Village Beacon Record

 

Hundreds of people gathered in Port Jefferson Station Tuesday to mourn the loss of Suffolk County Police Department Lt. Robert Van Zeyl, the county’s first active duty officer to die from COVID-19.

Van Zeyl lost his life Jan. 20 after testing positive for the virus Jan. 3. He was hospitalized a week later. 

Members from the law enforcement community joined Van Zeyl’s family to say goodbye with a full military-style precession featuring police motorcycles, pipes and drums, and an American flag arched by two fire trucks.

Uniformed officers who came out from as far as Manhattan saluted the decorated casket as it drove up to St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church on Terryville Road.

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of an exceptional member of our law enforcement family, Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “Lieutenant Van Zeyl’s more-than three decades of exemplary service are a testament to his commitment to public service, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, he was on the frontlines every day helping residents in need. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Van Zeyl family during this difficult time.”

Van Zeyl joined the Suffolk County Police Department in February 1985 and served in the 5th Precinct in Patchogue upon graduation from the academy. In 1994, he was promoted to sergeant and then lieutenant in 2003. 

He served as the commanding officer of the Applicant Investigation Section and the Administrative Services Bureau before transferring to the 2nd Precinct in the Town of Huntington in 2015 where he worked until his death.

“Bob was a wonderful person, a dedicated member of our department, and a pleasure to know both personally and professionally,” Inspector William Scrima, 2nd Precinct commanding officer, said in a statement. “He was a person who genuinely enjoyed his work and was liked by people of all ranks who knew him and worked with him. He will be truly missed by this department and by the 2nd Precinct in particular.” 

During his more than three-decade career, Van Zeyl received more than a dozen recognitions for his contributions to the police department including two Cop of the Month honors and the Excellent Police Duty Award for amassing 12 or more self-initiated DWI arrests in a single year.

The Selden resident leaves behind two children, Hailey and Tyler, and his ex-wife Christine Zubrinic.

“Lieutenant Van Zeyl was really just a fighter the whole way,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said after the ceremony. “He was out in the frontlines battling for his communities, his whole career was dedicated to service and today we say goodbye to him. I know that his family will always be with us. For his beautiful daughter Hailey and son Tyler, this has such a difficult time for them, and we just really want them to know that we’re here for them.”

“They will always remember their dad, who was really a hero, and will always be remembered by this department,” the commissioner said.

Hart added that during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, 87 SCPD officers tested positive for the virus. Van Zeyl’s death is the first.

He was 60 years old.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone introduced a plan Jan. 25 for the return of high-risk sports. Photo from Bellone’s office

High-risk sports such as basketball, wrestling and cheerleading can resume, days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) gave local health commissioners the green light to allow these sports to restart.

Suffolk County has developed a sports plan in connection with Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and Section XI Athletics.

“We know how important sports are in our kids’ lives,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a Jan. 25 press conference announcing the resumption of high-risk sports. “If we can get kids back on the field in as safe a way as possible, we know it’ll bring great benefits.”

As a part of the sports program, all student-athletes will have to take weekly tests for the COVID-19 virus. The county will provide free, rapid tests to school districts, which school nurses will administer.

“Testing is critical,” Bellone said.

New York State is expected to provide an initial allocation of 20,00 rapid tests and will look to provide more tests for schools to use each week.

Positive tests will result in a 10-day quarantine. Each coach is required to supply information to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services for an extensive contact tracing investigation.

The county issued several guidelines, including taking temperatures of players and coaches before practices and games, encouraging mask wearing whenever possible, enforcing social distances when student-athletes are not playing, minimizing equipment sharing, and requiring hand washing before and after practices and games as well as after sharing equipment.

The county also advised programs to play outdoors if possible and to use well-ventilated spaces.

Through Bellone’s office, the county has created the Champion of the Community Pledge, which encourages athletes to take numerous safety measures.

After they read the pledge, students will be asked to sign it and give it to the school.

As a part of this agreement, students accept that if they don’t honor their pledge, they “would be failing to comply with a legitimate school directive and pursuant to school and Section XI policies, students, faculty and staff will be subject to the appropriate accountability measures and disciplinary actions,” according to the pledge.

Athletes must stay safe, healthy and informed of COVID-19 updates, unite with team members and the community to have a memorable season, follow face mask, hygiene and social distancing guidelines, follow additional health and safety requirements, which may include testing and self-quarantining, operating in a healthy environment and completing daily declarations, lead by example and serve as a role model for team members and the community.

Boys and girls basketball, wrestling and competitive cheer will resume Feb. 1 and will conclude Feb. 27.

On average, more than 60,000 student-athletes participate in various high school sports during a normal school year.

Bellone also directed the Suffolk County Parks Department to work with Section XI to set up a fair process for districts to schedule cross-country meets in county parks.

Park sites that the county will make available for competition include West Hills County Park in Melville and Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown.

The cross-country season will begin March 1.

Results from a study of clouds and aerosols conducted in the Azores revealed that new particles can seed the formation of clouds in the marine boundary layer—the atmosphere up to about a kilometer above Earth's surface—even over the open ocean, where the concentration of precursor gases was expected to be low. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility.

