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Stony Brook University

Michael Bernstein. Photo from SBU

By Michael A. Bernstein

From Ivy League institutions such as Harvard University to state institutions such as the University of Connecticut and several SUNY campuses, including Stony Brook, all are facing financial constraints that are prompting them to review or institute program suspensions ranging from academics to athletics. For Stony Brook, that means making difficult decisions to address budget reductions throughout all academic and administrative units.

Investments in more than 240 new faculty hires, coupled with a tuition freeze followed by a modest increase and no adjustments in state support to cover negotiated salary increases have created a structural operating deficit at Stony Brook. While we continue to work to develop new revenue sources and redouble our efforts to increase both state and philanthropic support, it is incumbent upon us to build a strong, stable foundation for continued excellence at our university.

Our budget issues are real. Strategic change is the only way to maintain our quality and offer the best and most efficient options for our students. Serious and consistent program review is necessary to ensure we are spending our scarce resources wisely, building upon our high-quality programs as well as those for which there is high student demand. This is why our program changes focus on those areas with low enrollments. In response to this, only a small number of assistant professors in the tenure track and lecturers have been directly affected.

Similar review is happening throughout West and East campuses, resulting in the suspension of admission to five programs — three in the College of Arts and Sciences and two in the School of Health Technology and Management. We have also mobilized resources to invest in areas such as Africana studies, art and creative writing and film as well as a variety of areas in the social and natural sciences.

These measures reflect our urgency to maximize our resources as we continue to support and invest in programs of excellence and impact; engage in cutting-edge research, scholarship and art-making that attract external funding and recognition; and do everything possible to empower students, meet their demands and ensure they receive an outstanding education at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

As an institution, we remain focused on our missions in education, research, scholarship, art-making, professional service and community engagement. And, as a public university with an exceptionally talented faculty and staff committed to serving a diverse student body, we must be outstanding stewards of the public’s trust and resources, constantly examining how best to invest in areas of strength, promise and need.

Michael A. Bernstein is the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Stony Brook University.

SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. delivered his annual address to the university community Sept. 27. File photo from Stony Brook University

During his annual address, Stony Brook University’s president celebrated the past and looked forward to the future.

President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., delivered his State of the University Address to the Stony Brook campus community Sept. 27.

He said the first graduating class of 1961 consisted of approximately 40 students. In 2017, the university granted 7,313 degrees and certificates, including master’s and doctoral degrees that did not exist the first year.

The number of buildings has also changed on campus from a few to 136 structures.

Stanley said the students attending the university come from more diverse backgrounds compared to bygone decades. Diversity he said is something Stony Brook is committed to.

“We hope to reflect the diversity of the state we live in as well as the country we live in,” he said.

Stanley said while the number of international students has increased since 1957, this is the first year the amount of freshmen from other countries has decreased. He said he has received feedback that a number of international students are hesitant to study in the United States due to changes in immigration policies. The president is a supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan instituted by former President Barack Obama (D). He said students protected by DACA at the university come from tough economic backgrounds yet succeed academically and epitomize the American Dream. He said SBU is committed to working with legislators to create a pathway for the students.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. File photo

“Stony Brook University I hope has communicated to the campus and the world our support for these students,” he said.

Stanley said the university is trying to change the way it recruits in order to create more diversity within the crop of faculty members, as well.

Another development at Stony Brook through the years has been the change in athletic success. The president said most teams originally operated as club sports, then developed into Division 3 and eventually Division 1 teams.

Stanley touched on the addition of Southampton Hospital as part of the Stony Brook University medicine family, which occurred this past summer.

“It’s really going to improve service at both hospitals,” he said.

The president said with a $1.7 billion budget, Stony Brook University Hospital serves 400,000 patients and offers a Level I trauma center, while the newly dubbed Stony Brook Southampton Hospital serves 100,000 with a $175 million budget.

