of the Computer Science Department.  He also gives VP Kress and the IHPCC much of the credit. “Without his involvement and that of the IHPCC, this type of study would not have been possible,” he said, commenting on the sheer amount of data that is being tracked in real time. “We know what a single brain can do, the next frontier is understanding how multiple brains work together,” McCloskey said. “Besides,” he concluded,  “It’s really cool to watch them in action.”


Dan McCloskey is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island, a seniorcollege of The City University of New York (CUNY) where he is a member of the Master’s program in Developmental Neuroscience. He holds Doctoral appointments at the CUNY Graduate Center in Neuroscience and Neuropsychology. Dr. McCloskey received his PhD in Biological Psychology from The State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2003. He uses a combination of computationally intensive approaches to study animal behavior, quantitative neuroanatomy, and single-cell and network-level electrophysiology. He has co-authored dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles using these techniques to address issues in epilepsy and autism.

Queer Pollen named Outstanding Academic Title

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries named Professor David A. Gerstner’s latest book as one of its Outstanding Academic Titles.

CSI Professor David A. Gerstner’s book, Queer Pollen: White Seduction, Black Male Homosexuality, and the Cinematic, was named one of Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries’ Outstanding Academic Titles in its January 2012 issue.

Each year in the January issue, Choice publishes a list of Outstanding Academic Titles that were reviewed the previous calendar year. The prestigious list is quite selective, containing only ten percent of approximately 7,000 works reviewed in Choice each year. Queer Pollen: White Seduction, Black Male Homosexuality, and the Cinematic was honored due to its overall excellence in presentation and scholarship, importance relative to other literature in the field, and its value to undergraduates, as well as many other criteria.

Queer Pollen, Professor Gerstner’s fourth book, discusses three notable Black queer 20th century artists—painter and writer Richard Bruce Nugent, author James Baldwin, and filmmaker Marlon Riggs—and the unique ways they turned to various media to work through their experiences living as queer Black men.  The book explores the complexity of these three men as they made their art, facing the challenge, not only of being Black in a racist society, but also gay in a homophobic society.  As stated on the University of Illinois Press Website, “Gerstner elucidates the complexities in expressing queer black desire through traditional art forms such as painting, poetry, and literary prose, or in the industrial medium of cinema.”

Gerstner aims to place the three artists within their cultural identity and to establish their complicated relationships with the White culture that seduced them.  “I wanted these three men to occupy a certain place in the discussion of Black male sexuality and their contribution to American art.” Gerstner said.

Gerstner, who is an avid reader of James Baldwin, discusses how it was important for those three artists in his book to have participated in a range of arts. “Any good artist has cross-aesthetic interests,” Gerstner said. He went on to say that “Baldwin would not be as interesting if he did not have the capacity to move through different disciplines.”

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries is the premier source for reviews of academic books, electronic media, and Internet resources of interest to those in higher education. More than 35,000 librarians, faculty, and key decision-makers rely on Choice magazine and Choice Reviews Online for collection development and scholarly research. Choice reaches almost every undergraduate college and university library in the United States.

David A. Gerstner is a Professor of Cinema Studies at the College of Staten Island and the CUNY Graduate Center. His books include Queer Pollen: White Seduction, Black Male Homosexuality, and the Cinematic; Manly Arts: Masculinity and Nation in Early American Cinema; The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Queer Culture (editor); and Authorship and Film (co-editor).  His essays appear in several anthologies and journals.


CSI Professor is Awarded James Alexander Robertson Memorial Prize

Assistant Professor Marcela Echeverri was recently awarded the Annual James Alexander Robertson Memorial Prize.

Marcela Echeverri, Assistant Professor of History at CSI, was recently awarded the Annual James Alexander Robertson Memorial Prize by the Conference of Latin American History (CLAH) for best article appearing in the Hispanic American Historical Review (Duke University Press).

The article, entitled “Popular Royalists, Empire, and Politics in South Western New Granada, 1809-1819” (HAHR 91:2, May 2011), garnered Echeverri much praise for focusing on what she claims is a “counter-intuitive” point of view. Echeverri’s article describes the political climate during South West Colombia’s Independence Wars as she examines why many of the enslaved Blacks and indigenous communities in the region united with Spanish forces to fight against independence armies, something that “contemporary people would find paradoxical,” Echeverri said. Her work explores the question, “why were indigenous people and enslaved Blacks in favor of the monarchy during the independence wars?” This “question takes us into exciting new analytical ground,” she said.

Echeverri’s area of study involves colonial Latin American history and the comparative study of revolutions in the Atlantic world with a particular emphasis on race, ethnicity, slavery, and the law.  The early 19th century “was a very transformative moment in time,” said Echeverri. “It is part of the Age of Revolution, when nations were formed inLatin America.” She called winning the Robertson Memorial Prize a “great honor” because the HAHR is one of the most prestigious journals in the field of Latin American history, and added that “this scholarly recognition shows that popular royalism is a topic that deserves attention.”

Echeverri, currently a Resident Mellon Fellow at the Center for the Humanities in The Graduate Center, CUNY, is at work on finishing the manuscript for her book, tentatively entitled Popular Royalists and Revolution in Colombia, 1780-1820. In this monograph, she goes back a couple of decades into the late-colonial period to create a profile of the region and a “political history of the two groups, indigenous and enslaved people.” The project is an extension of the theme she addresses in the award-winning article by examining “the participation of Indians and slaves in the royalist forces that rose in defense of the colonial order in southwestern New Granada during the crisis of the Spanish monarch between 1808 and 1825, and seeks to explain how people who were the objects of imperial rule became its defenders.”

