Kurtz Foundation establishes Professorship for CSI Researcher

The Kurtz Foundation recently established a Professorship at the College of Staten Island (CSI,) named the Leonard and Esther Kurtz Term Professorship.

The Leonard and Esther Kurtz Professorship provides two continuous years of funding in support of the innovative polymer and biopolymer chemistry programs at CSI. Dr. Fred Naider, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, is the College’s first recipient of this prestigious Professorship. The funding comes at a crucial time, providing the additional resources needed to further distinguish the international reputation of CSI’s research.

The Kurtz Foundation, located in Farmingdale, New York, is a strong supporter of the health sciences, education and the arts. It had assets of nearly one million dollars in the year 2000, and is a highly selective independent foundation that provides general and operating support to qualified organizations. Grants for the year 2000 include the University of California at San Diego, the Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical Center, and the School of Medicine at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

“Dr. Naider’s research and teaching are at the highest levels,” commented Dr. Marlene Springer, President of CSI, “and have helped CSI establish a reputation for excellence that ranks the polymer chemistry program among the best in the greater New York area.”

“We have been pleased to follow Dr. Naider’s career,” commented Robert J. Kurtz, M.D., President of the Kurtz Foundation, “his rise through the faculty ranks at the College of Staten Island, and his latest promotion to the Rank of Distinguished Professor at City University in the winter of 2000.”

Naider’s research is focused on the biological function of peptides (small chains of amino acids) and their role as nutrients and signaling molecules. More specifically, Naider investigates how peptides cross cell membranes, and how cells communicate by the use of peptide signals.

The research lab is also the site of Naider’s mentorship of postdoctoral fellows and Ph.D. students. Undergraduates benefit from Naider’s expertise as well, learning organic chemistry and biochemistry in preparation for their careers in medical technology, medicine, optometry, dentistry and the basic sciences.

“I have benefited from their fresh minds, their curiosity, and their thirst for knowledge,” explains Naider. “I hope they have benefited from my passion for peptides and yeast.”

During Naider’s 27-year career at CSI, his findings have appeared in 180-refereed articles and he has been awarded nearly $6 million in research grants.

Like Mother, Like Daughter A Graduation Celebration x2

Marie and Kelly Payne of Westerleigh will have good cause for a double celebration on Thursday June 6, 2002. The mother – daughter pair will walk across the stage at the College of Staten Island to receive their bachelor degrees together at the College of Staten Island’s 26th annual commencement exercises.

Four years ago, Kelly Payne, the second of five children to Marie Payne began to pursue her SLS (Science, Letters & Society) degree at the College of Staten Island. Inspired by her daughter, Mrs. Payne, who had taken continuing education classes at the College, decided to enroll as a full-time student the following semester. This mother and daughter have always been close and shared many experiences, such as a family love for softball, but over the past four years the pair shared much more, an education.

Mrs. Payne realized about one year ago that she had the potential to graduate with her daughter. She had to double up her course load and take summer classes to accomplish becoming a member of the Class of 2002, along with her daughter Kelly. But, for Mrs. Payne it was worth it. Her dream of graduating from college was made even more special by being able to realize her dream on the same day as her daughter. On this topic Kelly honestly states “I must admit, at first I was a little jealous that I would have to share this time with someone, but once I saw how proud my mother was, (to receive her degree), I was overwhelmed with pride myself.”

Though the Payne’s never actually took classes together, they could never fit their schedules together, they did help each other through the trials of college. They helped each other with homework, proofread papers for one another and were there for one another when things got tough. Kelly says attending college with her mother not only strengthened their bond as mother and daughter it allowed them to discover a new friendship.

After graduation, Mrs. Payne, who is now completing an internship at the United Nations plans to pursue her degree in Political Science. Kelly Payne is already registered to continue her education. Kelly will began the pursuit of her Master’s Degree in Education in the fall of 2002 at the College of Staten Island.

No lazy dog days of summer for one CSI graduate

At six weeks old, Courtney Sue Gross had her first surgery to correct the cataracts with which she was born. She underwent 23 surgeries to correct glaucoma, retinal detachments in both eyes, and various other visual defects, and had lost vision in her right eye at the age of five. After four more surgeries, at the age of 10, Courtney went completely blind.

