Louis Petingi Receives 2016 International Conference on Computational Biology Best Paper Award

College of Staten Island professor Louis Petingi, PhD, has received the Best Paper Award of the International Conference on Computational Biology for 2016. Dr. Petingi’s paper, “A Graph-Theoretical Approach for Partitioning RNA Secondary Structures into Pseudonotted and Pseudoknot-free Regions,” was presented at the World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science Conference in San Francisco, Ca.

Dr. Petingi’s field of expertise is Graph Theory, one of the sub-fields of Mathematics. “This area of research has been applied to study systems that can be modeled as graphs, such as social, communication, chemical, and biological networks (e.g., DNA, RNA, protein networks). My research, until recently, was focused on the study of the reliability of communication networks (e.g., wireless, internet, satellite networks), but in 2013, I became very interested on Ribonucleic acid (RNA) prediction and structure,” noted Dr. Petingi, who also had the opportunity to write a paper in this area with Tamar Schlick, PhD, from the department of Mathematical Sciences of the Courant Institute, New York University.

“As RNA secondary structures can be represented as graphs, we found how well-known graph-theoretical algorithms can be applied to partition RNAs into basic regions and allow classification and identification of complex structures called Pseudoknots.  Pseudoknots are also identified using other computational techniques (e.g., dynamic programming), but Graph Theory offers a different perspective and an alternative research path to systematically investigate RNA structure,” explained Dr. Petingi, who began at CSI in 1998 as a tenured-track assistant professor of the Computer Science Department.

“This award not only honors Professor Petingi’s work, but it brings recognition to our university.  It is an example of the quality research done at CSI,” commented Vivian Incera, PhD, Professor of Physics and Dean of Science and Technology.

“From the beginning our research encountered many obstacles, since our methodology was relatively new to the scientific community as it does not belong to the traditional areas of Biology and Mathematics, but rather to the frontier of both fields. Consequently this award represents a recognition to a challenging research path,” Dr. Petingi said.

Michelle Kushnir ’17: Student Success On and Off the Court

Michelle Kushnir playing a doubles match during the CUNYAC Women's Tennis Championships in 2015.

As a star athlete, tech expert, and Macaulay Honors College (MHC) student, Michelle Kushnir ’17 may appear to have a full college plate. However, being captain of the College of Staten Island (CSI) Women’s Tennis Team, winning the 2015 CUNYAC Sportsmanship Player of the Year Award, and conducting data visualization research are just a few of this Computer Science major’s accomplishments.

Kushnir, who is minoring in Business and Mathematics and maintaining a 3.7 GPA, was also a member of the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), and has studied abroad and interned extensively.

The 21-year-old held a research assistant position for the CUNY High-Performance Computing Center, working with Michael Kress, PhD; Jonathan Peters, PhD; and Nora Santiago on analyzing public data such as taxicab and land use data. She is currently a research assistant for the Engineering Science and Physics Department, working with Dwight Richards, PhD, on improving the audience experience at cyber defense competitions using data visualization.

With the ELP, Kushnir volunteered at food drives for Project Hospitality and the CSI Food Pantry. She also traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, taking a course in Danish Greenspace, and recently studied Japanese business and culture in Tokyo, Japan.

The Eltingville resident’s internship experience includes positions at Princeton SciTech as a Website developer, and at UBS as a Technical Business Analyst in the Business Intelligence Department, where she will return to this summer.

Michelle Kushnir studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Take every opportunity handed to you. Even if it doesn’t fit exactly what you want to do, take it, because you’ll never know who you’ll meet or where that opportunity will take you next, “commented Kushnir, who graduated from Tottenville High School, where she was a student in the Classics Institute.

Born in Brooklyn, Kushnir plans to pursue a graduate degree in Information Systems Management, with concentrations in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics.

“Students in college should always explore a wide range of interests; Michelle has explored – and excelled – about as widely as anyone possibly can! She’s intensely driven to succeed in everything she does – while at the same time being fun-loving, deeply thoughtful, generous, and kind.  It has been a privilege to have her as a student in my class and as a member of the CSI community,” said Charles Liu, PhD, Director of MHC and the Verrazano School. Kushnir was a student in Dr. Liu’s HON 223 seminar, “Science and Technology in New York.”

“I am grateful to the Macaulay Honors College staff, specifically Lisa French, Anita Romano, and Dr. Charles Liu who all provided so much guidance for me throughout my four years at CSI. They truly care about their students, and were there for me whenever I needed their help,” said Kushnir.

