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Stony Brook University

Sheryl Cohn stands in her home’s guest bedroom where the ceiling crashed and fell onto the bed during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though it’s been more than five years since Hurricane Sandy ravaged Long Island, many people, including Huntington Station resident Sheryl Cohn, are still feeling its effects like the storm only happened yesterday.

Black mold in the basement of Cohn’s home is an aftereffect of Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Kyle Barr

In an interview after the April 11 public hearing at Stony Brook University conducted by the Suffolk County Legislature’s Superstorm Sandy Review Task Force, Cohn said her roof was ruined in the wake of the storm, and her house is falling apart around her. The ceiling in her guest bedroom fell and crashed onto the bed, and black mold has sprouted in many rooms around her house. The masonry on the outside of her home — finished only a few months before Sandy hit — fell to pieces on her driveway. She lives in fear that a piece of ceiling will fall on her head while she sits or sleeps.

“My grandson, he turned five in March, he has never been here,” Cohn said. “I would never be able to forgive myself if, God forbid, he contracted something or a piece of sheetrock fell on his head. It makes me feel horrible. He lives a half an hour away, and he’s never been to Nana’s house.”

She first looked into a contractor to fix her roof, but the firm she hired disappeared with all of the money she had already given them. She said the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, the state program that was created to provide aid to people whose homes were damaged during the storm, has constantly told her wrong information and switched caseworkers with her multiple times. Now she says they have stopped returning her calls and emails. Five and a half years later she still has no progress on acquiring any financial aid.

As some of the effects of Sandy linger on, Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), the Legislature’s presiding officer, helped to create the Superstorm Sandy Review Task Force, a 27-member committee of government representatives, scientists, engineers and other experts to make recommendations on how to deal with the lasting effects of Sandy as well as prepare Suffolk County for the next big storm.

“My grandson, he turned five in March, he has never been here. I would never be able to forgive myself if, God forbid, he contracted something or a piece of sheetrock fell on his head.”

— Sheryl Cohn

The task force is divided into four working groups including emergency response, resiliency, recovery and infrastructure.

“As we go and narrow down the issues they want to focus on, we want to look at what went wrong, what are the recommendations, what are the solutions,” said Joshua Slaughter, Gregory’s aide. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but we want to come out with things to make it better.”

The task force plans to have more meetings and come up with a document by December that will provide recommendations for the county.

While much of the focus of the task force is focused on the South Shore, where the damage was much more severe, problems from the North Shore not only deal with damaged property but the severe risk of beach erosion and property loss for people living close to the shore.

Professor of oceanography at Stony Brook University and task force member Malcolm Bowman said there is not enough solid data to say that “storm of the century” Sandy won’t be repeated in the near future and that rising sea levels will make each new storm do more damage.

“Five, 10, 25 years from now it will take less of a storm to do the same amount of damage,” Bowman said. “That is the challenge that we have to think about and be prepared for.”

Malcolm Bowman discusses ways to fix Long Island’s receding beachline at a Superstorm Sandy Review Task Force public hearing held April 11 at Stony Brook University. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are both natural solutions and engineered solutions up in the air for trying to fix Long Island’s receding beachline, according to Bowman. Natural solutions include planting seagrass and reestablishing oyster beds to hold the land in place, while engineering solutions include barriers and other human-made structures. Bowman said that both will come into play when preparing for upcoming storms.

Regarding aiding those who are still affected by Sandy navigate their recovery, Slaughter said the task force was thinking about recovery advocates, somebody who can be hired by the state to work with people on a consistent basis.

“I know it will be difficult, there are a lot of cases, but if you leave it to that one on one, people will be running forever, and not every consumer can get out as well as others,” Slaughter said.

“The vast, vast majority of our contractors did the best to their ability, but of course the ones we hear about are those who put people in a bad position or were unscrupulous,” chair of the task force Dave Calone said. “Our job as a governmental entity is to make recommendations to limit that as much as possible.”

Another task force meeting took place April 18 at the Southampton Town Hall. Two more meetings are scheduled for April 26 at Patchogue-Medford High School and May 2 at Babylon Town Hall.