He said the university is currently working on the Medicine and Research Translation Building and construction is scheduled to be completed in spring of 2018. The eight-level 240,000-square-foot building and 225,000-square-foot new Bed Tower will create opportunities for scientists and physicians to work side by side in the hopes of advancing cancer research and imaging diagnostics.

Stanley also addressed the university’s $24 million deficit, and he said he knows SBU can overcome it. The president said the biggest issue was the failure of the state as the university has not been included in state allocations in recent years

“I absolutely support faculty and staff getting raises, they are completely appropriate,” he said.

Despite the deficit, hundreds of faculty members and students have been welcomed to Stony Brook University while the number of administration positions has decreased. The president said administrators are “working harder than they ever been before to help the university.”

Stanley has asked department heads to look at their needs when an instructor leaves, and to consider if the workflow can be adjusted if the position cannot be filled. The goal, he said, is to have the least amount of impact on students.

The president said The Campaign for Stony Brook to raise funds for scholarships and research is $559.2 million toward a $600 million goal. It strives to reach the goal by June 30, 2018.

On Saturday, Sept. 23 Stony Brook University invited the local community, employees, friends and neighbors to experience CommUniversity Day and celebrate its 60th anniversary. The free event was filled with exploration, food, hands-on activities and performances highlighting the many things the university has to offer. Attendees visited a variety of themed campus “neighborhoods” to discover more about Stony Brook University.

Stony Brook University professor Christopher Gobler discusses the quality of local bodies of water at a press conference Sept. 12. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

There’s still something in the water — and it’s not a good kind of something.

Scientists from the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences released an annual report highlighting the concern over the prolonged existence of toxic algae blooms, and a deficiency of oxygen in Long Island waters caused high levels of nitrogen.

Stony Brook Professor Christopher Gobler and several members of the advocacy collective Long Island Clean Water Partnership, a conglomerate of several Long Island environmental groups, revealed the findings of a study done from May to August.

The Roth Pond, a Stony Brook University body of water that plays host to the annual Roth Regatta, is affected by blue-green algae. File photo from Stony Brook University

“In order to make Long Island sustainable and livable, clean water needs to be established,” said Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The challenge has been very great over the last decade … though the problem, unfortunately, is getting a bit worse. Algae blooms and the degradation of water quality across Long Island are serious threats to Long Island’s health.”

On the North Shore, there are several severe cases of hypoxia, or a depletion of dissolved oxygen in water, which is necessary for sea life to survive. Cases were found in Stony Brook Harbor, Northport Bay, Oyster Bay and Hempstead Bay. Measured on a milligram per liter of water scale,any case of hypoxia below two milligrams per liter can be harmful to fish, and almost anything else living on the bottom of the bays.

There were also periodic outbreaks of blue-green algae in Lake Ronkonkoma and Stony Brook University’s Roth Pond. This algae releases a poison harmful to humans and animals, but Gobler said students at the university shouldn’t worry, because he and other scientists at Stony Brook are constantly monitoring the water, especially before the annual Roth Regatta.

“[If nothing is done] the areas could expand — it could get more intense,” Gobler said. “We use a cutoff of three milligrams per liter, which is bad, but of course you can go to zero. An area like Hempstead Harbor went to zero, [Northport and Oyster Bays] went to zero at some points in time. There’s a usual day-night cycle, so it’s at night that the levels get very, very low.”

“We have the problem growing worse, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.”

—Dick Amper

As a result of the possibility of hypoxia expanding, Gobler said he and other scientists have also been monitoring Port Jefferson Harbor and Setauket Harbor.

Though Setauket Harbor is not currently experiencing any problems with hypoxia or algae, the harbor has experienced periods of pathogens, like E. coli, some of which were born from runoff into the harbor, but others might have come from leakage of antiquated cesspools in the area, according to George Hoffman, a trustee of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, which is also a member of the Clean Water Partnership.

Next May the task force hopes to start monitoring directly inside Setauket Harbor. Runoff from lawn fertilizers can also increase the nitrogen levels in the harbor.

