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Brookhaven National Lab

Steve Kramer raising money to bring Berlinda to U.S. to undergo surgery on her two clubbed feet

By Desirée Keegan

Through the efforts of a retired physicist, an orthopedic surgeon from Stony Brook University and a dedicated Haitian who has since moved to Long Island, a 16-year-old from Haiti is on a path with more open doors than ever.

Berlinda was born with two clubbed feet, though she is motivated to better herself, with the dream of one day walking on her own two feet. Steve Kramer, a retired Brookhaven National Lab accelerator physicist met the student in Haiti through Life & Hope Haiti, a nonprofit founded by Haitian-American Lucia Anglade, who built the Eben Ezer School in her hometown of Milot, Haiti.

Berlinda practices arithmetic. Photo from Steve Kramer

“She had only been at the school for a few months and she was already learning basic arithmetic,” Kramer said of seeing Berlinda back in March, after meeting her during her introduction to the school in December. “I gave her two columns of work and she handed it back to me with a big smile and said, ‘more.’”

Berlinda has spirit, according to many who have met her, and Kramer was so moved by the story that he reached out to Dr. Wesley Carrion at Stony Brook University School of Medicine’s orthopedics department about performing surgery to fix the girl’s feet. He agreed to do it free of charge.

When he contacted Carrion, Kramer said his secretary Joan mentioned he was deployed in Afghanistan and she didn’t know when he would return. Within a day or two she called to tell him she’d heard from the doctor, who said he’d return by April. In May, the two met.

“I sent him copies of Berlinda’s X-rays and the video and he said he felt he could treat her and rotate the feet, and he would donate his time and get the equipment donated,” Kramer said. “That was a big relief. I felt it might become a reality.”

Carrion had informed Kramer that he would need to get the hospital to donate some of the costs, so Kramer reached out to the Department of Medicine’s Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak, who serves as vice president for health systems and chief executive officer of Stony Brook University Hospital.

What the external cages look like that will be used to repair Berlinda’s clubbed feet. Photo from Steve Kramer

“He said they would cover her hospital costs,” Kramer said after his meeting with Pasternak in July. “This was a bigger relief since beside rotating the club feet we need to check out the status of the hole her spinal column might still have from the spinal bifida she was diagnosed as having. Everyone told me the hole doesn’t close up on its own, but she is doing so well that it may have, but it needs to be checked and closed if it is still open.”

To help bring Berlinda to the United States, Kramer set up a GoFundMe to raise money for her flight cost and other post-operation expenses.

“The fundraising has been going slower than I had hoped, even though everyone I contact is verbally supportive,” he said. “As a physicist my human appeal needs a lot of improvement to really move people to give. But then I look at the video and see the determination she has and feel she will deal with it as she has the tragic events she has already endured and I know she will persevere and will learn to walk.”

Following the surgery, Berlinda will be in the hospital for four months, getting her feet rotated to stretch the tendons as part of the healing process. Her legs will be in cages called external frames that will be attached by pins drilled into her leg bones. Because these create open wounds, it’s best for her to stay the hospital instead of returning to Haiti, to keep the wounds sterile. While recovering, she will continue to go through schooling, which will be one-on-one instead of in a larger classroom back in Haiti.

Without the construction of The Eben Ezer School, Berlinda’s struggles might never have come to light for Kramer. What began as a 10-child school back in 2001 has grown to population over 400, according to Anglade.

“I took the $7,000 I received from my tax return and decided I wanted to build a school in my home country — that had been my motivation,” said Anglade, who now lives in West Babylon. “I’m so blessed. I thank God for that, say thank you all the time. It’s a big school now, and we’re still helping.”

Berlinda crawls on her hands and knees because she cannot walk with her two clubbed feet. Photo from Steve Kramer

Anglade first visited Berlinda at her house, and heard from the 16-year-old how her brothers and sisters attended school, and she wished she could join them. Because the school is far from her house, she couldn’t walk there.

“I went to her house and she was quiet, said she can’t go to school,” Anglade said. “I told her I was going to help her, and I took her to the school. I pay someone to stay with her at the school. Her dream is to walk, to learn, to be someone. She wants to be happy.”

Kramer and Stony Brook University Hospital are making her dream a reality.

“Thank God for Steve — he has a good heart and I can’t do it by myself,” Anglade said. “With all my heart, I am so happy. Steve has put in a lot of effort to helping Berlinda make her dream come true.”

Kramer first visited the Eben Ezer School through Wading River’s North Shore United Methodist Church in 2015. He joined a group visiting Haiti in February, and has since visited three more times by himself and with Anglade. They are working toward improving the facilities at the school through solar power and updating the water system.

Kramer also provided economic opportunities for students and natives of the town. He cultivated a group of farmers that grow ancient Egyptian wheat, kumat, which is exported to the U.S.

Now, he’s trying to help provide a future for Berlinda.

“She’s very positive, she’s a sponge for learning,” he said. “I just want to help this Haitian girl who has had a tragic life story so far, but has kept her joy of life and has determination to improve herself.”

Sixteen-year-old Berlinda from Haiti will be receiving surgery on her two clubbed feet at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo from Steve Kramer

Amy Miller, of Maine, who has helped Anglade since 2007, said she finds what Kramer is doing admirable.

“I met Berlinda and I really respect his desire to help her move forward,” she said. “You meet someone and they kind of capture your heart, and I think you have to follow your heart. That’s what he’s doing.”

Both said they are also moved by Anglade’s motivation.

“I am tremendously inspired by Lucia,” Miller said. “She’s a force. Lucia is a person that astounds most people that meet her — her energy and her commitment. She loves the kids and it’s wonderful to watch. The community once said she should be their mayor after she brought water to the school she also to the community. She’s quite something.”

