College of Staten Island (CSI) alumna Viktoriya Morozova ’15 has been asked to speak at The New York Academy of Sciences. The event, “Targeting Tau in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders,” on March 13, is presented by the Brain Dysfunction Discussion Group.
Morozova is a student in the Master’s Program in the Center for Developmental Neuroscience at CSI. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and, in 2013, joined the lab of Alejandra Alonso, PhD, studying the mechanism of neuronal loss in Alzheimer’s disease as a function of tau expression. Morozova has been awarded first place in the Graduate Conference on Research and Scholarship. Her current focus in the lab is to analyze the prion-like propagation of tau in culture and in a mouse model of tauopathy.
A City University of New York (CUNY)-affiliated clinical-stage neurotechnology company has been named as the Recipient of the Universal Biotech Innovation Prize 2016 in the global competition that offers “a glimpse of the future of life sciences.” The company, PathMaker Neurosystems (“PathMaker”), has exclusively licensed intellectual property from CUNY developed by neuroscientist Zaghloul Ahmed, PhD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Physical Therapy, College of Staten Island and Professor of Neuroscience, Center for Developmental Neuroscience and CUNY Graduate Center.
As PathMaker’s scientific founder, Dr. Ahmed commented, “We are very pleased to see the international recognition that our groundbreaking technology and world-class team at PathMaker is getting. We are working to bring the novel treatments enabled by our technology to patients as rapidly as possible.”
Are parents the ones who should be willing and able to provide sex education for their children? Is your favorite restaurant a healthy and safe choice of eatery?
These are just some of the questions addressed at this year’s first annual Graduate Research Conference (GRC) at the College of Staten Island (CSI). For the first time in CSI history, graduate students were invited to share their research and scholarship at a conference that took place at CSI’s Center for Performing Arts on May 12. The program outlined 14 oral presentations, (moderated by Professors Wei Zhang, Soon Ae Chun and William L”Amoreux) and 45 poster presentations by more than 70 CSI students.
The GRC was coordinated by Maureen Becker, Interim Founding Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Lynne Lacomis, and Joanne DeLucrezia. Dean Becker was extremely proud of the inaugural event commenting that “we far surpassed our expectations in terms of the number and caliber of participants.”
“No matter what the topic, the presenters were all so engaging, so well prepared and experts on their topic areas” said Dean Becker, adding that all schools and divisions were represented at the Conference, which attracted more than 400 people.
Some notable posters included those by Junaid Qaiser, Kaushiki Chatterjee, Randy B. Topper, and Andrew Mancuso.
Qaiser’s presentation “Smart ‘Healthy’ City Decision Support with New York City Restaurant Inspection Results” analyzed a list of restaurants inspected in a given timeframe in order to address policy making decisions for the city government and to provide information on the health status of restaurants. Qaier’s facuty mentor is Professor Soon Ae Chun.
Chatterjee’s poster “Effects of Resveratol and Pterostilbene on Human Cervical Cancer Cells” studied the effects of two polyphenols, Resveratol and Pterostilbene, on cervical cancer cells. Professor Jimmie Fata serves as Chatterjee’s faculty mentor.
“To What Extent Are Parents Willing and Able to Give Their Children Accurate Comprehensive Sex Education?” was the poster presentation created by Randy B. Topper who looked at specific data showing to what extent parents are the appropriate individuals to communicate information on sex education to their children. Professor Barbra Teater is Topper’s faculty mentor.
Mancuso created two posters. One in collaboration with Chatterjee and Kamia Punia was titled “Delivering Phytochemical Therapeutics through Polymer Nanofibers.” The group created specific nano fibers to use as an implant for the treatment of cervical cancer and antimicrobial infections. The faculty mentor for this group is Professor Krishnaswami Raja.
Mancuso, with faculty mentor Professor Raja, also presented on “Novel Polymer Micro-Structures for Drug Delivery Produced by Solution Blow-spinning.” Utilizing the blow-spinning process to create nano fibers in this project allowed greater control over the fabrication process.
The Conference culminated in an awards ceremony in which three of the best poster and oral presenters were selected by audience members. The “People’s Choice Awards” winners are listed below. Each winner received $50 gift card.
