Brookhaven National Laboratory

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis, left, shakes hands with New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

With a vision to turn parts of Governors Island into a world-class center that blends into the surrounding greenery, Stony Brook University won the highly competitive process to create a climate solutions center.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) and the Trust for Governors Island earlier this week named Stony Brook the lead in teaming up with other universities, nonprofits and businesses to create a $700 million facility that will start construction in 2025 and open in 2028.

Backed by a $100 million donation from the Simons Foundation, a $50 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies and $150 million from the City of New York, Stony Brook will create a unique 400,000 square-foot facility.

The center will house research laboratories and host community discussions, train 6,000 people to work in green energy jobs per year, provide educational opportunities and search for climate solutions, including those that affect low-income communities of color.

“Climate change is here and the danger is real,” Adams said at a press conference on Governors Island unveiling the winner of the competition. “I am proud to announce that we have selected a team led by Stony Brook University to deliver the New York Climate Exchange.”

Adams suggested the Stony Brook team, which includes local partners like Pace University, New York University and the City University of New York, will protect the city’s air and water.

The Trust for Governors Island also anticipates the site, which will include a “semester abroad” on-site, fellowships and internship programs, will host scientific symposiums that can bring together leaders in a range of fields.

In an email, Simons Foundation President David Spergel hopes the center will “nucleate new business that generates jobs in the region, invest in new technologies and advance solutions.”

The foundation is helping to recruit other benefactors to meet the financial needs for the site both by the example of its commitment and through personal interactions, Spergel said.

Stony Brook, meanwhile, which has a deep pool of researchers at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences investigating climate-related issues, doesn’t plan to wait until the buildings are refurbished and constructed to start the conceptual and educational work.

During phase zero, the university will “work with our partners immediately” on developing programs for kindergarten through grade 12 outreach, on scaling up green workforce development and on developing collaborative research projects across institutions, SBU President Maurie McInnis said in a town hall discussion with the campus community.

Left to right: Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, Simons Foundation president David Spergel, SBU President Maurie McInnis, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Harbor School student Leanna Martin Peterson and Trust for Governors Island President Clare Newman. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

Practice what it preaches

In addition to providing space that will generate and test out ideas for solutions to climate change, the New York Climate Exchange buildings will minimize the carbon footprint.

There will be 230,000 square feet of new space and 170,000 square feet of refurbished existing structures. The plans, which were created by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, involve creating the biggest mass-timber building in New York City. As an alternative to concrete and steel, mass timber has a lower carbon footprint and is lighter.

Mass timber uses “less material and in a more efficient way,” said Keith O’Connor, principal at SOM, who runs the city design practice in New York and Washington, D.C., in an interview.

SOM designed the tops of the buildings with 142,000 square feet of solar cells, which will generate more than enough power for the site, enabling the center to provide all of its electricity needs and to send some energy to the city.

“We wanted to work really hard to avoid having a field of solar panels sitting off to the side” or sticking solar panels on each roof, O’Connor said. Instead, the solar panels, which will be at slightly different angles from each other, track the topography of the structures without creating a glaring field of reflected light.

Guests who arrive at Governors Island will notice a solar canopy that is “front and center,” O’Connor said. “It’s about a message for everyone who is visiting — it says that energy generation is critical.”

SOM wanted to find a way to create a warm and welcoming aesthetic that provides energy, O’Connor added.

All of the nondrinking water will come from rainwater and treated wastewater.

The site anticipates diverting 95% of waste from landfills, making it one of the first in the country to achieve true zero-waste certification.

“The concept of the physical structure is astonishing,” David Manning, director of Stakeholder Relations at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which will serve as an adviser on the center, said in an interview. “You want to attract the best and the brightest. You do that with programming. It doesn’t hurt that [the design and the facilities] are also cool.”

An aerial rendering of the island after construction, which will also include 4.5 acres of new open space, looks more like a park than a typical research station.

Governors Island, which hosts about a million visitors each year who arrive on ferries that run every half hour, plans to double the ferry service, with trips traveling every 15 minutes during the day starting next year. Also in 2024, the city will start using a hybrid electric ferry to reduce emissions.

Considerable collaborative support

McInnis expressed her gratitude to the team at Stony Brook and to her partners for putting together the winning proposal.

McInnis suggested that the university’s commitment to studying, understanding and mitigating climate change, coupled with national and international collaborations, would unite numerous strengths in one place.

“We knew we had the right team to lead this effort,” said McInnis at the announcement on Governors Island. “We also knew we needed a diverse set of partners” in areas including environmental justice, in the business sector and in philanthropic communities.

Other partners include Georgia Tech, University of Washington, Duke University, Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Oxford, England.

BNL’s Manning appreciated the opportunity to attend the kickoff of the project on Governors Island. 

Near the tip of Manhattan amid a “stunning blue sky,” the gathering was the “perfect setting” to announce and create solutions that were “this future focused,” Manning said.

Above, conceptual rendering of the proposed Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island. Photo from New York City

The New York City Mayor’s Office and the Trust for Governors Island may soon announce the winner for the global competition to create the Center for Climate Solutions.