Understanding previously undocumented source of new particle formation will improve models of aerosols, clouds, and their impact on Earth’s climate

New results from an atmospheric study over the Eastern North Atlantic reveal that tiny aerosol particles that seed the formation of clouds can form out of next to nothingness over the open ocean. This “new particle formation” occurs when sunlight reacts with molecules of trace gases in the marine boundary layer, the atmosphere within about the first kilometer above Earth’s surface. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, will improve how aerosols and clouds are represented in models that describe Earth’s climate so scientists can understand how the particles—and the processes that control them—might have affected the planet’s past and present, and make better predictions about the future.

“When we say ‘new particle formation,’ we’re talking about individual gas molecules, sometimes just a few atoms in size, reacting with sunlight,” said study co-author Chongai Kuang, a member of the Environmental and Climate Sciences Department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. “It’s interesting to think about how something of that scale can have such an impact on our climate—on how much energy gets reflected or trapped in our atmosphere,” he said.

Using an aircraft outfitted with 55 atmospheric instrument systems, scientists traversed horizontal tracks above and through clouds and spiraled down through atmospheric layers to provide detailed measurements of aerosols and cloud properties. The aircraft data were supplemented by measurements made by ground-based radars and other instruments. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility.

But modeling the details of how aerosol particles form and grow, and how water molecules condense on them to become cloud droplets and clouds, while taking into consideration how different aerosol properties (e.g., their size, number, and spatial distribution) affect those processes is extremely complex—especially if you don’t know where all the aerosols are coming from. So a team of scientists from Brookhaven and collaborators in atmospheric research around the world set out to collect data in a relatively pristine ocean environment. In that setting, they expected the concentration of trace gases to be low and the formation of clouds to be particularly sensitive to aerosol properties—an ideal “laboratory” for disentangling the complex interactions.

“This was an experiment that really leveraged broad and collaborative expertise at Brookhaven in aerosol observations and cloud observations,” Kuang said. Three of the lead researchers—lead authors Guangjie Zheng and Yang Wang, and Jian Wang, principal investigator of the Aerosol and Cloud Experiments in the Eastern North Atlantic [https://www.arm.gov/publications/backgrounders/docs/doe-sc-arm-16-020.pdf] (ACE-ENA) campaign—began their involvement with the project while working at Brookhaven and have remained close collaborators with the Lab since moving to Washington University in St. Louis in 2018.

Land and sea

Brookhaven Lab atmospheric scientist Chongai Kuang (center) with Art Sedlacek (left) and Stephen Springston (right) aboard ARM’s Gulfstream-159 (G-1) aircraft during a 2010 atmospheric sampling mission that was not part of this study. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility.

The study made use of a long-term ground-based sampling station on Graciosa Island in the Azores (an archipelago 850 miles west of continental Portugal) and a Gulfstream-1 aircraft outfitted with 55 atmospheric instrument systems to take measurements at different altitudes over the island and out at sea. Both the ground station and aircraft belong to the DOE Office of Science’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility [https://www.arm.gov/], managed and operated by a consortium of nine DOE national laboratories.

The team flew the aircraft on “porpoise flights,” ascending and descending through the boundary layer to get vertical profiles of the particles and precursor gas molecules present at different altitudes. And they coordinated these flights with measurements taken from the ground station.

The scientists hadn’t expected new particle formation to be happening in the boundary layer in this environment because they expected the concentration of the critical precursor trace gases would be too low.

“But there were particles that we measured at the surface that were larger than newly formed particles, and we just didn’t know where they came from,” Kuang said.

The aircraft measurements gave them their answer.

Many of the choreographed flight paths for this study traversed the open ocean and also crossed within the ranges of the ground-based scanning radars at DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility on Graciosa Island in the Azores. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility.

“This aircraft had very specific flight patterns during the measurement campaign,” Kuang said. “They saw evidence that new particle formation was happening aloft—not at the surface but in the upper boundary layer.” The evidence included a combination of elevated concentrations of small particles, low concentrations of pre-existing aerosol surface area, and clear signs that reactive trace gases such as dimethyl sulfide were being transported vertically—along with atmospheric conditions favorable for those gases to react with sunlight.

“Then, once these aerosol particles form, they attract additional gas molecules, which condense and cause the particles to grow to around 80-90 nanometers in diameter. These larger particles then get transported downward—and that’s what we’re measuring at the surface,” Kuang said.

“The surface measurements plus the aircraft measurements give us a really good spatial sense of the aerosol processes that are happening,” he noted.

At a certain size, the particles grow large enough to attract water vapor, which condenses to form cloud droplets, and eventually clouds.

Both the individual aerosol particles suspended in the atmosphere and the clouds they ultimately form can reflect and/or absorb sunlight and affect Earth’s temperature, Kuang explained.

Study implications

Framed by a brilliant rainbow, ARM’s Gulfstream-159 (G-1) research aircraft sits on the tarmac on Terceira Island during the Aerosol and Cloud Experiments in the Eastern North Atlantic (ACE-ENA) winter 2018 intensive operation period in the Azores. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility.

So now that the scientists know new aerosol particles are forming over the open ocean, what can they do with that information?

“We’ll take this knowledge of what is happening and make sure this process is captured in simulations of Earth’s climate system,” Kuang said.