Courtney’s passion for reading motivated her to learn Grades I and II of Braille in 5 months, whereas people typically take up to 2 to 4 years to be completely Braille-literate. Even without the ability to read the printed word, Courtney was always in mainstream Honors and Scholar classes from elementary through high school. Courtney learned cane skills quickly as well, but felt extremely limited relying on the use of a cane.

During the summer of 1999, after high school graduation, Courtney’s dream of having a seeing eye dog became a reality when she trained at the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. She was paired with Xavior, a one-and-a-half year old male Golden Retriever. “With Xavior,” comments Gross, ” I have gained more independence, confidence, inspiration, and determination to succeed.” And it is with this renewed sense of zeal and strength that Courtney set off to college.

Courtney, a Staten Island resident, was accepted to the ivy-league Barnard College as well as the CSI Honors Program. Ultimately she chose CSI and began her college career in August 1999.

Since Courtney entered CSI with 16 college credits, (she earned these by obtaining high scores on Advanced Placement examinations in High School), Courtney completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology within three years, by carrying a 16-credit course load each semester. Throughout her stay at CSI, she maintained a general Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.87, with a 3.95 GPA in psychology.

Courtney’s achievements don’t end on the personal and academic, however. She believes in giving to community, and has volunteered at Clove Lakes Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, assisting with recreational activities, mailing and clerical responsibilities, and sometimes just visiting with new-found friends.

Courtney also works with at-risk adolescents on Staten Island as part of her mentoring class, and spends time at her alma-mater, Susan B. Wagner High School, where she tutors students that need help in English. She also observes interactions between teachers and students in an effort to devise more productive and successful educational practices with a psychological foundation.

“CSI’s professors have been very helpful, understanding, accommodating and willing to listen to my concerns and those of other students. All of the professors that I’ve had are knowledgeable and experienced in their fields,” comments Gross. “They have been encouraging and supportive, providing guidance, opinions and insights, and have always encouraged me despite my blindness, and were willing to give their assistance, even if it didn’t directly involve class matters.”

Jennifer Lynch, CSI Honors Program Counselor, and Ellen Goldner, the Director of the CSI Honors Program, have provided the signature services that helped Courtney choose CSI over Barnard. They worked one-on-one with Courtney, as they do with all Honors Program students, helping with staff interactions, the bursars office, financial aid, registration, graduation, and all of the other complications.

“I have always believed that the only way to improve and to change the world is to educate, to understand, and to accept all people regardless of their race, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or social class,” comments Gross.

“When people begin to realize that we are responsible for one another and are need to assist one another, they are often more open to the reciprocity which results from volunteering. In my opinion, this reciprocal relationship is the most valuable reward anyone can receive.”

June 6, 2002, marks the second graduating class of the CSI Honors Program. Courtney graduates as a Dean’s List student with a Student Leadership Award from the CSI Alumni Association. She has recently become a member of the Richmond County Psychological Association and the nationally recognized honors society PSYCHI.

Courtney and Xavior recently returned from trips to Florida and France, and will take a short summer vacation visiting friends in Texas.

This fall, Courtney will seek out new challenges at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, as she begins work on a Masters Degree in Forensic Psychology.

CSI Senior Awarded First Place in Statewide Science Competition

The College of Staten Island (CSI) Discovery Institute’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), participated in the Statewide Science and Technology research competition at the Sagamore resort located in Lake George, NY on April 6, 2002.

Four CSTEP students participated from CSI: Adebime Baruwa and Alexandra Krawics, both freshman, Oluwaseun Cole, a sophomore, and Ruth Duchatellier, a senior.

Competition was tough, with the CSI students competing against students from NYU, Cornell University, SUNY Downstate, Binghamton University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Fordham University, to name a few. This year’s event was the tenth annual hosted by Syracuse University, and brought together over 300 students from 41 colleges and universities across New York State.