Anglade said she’s just doing what she thinks is right, in giving back to her hometown.

“My four kids here go to school, they’re in college, they eat every day, but in Haiti, we don’t have enough to feed over 400 kids, so sometimes when we’re down there for a week or two, we can only feed them for one week,” Anglade said. “I can’t go every week, but if I could go every week, every month, I’d go, just to help them. For me to be able to go down there to help those students, my community, I’m so happy to do it. I really feel good about it.”

To donate to help get Berlinda to the United States and to receive the care and post-treatment she will need, visit www.gofundme.com/BerlindasMiracle. To find out more about Life and Hope Haiti, or to get involved, visit www.lifeandhopehaiti.org.

Sen. Kenneth LaValle, wearing hat, sits with Brookhaven National Laboratory beamline scientist Dieter Schneider. Looking on from left, BNL Director Doon Gibbs; vice president for development at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Charles Prizzi; NSLS-II director John Hill; and Stony Brook University associate vice president for Brookhaven affairs, Richard Reeder. Photo from Brookhaven National Laboratory

Thanks to the persistent support of state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Brookhaven National Laboratory secured $15 million from New York State to add a state-of-the-art microscope that could contribute to advances in basic science and medicine.

The national laboratory will purchase a new cryo-electron microscope and will use the funds to create a building attached to its National Synchrotron Light Source II.

“Cryo-electron microscopy is an advanced imaging technology that will significantly accelerate scientists’ understanding of molecular structures and processes generally, including many impacts in understanding disease and in aiding drug discovery,” Doon Gibbs, the laboratory director of BNL, said in an email.

BNL will use the funds to purchase the first of what they hope will be four such new microscopes. The lab is finalizing a bid, which is due by June 30 for funds from the National Institutes of Health for three additional microscopes.

“There is an exponentially increasing demand for the type of bio-structural information that such machines provide, and so we are competing to become an East Coast based national facility to serve this rapidly growing community,” James Misewich, the associate director for energy and photon sciences at BNL said in an email.

Having a suite of microscopes would enable BNL to have a spectrum of capabilities to serve the needs of its scientists and of researchers from around the world who flock to the Upton-based lab to conduct their research.

The new facility will create jobs associated with running the cryo-EM, Misewich said. If BNL wins the NIH proposal to become a national cryo-EM facility, it would also employ additional scientists, engineers, technicians and administrators to run the user program.

Misewich said he hopes scientists at nearby Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory will benefit from the opportunity to use a combination of its X-ray and electron microscope probes.

Senior members of the BNL team credit LaValle for helping to secure the funds.

“The $15 million in New York State funding is the culmination of a two-year effort led by the senator to bring a cryo-EM to Brookhaven and jump-start this important effort,” Gibbs said.

LaValle suggested that the funds were well worth the investment.

“It is critically important for government to embrace and support the work of the organizations that make life-altering discoveries and better our lives, health and environment,” LaValle said in an email. “This investment will further establish world-leading prominence in the field of medical research, and position the region for additional major investments by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Misewich envisions configuring one of the microscopes to allow for electron tomography, which will generate three-dimensional images of cells.

“The approach will be complementary to the X-ray imaging work we can undertake with the NSLS-II beamlines,” Misewich said.

Gibbs explained that the cryo-EM is complementary to X-ray crystallography, which is the traditional method for determining structures, which scientists already do at BNL.

“Few prescription drugs have been approved by the [Food and Drug Administration] for use in the U.S. in the last 20 years without a crystallographic study of their structure by X-rays,” Gibbs continued.

Misewich expects the new microscope could lead to new methods of detection, diagnosis and treatment for diseases like cancer or for medical challenges like antibiotic resistance.

Combining the technological tools of the new cryo-EM with the insights from the NSLS II and the nine-year-old Center for Functional Nanomaterials will enable researchers to “provide much more rapid bio-structure determination in response to needs like the ability to rapidly characterize a virus,” Misewich said.

LaValle sited this effort as a part of his ongoing commitment to build Long Island’s new high-tech economy.

The combination of BNL, SBU and CSHL “will provide a significant boost to the competitiveness of the biosciences and biotechnology communities across Long Island,” LaValle said.

Sen. Schumer was among the most forceful opponents of Trump’s decision. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Victoria Espinoza

President Donald Trump (R) presented his blueprint for the 2017-18 federal budget and if passed by Congress as it stands, it spells out cuts to programs on which North Shore residents depend.

The draft includes more than $54 billion in cuts to federal programs and departments, with the biggest cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. State, Labor and Agriculture departments.

State officials on both sides of the aisle were quick to condemn cuts to the U.S. Department of Energy, to the tune of $1.7 billion or 5.6 percent less than last year’s funding, that could impact Brookhaven National Laboratory. BNL was established by the DOE in 1947 and has housed the work of seven Nobel Prize winners. The lab hosts public tours and special programs, as well as school science fairs and robotic competitions, also scientific lectures for community residents.

Trump’s budget blueprint intends to cut $900 million in funding to the DOE’s Office of Science, under which BNL receives its funding among other national labs.

U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a press conference on the front steps of the Brookhaven lab in Upton March 17, calling the proposed cuts a blow to the community since the lab supplies jobs for as many as 3,000 Long Islanders.

Schumer said in recent years BNL has received an annual $537.3 million in federal funds from the Office of Science budget, about $5 million in federal funds from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and about $3 million from the Nuclear Energy Office.