Another important question: “If this is such a clean environment, then where are all these precursor gases coming from?” Kuang asked. “There are some important precursor gases generated by biological activity in the ocean (e.g., dimethyl sulfide) that may also lead to new particle formation. That can be a nice follow-on study to this one—exploring those sources.”

Understanding the fate of biogenic gases such as dimethyl sulfide, which is a very important source of sulfur in the atmosphere, is key to improving scientists’ ability to predict how changes in ocean productivity will affect aerosol formation and, by extension, climate.

The research was funded by the DOE Office of Science, DOE’s Atmospheric System Research, and by NASA. In addition to the researchers from Brookhaven Lab and Washington University, the collaboration included scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Missouri University of Science and Technology; the University of Washington, Seattle; NASA Langley Research Center; Science Systems and Applications Inc. in Hampton, Virginia; the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany; and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

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, please visit science.energy.gov [https://www.energy.gov/science/office-science].

Accelerator physicist Chuyu Liu, the run coordinator for this year's experiments at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), in the Main Control Room of the collider-accelerator complex at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Final stage of Beam Energy Scan II will collect low-energy collision data needed to understand the transition of ordinary nuclear matter into a soup of free quarks and gluons

Accelerator physicists are preparing the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a DOE Office of Science user facility for nuclear physics research at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, for its 21st year of experiments, set to begin on or about February 3. Instead of producing high-energy particle smashups, the goal for this run is to maximize collision rates at the lowest energy ever achieved at RHIC.

STAR co-spokesperson Lijuan Ruan noted that this year’s run is the third and final leg of Beam Energy Scan II, a systematic study of RHIC collisions at low energies.

“Run 21 is the final step of Beam Energy Scan II (BES-II), a three-year systematic study of what happens when gold ions—gold atoms stripped of their electrons—collide at various low energies,” said Brookhaven physicist Lijuan Ruan, co-spokesperson for RHIC’s STAR experiment collaboration.

Nuclear physicists will examine the BES-II data, along with data from RHIC’s high-energy collisions, to map out how these collisions transform ordinary protons and neutrons into an extraordinary soup of free quarks and gluons—a substance that mimics what the early universe was like some 14 billion years ago. By turning the collision energy down, RHIC physicists can change the temperature and other variables to study how these conditions affect the transition from ordinary matter to early-universe hot quark-and-gluon soup.

“Out of the five energies of BES-II—9.8, 7.3, 5.75, 4.6, and 3.85 billion electron volts, or GeV—this year’s run at 3.85 GeV is the most difficult one,” said Brookhaven Lab accelerator physicist Chuyu Liu, the run coordinator. That’s because “RHIC’s beams of gold ions are really difficult to hold together at the lowest energy,” he explained.

In Run 21, the accelerator team will use a variety of innovative components and schemes to maintain the lifetime and intensity of the colliding ion beams under challenging conditions. Read on to learn more about RHIC’s Run 21 science goals and the accelerator features that will make the science possible.

Scanning the transition

Mapping nuclear phase changes is like studying how water changes under different conditions of temperature and pressure (net baryon density for nuclear matter). RHIC’s collisions “melt” protons and neutrons to create quark-gluon plasma (QGP). STAR physicists are exploring collisions at different energies, turning the “knobs” of temperature and baryon density, to look for signs of a “critical point.” That’s a set of conditions where the type of transition between ordinary nuclear matter and QGP changes from a smooth crossover observed at RHIC’s highest energies (gradual melting) to an abrupt “first order” phase change that’s more like water boiling in a pot.

As Ruan explained, the quest to map out the phases of nuclear matter and the transitions between them is somewhat similar to studying how water molecules transform from solid ice to liquid water and gaseous steam at different temperatures and pressures. But nuclear matter is trickier to study.

“We need a powerful particle collider and sophisticated detector systems to create and study the most extreme forms of nuclear matter,” she said. “Thanks to the incredible versatility of RHIC, we can use the ‘knob’ of collision energy and the intricate particle-tracking capabilities of the STAR detector to conduct this systematic study.”

RHIC’s highest collision energies (up to 200 GeV) produce temperatures more than 250,000 times hotter than the center of the Sun. Those collisions “melt” the protons and neutrons that make up gold atoms’ nuclei, creating an exotic phase of nuclear matter called a quark-gluon plasma (QGP). In QGP, quarks and gluons are “free” from their ordinary confinement within protons and neutrons, and they flow with virtually no resistance—like a nearly perfect liquid.

But QGP lasts a mere fraction of a second before “freezing out” to form new particles. RHIC physicists piece together details of how the melting and refreezing happen by taking “snapshots” of the particles that stream out of these collisions.

By systematically lowering the collision energy, the physicists are looking for signs of a so-called “critical point.” This would be a set of conditions where the type of transition between ordinary nuclear matter and QGP changes from the smooth crossover observed at RHIC’s highest energies (picture butter melting gradually on a counter), to an abrupt “first order” phase change (think of how water boils suddenly at a certain temperature and holds that temperature until all the molecules evaporate).