Best Poster Presentations
Tied for First Place:
Student: Viktoriya Morozova
Mentor: Professor Alejandra Alonso
Title: “Uptake of Tau Proteins by HEK Cells”
Student: Carla Ann Kostandy
Mentor: Professor June Como
Title: “Diabetes in a Nutshell: A Clinical Nurse Specialists’ Education Project for Healthcare Personnel”
Student: Jennifer Williams
Mentor: Professor Eric Ivison
Title: “A Double Spouted Jar of the Chimu Culture in the Pre-Columbian Collection of the Staten Island Museum”
Best Oral Presentations (one from each room)
Student: Lauren Scott
Mentor: Professor Judit Kerekes
Title: “Heterogeneous Cooperative Learning and Its Effects on Students’ Understanding of Multi-step Mathematical Word Problems”
Students (group presentation): Christina Gioeli, Kerry McPartlan, Emily Reid, Matthew Turturro
Mentor: Professor Wei Zhang
Title: “Multi-Digit Coordination in Absence of Cutaneous Sensory Feedback During Grasping Tasks”
Student: Maiara Bollauf
Mentor: Professor Vinay Vaishampayan
Title: “Communication Complexity of the Closest Lattice Point Problem”
Over the course of the past year, College of Staten Island (CSI) graduate student Alan Wood ‘15 has donated almost 200 hours of his time to Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) North. Recognized among college volunteers for “going above and beyond in his volunteer duties,” the Master of Science in Neuroscience and Developmental Disorders candidate is a participant in the CSI Bell Hop/Patient Liaison Program at the Hospital’s Neurology unit.
“I am participating in this program because it opens up a door to reach out to others in need, explore potentials, and be introduced to the practical realities of the medical field and hospital life,” said Wood, noting that it is “an excellent way to give back to the community.”
Through the volunteer program, sponsored by CSI, under the supervision of the Patient Care Unit Manager or Nurse Manager of each unit, the volunteer acts as a liaison between the patient, family members, and staff. The liaison reinforces the strategies of the SIUH Service Excellence Program as well as the Culture of Care program and serves as a conduit through which patients, family members, visitors, and other customers are able to seek assistance by communicating unmet needs.
Bell Hops work closely with staff, managers, and physicians in order to improve customer satisfaction. Other duties include preparing patients for meals, assisting with feeding under the supervision of primary nurse, and assisting in transporting or escorting patients who are being discharged to the lobby.
“The Bell Hop/Patient Liaison program was created to provide college students, who are interested in healthcare, with access and exposure to the healthcare setting, to healthcare professionals, as well as to patients. It’s the best of both worlds and it’s a win-win for SIUH, the students, and our patients,” commented SIUH Manager of Volunteer Services Toni Arcamone.
CSI’s Career Center has been an integral part in this successful partnership between the College and SIUH. Director Caryl Watkins is impressed with the interest that the Program has generated among CSI students, noting that more than 65% of program participants are enrolled CSI students. Other participants include students from other CUNY schools and Wagner College.
“This volunteer internship program provides a wonderful opportunity for our students who are interested in the healthcare field, allowing them to work alongside medical professionals in a hospital setting,” commented Watkins.
Kristi Nielson, Career Assistant at the Center, added that the Program “provides students with a professional experience that links academic coursework to the disciplines that a student may want to pursue for a career.”
According to Arcamone, in 2014, SIUH welcomed 83 total Bell Hops, with 58 being CSI students. In 2015, SIUH welcomed 91 bell hops, with 63 being CSI students. An additional 35 CSI students have started the application process.
The initiative is a rotational program that allows volunteers to work with doctors, nurses, patients, and families in many units including Outpatient Care, Oncology, Critical Care, and Medical/Surgical units. Junior- and senior-level students in the sciences are encouraged to participate, particularly those seeking résumé-building skills that will make their medical and dental school applications more competitive and for those seeking fellowships or scholarships that require previous volunteer work or experience in the health field.