“If our problem isn’t hypoxia, we have a problem with pathogens,” Hoffman said in a phone interview. “Prevention is really [Dr. Gobbler’s] goal — to know what is happening and to start taking steps. I think people’s information levels [on the topic] are high in the surface waters that they live by.”

In addition to hypoxia and blue-green algae, some of the water quality problems found in the assessment were brown tides on the South Shore, rust tide in the Peconic bays and paralytic shellfish poisoning on the East End — all of which are also nitrogen level issues that can be  traced back to cesspool sewage and fertilizers.

Port Jefferson Harbor is being monitored due to the speading of hypoxia across local bodies of water. File photo by Alex Petroski

“Make no mistake about it, this is so big that even … still, we have the problem growing worse, and it is going to get worse before it gets better,” said Dick Amper, the director of The Long Island Pine Barrens Society. “What’s the solution to this problem? We have to do more.”

There have been several efforts to help curb water degradation on Long Island. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation in April that put $2.5 billion toward clean water protection, improving water infrastructure and building new sewer systems in Smithtown and Kings Park, and adding a rebate program for those upgrading outdated septic systems.

Despite doing more, the repairs will take some time.

“This is going to be a long, long marathon,” said Kevin McDonald, the conservation project director at The Nature Conservancy said.

There is also worry that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — announcing the dumping of dredged materials into Long Island Sound — could compound the problem.

“We have more political funding and will try to implement solutions,” Esposito said. “The problems are getting worse, but the solutions are becoming clearer.”

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When we went to a Japanese tea ceremony, known as chado, it was an immersion in Japanese culture. We had an enjoyable and instructive time at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University even if it was for only 30 minutes this past Sunday afternoon. By reservation, the center offers an authentic experience in a charming bamboo teahouse on the first floor, hosted by a kimono-clad lady who holds such sessions for a maximum of four people at a time.

We arrived early, signed in and waited until the session before ours ended. The hostess then welcomed us with a bow, which we returned, and she explained that the design of two doors, a low one and a higher one, in the teahouse was deliberate. The guests, by bending to enter through the lower or “crawling in” door, were assured that all were of equal importance. None was to be considered more worthy. She then pointed out that because the sliding door was open slightly, it meant that the guests should enter. Had it been closed, we were to wait.

We left our shoes outside the little house and sat on one of the four low stools placed inside for us on the tatami mats. The hostess then entered through the higher door and began preparations. Her movements were deliberate and scripted into a traditional procedure, called temae. She was following a centuries-old ritual of making and serving the powdered green tea called matcha.

As the tea ceremony developed in Japan and was practiced by the monks, it was influenced by Zen Buddhism and embraced by the samurai or warrior class. The quiet ambience, the spare furnishings inside the teahouse, the unhurried and predictable movements of the hostess, the decorative scrolls emphasizing virtues like harmony, respect, purity and tranquility, helped calm the mind and push away fear before battle. Even the sound of water slowly boiling for the tea was soothing. The little bamboo teahouse was constructed in the midst of the modern Wang Center, yet we could leave behind our busy thoughts and worldly concerns with our shoes and purses as we entered this special space.

Speaking quietly to us, the hostess explained the equipment to make the tea: bowls, the green tea powder that was not artificially colored but naturally bright green, the delicate whisk carved from bamboo to mix the powder with the hot water in the bowls, the tea caddy, the scoops — the smaller one to measure out the powder, the larger to bring the water to the pot.

Each tool was beautifully and simply crafted from the unadorned wood. She gave us a fruit candy first, then handed each of us a bowl with tea, pointing out that the sweet was intended to offset the bitterness of the tea or perhaps emphasize them both.

There was a simple mindfulness to the whole process. We were there with her, in the moment, watching her mix the tea, wipe clean each bowl before we drank, then again afterward, with the hot water and special cloth she kept in the belt of her kimono for that purpose. Nothing else intruded. The effect was almost hypnotic.

