[videos] Summer of Science, Research Experience for Undergraduates

Students and mentors participating with the College of Staten Island's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program visited the IBM-Watson research facility in Yorktown Heights, NY. The Super-Computer (in blue on the left) is named "Watson," and is most popularly known as the computer that won on Jeopardy back in 2011.

The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at the College of Staten Island hosted eight college undergraduates from across the country this past summer. For ten weeks, participants lived in Dolphin Cove and performed research in areas of national importance with computer science faculty mentors from CSI, on topics such as: Computational Methods in High Performance Computing with applications to Graph Theory, Network Reliability, Cryptography, Network Security, Wireless ad-hoc and Sensor Networks, Large-scale and Complex System Modeling and Simulation, and Image Processing.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DoD), the program was hosted by the CSI Department of Computer Science in collaboration with The City University of New York Interdisciplinary High Performance Computing Center (IHPCC). A primary goal of the REU is to attract and retain talented students and to prepare them for graduate studies and research careers in computer science or related research fields.

This summer, the first of a three-year of the program at CSI, more than 80 students applied. Eight applicants were accepted and each received a $5,000 stipend, and a package that covered housing costs, meals, and travel expenses. The students attended lectures given by CSI researchers Dr. Anatoly Kuklov from Engineering Science and Physics and Dr. Dan McCloskey from Psychology, as well as researchers from other universities whose activities require high performance computational techniques. Social and scientific field trips were also also scheduled, to sites such as the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights.

Participants, who attended the program from June 1st to August 7th, were divided into four groups that worked with their respective mentors on different projects in which the main objectives and results obtained were to be presented at the end of the program. The students were tasked with not only learning theoretical aspects behind their research but also implementing computer applications requiring parallelism, with the help of their CSI faculty mentors and CUNY IHPCC’s research associates, including Dr. Eugene Dzedzits.

The main purpose of the program, according to Dr. Louis Petingi, CSI Professor of Computer Science and REU program lead, was to “expose the students to real research and take on the POV of the researcher.” He also believes that students, should be “on the frontier of knowledge,” meaning, they should not only be asked to study theory but to use that theory to create new and useful applications for our future. The participants produced meaningful research results written-up in a format of technical report and presentation.

Below are three presentations given by REU summer program students:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EfmbtWPGrA[/youtube]“Finding Partial Hash Collisions through Brute Force Parallel Programming” by Vincent (Chuck) Chiriaco (University of North Alabama), Aubrey Franzen (Northern Kentucky University) and Rebecca Thayil (Bryn Mawr College).  Project: Cryptography. Mentored by Dr. Xiaowen Zhang.

A cryptographic hash function is used in data integrity check, digital signature, authentication protocol, etc. A hash function compresses an arbitrary length message into a shorter fixed length digest, or hash value (i.e., fingerprint of the message). If two or more messages are hashed to the same or similar digest, we call this a partial collision. If a collision can be easily found, then the data integrity can be violated and digital signature can be easily forged. By brute force method using parallel programming techniques, students systematically find partial hash collisions for a given target message, i.e., finding other messages that have the similar digest as the digest of the target message. ​


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwNbScmUoAA[/youtube]“GPU Acceleration for Digital Holographic Image Reconstruction and Processing” by Danielle Lopez (Rowan University) and Ivan Mazo (Kean University). Project: Image Processing. Mentored by Dr. Shuqun Zhang.

Students use phase shifting holography to record and reconstruct an object and implement image processing algorithms based upon GPU architectures.


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRUjSINg6VU[/youtube] “Network Reliability” by Martin Lapinski (CSI’s Macaulay Honors College), Helen Lin (CSI, Computer Science), and Myles McHugh (Kean University). Project: Graph Theory. Mentored by Dr. Louis Petingi.

Students explain how Network Reliability Theory can be used to measure performance objectives of different communication networks (e.g., wireless networks) and how Monte Carlo techniques can be applied to efficiently estimate the reliability using parallel processing on a distributed environment.



[video] Air Guitar hero: Staten Island’s Airistotle in World Championship

Matt Burns, who is better known around the world by his air guitar stage name Airistotle has won three U.S. Air Guitar championships.

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE. — Before he even takes the stage, the crowd goes wild for Airistotle.

Shielding his eyes from the spotlights, the boyish 26-year-old entertainer looks out onto his audience, a “wow” taking shape across his mouth.