As physicists turn RHIC’s collision energy down, they expect to see large event-by-event fluctuations in certain measurements—similar to the turbulence an airplane experiences when entering a bank of clouds—as conditions approach a “critical point” in the nuclear phase transition. This year’s run at the lowest collision energy will contribute to this search.

“Theorists have predicted that certain key measurements at RHIC will exhibit dramatic event-by-event fluctuations when we approach this critical point,” Ruan said.

Some RHIC physicists liken these fluctuations to the turbulence an airplane experiences when it moves from smooth air into a bank of clouds and then back out again. Measurements from phase I of RHIC’s Beam Energy Scan (BES-I, with data collected between 2010 and 2017) revealed tantalizing hints of such turbulence. But because collisions are hard to achieve at low energies, the data from BES-I aren’t strong enough to draw definitive conclusions.

Now, in BES-II, a host of accelerator improvements have been implemented to maximize low-energy collision rates.

Cooling the ions

One of the innovations that Chuyu Liu and the other Collider-Accelerator Department (C-AD) physicists managing RHIC operations will take advantage of in Run 21 is a first-of-its-kind beam-cooling system. This Low Energy RHIC electron Cooling  (LEReC) system operated at full capacity for the first time in last year’s RHIC run, making it the world’s first implementation of electron cooling in a collider. But it will be even more important for the lowest-of-low collision energies this year.

“The longer the beam stays at low energy, the more ‘intra-beam scattering’ and ‘space charge’ effects degrade the beam quality, reducing the number of circulating ions,” said Liu. Simplistic translation: The positively charged ions tend to repel one another. (Remember: The ions are atoms of gold stripped of their electrons, leaving a lot of net positive charge from the 79 protons in the nucleus.) The scattering and the repulsive space charge cause the ions to spread out, essentially heating up the beam as it makes its way around the 2.4-mile-circumference RHIC accelerator. And spread-out ions are less likely to collide.

A host of accelerator improvements have been implemented to maximize RHIC’s low-energy collision rates. These include a series of components that inject a stream of cool electron bunches into the ion beams in these cooling sections of the two RHIC rings. The cool electrons extract heat to counteract the tendency of RHIC’s ions to spread out, thereby maximizing the chances the ions will collide when the beams cross at the center of RHIC’s STAR detector.

“The LEReC system operates somewhat similar to the way the liquid running through your home refrigerator extracts heat to keep your food cool,” said Wolfram Fischer, Associate Chair for Accelerators in C-AD, “but the technology needed to achieve this beam cooling is quite a bit more complicated.”

A series of components (special lasers and a photocathode gun) produces bunches of relatively cool electrons, which are accelerated to match the bunching and near-light-speed pace of RHIC’s ions. Transfer lines inject the cool electrons into the stream of ion bunches—first in one RHIC ring, then, after making a 180-degree turn, into the other. As the particles mix, the electrons extract heat, effectively squeezing the spread-out ion bunches back together. The warmed-up electron bunches then get dumped and replaced with a new cool batch.

“To add more flexibility for cooling optimization during this year’s run at RHIC’s lowest energy, where the space-charge effects and beam lifetime degradation are concerns for both the electrons and the ions, we installed a new ‘second harmonic’ radiofrequency (RF) cavity in the electron accelerator,” said Alexei Fedotov, the accelerator physicist who led the LEReC project.

These cavities generate the radio waves that push the electrons along their path, with the higher (second harmonic) frequency helping to flatten out the longitudinal profile of the electron bunches. “This should help to reduce the space charge effect in the electron beams to achieve better cooling performance at low energy,” Fedotov said.

“We plan to commission the new electron beam transport line in late January and start cooling ions with the new electron beam setup in early February,” he added.

More accelerator advances

Similarly, third-harmonic RF cavities installed in the ion accelerator rings will help to flatten the longitudinal profile of the ion bunches, reducing their peak intensity and space charges, Liu explained. “With that, more bunch intensity can be injected into RHIC to produce higher luminosity—a measure closely tied to collision rates,” he said.

The accelerator team will also be commissioning a new bunch-by-bunch feedback system to help stabilize the beam for a better lifetime. “This system measures how each ion bunch deviates from the center of the beam pipe, and then applies a proportional correction signal through a component called a kicker to nudge each bunch back to where it should be,” Liu said.

All this cooling and nudging will counteract the ions’ tendency to spread, which maximizes chances of collisions happening when the two beams cross at the center of STAR.

“This run will bring together many of the advances we’ve been working on at RHIC to meet the challenging conditions of low-energy collisions,” said Fischer. “STAR would have preferred to test the lowest energy first, but we needed to learn everything possible (and develop the electron cooling system) before we could embark on operation at the most difficult energy.”

RHIC operations are funded by the DOE Office of Science.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. 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 https://www.energy.gov/science/ [https://www.energy.gov/science/].

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University has been at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic, as hospital staff has treated and comforted residents stricken with the virus, and researchers have worked tirelessly on a range of projects — including manufacturing personal protective equipment. Amid a host of challenges, administrators at Stony Brook have had to do more with less under budgetary pressure. In this second part of a two-part seriesPresident Maurie McInnis offers her responses in an email exchange to several questions. The Q and A is edited for length. See last week’s paper for an interview with Interim Provost Fotis Sotiropoulos.