And then it was over. We left the bamboo teahouse, put on our shoes, shouldered our purses and re-entered the outside world. It was a quiet interlude in an otherwise busy and hectic day. A nice cup of tea will always call me back.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine will seek re-election in November. File photo by Alex Petroski

Off-campus housing riddled with town code violations and unsafe conditions for Stony Brook University students has plagued Three Village residents for years. In 2013, the situation inspired community residents Bruce Sander and Anthony DeRosa to start the nonprofit organization Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners.

Coordinated with the start of a new school year, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) delivered a clear message to landlords who rent to university students within his jurisdiction during a press conference Sept. 8: follow town building and fire safety codes or face consequences. The town and university presented a united front from Stony Brook Fire Department Sub Station 2 and stated their intentions to ensure students who reside in off-campus housing are safe in homes that meet town and state codes.

“We have codes for a reason — to protect health and safety,” Romaine said. “We are going to protect the health and safety of the students.”

The supervisor said many of the illegal rooming houses where students live have been subdivided into as many as 10 bedrooms, and a home on Christian Avenue, which he called the “showpiece” of illegal homes, had at least 16 occupants. Romaine said the house is now in foreclosure.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said it is important that renters in the town know their rights when dealing with landlords, and she said town officials are available to assist renters who feel they are in an unsafe situation.

“The supervisor and I cosponsored a number of resolutions over the years to improve the quality of life of residents and to improve the safety of the residents renting here in the Town of Brookhaven,” she said. “Over the past two years or so we have a had a number of roundtable discussions with Stony Brook University, the supervisor’s office, Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, and of course, our law department and planning department, to make sure we are addressing this issue, as it is a very important issue in our community.”

Bruce Sander of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners thanked Brookhaven Town and SBU for their efforts in curbing illegal rentals. Photo by Alex Petroski

Deputy Town Attorney Dave Moran said there has been an increase in foreclosures in the community not due to financial reasons but due to the enforcement of building codes.

“We have broken [landlords’] business models in some circumstances, where it is no longer profitable for them to own their second and third house and collect those thousands in rents, by enforcing the statutes that we’ve put in place, by monitoring the rental permits and complaints that come in,” Moran said.

Moran said the town has collected $211,000 in fines over the last month for building violations, compared to only $300,000 collected for the entire year in 2008.

He said partnering with the university, which has educated students on their rights, has helped in uncovering issues as more students are contacting the town to report violations by their landlords.

Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president of Stony Brook University and senior vice president for government and community relations, said the university has the most beds of any SUNY campus and are second among all universities in the state. The university added 759 new beds this past year with the opening of Chavez and Tubman residence halls and an additional 173 new beds will be available in the fall of 2018.

The chief deputy said the university has taken great steps to ensure students’ safety thanks to the input received from the community and support Romaine, Cartright, Brookhaven Town code inspectors and others have provided.

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.

Sander was on hand for the conference representing the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners organization, and he commended the town and the university for their efforts.

“Unfortunately there will always be those landlords who still believe in the secret method of evading the laws and endangering the students and their community,” Sander said. “I’d like to send a message to the housing landlords: obey the laws.”

The organization founder said there should be no more than four people in a home. He said landlords can also do their part by maintaining their property, mowing grass weekly and providing garbage cans and enough parking space in driveways for tenants.

When it comes to circumventing the law, Romaine had a warning for landlords.

“Don’t do it, we’re coming for you,” he said.

Additional reporting by Alex Petroski

Stony Brook University students show their support for those protected by DACA. Photo from Stony Brook University

As President Donald Trump (R) proposed to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Stony Brook University community members and students voiced their support for the DREAMers — the name given to the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants that were brought to the United States as children.

University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. stated his and the institution’s continued support of DACA in a Sept. 5 email sent to the campus community.

