Stony Brook University

Marchers made sure the #MeToo conversation continues on campus.

Student Aleeza Kazmi, one of the approximately 250 marchers at Stony Brook University Feb. 28, said the mission of the event was to show support for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, and to request the university increase preventative measures and provide more assistance for survivors.

Kazmi said it’s important for the university’s administration to respond to the requests, especially with Stony Brook being a HeForShe 10×10×10 IMPACT school. The university is one of 10 schools involved in the UN Women initiative, the United Nations gender equality entity that aims to engage men and boys to encourage the empowerment of women. The student said the university needs to do more for sexual abuse survivors.

“HeForShe is used as a shield and a title and a publicity move for President Stanley and the rest of the administration to say we are here with women, and we support feminism,” Kazmi said.

David Clark, vice president of the student organization Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, said when Kazmi came to the student organization with the idea, he agreed that it was needed on campus.

“She wanted to make sure the #MeToo movement was having a bigger conversation on campus,” Clark said. “And, she had some of her own concerns about Stony Brook, while being a HeForShe IMPACT school, not really talking much as far as official statements and events about #MeToo and sexual harassment.”

Before the march, Kazmi read a poem and statement from Arianna Rodriguez. In February, Rodriguez alleged that SBU swimming and diving coach Janelle Atkinson, who was dismissed from her position, emotionally abused members of the team.

“I challenge you to support your friends and fellow classmates who have been victims of sexual assaults and to help guide them back to normalcy,” Kazmi read from Rodriguez’s statement. “And, I challenge all the survivors of sexual assault to continue living normal lives. I know it’s hard at times, but no one is stronger than you are, and your strength will give you the power to live life to the fullest and persevere. No matter who tells you differently.”

Clark said he was pleased to see so many students and some faculty members, both females and males, in attendance.

“We were pretty certain that there were going to be people who were survivors there, whether they said it or not,” Clark said. “We wanted to make sure that they knew that the student body supports them and that they’re in an environment where they are believed and, whether or not they choose to report, that there’s support for survivors here at Stony Brook.”

FMLA also composed a letter that will be submitted to SBU administrators. At press time nearly 100 student groups and organizations, students, alumni, faculty members and community organizations have signed it.

Clark said among their requests, the signers asked in order to maintain the protections of survivors, that the university keep certain practices in place such as letting both parties appeal the rulings of sexual misconduct hearings and prohibiting cross examination between the accused and accuser during sexual misconduct hearings. Clark said members of FMLA are concerned after the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education made changes to Title IX. Among the rights of students it covers in the educational system, the federal civil rights law ensures students involved in sexual
assault and harassment cases are afforded certain protections.

In the letter the protesters also asked for the university to address the issue of Atkinson and the allegations made against her.

Kazmi, a journalism student in her junior year, said she and Clark met with Jeff Barnett, assistant dean of students, a few days before the rally, and with Cathrine Duffy, associate director of student support, March 2. Kazmi and Clark said they feel university administrators have been receptive to the students and their ideas.

“I feel optimistic that the university is going to be open to working with us,” Kazmi said. “I don’t think the university is against increasing awareness for survivors and preventing future sexual assaults.”

After the rally, LeManuel Lee Bitsóí, chief diversity officer at Stony Brook, released a statement supporting the students.

“It was great to see so many SBU community members participate in the #MeToo rally today,” Bitsóí said. “It illustrates the level of engagement by our students around social justice and equity issues and challenges that all of us face in society.  Our leadership team is inspired by the activism of student leaders and we collectively support them in their efforts.”

Post was updated March 6 to reflect additional comments from David Clark, Aleeza Kazmi and LeManuel Lee Bitsóí.

Sacha Kopp recently announced his resignation from Stony Brook University. Photo from the Stony Brook University website.

Sacha Kopp, Stony Brook University’s dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, sent a letter to SBU faculty members Feb. 26 announcing he would step down from the position.

Kopp did not cite his reasons for resigning, according to an article in The Statesman, the Stony Brook University student newspaper.

“I am mindful of the frustration felt over the substantial operating deficit we inherited and the additional significant cuts faced by the college during these last four years,” Kopp wrote, according to the newspaper. “I have shared your disappointment over this unfortunate reality and done my best to ensure that the college both meets its core obligations to its students and sustains and builds its program of excellence.”

Michael Bernstein, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs for Stony Brook University, said in a statement that Kopp will remain as dean until the end of the spring semester.

“A consummate gentleman and scholar, Sacha has led the college with dignity and respect,” Bernstein said.. “His energy, vision and leadership helped the college continue its pursuit of excellence in education, scholarship, art making and professional service.”

Bernstein credited the university’s 30 percent growth in African-American and Latino students in the freshman class and a 30 percent growth in the number of arts, humanities and social science majors in the freshman class to Kopp’s oversight in recent years. Bernstein also listed among Kopp’s accomplishments the recruitment of 50 new faculty members in key areas of instruction and research and increasing the number of endowed professorships in the college from one to nine.

