Authors Posts by Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief


Photo by Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Lauren Boebert’s behavior is, undoubtedly, my fault.

No, I don’t know her and I didn’t meet her and no, I wasn’t there that night when she acted in a way that some of those who have watched and rewatched the videos of her might deem inappropriate. That horrible night, which we’d all like to forget, forced her to deny she was vaping until the video came out showing her vaping. Those images made it clear that denial wasn’t just a river in Egypt and it wasn’t an option.

No, you see, I should have been better to her.

I could have sent her more positive vibes in the universe, because she deserves them. She’s a victim of my eye rolling and my negative attitude towards her. What else could she have done that night she was vaping, taking pictures and videos and acting in a way that didn’t protect the children she’s worried might learn the wrong lessons from the LGTBQ community? It’s the free floating negativity that forced her to need to blow off steam and enjoy herself in a way that reduced the pleasure other people could get from going out that night.

No, her soon-to-be ex husband Jayson and I should have been better to her. If we had put that positive energy into the world and had given her reason to smile and relax and feel coddled and supported, she wouldn’t have acted that way and had to deal with this mess.

I’m so sorry for the agony I have caused her and the discomfort you all might have felt at behavior and words that she didn’t mean to exhibit and that was less her than it was a manifestation of the version of her created by the doubters.

Of course, she meant to be rude and disrespectful to the president of the United States when he gave his State of the Union speech because that’s what she and her constituents wanted and far be it for me, Jayson or anyone else to get in the way of a good public tongue lashing at other officials who deserve it.

That’s one thing. This is another. Now, if the president had been at the theater, all bets are off as to what she would have felt, and rightly so, would have been appropriate, defensible and acceptable behavior.

But Biden wasn’t there, at least not that we know of. He was probably off either not doing what he should have been doing or doing what he shouldn’t have been doing. In some circles, the president can’t win for trying or for not trying, so he’s living in a heads-they-win, tails-he-loses scenario.

This isn’t about the big, old guy, though, who is an incredibly significant few years older than his predecessor. This is about that paragon of virtue and righteousness Lauren, who has, thankfully, returned to Washington. That swamp was missing something while she was gone and it feels more like home now that she’s back.

So, anyway, just to be clear, it’s my fault. Well, mine and Jayson’s and anyone else who had the temerity to live under the blanket of the very freedom she provides and then questions the manner in which she provides it. No, wait, that’s from “A Few Good Men” and not from “Beetlejuice” or any other event at which Lauren, her cleavage and her middle finger attended.

Look, I’m sure the security guards, who are hard working people, probably deserved her angry gesture. I should probably apologize to them, too, because she never would have felt the need to be “eccentric” and different if I had just accepted her for who she is, was, will be, or can be.

She needed to get it out of her system and now, she’ll be a better, stronger, faster person. Like the six million dollar man, we can rebuild her reputation, giving her a bionic eye that she can use to spot the president wherever he goes.

It’s not easy being powerful, connected and influential. We all need moments to escape from that, particularly when people don’t always appreciate the wonderful role models and leaders who are working for all of us, well for almost all of us. She can’t support those people who might corrupt our children’s minds with their unacceptable behavior and inappropriate viewpoints.

I know what you’re thinking, you sneaky eye rollers. I used to be one of you. But, no, I see the error of my ways, just as Lauren and Jayson and her ex-boyfriend Quinn do. We are all going to be better people because of this and we will learn and grow and try not to do anything in public where video cameras might catch us and make it hard to deny behavior recorded on film.

Right here, right now, let’s agree to send good vibes to everyone because that’s what makes the world go ‘round. Well, that and a readiness to lay the blame at the feet of those who deserve it.  So, yeah, I’m sorry and I wasn’t rolling my eyes just now. I was looking up at a bird, even though I’m inside and it’s night.

Stony Brook University climbs 19 spots in the latest US News and World Report ranking. File photo from SBU

The public university that could, Stony Brook University, which is considerably younger than many of the schools with greater prestige, climbed 19 spots in the latest US News and World Report ranking of schools to 58.

At the highest ever rank for a State University of New York institution, SBU also placed 12th among national universities for social mobility rank.

“Stony Brook takes tremendous pride in its role as a New York flagship institution, and these latest rankings offer yet another proof point that this university is a destination of choice for students from all backgrounds looking to reach and exceed their boldest ambitions,” said Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis. “While these rankings represent an opportunity to celebrate Stony Brook’s promising trajectory as the top public university in New York state, the focused commitment to our mission continues to guide our path forward.”