In October, Stony Brook University was announced as a finalist for the ambitious project. Northeastern University and the City University of New York and the New School were the leaders of the other bids.

A multidimensional environmental effort designed to educate the public, offer climate solutions and ensure equitable climate solutions, the competition, which was launched in 2020 by former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), is expected to create over $1 billion in economic impact and create 7,000 permanent jobs.

The winner or winners will create a space on the island that features views of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge with several key features. The center will provide a way to study the impacts of climate change, host a living lab that provides entrepreneurs and nonprofits that can test and showcase their climate solutions, serve as an urban center for environmental justice organizations, feature dormitories and housing and provide space for New Yorkers and visitors to discuss climate change.

Partners on the Stony Brook proposal include Brookhaven National Laboratory, International Business Machines, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pace University, Pratt Institute, University of Washington, Duke University, Moody’s Corporation, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Maritime College, Oxford University, URBS Systems, General Electric and other business, nonprofit and on-Island partners.

The proposals offered ways to support interdisciplinary research focused on urban adaptation, urban environments, public policy, environmental justice and public health.

At the same time, the finalists offered educational programs for students all the way from K-12 through graduate and adult education.

The center will provide workforce training opportunities, incubators and accelerator spaces for nonprofits and entrepreneurs working on climate and public programming.

The selection committee that is choosing the winners includes representatives from the Trust for Governors Island, Mayor Eric Adams’s (D) Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, the Mayor’s Office of Equity and the New York City Department of City Planning.

“New York City is facing some of the most complex climate adaptation challenges in the world,” Kizzy Charles-Guzman, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, said in a statement when the finalists were announced last October. “The Center for Climate Solutions will bring together actionable science, community-based partnerships and innovative and equitable solutions to communities on the frontline of the climate crisis.”

Awards Ceremony for Bridge Contest 2023
High school students become model bridge engineers in annual contest

Jacqueline Seifert, a senior at Commack High School, won first place in the 2023 Bridge Building Competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory on March 30.

The annual contest puts model bridges constructed by Long Island High School students to the ultimate pressure test. Students apply physics and engineering principles to build basswood structures to a set of specifications. Then, their bridges are judged based on efficiency, which is calculated using the mass of the bridge and the amount of weight it can support before breaking or bending more than one inch.

“This competition is an introduction to the world of engineering,” said Scott Bronson, manager for K–12 programs at the Lab’s Office of Educational Programs (OEP). “At Brookhaven Lab, engineers of all types support our science goals at world-class facilities and the DOE mission. We hope this contest inspires students to explore paths in science, technology, math, and engineering and to return to the Lab as interns and future employees.”

OEP received a total 142 bridges, of which 91 qualified for testing, captured below.

An awards ceremony to honor the winners was held at Brookhaven Lab on April 6. The top two winners in this regional competition qualify to compete in the International Bridge contest on April 29 in Chicago, IL.

Seifert, who earned second place in last year’s local competition and placed 16th in the previous international contest, designed a bridge that weighed 23.47grams and recorded an efficiency of 1342.22. As the testing machine slowly added more and more weight to Seifert’s W truss design, the Science Learning Center erupted in impressed “oohs” as the load hit close to 70 lbs. Retired Brookhaven Lab engineer and longtime competition supporter Marty Woodle noted right away “that’s an international contender.”

Seifert, who will pursue civil engineering at Vanderbilt University, said it was rewarding to watch her design hit that high bridge load. “The most exciting part was the experimentation and seeing what works and what doesn’t, finding the weak points in my bridge so I could continue to make it better,” she said. “I’ll see how it goes in the international competition.”

Katherine Liang, a junior at Ward Melville High School, who garnered first place in two previous contests and 9th and the last international competition, placed second this year with a design that realized an efficiency of 1094.44.

Third-place winner Jonathan Thomas, a junior at Walt Whitman High School, constructed a bridge that recorded an efficiency of 1048.18. After conducting bridge demos in a physics lab at school, Thomas learned his design needed more horizontal support and looked to previous competition winners for potential engineering ideas.“It’s definitely a career path I want to go into,” he said.

Aidan Quinn, a junior at Smithtown High School East won this year’s aesthetic award. Quinn’s double arch design was neat with clean lines, inspired by a photo his father showed him that captured a historical moment when a pilot flew a biplane under a bridge that once crossed the Niagara River.

“I would love to major in biomedical engineering,” Quinn said. “I’m glad I was able to participate in the competition. It was a great experience.” 

JoAnne Hewett has been named the new BNL director. Photo from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

For the first time in its over 75-year history, Brookhaven National Laboratory named its first female lab director.

JoAnne Hewett, associate lab director for fundamental physics and chief research officer at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California, will take over the top job at BNL this summer.

Hewett will also join Stony Brook University as a tenured faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Hewett “is not only incredibly qualified and talented, but will also make history as the first woman to serve in this critical role,” Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who is the first woman elected governor of the Empire State, said in a statement. “The lab has developed innovative ways to deliver on New York’s top priorities, from battling disease to acting on climate change, that are making a difference today and for the future of New York.”