Wood, who received his undergraduate degree at CSI, majoring in Biology and minoring in Italian, expects to graduate from the Master’s program in May 2017. Wood reflects, “Throughout my involvement in this program, I am learning how to be actively engaged in making a difference in the lives of many people, networking skills, and how to exercise personal responsibility in what I have to do. There are many avenues where this program may lead depending on availability, location of service, personal talents, and more; and freedom to lend a hand increases as personal responsibility is demonstrated.”
President Barack Obama named College of Staten Island (CSI) Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Daniel McCloskey a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, granting him the U.S. government’s highest award for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.
Dr. McCloskey, who is one of 105 researchers awarded this national distinction, was selected for his research that combines “modeling, neurophysiology, and systems biology/network science that will transform the field of social neuroscience by providing a comprehensive approach towards understanding the role of neuropetides in complex behavioral systems,” according to the National Science Foundation (NSF).
“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people.” The purpose of the award is to encourage and accelerate American innovation to grow the economy and tackle the country’s greatest challenges.
“I am humbled to receive this recognition,” commented Dr. McCloskey. “It represents the hard work, creativity, and support from a team of students and colleagues who share my enthusiasm. I am also proud that our efforts have been considered ‘promising’ by the White House, as this confidence recognizes the progressive combination of resources and brain power at CSI to not only conduct cutting-edge research, but also to see it succeed. We look forward to delivering on that promise, by continuing to find new approaches to study the social brain.”
Dr. McCloskey will deliver on that promise by studying the African Naked Mole-rat, a unique and highly social fossorial rodent, and harnessing the power of the Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center on the College’s campus, one of the region’s most powerful supercomputers. The computer center allows Dr. 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. The animals are implanted with transponders similar to the ones used to pay tolls on bridges. Each time an animal passes through a tube with a sensor, the identity, location, and time of that event is stored in a database that receives hundreds of thousands of events each day. Analysis of these large datasets requires the power of a high-performance computer to manage them and ask questions about animal behavior. In this manner, insights into the organized social community will help the researchers to understand how individual differences in social behavior are influenced by physiological and environmental factors and understand the role of social behavior brain systems in health, as well as develop deeper insights into diseases such as epilepsy and autism.
The complex research being conducted “includes researchers from postdoctoral scientists to high school students, and all levels in between,” Dr. McCloskey notes with pride.
“The College of Staten Island has received numerous national accolades this year highlighting the transformative educational opportunities provided to our students and the professional prospects of our alumni,” noted Dr. William J. Fritz, President of the College of Staten Island and Fellow of the Geological Society of America. “Dr. McCloskey’s recognition by the National Science Foundation and President Obama is a testament to the high-caliber research that our students are exposed to in Dr. McCloskey’s lab, and indicative of the overall cutting-edge research being conducted at CSI. I extend my sincerest congratulations to Dr. McCloskey and his research team.”
“Dan McCloskey is a CSI faculty superstar who is deserving of this enormous honor in every way,” added Dr. Gary W. Reichard, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at CSI. “He not only conducts highly significant, cutting-edge research with real-world implications, but also serves as a mentor and role model daily for undergraduates and graduate students alike. We are proud of him, and deeply grateful for his contributions to science and to our students.”
Dr. McCloskey is one of 21 Presidential Award recipients whose research was nominated by the NSF. Foundation Director France Córdova congratulated the “teacher-scholars who are developing new generations of outstanding scientists and engineers and ensuring this nation is a leading innovator. I applaud these recipients for their leadership, distinguished teaching, and commitment to public outreach.” Dr. McCloskey was awarded a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the NSF in 2012, one of approximately 500 nationwide.
The White House will hold a spring ceremony recognizing the honorees.
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.
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.
Since 1987, a group of exceptional faculty from multiple disciplines has been working at The Center for Developmental Neuroscience and Developmental Disabilities (CDN) at the College of Staten Island in order to understand the etiology of mental diseases, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and other brain diseases as well as to provide outstanding education to undergraduate and graduate students.
In 2002, the professors of the CDN established the Master’s program in Neuroscience and Developmental Disabilities with the idea of increasing the opportunities of higher education for Staten Island students interested in the neurological aspects of disease.
