Stony Brook University

From left, Karen Chen-Wiegart, Silvia Centeno from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and BNL’s Juergen Thieme and Garth Williams in front of a computer image of Jan Van Eyck’s ‘Crucifixion,’ which they used to study the effects of soap formation in oil paintings. Photo from BNL

By Daniel Dunaief

Paintings can be so evocative that they bring images and scenes to life, filling a room with the iridescent flowers from an impressionist or inspiring awe with a detailed scene of human triumph or conflict. While the paints themselves remain inanimate objects, some of them can change over time, as reactions triggered by anything from light to humidity to heat can alter the colors or generate a form of soap on the canvas.

Recently, a team led by Silvia Centeno, a research scientist of the Department of Scientific Research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, explored the process that caused lead-tin yellow type I to form an unwanted soap. Soap formation “may alter the appearance of paintings in different ways, by increasing the transparency of the paints, by forming protrusions that may eventually break through the painting surface, or by forming disfiguring surface crusts,” Centeno explained in an email.

Karen Chen-Wiegart with her husband Lutz Wiegart at Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue in November of 2017. Photo by Jen You

A team that included Karen Chen-Wiegart, who is an assistant professor at Stony Brook  University and has a joint appointment at Brookhaven National Laboratory, looked specifically at what caused a pigment common in numerous paintings to form these soaps. The research proved that the main component in lead-tin yellow pigment reacts, Centeno said. The causes may be environmental conditions and others that they are trying to discover. Lead-tin yellow changes its color from yellow to a transparent white. The pigment was widely used in oil paintings.

The pigment hasn’t shown the same deterioration in every painting that has the reactive ingredients, which are heavy-metal-containing pigments and oil. This suggests that specific environmental conditions may contribute to the pace at which these changes occur. Most of the time, the changes that occur in the paintings are below the surface, where it may take hundreds of years for these soaps to form.

The scientists are hoping this kind of research helps provide insights that allow researchers to protect works of art from deterioration. Ideally, they would like a prognostic marker that would allow them to use noninvasive techniques to see intermediate stages of soap formation. That would allow researchers to follow and document change through time. The scientists analyzed a microscopic sample from the frame of a painting from Jan Van Eyck called “Crucifixion,” which was painted in 1426.

Samples from works of art are small, around several microns, and are usually removed from areas where there is a loss, which prevents any further damage. Samples are kept in archives where researchers can do further analysis. In this case, a microscopic sample was taken from the frame of the painting, from an area where there was already a loss.

Centeno worked with a group led by Cecil Dybowski, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware, who has used solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy available at the university to study soap formation since 2011.

She also partnered with Chen-Wiegart to work at BNL’s National Synchrotron Light Source II, a powerful tool with numerous beamlines that can see specific changes on an incredibly fine scale. Centeno said she was very pleased to add Chen-Wiegart’s expertise, adding that she is “an excellent collaborator.”

When they started working together, Chen-Wiegart worked at BNL as an assistant physicist, and then became an associate physicist. As a beamline scientist, she worked at a beamline led by Juergen Thieme, who is a collaborator on this project as well. The researchers see this as an initial step to understand the mechanism that leads to the deterioration of the pigment.

The team recently applied for some additional beamline time at the NSLS-II, where they hope to explore how porosity, pore size distribution and pore connectivity affect the movements of species in the soap formation reactions. The humidity may have more impact in the soap formation. The researchers would like to quantify the pores and their effects on the degradation, Chen-Wiegart said.

In addition, Centeno plans to prepare model samples in which she accelerates the aging process, to understand, at a molecular level, what might cause deterioration. She is going to “try to grow the soaps in the labs, to see and study them with sophisticated techniques.”

Chen-Wiegart will also study the morphology at microscopic and macroscopic levels from tens of nanometers to microns. Both Centeno and Chen-Wiegart are inspired by the opportunity to work with older paintings. “I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy works of art as part of my daily work,” Centeno said.

Chen-Wiegart was eager to work with art that was created over 500 years ago. “The weight of history and excitement of this connection was something enlightening,” she said. “Thinking about it and processing it was a unique experience.”

A resident of Rocky Point, Chen-Wiegart lives with her husband Lutz Wiegart, who is a beamline scientist working at the Coherent Hard X-ray Scattering beamline at BNL. People assume the couple met at BNL, but their relationship began at a European synchrotron called ESRF in France, which is in Grenoble.