Hewett, who was the first woman member at SLAC in 1994, conducts research as a theoretical physicist, exploring the fundamental nature of space, matter and energy. Her work in physics focuses on efforts beyond the Standard Model of particle physics.

Stony Brook University Distinguished Professor and Director of the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics George Sterman described her hire as a “wonderful turn of events.”

In an email, Sterman wrote that her work “as a theoretical physicist has earned wide admiration, and her leadership has helped shape the national program in fundamental particles.”

Sterman suggested Hewett’s research “continues to influence experiments worldwide, and her perspectives will be greatly valued by her new colleagues at Stony Brook.”

With over 2,800 scientists, engineers, technicians and professionals and an annual budget of about $700 million, the researchers at BNL tap into the site’s state-of-the-art technology, including the National Synchrotron Lightsource II. These researchers, and the many scientists from around the country and the world, work in fields including nuclear and high energy physics, clean energy and climate science, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, photon sciences, isotope production, accelerator science and technology and national security.

Hewett is coming to BNL as it prepares to begin construction on the Electron-Ion Collider, or EIC. Estimated to cost between $1.7 billion and $2.8 billion, the EIC will allow researchers to look inside the nucleus at the protons and neutrons. The research will reveal the arrangement of quarks and gluons that make up the protons and neutrons of nuclei.

Discoveries from the EIC could lead to future technologies.

“I am head-over-heels excited to build the EIC in partnership with Jefferson Lab to unlock the mysteries of the force that binds Nature’s building blocks, to strengthen connections to industry and the community with Discovery Park, and to advance the multi-program missions of the lab,” Hewett said in a statement. “And I’m very much looking forward to working with everyone at Brookhaven, Stony Brook and the DOE to usher the lab into its next successful chapter.”

The lab is also building a new welcome center, the Science and User Support Group, which is the first building planned for Discovery Park.

Maurie McInnis, president of SBU and co-chair of the BSA Board of Directors, which is a partnership between SBU and Battelle, welcomed Hewett, who will start this summer, to BNL.

Hewett’s “capable leadership, experience and future-forward vision complements Brookhaven National Laboratory’s continued focus on scientific innovation and discovery,” McInnis said in a statement. “The University is pleased to bring her expertise to the Physics and Astronomy Department and to the C.N. Yang Institute of Theoretical Physics, both of which have had “long-standing and critical connections to many major physics achievements at BNL.”

The next few months

Hewett takes over the top job at the lab from Doon Gibbs, who had been in that position from 2013. Gibbs is retiring on April 17.

“I am grateful to [Gibbs] for his outstanding leadership of Brookhaven and his long legacy of building and strengthening the lab for advancing scientific discovery,” Hewett said in a statement.

Jack Anderson, BNL’s deputy director for operations, will serve as the interim lab director until Hewett joins the lab.

Tom Daniels, the current ALD for Facilities and Operations will serve as interim deputy director.

JoAnne Hewett. Twitter photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief


Brookhaven National Laboratory has had nine lab directors since it was founded in 1946. Earlier this week, the Department of Energy facility, which has produced seven Nobel Prizes, has state-of-the-art facilities, and employs over 2,800 scientists and technicians from around the world announced that it hired JoAnne Hewett as its first female lab director.

Successful, determined, dedicated and award-winning local female scientists lauded the hire of Hewett, who comes to BNL from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory where she was associate lab director for fundamental physics and chief research officer. SLAC is operated by Stanford University in Menlo Park, California. In email responses, local female scientists suggested that Hewett’s hiring can and would inspire women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

“I am so delighted by the news that Dr. JoAnne Hewett has been named to be the next director of Brookhaven National Laboratory,” wrote Esther Takeuchi, William and Jane Knapp chair in Energy and the Environment and SUNY distinguished professor at Stony Brook University and chair of the Interdisciplinary Science Department at BNL. As the first female director for the lab, Hewett “is an inspiration not only for the women who are in the field, but for future female scientists who will witness first hand that success at the highest level.”

Stella Tsirka, SUNY distinguished professor in the Department of Pharmacological Sciences at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, suggested this hire was a part of an increasing number of women in prominent positions in science at local institutions.

Stony Brook and BNL are “becoming a hub of strong female role models for younger females, in STEM, in medicine, in leadership!” Tsirka wrote. “Between [SB President] Maurie McInnis, Hewett, Ivet Bahar (the director of the Laufer Center), Anissa Abi-Dargham [principal investigator for the Long Island Network for Clinical and Translational Science] and many other successful female faculty in leadership positions, hopefully, the message comes out loud and clear to our young women who are in science already, or aspire to be in science.”

For her part, Abi-Dargham, who is chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, described Hewett’s hire as “amazing” and suggested it was “really exciting to see an accomplished female scientist selected to head our collaborating institution at BNL!”

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor and Cancer Center Program co-leader Mikala Egeblad added that the significance of Hewett’s hire goes “well beyond inspiring young girls. It is important to have women leaders for all sciences, also for someone at my career stage. I hope that one day, we will get to a point when we don’t think about whether a leader is a woman or a man.”