A volunteer delivers a meal to a senior in the Meals on Wheels program. File photo

“This major Department of Energy budget cut is a cut to our future, a cut to our knowledge, a cut to our research and a cut to good-paying Long Island jobs,” he said. “Brookhaven National Lab is home to some of the world’s brightest minds and most cutting-edge innovations, which both advance human knowledge and spur our economy. … These kinds of cuts not only hurt us today but they hurt the future jobs and the companies of tomorrow who would otherwise plant their roots on Long Island.”

Schumer was not the only member of Congress from the area to speak out about the president’s cuts. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has voiced his concerns while also assuring constituents there are many parts of Trump’s budget that are beneficial to the United States.

“I strongly oppose the proposed cuts to Brookhaven National Lab, SUNY Stony Brook and other sources of scientific research in the 1st Congressional District,” he said in a statement. “Throughout the years, we have seen some of the world’s greatest science research conducted at these facilities.”

Zeldin made sure to reiterate Trump’s blueprint is a draft with nothing set in stone.

“Regardless of who is in the White House, the Constitution puts government funding strictly under Congress to initiate through the appropriations process,” he said. “The president’s budget request is just that — a request. It has no force of law or legislation.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget could also see a $6.2 billion or 13.2 percent reduction, which means grants for certain local programs could be ended including the popular Meals on Wheels program that has branches in Three Village and Smithtown. Meals on Wheels is a national program providing meals to senior citizens who cannot leave their homes to shop on their own. Chapters in different states rely on funding from the Community Development Block Grant program through the H.U.D. In Trump’s budget blueprint he proposes eliminating the program, cutting $3 billion to community service organizations such as Meals on Wheels, among others.

Although the Three Village Meals on Wheels is not in jeopardy, as all of its funding comes from community donations, Susan Hovani, president of the Three Village branch, said it would be a shame for other communities to lose funding — like Smithtown Meals on Wheels, which relies on federal funding to operate.

“This major … budget cut is a cut to our future, a cut to our knowledge, a cut to our research and a cut to good-paying Long Island jobs.” — Chuck Schumer

“These programs are very necessary,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s sad to see [federal funding] could be cut, and I think it would be much better to cut from other places.”

Another heap of programs on the chopping block are those funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s budget. Compared to last year’s budget, the department’s funding would decrease by $9 billion, or 13 percent.

Trump’s blueprint proposes completely eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before and after-school programs as well as summer programs.

“The Trump administration’s call for zero funding for the 21st CCLC after-school initiative is a betrayal of the millions of students and parents who depend on after-school and summer-learning programs,” Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant said in a statement.

Afterschool Alliance is one of the after-school initiatives from the 21st CCLC that is responsible for many New York students after-school hours.

“It is painfully shortsighted and makes a mockery of the president’s promise to make our country safer and to support inner cities and rural communities alike,” she added.

Grant said after-school programs enable many parents to work and cutting these programs could jeopardize their ability to hold a job, as well as create a safe space for kids when they have nowhere else to go or no other positive activities to turn to.

The president said the budget proposal is meant to advance the safety and security of the American people.

“Our aim is to meet the simple, but crucial demands of our citizens — a government that puts the needs of its own people first,” he said in the blueprint. “When we do that, we will set free the dreams of every American, and we will begin a new chapter of American greatness.”

Trump said the proposed cuts are crucial to streamlining government spending and operations.

“These cuts are sensible and rational,” he said. “Every agency and department will be driven to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people.”

Colleagues pay tribute to Peter Paul

Paul, second from right, in 2002 with colleagues David Fossan, Linwood Lee, Robert McGrath and Gene Sprouse; and Paul in a family photo. Photo from Gene Sprouse

For nearly 50 years, Setauket’s Peter Paul was a prominent member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Stony Brook University. With his death March 11 at the age of 84, the physicist left behind a legacy that will be remembered for years to come, especially by his former colleagues.

A native of Dresden, Germany, Paul received a Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg, and immigrated to the United States when he accepted a postdoctoral position at Stanford University. 

Linwood Lee, emeritus professor, recalled when he recruited Paul in the late 1960s. A former co-worker of Lee’s worked with Paul at Stanford University and told him how impressive the physicist was. Lee knew he had to hire him during a time when he called coming to Stony Brook University “an adventure” because the school was in its infancy.

Peter Paul. Photo from Stony Brook University

Lee said Paul was marvelous, and he’s grateful he recruited the professor.

“We established a laboratory here, and from the moment he got here, he was the driving force to make us all do better,” Lee said.

Paul was a professor at the university from 1967 to 2015 and later a distinguished service professor in the department and served as chairman twice during his tenure. One of Paul’s greatest achievements was building a first-class nuclear physics group along with his colleagues at Stony Brook.

In 1973, when the physicist spearheaded a small group to develop, design and construct Stony Brook’s superconducting linear for heavy ions, an improvement of the university’s existing Van de Graaff accelerator, it became the first such machine at a university lab.

Gene Sprouse, now a distinguished John S. Toll professor at SBU, was a graduate student at Stanford University when he met Paul. He later came to Stony Brook and worked on the accelerator project with him.

“That machine was really unique. It was a very powerful accelerator at a university,” Sprouse said.

Paul Grannis, another of Paul’s colleagues at SBU, said Paul was very proud of the accelerator project.

“It enabled research that had previously not been possible to be done, and it was quite a unique facility in the country,” Grannis said. “I know Peter was very proud of that and considered it one of his major achievements.”

Paul became a member of the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee in 1980, and as chair, led the development of the 1998 Nuclear Science Long Range Plan, which in turn led to the construction of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Paul was appointed deputy director for science and technology in 1998 at BNL, and when John Marburger was appointed as President George W. Bush’s scientific advisor in 2001, Paul stepped in as interim director at the laboratory until 2003. Under Paul’s direction, BNL made many advances, including starting the construction of Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials, and conceptualizing the electron-ion collider as a successor to RHIC.