The couple volunteers at the North Shore Christian Church in Riverhead in its Kids Klub. For five days over the last five summers, they did science experiments with children who are from 4 to 11 years old.

The scientific couple enjoys the natural beauty on Long Island, while traveling to the city for cultural events. They kayak in the summer and visit wineries.

As for her work, Chen-Wiegart is excited about continuing her collaboration with Centeno.“The intersection between science, art and culture is inspiring for me.”

United University Professions union Chapter President Kevin Moriarty, front right, joins members at a rally at Stony Brook University. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Faculty members at a local college say 20 months is too long to go without a contract.

More than 50 Stony Brook University staff, faculty members and students met in a rally March 1 to support the faculty union in contract negotiations with The State University of New York that have been prolonged for close to two years.

“This is a rally to try and show solidarity toward negotiating a fair and reasonable contract,” United University Professions union Chapter President Kevin Moriarty said. “We have been 20 months without a contract, and we don’t feel like we’re being dealt with fairly to negotiate a fair contract with us.”

United University Professions President Fred Kowal shakes hands with a union member. Photo by Kyle Barr

The group marched from Stony Brook University Hospital onto the main campus, up and down the academic mall and finished at the fountain outside the administration building. The main demands from UUP to SUNY is for paid family leave, a stepped increase in salary, better job security, keeping health care copays from increasing, and more security for adjuncts and other contingent faculty.

The UUP union hosted rallies in SUNY colleges across New York state. Moriarty said that while other faculty unions already had their contracts, UUP only had one meeting in February.

“One meeting in an entire month is not negotiating,” he said.

Ecology professor Jessica Gurevitch has worked for the university since 1985. She said she has a bone to pick when it comes to paid family leave.

“This was years ago, but I wasn’t going to get leave when I gave birth to my daughter,” Gurevitch said. “The only reason I got leave was because I had a cesarean and got medical leave. I adopted a son and didn’t get any family leave. The university needs to become proactive with family leave.”

“We know it was tough times in the state, but this time around we want the increases that reflect the work we’re doing.”

— Fred Kowal

UUP President Fred Kowal joined the march at Stony Brook. He said that part of the reason why the contract has taken so long was because of a new SUNY chancellor, Kristina Johnson, being brought in last year, and the administrative changeover has resulted in some delays.

“The last contract among the unions, there was a lot of givebacks,” Kowal said. “We know it was tough times in the state, but this time around we want the increases that reflect the work we’re doing, and they’re in line with what other unions have got already. We don’t want to bankrupt the state or the university, but it’s fair addressing long-standing concerns.”

The prolonged contract negotiations have come parallel to a host of other problems faculty have faced the past two years. Because of a $35 million shortage in the school’s budget, last year several arts and sciences departments were either consolidated or were cut, and several full-time professors lost tenure while many nontenured track teaching positions were slashed.

Writing adjunct Steven Dube has been protesting Stony Brook’s cuts to adjuncts since 2017. He has seen several of his co-workers lose their jobs because of cuts to the writing department.

Members of the United University Professions union rally for a a new contact after working 20 months without one. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Faculty are demoralized, and one of the excuses they gave last year for a bunch of the cuts was that they were going to be hiring more full-time people, so this really shows their hypocrisy, and that we’ve been misled by the administration,” Dube said. “I think we would like to hear more specific things from the administration as to what’s actually happening on campus.”

The same day as the planned rally, SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. announced that Stony Brook would initiate a hiring freeze to try and stem the financial woes the university is currently experiencing. Stanley said in a video posted to the SBU website that the reason for the hiring freeze is an $18 million shortfall in the budget due to contractual salary increases made before the current contract negotiations. He said New York State is no longer required to pay for salary increases, and that tuition increases do not cover the shortfall.

“This is going to be a difficult thing for us, because if you’re doing 100 percent of a job, and then they ask you to do 150 percent of the job, it’s either going to be physically impossible … or it’s going to warrant additional compensation,” Moriarty said.

“We’re concerned because we’ve gone 20 months without a contract, which means no raises, and previous contracts had no raises, so they’ve basically been getting us without an increase in cost,” Kowal said.