Women remain underrepresented at top leadership positions, so Egeblad finds it “very inspiring to see a woman recognized for her leadership skills and selected” to head BNL.

Leemor Joshua-Tor, professor and HHMI investigator at CSHL, called the hire “really great news” and indicated this was “especially true for the physical sciences, where there are even fewer women in senior positions than in biology.” Joshua-Tor added that the more women in senior, visible positions, “the more young women and girls see this as a normal career to have.”

Alea Mills, professor and Cancer Center member at CSHL, wrote that it is “fantastic that BNL has found the very best scientist to lead them into their next new mission of success. And it’s an extra bonus that this top scientist happens to be a woman!”

Mills added that efforts to enhance diversity are fashionable currently, but all too often fall short. Hiring Hewett makes “real traction that will undoubtedly inspire future generations of young women in STEM.”

Patricia Wright, distinguished service professor at Stony Brook in the Department of Anthropology, wrote that it was “inspiring” to see a female director of BNL and that “young female scientists can aspire to being in that role some day.”

Braving the bugs, Alistair Rogers (right) and his colleague Stefanie Lasota collect leaf samples in Alaska for analysis. Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt

By Daniel Dunaief

Alistair Rogers lives, thinks and works on opposite extremes.

At the same time that he gathers information from the frigid Arctic, he is also analyzing data from the sweltering tropical forests of Panama and Brazil. He visits both regions annually and, within one eight-day span, saw a Polar Bear in Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow), Alaska and a tarantula in Brazil.

Alistair Rogers. Photo from BNL

That’s not where the extremes end. Rogers is also studying plants at the physiological level to understand how best to represent processes such as photosynthesis, respiration and stomatal conductance in climate models.

The leader of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science & Technology Group in the Environmental and Climate Sciences Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Rogers recently was honored as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The AAAS has named fellows every year since 1874 to recognize their contributions to the advancement of science. Previous honorees included astronaut and former Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, a founding member of the NAACP and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois and inventor Thomas Edison.

Lisa Ainsworth, Research Leaders of the Global Change in Photosynthesis Unit for the USDA Research Service, nominated Rogers, who served as a mentor for her when she conducted her PhD research.

“[Rogers] is one of the world’s authorities on understanding how plants respond to atmospheric change and in particular rising carbon dioxide concentration,” Ainsworth said. He’s an experimentalist who “built a bridge to the scientific computational modeling community.”

Ainsworth suggested she would not have the career she developed if it weren’t for the support she received from Rogers.

Rogers, who the Department of Energy recognized as an Outstanding Mentor three times and has been at BNL since 1998, “makes you believe in yourself when you don’t have any reason to do that. He believes in you before you know you should believe in yourself,” Ainsworth said. For his part, Rogers is “delighted to be honored and recognized as a fellow.”

Carbon dioxide sinks

For all the extremes in his work, Rogers has been collecting data from plants to address a range of questions, including how they will react to and affect environmental changes caused by global warming.

Through photosynthesis, plants are responsible for absorbing about a third of the carbon dioxide humans produce through the burning of fossil fuels.

The uptake of carbon dioxide by plants and oceans has limited warming so far to 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial temperatures. Without such carbon dioxide removal by oceans and plants, the temperature would already be 3 degrees warmer.

The models his work informs are trying to understand what will happen to the carbon dioxide subsidy in the future.

“In order to work out how warm it’s going to get, you need to know the carbon dioxide concentration and the climate sensitivity (how much warmer it will get for a given amount of carbon dioxide),” he explained in an email.

Photosynthesis is less efficient at higher temperatures, but is also more efficient amid an increased amount of carbon dioxide. Drier air also reduces the efficiency of the process as plants close their stomata to conserve water, which restricts carbon dioxide supply to their chloroplasts.

The transfer of water from land to the atmosphere most often occurs through stomata, so understanding the way these pores open and close is important in predicting cloud formation and other land-atmosphere interactions.

Ainsworth described how a typical day of field work gathering data could last for 16 hours. She appreciated how Rogers worked and played hard — he is a cyclist and a skier — while keeping the work fun. Indeed, Ainsworth said Rogers, on regular calls with two other professors, blends discussions about grants and work decisions with their first choice for their guesses at the New York Times wordle game.

Leadership roles

In addition to his leadership role at BNL, Rogers is also part of the leadership teams for the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment — Arctic and the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment —Tropics.

Rogers said the Arctic is seeing the biggest increase in temperature relative to anywhere else on the planet faster because of climate feedback. When ice and snow melt, it reveals surfaces that absorb more heat.

The tropics, meanwhile, have been more stable, although the region is expected to experience hotter, drier temperatures in the coming decades as well.

Alistair Rogers. Photo from BNL

The Department of Energy is studying these biomes because they are climatically sensitive, globally important and poorly represented in climate models.

Rogers is working with other scientists at BNL and around the world to understand these processes to feed his data collection and analysis into global models.

Using an analogy for developing these models, Rogers suggested trying to predict the time it would take to get to the airport. A traveler would need to know the distance and the mode of transport — whether she was walking, biking or riding in a car.