“We have seen how the recipients of DACA have a positive impact on our campus and broader community,” Stanley said. “Diversity of perspectives, thought and understanding serves as a foundation of Stony Brook’s academic enterprise and helps our students become global citizens. Let’s do what’s right, and unite to support our ‘dreamers’ together.”

Two days later, more than 200 students, faculty members and administrators united in the March for DREAMers rally to show undocumented students at the university their support. In addition, the marchers presented a letter to administrators listing further actions they hope the university will take.

Marchers show signs they brought to the March for DREAMers rally at Stony Brook University Sept. 7. Photo from College Democrats

Members of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, an equality advocacy group, were among the rally’s organizers. The group’s Vice-President David Clark felt it was important to stand up for classmates who may feel vulnerable now.

“I wanted to, first of all, raise awareness of the concerns of DACA recipients and DREAMers on campus and also to show support of them on campus,” he said.

Clark said participants were thankful for the institution’s support of undocumented students and appreciated the university’s current stance on DACA, and Stanley’s statement that the campus should be considered a sensitive location by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Clark said the marchers were joined by representatives of non-campus groups including the Islandia-based SEPA Mujer, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of Latina immigrant women.

The college junior said administrators cooperated in securing a ballroom in the student activity center where participants gathered for speeches after walking around a circle and congregating in the main academic mall’s plaza. He said chants included,

“Say it loud. Say it clear. Dreamers are welcomed here.” Marchers held signs with messages that included, “Undocumented and unafraid” and “Sin DACA, Sin Miedo,” which in Spanish means, “Without DACA, without fear.”

Clark was satisfied with the turnout of the peaceful protest.

“I was really happy that so many Stony Brook students care about their fellow classmates, friends who are undocumented, who are getting through a very hard time right now, a time of uncertainty for them,” he said.

In their letter, marchers asked the university to ensure SBU would not provide information to ICE about any undocumented students or their families, not allow ICE to take students into custody without a judicial warrant, and to let students know if ICE is on campus through the university’s alert systems. The organizers also asked that a list be available on the website of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to notify those who are not citizens where private scholarships may be available to them.

Stanley said in his Sept. 5 email that the university does not request or require immigration status as part of the admissions process. He added that immigration status is not a factor in student housing decisions, and the university does not share private information.

Above, Ken Dill shows how molecules fold and bind together. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

The raw materials were here. Somehow, billions of years ago, these materials followed patterns and repeated and revised the process, turning the parts into something more than a primordial soup.

Ken Dill, who is a distinguished professor and the director of the Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology at Stony Brook University, took a methodical approach to this fundamental development. He wanted to understand the early statistical mechanics that would allow molecules to form long chains, called polymers, which contained information worthy of being passed along. The process of forming these chains had to be self-sustaining.

After all, Dill said, many activities reach an end point. Putting salt in water, for example, creates a mixture, until it stops. Dill, however, was looking for a way to understand auto-catalytic or runaway events. Lighting a forest fire, for example, is much more self sustaining, although even it eventually stops. Life has continued for over four billion years.

On Aug. 22, Dill, Elizaveta Guseva and Ronald Zuckermann, the facility director in biological nanostructures at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, published a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The researchers developed a fold and catalyze computational model that would explain how these long chains developed in a self-sustaining way, in which hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers fold and bind together.

Random sequence chains of each type can collapse and fold into structures that expose their hydrophobic parts. Like a conga line at a wedding reception, the parts can then couple together to form longer chains.

These random chemical processes could lead to pre-proteins. Today’s proteins, Dill said, mostly fold into a very particular shape. Pre-proteins would have been looser, with more shape shifting.

The workhorses of the body, proteins perform thousands of biochemical reactions. Dill suggested that this model “rates high on the list” in terms of the findings he’s made over the course of his career.

Zuckermann described this work as significant because it lays out predictions that can be tested. It highlights the importance of chemical sequence information in polymer chains and “how certain sequences are more likely to fold into enzyme-like shapes and act as catalysts than others,” he explained in an email.