Maurizio Del Poeta. File photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

Sometimes, fixing one problem creates another.

People with multiple sclerosis have been taking a medication called fingolimod for a few years. The medicine calms immune systems that attack the myelin around nerve cells. Fingolimid decreases the lymphocyte number in the bloodstream by trapping them in the lymph nodes.

In a few cases, however, the drug can reduce the immune system enough that it allows opportunistic infections to develop. Cryptococcosis, which is a fungal infection often spread through the inhalation of bird droppings or from specific trees such as eucalyptus, is one of these infections, and it can be fatal if it’s not caught or treated properly, especially for people who have weakened immune systems.

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis contacted Stony Brook University fungal expert Maurizio Del Poeta, a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, to understand how this drug opens the door to this opportunistic and problematic infection. He is also exploring other forms of this drug to determine if tweaking it can allow the benefits without opening the door to problematic infections.

Most of the human population has been exposed to this fungus. In a study in the Bronx, over 75 percent of children older than 2 years of age had developed an antibody against Cryptococcus neoformans, which means they have been exposed to it. It is unknown whether these people harbor the fungus or if they have just mounted an immune reaction. Exposure may be continuous, but infections may only occur if a person is immunocompromised.

Fingolimid “inhibits a type of immunity” that involves the movement of lymphocytes from organs into the bloodstream,” Del Poeta said. “Because of this, there are certain infections that can develop.”

Through a spokeswoman, Novartis explained that the company was “happy to have started a scientific collaboration” with Del Poeta to understand the role of a specific pathway in cryptococcus infections.

Cryptococcal meningitis is one of several infections that can develop. Others include herpes meningitis and disseminated varicella zoster. Before starting fingolimid, patients need to receive immunization for varicella zoster virus. At this point, doctors do not have a vaccine for cryptococcosis.

To study the way this drug and its derivatives work, Del Poeta recently received a $2.5 million grant over a five-year period from the National Institutes of Health.

Yusuf Hannun, the director of the Cancer Center at SBU, was confident Del Poeta would continue to be successful in his ongoing research.

Del Poeta “does very important and innovative work on fungal pathogenesis and he is a leader in the field,” Hannun wrote in an email. “His work will enhance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms.”

Fingolimid mimics a natural lipid. Years ago, Del Poeta showed that this sphingolipid, which is on the external surface of the membrane, is important to contain cryptococcosis in the lung. If its level decreases, the fungus can move from the lung to the brain.

While people with multiple sclerosis have developed signs of this infection, it is also prevalent in areas like sub-Saharan Africa, where people with AIDS battle cryptococcosis. About 40 percent of this HIV population develops this fungal infection, Del Poeta said. About 500,000 people die of cryptococcosis every year.

In certain areas of the United States, such as the Pacific Northwest, this fungus is also endemic. On Vancouver Island, about 19 people died from Cryptococcus gattii infections between 1999 and 2007. Most of those patients were immunocompromised.

When the fungus migrates from the lung to the brain, it is “very difficult, if not impossible in most cases, to eradicate,” Del Poeta explained in an email. If the diagnosis is made early enough before the infection spreads to the brain, the recovery rate is high, he suggested. In people whose immune systems are not compromised by drugs or disease, “death is rare.” 

Del Poeta plans to study the interaction between the drug and the fungal infection through a mouse model of the disease. The mouse model mimics the human disease and will provide insights on how to control the infection, particularly when the fungus reaches the brain.

Some of the derivatives Novartis has developed do not cause a fungal infection. Del Poeta is working with Novartis to study other forms of fingolimid that do not reactivate cryptococcosis. Del Poeta said Novartis is currently in Phase III clinical trials for another drug for multiple sclerosis. The new drug acts on a different receptor.

“We think the reason the fingolimid reactivates cryptococcosis is that it is blocking one receptor, which is important for the containment” of the fungus. The other drug doesn’t allow the disease-bearing agent to escape.

“This is a hypothesis,” Del Poeta said. He is waiting to corroborate the cell culture data in animal models.

Del Poeta has been working with Novartis for over three years. The Stony Brook scientist used some preliminary studies on the way fingolimid analogs behave as part of the research grant application to the NIH that led to the current grant.