The first place winner in the physical science category was CSI senior Ruth Duchatellier for her research on “Expression of Aminophospholipid Translocase in Brain-derived Cell Lines.” High School students benefit from Duchatellier’s achievements also, since she is a tutor with the Discovery Institute’s STEP program.

Duchatellier, a native of Haiti, transferred to CSI from York college. Her primary goal in life is to become an oral surgeon by working with the National Institute of Health (NIH) and their research and training programs for dental students.

The Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program is a New York state-funded program designed to increase the number of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged undergraduate and graduate students who complete programs of study that lead to careers in scientific, technical, health-related or licensure programs.

Leonard Ciaccio, Ph.D., Co-Director of the CSI Discovery Institute and Director of CSTEP at CSI commented, “CSTEP is an especially valuable resource to the young adults of New York City, and is an investment in our future. CSTEP provides select opportunities for students, allowing them to collaborate and build upon their interdisciplinary coursework and research with CSI faculty. Ultimately, CSTEP enables the students to become leaders among the next generation of scientifically and technologically trained professionals.”

The weekend CSTEP conference consisted of student presentations of research projects and a series of workshops on such topics as “Preparing for Medical School” and “Diverse Leadership in the Next Millennium.”

During a conference address, Johanna Duncan-Portier, deputy commissioner, NYS Education Department, expressed pride in the “magnificent achievement” that she saw in the CSTEP students’ research presentations.

This year, awards for research, evaluated by teams of independent judges, were given to undergraduate students from City College of New York, Clarkson University, College of Staten Island, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Manhattanville College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, SUNY Brockport, and SUNY Stonybrook.

The CSTEP conference is part of a year-round program that provides CSTEP students with research opportunities, career-related internships, counseling, career advisement, and academic and cultural enrichment activities. The CSTEP program is funded by the New York State Education Department.

For more information visit: discovery.csi.cuny.edu

Print quality photos with captions available, click here

CSI Observatory hosts viewing of rare Planetary Phenomenon

Look, up in the sky, over New Jersey, it’s a rare grouping of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. But look quick, it may not be seen again for 34 years.

Planetary alignments are typically accompanied by stories based on superstitions from medieval times that the Earth could be pulled off its orbital path or suffer extraordinary tides. The combined gravitational force of planetary groupings on the Earth is trivial, however, and happens regularly with no disturbances.

A similar arrangement of planets happened two years ago but was not visible from Earth because of the position of the Sun. The Earth, of course, survived the last alignment, and this year’s phenomenon is also no cause for concern.

The CSI Observatory will host a viewing and an informational program about this planetary alignment on Friday May 3, 2002, from 8:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., weather permitting. The program is free and open to the public. Join Professor Irving Robbins, Director of the CSI Observatory, for a chance to view the individual planets and their grouping through the observatory’s telescope and with the naked eye.

Through the telescope will be a chance to view: the moons of Jupiter & Jupiter’s atmosphere; the rings of Saturn; the ice caps on Mars (if we’re very lucky); our nearest neighbor, Venus, in gibbous phase; and the most difficult planet to find, Mercury. Other celestial wonders will also be available for viewing.

“Each of these planets alone is intriguing, and we could spend an entire night studying one,” commented Robbins, “but the opportunity to learn about them and view them as a grouping is an exciting chance for novice and veteran sky-watchers alike to witness part of the celestial ballet.”

Call the CSI Astrophysical Observatory at 982-3260 for updates and weather advisories. The observatory also has public viewing hours on most Monday nights, call for details and availability.

If you can’t join us for this occurrence of planetary phenomena, join us for the next viewable alignment sometime in April 2036.

For more information on the CSI Astrophysical Observatory, visit their website at supernova7.apsc.csi.cuny.edu

We All Pay Bridge and Highway Tolls, But at What Price?

Jonathan Peters, Professor of Finance at the College of Staten Island/CUNY (CSI) has recently co-released a study entitled “A Model of the Total Cost of Highway Toll Collection.” In it, Peters contends that the current models of the cost of toll collection does not include the significant environmental cost to society. Peters’ study extends the current models to account for these costs by demonstrating that when pollution costs are ignored, the total cost of toll collection is significantly understated.