TBR News: What are the top three things that keep you up at night?

President Maurie McInnis: My first and foremost priority is to make sure we never compromise or become complacent when it comes to the health and safety of our campus community. Another priority is to develop strategies for best working through our budget challenges, which were exacerbated by COVID-19. And the third thing that keeps me up at night — and fills my waking hours — is making sure I am doing all I can to bring our vast resources together so we can continue to uphold the mission and values of Stony Brook University.

TBR: How do you feel the University has managed through the pandemic and what are some of the strategies you found particularly effective?

McInnis: Stony Brook’s successes in keeping our doors open for in-person learning during the fall semester are well-documented. And I continue to be impressed by, and grateful for, what our entire campus community did to make that happen… From testing students before they came back to campus, to everyone joining together as a community to follow our safety protocols. COVID-19 has revealed our unique strengths — our community engagement, seriousness about academics, personal sense of accountability and collective responsibility for one another.

TBR: How do you feel the University has managed through the economic crisis?

McInnis: Even as the COVID crisis highlighted our strengths, it’s also shone a light on some problematic patterns — particularly in the area of budgets — that in previous years were able to slip by, for Stony Brook and other universities. Our priorities right now are to learn from this moment and build for a more sustainable future.

TBR: Even in the midst of historic challenges, what things still excite and inspire you about Stony Brook University?

McInnis: The short answer is that the things that drew me to Stony Brook initially are the same characteristics that excite and inspire me today. I’m talking about its commitment to a diverse and talented student body; faculty’s dedication to delivering world-class research, scholarship and patient care; its impressive record of high-powered research and student success; its role as a major economic engine in the region; and, its emphasis on community, civility and cross-cultural exchange. Our unique dual role as a top-rated, research-oriented university and hospital stood up to the test of the historically challenging year we’ve had.

TBR: How has Stony Brook’s hybrid learning platform differentiated it from other university online platforms?

McInnis: What made Stony Brook’s learning model so successful is the fact that we worked with areas across campus, intensely and continuously, to make sure we had the right fit for our school, students, faculty members, staff, community, everyone. A hybrid model made the most sense, safety-wise and to ensure the best academic experience.

TBR: If you weren’t in triage mode, what would you be doing?

McInnis: When I came to Stony Brook, I identified three areas that we will continue to focus on during, and post-pandemic, and as we tackle ongoing budget challenges. First, we will continue to support our world-class faculty. We’ll do that by creating an environment in which students succeed, and by continuing to enable cutting-edge breakthroughs in research and medicine. Second, we will embrace our own diversity to strengthen the intellectual and social environment at Stony Brook by creating a ‘one campus’ culture through increased multidisciplinary efforts. And third, we will continue to drive social and economic change on Long Island, in New York State and across the country by staying community-focused and engaging in partnerships that benefit the region.

TBR: What do you plan and hope for a year from now? What’s the best and worst case scenarios?

McInnis: I hope that we can use our experience during this pandemic to spark positive change for future generations of Stony Brook students, faculty and community members, and build on our strengths. We are the number one institution in reducing social inequality. And we need to continue to embrace our incredible impact in driving intergenerational socioeconomic growth and social mobility. Connecting students with opportunities after they graduate — from research positions to internships to career advising — will be important in expanding that impact.

I also want to build on our strengths as both a state-of-the-art healthcare facility and cutting-edge research institution. I want to bring these two areas closer together, blending our expertise across disciplines, as we’re already starting to do. We also plan to apply lessons learned from our shift to remote and hybrid learning.

TBR: Are there COVID research initiatives that Stony Brook is involved with that you hope to continue?

McInnis: Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has required researchers from many disciplines to come together, demonstrating the depth and breadth of our capabilities. Stony Brook is involved in more than 200 dedicated research projects across all disciplines. These projects span 45 academic departments and eight different colleges and schools within the University, and I’m impressed with the caliber and sense of urgency with which this work is being done.

TBR: If you were offered the opportunity to take the vaccine today, would you?

McInnis: Yes, I would take it in a heartbeat, right now.

Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

The Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial Statue was installed this month by Fricke Memorials at the Rocky Point Veterans Memorial Square, standing at the crossroads of Broadway and Route 25A.

This bronze statue identifies the psychological and physical reminders that many armed forces members must endure long after they return home from the fighting. 

At one point this town park was an eyesore to the community. For many years, there was trouble at this location, and in 2011 the Town of Brookhaven permanently closed the Oxygen Bar on the property.  Led by Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), the town purchased the land for $525,000 in 2015.  

On Oct. 17, 2016, the town installed large poles that flew the American and military branch flags. 

As a longtime resident of the area, Bonner said, “It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this worthy endeavor to honor the military efforts of Dwyer and to understand the true significance of the struggles of PTSD. This is an extremely special location to also thank our armed forces members.”  

While Bonner has been involved with many key projects, she was also instrumental in helping create the Diamond in the Pines 9/11 Memorial that was built in 2011 by VFW Post 6249 Rocky Point.