CSI Alumnus Ilir Sela Showcases New Pizza App

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE – New Dorp resident Ilir Sela, 36, grew up surrounded by friends and family members in the pizza business. His parents and grandparents, owed Charlie’s Pizza in Manhattan during the 1970s, and he has many friends who have owned or still own pizzerias on Staten Island.

He was always a tech savvy student from a young age. This led Sela to pursue a bachelor of science degree in computer science from the College of Staten Island. For the early part of his career, he designed websites for small businesses in the borough.

As the tech-guru among his friends and family, he would often be asked for ideas to better reach customers in the digital age.

So five years ago he developed MyPizza.com, a business that allows people to order pizza online from a local pizzeria.

“The first 30 or so customers I had were through friends and family on Staten Island. I ended up developing over 3,000 relationships with pizza restaurants throughout the country,” said Sela.

“I started this really genuinely wanting to help people. … Last year, I reached out to one of the founding members of Seamless, a website that allows you to order food from nearby restaurants online. They immediately opened the door for me and introduced me to their network,” he added.


But that wasn’t enough. The digital age is rapidly progressing and people are doing more today through phone apps than their desktop computers or laptops. Plus, Sela was tired of seeing people opt for “convenience over quality.”

“It’s easier for people to just order from Dominos because they would download the app on their phone; I wanted them to be able to do the same with local businesses,” he said.

“On Staten Island we realize how big the pizza industry is; it’s a $40 billion a year industry. It’s kind of like a tug of war between locals and independents and (chains like) Dominos,” added Sela.

So he used his technical background and large array of connections in the pizza and food business to develop Slice, an app you can download onto your iPhone, so you can order pizza instantly with a tap on your screen. (An Android app will be available soon).

“The Slice app helps consumers order and reorder from their favorite pizzerias and we have made it super simple to do that and we’ve also brought world class technology to these mom and pop stores,” said Sela, noting Apple Pay, cash or credit cards are acceptable methods for paying for your order through the app, which was launched last week.

The app allows you to choose a local pizzeria by your location or you can search for your favorite, he said.

“The app is built around loyalty. It’s built around helping customers order and reorder from their local pizzeria. We have made it supper simple to do that,” said Sela.

“You can also order from the rest of the menu. You can order pizza, salad, pasta,” he added.

With 6,000 pizzerias available through the app, Sela said he is adding new restaurants every day.



New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island businesses owners. 

If you have a new business on Staten Island, e-mail porpora@siadvance.com.


This article by Tracey Porpora was first published Oct. 20, 2016 on www.silive.com.  It is reprinted here with permission.



Verrazano Student Finding the Right Academic Frequency

Sidhartha Mishra gearing up for research outside the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan.

Tuning in to the College of Staten Island’s (CSI) state-of-the-art technology, dedicated professors, and the helping hands of The Verrazano School, Sidhartha Mishra ’17 is certainly operating on the right wavelength. The Computer Science major, who is minoring in Mathematics, is currently researching Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) Communication Protocols for use in security and privacy issues. Mishra is gearing up for his Verrazano Senior Capstone Thesis, “A Study of RFID Communication and Security,” which he will be presenting at the Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) in Spring 2017. The Verrazano student also gave an oral presentation at the 2015 URC.

“My research involves the study of Radio Frequency Identification Technology communication protocols. This technology is being used in various industries, and these communication protocols define the schemes that provide the basis for communication between the RFID tag(s) and reader(s). For my research, I am analyzing these protocols for security issues and concerns, and writing code to simulate them,” noted Mishra, a graduate of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Curtis High School, who maintains a 3.636 GPA at CSI.

“Sidhartha is far more than merely a super-talented techno-wiz. He is friendly and gracious, and he is a greatly valued and appreciated member of the Verrazano School community,” noted Dr. Charles Liu, Director of the Macaulay Honors College and The Verrazano School at CSI.

Mishra on Roosevelt Island.

Twenty-two-year-old Mishra was born in India and moved to the United States at age 11.  He was first inspired to study RFID technology while taking the Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar with Professor Bilge Yesil, after reading Professor Xiaowen Zhang’s paper on the subject.  Zhang became his mentor for the RFID research project and also recommended that the student take a course on mobile development offered by Google. The four-week course at The Graduate Center of  The City University of New York (CUNY) provided an introduction to android development using Java as the programming language on the Android Studio platform.

Mishra is currently participating in a virtual internship as a Web content manager for a Yoga studio and also tutors in the Computer Science Department. The Staten Island resident plans to pursue a graduate degree in Computer Science and is currently exploring graduate schools.