A young lady in the front row screams her intentions to be the mother of his child. Another man demands he remove his top. Aristotle gives the man a coy but confident glance.

And then his performance begins.

The thing about Airistotle is, he doesn’t even play guitar. But in the absence of an instrument, he’s the coolest rockstar you’ve ever seen.

He’s a three time national Air Guitar champion and he’s here to melt your face off.


When he’s not shredding literal air and fending off “air groupies,” Airistotle is Great Kills native Matt Burns, College of Staten Island graduate and comedian through and through.

Burns got into air guitaring fresh out of high school after he saw the 2006 documentary “Air Guitar Nation” about the first U.S. Air Guitar championships. As an actor and comic, the idea of entertaining an audience of potentially hundreds of drunk, screaming fans with nothing but his hands and an abandonment of pride spoke to him.

“I thought it was stupid and beautiful and amazing and I had to get involved,” Burns said.

He watched videos of previous winners and started developing his own character: A dweeby 12-year-old boy with a limber, awkward way of moving about the world; except for when he’s rocking out to pop-punk songs. For a guy that still gets carded when he buys tickets for R-rated movies, the shoe fits.

He christened himself Airistotle — a pun on the airy nature of his work and a nod to the film, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” In the movie, the young air-guitar playing men meet the Greek philosopher Socrates in a time-traveling expedition. Socrates, Aristotle, you get the picture.
Now seven years deep in the competitions, Burns estimates that he’s competed about 15 times, and performs at paid gigs around the world on the side. Though he doesn’t win any money for his victories, the U.S. Air Guitar organization pays for his travel. It’s taken him to places a daytime waiter in his mid-20s would probably never have gone, like the Middle East.

“The experience of making friends all over the world and traveling all over the world makes it worthwhile,” Burns said.



Judges at air guitar competitions look at three categories of performances to score the “musicians.” First, technical ability. Are they hitting the hypothetical notes? In this category, it actually helps to have little real guitar experience, Burns said.

“I actually learned guitar after I started competing, just to know what the power chords looked like, but the problem when people actually play real guitar is, they get too into playing the actual notes and not enough on the performance,” Burns said.

The second category is stage presence: how well the performer can rile up a crowd.

“A well-placed pelvic thrust can really make a difference between a championship or not,” Burns said.

The last category is “airness” — or when the act transcends imitation.

“That one is impossible to define,” Burns said. “You know it when you see it.”

For Burns, what “airness” usually looks like is a blur of long brown hair, legs unhindered by gravity and arms that can orbit their hypothetical guitar with the elasticity of a rubber ball on a body-shaped paddle.

“You’re almost more of a frontman, like the Freddie Mercury of the band,” he said. “You need the whole crowd to buy into the idea that you’re play a guitar.”

Burns doesn’t choreograph his routines — in fact, one component of the competitions involves performing to a surprise song. Performers get to pick the other song ahead of time. Burns doesn’t really train either, other than listening to as many rock songs as possible before the competitions.

“You just need to have a good character and you have to not be afraid to be embarrassed,” Burns said.

“And you need to drink. A lot. We usually say these things have a two beer minimum,” he added.


At the end of this month, Burns will head to Finland for the third time to represent the United States in the international air guitar competition. More than 5,000 people watch the performances, which are complete with jumbotrons and a live-stream.

It’s a sensation that, on the surface, seems boring and void of real talent. But when you think about it, there’s a trifecta of talent involved, Burns noted.

“It’s one third rock concert, one third sporting event and one third comedy show,” Burns said. “So you have all these things rolled into one.”

The past two years, Burns has come in second at the global air-off. Allow me to repeat that: This Staten Islander is the second-best in the world at air guitar. I’ll also remind you that he’s the United States’ best air guitarist for three years: 2012, 2014 and 2015.

This year, he could very well be the world’s best air guitar player. The competition will be live-streamed on August 28 on the AirGuitarWorldChampionships.com.

So with the world, quite literally, his stage, he’s prepared to give the performance of a lifetime.

“I’ve done acting and theater and comedy, but this is hands down my favorite type of performance.”

By Lauren Steussy. © 2015 SILive.com. This article first appeared on SI Live and the Staten Island Advance on on August 18, 2015 and is reprinted here with permission.