After the rally, SBU released the following statement: “The university fully supports the negotiation process between the executive branch and the UUP, and looks forward to agreement on a mutually satisfactory contract.”

Anil Yazici, center, with Eren Ozguven, right, and Ayberk Kocatepe, left, who worked in Ozguven’s lab as a doctoral student, at a conference in Florida last year.Photo from Anil Yazici

By Daniel Dunaief

Anil Yazici wants to help the elderly population with transportation, public safety and emergency services and housing.

An assistant professor in civil engineering at Stony Brook University, Yazici is organizing a series of meetings to address the needs of the elderly. He is recruiting a host of speakers from around the world and is inviting the public to listen and participate in roundtable discussions for a two-day event at the Hilton Garden Inn at Stony Brook as a part of a Research Coordination Network.

The workshop schedule with a list of speakers will be available around mid-March. Those interested in attending can visit the website https://you.stonybrook/edu/agingpopulationrcn/events/rcn-workshops/.

Yazici received a $499,999 four-year grant from the National Science Foundation last fall to develop a way to study the connection between smart and connected communities and areas with varying resources and population densities. The group will host workshops at the University of Michigan and at Florida State University.

Anil Yazici, right, with Harold Walker, left, a professor and chair in the Department of Civil Engineering and Laura Coronel, center, a member of the class of 2017.Photo by Erin Giuliano

The goal is to maintain mobility and access to services for the aging population. “Our focus is to involve aging populations within smart and connected communities … which generally employ technology to address mobility and access,” he explained in an email.

Yazici would like to get the government, communities and researchers to work together to address these issues. Groups involved in the effort will produce white papers, which can provide a proposal to help governments and community organizations plan various services.

Jacqueline Mondros, the dean of SBU’s School of Social Welfare and assistant vice president for Social Determinants of Health, described housing and transportation as “two of the most problematic issues of older adults, particularly in suburbia and rural areas.”

Mondros, who will be giving one of the talks in April, hopes the tech sector and engineering dedicate more attention to this area. She believes this effort will provide a greater understanding of the kind of connectedness that will help seniors and their caregivers. She also hopes the initiative helps people learn “about the intersection between connectivity and technology and social intervention.”

The funding for this effort is designed to create networks and develop ideas. Further work to develop projects, however, would require additional financial support.

Developing a broad plan in an area such as transportation will require flexible and location-specific solutions. Indeed, Long Island reflects such varying dynamics. Areas in or closer to the city have higher population density and a deeper transportation infrastructure, with subways, buses and trains offering transportation throughout the area. Further out east, however, the population density drops considerably, limiting such options.

“Once you don’t drive” when you’re in suburbia “it’s almost impossible to get around and go where you need to go,” Mondros said. People end up in “social isolation [which] clearly creates poor health outcomes and depression.”

Presenters will include people with expertise from Europe and Australia who can bring the solutions they have developed through smart and connected communities. Some locations have developed a system to help the aging population with routine transportation.

Anil Yazici after he went spearfishing for Mediterranean parrotfish in Turkey.Photo by Meliha Yazici

In one community, Yazici learned about a personal network in which people call each other to provide rides for regular travel, like weekly doctor or hospital visits. The network, which was organized through a church, involved calls to find rides through church members.

Eren Ozguven, who met Yazici in high school in Turkey and is a collaborator on the project, plans to do a presentation at Stony Brook on the challenges the aging population faces during hurricanes.

That includes a look at “how the technology usage is shaping this and how [to] provide better accessibility and safety during evacuations and sheltering,” Ozguven, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering in Tallahasse, Florida, explained in an email. “We are hoping to have very fruitful brainstorming sessions with practitioners, researchers, students and the public.”

More broadly, Yazici’s work is focused on the resilience of various civil engineering systems, such as transportation.

Organizational networks require contact among all the various infrastructure agencies, he said. They need to keep in contact and make decisions through context. He is working on a way to measure resiliency, so that when storms break communication links and disrupt power grids, the agencies in charge of those systems can restore them to previous levels.

He would like to see how to make an agency’s response to a disruption more efficient. Resilience can be improved through developing sound models for a physical infrastructure response.