Peter Paul with Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, M.D. Photo from Stony Brook University

Paul returned to SBU after serving as interim director at BNL, and his ongoing success was never a surprise to those who knew him.

“Peter was very energetic and driven,” Sprouse said. “He was always pushing for excellence.”

Sprouse described Paul as a visionary who helped to create the Stony Brook University people know today, especially the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“Throughout his career he helped to build the nuclear physics groups at Stony Brook, he helped to build the department, and then he helped to build things at Brookhaven,” Sprouse said. “He always kept an eye out for putting in place instruments and institutes that could strengthen Stony Brook in particular and Brookhaven, too.”

Grannis echoed Sprouse’s praise of Paul.

“He was very motivated to do the best that he could in all of his scientific endeavors and to insist that all those who worked with him do so,” Grannis said.

Chang Kee Jung, a SUNY distinguished professor, said when Paul returned to Stony Brook after his time at BNL, he looked for a research program to be involved in. He said he was surprised when Paul knocked on his office door one day and told him he was interested in the projects he was working on at the time.

Jung said he was hesitant at first due to Paul’s extensive experience. However, Paul assured him he would never do anything to interfere. Jung said Paul was always curious to learn more in his field, and didn’t have an ego despite all of his successes. The professor said Paul was the perfect person to have on his team, and he became an advisor to Jung. The two worked together until Paul became the university’s associate vice president for Brookhaven affairs — a position he held until his retirement in 2015.

He also remembers Paul fondly on a personal level and said he was grateful for the opportunity to visit the professor at home a couple of weeks before his death.

“Among all the people I met at Stony Brook, he was the strongest supporter of me, personally,” Jung said. “For whatever reason he liked me and the projects I was doing.”

Lee added that like many professors, Paul was always proud of his students. Many left SBU for prestigious careers, including Michael Thoennessen, chair, APS division of nuclear physics at Michigan University. Thoennessen wrote in an email Paul was his Ph.D. adviser when he attended SBU in the late 1980s.

Peter Paul. Photo from Bryant Funeral Home

“In Germany the Ph.D. adviser is called the ‘Doktor Vater’ (Ph.D. Father) and that is exactly what Peter was to his students,” Thoennessen wrote. “In addition to being a brilliant scientist and a great administrator, Peter was an amazing mentor. I would not be where I am right now without Peter’s advice and guidance.”

Grannis added that despite a demanding career, Paul led a well-rounded life.

“He had a very broad range of interests not only in science but in music, in travel, in reading,” Grannis said. “He was very well-informed on many things.”

Paul was an ardent opera-goer and hiker, and Jung remembers the professor being in his 70s and still traveling upstate to go skiing. His career provided him the opportunity to travel extensively, too. Among his trips were vacations to his homeland of Germany.

In his lifetime, Paul received numerous awards including the American Physical Society Fellow, Institute of Physics Fellow, Sloane Research Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award and the Order of Merit First Class from the German government. Paul is also an inductee in the Long Island Technology Hall of Fame. However, his greatest honor may be the legacy he leaves behind at Stony Brook University.

“Peter was one of the people that made us a better university,” Lee said. “He was active in associating us with Brookhaven, and he was always a booster of the university, and we always boosted Peter. It was hard to keep him because he was recognized as a top scientist. He turned down some very good offers to stay here.”

Sprouse said Paul inspired many to come to SBU and helped them, with his encouragement and leadership, to develop their careers.

“I just think that he was somebody that was really dedicated to the university and wanted to build it,” he said. “For those of us who were at Stony Brook, 40, 50 years ago, Stony Brook was kind of a dream, and Peter really made it a reality.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. File photo by Erika Karp

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) briefed residents last week with his plans and proposals for the coming year in his State of the State address.

One of the more than 30 proposals focused entirely on the needs of Long Island’s infrastructure, with an investment of $160 million slated for transformative projects, including $120 million for the Long Island Rail Road, and $40 million to build sewers.

“These major, transformative investments in Long Island’s core infrastructure invest in the future resiliency and strength of the region,” Cuomo said. “Enhanced LIRR stations will connect further than they ever have before, and these vital water infrastructure projects will support environmental sustainability and bolster economic growth. With these projects, we equip Long Island with the tools and resources to drive commercial activity, create jobs and build a stronger Long Island for generations to come.”

Funds for the LIRR would go toward “state-of-the-art” enhancements at certain stations, improving system connectivity and establishing a new stop at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. According to the governor’s office, the MTA will cover $35 million of the investment. Stops on the North Shore that would receive upgrades include Northport, Stony Brook, Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma.

A sum of $80 million will be invested in major enhancements at 16 stations to improve the customer experience — coming in at $5 million each, including new facilities, Wi-Fi, charging stations for electronics, public art, new platform waiting areas, general station renovations and improved signage. The enhancements will be customized to the needs of each station and constructed with minimal disruption. Creating a stop on the LIRR Ronkonkoma Branch to Brookhaven National Laboratory would cost $20 million.

David Manning, director of stakeholder relations for BNL, said the station would be a great asset to both the lab and the community.

“It’s really important for the future of young scientists and attracting new talent,” he said in a phone interview. “It allows us to expand our programs and would help with easier access to the lab from New York City. We are a user facility with a large employee base, so greater public transportation access to the lab would be very helpful.”

Cuomo also pledged $40 million to build sewers to support economic growth and environmental sustainability in Smithtown and Kings Park. Both areas are in the process of improving their downtown districts.

“These major, transformative investments in Long Island’s core infrastructure invest in the future resiliency and strength of the region.”
— Andrew Cuomo

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) said the money is greatly needed to help bring positive change.