The resignation comes in the midst of budget challenges at the university. Students and faculty members last year protested the plan to consolidate departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. Other changes included the suspension of admissions into the undergraduate degree programs in theater arts, comparative literature, cinema and cultural studies and into the graduate degree programs in cultural studies and comparative literature.

According to the SBU website, Kopp was the associate dean for undergraduate education of the College of Natural Sciences and a professor of physics at the University of Texas at Austin before coming to SBU in August 2014. During his time in Austin as a researcher, he studied the physics of elementary particles, and he is the author of more than 200 scholarly articles.

The university is currently searching for an interim dean, according to Bernstein’s statement.

Above, R.C. Murphy Junior High students Gregory Garra and Gianna Raftery with Catherine Markham in Dawn Nachtigall’s seventh-grade science class last year. Photo from Three Village school district

By Daniel Dunaief

A recent study of 57 species around the world, published in the journal Science, showed that mammals moved distances two to three times shorter in human-modified landscapes.

Catherine Markham, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University, contributed to this research, adding information about the ranges for baboons in the Amboseli Baboon Research Project in Kenya.

Marlee Tucker, an ecologist at the Senckenberg Nature Research Society based in Frankfurt, Germany, led the effort, which involved working with 114 other scientists who are studying mammals around the world. Tucker “brought together all these research groups on a scale and scope that had not been undertaken before,” Markham said. “She evaluated in an unprecedented way what the implications of human expansion and development are for wildlife movement.”

According to Tucker, a reduction in animal movement could have ecological implications. “It is likely that ecosystem functions such as nutrients and seed dispersal will be altered,” she explained in an email. “However, whether these impacts are negative, positive or neutral requires further research.”

Tucker suggested that it is “important to maintain landscape connectivity so that animals can move freely,” which could include the creation of corridors that link natural landscapes.

While the study made it clear in a comprehensive way that mammals tend to move less when humans interact with them, it didn’t offer specific indications about the causes of that reduction. Some of that, scientists say, could come from fear, as mammals may avoid humans. Alternatively, some mammals might find a new and concentrated food source at garbage dumps and elsewhere that would reduce the need to travel.

Susan Alberts, a professor of biology at Duke University and a collaborator with Markham on baboon research, said that the “take home message” is that “this is a pervasive phenomenon and occurs on a large scale in the mammalian world.”

Markham has been studying baboons in Kenya at the Amboseli site since 2004. When Tucker reached out to her to see if she could contribute to this work, Markham saw an opportunity to collaborate using information she was already gathering.

Above, baboons with a radio collar in the Amboseli National Park in Kenya. Photo by Catherine Markham

As it turns out, baboons in the research project in Kenya live in what Markham describes as a “relatively pristine area” so they did not see “over the time period an increase in the human footprint index.”

Markham shared information about 22 baboons for about 900 days as a part of this research. Tucker’s overarching conclusion included areas where people weren’t encroaching on a mammal’s range. “When she compared the movement of animals living in relatively pristine environments — like the baboons in Amboseli — to the movement of animals living in areas of higher human encroachment, that lead to exciting conclusions,” Markham said. Tucker indicated that future research should focus on exploring the underlying mechanism of the reduction in movement.

In the meantime, Markham is continuing her studies on baboons, exploring the energetic consequences of group size. Larger groups tend to beat out smaller groups when they are competing for food and water in a particular habitat. At the same time, however, those larger groups have stress levels caused by group competition, as one baboon might find the constant proximity and rivalry with another baboon stressful. Baboon group sizes range from a low of around 20 to a high of about 100. Markham is exploring the tension within and between groups.

Over the past few years, Markham, who has been studying this competitive dynamic extensively, has used noninvasive techniques, such as gathering fecal samples, to look for levels of thyroid hormones, which can indicate an animal’s energetic condition.

Alberts explained that Markham was an important contributor to the work at Amboseli, adding that Markham “asks questions at the group level that the rest of us don’t.”

Within the community, Markham has been involved in recent efforts to inspire middle school students at R.C. Murphy Junior High school in Stony Brook to enjoy and appreciate science, working closely with science teacher Dawn Nachtigall, who has been at Murphy for 20 years.

In her second year at Murphy, Markham visits seventh-grade classes several times, discussing her work and explaining how to analyze images from camera traps set up in Kenya and at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown.

The students receive about 30 photos per pair, Nachtigall explained. Based on the pictures, the students have had to generate questions, which have included whether young deer spend more time with male or female parents, or whether hyenas come out more on full or new moons.

According to Nachtigall, Markham “has such a friendly veneer and an approachable affect” that she readily engages with the students. “She has this wonderful demeanor. She’s soft-spoken, but strong.”