A model predicting the travel time would make assumptions about how fast a person could go in a car, while factoring in other data like the weather and traffic density at a particular time to anticipate the speed.

If the traffic model wasn’t sure of the maximum possible speed of a vehicle, the error associated with predicting the arrival time could be large, particularly when considering the difference between traveling in a steamroller or a Lamborghini on empty roads.

Climate models use a similar process. By studying the species of plants, Rogers can tell the models whether the plants are the equivalent of sports cars or steamrollers.

Big picture

The worst case scenario of earlier models is highly unlikely, although the scenario of a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide also hasn’t occurred. The models, however, still suggest that changes in human behavior are critical to protecting the future of the planet against the effects of climate change.

Rogers is encouraged by the declining cost of solar energy and the work developing countries have done to bypass some of the more polluting sources of energy from the industrial revolution. He is also pleased by the commitment from the Department of Energy to look for climate change solutions.

These elements “represent great opportunities for scientists like me” to work on these problems.

Hunter College Campus Schools and Ward Melville High School took the top spots in the Long Island Regional Science Bowl competitions hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3. The fast-paced question-and-answer contest quizzed students on chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, astronomy, and general, earth, and computer science.

Science Bowl alumni Suraj Muralidharan, Stephanie Zhang, and Amanda Chen volunteered at the 2023 competitions.

This year, the regional middle and high school events returned to an in-person, head-to-head tournament at the Laboratory after going virtual for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 80 volunteers including BNL staff, community members, and past Science Bowl participants helped out this year.

“Brookhaven’s Office of Educational Programs was so excited to welcome students back onsite for a full day of competition and science learning,” said Amanda Horn, a Brookhaven Lab educator who coordinated the events. “This competition provides students with a unique opportunity to show off their science skills and knowledge, and learn about the Lab as well as the DOE.”

Hunter College and Ward Melville’s first place wins in the middle school and high school competitions, respectively, secured each team an all-expenses paid trip to compete at DOE’s National Science Bowl finals scheduled for April 27 to May 1 in Washington, D.C.

The DOE created the National Science Bowl in 1991 to encourage students to excel in mathematics and science and to pursue careers in these fields. Approximately 330,000 students have participated in the National Science Bowl® throughout its 32-year history, and it is one of the nation’s largest science competitions.

“The National Science Bowl® is an extraordinary competition that brings together young minds across America through science and technology,” said Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, DOE Office of Science Director, “and I would like to congratulate the Hunter College Campus Middle School and Ward Melville High School teams as they advance to the National Finals! Good luck to you — our future scientists, visionaries, and leaders!”

Middle School Science Bowl Results

First Place: The regional middle school event held on Feb. 2 was open to teams from New York City schools in addition to schools on Long Island. Under the guidance of coaches Jennifer Kasanuki and Christopher Torpey, a team from Hunter College Campus Schools of NYC — Kieran Torpey, Gabriel Fang, Max Levin, Andres Fischer and Camille Pimentel — earned a back-to-back win for their school after being tied halfway through the final round against R.C. Murphy Junior High School of Stony Brook.

“It feels really great,” said Hunter College team captain and eighth grader Kieran Torpey. “We’ve studied really hard for this. I love science and to know a lot of science is really great.”

Second Place: R.C. Murphy Junior High School — Harry Gao, Gabrielle Wong, Menghan Tang, Willem Van der Velden, Kayla Harte (Coaches: Jillian Visser and Emily Chernakoff)

Third Place: John F. Kennedy Middle School Team 1 — Chaeten Modgil, Maya Swierupski, Jayden Brun, Aiden Karp, Ryan Perovich (Coach: Steven Nielsen)

Fourth Place: NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies Team 1 — Ryan Casey, Jonathan Lin, Vince Liao, Kolbi Canell, Daniel Berkovich (Coaches: Faithe Theresa Yates and Eva Deffenbaugh)

High School Science Bowl Results

First Place: Competing against 23 other teams, Ward Melville High School of East Setauket secured their first-place win in a second-round showdown against Great Neck South High School on Feb. 3. 

Under the guidance of Coach Philip Medina, team members — Benjamin Proothi, Rithik Sogal, Anna Xing, Benjamin Zhang and Michael Melikyan — went undefeated in their first four round robin matches and reached the double-elimination finals where they faced a team from Great Neck. 

Great Neck gave them their first lost, but Ward Melville High School pulled through during the tiebreaker round where they surged ahead with a rally of several questions and bonus points — an intense, yet exciting way to win.

“We didn’t really know exactly what the score was,” said Ben Proothi. “We just felt like we were ahead by a little bit, so we took the chance and ran out the clock.”

“It’s incredible,” said team captain and junior Michael Melikyan. “We’ve always been fighting Great Neck South for a top spot, and they’ve always been taking it. They always have a strong team and incredible people and we’re just happy we finally managed to pull through. We’re very grateful and very proud to be going [to the National Science Bowl].” 

This marks the first time in six years Ward Melville High School has qualified for the national tournament. “They’re an amazing group of people. I have no idea how they know this stuff, it’s incredible. They were working so well under pressure. I’m very proud of them,” added Coach Medina.