Del Poeta said he is excited about the possibility of contributing to this area.

“Not only will this work contribute to the field of MS, but it will also have a contribution to the field of cryptococcosis,” he said. “This will have important implications for MS patients [and] for the entire HIV population.” He said he believes patients may have some other defect. If he is able to discover what that is, he may be able to protect them from a cryptococcosis infection.

Ultimately, Del Poeta hopes this work leads to a broader understanding of fungal infections that could apply to other pathogens as well.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes a granuloma very similar to the one caused by the cryptococcosis and we could potentially study whether the same molecular mechanisms involved in the control of the infection in the lung are similar between the two infections,” he explained in an email.

Gretchen Carlson. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Hundreds came out to hear a former TV anchor at the forefront of the #MeToo movement at Stony Brook University April 17.

Gretchen Carlson, the television anchor who forced Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes of Fox News to resign in July 2016, helped create the backdrop for the #MeToo movement. As the most recent in the “My Life As” speaker series offered by the School of Journalism at SBU, she described in graphic detail how she came to play that role in what has been called “The Year of the Woman.”

Carlson filed her lawsuit July 6, 2016, alleging sexual harassment after being let go by Fox June 23of the same year. She described being harassed, and said Ailes “spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities.” Subsequently, other women came forward to similarly accuse Ailes, and by Sept. 21, Century Fox, Fox News’ parent corporation, had settled the lawsuit for $20 million. More important than the money to Carlson was the public apology.

That is just the bottom line on the exceptional life of Carlson. Born and raised in Minnesota, she is the granddaughter of the pastor of what was then the second largest Lutheran congregation in the country. She too was used to being in the spotlight. A child prodigy, she was a violin soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra at age 13, was the valedictorian of her high school class and entered the Miss America pageant in 1989 at her mother’s suggestion and won. She was the first classical violinist to wear that crown. The money that came with the honor went toward her senior year’s tuition at Stanford University, from which she graduated with honors. She also managed to fit in a year of study at the University of Oxford in England, where she focused on the writings of Virginia Woolf.

She has, no doubt, healthy self-esteem. Interested in a career in broadcast journalism, she worked her way up the ladder as reporter and anchor from smaller to larger stations, reaching CBS in 2000. She became cohost of the Saturday edition of “The Early Show.” In 2005, Fox News made her an offer she couldn’t refuse, and she became cohost of the morning show “Fox and Friends.” Then, in 2013, came “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson.”

Along the way, she was subjected to sexual harassment of varying degrees. She finally complained to Fox’s human resources department, and when her contract was up in 2016, she was let go. That was shortly after she repulsed the alleged sexual advances of Ailes, setting up her grounds for the lawsuit.

Since she lost her job and won the lawsuit, she has been working hard to stand up for other women who may be faced with similar circumstances. She has spoken to many groups across the country, mentioning a recent talk at an all-boys high school. Carlson ardently believes that sexual harassment is not just a women’s problem. She posits that it is a men’s problem, and that boys at a young age need to be taught by the men in their lives to respect — and how to act with — women. She is using money from her lawsuit toward foundation to give young women leadership training and call out their courage.

On Jan. 1, Carlson was elected chairwoman of the board of the Miss America Pageant. She said to expect some significant changes.

Sherif Abdelaziz. Photo by Juliana Thomas, SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

When the temperature drops dramatically, people put on extra layers of clothing or rush inside. At the other extreme, when the mercury climbs toward the top of thermometers, they turn on sprinklers, head to the beach or find cold drinks.

That, however, is not the case for the clay that is often underneath buildings, cliffs or the sides of hills on which people build picturesque homes. Clay shrinks after heating-cooking cycles in summer and also after freezing-thawing cycles in winter. “We want to understand why and how this behavior happens,” said Sherif Abdelaziz, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Stony Brook University.