Students in her class appreciate the opportunity to interact with a Stony Brook researcher. “By the end of the period, they are glad to have met her,” Nachtigall added. “Some of them want to become her.”

At the same time, Nachtigall and the other science teachers appreciate the opportunity to hear more from local scientists.

“We live vicariously through her,” Nachtigall said. “It really ignites our own passion for science. Seeing the real-world science for science teachers is just as exciting as it is for students.” Markham is working to post materials online so that teachers and parents can access the information.

A native of Rockville, Maryland, Markham, who joined Stony Brook in 2014, resides in St. James. When she was young, Markham enjoyed the opportunity to join class events in kayaks along the Potomac River. She occasionally saw beaver and bald eagles. Indeed, along the way toward working with baboons, she has also conducted research on bald eagles, monitoring their nests with remote cameras.

As for her work on the Science article, Markham said she is pleased that this kind of collaborative research can provide broad ranging insight to address questions that extend beyond the realm of any one lab or species.

By Joanna Chickwe, MD

Dr. Joanna Chickwe

February means heart health awareness, but taking care of your heart requires a year-round commitment that has lifelong benefits. What will you do differently to take better care of your heart?

Heart disease can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age or background. That’s why all of our cardiac care experts at Stony Brook University Heart Institute remain focused on how to best prevent heart disease and heal the heart.

We fight cardiovascular disease from every angle, using the best that cardiovascular medicine can offer: risk factor prevention; state-of-the-art diagnostics, such as 3-D cardiovascular imaging; advanced minimally invasive interventions, including mitral valve repair using a patient’s own valve tissue versus an artificial heart valve; and advanced lifesaving technology, including ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) that gives new hope to people with a serious heart or lung failure.

In the hands of our highly trained heart specialists, these and other important new state-of-the-art therapies are changing cardiac care and lives:

• Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for patients with inoperable aortic stenosis (failing heart valves)

• MitraClip, a less invasive treatment option for mitral regurgitation (caused by a leaky mitral valve), for patients who are not candidates for open-heart surgery

• The HeartMate 3 left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for patients with advanced heart failure

• Watchman to provide lifelong protection against stroke in appropriate patients for heart rhythm disorders

• Impella, the world’s smallest heart pump, making procedures safer for high-risk individuals

And while we hope that you and your family never need our acute cardiac services, you can be assured knowing that Long Island’s only accredited Chest Pain Center is right in your community. As one of only nine Chest Pain Centers statewide, Stony Brook Heart Institute is a leader in saving the lives of heart attack victims.

Since “time is muscle” when it comes to treating heart attacks, it is critical to treat patients as fast as possible, so less muscle is damaged. Stony Brook has achieved a “door-to-balloon” time, spanning the arrival at the hospital until the blockage is cleared, of 55 minutes — much better than the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association guidelines to open the blockage in 90 minutes or less.

And, if you suspect a heart attack, it’s best to call 911. Ambulances are equipped with defibrillators and most are equipped with 12-lead EKGs (electrocardiograms), which means they can transmit results to the hospital while en route. At Stony Brook, we assemble the treatment team and equipment you need before you arrive.

Have a question about heart disease prevention? Seeking a solution to a cardiac problem? Call us at 631-44-HEART (444-3278). We’re ready to help.

Joanna Chikwe is the director of Stony Brook University Heart Institute; chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery; and T.F. Cheng professor of cardiothoracic surgery.

Daniel Mockler in his office at Stony Brook University. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

At first, people didn’t believe it. Now, it seems, they are eager to learn more.

Working with a talented team that included postdoctoral researchers, doctoral students and doctors, Kenneth Shroyer, the chairman of the Department of Pathology at Stony Brook University, noticed something odd about a protein that scientists thought played a supporting role, but that, as it turns out, may be much more of a villain in the cancer story.

Known as keratin 17, this protein was thought to act as a tent pole, providing structural support. That, however, isn’t the only thing it can do. The co-director of Shroyer’s lab, Luisa Escobar-Hoyos, found that this protein was prevalent in some types of cancers. What’s more, the protein seemed to be in higher concentration in a more aggressive form of the disease.

Now, working with Long Island native Daniel Mockler, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pathology, Shroyer and his team discovered that the presence of this particular protein has prognostic value for endocervical glandular neoplasia, suggesting the likely course of the disease.

Published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, the article by Mockler and his team in the Sept. 1, 2017, issue attracted the attention of pathologists around the world. It ranked as the third highest read article in the final month of 2017, according to Medscape. It was behind two other papers that were review articles, which made it the most read primary research report in pathology in December.

The response “did exceed my expectations,” Mockler stated in an email. “I would have thought [Shroyer’s earlier] paper showing that k17 can function in gene regulation would have been more popular. But I guess this [new paper] illustrates that topics that have a possible direct impact on practicing surgical pathologists will draw a lot of attention.”