Zuckermann works with substances he figured out how to make in a lab that are called peptoids, which are non-natural polymers. These peptoids are a “good system to test the universality of [Dill’s] predictions,” he said.

The “beauty” of Dill’s work, Zuckermann suggested, is that “it should apply to most any kind of polymer system” where researchers control the monomer sequence and include hydrophobic and hydrophilic monomers in a particular order, putting Dill’s predictions to the test.

For her part, Guseva worked in Dill’s lab for her PhD thesis. She had started her research on something that was “more standard physical biology” Dill said, but it “was not turning out to be particularly interesting.”

The scientists had a discussion about trying to develop a chemical model related to the origins of life. While exciting for the scope of the question, the research could have come up empty.

“There was so much potential to fail,” Dill said. “I feel pretty uncomfortable in general about asking a graduate student to go in that direction, but she was fearless.”

Dill and Zuckermann, who have collaborated for over 25 years, are trying to move forward to the next set of questions.

Zuckermann’s efforts will focus on finding catalytic peptoid sequences, which are nonbiological polymers. He will synthesize tens of thousands of peptoid sequences and rank them on how enzyme-like they are. This, he explained, will lead to a better understanding of which monomer sequences encode for protein-like structure and function.

Zuckermann suggested that the process in this research could have the effect of transforming a soup of monomers into a soup of functional polymers. This, he said, might set the stage for the evolution of DNA and RNA.

Proteins could have been a first step towards a genetic code, although life, as currently defined, would not have blossomed until a genetic code occurred, too, Dill suggested.

The origins of DNA, however, remains an unanswered question. “We’re trying to think about where the genetic code comes from,” Dill said. “It’s not built into our model per se. Why would biology want to do a two polymer solution, which is messy and complicated and why are proteins the functional molecules? This paper doesn’t answer that question.”

Dill and Zuckermann are in the early stage of exploring that question and Dill is hopeful he can get to a new model, although he doesn’t have it yet.

Dill moved from the University of California at San Francisco to join the Laufer Center about seven years ago. He appreciates the freedom to ask “blue sky questions” that he couldn’t address as much in his previous work.

Wearing a hat from his native Oklahoma, Dill, in a photo from around 1997, tinkers with a toy boat he made with sons Tyler and Ryan. Photo by Jolanda Schreurs

A resident of Port Jefferson, Dill lives with his wife Jolanda Schreurs, who has a PhD in pharmacology. The couple has two sons, Tyler and Ryan.

Tyler graduated with a PhD from the University of California at San Diego and now works for Illumina, a company which which makes DNA sequencers. Ryan, meanwhile, is earning his PhD in chemistry from the University of Colorado and is working on lasers.

“We didn’t try to drag our sons into science,” Dill said. “With both kids, however, we had a workshop in the basement” where they often took anything that was within arm’s reach and nailed it to a board. One of the finished products was a remote-controlled and motorized boat.

As for his lab work, Dill is thrilled to have this model that he, Guseva and Zuckermann provided, while he recognizes the questions ahead. Scientists “see something puzzling and, rather than saying, ‘I need to avoid this, I don’t have an answer,’ we find it intriguing and these things lead from one step to the next. There tends to remain a huge number of super fascinating problems.”

Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Stony Brook University president, helps a student move into a residence hall Aug. 25. Photo from Stony Brook University

By Rita J. Egan

Stony Brook University has been doing its part to make campus life feel more like home for most students, by offering gender-inclusive housing.

For a decade, the option has allowed students to share a room with friends or siblings no matter what their gender, or choose housing based on the gender they identify with. The only requirements are that students have to be 18 or older and sign a contract stating they will respect everyone in their residence hall.