Case Study (2000): Garden State Parkway (GSP)
173 miles long, eleven major toll barriers on the main highway plus 20 ramp plazas. Peters and Kramer conclude that for the year 2000, 16,000 tons of pollutants were unnecessarily generated along the GSP, mostly on the northern corridor,

Peters recommends that “economists should not ignore pollution costs when estimating the total cost of toll collection. By examining the pollution costs on the GSP, we show that even without measuring the environmental impact of queuing, pollution costs constitute 20.93% of the Total Societal Cost (TSC) of toll collection, or 8.32% of revenue collected.”

The Peters/Kramer study has used the most conservative numbers possible, such as not including the pollution generated from queuing, and relying on emissions statistics from newer model cars… additionally, the cost and consumption of fuel is not accounted for in the current Peters/Kramer study, and is currently being investigated.

Adding the Administrative costs (capital and labor) Compliance Costs (value of time wasted by consumers under current collection model) and Pollution Costs (decelerating from 60mph to zero and resuming speed) equals 100% of the Total Societal Cost. Net Revenue is not included in the TSC.

Peters’ continues “Whereas with most taxes, Administrative and Compliance costs equal 5-7% of revenue collected, the GSP Administrative and Compliance costs account for 31.43% of the revenue total, or 79.07% of the TSC. These tolls are not only a very expensive tax to collect, they also have a substantial cost to individuals and the environment.”

A U.S. Supreme Court case (Docket #01-1421) seeks review of an original New York Federal District Court action against tolling authorities in Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. This Supreme Court suit, filed by Kevin McKeown, is aimed at ending the thousands of tons of toxic tailpipe emissions at toll barriers in these states.

Since the Peters/Kramer study is the first in the nation to quantify these emissions on the Garden State Parkway, a request has been made to file a brief in support of the case.

“A Model of the Total Cost of Highway Toll Collection” by Jonathan Peters, Professor of Finance, College of Staten Island/CUNY, and Jonathan Kramer, Professor of Finance, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

Jonathan Peters is available for expert commentary.
If you would like to schedule an interview, please contact
Ken Bach, Director of Public Relations for CSI/CUNY at (718) 982-2328.

A View to a Krill CSI researchers bring academics to the Antarctic

Antarctic krill are small, shrimp-like crustaceans which are abundant in the Southern Oceans and may become a potentially valuable source of protein for human and livestock consumption.

But how would wide-scale commercial krill harvesting affect the delicate and protected Antarctic ecosystem? That is what the research team from CSI is hoping to predict with advanced computer modeling of krill, and the behaviors of the birds that feed upon them.

Many Americans may be unfamiliar with krill, but they are one of the most important planktonic (floating or weakly swimming) crustaceans in the Southern Oceans. Krill feed upon phytoplankton (planktonic plant life) and since krill are high in protein, they are an important food source for almost all larger organisms such as mussels, fish, seals, whales, penguins, and birds.

The team from CSI was headed by Biology Professor Richard Veit. Veit, a bird ecologist and biostatistician, also served as primary researcher. He was joined by Mathematics and Physics Professor Bala Sundaram, and seven CSI students. Richard Heil, an ornithologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accompanied them as they collected data in an attempt to predict how large-scale krill harvesting might affect indigenous bird populations of cape petrels and albatross.

They spent a month near Elephant Island, off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, not only observing large gatherings of krill, called swarms, but also recording in detail the behavior of birds in the same vicinity.

The expedition was funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs, which required the trip to combine research and teaching. This provided the perfect opportunity for Veit to engage CSI students in the research. The students were required to enroll in a series of courses to help them fully understand the procedures, problems, and protocols that a research project like this would demand.

After flying into Punta Arenas, Chile, the researchers boarded an NSF research vessel Laurence M. Gould, and began their ocean voyage to Antarctica. December is the beginning of the Antarctic summer, meaning temperatures hover near 30 degrees Fahrenheit, winds could gust to 75 miles per hour, and ocean swells could top 40 feet, breaking over the deck of the ship. The Gould needed to deliver supplies to the research scientists in residence at Palmer Station before heading off towards Elephant Island and the around-the-clock task of data collection.