[video] Richard Flanagan appears on NY1 News

Candidates in SI DA Race Hurl Allegations of Fraud

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuvJ6DB8mwA[/youtube]It’s a basic requirement for candidates running for office: obtain signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. But in the race for Staten Island district attorney, some of those signatures could lead to criminal charges against the people who collected them. That’s because several signatures were forged, some of them using the names of dead people.

“There are people wandering the streets maybe getting paid a dollar a name, and sometimes, they get desperate and make names up, or put the names of dead people down,” said Richard Flanagan of the College of Staten Island.

Read more and view the segment>

[video, gallery] Sixty-sixth Commencement Spotlights Student Accomplishments and CSI’s Progress

Valedictorian Kawsar Ibrahim, a student with the Macaulay Honors College at CSI, is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and minors in Biochemistry, Chemistry and Studio Art.

The cloudy skies over the sixty-sixth Commencement at the College of Staten Island on the morning of May 28 did not darken the joyous mood of the 2,631 graduates, their families and friends, and College faculty and staff as they gathered on the Great Lawn of CSI’s Willowbrook campus.

After opening remarks by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Fred Naider, President William J. Fritz came to the lectern. He began his remarks by emphasizing CSI’s great legacy, which was built upon the impressive achievements of the students, faculty, and staff at CSI’s predecessor institutions, Staten Island Community College (SICC) and Richmond College. Then, after an audio clip of Charlotte Eldred (née Montalbano, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 75), one of the first graduates from SICC, speaking at that institution’s first Commencement in 1958, he went on to outline Charlotte’s remarkable journey through life as a dedicated, accomplished, and award-winning teacher, as well as a published writer.


“Charlotte’s life shows us that the noble mission of The City University of New York and the College of Staten Island has endured for almost six decades, a mission that promises full access to quality higher education, the pursuit of academic excellence, and the opportunity to give back,” Dr. Fritz said.

Dr. Fritz noted that the mission lives on in students like Kawsar Ibrahim, 2015 Valedictorian with the Macaulay Honors College at CSI, who will be starting medical school in the fall, and who “ is already making this world a better place, having served abroad in Panama last summer with the Global Medical Brigades to bring medical and dental healthcare and education to people in need.”

Another example of the continuing mission is junior Sean Thatcher, who, in 2009, became quadriplegic from an accident that injured his spinal cord. “Through it all, through all of the challenges and obstacles before him, Sean is here today,” Dr. Fritz commented. “And just recently, Sean was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premiere academic award for undergraduates majoring in math, science and engineering.”

The President listed institutions of higher education that have accepted CSI graduates, such as Yale University School of Medicine, Brown University, Harvard University, and Cornell Law School, and recent national accolades from publications including TIME magazine and U.S. News & World Report.

“You have always had the ability to dream,” he told the graduates. “The College of Staten Island has now given you the power to achieve those dreams, the power to change the world.”

This year’s ceremony also bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters on Sally W. Williams, a community activist, founding and current member of the College of Staten Island Foundation (and past President), and daughter of Dr. Arleigh B. Williamson one of the founders of SICC and Richmond College.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DErInMnv8Eg[/youtube]Later in the ceremony, this year’s valedictorian, Kawsar Ibrahim, told the story of how here doctor tried to discourage her from following in his footsteps because she was a woman of Middle Eastern descent, and how that advice only strengthened her determination to become a doctor and help others. After mentioning the many research, volunteer, and mentoring opportunities that CSI offered her, and discussing her time as a medical volunteer in Panama, she proudly told the audience, “Now that I will be starting medical school at The New York College of Podiatric Medicine this fall, it seems that the door my doctor tried to close had something stuck in its way: me.”

Before closing by thanking CSI faculty and staff, her family, and her classmates, Ibrahim urged her fellow grads to always follow their dreams and persevere in the face of obstacles.

Also in attendance to honor the College’s newest alumni and extend their support were U.S. Senator Charles Schumer; CUNY Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance Matthew Sapienza; and CUNY Trustee Joseph K. Awadjie.

Near the conclusion of this year’s Commencement, Dr. Fritz recognized 87-year-old Rose Zrake, who was graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature.

Dolphin Awards

In the afternoon, the tradition of honoring exceptional CSI faculty, staff, and students continued with the Annual Dolphin Awards ceremony.

Visit the CSI Today Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery in order to read the individual biographies of the outstanding honorees for 2015.