Since the program’s inception, more than 450 have enrolled in the Master’s in Neuroscience, consequently having an extremely positive impact on the community. The program allowed numerous students to continue with their education in healthcare (MD, dentistry, nursing) at the doctoral level, or to directly enter the job market at local Staten Island institutions dedicated to assisting people with disabilities such as Eden II, The G.R.A.C.E Foundation, and Staten Island University Hospital. Very successful scientists have started their careers with the Master’s in Neuroscience program. These remarkable professionals are now at CUNY, SUNY Downstate, Harvard University, University of Chicago, Washington University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Albert Einstein College, MIT, University of San Francisco, Stanford University, NYU, and the New York State Institute for Basic Research (IBR). Among these professionals, who had their start at the CDN, is Dr. Zaghloul Ahmed, who is now a Professor in Physical Therapy and also Dr. Abdeslem El-Idrissi, who is now the Chair of the Department of Biology at CSI. More recently, Jasmen Khan, a 2014 graduate, became the Science Outreach Coordinator at Rockefeller University. In fact, the CDN boasts the largest number of Neuroscience Doctoral students in the entire CUNY system, and offers the only Neuroscience Master’s program with emphasis on developmental and intellectual disabilities in the country.
Another remarkable success story is that of Antony Castiello, a Master in Neuroscience graduate who is currently doing research as an ad honorem volunteer in Dr. Dan McCloskey’s and Dr. Sebastien Poget’s labs at the CDN.
Like most students working with CDN faculty, Castiello performs his research because of his passion for neuroscience—without any promise of monetary gain. He is a native Staten Islander who graduated from Tottenville High School in 2003 and enrolled at CSI to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Science[TM1] and Economics, which he received in 2007. After a two-year hiatus, he chose to pursue the Master’s degree in Neuroscience at the CDN,which he finished in 2012. Castiello has a very personal motivation and interest in neuroscience that goes beyond the desire for a job. He has been working tirelessly to understand the chemical and physiological changes underlying Asperger Syndrome because he has been diagnosed with this syndrome. Dedicated students like Castiello and passionate faculty make the CDN one of the most unique research centers in the country.
When applying to the Master’s program, Castiello wrote: “I want to study neuroscience to use my knowledge of biology and psychology to find ways to alter the chemicals in the brains of people with Asperger’s so they can function as normal individuals and succeed in life.”
He also quoted that his Asperger’s would be a great help for his research because he could devote as much time to studying since he does not have a social life.
In May of 2013, Castiello published his thesis entitled Developmental Hypothyroidism Effects on Dopamine 2 Receptors in the Dorsal Striatum in Adult Rats. During his research, he discovered that “there are hormonal sexual differences between males and females with Asperger.”
Recently, Maria Saldarriaga, a young woman who is highly motivated to understand what progressive supranuclear palsy has done to her body and her brain, applied to the Center and has been accepted as a Master’s student in Neuroscience. In her letter to the Admissions Committee, Saldarriaga referred to herself as a “Renaissance woman” due to the fact that she has “adapted various coping mechanisms to deal with the challenges I have faced, both psychologically and physically.” She also explained that she is “still curious to this day to explore on an exterior scientific level my anomalies. This is my motivation to understand what makes me different—this will allow me to embrace, understand, and work with my challenges instead of fearing them. Neuroscience will give me the tools to discover more about my ailments and to the use that knowledge to provide a better quality of life for myself and others.”