The researchers towed an echosounder along the starboard side of the ship to minimize prop noise. The data sent back to the ship was their window to the underwater world of Antarctica. This echosounder, which works similar to equipment used by deep-sea fishermen, was used to locate and study the krill swarms, which tend to ride along on the eastward flowing current through the Drake Passage, between South America and Antarctica.

As the Gould navigated northward along six different 25-mile, north-south paths called transects, details of the swarms were recorded, including their location, density, and depth. Southward bound, they employed a deep ocean probe called a CTD, which recorded data on the water’s Conductivity and Temperature at varying Depths. The ship’s location was recorded via a Global Positioning System (GPS) every 12 seconds.

One swarm they encountered was approximately 6 miles long and 80 meters thick. Krill swarms could involve thousand of tons of krill and have a density as high as 10,000 organisms per cubic meter. Why the krill congregate in swarms is unknown, it may be because of temperature, ocean salinity, nutrient deposits, or based upon the Antarctic currents.

As they tracked the location of krill and the condition of the water, the researchers also recorded the species and number of birds along the transect lines and the details of their behavior. Since daylight was present approximately 21 hours a day and the other three hours were a dusky twilight, they recorded data on the birds 24 hours a day, working in 12-hour shifts, standing on the deck of the ship in wind-chills that often dipped below zero (0) degrees Fahrenheit.

To create a valid database, each bird needed to be in constant sight for a minimum of two minutes. The observers tracked the birds, which could fly at nearly 40 miles per hour, while team members recorded the behavioral data of the birds (where they fly, turning patterns, water dives, sitting on the water surface, etc.) This information was entered into laptop computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs), building a thorough database to more accurately generate a bird distribution and behavior map.

Undergraduate student Cristina Rhodes
kept a journal and photo log on her trip…

Veit says that a final goal of this project is to construct mathematical models to determine how birds may behave depending on the presence or absence of krill in a given location. Another goal is to eventually discover how the birds locate krill swarms (e.g., visual or olfactory cues, the behavior of other birds or mammals) and how the birds behave when they detect the prey, as well as how much krill needs to be present and how close to the ocean surface the crustaceans need to be for the birds to become interested.

Since a good portion of the computer modeling involves mathematics, Professor Sundaram joined the expedition. His first-hand accounting of how the data is collected and what kind of data is available helped shape the acquisition models to facilitate data correlation and improve the projection model’s accuracy.

Sundaram also put together a computer presentation of the research work in Antarctica for his daughter’s grade school class. “Children love penguins,” Sundaram commented, “so I included some photos and facts for them. But more than just the penguins, the presentation opened up the world of science and mathematics and its possibilities to them, awaking their sense of imagination. Hopefully they will carry with them the understanding of how penguins, birds, krill and the entire Antarctic ecosystem are so closely intertwined with mathematics.”

Based on the excitement of the grade-schoolers, other educators have asked Sundaram and Veit to participate in their classes. Their dynamic presentation is replete with living examples of Antarctic krill and inflatable penguins, instilling in the students the long-lasting and profound effect of real-world interdisciplinary study.

Back in the office, Sundaram, assisted by Ph.D. student Jarrod Santora, faced a monumental task in correlating the 20 gigabytes of data they collected. Each database–krill population, bird population and behavior, and water conditions–has been compiled using dedicated software packages. These individual databases have been cleaned up and are currently being compiled and synchronized to the same 12-second intervals recorded by the GPS system. “Jarrod is really earning his Ph.D. with this one,” said Veit, “and once the data is synchronized we can move onto analyzing it.”

What do they hope to accomplish by running this data in a real-time model? To find an algorithm, or set of rules, to describe how the birds behave in the presence of large swarms of krill. “We want to build a model,” Sundaram explains, “that would have these birds flying around on a computer…looking for krill.”