Echeverri’s work illustrates the ways in which indigenous populations and people of African descent in Southwest Colombia are central to national history, and that their particular political histories have deeper and more complex dimensions than has been previously recognized.

The CLAH consist of and welcomes all persons interested in the study of the history ofLatin Americaand related areas. It is open to professional Latin Americanists as well as others personally interested in the region. For more information, visit the CLAH Website

Michal Kruk Named a Top 100 Chemist

Michal Kruk stands in front of the gas adsorption analyzer, which allows one to determine the surface area and pore size distribution of solid porous materials. Kruk uses these instruments extensively in his research.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) have declared that 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry.

One of the many special events being held this year is the publication of the Top 100 Chemists, 2000-2010, Special Report on High-Impact Chemists by Thomson Reuters.

Dr. Michal Kruk, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the College of Staten Island, received the distinction of being included on this list, which celebrates the scientists who have achieved the highest citation impact scores (number of citations per paper) for chemistry papers published since January 2000.

Thomson Reuters, one of the most reputable agencies that compiles rankings in the sciences, measures the impact of all chemistry papers published by each scientist.  According to Thomson Reuters, “Citation impact is a weighted measure of influence that seeks to reveal consistently superior performance.”

Dr. Kruk was ranked 72nd on the list with an impact score of 61.39 (the average for chemists over that span was 11.07). Approximately one million chemists were recorded in the journal publications indexed by Thomson Reuters during the last decade.

Dr. Kruk was modest upon hearing of his placement in the ranking, saying that he “did not expect such recognition” and considered the achievement a “great distinction.” He was also quick to credit his colleagues and students, “I have worked with a number of excellent scientists.”

Dr. Michal Kruk received his MS degree in Chemistry from Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin, Poland in 1994 under the guidance of Dr. Andrzej Patrykiejew. His PhD dissertation in Chemistry under the guidance of Dr. Mietek Jaroniec was defended at Kent State University (Kent, OH) in 1998. Dr. Kruk continued working with Dr. Jaroniec as a postdoctoral fellow from 1998 to 2003, after which he joined Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) for two years, working with Drs. Krzysztof Matyjaszewski and Tomasz Kowalewski as advisers.

Dr. Kruk, whose work is supported by grants from the Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), joined CSI as an Assistant Professor in September 2005 and has been actively involved in research, teaching, and service to CSI and the scientific community. “The faculty as well as the administration of CSI and CUNY were very supportive of my research program,” he said.

The focus of Dr. Kruk’s research is primarily on high-surface-area nanoporous materials with pores from two to 50 nanometers (nm) in diameter, which are arranged in ordered arrays, much like microscopic honeycombs. The surface area of these solid materials measures several hundred square meters per gram, the equivalent to a basketball court in one gram of material.

This area of work is of significant interest due to the fact that these materials can be used in the removal of toxic substances from water and air, energy storage, electronics, and the controlled release of therapeutic substances. At CSI, Dr. Kruk, along with two postdoctoral fellows, five graduate students, and about 20 undergraduate students, has been working on the synthesis of these materials as well as their functionalization.

An important aspect of earning this achievement is that it “gives exposure to the remarkable research that takes place at CSI, and in our Chemistry Department in particular,” noted Dr. Kruk, who is enthusiastic about his future work at CSI. “The College of Staten Island has been a great place to advance research with bright and extremely dedicated students.”

View the Top 100 Chemists, 2000-2010, Special Report on High-Impact Chemists.

Schulman Named Distinguished Professor

The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York has appointed CSI English Professor Sarah Schulman as Distinguished Professor.

The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York has approved the appointment of Professor Sarah Schulman as Distinguished Professor.

Professor Schulman is a tenured Full Professor in the Department of English and has been at CSI and CUNY since 1999. She made significant contributions across disciplines at national and international levels. Her work has made an invaluable impact in creative writing, theater, film, and, not least of all, gay and lesbian culture. Her art and political practices are known for their integrated multi-mediated approaches.

Commenting on her appointment, Schulman said, “This is, of course, a life-changing moment of recognition for me, and I am especially proud as a second-generation product of New York City public schools. My mother grew up in Brownsville/East New York, attended Thomas Jefferson High School, and was in the first class of women at City College in 1949, when women had to have higher GPAs than men to be admitted. I went to Hunter High School and to Hunter College, where I studied with Audre Lorde, an experience that has enriched me all my life. But really what is most meaningful for me about this promotion is that writing about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people and people with AIDS, is finally being recognized as an organic and fundamental part of American Arts and Letters.”

Professor Schulman has published prolifically during her career: nine novels, four works of non-fiction, and one play. Her work has been translated into nine languages and has been included in scores of anthologies. She has produced more than a dozen plays in theaters and other performance venues. Her work in the arts has gained her Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships. This past year, her co-authored screenplay, The Owls, premiered at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian of London, The Nation, The Village Voice, Mother Jones, Interview, The Progressive, American Theater, Millennium Film Journal, and others.

Professor Schulman’s many contributions dedicated to the cultural and political spheres of LGBTQ arts and ideas were recently honored with the David R. Kessler Lecture and Award in LGBTQ Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. This past year Professor Schulman was also appointed to the Advisory Council of the Harvard Kennedy School, Carr Center for Human Rights and Social Movements.

“I have had some extraordinary students here at CSI,” Schulman added, “who I believe in and who deserve to advance and become leaders of our community and country. I worry that our most gifted students are not always getting the opportunities that they deserve and I hope that, as a teacher, I can relate to each of my students as an individual, both of us working to form a distinct partnership in learning, so that whatever they bring to the table can be recognized and enhanced by our collaboration.”