Joseph Dwyer in uniform. Photo from Dwyer family

Former state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) also played a big role in securing the necessary funds for the Dwyer statue. VFW Post 6249 Comdr. Joe Cognitore said LaValle “always positively worked with veterans groups and to help our diverse needs. This statue signifies the amazing drive of LaValle to always be a true champion of support towards the past, present and future members of the military.”  

The structure that remembers Dwyer, who was a graduate of Mount Sinai High School, illustrates the vital need to help those service members who are suffering from PTSD. 

Positive sentiments were expressed by members of the Rocky Point High School History Honor Society.  Senior Tristan Duenas said, “The town did a wonderful job in replacing a poor piece of land and making it into a vital memorial to pay tribute to our veterans, especially those that have been inflicted by PTSD.”  

Junior Caroline Settepani added, “This statue demonstrates the major achievements of veterans like Dwyer that risked their lives to help people from different parts of the world.”  

Following her research, junior Madelynn Zarzycki believed “the project is also connected to the past negative treatment of the Vietnam veterans who received little support when they came home.”  

According to Zarzycki, “These veterans who fought in Southeast Asia faced a severe amount of PTSD challenges that impacted the rest of their lives. It does not matter when a soldier served in battle, these harsh experiences do not discriminate from one generation to the next.”  

Senior Chloe Fish recalled the former Oxygen Bar as a “detriment toward the beauty of this community. Now the Dwyer statue adds a new prospective of service to the downtown area of Rocky Point.”

Stay indoors during a winter storm warning. METRO photo
Leg. Nick Caracappa

The winter season is upon us, and with a 70 percent chance of 1 to 3 inches of snow on Monday night, Jan. 25 into Tuesday, Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa would like to offer residents helpful tips and websites in preparation for extreme cold weather and winter storms.

“It is important to take simple precautionary measures to keep your family safe and protect your home, pets and personal property during the brutal winter months,” said Legislator Caracappa.

The following information is provided courtesy of https://www.ready.gov/

Winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms including blizzards can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds.

A winter storm can:

  • Last a few hours or several days.
  • Cut off heat, power and communication services.
  • Put older adults, children and sick individuals at greater risk.

IF YOU ARE UNDER A WINTER STORM WARNING, FIND SHELTER RIGHT AWAY

  • Stay off roads.
  • Stay indoors and dress warmly.
    • If you need to spend time in a public indoor space in order to stay safe from the cold, follow CDC precautions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19: wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and those who are not a part of your household. Masks should not be worn by children under two years of age, those who have trouble breathing, and those who are unable to remove them on their own.
  • Prepare for power outages.
  • Use generators outside only and away from windows.
  • Listen for emergency information and alerts.
  • Look for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Check on neighbors while following the latest guidelinesfrom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on maintaining social and physical distancing. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html. Consider connecting with family and friends by telephone, e-mail, text messages, video chat, and social media. If you must visit in person, wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least six feet from them.

 

HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN A WINTER STORM THREATENS:

Prepare NOW

  • Know your area’s risk for winter storms. Extreme winter weather can leave communities without utilities or other services for long periods of time.
  • Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
  • Know your winter weather terms. https://www.weather.gov/bgm/WinterTerms
  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radioalso provide emergency alerts. Sign up for email updates about coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here: https://www.cdc.gov/Other/emailupdates/.
  • Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.  If you are able to, set aside items like soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfecting wipes, and general household cleaning supplies that you can use to disinfect surfaces you touch regularly.
  • Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep a full tank of gas.
    • Remember that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases and slowly building up supplies in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips. This helps to protect those who are unable to procure essentials in advance of the pandemic and must shop more frequently. Being prepared allows you to avoid unnecessary excursions and to address minor medical issues at home, alleviating the burden on urgent care centers and hospitals.

 

  • Learn the signs of, and basic treatments for, frostbite and hypothermia.
    • If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the operator know if you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a mask before help arrives.

Learn the symptoms of COVID-19 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes.

    • Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin.
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.
  • Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
    • Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.

 

Survive DURING

  • Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.
  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
    • Be sure to have several clean masks to use in case your mask becomes wet or damp from snow. Cloth masks should not be worn when they become damp or wet. Be sure to wash your mask regularly.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack by avoiding overexertion when shoveling snow and walking in the snow.
    • Masks may make it difficult to breathe, especially for those who engage in high intensity activities, like shoveling. If you are unable to wear a mask, maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and those who are not part of your household.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away.
  • If it is safe to do so, check on neighbors while following the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on maintaining social and physical distancing. Consider connecting with family and friends by telephone, e-mail, text messages, video chat, and social media. If you must visit in person, wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least six feet from them. Masks should not be worn by children under two years of age, those who have trouble breathing, and those who are unable to remove them on their own.

Be Safe AFTER

  • Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes.
    • Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, and firm or waxy skin.
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.
  • Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
    • Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness.
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.
  • If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the operator know if you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a mask before help arrives.
  • Engage virtually with your community through video and phone calls. Know that it’s normal to feel anxious or stressed. Take care of your body and talk to someone if you are feeling upset. Many people may already feel fear and anxiety about the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The threat of a winter storm can add additional stress. Follow CDC guidance for managing stress during a traumatic event and managing stress during COVID-19.
  • It is important to help our first responders by removing snow around fire hydrants.

For more safety and health-related guidelines, visit https://www.cdc.gov/.