To be sure, while the recent study is an early indication of the potential predictive value of this protein, there may be some mitigating factors that could affect its clinical applicability.

“It’s premature to know what the clinical utility of this marker will be,” Shroyer said. “To determine that would require a large-scale prospective clinical trial” that would involve other patient populations and other laboratories.

Still, depending on the outcome of research currently underway in Shroyer’s lab, the protein may offer a way of determining the necessary therapy for patients with the same diagnosis.

Doctors don’t want to give patients with milder version of the disease high levels of chemotherapy, which would cause uncomfortable side effects. At the same time, they want to be as aggressive as possible in treating patients whose cancers are likely a more significant threat.

“The goal of having an excellent prognostic biomarker … is to avoid over and under treatment of patients,” suggested Mockler, who is also an attending pathologist at SBU and Stony Brook Southampton.

Shroyer was delighted with the efforts of the team that put together this well-read research. “As is true of all our clinical faculty, I want to give them every opportunity to take advantage of their ability to collaborate with research faculty in our department and throughout the cancer center and the school of medicine to advance their scholarly careers and academic productivity,” he said.

Mockler’s success and the visibility of this paper is “an excellent example of how someone with a busy clinical practice can also have a major impact on translational research,” Shroyer added.

Mockler appreciated the support and work of Escobar-Hoyos, who had conducted her doctoral research in Shroyer’s lab. She has “been the main driving force, along with [Shroyer] in the initial discovery of k17 including its prognostic implications as well as its possible function in regulating gene expression,” he said.

Mockler said he spends about 80 percent of his time on patient care, with the remaining efforts divided between research and academic pursuits. His first priority is providing “excellent patient care.”

Working with Shroyer and Escobar-Hoyos, Mockler explained that they have started looking at k17 in organ systems including the esophagus, pancreas and bladder. “We are currently looking at k17 from a diagnostic point of view in regards to bladder cancer,” he said. “Discoveries that impact the daily signout of surgical pathologists by allowing us to make better and more consistent diagnoses interests me very much.”

A resident of Kings Park, Mockler, who grew up in Hicksville, lives with his fiancée Danielle Kurkowski, who is a medical technologist of flow cytometry research and development at ICON Central Laboratories in Farmingdale.

Daniel Mockler on a recent snowboarding trip to Aspen. Photo from Daniel Mockler

Outside of his work in medicine, Mockler is an avid snowboard enthusiast. He tries to get in as many trips as possible during the winter, including a vacation a few weeks ago to the Austrian Alps. A more typical trip, however, is to western mountains or to Vermont, including Killington, Okemo and Stratton.

“To blow off steam and relax, nothing is better than being on a snow-covered mountain,” he said.

Mockler is pleased with the developments in the department. He has seen the “research goals of the department change quite significantly,” adding that Shroyer has “done a tremendous amount of recruiting.”

Mockler suggests to residents that it’s “good to get involved. I always tell them that [Shroyer] has a pretty active research lab and he likes it when residents get involved.”

As for his work on k17, Mockler is pleased that he’s been able to contribute to the ongoing efforts. Shroyer “has been doing this a while and I have seen the excitement and energy he has put into k17,” he explained, “so I know that we are onto something big.”

And so, apparently, do readers of pathology journals.

Matthew Lerner, far right, with his lab group at Stony Brook University. Photo from Matthew Lerner

By Daniel Dunaief

An actor draws in members of an audience, encouraging them to understand, appreciate and perhaps even become sympathetic to a world created on a stage. The process of creating scenes for the actor, however, can also change his or her world off the stage.

A team of scientists from Vanderbilt University, University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and Stony Brook University recently received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health for four years to study how participation in a theater production can help people with autism spectrum disorders.

Matthew Lerner. Photo by Graham Chedd from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science

“Theater is a venue for learning and gaining skills,” said Matthew Lerner, an assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics at the Department of Psychology at SBU who is leading the Long Island part of a study that will involve about 240 participants from age 10 through 16. “The process of putting on a play with others and being able to successfully produce and perform that has key benefits to learn and practice.”

Called SENSE Theatre (for Social Emotional NeuroScience Endocrinology), the shows were created by the project leader, Blythe Corbett, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and psychology and investigator at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, who herself performed in stage plays before pursuing her scientific career.

Corbett writes the plays, which have themes she believes are important not only for autism but also for the general public. The topics include acceptance, belonging and diversity and offer a current of core ideas that are “part of having a condition that is unique,” she said. The plays, which typically have about 20 characters, include music and last about 45 minutes.

Tiffany Adams and Jane Goodwin participate in the SENSE Theatre program. Photo by Steve Green, Vanderbilt University

Corbett explained that the experience uses theater as a platform for teaching fundamental areas that could help people with autism spectrum disorders, including reciprocal social communication, flexible thinking and behavior and imagination.