A resident of Harlem where he lived during his postdoctoral training, Yazici has had to create his own system to ensure a successful commute. He leaves early, before much of the reverse commuting traffic builds, and returns home late. Yazici, who has been at Stony Brook since the fall of 2014, said he appreciates the opportunity to contribute to a new and growing department.

Yazici moved eight times when he was younger, as the family followed his father Mesut, who was also a civil engineer, from projects including water treatment plants to industrial waste processing. His father tried to dissuade him from following in his footsteps. His academic position, however, doesn’t require Yazici to follow projects from one place to another.

Starting in his first year in college, Yazici played bass in a band. He performed mostly ’70s Turkish progressive rock. He enjoys making music and plans to start an ensemble with his students to have a live music event after graduation.

As for his work, Yazici appreciates the opportunity to study areas that cross disciplines and that help people. “What drives me and most of the academics I know is to make a difference in people’s lives,” he explained in an email. “This could be through teaching and seeing students evolve personally and professionally or researching a topic to solve a problem and improve someone’s life.”

A musical adventure for the whole family

By Rita J. Egan

The University Orchestra at Stony Brook University is preparing to take audience members on a one-hour musical adventure. The ensemble will present its annual family orchestra concert, Adventures in Orchestral Music, at the Staller Center for the Arts on March 6.

Conductor Susan Deaver said the orchestra is planning a night filled with concertos from a variety of composers from all over the world such as America, Russia, Germany, England and Argentina. The list of songs include Mikhail Glinka’s overture to “Ruslan and Lyudmila,” Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” from “Rodeo,” Morton Stevens’ “Hawaii Five-O” and John Williams’ “Star Wars Epic, Part II.” “They all sound different from one another, so it’s kind of different palettes of orchestral color,” Deaver said.

The conductor said the 70-piece orchestra consists of strings, brass, woodwind and percussion sections. While most of the musicians are college undergraduates, three are high school students who are part of the Stony Brook Young Artists Program. There are also a few graduate students who are nonmusic majors and five teaching assistants. The students’ majors range from music to biology, math and biochemistry. “The common thread is that they’ve all seriously studied music at some point,” Deaver said.

The night will feature a solo by 16-year-old violinist Mariana Knaupp, the winner of the 2017 Stony Brook Young Artists Program Concerto Competition. Mariana will perform the first movement of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G Minor, the piece she played for the competition, with the orchestra. “She sounded great, and she had a lot of poise as a performer; she played really, really well,” Deaver said. “We have a competition, and they’re all playing really well, but there’s something that usually points to one person.”

Mariana, who lives in Huntington and is homeschooled, has studied violin for 11 years with Thalia Greenhalgh and is part of the Stony Brook University Young Artists Program. The violinist is a member of the string ensemble Metrognomes, which performs a few times a year at nursing homes, sports venues and holds benefit concerts for disaster victims. For seven years, she also has been a part of the Gemini Youth Orchestra and has played at Symphony Space and Lincoln Center. She said she’s excited about her first time playing with a full orchestra and was surprised when she won the competition.

“I didn’t really expect to win because there were a lot of really good players involved,” Mariana said in a recent phone interview. “It was a really nice surprise that I won, and I’m very excited to actually play with an orchestra because I’ve wanted to for several years now.”

Mariana said when her violin teacher asked her what she wanted to play for the competition, she knew she wanted a romantic concerto. She has been playing her chosen piece for a year now and said it’s a beautiful concerto that she’s looking forward to sharing with the family concert audience.

“I would just like to be able to play the concerto as the composer intended it and just convey what he would have wanted in a performance,” Mariana said. The violinist has enjoyed rehearsals with the orchestra and said when she attends college she hopes to major in math, English or neuroscience. She plans on taking music classes as electives and playing with a university orchestra.

Like past family concerts, Deaver said the orchestra members will interact with the audience, talking with them about the different instruments and music. The musicians also have some surprises in store for attendees. “Myself and the orchestra, I think we are always energized by the audience because we’re interacting with them more, and it kind of breaks down any barriers that you might have,” Deaver said. “They’re really part of the concert almost, the audience since we’re interacting with them, I think we all feel really energized from it.”

The University Orchestra at Stony Brook University presents Adventures in Orchestral Music on March 6 at the Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook at 7:30 p.m.. All tickets are $5. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 631-632-ARTS (2787) or visit www.stonybrook.edu.music.

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.”

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