One of the most important aspects of this Master’s program at the CDN is the amount of scientific research that students conduct under mentor supervision and the numerous laboratory skills they acquire–skills that easily transfer into any other research settings. Students conduct at least two semesters of research followed by a public defense of their data in front of a panel of professors. These practical skills are one of the keys of the success of the Master’s program in Neuroscience at CSI. However, all this training in active neuroscience laboratories conducting experiments has a high cost. The cost of covering the students’ research projects comes mostly from funds awarded to the professors at the CDN and funds from local foundations and institutions. Dr. Alejandra Alonso, the Director of the CDN and coordinator of the Master’s program, explained that Center faculty are also working on incorporating professional certifications and a Professional Science Master’s program to give students even more qualifications that would allow them to better fit in the job market. Leonardo Pignataro, Academic Affairs Specialist at the CDN, explained that it is paramount to “keep the research laboratory classes so the students acquire practical skills.” Unfortunately, the recent economic downturn has reduced funding and has affected tremendously the number of funded projects awarded to CDN professors, which in turn, has negatively impacted the amount of funding available for students like Castiello or Saldarriagato carry out their research projects. This can cause a ripple effect where the lack of funding can be detrimental to research and education that has a positive impact not only on the Staten Island or the NYC community, but potentially on anyone who might one day benefit from the research being done at the CDN. Center faculty members are certain that training students in neuroscience fosters intellectual potential that will work toward solving mental disorders that burden our community in the future. “The solution to autism, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, or neurodegeneration might come from work done by one of our students” said Dr. Alejandra Alonso.
The CDN has been reaching out to several organizations, as well as alumni and other private donors in order to bolster funding for the program. The scientific and cultural impact that the program has and will continue to have on the Staten Island community is immeasurable, but the Center must rely on these critical donations to help fund this important program.
After eight months of renovation and expansion, the College of Staten Island’s Advanced Imaging Facility (AIF) reopened recently with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included CSI Interim President Dr. William J. Fritz, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Fred Naider, and Dean of Science and Technology Dr. Alex Chigogidze. AIF Director and Professor of Biology Dr. William L’Amoreaux also conducted a tour of the facility for the assembled faculty and students.
The upgrades to the AIF, which included a nearly doubling of the floor space and increased the number of rooms in the suite from six to 13, showcases the over $3 million in equipment housed in the facility. Included in the inventory are an X-ray microanalysis system to identify which elements are present in samples, and a confocal microscope to provide detail into subcellular structures. These instruments were funded through two National Science Foundation grants in the amounts of $227,000 and $480,000.
Before he cut the ribbon to open the AIF, Dr. Fritz commented that the facility “is one of signature parts of the campus. We have lots of gems on campus, but certainly, the Imaging Facility ranks right up there at the top.”
Dr. Naider stated, in his remarks, that “there are so many fields today in science that are dependent on imaging. They go from structural biology to cell biology to material science to nanoscience…I think what’s exciting is that I look around this room and see biologists, biochemists, polymer chemists, people who are all doing different types of science who are going the benefit from having this particular facility.”
According to Dr. L’Amoreaux, “The facility, which is a core facility for faculty at CSI, is available for use by investigators from all CUNY and non-CUNY campuses. It houses a transmission and a scanning electron microscope, the confocal laser scanning microscope, an atomic force microscope, a live-cell imager, flow cytometer, fluorescence-activated cell sorter, and a host of ancillary equipment for specimen preparation.”
As far as the applications and reach of the AIF are concerned, Dr. L’Amoreaux explained that it “provides high-resolution imaging equipment for the analysis and characterization of specimens. These specimens range from nanostructured materials to complex polymers to biological cells and tissues. These resources are available to all CSI faculty, and their graduate students and post-doctoral students. What makes the CSI AIF unique is that students in high school and undergraduates may use equipment that are either unavailable to them as undergraduates (they must wait until graduate school) or not available at all.”
The AIF is also unique, according to Dr. L’Amoreaux, because it is “a core facility that houses all the instruments, and under one director. At other colleges, they may have a transmission electron microscope in Biology, and scanning electron microscope in Geology, and atomic force microscope in Physics, but we have had the foresight to house these together. City College of New York’s new Advanced Science Research Center will adopt this to some extent, but will have different managers for different equipment.”
Looking to the future of the AIF, Dr. L’Amoreaux not only emphasizes the impact that it will have on research, but on education on the Island. “The future plans for the facility are to provide our world-class faculty with the tools needed to further their research, but also to use this as a recruiting tool to retain Staten Island’s best high school students. To this day…I am still amazed at the number of students from Staten Island that matriculated at either a SUNY or even another CUNY campus who have come out to take a course only to find that the resources that they were looking for in the pursuit of a degree were closer to home than expected.”