“It also gives [the participants] an opportunity to be exposed to social situations and to engage with others in a safe and supportive environment,” she said. “They can be John today and Henry tomorrow, which allows them to expand their repertoire in a playful, fun way” which, she hopes, might help them assimilate lessons when the program ends.

Corbett has been developing SENSE Theatre for nine years. This specific multisite project will allow her to see how transportable this program is to other locations, where other investigators who have not been involved with this before can employ it with other participants.

The investigators, which include Corbett, Lerner and Susan White at the University of Alabama, will monitor the participants through psychological testing, social interaction and research EEG, or electroencephalography. This is a noninvasive way of monitoring electrical activity in the brain that involves placing electrodes on or below the scalp. The EEG testing takes about 45 minutes.

Participation is free, although members, who go through a screening process, need to contribute to the research program by completing the evaluations.

The theater program has a control study, calling Tackling Teenage Training, in which participants will “address some of the challenges of being a teen,” which include dating and puberty, knowing how to know if somebody likes or doesn’t like you and how to express desires or interests appropriately, Lerner said.

Savannah Bradley participates in the SENSE Theatre program. Photo from Steve Green , Vanderbilt University

Corbett chose to work with Lerner because of considerable overlap in their interests in using performance to provide clinical help for people with autism spectrum disorders. Lerner “has a very strong interest in theater and is able to understand the core approach” to the training and shows as a form of intervention. He is an “engaging, charismatic individual who is extremely hard-working” and is a “really good choice in terms of harnessing his energy and intelligence.”

Indeed, Lerner and Karen Levine, a licensed psychologist and the co-author of “Treatment Planning for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” developed a model in 2004 for youths with disabilities to work on social skills called Spotlight, which utilized techniques of theater games and dramatic training. Spotlight is a program of Northeast Arc, a human services organization founded in 1954 and based in Massachusetts.

The Spotlight efforts started with nine students and has expanded to include hundreds of families each year.

In early high school, Lerner met someone who would change his life. He was having dinner with the family of a friend of his younger sister’s when he noticed a boy, Ben, playing on his own in another room. Lerner asked if he could play with Ben, who was 2 at the time and was running a car back and forth across the top of a toy playhouse.

Lerner mirrored what Ben did. “He looked at me curiously and kept doing what he was doing,” Lerner recalled. “I followed him around for over two hours.”

A scene from a performance by SENSE Theatre. Photo by Steve Green, Vanderbilt University

Up to that point in his life, Lerner thought the experience with Ben was “the most fascinating two hours of my life.” He had made a connection in which he “loved the joy and challenge of trying to meet him where he was, rather than behave in a way that was consistent with what the world expected.”

Lerner studied philosophy and music at Wesleyan University. After earning his doctorate at the University of Virginia, where his dissertation explored why youths with autism experience social problems, Lerner worked at the University of Chicago and then moved to SBU in 2013.

A native of Swampscott, Massachusetts, Lerner lives in Port Jefferson with his wife Chelsea Finn, a pediatric nurse practitioner in the Stony Brook Hospital Emergency Room and a nurse practitioner at SV Pediatrics in Patchogue. The couple has a 4-year-old son Everett and a 6-month-old son Sawyer.

Lerner is looking for people who would like to participate in the study. They can reach out to him by phone at 631-632-7857 or by email at lernerlab@stonybrook.edu. The first set of students will begin working in the SENSE Theatre program this spring and summer.

Corbett said the participants aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program.

“The overwhelming sentiment from those who come to see the performance is that it changes their perception of what it means to have autism,” Corbett said. After the show, some of the audience members “ask who are the children with autism.”

Parents of the actors are pleasantly surprised by the things their children are able to do, which exceed their expectations. “In one of our previous studies, parents reported that their stress went down” during the program, she said, “which appeared to be in response to the child participating in intervention.”

Search begins for a new swim and diving coach at university, SBU says unrelated to abuse allegations

Stony Brook University women’s swimming and diving team’s head coach faces allegations of mental and emotional abuse. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University’s athletics department is in search of a new women’s swimming and diving coaching staff, as the former head coach faces allegations of mental and emotional abuse made by former members of the team.

After a five-year hiatus due to renovations of the school’s pool, the Division 1 team returned to competition in 2017 with two-time Jamaican Olympian Janelle Atkinson as head coach. In a Jan. 26 article on the website www.swimswam.com, a list of allegations of emotional and mental abuse at the hands of Atkinson was attributed to former team member Arianna Rodriguez. According to the site, the allegations were corroborated by at least one other teammate, even though no other swimmer was named in the article, and shortly after posting, multiple members of the Fairfield University swim team, which Atkinson coached in the past, reached out to the website saying they had similar experiences with the coach.