A sharing table at Heritage Park. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher and Rita J. Egan

Give a little, take a little — sharing is caring. 

A new phenomenon that has made its way across Long Island — and now the country — is a discreet way to help those in need. 

The Sharing Tables concept, of New York and California, was started up in November by a Seaford mom and her young daughter. 

“I woke up on Sunday, Nov. 22, and me and my 6-year-old daughter didn’t have anything to do that day,” Mary Kate Tischler, founder of the group, said. “We went through our cabinets, got some stuff from the grocery store and started publicizing the table on Facebook.”

The Sharing Table is a simple concept, according to her: “Take what you need and leave what you can, if you can.”

Tischler, who grew up in Stony Brook, said the idea is that whoever sets up a table in front of their home or business will put items out that people might need, with the community coming together to replenish it.

“The very first day people were taking things and dropping things off,” she said. “It was working just as it was supposed to.”

When the table is set up, organizers put out anything and everything a person might need. Some put out nonperishable foods, some put toiletries. Others put toys and books, with some tables having unworn clothing and shoes. No one mans the table. It’s just out front, where someone can discreetly visit and grab what they need.

“Since there’s no one that stands behind the table, people can come up anonymously and take the item without identifying themselves or asking any questions,” Tischler said. ”Some of our neighbors are in a tough time where they can’t pay their bills. I think the Sharing Tables are really helping fill those needs.”

And they’re popping up everywhere. In just three months, the group has nearly 30 Sharing Tables in New York, with one just launched in Santa Monica, California.

Mount Sinai

From clothing to toys, to food and books, Sharing Tables, like the one pictured here in Mount Sinai, are a way to help in a discreet and anonymous way. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Sunday, Jan. 18, a Sharing Table was put outside the Heritage Trust building at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

Victoria Hazan, president of the trust, said she saw the Sharing Tables on social media and knew that the local community needed one, too.

“It was nothing but good, positive vibes,” she said.

When she set up the table with dozens of different items that were donated, people already started pulling up to either grab something they needed or donate to the cause.

“Some people are shy,” Hazan said. “What’s great is that you set up the table and walk away. There’s no judgement and no questions asked.”

What’s available at the tables will vary by community and what donations come in.

“The response from the community blew my mind totally,” Hazan said. “This was the right time to do this.”

St. James

Joanne Evangelist, of St. James, was the first person in Suffolk County to set up a Sharing Table, and soon after, other residents in the county followed.

The wife and mother of two said it was the end of the Christmas season when she was cleaning out drawers and her pantry. On the Facebook page Smithtown Freecycle, she posted that she had stuff to give away if anyone wanted it, but she would find sometimes people wouldn’t show up after she put something aside for them.

“So, I put it on a table outside — not even knowing about the group or thinking anything of it,” she said, adding she would post what was outside on the freecycle page.

Joanne Evangelist stands by her table in St. James filled with food, cleaning supplies and more. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tischler saw the Smithtown Freecycle post and reached out to Evangelist to see if she would be interested in setting up a Sharing Table. The St. James woman thought it was a good idea when she heard it. While Evangelist regularly has food, toiletries, cleaning products and baby products on the table, from time to time there will be clothing, toys and other random items. Recently, she held a coat drive and the outwear was donated to Lighthouse Mission in Bellport, which helps those with food insecurities and the homeless.

She said she keeps the table outside on her front lawn all day long, even at night, unless it’s going to rain, or the temperatures dip too low. People can pick up items at any time, and she said no one is questioned.

Evangelist said she also keeps a box out for donations so she can organize them on the table later on in the day, and the response from local residents wanting to drop off items has been touching.

She said helping out others is something she always liked to do. 

“I was a candy striper in the hospital when I was younger,” she said. “I just always loved volunteering, and I’m a stay-at-home mom, so, honestly anything I could do … especially with the pandemic.”

Evangelist said she understands what people go through during tough financial times.

“I’ve used a pantry before, so I know the feeling,” she said. “I know the embarrassment of it.”

Northport

Lisa Conway, of Northport, and two of her five children, Aidan, 16, and Kate, 14, set up a Sharing Table after their garage was burglarized on New Year’s Eve.

Conway said her children, who attend St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, were looking for a community outreach project. She had seen a post about the Sharing Tables on Facebook and was considering starting one, but she was debating how involved it would be.

Then the Conway’s garage was burglarized where thousands of dollars of tools were stolen, an electric skateboard, dirt bike and more including a generator that was taken from the basement. The wife and mother said the family felt fortunate that the robbers didn’t enter the main part of the house.

Conway said after the experience she realized that some people need to steal to get what they need and decided the Sharing Table would be a good idea.

“They can come take what they need without having to steal from anyone,” she said.

Her children have been helping to organize the items they receive, and every day Aidan will set everything up before school and clean up at night. He said it’s no big deal as it takes just a few minutes each day.

Aidan said there have been more givers than takers.

“People are a lot more generous than what I expected them to be,” he said.

The mother and son said they have been touched by the generosity of their fellow residents. Conway said she’s been using the Nextdoor app mostly to generate contributions. She said she started posting on the app to let people know what they needed for the table. One day after a posting indicating they needed cleaning supplies for the table, they woke up to find the items outside.