Stony Brook’s climb up the rankings is neither a one-year wonder nor a sudden recognition of the breadth and depth of its programs and the commitment of its staff to students from a wide range of backgrounds.

Stony Brook ranked in the 93 in 2022.

“While this jump is much bigger, you feel more confident when it’s part of a trend,” said Carl Lejuez, executive vice president and provost, in an interview. “This is a trajectory that has been led by the president’s vision for what it means for the state of New York to have a premier public institution.”

Lejuez added that SBU benefited from a change in the way US News and World Report compiles its rankings. At the same time that alumni giving, where Stony Brook doesn’t do as well, was taken out of the rankings, the periodical increased its emphasis on the graduation of Pell-eligible students.

Considered among the most economically challenged students at Stony Brook, Pell-eligible undergraduates achieved an 80% graduation rate.

“Other schools have a huge disparity” for the graduation rates of Pell-eligible students, Lejuez said. “We’ve really leaned into who we are” particularly for students who can improve their social mobility through a quality and well-respected education.

“We do believe those changed metrics make the rankings better,” Bill Warren, vice president for marketing and communications, said in an interview. “It’s not happenstance that we rose — we are being recognized for many of the things we do so very well.”

Specifically, Warren said the university admits and supports a diverse student population that has excellent graduation rates, reflecting the level of academic and other types of support the school offers to ensure the college experience meets and “hopefully exceeds” their expectations and needs.

More applicants

The climb in the rankings has helped drive up applications and made 2023 the largest incoming first year class in the school’s history.

In 2023, applications surged 24.2% for all Stony Brook application submissions to 55,633. The freshman rate, which comprised the vast majority of those applications, increased 23.9% to 50,435.

The faculty, meanwhile, applauded the recognition and the higher ranking.

“Without question, this is great news for Stony Brook University and long overdue,” Clinton Rubin, SUNY distinguished professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, wrote in an email. The senior administration is “committed to building on strengths, and research and technology development across all disciplines is thriving. The impact the university has had on upward mobility is inspiring, and the faculty, staff and students are proud to be part of such a key resource for the global community.”

Stony Brook has “come a long way and has much more to contribute,” Rubin added.

Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has noticed a “happiness” at the university: “I believe we are in fact better even than these rankings say,” he said in an interview.

Van Nieuwenhuizen said that 14 of his 17 former Ph.D. students have become professors elsewhere, which shows how other institutions value the students who earn degrees at Stony Brook University.

In addition to the higher ranking from US News and World Report, Stony Brook has also had some high-profile academic and financial victories recently.

Stony Brook was named the anchor institution to build a Climate Exchange Center on Governors Island that is dedicated to research and education and sharing information about the impacts of global warming on the world. [See story, “SBU will develop $700M climate center on Governors Island,” April 26, TBR News Media].

In addition, the Simons Foundation, founded by former math chair and founder and CEO of Renaissance Technologies and his wife Marilyn, announced a $500 million gift to the university, which was the largest ever unrestricted endowment gift to an institution of higher learning. [See story, “Simons Foundation gives record $500M gift to Stony Brook University,” June 2, TBR News Media].

Further opportunities

Lejuez sees continued opportunities for the university. He said international enrollment has not returned to the pre-pandemic levels.

Comparing Stony Brook to where the school’s peers are in terms of out-of-state and international students, the university is “not where we want to be in both of those areas.”

SBU is developing strategies that Lejuez anticipates will pay off within two years.

“You never want to bring in international and domestic out-of-state students at the expense of students in the state,” but having the right mix of students from different backgrounds and experiences “creates a vibrant university,” he said.

Lejuez has been to South Korea twice and China once in the past six months and has emphasized the quality of the programs and the safety of the campus.

Stony Brook is also enhancing the level of its advisory services for students.

“We invested a lot this summer in advising,” Lejuez said, which is an area where “we were lagging behind other universities. Students and parents are going to see a lot of focus in advising and tutoring” which help ensure student success.

Starting soon, all newborns in New York state will receive testing for congenital cytomegalovirus. Photo by Farajiibrahim from Wikimedia Commons

Starting later this month or early next month, all children born in New York state will receive testing for congenital cytomegalovirus, an infection that can cause hearing loss and learning deficits.