This year’s honorees included:

-Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Deborah Popper

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Sondra Brandler

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Gordon DiPaolo

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: Anthony Romano

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in HEO Title: Lillian McGinn

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in CLT and OIT Specialists Title: Gabriel Cynowicz

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff: Elaine Rocco

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Maintenance, Operations, Security: Lucy Tirado

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Part-Time, Non-Teaching Staff: Donna Sipp

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Currently Enrolled Student: Erica Golin

President Fritz opened the ceremony by pointing to the significance of the Dolphin Awards. “It is first our moment following commencement to finally take a deep breath and exhale, to reflect on all that we accomplished, and to celebrate the contributions of our faculty, staff, and students.” He also further discussed the College’s legacy, using an excerpt from Charlotte Eldred’s speech to build a bridge from CSI’s rich past to its bright and promising future.

College Writer/Editor Terry Mares followed Dr. Fritz, reading short biographies of each of the honorees, celebrating their contributions to the College.

[video, gallery] Eighth Annual Honors Convocation

Lucinda Zawadzki is graduating May 2015 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and a double minor in Biochemistry and Chemistry.

The College of Staten Island honored its top students at the Eighth Annual Honors Convocation at the Center for the Arts Springer Concert Hall.

Lucinda Zawadzki, the CSI Class of 2015 Salutatorian and graduate from the Macaulay Honors College: University Scholars Program at CSI, was the student speaker at the event.

Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. A. Ramona Brown, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Fred Naider, and CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz, also brought remarks.

View all CSI Today Commencement Photo Galleries>

President Fritz began by asking the honorees to stand and “be duly recognized for your achievements.” Once the applause subsided, President Fritz shared his pride to be “standing here before our highest-achieving students.” He then discussed his reasons for which the students were being honored—that the College was proudly celebrating “your intellect, your drive to succeed, and your dedication to service.”

Furthering a trend that he began two years ago at the Honors Convocation, President Fritz referred to comments made by 2014 Salutatorian, Elizabeth Krawczun, saying, “As we go forward, we must take our scholarship, ambition, character, heart, and spirit to make good art—programming software, pumping gas, preparing a good meal, telling a funny joke—Make good art,” he told the attendees.

“For Elizabeth,” he continued, “making good art meant creating something of value, of meaning, of importance—it meant doing the extraordinary, if not the impossible—it meant changing the world. So to the mazing students here to be honored, whether your discipline is within the creative arts, humanities, sciences, or social sciences, within business, education, or health sciences; tonight in deference to Elizabeth, let us all share a common bond.”

President Fritz concluded his address by telling the attendees, “Tonight let us all be artists, let us share something of ourselves, and let us make good art.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9WAIy35rxQ[/youtube]Zawadzki, who is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and a double minor in Biochemistry and Chemistry, also earned the Biology Department Faculty Award for Academic Excellence.

During her remarks, she acknowledged “Many of us are afraid of the future. I know I still am. But I’ve learned that you shouldn’t let that fear stop you, and you definitely shouldn’t let it guide you,” adding “none of us know what will happen down the road, so just try finding what you are truly passionate about and give it your all.”

“Remember, there is nothing in this world that can limit you,” Zawadzki concluded. “We define our own limits, but the world knows no bounds. So let go. Go with the flow. Take it all in. Strive for greatness.”

Following the ceremony, the honored students, their families and friends, and staff attended a dessert reception in the Center for the Arts Atrium where they were able to celebrate their accomplishments at CSI.

[video] Meet Kawsar Ibrahim: 2015 Valedictorian and Commencement Speaker

Kawsar with a patient at the health clinic she helped set up with the Global Medical/Dental and Public Health Brigades in Panama (August 2014).

Kawsar Ibrahim, a student of the Macaulay Honors College, is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and minors in Biochemistry, Chemistry and Studio Art.

Kawsar’s parents originally emigrated from Egypt and settled in Brooklyn where Kawsar and her siblings were born. Their family moved to Staten Island about a decade ago, where she graduated as Valedictorian of Tottenville High School.