Sherif Abdelaziz. Photo by Juliana Thomas, SBU

Abdalaziz recently received a prestigious Young Investigator Program award from the U.S. Army Research Office, which will provide $356,000 in funding over three years to study these properties. While the work will explore the basic science behind these clay materials, his findings could have a broad range of applications, from providing potential early-warning systems for future landslides or mudslides to monitoring coastal bluffs to keeping track of the soil around high-temperature nuclear waste buried in the ground.

Miriam Rafailovich, a distinguished professor in the Department of Materials Science at SBU who is beginning a collaboration with Abdelaziz, suggested that Abdelaziz’s work is relevant in multiple areas. “It applies to shoring infrastructure,” she wrote in an email. “The collapse of roadbeds under heavy traffic is a very common problem.”

Additionally, the clay around nuclear waste is subjected to very high temperatures during the period the waste is active. These temperatures recover to initial temperature with time, which will mainly subject the clay to a heating-cooling cycle that is part of this study, Abdelaziz explained. He is pleased to have the opportunity to explore these kinds of questions.

The Young Investigator Program award is “one of the most prestigious honors bestowed by the Army on outstanding scientists beginning their independent careers,” explained Julia Barzyk, a program manager in earth materials and processes at the U.S. Army Research Office, in an email. Abdelaziz’s research “is expected to contribute to improved approaches to mobility and siting and maintenance of infrastructure, especially in cold regions such as the Arctic.”

The field in which Abdelaziz works is called the thermomechanical behavior of soil. The challenge in this area, he said, is that the scientists are often divided into two groups. Some researchers focus on the heating effect on soil, while others explore cooling. In the real world, however, soil is exposed to both types of conditions, which could affect its ability to support structures above or around it.

In general, Abdelaziz has focused on clay. So far, scientists have looked at a piece or chunk of clay to see how it behaves. They haven’t done enough exploration at the microscale level, he said. “Our scientific approach crosses between the scales,” he said. In conducting experiments at SBU and at Brookhaven National Laboratory, he starts at the microscale and looks at the larger macroscale.

At the National Synchrotron Light Source II at BNL, Abdelaziz and his partners at BNL, including Eric Dooryhee, the beamline director for the X-ray Powder Diffraction beamline, change the temperature of the clay and look at the microstructure.

The challenge in the experiments they conducted last year was that they could change the temperature, but they couldn’t mimic the pressure conditions in the ground. Recently, they conducted the first experiments on a sample environment that involved a change in temperature and pressure and they got “good results so far,” Abdelaziz said in an email. He is looking for more beam time in the summer to finish the development of the sample environment. He is also seeking funding for a project to develop an early-warning system for coastal bluff stability.

“We are pretty good at predicting the weather,” Abdelaziz said. “What we don’t know is how this storm will impact our slopes.” The goal of the work he’s exploring now is to use what he learns from these experiments to predict potential changes in the soil. The purpose of this work is to better engineer mitigation techniques to avoid evacuations.

Abdelaziz’s work has focused on one clay type. He has, however, built a numerical model using experimental data. Once that model is validated, it will be able to predict the behavior of other clay, and he can include the heterogeneity of earth surface material in his numerical studies.

Rafailovich appreciates Abdelaziz’s dedication to his research. “He is very passionate about his work,” she wrote in an email. “He really hopes that he can change the world, one small road at a time.”

A native of Cairo, Egypt, Abdelaziz lives in Smithtown with his wife Heba Elnoby and their children Mohamed, 10, and Malak, 7. The father of two suggested that he “owes every single piece of success” in his career to the support he received from his wife.

The idea to study coastal bluff stability came to Abdelaziz when he was grilling on the beach a few years ago. He saw a sign that indicated that a bluff was unstable and that there was excessive movement. He related that to what he was studying. Abdelaziz is pleased with the funding and with the opportunity to contribute basic knowledge about clay to civil and military efforts. The financial support from the Army suggests that his “work is meaningful to the nation in general,” he said.

Berlinda crawling before Dr. Wesley Carrion performed surgery on her two clubbed feet at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo from Steve Kramer

A teen born with two clubbed feet is closer to her dream of walking on her own thanks to the efforts of Long Islanders and Stony Brook University Hospital.