On Aug. 25, move-in day for freshmen and transfer students, resident assistant Derrick Wegner, who is transgender, was on hand to greet newcomers. The senior psychology major said he was happy to have the option when he came to Stony Brook. Wegner, who lives in Wurtsboro,  said college is a great opportunity for a fresh start, especially for young people looking to transition. 

Derrick Wegner stands in the gender-inclusive room he shares with his best friend Sydney. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Wegner said the gender-inclusive housing option at Stony Brook creates a happy and safe environment, and he feels being happy and healthy plays a big part in being a successful student.

“You’re of value, and you belong here,” he said.

This year the senior is thrilled to be sharing a dorm with his best friend Sydney Monroe Gaglio, who he met early on in college through mutual friends.

“She’s my best friend, and I’m her best friend,” he said. “Just having somebody that I know I can go home to, and [say] this happened, and she’s like ‘I’m sorry.’ She just gets it.”

Ian Rose, who majors in engineering chemistry and applied mathematics and statistics, was thrilled when he heard of the gender-inclusive option. The junior said last year he made friends with Daniel Mahoney, Brandon O’Rourke, Bianca Mugone and Brittany Voboril, and they all became great friends. They lived in the same residence hall — the males in one room on one floor and the girls in their own room on another floor. Many nights last year they would find themselves in each other’s rooms studying or talking and decided to live together.

“We’re friends just hanging out,” Rose said.

This academic year the five are living in a suite with three bedrooms and one bathroom. Rose said at first his only concern was how things would work out in the bathroom, but so far things are going smoothly.

“I just want this to show everyone that guys and girls living together isn’t weird or uncomfortable,” Rose said. “You’re living with your friends; friends are friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or girl or different skin tone. It doesn’t matter; we’re all the same.”

Ian Rose, right, and friends settle in their three-bedroom suite after a long day. Photo from Ian Rose

Catherine-Mary Rivera, director of residential programs at SBU, said the program began as a small pilot initiative at the university 10 years ago, and grew slowly through the years. In 2016, approximately 40 students took advantage of the housing option, while this year more than 200 students — out of 10,683 living on campus — chose gender-inclusive residences across the campus.

She said the university wants to ensure that all students feel safe and welcome because it’s their home, and they have received plenty of positive feedback regarding the housing.

“The fact that it has grown from 42 to 200 has shown us students feel that they have a place here, and that they don’t have to either feel not comfortable being themselves or feel that Stony Brook doesn’t have a place for them, or they have to remain quiet about who they are or how they express themselves,” Rivera said. “That freedom has come through very clearly that this is a place they can thrive and be their true selves and live with their friends.”

The housing option also allows couples to live together; however, the university does recommend romantic partners think twice before making that decision.

“We want you to branch out and build a stronger community and have healthy relationships, and it may not be best to live with your significant other at this point,” Rivera said.

In addition to gender-inclusive housing, she said SBU offers all-gender, multi-stall bathrooms throughout campus and on the main floors of residence halls, in addition to all-men and all-women restrooms. Software updates have also been made to the school’s system allowing students and faculty members to choose their preferred names and pronoun if they would prefer to be addressed by something other than their legal name. The change means that identification cards and email addresses now show the name a person uses on a regular basis instead of their legal name.

Alex Orlov on the campus of the University of Cambridge. Photo by Nathan Pitt, University of Cambridge

By Daniel Dunaief

The Ukranian-born Alex Orlov, who is an associate professor of materials science and chemical engineering at Stony Brook University, helps officials in a delicate balancing act.

Orlov, who is a member of the US-EU working group on Risk Assessment of Nanomaterials, helps measure, monitor and understand the hazards associated with nanoparticles, which regulatory bodies then compare to the benefit these particles have in consumer products.

“My research, which is highlighted by the European Union Commission, demonstrated that under certain conditions, [specific] nanoparticles might not be safe,” Orlov said via Skype from Cambridge, England, where he has been a visiting professor for the past four summers. For carbon nanotubes, which are used in products ranging from sports equipment to vehicles and batteries, those conditions include exposure to humidity and sunlight.