The state will track children who test positive for this virus, which is related to the virus for chickenpox, herpes and mononucleosis, over the years after their birth to provide early intervention amid the development of any symptoms and to provide a baseline for understanding how the virus may affect the growth and development of other children born with the virus.

Mothers who contract CMV, which is the most common congenital virus and the leading nongenetic cause of deafness in children, for the first time while they are pregnant can transmit the virus to their developing child.

Local doctors suggested that this testing, which other states would likely examine closely, provided a welcome opportunity to gather information about their children, even if the test raised questions or concerns about what the diagnosis means.

“Knowledge is power,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “The more you can tell a parent about what’s going on, the more they can make informed decisions.”

To be sure, Nachman anticipated that more parents initially might opt out of having their child’s screen result reported in their newborn record, until pediatricians and obstetricians have had a chance to talk with them.

There will be a “lot more opting out in the beginning” until parents understand what the test means and how it might help in understanding a virus that could affect their children’s health and development, Nachman said.

One in 200 babies

New York State recently received a contract from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to add screening for this virus for a period of a year.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Parents of babies who test positive will receive referrals to infectious disease specialists across the state for follow-up and evaluation.

The state predicts about one out of every 200 newborns may test positive for the virus, according to the New York State Department of Health website.

Over half of the adults in the U.S. have had CMV, while most people don’t know they’ve had it because they show no symptoms.

Those who develop symptoms have sore throats, fever, fatigue and swollen glands, which are the kind of nonspecific conditions that characterize the body’s response to infections from other viruses.

Opt-out options

While all babies will receive a congenital CMV test, parents can choose to opt out of having their children’s screen result reported in their newborn screen record.

The state urges parents who would like to opt out to do so quickly, as newborn screen reports are complete five to seven days after birth.

Parents have several ways to opt out. They can scan the QR code found on their brochure, which will bring them to the Newborn Screening Program website and opt out portal. They can also remove and fill out the opt-out form in the parent brochure and give it to the hospital to submit with the newborn screen specimen.

Alternatively, parents can email a picture of the completed opt-out form to [email protected] or they can call the program at 518-473-7552 and press option five. Finally, parents can mail the opt-out form to the NYS Newborn Screening Program in Albany.

First steps

Nachman is co-leading one of the 11 units across the state in pediatric infectious disease with Dr. Andrew Handel.

The teams will meet once a month to discuss issues around CMV.

“One of the goals of the project, which is why it’s funded by NICHD is can we identify who is at risk” to develop problems such as hearing loss.

Among the numerous unanswered questions the group hopes to address is whether early treatment would be a way to prevent problems from developing, even among children who test positive but are asymptomatic. Giving medication to all children who test positive comes with its own problems, as the medication for CMV has side effects, said Nachman.

It’s not like “taking a dose of Tylenol, given several times a day for weeks at a time,” said Nachman. 

While women who have had CMV prior to pregnancy are unlikely to transmit the virus, Nachman discourages people from intentionally contracting the virus before becoming pregnant.

“We don’t encourage people to go out and get CMV so they’ll be cleared by the time they’re pregnant,” in part because people can develop symptoms, conditions and secondary infections after having the virus.

By monitoring the health of children after their diagnosis, the state hopes to understand more about the virus and its effects.

“We need to follow enough children long enough” to be able to address those medical questions and concerns, Nachman said.

The study might be able to find markers that could predict who might be at risk for hearing loss in the early years of a child’s life, she said.

During hearing screens that could occur every six months, children born with CMV can receive early intervention.

“The sooner we see something, the sooner we can act on it,” Nachman said.

As for developmental issues, children who show even a glimmer of a developmental delay can also receive early intervention.

At this point, Stony Brook has been participating in clinical trials for a vaccine, which, if approved, could be administered to adolescents.

The trials for the vaccine, which could last for 10 years, are still in the early stages of development.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know that optical illusion with the vase and the two faces? If you’re looking at the outline of the white object, you see a vase, but if you look at the white as the background, you see two faces.

Is it possible that we might, at times, be missing something in our lives?

We drive from one event to another, often ignoring the people in the car next to us at a stoplight, at the birds resting on a telephone wire or at the last few rays of the sun as the light disappears over the horizon.