When Steve Kramer, a retired Brookhaven National Laboratory accelerator physicist, traveled to Haiti last year through Life & Hope Haiti, a nonprofit founded by Haitian-American Lucia Anglade, he never knew what a profound impact his trip would have on one student’s life. It was while working at the Eben-Ezer School, built by Anglade in Milot, Haiti, he met 16-year-old Berlinda, who would crawl to get from one spot to another.

Berlinda with Steve Kramer, behind wheelchair, Lucia Anglade, left, and Dr. Wesley Carrion, after her surgery. Photo from Steve Kramer

Moved by her struggles, Kramer reached out to Dr. Wesley Carrion at Stony Brook University School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedics about performing surgery to fix Berlinda’s feet. Kramer sent the doctor copies of her X-rays, and Carrion told him he felt he could treat her and rotate the feet. He agreed to do it free of charge, donating his time and equipment.

“We looked at her and felt she had a fairly good chance of standing,” Carrion said.

After Carrion performed surgery on Berlinda in November, fixators — external frames that are attached by pins drilled into leg bones -— were used to rotate her feet to stretch the tendons. After the fixators were in place, Berlinda received outpatient services from the hospital, and she stayed at Anglade’s home on Long Island, according to Kramer.

The fixators were removed March 9 and Berlinda was put in leg casts until March 19. She has been working with physical therapists at the hospital, and while she can stand with braces with help, she has a long way to go before she can stand on her own.

“She was crawling around her village. She was unable to stand, so when we got her up with physical therapy, those were literally her first steps.”

— Dr. Wesley Carrion

Kramer said she has to build up strength, and she feels a lot of pain when she moves her left knee as it is locking up after not being used for months. However, he said she was pleased to be out of the fixators, which caused her pain at times.

Carrion said fixators can be painful, and when Berlinda’s wheelchair would hit bumps, the pain would increase.

“It’s tough when you got these fixator frames on that look like giant tinker toys that you attach to the limbs,” Carrion said. “They’re things that hurt. They’re things that are uncomfortable.”

Carrion said it’s difficult to determine if Berlinda will stand without braces. She had polio and did not receive proper treatment, and also has spina bifida. Carrion said despite a hole in her spinal column, it hasn’t presented any problems.

“If we can get her walking with braces, that’s a huge win,” Carrion said. “She was basically crawling around her village. She was unable to stand, so when we got her up with physical therapy, those were literally her first steps.”

Kramer said the hope is for Berlinda to stay until she completes physical therapy, which will take a few months, since she will receive better treatment in Stony Brook than in Haiti. To help with Berlinda’s airfare and outpatient expenses, Kramer set up a GoFundMe page.

Berlinda and the temporary casts she wore before getting leg braces. Photo from Steve Kramer

He said with money from that account, he can buy physical therapy equipment, like parallel bars so she can practice standing and walking outside of physical therapy treatments.

Kramer said during Berlinda’s stay in New York, it was the first time she saw snow, and he showed her how to make a snowball.

“She knew what to do with it,” Kramer said. “She wanted to throw it at me, and she did.”

Kramer said Berlinda, who will turn 17 April 13, loves learning, and despite attending school for only one year, easily solved basic arithmetic problems when he first met her.

“She never lost that bright smile and willingness to work with whatever she had,” Kramer said, adding that sometimes those with handicaps in her village are shunned and even her siblings have bullied her.

When Kramer first approached Carrion, the doctor informed him that he would also need to get the hospital to donate some of the costs for the November surgery. It was then Kramer reached out to 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. Pasternak said requests like Kramer’s to waive charges are not unusual from doctors and members of the community.

“She never lost that bright smile and willingness to work with whatever she had.”

— Steve Kramer

“We do this from time to time, and the way it usually occurs is that a physician encounters somebody, oftentimes overseas, and in the course of doing a medical mission or in their travels,” Pasternak said. “And it’s somebody who has a correctable medical condition that will make a huge impact on their lives.”

While Pasternak was out of town during the surgery and hasn’t met Berlinda yet, he said Kramer and Carrion have kept him informed about her recovery and follow-up treatment.

“It’s a testimony to cooperation and collaboration because it required a lot of people to step up and say that this is important to do and basically volunteer to do it,” he said.