“Instead of banning and restricting their production” they can be reformulated to make them safer, he said.

Orlov described how chemical companies are conducting research to enhance the safety of their products. Globally, nanotechnology has become a growing industry, as electronics and drug companies search for ways to benefit from different physical properties that exist on a small scale. Long Island has become a focal point for research in this arena, particularly at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials and the National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Alex Orlov on the campus of the University of Cambridge. Photo by Nathan Pitt, University of Cambridge

Indeed, Orlov is working at the University of Cambridge to facilitate partnerships between researchers in the chemistry departments of the two universities, while benefiting from the facilities at BNL. “We exchange some new materials between Cambridge and Stony Brook,” he said. “We use BNL to test those materials.”

BNL is an “essential facility,” Orlov said, and is where the postdoctoral student in his lab and the five graduate students spend 30 to 60 percent of their time. The data he and his team collect can help reduce risks related to the release of nanomaterials and create safer products, he suggested.

“Most hazardous materials on Earth can be handled in a safe way,” Orlov said. “Most scientific progress and environmental protection can be merged together. Understanding the environmental impact of new technologies and reducing their risks to the environment should be at the core of scientific and technological progress.”

According to Orlov, the European Union spends more money on technological safety than the United States. European regulations, however, affect American companies, especially those that export products to companies in the European Union.

Orlov has studied how quickly toxic materials might be released in the environment under different conditions.

“What we do in our lab is put numbers” on the amount of a substance released, he said, which informs a more quantitative understanding of the risks posed by a product. Regulators seek a balance between scientific progress and industrial development in the face of uncertainty related to new technologies.

As policy makers consider the economics of regulations, they weigh the estimated cost against that value. For example, if the cost of implementing a water treatment measure is $3 million and the cost of a human life is $7 million, it’s more economical to create a water treatment plan.

Orlov teaches a course in environmental engineering. “These are the types of things I discuss with students,” he said. “For them, it’s eye opening. They are engineers. They don’t deal with economics.”

In his own research, Orlov recently published an article in which he analyzed the potential use of concrete to remove pollutants like sulfur dioxide from the air. While concrete is the biggest material people produce by weight and volume, most of it is wasted when a building gets demolished. “What we discovered,” said Orlov, who published his work in the Journal of Chemical Engineering, “is that if you take this concrete and expose new surfaces, it takes in pollutants again.”

Fotis Sotiropoulos, the dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SBU, said Orlov has added to the understanding of the potential benefits of using concrete to remove pollutants.

Other researchers have worked only with carbon dioxide, and there is “incomplete and/or even nonexistent data for other pollutants,” Sotiropoulos explained in an email. Orlov’s research could be helpful for city planners especially for end-of-life building demolition, Sotiropoulous continued. Manufacturers could take concrete from an old, crushed building and pass waste through this concrete in smokestacks.

To be sure, the production of concrete itself is energy intensive and generates pollutants like carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. “It’s not the case that concrete would take as much [pollutants] out of the air as was emitted during production,” Orlov said. On balance, however, recycled concrete could prove useful not only in reducing waste but also in removing pollutants from the air.

Orlov urged an increase in the recycling of concrete, which varies in the amount that’s recycled. He has collaborated on other projects, such as using small amounts of gold to separate water, producing hydrogen that could be used in fuel cells.

“The research showed a promising way to produce clean hydrogen from water,” Sotiropoulos said.

As for his work at Cambridge, Orlov appreciates the value the scientists in the United Kingdom place on their collaboration with their Long Island partners.

“Cambridge faculty from disciplines ranging from archeology to chemistry are aware of the SBU/BNL faculty members and their research,” Orlov said. A resident of Smithtown, Orlov has been on Long Island for eight years. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and exploring new areas. As for his work, Orlov hopes his work helps regulators make informed decisions that protect consumers while making scientific and technological advances possible.

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