Instead, we’re focused on getting where we’re going, giving our mind a chance to wander to important things, like what we’re going to say to the coach of our son’s little league team, to our boss who wants to know why we’re late, or to that person at the deli counter who starts preparing our sandwich before we even order.

Along the way, we might be missing signs that could stimulate or enrich our mind in unexpected ways or that could provide the kind of unanticipated signs that serve as clues about our lives. Sure, some people read horoscopes for such help, they ponder the pithy poetry of fortune cookies, or they visit a psychic, who asks them if they’ve ever known a person named John or if they’ve ever gone with a date to a movie or like to take walks on the beach.

But, with our heads down, living on our phones, focusing on events and people far from us, is it possible that we might miss something akin to a puzzle piece in the mystery of our lives?

Sure, telemarketers are frustrating and annoying, offering us products we don’t need, asking us for personal information, and assuming a far-too-familiar tone.

What if those telemarketers, who are even more unpopular than used car salesman, journalists and politicians, offered us something between the lines of their scripts that might be of use to us? We don’t have to stay on the phone long with them and we don’t have to buy something we don’t want, but maybe we can give them half a minute, listening to them and politely declining their offer for more life insurance, a time share in the Everglades, or a chance to earn money as a personal shopper.

Maybe something they say will remind us of a task we wanted to accomplish, a phrase a friend or relative used to use, or a responsibility we haven’t yet met for ourselves. In a world in which there are no accidents, perhaps they can remind us of something we value.

Along the same lines, the scenery that flies by while we’re on a train, a bus or in a car could remind us of a picture we drew from our childhood, a tree we used to climb, or a friend who might need to hear from us but hasn’t felt strong enough to ask for help.

Hundreds and thousands of years ago, people looked to the skies for the kind of signs that might help them.

When we shut ourselves in our homes, disconnect from the people in the room or from the environment, we close down the opportunity to see or consider any signs from the world around us or to get out of our own limited physical, mental and emotional headspace. We also lock ourselves in to a particular way of thinking, removing the opportunity to consider whether today is a day to see the vase or the two faces.

By getting away from our computer screens, cell phones, and cubicles, we give ourselves a chance to see what the world offers, and how those cues affect the way we think about our lives.

Hurricane Lee, left, and Hurricane Margot churn over the Atlantic. Satellite photo from NOAA

City planners all along the eastern seaboard, meteorologists and people living in flood plains are all hoping the current projections for Hurricane Lee prove correct.

As of earlier this week, the hurricane, which became the fastest system to transition from a tropical storm into a Category 5 hurricane, was not expected to make direct landfall.

That, however, may only be a temporary reprieve, as the conditions that made such a rapid intensification of this monster storm, which, at one point, had wind speeds of 165 miles per hour, continue to exist during the rest of this hurricane season and will likely continue in future years.

Earlier this summer, a sensor off the coast of Florida recorded an ocean temperature of 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest ever recorded. That creates conditions that threaten marine life and provides the energy that fuels the growth and intensity of hurricanes.

“We know that the warmer the sea surface temperatures are that a storm interacts with, the increased likelihood that a storm will undergo rapid intensification,” said Kevin Reed, associate professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. As the Earth continues to warm, Reed added, he expects those conditions to persist.

The exact timing of when a storm will intensify “remains a significant challenge to the weather community,” Reed added. “These types of events continually remind us that we have some way to go in forecasting the intensity of storms, even over a couple of days’ time scale.”

While most of the models predict the storm will head north before tracking toward a potentially dangerous landfall, Reed added that “there remains a possibility that the storm could take a track that interacts with New York or New England” and that the hurricane is still multiple days away from the region.

At this point, Reed believes such a landfall is not impossible but is unlikely.

Even without a landfall nearby, forecasters warn that the storm could produce dangerous rip currents and rough waters around the middle Atlantic states toward the latter part of this week.

NOAA forecast

One of the first things Reed does each morning and the last thing he does in the evening is check the National Hurricane Center site, among others.

A month ago, the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, was relatively quiet.

At that point, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association updated its seasonal projection to suggest that the hurricane season would be above normal.

“Here we are, in the thick of things,” with multiple storms out there and high activity levels, Reed said. “It’s important to keep an eye on those storms. All it takes is one to make landfall in our region to have a lasting impact.”

Hurricane Lee is the fourth hurricane of the season and the 14th named storm, six ahead as of Sept. 9 of the average over the last 30 years, according to the National Hurricane Center data.