For more information about fundraising efforts to help Berilnda, visit www.gofundme.com/berlindasmiracle. To find out more about Life & Hope Haiti or to get involved, visit www.lifeandhopehaiti.org.

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Students at Stony Brook University organized a March for Our Lives protest. Photo from Amanda DeJesus

While March for Our Lives rallies were scheduled in various towns on Long Island, members of the Stony Brook University community felt it was important that the campus get involved in the movement, too.

Amanda DeJesus, an undergraduate student at the Stony Brook School of Social Welfare, was one of the organizers of a March for Our Lives rally at SBU. The event started at 11 a.m. March 24 and many of the approximately 300 people who attended the university rally went to Port Jefferson Station afterward to take part in that protest.

Local residents joined SBU students and faculty at a March for Our Lives rally March 24. Photo from Evelyn Costello

“As a social welfare student, promoting social justice is the cornerstone of our profession,” DeJesus said. “I believe that demanding common-sense gun laws is a first step in creating a safer society for everyone, so that is why I wanted Stony Brook University to become a part in this very important conversation.”

Alli Ross, from Port Jefferson Station, attended the SBU rally with her fiancé. She said it was the first march she ever attended, and she was amazed every time she looked back and saw more people joining in. While she doesn’t have children yet, she said she has younger sisters and cousins, and ensuring children’s safety is important to her.

“This is just something that really hits hard for me … as it does with a lot of others,” Ross said. “Just being a part of something like that, and everyone coming together and showing that this is something that needs to be done, something that needs to be changed, it makes me feel a little bit better. It makes me feel like there is hope because there are so many like-minded people who care so strongly about it.”

Courtney Kidd, an adjunct professor at the university, spoke at the event and said she was honored when the student-organizers invited her. She said she first thought of declining and suggesting a speaker who would be an expert on gun violence, but then she remembered when she was a student hearing the saying: “One voice can make a difference; I am one voice.”

“I realized that this march is about more than rehearing the statistics that you already know, and instead about making change,” Kidd said at the rally. “It’s not about their voice — it’s about yours. So, if I can help you realize that you don’t always need the years and the title, that we need your voice, then I may be able to say I made a difference.”

DeJesus said she hopes the young people will continue voicing their concerns.

“I believe that we will be able to see change if we continue speaking about it,” DeJesus said. “We must keep the conversation going, never forget all the lives lost due to gun violence, continue walking out and don’t let anyone silence us.”

She said it’s vital to get out and vote.

“The midterm elections are so important and not enough people, especially young people, are registered,” DeJesus said. “The best way to make your voices heard is to vote. You never know if your vote will be the one that makes a difference.”

Stony Brook Athletics and Uber announced a partnership Feb. 28. Photo from Uber

Stony Brook University’s athletic department and a popular app have partnered, and students and Seawolves fans will reap the benefits.

On Feb. 28 Stony Brook Athletics and Uber announced a three-year partnership which makes Uber, a location-based car-service app featuring private drivers, the “Official Ride of the Stony Brook Seawolves.”

Robert Emmerich, senior associate director of athletics at SBU, said the university has received positive feedback from students since the partnership was announced. He said no official data has been obtained yet to measure the number of rides being called for every day. He said one of the goals is to offer students and staff members discounts during high travel times in the near future.

“This partnership is beneficial for many reasons and all were considered while working out the details of the agreement,” Emmerich said. “Providing students and staff with a safe and reliable way to explore Long Island is certainly one of the main focuses of this partnership. In addition, we are excited that Uber can offer our fans the convenience to be picked up and dropped off right next to our athletic facilities, so they can enjoy our games with friends and family.”

Another hope of the partnership is to ease traffic during games. “Having Uber as a reliable option to get to and from our home games will certainly help with parking and provide fans the opportunity to be dropped off right next to our facilities,” Emmerich said.

The university is working on pickup and drop-off zones for Seawolves fans, and the locations will be finalized shortly. Currently, the Competition Automotive Gate #2 of LaValle Stadium is the designated pickup and drop-off point during the university’s lacrosse season, according to Emmerich.