“It’s a great thing,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve been asking the county for the last three years for sewers in Kings Park and Smithtown.”

The $20 million Smithtown Business District Sewer Improvement Area project would install sanitary infrastructure and a $20 million Kings Park wastewater treatment facility would be installed in the 100-acre, 140-lot central business district adjacent to the Kings Park railroad station.

Another proposal has been on the national radar for more than a year, thanks to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Cuomo said he intends to bring free college tuition to New Yorkers with the Excelsior Scholarship, a program that would make college tuition-free for New York’s middle-class families at all SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges.

“A college education is not a luxury — it is an absolute necessity for any chance at economic mobility, and with these first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarships, we’re providing the opportunity for New Yorkers to succeed, no matter what zip code they come from and without the anchor of student debt weighing them down,” Cuomo said.

It’s no secret New Yorkers are struggling with college debt. According to the state comptrollers office, student loan debt more than doubled during the last decade, growing to $82 billion, an increase of 112 percent. The number of student loan borrowers also rose sharply in New York in the last 10 years with an increase of more than 41 percent, to 2.8 million.

The program would be available for more than 940,000 middle-class families or individuals that make up to $125,000 annually and who are enrolled in a SUNY or CUNY university. According to the governor’s office, 80 percent of households in the state make $125,000 or less. Based on enrollment projections, the plan will cost approximately $163 million per year once fully phased in. The new initiative would take about three years to kick in, beginning for New Yorkers making no more than $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018 and reaching $125,000 in 2019.

Funding for the initiative would come from various aid programs. Eligible students would receive federal grants and additional state funds would cover the remaining tuition costs for incoming or existing students who qualify.

Cuomo announced the initiative at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City alongside U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who has been a longtime supporter and advocate for free public college tuition.

“If the United States is to succeed in a highly competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce in the world,” he said. “With exploding technology, and with most of the good paying jobs requiring more and more education, we need to make certain that every New Yorker, every Vermonter and every American gets all the education they need regardless of family income.”

“With exploding technology, and with most of the good paying jobs requiring more and more education, we need to make certain that every New Yorker gets all the education they need regardless of family income.”
—Bernie Sanders

A third proposal would attempt to tackle heroin and opioid addiction —a growing issue throughout Suffolk County, New York and the country.

The proposal aims to eliminate insurance barriers and further expand access to effective treatment, curb overprescribing, and get fentanyl and other synthetic opioids off the streets.

“This multipronged plan addresses each component of heroin and opioid addiction — prevention, treatment and recovery — in order to help break this cycle of misery and save lives,” Cuomo said.

The governor created a six-point plan, which focuses on eliminating prior authorization requirements to make substance use disorder treatment available to all; adding fentanyl analogs to the controlled substances schedule to subject emerging synthetic drugs to criminal drug penalties; increasing access to lifesaving buprenorphine treatment by recruiting health care providers to become prescribers; establishing 24/7 crisis treatment centers to ensure access to critical support services; requiring emergency department prescribers to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program registry to combat doctor shopping; and creating New York’s first recovery high schools to help young people in recovery finish school.

A synthetic opioid more potent than heroin and resistant to the effects of Narcan, fentanyl encounters more than doubled in the U.S. from 5,343 in 2014 to 13,882 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The governor’s office said overdose deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl have increased by 135 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Cuomo said he intends to subject criminal drug penalties for possession of fentanyl, as well as add it to the state’s controlled substance schedule to help law enforcement curb the growing trend. He also wants to improve resources for kids and young adults struggling with drug abuse and addiction with recovery schools, where students in recovery learn in a substance-free environment to help them stay healthy and on track to graduate. Cuomo said he intends to propose legislation to create recovery high schools in regions of New York where abuse is at critical levels.

Boards of Cooperative Educational Services will submit proposals to establish the first schools, one upstate and one downstate, in partnership with local social service agencies. The board will operate the new schools, which are funded by sponsoring school districts. Enrollment will be open to all high school students with a diagnosis of a substance abuse disorder and a commitment to recovery.

Some of the governor’s other proposals included various improvements to John F. Kennedy Airport, an enhanced middle-class child care tax credit to make child care more affordable for the middle class, and promoting the use of electric vehicles with more charging stations statewide.

Esther Takeuchi with photo in the background of her with President Obama, when she won the 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

By Daniel Dunaief

Pop them in the back of a cell phone and they work, most of the time. Sometimes, they only do their job a short time, discharge or generate so much heat that they become a hazard, much to the disappointment of the manufacturers and the consumers who bought electronic device.

Esther Takeuchi, a SUNY distinguished professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering and the chief scientist in the Energy Sciences Directorate at Brookhaven National Laboratory leads a team of scientists who are exploring what makes one battery work while another falters or fails. She is investigating how to improve the efficiency of batteries so they can deliver more energy as electricity.

Esther Takeuchi with a device that allows her to test batteries under various conditions to see how they function. Photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

The process of manufacturing batteries and storing energy is driven largely by commercial efforts in which companies put the ingredients together in ways that have, up until now, worked to produce energy. Scientists like Takeuchi, however, want to know what’s under the battery casing, as ions and electrons move beneath the surface to create a charge.

Recently, Takeuchi and a team that includes her husband Kenneth Takeuchi and Amy Marschilok, along with 18 postdoctoral and graduate students, made some progress in tackling energy storage activity in iron oxides.

These compounds have a mixed track record among energy scientists. That, Takeuchi said, is what attracted her and the team to them. Studying the literature on iron oxides, her graduate students discovered “everything from, ‘it looks terrible’ to, ‘it looks incredibly good,’” she said. “It is a challenging system to study, but is important to understand.”

