For Our Students

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many students and their families, some harder than others, and that’s where Student Emergency Relief has stepped in to help. To date, more than 200 students have been assisted with funds to help them persevere in school and in life to get through a time like no other. 

There has been an amazing response from our campus and alumni community to answer the call to help. Through your collective generosity, we have raised close to $32,000 when it was most needed, one gift at a time. 

The need is ongoing and there is still time to make your gift and be a part of the effort before the close of the fiscal year on June 30. If you haven’t had a chance to give yet, now is a good time to make a donation to Student Emergency Relief and make a greater impact for our students in need.

By Jennifer Lynch

Professor Albert Blank

It is with great sorrow that we announce to the College Community the passing of retired Professor Albert Blank. At the age of 95, Al Blank died peacefully at home in Pelham, NY on Wednesday, June 17.

A research professor in the Computer Science Department since 1993, he was instrumental in developing the Assistive Technology Computer Laboratory for Visually Impaired People. An applied mathematician, he did seminal work in optics, developing a theorem for binocular space perception. As Professor of Mathematics, he inspired students at NYU and Carnegie Mellon, headed a multi-year national study group that developed calculus courses for high school students, wrote a three-volume textbook on calculus, and in retirement, developed a computer-assisted tactile course for teaching calculus to the blind. He loved English Country dancing, served on the Board of the national society, and supported the growth of several local groups. He will be deeply missed by his wife, Nancy DeVore; daughters Sharon, Tamara, Deborah, and Irina (Caldwell); and his four grandchildren. 

A memorial event will be held in his honor at a later date.

By J. Michael Parrish

CSI Biology Professor Chang-Hui Shen Conducting Genetic Research on COVID-19, Collaborating with International Scientists

Dr. Chang-Hui Shen

Professor Chang-Hui Shen, who is also the Chair of CSI’s Department of Biology, is lending his expertise in the fight against COVID-19.

“My research focuses on understanding the mechanism of gene activation,“ Dr. Shen explains. “This is relevant not only to molecular biology but also to the field of biomedical research where current therapies are being used and developed that are specifically based on the regulation of gene expression. Since we are in the process of setting up the CSI Genomic Research Facility, we are also working with IBR [the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities] to develop projects to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19 virus) genome from nasal swab specimens to see if there is a correlation between the infection persistence and mutations in the virus genome, and to examine the role of exposure-induced perturbations in the respiratory microbiome and its contributions to COVID-19 susceptibility and disease progression.” Dr. Shen noted that he and the other researchers are working to secure funding for this research from New York State and the National Institutes of Health.

Recently, Dr. Shen participated in an international conference on COVID-19, Solidarity in Crisis: The Bridge to Bliss. Information Saves, Disinformation Kills, which was a virtual gathering of government officials, scientists, and influencers over 14 time zones and three continents to discuss the scientific and political implications of COVID-19. In addition, he conducted an interview with a Bulgarian television station.

Dr. Shen stated that he and a group of scientists from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, with whom he is researching the development of a biosensor to detect the presence of cell-damaging agents from chemical weapons, were selected to participate in the conference “because of our expertise in the development of biosensor and the genome research. We are developing a project to produce a device that can detect the presence of COVID-19 virus in the environment.” His research on COVID-19 susceptibility and disease progression was also a factor.

Presenting a PowerPoint presentation titled, “The World’s Preparedness for the COVID-19 Pandemic and the COVID-19 Disinformation during the Pandemic,” Dr. Shen discussed why governments around the world were blindsided by the pandemic, the role of disinformation in exacerbating the spread of the virus, the origin and emergences of the virus, and what governments can do to invest in preventing biological risks and creating emergency response measures.

In his presentation, he mentioned that it is possible that the COVID-19 virus went through the evolutionary pathway in animal hosts and acquired the key mutations that enabled it to adapt fully to humans, finally emerging as SARS-CoV-2 in humans. He added that determining the exact pattern and genomic ancestry of viral mutations is difficult, saying that it will be necessary to perform a far wider sampling of viral diversity in animal populations. Furthermore, studies into the history of respiratory infections can also give us more insight. With the most advanced equipment and technology, Dr. Shen emphasized that the CSI Genomic Research Facility is in the perfect position to resolve these COVID-19 mysteries.

There are a number of methods that governments can take to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19. According to Dr. Shen, these include:

1. Government investment on preventing biological risks – Prevention, detection, and reporting

Governments should take action to address health security risks. Leaders should closely coordinate and track health security investments to increase the capacity. Health security capacity in every country should be transparent and regularly measured.

We also need to recognize that science plays a very important role in protecting public health in the face of the pandemic. Governments must invest in the biological research. Governments’ scientific institutions should be led by experts protected from political influence. The goal is to create an environment in which physicians, scientists, and other experts are free to communicate evidence-based, factual information without fear of retaliation or retribution. Also, data sharing should be transparent and efficient so that we can prevent disinformation, which can delay the response and cause the damage.