“Teaming up with Stony Brook will allow us to provide an improved and convenient Uber experience for those traveling to and from games and around campus,” said Sarfraz Maredia, Uber’s regional general manager for the Northeast United States in a statement. “Together, we will make sure students, fans, alumni and faculty have access to affordable, reliable rides.”

A home on Stony Brook Road was condemned after the Town of Brookhaven found the homeowner had the garage and basement illegally converted into apartments that housed Stony Brook University students. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) had a warning for unscrupulous landlords who illegally turn residential homes into rooming houses.

“Don’t do it,” Romaine said. “We’re coming for you.”

One landlord found that Sept. 8 statement to be true March 9 when the Town of Brookhaven Law Department condemned a house at 1423 Stony Brook Road in Stony Brook, where eight people were sharing the home, according to a press release from the Town of Brookhaven. Seven of the residents were found to be students of Stony Brook University. The landlord of the ranch-style house that had been unlawfully converted to include living space in the garage and basement was not named by the town.

“This was one of the worst cases of illegal student housing that we have seen in the Stony Brook area,” Romaine said in a statement. “Off-campus housing that is not in compliance with town building and fire codes threatens the health and safety of the students who reside there and the neighbors who live nearby.”

Romaine attributed the discovery of the violations to the town’s law department and the vigilance of neighbors who contacted the town. He urged students and their families to ensure their housing compiles with town code.

At the Stony Brook Road home, the town found bedroom doors equipped with key locks, and some rooms containing refrigerators and microwaves. In addition to the illegal basement and garage apartments, with two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom in each, the basement had a coin-operated washer and dryer.

The law department issued the property owner several housing code violations, including no smoke detectors, no carbon monoxide detectors, no rental permit and illegal use as a rooming house. The owner’s school tax assessment relief property tax exemption was revoked, and both the Suffolk County District Attorney and New York State Attorney General’s offices have been notified for prosecution.

Bruce Sander, president of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, said the organization reported the house to the town, calling the members the “eyes and ears of this community.”

“We are glad that this landlord will get the fines, etc. that he or she deserves, and I hope they shut this house down permanently and sell it to a family,” Sander said. “This type of landlord does not belong in any community when they openly violate the laws and put the students at risk as well as destroy property values of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

SBU offered dorm rooms on campus to the displaced students. In the last five years, the university has been working collaboratively with the Town of Brookhaven, the Suffolk County Police Department and local community groups to address safety concerns for students living in off-campus housing, according to a statement from SBU spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow.

Before the house was condemned March 9, the town notified university administration, and a coordinated effort was conducted by the school’s government and community relations, campus residences, dean of students’ office and commuter student services and off-campus living to find rooms for the students, according to Sheprow.

At the Sept. 8 press conference, Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president of SBU and senior vice president for government and community relations, said the school takes great steps to ensure students’ safety. Among measures the university has undertaken since March 2013 are prohibiting advertisements of off-campus rentals on SBU’s website, unless the landlord can provide a Brookhaven Town rental permit, and prohibiting posting on campus bulletin boards. The university also holds tenants’ rights workshops to help students understand what to look for when renting.

In 2013, Romaine launched a mobile phone app, available on Apple iPhones and Android mobile devices, to help fight illegal off-campus housing in the town. To download the free mobile app, visit www.brookhavenny.gov from a mobile device.

Residents can also call 631-451-TOWN (8696) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to report housing violations. For more information or to access the town’s code book, go to www.brookhavenny.gov.

Adélie penguins jump off an iceberg of one of the Danger Islands. Photo by Rachel Herman from Stony Brook University/ Louisiana State University

By Daniel Dunaief

In October of 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik, people imagined that satellites hovering over their heads could see everything and anything down below. Indeed, in the early days, some Americans rushed to close their blinds, hoping the Kremlin couldn’t see what they might be eating for dinner or watching on TV.

Satellites today collect such a wealth of information about the world below that it’s often not easy to analyze and interpret it.

That’s the case with the Danger Islands in the Antarctic. Difficult for people to approach by boat because of treacherous rocks around the islands and sea ice that might trap a ship, these islands are home to a super colony of Adélie penguins that number 1.5 million.