Second Place: Great Neck South High School — Richard Zhuang, Laura Zhang, Brandon Kim, Eric Pei, Erin Wong (Coaches: James Truglio and Nicole Spinelli)

Third Place: Farmingdale Senior High School — Waseem Ahmad, Ali Ahmad, Madhav Rapelli, Bevis Jiang, Rayan Adamjee, (Coach: Ashley Arroyo)

Fourth Place: Jericho Senior High School — Derek Minn, Natasha Kulviwat, He Xuan, Ashwin Narayanan, Brendan Shek (Coaches: Samantha Sforza and Emily Umile)


Brookhaven Lab’s Office of Educational Programs (OEP) organized science fun for students throughout both competition days with a STEM Expo, tour, and additional science challenge. Staff and visiting students offered hands-on science demonstrations that included a cloud chamber that revealed electron tracks, sound and light sensitive microcontrollers, tricky engineering attempts, and robotic building blocks.

Science Bowl teams that did not move on to the competitions’ final double elimination rounds had the chance to get an up-close look at the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility for nuclear physics research. STAR, which weighs 1,200 tons and is as large as a house, tracks thousands of particles produced by ion collisions at RHIC to uncover clues about the universe in the moments after the Big Bang.

Teams also competed in a STEM Challenge, racing against the clock and each other to solve science and math puzzles to break several locks on boxes filled with treats. Among participating middle schools, Elmont Memorial High School earned first place, Sayville Middle School took second, and Great Neck South Team 1 placed third.

Long Beach High School completed the STEM Challenge first among participating high schools, followed by General Douglas Macarthur Senior High School, then Lynbrook Senior High School. Long Beach student Sam Adler used the periodic table to crack the code for one of the team’s final locks.

“It was so much fun,” Adler said. “I was so stressed during the competition itself and this was all good fun.”

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Luisella Lari. Photo from BNL

By Daniel Dunaief

Some day, physicists and members of the public who benefit from their discoveries may be happy that Luisella Lari had limited musical and sports talent.

Lari, who grew up in Torino, Italy, tried numerous sports and instruments, especially with her parents’ encouragement.

Luisella Lari studies continuous feature drawings of the Electron Ion Collider. Photo from BNL

After gamely trying, Lari blazed her own trail, which has led her to become Project Manager and senior scientist for the Electron Ion Collider, a one-of-a-kind nuclear physics research facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory. BNL won the rights to construct the EIC, which the lab will plan and develop over the course of the next decade, from the Department of Energy in 2020.

By using a 2.4 mile circumference particle collider, physicists will collide polarized electrons into ions with polarized protons to answer a host of questions about the nature of matter. They will gather information about the basic building blocks of nuclei and how quarks and gluons, the particles inside neutrons and protons, interact dynamically through the strong force to generate the fundamental properties of these particles, such as mass and spin.

Lari, who joined the EIC effort on October 3rd, described her role, which includes numerous meetings, calls and coordinating with multinational and multi-state teams, as a “dream job.”

“I’m so excited to be a part of a project that can help the next generation of physicists,” Lari said. “It’s my turn to participate in the construction” of the cutting edge facility. BNL is coordinating with numerous other labs nationally, including the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator in Virginia, an internationally on the project.

Amid her numerous responsibilities, Lari will ensure that effective project management systems, cost controls and project schedules are developed, documented and implemented. Core competencies of the team she is responsible for include procurement, quality and safety.

EIC applications

The EIC has numerous potential applications across a host of fields. It could lead to energy-efficient accelerators, which could lower the cost of accelerators to make and test computer chips. The EIC could also provide energetic particles that can treat caner cells and improve the design of solar cells, batteries and catalysts. The EIC may also help develop new kinds of drugs and other medical treatments.

Lari explained that she provides a review and approval of the safety evaluations performed by experts. She suggested this suits her background as she did similar work earlier in her career.

Luisella Lari on a recent vacation to Mackinac Island.

Lari has made it a priority to hire a diversified workforce of engineers, technicians and quality and safety managers who can contribute to a project that BNL will likely start constructing in 2026 and 2027.

“I am a strong supporter of building a diverse workforce at levels of the organization,” she explained in an email. “I am strongly convinced that it will add value to any work environment and in particular in a scientific community.”

Applying her experience

Lari isn’t just an administrator and a project coordinator —  she is also a physicist by training.

She earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Politecnico di Torino University in Italy and a PhD in physics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne in Switzerland.

Early in her professional career, Lari worked at Thales Alenia Space, an aerospace company in Turin, Italy, where she collaborated for the development of her master’s thesis. She worked for two years at the company, performing tasks that included testing internal fluid supply lines for one of the International Space Station’s pressurized modules that connects the United States, European and Japanese laboratories in orbit.

She enjoyed the opportunity to work for a “really interesting project” and still routinely uses the NASA system engineering handbook.

She also worked for about a dozen years as an applied physicist and planning officer at CERN, a particle physics lab, which is on the border between France and Switzerland near Geneva.

Lari also served as a project manager and scientist for the European Spallation Source, a neutron source under construction in Sweden. She coordinated ESS Accelerator Project budgets and ran data-driven safety analyses.