A Category 1 storm, Hurricane Margot, is moving northward in the Atlantic, where it is not expected to make landfall. Another two disturbances may also combine and form a tropical storm. If they do, the disturbance would be named Nigel.

Reed is currently working on a few projects in which he hopes to use climate information to help inform potential impacts of future storms in the local area and coastal regions.

He is looking back retrospectively at various storms to determine how those hurricanes might differ in a warmer world. Those projects, he said, are still in the early stages.

Well aware of the potential for strong storms to hit the area, Reed has looked at a flood map around his house to know where flood waters would go amid different conditions.

He has also talked with his family about what they would do during a storm and where they would get information in the event of an evacuation from New York.

“I try to practice what I preach,” Reed said.

These images reveal the striking similarities between real candy and edible products containing THC. Photos from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services

Children are getting into their parents’ supplies of edible marijuana, leading to an increase in illnesses and emergency room visits.

Stony Brook Pediatric Hospital treated 14 children in 2022 and 13 in 2021 — up from about one or two a year before 2020.

Dr. Candice Foy, a pediatric hospitalist at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine/Jeanne Neville

“In the last two years, we’ve seen very high numbers,” said Dr. Candice Foy, a pediatric hospitalist at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The accidental consumption of marijuana among children has increased throughout the country. A study published in the journal “Pediatrics” indicates that calls to poison control centers for children five and under for the consumption of edibles containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the main ingredient in the cannabis plant — rose to 3,054 in 2021 from 207 in 2017, with over 95 percent of the children finding gummies in their homes.

Amid an increase in adult use of edible gummies containing marijuana, children of a wide range of ages have mistaken them for candy, leading to symptoms that trigger medical concerns from their parents.

Children with THC in their system can have low blood pressure, high heart rates, lethargy and sleep for prolonged periods, Foy said.

One child required a machine to help breathe.

Dr. Jennifer Goebel, emergency room doctor at Huntington Hospital, said the hospital recently saw children who were dizzy and not acting appropriately.

When pediatric patients accidentally consume pot edibles, doctors also need to consider what else they might have in their system, Goebel added.

Dr. Jennifer Goebel, emergency room doctor at Huntington Hospital. File photo from Northwell Health

Significant exposure can “lead to severe hyperactive behaviors, slowed breathing and even coma,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County Health Commissioner, explained in an email.

The health effects of marijuana can last 24 to 36 hours in children. The response may vary based on the amount ingested, the size of the child and metabolic factors, Pigott added.

Unlike naloxone, which health care providers can administer to counteract the effect of narcotics, doctors don’t have the same resources available with accidental marijuana ingestion.

Doctors opt for supportive care. A nauseous child could receive anti-nausea medication, while a child sleeping and not eating or drinking can receive intravenous fluids.

Typically, doctors observe children who consume marijuana for several hours, often releasing them to return home once the symptoms subside.

Hospitals are required to call child protective services during such an incident. Investigators usually find that such consumption is incidental, as parents sometimes leave their edibles in the wrong location.

“A lot of times, CPS will go in there” and, after checking the home, “will close the investigation,” Foy said.

Doctors and local officials urged people who consume such edibles themselves either not to keep them in the house or to put them in places far from other candy or food, such as in an inaccessible spot in the back of a closet.

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. File photo

“The Department’s Office of Public Information has issued warnings about keeping edible gummies out of the reach of children through its social media channels,” Pigott explained in an email. “In addition, the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports and our partners in prevention promote safe keeping of all THC products, including edibles, out of reach and in secure child safe storage,” such as a lock box.

Goebel cautioned that children are adept at getting to products that appeal to them, mainly if the packaging makes them look like candy.

Many of the pot-related medical issues are “accidental,” Goebel said.

Hospitals have seen a range of children with marijuana symptoms, from as young as one year old to 11, with the vast majority falling between two and four years old, Foy said.

“I don’t think it’s something that a lot of people think about the same way they think about protecting their children from bleach and other chemicals commonly found” in the home, she said. It’s important to “get the message out” and ensure “people are talking about this.”

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services Office of Health Education offers curriculum and teacher training to public and private schools at no cost. The lessons address behaviors that lead to morbidity and mortality in the young, including intentional and unintentional injuries, such as injury caused by children ingesting edible gummies or other edible-infused products, Pigott wrote.