Tess Stepakoff, a former team member and managing editor of SBU’s student newspaper, The Statesman, published an editorial Jan. 28 on the paper’s website
alleging emotional and mental abuse while a team member.

She said despite the initial excitement of the team’s return, as the 2017 season drew to a close, the roster dropped from 13 swimmers to six. In Stepakoff’s editorial she wrote that it was a dream for her to join the Division 1 swim team, but her experience soon turned into a nightmare when she said Atkinson broke the team members’ trust and spirits.

“We were told that we were weak, that we were not enough, and we were not trying,” Stepakoff wrote. “We were cursed at and screamed at during every practice for months. As our physical and mental health declined, we were told to get over it.”

In the editorial, Stepakoff said if a team member missed practice for injuries or illnesses there was the potential of losing their spot on the swimming and diving team. She said the teammates and their families filed complaints, made phone calls and had meetings with the athletics department to discuss the alleged abuses.

According to the Stony Brook Athletics website, compliance with NCAA, America East Conference and university rules and regulations is a part of its mission. As a member of the NCAA, SBU is responsible for the actions of its coaches, student-athletes, faculty and staff, alumni and friends of the program.

Atkinson and assistant coach Jordan Bowen are no longer listed on the SBU athletics website as part of the coaching staff. No allegations have been made against Bowen.

Lauren Sheprow, a spokeswoman for the university, said SBU could not comment on the allegations as it does not discuss personnel issues but confirmed the athletics department is looking for new coaches.

“Athletics decided to make a change in the leadership of the swimming and diving program and will initiate a national search to identify a new coach to lead and grow the program,” she said in an email.

In her editorial, Stepakoff said that Atkinson’s past employers, Fairfield University and University of Connecticut athletics departments, did not provide reasons as to why the coach’s contracts were not renewed.

“These colleges were able to get away without any bad press, but now Stony Brook does not have that option because we, past and present Stony Brook swimmers, decided to fight back publicly,” Stepakoff wrote.

Atkinson, Rodriguez, Stepakoff and other members of the team did not return messages for comments.

Maryland aster

By Rita J. Egan

Diane Bouchier hopes to plant the love of botanical art in the hearts of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library patrons. The library, located in Setauket, will host an exhibit of Bouchier’s drawings, Native Plants of Long Island, through the month of February.

Diane Bouchier

The Stony Brook resident said she has been artistic since she was a child, but her career path took a slightly different direction. For nearly 40 years, she was a professor at Stony Brook University where she taught sociology of art. While artistic activities fed into her academic work “in a very positive way,” over time she felt a need to hone her skills. 

“I was always supposed to be artistic as a kid, but then I went into the social sciences,” said Bouchier in a recent interview. “I guess I was a child of the ’60s, and I thought it was important to understand what was going on. I don’t regret that choice, but along the way, in fact, when [my husband and I] moved to our house in Wading River I started a garden, I realized I could not draw the flowers to the level I wanted to draw them. I said to myself, ‘Wait a minute, you’re supposed to be artistic, why isn’t this turning out?’”

Her frustration in drawing flowers inspired Bouchier to take courses at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx where she obtained her certification in its botanical arts and illustration program.

It was during her time studying botanical art that she met one of her mentors, Ann-Marie Evans, a teacher at NYBG. Bouchier said it was Evans who encouraged her to start the American Society of Botanical Artists, an interactive community dedicated to preserving the tradition and encouraging excellence in the contemporary practice of botanical art.

The artist has exhibited extensively, including having her work on view at the 8th International Exhibition of Botanical Art at Carnegie Mellon University’s Hunt Institute in Pittsburgh and the Long Island Museum’s juried exhibition, Animal Kingdom: From Tame to Wild.

Bouchier, who lists 17th-century French artist Nicolas Robert among her favorites, said when she retired two years ago, art became a full-time pursuit. She calls her most recent work her retirement project.

“They say that when you retire you need a project, so I needed something,” the artist said. “So, what do I really care about, and the answer was ecology and art. And what am I trained in? I was trained in botanical and natural history illustration, so I put the two together.”

For the last few months Bouchier’s drawings were in a traveling exhibit displayed at various locations in Suffolk County including the Smithtown Library, North Shore Public Library and Sweetbriar Nature Center. While those exhibits included 20 of her 16- by 20-inch pieces, the Emma Clark Library exhibit, which is the last stop in the tour, will consist of only 10 drawings.

Bouchier said she decided to select those that pointed toward warmer weather for the Setauket location since she feels that come February many are tired of the winter.

New England aster

The artist said many of her drawings depict specimens she obtained from the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, an organization that encourages people to plant native plants that support birds, bees and butterflies, while her garden inspired her for others.

“In the course of drawing the plants and learning about them, I started planting them in my garden,” she said. “It’s a small garden but I’m very pleased that some of the drawings exhibited are from plants from my own garden, and that’s a special pleasure.”