Mishra urges budding researchers and peers, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Explore options and opportunities that may help you get the most out of your college career.”





[gallery] Dr. Michael Kress Honored at Symposium

John Verzani, Michael Kress, Subha Abdallah, and Paul Muzio at the Symposium in Honor of the Scientific Contributions of Dr. Michael Kress.

In 1985, a dedicated professor helped a young Computer Science major secure her first job. An alumna of the College of Staten Island and now a successful Staten Island entrepreneur, Subha Abdallah was one of more than 150 friends, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrators gathered at the Symposium in Honor of the Scientific Contributions of Dr. Michael Kress.

“He was amazing; he was helpful; he was approachable. He made you want to work with him,” said Abdallah, a small business owner from Elm Park.

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The Symposium took place in the Center for the Arts with a program of accomplished researchers, colleagues, and professionals discussing a vast array of projects. The evening culminated in a dinner at the Vanderbilt at South Beach that drew a crowd of more than 130 guests who were eager to share in the honoring of and farewell to Dr. Kress.

“It’s just special to not only be with people I worked with years ago but to share with the College community what they have accomplished with such a broad spectrum of applications,” Dr. Kress said.  He noted such aspects as using the Supercomputer to better understand how to make Staten Island a safer place, making direct reference to the Symposium’s segment on “Modeling and Simulation of Storm Surge on Staten Island.” The segment was delivered by CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz, Engineering Science and Physics Lecturer Dr. Alan Benimoff, and the CUNY Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center’s (HPCC) Parallel Applications Specialist Dr. Eugene Dzedits. This presentation, as well as “Go to High Ground,” delivered by Research Scientist Caitlyn Nichols and Research Assistants Jennifer Freund and Shenuque Tissera, discussed studies on Superstorm Sandy and how to make Staten Island safer in the event of another devastating storm.

Dr. Fritz stressed that the Symposium “is celebrating more than supercomputing as we celebrate Dr. Kress’s contributions to the College. He brought multidisciplinary teams together while other centers typically focus on a single discipline. There are a lot of respected speakers here and this reflects the admiration Kress has earned from faculty, staff, students, and administrators.”

CUNY Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Gillian Small noted “one reason Mike Kress is such a success is that he considers himself a scientist and a researcher first.” Dr. Small commended Dr. Kress for being “a class act.”

The program began with welcoming remarks from Erica Zito’12, a teacher at Questa High School in New Mexico.

Hearsay Cart, LLC co-owners Maryellen Smolka and Nicole Dory next presented on “Voice to Text” with John Bouma, Director of CUNY Network Services. Outlining the history of Communications Access Real-time Translation (CART) services beginning with the initial establishment of the Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Smolka and Dory thanked Dr. Kress for his consistent support of CART services at CUNY, including his efforts to secure initial funding for the Center.

Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Dr. Albert A. Blank and Director of CUNY Computer Center for Visually Impaired People Dr. Karen Gourgey also spoke about “Calculus for the Blind.”

The keynote address, “The World of Big Data,” was given by Dr. Richard Murphy, Senior Advanced Memory Systems Architect at Micron Technology Inc., Dram Solutions Group. “This is an exciting place to be,” commented Murphy, an expert in his field, focused on future memory platforms, including processing-in-memory, at the Idaho-based company.

After breaking for a brief lunch, Dr. Fritz addressed the crowd in the Lecture Hall and reflected on technology’s past, from older computers to the complex and high-speed devices of today. Dr. Small as well as CUNY President and Chief Executive Officer of the Research Foundation Dr. Richard Rothbard and CUNY Vice Chancellor (VC) and University Chief Information Officer (CIO) Brian Cohen also gave comments and thanked Dr. Kress for his years of service. Focusing on the futuristic HPCC, Dr. Rothbard commented that, “None of this would have happened without the leadership and vision of Mike Kress.”

VC Cohen recalled his first meeting with Dr. Kress in 2001 when the two toured the then new CSI Willowbrook campus. At the time, VC Cohen asked Dr. Kress what he could do for Dr. Kress and the College. He chuckled when he retold Dr. Kress’s retort: “Stay out of my way,” Kress had said.

After Kress’s efforts in establishing the HPCC as well as all of his accomplishments in higher education and beyond, VC Cohen reflected and confirmed that, “You were right that we should stay out of your way. You are a visionary; you are a scholar; you are a mentor. You’ve mentored old CIOs, new CIOs, and this CIO.”.