“During parent workshops, we show the similarity between real food items and the THC-containing items that look like the food item to highlight how deceptive and easy it is to mistakenly ingest cannabis-laden products,” he added.

Photo by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new COVID-19 booster, which will protect against the virus’s circulating strain.

With hospitalizations and cases rising in Suffolk County and nationwide, single booster shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should be available soon.

Local doctors recommended that people at the highest risk consider getting the shot.

That includes those with other medical issues, such as a 45-year-old smoker or a 65-year-old with diabetes.

Health care providers generally believe people who recently had COVID have at least three months of protection, although no definitive rule exists.

“If you had it in August, you probably don’t need to get a booster now,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “If you had it in January and you’re high risk, you should get it now.”

Nachman added that no study has indicated the age at which patients should get a booster shot.

People should consult their physicians to determine how their underlying health can affect the decision to get an updated vaccine.

“That gets back to the doctor-patient relationship,” Nachman said.

People who are 70 years old and planning a cruise that stops in several ports might want to get a shot at least two weeks before they travel because “the last thing you want happening is to be hospitalized in a foreign country,” Nachman said.

Nachman suggested that this vaccine, like the others that people have taken, won’t prevent illnesses but will keep people from shedding the virus and can reduce the symptoms and duration of an infection.

The FDA approval of the current vaccine is welcome news because it is a “good match” for the current strain, Nachman indicated.

It’s difficult to predict how much protection the current vaccine will provide for whatever strain might be circulating in February.

When a higher percentage of the population receives the vaccine, the likelihood of new variants declines, she added.

Jasmine Moss. Photo by Susan Anderson

By Daniel Dunaief

As the first chemist in the history of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Professor John Moses has forged new connections at the lab, even as he maintains his affinity for and appreciation of his native Wrexham in Wales.

Indeed, Moses recently created and funded a fellowship for disadvantaged students in Wales, giving them an opportunity to visit the lab, learn about the science he and others do, and, perhaps, spark an interest in various science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Called Harbwr y Ffynnon Oer Scholarship, which means “Cold Spring Harbor” in Welsh, Moses’s laboratory recently welcomed Jasmine Moss, the first recipient, in early August.

“I hope it broadens” the horizons of those who travel to the lab, explained Moses in an email. “Wales is a small country” with a population of about three million. Coming to New York — a city with a much bigger population than Wales — “can only be an eye-opening experience.”

Jasmine Moss with postdoctoral fellow Dharmendra Vishwakarma. Photo by Theresa Morales

For Moss, who is studying for an integrated masters degree in biomedical engineering, the opportunity proved exciting and rewarding.

“I was expecting to feel intimidated” with everyone knowing so much more than she, Moss said during an interview on the morning of her third day in the lab. “I was expecting maybe a little bit not to understand everything. Everyone is amazing” and made her feel welcome.

The experience started with a walk around the campus, which included considerable information not only about the science but also about the history of the 133-year old laboratory.

Moss, who said this was the first time she’d been in a professional chemistry lab, helped conduct an experiment in which a reaction caused a liquid to change color because of the presence of copper.

“I did the measuring and putting it together,” said Moss, who added that she was “heavily supervised.” She did some calculations as well.

Moss suggested that her interest in science originated with a proficiency in math.

If she were having a bad day in secondary school, she could turn her mood and her mentality around by spending an hour in math class.

Beyond the science

Theresa Morales, a senior scientific administrator, created a schedule of activities and coordinated Moss’s visit.

“We want to do the same thing for any scholarship awardee,” Morales said. “We want to give them the overall experience. It’s not just about the science. We invite the person to realize the culture of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory” which has a “beautiful campus and great people” who occupy its labs, attend meetings, and share scientific insights and experiences.

A postdoctoral researcher in Moss’s lab, Josh Homer suggested that Morales did “the heavy lifting” in coordinating three days of activities and opportunities for Moss. Homer, who is collaborating with Professor Bo Li to develop new opiates that are non addictive for pain treatment, appreciated Moss’s reactions to the opportunities in the lab.

“I thought [Moss’s] face lit up,” he said. When people are exposed to science in a “manageable and digestible way, they learn that they can do it.”

Indeed, Homer, who grew up in New Zealand, recalled how a high school teacher inspired his interest in science.

“My journey genuinely kick started from one good teacher” who sparked an “inquisitiveness” within him, Homer said. 