This offered promise, not only in finding out what might make one set of iron oxides more effective in holding a charge without generating heat — the energy-robbing by-product of these reactions — but also in providing a greater awareness of the variables that can affect a battery’s performance.

In addition to determining how iron oxides function, Takeuchi would like to “determine whether these [iron oxides] can be useful and workable.” Scientists working with iron oxides didn’t know what factors to control in manufacturing their prospective batteries.

Takeuchi said her group is focusing on the linkage between small-scale and mesoscale particles and how that influences battery performance. “The benefit of iron oxides is that they are fairly inexpensive, are available, and are nontoxic,” she said, and they offer the potential of high energy content. They are related to rust in a broad sense. They could, theoretically, contain 2.5 times more energy than today’s batteries. “By understanding the fundamental mechanisms, we can move forward to understand their limitations,” she said, which, ultimately, could result in making these a viable energy storage material. T

akeuchi is also looking at a manganese oxide material in which the metal center and the oxygen connect, creating a tube-like structure, which allows ions to move along a track. When she started working with this material, she imagined that any ion that got stuck would cause reactions to stop, much as a stalled car in the Lincoln Tunnel leads to long traffic delays because the cars behind the blockage have nowhere to go.

Takeuchi said the ions don’t have the same problems as cars in a tunnel. She and her team believe the tunnel walls are porous, which would explain why something that looks like it should only produce a result that’s 5 percent different instead involves a process that’s 80 percent different. “These escape points are an interesting discovery, which means the materials have characteristics that weren’t anticipated,” Takeuchi said. The next step, she said, is to see if the researchers can control the technique to tune the material and make it into the constructs that take advantage of this more efficient flow of ions.

Through a career that included stops in Buffalo and North Carolina and West Virginia, Takeuchi, who has over 150 patents to her name, has collected numerous awards and received considerable recognition. She won the 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, a presidential award given at a ceremony in the West Wing of the White House. Takeuchi developed compact lithium batteries for implantable cardiac defibrillators.

Takeuchi is currently a member of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation Nomination Evaluation Committee, which makes recommendations for the medal to the president. Scientists who have known Takeuchi for years applaud the work she and her team are doing on Long Island. “Dr. Takeuchi and her research group are making great advances in battery research that are very clearly promoted by the strong relationship between Stony Brook and BNL,” said Steven Suib, the director of the Institute for Materials Science at the University of Connecticut.

Indeed, at BNL, Takeuchi has used the National Synchrotron Light Source II, which became operational last year. The light source uses extremely powerful X-rays to create incredibly detailed images. She has worked with three beamlines on her research. At the same time, Takeuchi collaborates with researchers at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at BNL.

Although she works with real-world experiments, Takeuchi partners with scientists at Stony Brook, BNL and Columbia University who focus on theoretical possibilities, offering her an insight into what might be happening or be possible. There are times when she and her team have observed some interaction with batteries, and she’s asked the theorists to help rationalize her finding. Other times, theorists have suggested what experimentalists should search for in the lab.

A resident of South Setauket, Takeuchi and her husband enjoy Long Island beaches. Even during the colder weather, they bundle up and enjoy the coastline. “There’s nothing more mentally soothing and energizing” than going for a long walk on the beach, she said.

In her research, Takeuchi and her team are focused on understanding the limitations of battery materials. Other battery experts believe her efforts are paying dividends. Suib said the recent work could be “very important in the development of new, inexpensive battery materials.”

A boy looks through the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Lab during an event meant to examine the birth of the universe July 31. Photo from BNL

By Colm Ashe

Hundreds of North Shore residents gathered at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton July 31 for the last Summer Sunday of the season, a program which offers the public a chance to immerse themselves in the wide range of scientific endeavors that take place at the lab.

The final Summer Sunday’s events focused on a Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. The RHIC is the modern culmination of an age-old inquiry into the origins of the universe and the only operating particle collider in the United States.

The day’s events gave the public a chance to witness the enormity of the project, a size measured not only in square mileage, but also in international collaborators. Thousands of scientists from all over the world, even those on opposite sides of warring nations, have been brought together by this quest to unlock the secrets of matter.

The RHIC re-creates an explosion similar to the one that created the universe. Photo from BNL
The RHIC re-creates an explosion similar to the one that created the universe. Photo from BNL

From the main control room, scientists at BNL send ions spinning around a 2.5-mile circular track and smash them together at a velocity close to the speed of light. When the ions collide, they create a small explosion that lasts for an extremely brief time span—one billionth of one billionth of one one millionth of a second.

During the explosion, scientists get a finite window into the birth of the universe, measuring one billionth of one millionth of a meter across. In order to study this small speck of short-lived matter, the remnants of these collisions are recorded in two detectors, STAR and PHENIX. This data is then examined by some of world’s top minds.

According to Physicist Paul Sorensen, this collision re-creates “the conditions of the early universe” so scientists can “study the force that holds together that matter as well as all of the matter that exists in the visible universe today.”

What is this force that binds the universe together? At the event, renowned physicist and deputy chair of BNL’s physics department Howard Gordon addressed this puzzling question. His lecture provided the audience some background on the history of this quest, as well as an update on the discovery of the elusive particle that started it all—the Higgs boson.

Though theories regarding the Higgs field — a field of energy presumed to give particles their mass — have been around since the 1960s, it took five decades to finally find the Higgs boson. As reported by TBR’s very own Daniel Dunaief, this “God particle” was finally discovered in 2012 at Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider, the world’s first ever particle accelerator.

This was the puzzle piece scientists worldwide had been counting on to validate their theory about the origins of matter. According to Gordon, “atoms, therefore life, would not form without the Higgs boson.”