2. Governments’ emergency response

Governments should improve or set up interlocking coordination among sectors so that we can improve the political system and increase government effectiveness. For example, operational links between security and public health authorities, in response to high-consequence biological events.

Countries should test their health security capacities on a regular basis. By holding regular simulation exercises, countries will learn whether they have a functioning system, and they can transparently demonstrate that their response capabilities can function in a crisis and can identify areas for improvement.

Dr. Shen also opined on what we can expect this fall. “The forecasts based on maximum and minimum social distancing efforts highlight the significant impact that policy has on disease spread. According to these forecasts, if the U.S. were to practice its maximum observed level of social distancing for even a few additional weeks, new cases would drop to a much lower level of around 2,000 cases per day by the end of September. On the other hand, a complete return to normalcy would cause cases to surge for about two months. After that initial surge, cases would again reach a long-term plateau, although this would occur at a level that was more than double what would be experienced under current social distancing levels. Therefore, it is inevitable that following a brief period of exponential growth in the beginning of or after reopening, we would expect new cases to quickly settle into a prolonged period of stable, slightly declining levels of disease spread,” Dr. Shen stated.

Paid Virtual Summer Internships

The Center for Career and Professional Development is excited to share an opportunity that was brought to us through the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. The NYC Digital Internship Initiative is a partnership between the Knowledge House, Student Dream, and Bloc.

The NYC Digital Internship Initiative will host 600+ virtual paid internships this summer. This is a three-part program consisting of:

·       Upskilling courses addressing digital skills

·       Putting skills into practice by working collaboratively on a project developing plug-ins for a community resources site

·       Externship where interns will meet leaders in the NY Tech industry

Students or recent alumni do not need any specific qualifications, but should be interested in the following career paths:

·       Software Development

·       Data Analytics

·       Digital Marketing

·       Product Management

·       Technical Customer Support

·       Contact Tracing

·       UX

Applications are open now, so we encourage students and recent alumni to apply as soon as possible.

Apply online.

The Program begins Wednesday, July 15 and runs through Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Please see the online flyer for more information.​

By Caryl Watkins

Why Do Black and Brown Children with Autism Go Overlooked?

SUM-CUNY –

Black and Hispanic children are often overlooked when it comes to autism spectrum disorder. Because they are more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder later in life, they usually miss out on chances for early intervention and adequate treatment. 

A new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders looks at why this is. Professor Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, Rita Obeid, and Sabine Saade (all of both the College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center), along with Alexandra Cosenza and Faith James (of CSI) worked to determine whether implicit or explicit racial bias played a part in why autism spectrum disorder may not be quickly identified in Black and Hispanic children. Read more at SUM-CUNY.

By SUM-CUNY

CSI Food Pantry – New Summer Hours of Operation

We hope that this message finds you well during this trying time. The Office of Student Life would like to remind you that the CSI Food Pantry will continue to be an available resource throughout the summer. If you or a student you know is having difficulties finding food to eat during this challenging time, CSI has a non-perishable Food Pantry that was created to help provide assistance for our students. Throughout the summer, the pantry remains available to our campus community by appointment only with new summer days and times.  

The NEW SUMMER Food Pantry APPOINTMENT HOURS will be from 10:30am to 1:00pm on TUESDAY’S and THURSDAY’S FOR THE REMAINDER of June AND ALL OF JULY. If you need to make an appointment, please fill out the online form and someone from the Office of Student Life will contact you. Please note, if the dates and times listed above do not work for your schedule or if you have any questions, please feel free to email us at studentlife@csi.cuny.edu

By the Division of Student Affairs

https://forms.gle/urVmvy3KQ6QcFH399

Faculty Center Info Hub (CSI): NEW Bb Basics Cohort and Updated Summer Virtual Drop-In Center Hours

Due to faculty requests for the new Blackboard Basics course, we have extended cohort availability into July. For those of you who would like to complete this prerequisite course but have not yet signed up, the dates for the two remaining cohorts are as follows: 

Cohort 7 – Begins on 6/29/2020, enrollment closing at 5:00pm; Friday, June 26

NEW JULY Cohort, Cohort 8 – Begins on Monday, July 13, enrollment closing at 5:00pm; Friday, July 10

If you would like to enroll in one of the above cohorts, please contact Kristen Lindtvedt at kristen.lindtvedt@csi.cuny.edu. 

Virtual Drop-in Center Hours for Week of Monday, June 22 to Friday, June 26:

Today marks the beginning of CSI’s four-day “Summer Schedule” work week. As a result, starting today, our Virtual Drop-in Center will be open from 4:00pm to 5:30pm daily, Monday to Thursday. Sessions can be accessed via the direct links below, or by using the Virtual Drop-in Center button located on the main page of the Faculty Center Info Hub (CSI) Bb Organization available to all teaching faculty at CSI. 

By Kristen Lindtvedt