Coming from a smaller country, Homer can relate to the opportunities science has provided for him.

“Chemistry has been a fantastic way to see the world and explore,” said Homer, who conducted his PhD research at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “Science is a universal language. Chemistry is the same in India, China” and all over the world.

A family experience

Jasmine Moss with her dad, Stephen Moss, front, with members of John Moses’s lab. Photo by Lorraine Baldwin

Moss traveled to New York for the first time with her parents Stephen and Emma, who stayed with her on campus, toured the grounds and library and attended a picnic.

While the library tour was less interesting to Moss, she said her father “really enjoyed it.”

Morales suggested that the lab “wants parents to feel just as good” and that the parents will have “the same enthusiasm for science and the experience as the scholar if they can feel they are a part” of the visit.

In addition to getting an inside look at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Moss and her parents ventured into the city, where she ate her first pizza and visited the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. She was particularly impressed with the speed at which the Empire State Building was constructed, which took a year and 45 days.

Prior to her visit, Moss’s understanding of the city of New York came from the version she observed through the sitcom “Friends.”

As for the next phase of her life, she expressed an interest in helping people, which could be through medical engineering, biology or in some other field.

“I want to do something meaningful,” Moss said.

Next steps

Moses hopes to bring students to the lab each year, particularly those who might have had problems or difficulties or are from a disadvantaged background. Moss suffers from anxiety and feels every new experience makes similar opportunities easier.

“The team really put me at ease almost immediately,” said Moss.

Moss was surprised by the similarities between Long Island and the United Kingdom. She suggested the best parts of Wales are the countryside and beaches. If she returned the favor and hosted guests in her native Wales, she would take them to an international rugby match in Cardiff.

As for other area sports, Moses comes from the little soccer town that could in Wrexham, which is now famous for the purchase of the local team by actor Ryan Reynolds and co-owner Rob McElhenney. While the actors have brought soccer dreams to life, Moses hopes Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory might help young students realize their science dreams.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Mother-in-law. Those three words could come with their own Darth Vader or Jaws soundtrack.

Mothers-in-law present the kind of material that creates both great drama and comedy.

This week, I lost my mother-in-law Judy. She was both a force of nature and fiercely loyal.

Sure, there were comedic elements to our interactions. She seemed unsure of what to ask me to call her. I’d pick up the phone and she’d stutter, “Hi, Dan, this is your … I mean, this is … Judy.”

It was a huge relief for both of us when my wife and I had kids, not only because she wanted more grandchildren and I wanted children, but it also gave both of a us an easy way to refer to her, even when the children weren’t around: “grandma” or, at times, “Grandma Judy.”

A small and slender woman, Judy was all about getting things done. Whenever she had something either on a physical or mental list, she wouldn’t stop until she could check it off.

“Did you bring the water upstairs yet?” she’d ask.

“Not yet, but I will,” I’d reply.

“Okay, good, so what else is new?” she’d continue.

“I had an interesting week of work. I interviewed the CEO of one of the biggest banks in the country, I met a former Knick player, and I spoke with several government officials about an ongoing sovereign debt renegotiation.”

“Wow, how wonderful,” she’d offer, grinning broadly. “Just don’t forget about the water.”

When you were in the circle with Judy, she was a strong and determined advocate and supporter. At a buffet, even at one of her own events, she’d take a plate full of food she knew I could eat and stash it somewhere, in case I wasn’t ready to eat. 

When my wife and I got married, I messed up. Judy, who ascribed to certain rituals, waited as long as she could for me to ask her to dance. When I didn’t oblige, she brought the photographer over.

“Come,” she said, “let’s pretend to dance so that we can get a picture.”

She was the ringmaster of a law practice for her husband and son. Everything flowed through her. She handled almost every administrative duty, including typing. She made sure everyone was where they were supposed to be, and that they were on time.

Allergic to lemon, Judy traveled with my wife, our children and me to Paris. She was terrified that she wouldn’t be able to share her food concerns, bringing with her a sheet with words written phonetically. My French isn’t particularly strong, but I was able to let everyone know of our food issues, to her tremendous relief.

While Judy didn’t and wouldn’t stab me in the back figuratively, she did use her long, bony, shockingly strong fingers to move me along while we were in line at the airport or heading towards the elevator at the Eiffel Tower.