Bouchier said for most of her artwork she prefers using colored pencils on Stonehenge paper, which she said is soft and smooth. She also works in pastels and egg tempera, a medium that has egg yolks in the paint that leaves a brilliant surface.

The artist said it can take a week to 10 days to complete a drawing when she uses colored pencils. She said one morning she’ll do the basic drawing and then another day the undercoat. “It’s very calming,” she said. “If you want to de-stress you should do this.”

Bouchier encourages people of all ages to learn how to draw, and she shares her knowledge by teaching classes at Gallery North in Setauket. In April she will head up a course on the fundamentals of botanical art techniques on Sundays, April 8, 15, 22 and 29. Call 631-751-2676 for times and cost.

“There are very few self-taught artists in the field because whether you’re drawing animals or plants, it’s important that it be accurate at a certain level,” Bouchier said. “You can still be expressive — these things are not opposites — but you don’t want to get the basic structure of the plant or animal wrong.”

When it comes to the artist’s classes, Judith Levy, director of Gallery North, said Bouchier’s classes are informative and relaxing and students leave feeling successful when the workshops are over.

“She’s very focused, she’s very organized, and she gives them a process of how to look at things or how to do a particular technique or use whatever the material is,” said Levy in a recent phone interview. “Sometimes it’s pencils; sometimes it’s colored pencils, it depends on what medium. She is very, very good, and her classes are popular.”

Bouchier also shares her love of creativity with her husband, WSHU radio personality and essayist David Bouchier. The artist said her husband asks her for feedback when it comes to his radio scripts, and she also reads and edits his book manuscripts. In turn, she tests out her ideas for drawings and paintings on him. In 2002, her husband released “The Cats and the Water Bottles,” a book of his essays of life in France, which includes line drawings by his wife.

The artist, who lists her drawing “American Holly and Winterberry” among her favorites, said she hopes the exhibit will inspire library patrons.

“It’s to encourage people to recognize the subtle beauty of our native plants and to perhaps consider planting them in their own gardens,” she said.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket will present Native Plants of Long Island by Diane Bouchier through Feb. 28. For more information, call 631-941-4080 or visit www.emmaclark.org.

From left, Deyu Lu (sitting), Anatoly Frenkel (standing), Yuwei Lin and Janis Timoshenko. Photo from BNL

By Daniel Dunaief

What changes and how it changes from moment to moment can be the focus of curiosity — or survival. A zebra in Africa needs to detect subtle shifts in the environment, forcing it to focus on the possibility of a nearby predator like a lion.

Similarly, scientists are eager to understand, on an incredibly small scale, the way important participants in chemical processes change as they create products, remove pollutants from the air or engines or participate in reactions that make electronic equipment better or more efficient.

Throughout a process, a catalyst can alter its shape, sometimes leading to a desired product and other times resulting in an unwanted dead end. Understanding the structural forks in the road during these interactions can enable researchers to create conditions that favor specific structural configurations that facilitate particular products.

First, however, scientists need to see how catalysts involved in these reactions change.

That’s where Anatoly Frenkel, a professor at Stony Brook University’s Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering with a joint appointment in Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Chemistry Division, and Janis Timosheko, a postdoctoral researcher in Frenkel’s lab, come in.

Working with Deyu Lu at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials and Yuwei Lin and Shinjae Yoo, both from BNL”s Computational Science Initiative, Timoshenko leads a novel effort to use machine learning to observe subtle structural clues about catalysts.

“It will be possible in the future to monitor in real time the evolution of the catalyst in reaction conditions,” Frenkel said. “We hope to implement this concept of reaction on demand.”

According to Frenkel, beamline scientist Klaus Attenkofer at BNL and Lu are planning a project to monitor the evolution of catalysts in reaction conditions using this method.

By recognizing the specific structural changes that favor desirable reactions, Frenkel said researchers could direct the evolution of a process on demand.

“I am particularly intrigued by a new opportunity to control the selectivity (or stability) of the existing catalyst by tuning its structure or shape up to enhance formation of a desired product,” he explained in an email.

The neural network the team has created links the structure and the spectrum that characterizes the structure. On their own, researchers couldn’t find a structure through the spectrum without the help of highly trained computers.

Through machine learning, X-rays with relatively lower energies can provide information about the structure of nanoparticles under greater heat and pressure, which would typically cause distortions for X-rays that use higher energy, Timoshenko said.

The contribution and experience of Lin, Yoo and Lu was “crucial” for the development of the overall idea of the method and fine tuning its details, Timoshenko said. The teaching part was a collective effort that involved Timoshenko and Frenkel.

Frenkel credits Timoshenko for uniting the diverse fields of machine learning and nanomaterials science to make this tool a reality. For several months, when the groups got together for bi-weekly meetings, they “couldn’t find common ground.” At some point, however, Frenkel said Timoshenko “got it, implemented it and it worked.”