Since this discovery, a vast global network of scientists and centers, including BNL, has been created to sift through the enormous amount of data generated by the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC produces enough data “to fill more than 1,000 one-terabyte hard drives — more than the information in all the world’s libraries,” according to theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss.

After Gordon’s lecture, some of the most promising physicists in the U.S. led guests on a tour of the facilities which process this data, along with an up-close introduction to RHIC, STAR and PHENIX, all of which are undergoing maintenance this summer.

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An image from the Biomass Burn Observation Project. Photo from Arthur Sedlacek

The search for small particles has taken Arthur Sedlacek to places like thick plumes of smoke above wildfires raging in the western United States to picturesque vistas on Ascension Island, a staging area for the Allies for antisubmarine activities during World War II.

A chemist in the Environmental and Climate Sciences Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Sedlacek is studying aerosols, which are tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere. These particles can form the nuclei of clouds. Depending on their color, they can also either heat or cool the atmosphere.

“White” aerosols, as Sedlacek put it, such as sulfate- or nitrate-based particles, reflect solar radiation, while “black” aerosols, such as soot, absorb the sun’s light and help trap that energy in the atmosphere. By absorbing heat, darker aerosols increase the temperature, while lighter particles reflect some of that heat back into space.

“When you talk about climate change, you identify greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, which is responsible for warming,” Sedlacek said. “When you run through the model calculations, the models overpredict what we should see. Either something is wrong with the models or something else is counterbalancing the warming effect.”

Arthur Sedlacek photo from Sedlacek
Arthur Sedlacek photo from Sedlacek

Indeed, aerosols represent part of that something else. “We need to incorporate them into our models to better understand what we actually observe in the field,” Sedlacek said. He studies the types of particles, how they age, their color, changes in their color and whether they can act as cloud condensation nuclei.

“We want to understand what’s being produced and how it changes as the plume dilutes and gets older,” Sedlacek said. “How this aging alters the microphysical and optical [properties are] very important to quantifying the contribution of aerosol to climate change.”

During the summer and fall of 2013, Sedlacek was a part of a study called the Biomass Burn Observation Project, which included 14 scientists from seven institutions. Other BNL scientists included his co-principal investigator and chemist Larry Kleinman, atmospheric scientist Ernie Lewis, chemist Stephen Springston and tenured scientist Jian Wang.

Sedlacek spent several hours preparing the equipment that would gather data above these raging fires.

The planes flew into the smoke and then moved in the direction of the smoke, measuring the changes in these aerosols an hour, two hours and more away from the fire. These measurements showed how these aerosols changed over time.

While the study was conducted several years ago, Sedlacek and his colleagues are still working to put together the information.

They have learned that the particles in the air change dramatically in the first few hours. Biomass burning events produce aerosols that are considered “brown carbon” because they are not black, like soot, but they aren’t white like a sulfate- or nitrate-containing aerosol.

Brown carbon is known to evolve. They also observed a particle type referred to as “tar balls.” While others have seen these, Sedlacek and his colleagues are the first to show that they behave like secondary organic aerosols.

The description of these tar balls isn’t meant to suggest boulder-sized pieces of tar hiding somewhere in the clouds: They are about 250 nanometers in diameter, which makes them about 240 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair.

The group is trying to understand how these tar balls form. These tar balls may help clarify a sampling mystery. The top-down view, from satellites, suggests something different than the bottom-up view, from collecting data from particles. The satellite views indicate there should be more “stuff” in the air.

The bottom-up view may not take these tar balls into account. Not all wildfires produce tar balls, but the data Sedlacek and his collaborators collected suggest that they could represent 20 to 30 percent of the particulate mass in the plume.

In addition to flying above wildfires, Sedlacek also jets to places around the world including Brazil and Ascension Island.

He is also a mentor for two instruments, which means he is responsible for making sure they are functioning. He works with single-particle soot photometers, which measure the amount of black carbon in the air, and the aethalometer, which uses light transmission to determine the concentration of black carbon particles collected on a filter.

With the single-particle soot photometer, Sedlacek looked “at the data in a new way and from that gained insight into the morphology — the shape — of the individual particles, something that nobody had thought to do previously,” Lewis explained in an email. Lewis, who has known Sedlacek for over 10 years and has collaborated on numerous projects, said that Sedlacek is “wonderful to work with” and is a “very careful scientist with keen insight and great attention to detail.”

On Ascension Island, Sedlacek was a mentor in support of another scientist’s field campaign. That effort is exploring how biomass burning aerosols produced in Africa interact with marine clouds as the air mass moves from the west coast of Africa in the general direction of the island.

A photographer and bicyclist, Sedlacek takes numerous pictures of his work.

Sedlacek describes himself as an experimentalist and an observationist. He does not do any of the climate models. His data, however, informs those models and enables other scientists to include more details about the climate and atmosphere.

“Those of us who love to fly get to fly into these plumes,” where they are in an unpressurized cabin, so the outside air makes its way into the plane, he said. They experience considerable turbulence above these fires.

“When we see our instruments and our senses respond at the same time,” he said, “it makes for an unforgettable experience.”

Rainbow over NSLS-II: Brookhaven National Laboratory’s National Synchrotron Light Source II is a state-of-the-art 3-GeV electron storage ring. Photo from BNL

Budget season brought good news for the Brookhaven National Laboratory, which may receive $291.5 million from the government to help sustain and improve two of its facilities as part of President Barack Obama’s budget request for the 2017 fiscal year.

The president requested $179.7 million of that money to go toward BNL’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility and the remainder to the National Synchrotron Light Source II facility. The proposed amount is $9.5 million more than what the lab received last year for the two facilities combined.