Recently, Lari was a senior manager at Fermi National Accelerator in Illinois, where she coordinated international partner contributions to the Proton Improvement Plan II, which upgraded the accelerator complex.

A need to know

When Lari was in middle school, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant melted down. As a school assignment, she had to explain what happened. At that point, she said she understood nothing, which motivated her to want to become a nuclear engineer.

She was “fascinated by nuclear energy.” When she worked at CERN, she had not been studied much about accelerator physics. She attended meetings where sophisticated discussions physics took place and was driven to learn the material.

“All my life, which started when I was a child, I wanted to understand the world around me,” she said. Her work in project management for scientific projects is also her passion, she said. “My mother would say to me when I was younger that I should choose my job in a way that I would do something I like, because I will spend half my life doing it.”

In addition to committing to understanding the physics and helping other scientists pursue their curiosity, Lari said she appreciates the opportunity to collaborate.

While Lari never became proficient in music or athletics, she enjoys dancing and is looking forward to attending Broadway musicals in New York.

She has hosted her parents at each of the places where she has worked, broadening their horizons.

As for her work, Lari recalls being impressed by the ability of the managers at the LHC to summarize complex work in a few pages and to make big picture decisions that affected so many other scientists. She became impressed and inspired “by the power of the project administrator approach,” she said. She also appreciates the opportunities to interact with experts in several fields, which gives her the chance to “better understand and learn.”

Commemorating the start of construction for the Science and User Support Center from the U.S. Department of Energy and Brookhaven Lab are (from left) Joe Diehl, Caroline Polanish, Robert Gordon, Geri Richmond, Doon Gibbs, Chris Ogeka, Tom Daniels, Peggy Caradonna, Andrea Clemente, and Gary Olson. Photo from BNL

Construction is underway for the newest facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. The Science and User Support Center (SUSC) is the first building for the planned Discovery Park, a development the Laboratory is pursuing near its entrance along William Floyd Parkway.

The three-story, 75,000-square-foot facility will serve as a welcome center for the 75-year-old Brookhaven Lab, which is home to seven Nobel Prize-winning discoveries and hosts thousands of guests annually. The SUSC will also offer conference and collaboration areas for scientists as well as office space for the Lab‘s support staff.

Officials from DOE and Brookhaven Lab commemorated the start of construction during a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 26.

DOE’s Under Secretary of Science and Innovation Geri Richmond said, “This strategy—of welcoming the community to be part to our nationallaboratories and focusing on creative, innovative ways for public-private partnerships to strengthen the economy—is so important. This is a centerpiece, a catalyst for the campus and for the future.”

Manager of DOE’s local Brookhaven Site Office, Robert Gordon, said, “This is transformative for Brookhaven National Laboratory. We should be accessible. We’ve done that with our words and our actions. Now we’re doing it with concrete.”

Brookhaven Lab Director Doon Gibbs said, “This construction is a milestone in the Laboratory‘s long-term strategy to revitalize its physical plant. We look forward to welcoming visitors, users, students, and members of the community to connect with Brookhaven, the DOE, our science, and the impact it has.”

Plainview-based E.W. Howell is leading construction as the project’s general contractor. The Laboratory announced in February that it awarded E.W. Howell a $61.8 million contract to build the SUSC. DOE approved a total cost of $86.2 million for the project. E.W. Howell and BrookhavenLab are targeting 2024 for construction to be completed.

The SUSC is the first building planned for Discovery Park, a new vision for Brookhaven Lab‘s gateway with approximately 60 acres of previously used, publicly accessible land. The Laboratory is working with DOE on a process for developers, collaborators, and entrepreneurs to propose, build, and operate new facilities that could complement DOE and Brookhaven Lab‘s missions and leverage opportunities from close proximity to the Laboratory.

Empire State Development is supporting Brookhaven Lab‘s efforts for Discovery Park with a $1.8 million capital grant, recommended by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

The future Science and User Support Center. Rendering courtesy of BNL

Increasing Efficiency for Discoveries, New Technology

Brookhaven Lab attracts scientists from across the country and around the world by offering expertise and access to large user facilities with unique capabilities.

Brookhaven hosted more than 4,400 in-person and virtual scientists from universities, private industry, and government agencies in fiscal year 2021. In the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 5,000 guests and facility users visited each year. The Laboratory expects the number of guests researchers to increase in the coming years, particularly as capabilities expand at the National Synchrotron Light Source II—a DOE Office of Science User Facility—and with the design and construction of the future Electron-Ion Collider.

The SUSC, when complete, is where those guests will arrive. The SUSC will also help improve the guests’ experiences of visiting Brookhavenbecause the Laboratory will consolidate a number of guest services into a central, modern building close to the site entrance.

The SUSC will also feature reconfigurable conference space, designed in response to requests from facility user communities to create opportunities for scientists to collaborate.

In addition, the SUSC will help the Laboratory increase efficiencies by reducing its building footprint atop the 5,322-acre site. The Laboratory plans to relocate approximately 225 staff at the SUSC. They are currently spread across the Lab site, which contains 314 buildings—some that date back to the World War II era, when the Laboratory was the site of the Army’s former Camp Upton.