Later in the program, Dr. Jonathan Peters, Accounting and Finance Professor at CSI, and Dr. Hyoung Suk Shim, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Finance at The Graduate Center, CUNY, presented on “NYC Taxi Rides.”

An informative presentation entitled “Naked Mole Rats” was led by CSI professors Dr. Susan Imberman, Associate Professor of Computer Science, and Dr. Edward Meehan, Professor of Psychology. Dan McCloskey, Associate Professor of Psychology, was not in attendance, but he provided a video recording of some of his work with naked mole rats.

Dr. William Grossmann, Dr. Kress’s professor and mentor in 1968, also sent a videotape from his home in Berlin. Dr. Grossmann reflected on the 1130 Scientific Computer at Richmond College as well as Grossman’s  scientific accomplishments at the Courant Institute at New York University and the Science Application International Corporation as a research scientist in computational magneto fluid dynamics.

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology Dr. Sonia Ragir discussed “Learning as an Evolutionary Force: A Simulation, and the “Little Fe Cluster Computer” presenters included HPC Systems Architect for CUNY’s HPCC Michael Constantino, Assistant Networking Engineer at CSI Jonathan Parziale, CSI Research Assistant Timothy Smolka, and CSI Adjunct Lecturer in Mathematics Daniel Kurzwell.

Paul Munzio, Director of CUNY’s Interdisciplinary HPCC, presented on the evolution of computers in “CSI Computers.”

To further celebrate Dr. Kress’s distinguished career and years of outstanding service to CSI and Staten Island, a scholarship fund has been established in his honor. The Michael Kress Scholarship Fund in Interdisciplinary Computer Science will be a merit-based scholarship, supporting outstanding students in interdisciplinary fields as they relate to computational study.


Mahwish Razi: China, guys, China!

Mahwish Razi ’18, a Verrazano student, is a Computer Science major with minors in Chinese and Political Science. Not only does she study broadly, she travels broadly! Here she shares here experiences on a winter study abroad in China (and elsewhere!).

Three countries, one month, and I am officially back and labeled, “Miss traveled the world”.  I spent three weeks living and studying in Shanghai, China, four days touring Tokyo, and one week on vacation in Dubai this past winter break. I came back Sunday night and in only a few hours was back on the CSI campus. Jetlagged? Like never before. Culture shocked? Well, only the fourth time in four weeks.

Both China and Japan were at the top of my bucket list, Japan above China even. Studying abroad for me was my lifelong dream; however, when I began college, it was almost a joke. As soon as I entered the Verrazano program, there was all this talk about studying abroad and I was constantly asked if it was in my plans, and I’d respond each time saying, “Yes!” while thinking to myself, “If only.”  It’s almost funny when I figured it out; the only thing holding me back really was myself. I’d always find myself wandering into the international center whether it was for an event or to inquire about one, when I finally decided to just get that application and go.
And so I went… It was the best decision I’ve ever made. On the way to Shanghai, we stopped in Japan as it was a connection flight, and although we didn’t leave the airport, I was fascinated beyond imagination. Those Japanese toilets were something, and I remember telling my friends how I wished we came to study abroad in Japan instead of China. However, it wasn’t long before I’d be whining about not leaving Shanghai and coming up with plans to live my life out there.

Shanghai became, in just three weeks, home. My friends became my family and although my tones were off and half the time I was speaking in Chinglish, I came to a point where all I wanted to do was speak Chinese. I find myself nostalgic about everything there. There is not a single thing that I don’t miss. My friends hated being pushed into the trains, but I, for one, loved it. Yes, ask me anything about China and I will say I loved it. It was nothing like what I imagined going there. I thought I’d be going to a bigger Chinatown; I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a place with the most amazing infrastructure; I almost thought I was in the future. With such advanced technology and architecture, this was also a place rich in culture and cuisine. Although most shops were closed for breakfast, watching the early groups enjoy tai chi and the calligraphy being painted on the park tiles filled me up right to the brim.

I still can’t believe I went to China and I couldn’t believe it there either. I’d probably say it five times a day, if not more, “Guys can you believe we’re in China? China guys, China!” and towards the end I changed it up a bit: “Guys can you believe we’re leaving? We’re leaving China guys, China, aren’t you super duper sad?” Travelling to China was definitely an experience that changed my life for the better and gave me clarity as to where I need to be headed with my future goals. I think if anything, I have been blessed for this opportunity and for the friends that became so dear to me. Xièxiè for everything China and to everyone that helped me reach such an amazing place.


To read more about exciting exploration, visit The Verrazano Voyager homepage.