According to Brookhaven Lab spokesperson Peter Genzer, the money won’t only help the Lab’s RHIC and NSLS-II facilities run, but also help fund new experimental stations at NSLS-II. The president’s financial inquiry also includes $1.8 million for the Core Facility Revitalization project.

The project will provide the infrastructure and facilities to store data to support the lab’s growing needs, the press release said.

U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have worked to maintain America’s science presence — and securing more federal funds for the lab helps maintain it. Schumer said he was pleased with the president’s request to increase funding for the lab, saying that an increase in funding will help keep BNL and our nation at the forefront of innovation and boost Long Island’s economy.

“We appreciate the President’s continued support for science and, in particular, Brookhaven Lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and National Synchrotron Light Source II,” BNL Director Doon Gibbs said. “ We are also extremely grateful for the ongoing efforts of Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand — and the entire N.Y. Congressional delegation — on behalf of the Lab and its research mission.”

According to RHIC’s website, scientists study earth in its infancy and other areas that will help people better understand how the world works. The approximate 16-year-old ion collider is also the first machine in the world that can support colliding heavy ions.

The NSLS-II allows scientists to examine high-energy light waves in a variety of spectrums, including x-ray, ultraviolet and infrared. The RHIC and NSLS-II are BNL’s two largest facilities Genzer said.

He added that the “president’s budget request is the first step in the budget process for the fiscal year 2017.” The process begins on Oct. 1. In the best-case scenario, the government will agree on and vote to approve the final budget before the end of the end of September.

The senators will continue their fight to get increased funding for BNL as the lab “is a major economic engine for Long Island,” Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand said she was also pleased with the administration’s request for increased funds. Construction of NSLS-II began in 2009 and cost around $912 million. BNL expected construction to end last year.

Other members of BNL were unavailable for comment prior to publication.

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BNL’s Peter Guida with Daniela Trani, a summer school student at the NASA Space Radiation Lab. Photo from BNL

Ferdinand Magellan didn’t have the luxury of sending a machine into the unknown around the world before he took to the seas. Modern humans, however, dispatch satellites, rovers and orbiters into the farthest reaches of the universe. Several months after the New Horizons spacecraft beamed back the first close-up images of Pluto from over three billion miles away, NASA confirmed the presence of water on Mars.

The Mars discovery continues the excitement over the possibility of sending astronauts to the Red Planet as early as the 2030s.

Before astronauts can take a journey between planets that average 140 million miles apart, scientists need to figure out the health effects of prolonged exposure to damaging radiation.

Each year, liaison biologist Peter Guida at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) at Brookhaven National Laboratory coordinates the visits of over 400 scientists to a facility designed to determine, among other things, what radiation does to the human body and to find possible prevention or treatment for any damage.

Guida is working to “improve our understanding of the effects that space radiation from cosmic rays have on humans,” explained Michael Sivertz, a physicist at the same facility. “He would like to make sure that voyages to Mars do not have to be one-way trips.”

Guida said radiation induces un-repaired and mis-repaired DNA damage. Enough accumulated mutations can cause cancer. Radiation also induces reactive oxygen species and produces secondary damage that is like aging.

The results from these experiments could provide insights that lead to a better understanding of diseases in general and may reveal potential targets for treatment.

This type of research could help those who battle cancer, neurological defects or other health challenges, Guida said.

By observing the molecular changes tissues and cells grown in the lab undergo in model systems as they transition from healthy to cancerous, researchers can look to protect or restore genetic systems that might be especially vulnerable.

If the work done at the NSRL uncovers some of those genetic steps, it could also provide researchers and, down the road, doctors with a way of using those genes as predictors of cancer or can offer guidance in tailoring individualized medical treatment based on the molecular signature of a developing cancer, Guida suggested.

Guida conducts research on neural progenitor cells, which can create other types of cells in the nervous system, such as astrocytes. He also triggers differentiation in these cells and works with mature neurons. He has collaborated with Roger M. Loria, a professor in microbiology and immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University, on a compound that reverses the damage from radiation on the hematological, or blood, system.

The compound can increase red blood cells, hemoglobin and platelet counts even after exposure to some radiation. It also increases monocytes and the number of bone marrow cells. A treatment like this might be like having the equivalent of a fire extinguisher nearby, not only for astronauts but also for those who might be exposed to radiation through accidents like Fukushima or Chernobyl or in the event of a deliberate act.

Loria is conducting tests for Food and Drug Administration approval, Guida said.

If this compound helps astronauts, it might also have applications for other health challenges, although any other uses would require careful testing.

While Guida conducts and collaborates on research, he spends the majority of his time ensuring that the NSRL is meeting NASA’s scientific goals and objectives by supporting the research of investigators who conduct their studies at the site. He and a team of support personnel at NSRL set up the labs and equipment for these visiting scientists. He also schedules time on the beam line that generates ionizing particles.

Guida is “very well respected within the space radiation community, which is why he was chosen to have such responsibility,” said Sivertz, who has known Guida for a decade.

Guida and his wife Susan, a therapist who is in private practice, live in Searingtown.

While Guida recalls making a drawing in crayon after watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon, he didn’t seek out an opportunity at BNL because of a long-standing interest in space. Rather, his scientific interest stemmed from a desire to contribute to cancer research.

When he was 15, his mother Jennie, who was a seamstress, died after a two-year battle with cancer. Guida started out his career at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he hoped to make at least the “tiniest contribution” to cancer research.

He pursued postdoctoral research at BNL to study the link between mutations, radiation and cancer.

Guida feels as if he’s contributed to cancer research and likes to think his mother is proud of him. “Like a good scientist,” though, he said he’s “never satisfied. Good science creates the need to do more good science. When you find something out, that naturally leads to more questions.”