The scientists used hundreds of structure models. For these, they calculated hundreds of thousands of X-ray absorption spectra, as each atom had its own spectrum, which could combine in different ways, Timoshenko suggested.

They back-checked this approach by testing nanoparticles where the structure was already known through conventional analysis of X-ray absorption spectra and from electron microscopy studies, Timoshenko said.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to understand the relationship between the structure of a material and its useful properties. The new method, combined with other approaches, can provide an understanding of the structure.

Timoshenko said additional data, including information about the catalytic activity of particles with different structures and the results of theoretical modeling of chemical processes, would be necessary to take the next steps. “It is quite possible that some other machine learning methods can help us to make sense of these new pieces of information as well,” he said.

According to Frenkel, Timoshenko, who transferred from Yeshiva University to Stony Brook University in 2016 with Frenkel, has had a remarkably productive three years as a postdoctoral researcher. His time at SBU will end by the summer, when he seeks another position.

A native of Latvia, Timoshenko is married to Edite Paule, who works in a child care center. The scientist is exploring various options after his time at Stony Brook concludes, which could include a move to Europe.

A resident of Rocky Point during his postdoctoral research, Timoshenko described Long Island as “extremely beautiful” with a green landscape and the nearby ocean. He also appreciated the opportunity to travel to New York City to see Broadway shows. His favorite, which he saw last year, is “Miss Saigon.”

Timoshenko has dedicated his career to using data analysis approaches to understanding real life problems. Machine learning is “yet another approach” and he would like to see if this work “will be useful” for someone conducting additional experiments, he said.

At some point, Timoshenko would also like to delve into developing novel materials that might have an application in industry. The paper he published with Frenkel and others focused only on the studies of relatively simple monometallic particles. He is working on the development of that method to analyze more complex systems.

This work, he suggested, is one of the first applications of machine learning methods for the interpretation of experimental data, not just in the field of X-ray absorption spectroscopy. “Machine learning, data science and artificial intelligence are very hot and rapidly developing fields, whose potential in experimental research we have just started to explore.”

 

#MeToo social media movement founder Tarana Burke answers questions during a public forum at Stony Brook University. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Long Island men and women are prepared to keep the #MeToo conversation going in their communities after an appearance by the movement’s founder, Tarana Burke, at Stony Brook University Jan. 28.

More than 500 people filled the Sidney Gelber Auditorium in the Student Activities Center for #MeToo … #LIToo, a Q&A with Burke led by three young women of i-tri girls, a free program working to raise the self-esteem of middle school-aged girls on the Island’s East End by training them for a triathlon. Abby Roden, Noely Martinez and Maria Chavez posed questions to Burke that covered a range of topics, from how she felt when the #MeToo movement gained momentum, to empowering survivors of sexual abuse and harassment, to showing empathy when a someone shares his or her story.

Burke, a survivor of sexual violence, said it can be difficult to talk about sexual assaults or harassment because he or she feels isolated.

“The idea behind #MeToo being an exchange of empathy is that if you tell me this thing that is already difficult to say, one of the hardest things in your life, and my first response is, ‘Me too,’ that draws you in,” she said. “Regardless of what else is discussed, we have an automatic connection now.”

Giving advice for those who may not be able to say “me too” when a survivor shares a story, Burke said the best thing to do is ask what he or she needs. If the person says nothing, don’t keep asking.

After the #MeToo movement went viral Burke felt crippled. She said she stopped reading comments on her social media posts, even though most responses were thoughtful.

“I had people telling me I was too ugly to get raped, sexually harassed,” Burke said, adding that she is thick-skinned, and didn’t let the comments get to her. “‘You look like a man.’ Just awful, awful things.”

The movement also affects the LGBTQ community — something Burke said is personal for her, as her daughter identifies as queer and gender nonconforming. She said many young people in the LGBTQ community deal with sexual abuse, and it’s important they tell their stories, too.

“Survivors of sexual violence, we’re not victims,” Burke said. “That’s why we call ourselves survivors. We have solutions, we have answers and we have the experience.”

Attendees said the forum was uplifting and meaningful.

“It was very empowering and definitely brought the community together,” said Cassandra Gonzalez, a graduate student at LIU Post. “It just brings awareness to the #MeToo movement.”

Retired teacher Terry Kalb, of Wading River, said Burke is skilled at connecting others through experiences, calling the forum “beyond inspiring.”

“I liked the fact that there was such emphasis on the intersectionality of this issue,” Kalb said. “I think it’s very important that the vast majority of the people who are marginalized with domestic violence issues, sexual harassment issues and sexual violence issues — all people — are afforded a voice. This just can’t be about celebrity issues; it has to be about people who are often powerless to be able to respond. That they be the focus, because that’s where the most damage is done.”

Updated Feb. 1 to add additional quotes from Tarana Burke.

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