As a future physician and researcher, Kawsar has been conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Alejandra Alonso and Dr. Daniel McCloskey at the Center for Developmental Neuroscience. A recipient of the CSI Undergraduate Research Stipend, she studies Tau proteins as a treatment target for Alzheimer’s disease. She has presented her findings at various local, state and national conferences, including the prestigious 2014 Innovative Exploration Forum in Albany and the 2015 National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Washington State. Kawsar has also won awards two years in a row at the Macaulay Honors College Research Symposium and coauthored a publication in Neuroscience Bulletin.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc7T1gjZsds[/youtube]Kawsar has also been a volunteer and biomedical researcher at Staten Island University Hospital’s Heart Institute, where she contributed to research projects and gained insight shadowing cardiothoracic surgeons.

Last August, Kawsar served abroad in Panama with the Global Medical Brigades to bring medical/dental healthcare and education to under-served people. There she also helped build a compost latrine for a family of six as part of a public health initiative to support rural families.

Kawsar representing the College of Staten Island at the Spring 2014 Macaulay Honors College Open House as a student ambassador. (Photo Courtesy of Macaulay Honors College.)

In addition to participating in an indigenous welcoming ceremony while in Panama, Kawsar made Panamanian friends and met Fabian, a young boy who came to the clinic for a check-up.

“He was so excited that we had set up the clinic at his school and did not want to leave,” Kawsar reflects. “Seeing the excitement in his eyes, we gave him a stethoscope to put on. When he came up to me to “listen” to my heart, I remembered playing with my toy stethoscope as a child; so I too put my stethoscope on his chest. His heart was beating so fast that I felt it run through the chest piece and through my fingers—that’s when I knew that I had experienced what our brigade calls the heartbeat of the world.”

Outside of her scientific pursuits, Kawsar enjoys creating artwork through her painting. She also loves watching Arabic dramas, and, as a student ambassador, she represents CSI, mentors, and motivates prospective students to achieve their full potential.

This fall, Kawsar will be starting medical school at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine in pursuit of specializing in foot and ankle surgery.

[video] Meet Stephen Hongach and Abeer Husein: Verrazano School Senior Convocation Speakers

Abeer Husein, shown here in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, while teaching abroad during the summer of 2014, is a featured student speaker at the 2015 Verrazano School Honors Program Senior Convocation.

Abeer Husein is earning a History major with a concentration in Adolescent Education, and a minor in English Literature at the College of Staten Island. Abeer has interned with Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, served as an Art Assistant at Staten Island Museum through CUNY Service Corps, and has tutored at the YMCA after-school program and with CSI. She has conducted research with Dr. Brian Averbuch with the History Department on Oman and the term Indo-Pacific in historiography, and is completing a capstone research project on Gender Relations in Early Modern Witchcraft Cases, under the guidance of Dr. Catherine Lavender with the History Department and faculty director of the American Studies Program at CSI.

Her scholarship and achievement has been recognized by being named to the Dean’s list since 2011, being inducted into the Phi Alpha Theta Historical Honor Society, and receiving the United States Senate Award for Academic Achievement and the College of Staten Island Scholarship.

Abeer is the Historian for the Phi Alpha Theta Chapter at CSI, and was Vice President of Students for Justice in Palestine. She was able to travel to Turkey to teach English as part of the Arab American Leadership Initiative Foundation, and volunteers her Saturday nights to help serve over 1,000 homeless people at Penn Station through Muslims Giving Back. Abeer plans to teach social studies while completing a Master’s Degree in History at the College of Staten Island, and will pursue a doctoral degree in the future.

A finalist for the CSI Valedictorian title, she is graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Stephen Hongach is a featured student speaker at the 2015 Verrazano School Honors Program Senior Convocation.

Stephen Hongach is earning a Biology major and a Philosophy minor at the College of Staten Island. Stephen has been a research assistant with the New York Methodist Hospital Emergency Department, with the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU, and volunteered with Richmond University Medical Center.

His independent study work in the biology department led to collaborating with Dr. Charles Kramer with the Biology Department on a capstone research project examining whether rodlet cells are reliable biomarkers in Fundulus heteroclitus (a small fish).

Stephen has provided guidance to other students by serving as a Peer Mentor in the Biology department, and is a member of the Emerging Leaders Program and of the Pre-Med Society at CSI.

In addition to being on the Dean’s list since 2011, Stephen has been awarded the Student Government Academic Departmental Scholarship in Philosophy, the College of Staten Island Scholarship, and the Science & Technology, Expansion Via Applied Mathematics Scholarship. Stephen has worked as an EMT in Brooklyn, an experience which has informed his decision to pursue a master’s degree at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University before applying for a seat in medical school.