Nesting Adelie penguins. Photo by Michael Polito from Louisiana State University

This discovery of birds that were photographed in a reconnaissance plane in 1957 but haven’t been studied or counted since “highlights the ultimate challenge of drinking from the firehose of satellite-based information,” said Heather Lynch, an associate professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University and a co-author on a Scientific Reports publication announcing the discovery of these supernumerary waterfowl.

Adélie penguins are often linked to the narrative about climate change. Lynch said finding this large colony confirms what researchers knew about Adélie biology. In West Antarctic, it is warming and the population is declining. On the eastern side, it’s colder and icier, which are conditions more suited for Adélie survival. The Danger Islands are just over the edge of those distinct regions, on the eastern side, where it is still cold and icy.

A population discovery of this size has implications for management policies. At this point, different groups are designing management strategies for both sides of the peninsula. A German delegation is leading the work for a marine protected area on the east side. An Argentinian team is leading the western delegation.

Adelie penguins on sea ice next to Comb Island. Photo by Michael Polito, Louisiana State University

This discovery supports the MPA proposal, explained Mercedes Santos, a researcher from the Instituto Antártico Argentino and a co-convener of the Domain 1 MPA Expert Group. The MPA proposal was introduced in 2017 and is under discussion in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, where the United States is one of 25 members.

Said Santos in a recent email, “This publication will help us to show the importance of the area for protection, considering that decisions should be made [with the] best available information.” The location of the Danger Islands protects it from the strongest effects of climate change, as the archipelago is in a buffer zone between areas that are experiencing warming and those where the climate remains consistent over longer periods of time.

Whales and other mammals that eat krill create an unknown factor in developing fisheries plans. While penguins spend considerable time above water and are easier to monitor and count, the population of whales remains more of a mystery.

Heather Lynch with a penguin. Photo from Heather Lynch

Lynch said the more she studies penguins, the more skeptical she is that they can “stand in” as ecosystem indicators. Their populations tend to be variable. While it would be simpler to count penguins as a way to measure ecosystem dynamics, researchers also need to track populations of other key species, such as whales, she suggested. Humpback whales are “in competition with penguins for prey resources,” Lynch said.

The penguin data is “one piece of information for one species,” but MPAs are concerned with the food web for the entire region, which also includes crabeater seals. For the penguin population study, Lynch recruited members of her lab to contribute to the process of counting the penguins manually. “I figured I should do my fair share,” she said, of work she describes as “painstaking.” Indeed, Lynch and her students counted over 280,000 penguins by hand. She and her team used the hand counting effort to confirm the numbers generated by the computer algorithm.

“The counting was done to make sure the computer was doing its job well,” she said. She also wanted to characterize the errors of this process as all census counts come with errors and suggested that the future of this type of work is with computer vision.

Lynch appreciated the work of numerous collaborators to count this super colony. Even before scientists trekked out to the field to count these black and white birds, she and Matthew Schwaller from NASA studied guano stains on the Danger Islands in 2015 using existing NASA images.

The scientific team at Heroina Island in Antarctica. Photo by Alex Borowicz, Stony Brook University

This penguin team included Tom Hart from Oxford University and Michael Polito from Louisiana State University, who have collaborated in the field for years, so it was “natural that we would work together to try and execute an expedition.” Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, has considerable expertise in the modeling side, especially with the climate; and Hanumant Singh, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University has experience using drones in remote areas, Lynch said.

The penguins on the Danger Islands react to the presence of humans in a similar way to the ones elsewhere throughout the Antarctic. The birds generally don’t like creatures that are taller than they are, in part because they fear skuas, which are larger predatory birds that work together to steal an egg off a nest. Counting the penguins requires the researchers to stand, but when the scientists sit on the ground, the penguins “will approach you. You have to make sure you’re short enough.”

Lynch would like to understand the dynamics of penguin nest choices that play out over generations. She’s hoping to use a snapshot of the layout of the nests to determine how a population is changing. Ideally, she’d like to “look at a penguin colony to see whether it’s healthy and declining.” She believes she is getting close.

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.”

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