If krill eventually become a target of commercial fishermen, whether to provide krill as a delicacy or as chicken feed, scientists will have a computer model to estimate how mass harvests may impact the Antarctic ecosystem.

At present, only a small amount of krill harvesting (approximately 400,000 tons per year) is taking place because it is an expensive proposition. Norwegians consume krill in the form of a high protein paste and the Japanese enjoy them cooked and peeled, much like shrimp.

Currently, there is no supply route or transportation structure in place to move the harvested krill to destinations worldwide. Veit recalls that the Soviets used to send factory trawlers that would otherwise have been unused during the harsh Russian winters to harvest the krill. Although it was a large-scale operation with 10 to 12 factory-sized trawlers, the Soviets never made any money–it was merely a way to put the ships to work. Once the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, the new Russian government abandoned the harvests for economic reasons.

However, once the logistical problems have been sorted out regarding the mass harvesting of krill, commercial fishermen may turn to krill as a new protein source in feeding human and livestock populations. The data collected and the models developed by the researchers at CSI may prove to assist in the formulation international policies as we feed our world and protect the delicate and balanced ecosystem of Antarctica.

As for Veit, he plans to head back to Antarctica again at the end of this year for his 12th trip to the region to conduct further research. Veit’s current NSF grant, which provides $85,000 per year for four years, ends in 2004. Students at the College of Staten Island with a taste for adventure have the opportunity to cross more than just the Verrazano Bridge. They may join Veit, crossing international boundaries and numerous time zones, experiencing firsthand the fascinating world of international research and the wondrous environment of the frozen Antarctic continent.

Congressman Fossella Arranges for Opening of Compensation Fund Help Center to Assist Families of 9/11 Center to Operate at CSI the Week of March 25

Congressman Vito Fossella (R-NY) today announced that the temporary Staten Island Victim’s Compensation Fund Help Center will be located on the campus of the College of Staten Island beginning the week of March 25. Fossella arranged for the opening of the Center last month to assist the families of September 11.

The Help Center will be staffed by four to five representatives of the Special Master’s Office and be open Monday, March 25 to Friday, March 29 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 30, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Help Center will be located on the grounds of the College of Staten Island (2800 Victory Blvd.) in Building 1P (CSI Center for the Arts).

Families who wish to meet with a counselor are urged to make an
appointment by calling 703-633-4761. Walk-in service is also available, but is first-come, first-served. Families who meet with a counselor will not be required to enroll in the Victim’s Compensation Fund. The Help Center is purely for informational purposes.

“The Help Center will give every family the opportunity to meet directly with a representative of the Special Master about the Fund,” Fossella said. “It appears that many people are still unsure about certain aspects of the plan and how it affects their families. The counselors will
be able to walk each of them through the regulations on a case-by-case basis and answer all of their questions. It is tragic that Staten Island lost so many people on September 11, and we want to do all we can to make this process as convenient for them as possible.”

“During these difficult times, it is especially important that we all help each other when and where we can,” said College of Staten Island President Dr. Marlene Springer. “CSI continues to grieve for the losses suffered by so many Staten Island families as we contribute energetically to the process of rebuilding our community. By working with Congressman Fossella and hosting the Help Center, we hope to make this time a little easier for friends and neighbors profoundly affected by the tragedy of September 11.”

The counselors will review the financial information of families and offer an estimated amount of compensation they would receive if they opt into the federal plan. The counselors will also be able to discuss unique circumstances of potential claimants.

The Help Center counselors will be located in their own classrooms or conference rooms to guarantee each family complete privacy. A waiting area will also be available for families to relax before meeting with a counselor. The counselors are expected to be equipped with computers that are connected to the Special Master’s main network. In addition, families will be able to obtain, among other information, the final regulations, eligibility forms, applications and fact sheets.

Fossella first raised the idea of establishing a temporary Help Center on Staten Island with the Special Master’s Office last week. The Center at the College of Staten Island is the first temporary facility to be established in the nation. The Special Master’s Office operates permanent Help Center’s in Manhattan and Long Island; Jersey City and Edison, New Jersey; Arlington, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts, and Stamford, Connecticut.