Perhaps all the bones she gnawed on when she ate steak went directly to those incredibly strong and pointed fingers? Eventually, I was able to outmaneuver her need to jab me in the back.

Judy was incredibly devoted to her children, grandchildren, and extended family. She also had a passion for cats and fish. Even when she wasn’t particularly mobile, becoming something of a human question mark as she bent over to make sure she didn’t trip, she brought fish food to all her finned friends and cat food to her favorite felines.

I will miss the way she locked eyes and smiled at me each time we got together, and the way she described everything around her as “crazy.”

She’d often start sentences with, “You want me to tell you somethin’?”

And, Judy, I’m sorry I didn’t ask you to dance at my wedding. I tried to make up for it on numerous other occasions. You’d pretend to be surprised and I’d try to be gallant. Thanks for everything, including and especially making it possible to enjoy a lifetime with your spectacular daughter. We will both miss you and will cherish the memories.

Doctors warn against swimming in brackish water and advise wearing protective gear when handling raw shellfish, among other safety measures to guard against vibrio vulnificus. Photo from CDC

In mid-August, Suffolk County recorded its first death in seven years from vibrio vulnificus, often referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria.”

A man over the age of 55 who had underlying health conditions was admitted to a local hospital with a leg wound and chest pain in July. He died the following month due to a bacterial infection.

Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of health care epidemiology at Stony Brook Medicine. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine/Jeanne Neville

“People that are at risk should be more aware” of an infection they can get from raw shellfish or brackish water, said Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of health care epidemiology at Stony Brook Medicine. That includes people who have liver disease, poorly controlled diabetes, are considered immune suppressed because of a condition or are taking medication that can cause immune suppression.

At the same time, Connecticut reported that three people died from contracting the potentially deadly bacteria. Two of them died from wound infections, the third contracting the bacteria from handling raw oysters.

To be sure, most people are not vulnerable to contracting the disease or from its effects.

“The general public is not at an increased risk,” said Donelan. “In most cases, [infections] are mild or moderate.”

Those who might be vulnerable to vibrio can avoid it by not handling or eating raw or undercooked shellfish, staying away from shellfish juices, covering up wounds or not swimming in brackish waters.

People can shuck shellfish with gloves to minimize any injuries to their hands and can wash their hands before and after coming in contact with raw shellfish.

“Some people like putting raw oyster juice into different drinks,” Donelan said. “You want to avoid doing that.”

Area doctors and health officials urged people with wounds — which could include cuts, new body piercings or tattoos — to avoid swimming in brackish or salt water.

“The bacteria thrives in brackish water, where fresh water meets ocean water,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County health commissioner, said in an email. “It would be best to avoid those waters if you have an open wound or a chronic health condition.”

Donelan also suggested that people who go in the water with such wounds cover them up with a waterproof bandage.


People who contract vibrio typically develop a host of symptoms.

These can include “diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting,” Pigott explained.

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. File photo

Symptoms from consuming raw shellfish can start within 24 hours of a meal. A person exposed  through their skin can develop a blistering skin or soft tissue infection.

Pigott urged residents to seek help for gastrointestinal symptoms or a worsening skin infection.

Those who are unable to drink enough fluids to counterbalance the losses through the gastrointestinal tract could become dehydrated, doctors warned.

Lightheadedness and hypotensive appearances can be a warning sign that residents should seek medical help.

Wounds may become red, hot and tender with streaky marks leading away from them. These are “all concerning things” that might signal an infection, Donelan said.

People generally know how quickly cuts heal. A cut that gets visibly worse quickly, which could include blistering of the skin with a bolus that looks like murky fluid or blood beneath it should be “very concerning signs,” Donelan added.

Knowing that the bacteria is present in Long Island Sound and being aware of it could help people prevent exposure or react early to an infection.

This summer, area hospitals have not reported an unusual number of infections, according to Donelan.

Doctors said the bacteria typically lives in waters between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that the longer the waters remain warm amid a hot summer and warming climate, the more likely the bacteria will be prevalent in waters around the Island.

Illness and travel

At this time of year, residents return from their seasonal travels. They sometimes bring unwanted microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria with them.

Health care professionals urged residents to notify their doctors about their travels prior to getting sick, so doctors can get an idea of where and how they might have contracted an illness.

When people return from cruises, plane trips or other travel, they should “help the emergency departments become aware of where they’ve been,” Donelan said.