The SUSC project is funded by the DOE Office of Science.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

Mercy Baez. Photo by Joseph Rubino/ BNL

By Daniel Dunaief

She is a greeter, a corporate concierge, a facilitator, a point of contact for people traveling thousands of miles, a Spanish translator, an important contact in case of emergencies, and whatever else visitors need.

While Mercy Baez, who was promoted to User Program Coordinator for the National Synchrotron Lightsource II and the Laboratory for BioMolecular Structure at Brookhaven National Laboratory early in October, wears many hats, one of the only ones she doesn’t wear is scientist, although that doesn’t keep her from appreciating and taking pride in the research conducted at the Department of Energy facility.

“We’re helping them and they are helping the world,” Baez said.

BNL has a steady stream of users who apply for time at the various research facilities at the national laboratories. 

Baez is specifically responsible for providing a wide range of support and services to the NSLS II and the LBMS. Users, which is how BNL describes potential visiting scientists who conduct research at the lab’s facilities, submit proposals to her office, which then distributes them to a proposal review panel.

When visiting scientists learn that their work, which includes monitoring batteries as they function and searching for fine structural sites in the molecular battle against pathogens, has earned a high enough score to receive coveted time on the lab’s instruments, they prepare for their visit by interacting with Baez and her current team of four by getting registered and approved for access.

Baez offers soup to nuts guidance that often also includes helping users literally find soup, nuts and numerous other items. Baez ensures that users take any necessary training courses, provides guidance regarding registering for on site access to BNL, provides information on the steps or items necessary when they arrive, helps find nearby hotels, coordinate travel to and from the lab and, if necessary, secures places to stay if they miss their planes, get snowed in or have other unforeseen changes in their schedules.

As of October 1st, visitors also have to have some type of active shooter training to access the lab’s facilities. Currently, users are required to take five training courses. Last week, the lab decided to incorporate active shooter training into one of these other training courses.

The lab has always had routine emergency training courses and drills for lab employees. With the changing times and current events, the lab is looking to equip users for such emergencies. The lab hopes never to have to use this training, but if such an event occurs, staff and users will know how to handle such a situation.

In addition to training to help users prepare to visit the facility, Baez provides visitors with a host of on site facilities, including adaptors in case they are using European electronics that don’t connect with the outlets, laptops in case the computer a scientist brought isn’t working, conference rooms for impromptu meetings, and dorm rooms for a respite while running time-intensive experiments.

BNL hosts employee resource groups including the African American Advancement Group, the Asian Pacific American Association, the Brookhaven Veterans Association, Brookhaven Women in Science, the Early Career Resource Group, the Pride Alliance and the Hispanic Heritage Group. Baez said the lab tries to involve users and visitors in as many cultural and social events as possible, which include outings to dinners, plays and cultural virtual cooking classes.

In September, Baez participated in the Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival which the Asian Pacific  American Association sponsored. 

Baez, whose mother is from Puerto Rico and whose father is from Ecuador, is a member of the Hispanic Heritage Group.

A people person

A member of the user offices since 2003, Baez had recently been responsible for coordinating conferences, workshops, and training courses, including financial and logistical aspects of the events for NSLS-II and the LBMS. She had been functioning as the user program coordinator since January, when Gretchen Cisco retired. Baez feels fortunate to have worked with Cisco since she joined NSLS in 2005.

A self-described “people person,” Baez said she loves the opportunity to interact with scientists from all over the world. She particularly appreciates the chance to get to know about other cultures and has added destinations to her travel itinerary from speaking with visitors. She is hoping to travel to Morocco and Peru next year and is hoping to travel to Japan and a few other countries in the near future.

Coming from a Latina family that tends to be loud and outspoken and whose family gatherings often includes more than 30 people, she has learned to speak in a softer voice, particularly with people from other cultures or backgrounds.

She also has a tendency to speak quickly and has learned to slow the pace down so visitors who haven’t interacted with her can understand what she’s saying.

A resident of Medford, which is a ten-minute drive from the lab, Baez has a son Xzavier and a granddaughter Francesca. She is excited for the upcoming arrival of her second granddaughter in November.

When she’s not at the lab, she uses her leisure time to go hiking, fishing and camping.

With her then teenage son in tow, she went to the jungle of Belize for a survival course, where they learned how to catch their own food, build shelters, and harpoon fish. She also learned which plants are safe to eat and which are poisonous.

While her work responsibilities can be hair-raising, particularly in emergencies, she “loves the feeling that I was able to help a scientist, whether to get him or her on site or in an emergency,” she said. Knowing that she’s a part of making all this science happen makes her day and job rewarding, she said.

Baez has had some requests from scientists who have wanted cultural foods, such as Turkish or vegan dishes, that might be harder to find, particularly during off hours.

Around Thanksgiving each year, some visitors have asked if they can hunt wild turkeys at BNL, which is located within the Pine Barrens and has turkeys and deer wandering on site. She has told those users that the lab does not allow hunting.

Hunting aside, Baez said she is “here to help [users] do what they need to do.”