The family has also received a $200 Amazon gift card to buy items, and another person bought them a canopy to protect the table. 

Conway said every once in a while, she will be outside when people are picking up items. One woman told her how she drove from Nassau County. Her husband was suffering from three different types of cancer, and he couldn’t work due to his compromised immune system. She told her how they had to pay the bills first, and then if there was money left over they could buy food.

Another day Conway went outside to see that someone had left gum and mints on the table.

“I just was so touched by that,” the mother said. “They wanted to leave something they didn’t just want to take, and that’s all they had.”

Conway said it’s a learning experience for her children to know that there are people on public assistance who can’t use the funds for items such as paper goods or cleaning items, and there are others who are struggling but not eligible for any kind of assistance.

“My youngest one is 9, and even he can’t believe when he sees people pulling up,” she said. “He’s not really in the helping phase but I love that he’s seeing what we’re doing.”

Aidan agreed that it is an important learning experience. He said before he wasn’t familiar with those who had financial issues.

“It’s not good to know that there are people out there with financial issues, but it’s good to know that you can help them,” he said.

Conway said the Sharing Tables came around at the right time as she was suffering from “COVID fatigue,” and it changed her outlook on life.

“I feel like my faith in humanity has been restored,” she said.

How you can help

Tischler said that if people would like to donate but cannot get to a Sharing Table, there is an Amazon wish list on the group’s Facebook page. Items ordered through the site will be delivered to Tischler’s home, where she will personally deliver to the Sharing Tables across Long Island. Addresses for locations are listed on the Facebook page.

“It’s been such a whirlwind,” she added. “I have to stop and pinch myself and take stock of what’s happening.”

Stock photo

PSEG Long Island is alerting customers about scams from people impersonating employees and demanding immediate payment.

The utility said scammers contacted more than 500 customers between Dec. 20 and Jan. 2, alleging overdue balanced and threatening to cut off power.

PSEG said some scammers have used a standard tactic of asking customers to buy a prepaid debit card, such as Green Dot, to pay for their alleged overdue bill, while others demanded payment through Zelle, an online fund transfer platform.

PSEG LI, however, offers numerous payment options and does not accept prepaid debit cards or Zelle.

“Somebody represents themselves as one of our employees, states that the customer is in arrears [and] gives them a couple of hours to get some pressure going,” said Robert Vessichelli, senior security investigator for PSEG Long Island. “They say they are going to cut power in a matter of two hours.”

Phone scammers, who have typically come from out of the country in places like India and the Dominican Republic, had started off by targeting mostly commercial accounts, Vessichelli said. Usually, people running a business may have an administrator paying their bills and they may not be sure if their advisor or accountant made payment.

“They are more vulnerable, especially people who deal with perishable goods” because losing power could have dramatic consequences on their business, Vessichelli said.

More recently, scammers have targeted a geographic area, as PSEG has collected numerous calls from the same neighborhoods.

The money scammers request is usually an odd number, such as $498.95. Some of the people scammed have paid as much as over $5,000. The average scam payment is closer to $500.

Some of these scams encourage people to send money several times, claiming that the funds never transferred. In one case, Vessichelli said the scammers received money three times, each time making a phony promise that they would return overpaid funds.

Vessichelli warned customers not to rely on caller ID because some of these scammers spoof the number and identification to make it look like PSEG is calling.

Since August of 2013, the number of people who have reported scam calls or visits is 23,326, with about 1,194 people, or 5.1%, falling victim to these efforts.

In 2013, the percentage of people who paid these fraudulent claims was over 10 percent, but that number has fallen as the company has made a concerted effort to educate consumers.

“We would never make a phone call and say, ‘We’re going to cut your service off in two hours,’” Vessichelli said. “That’s not the procedure we use. We would contact people numerous times and try to give them a payment agreement. “

The company also said it had suspended electrical cut off for non-payment during the pandemic.

In addition to the calls, some scammers show up at people’s doors and even wear clothing with the PSEG emblem and have the company name on their cars.

The people who come to the door sometimes work with a partner who searches the house for jewelry, cash or other valuables, while someone allegedly checks electrical equipment or the meter.

Vessichelli urged customers concerned about an unannounced visit from someone claiming to be from PSEG to call the company to confirm that the person is a legitimate employee. The number to call is (800) 490-0025. Customers can also call that number to check on the validity of a call they suspect may be a scam.

Vessichelli said PSEG has had occasion to knock on customers’ doors in case of a temporary outage or other problem. If customers prefer to call the company before allowing anyone entry in their houses, the technician can wait.

Customers have received calls from people claiming that they owe money for a deposit for priority meter installation. PSEG said customers are not required to pay a deposit for such installations.

PSEG said customers can recognize a scammer because he or she may ask for email for payment in prepaid debit cards or a MoneyGram transfer, or to send money to an out-of-state address.

PSEG urged customers not to arrange payment or reveal account information or personal information, such as social security numbers or credit or debit card numbers, over the phone.

Genuine PSEG representatives will explain why they are calling and provide the account name, address and current balance. If the information is incorrect, the customer is likely speaking with a scammer.

SBU Journalism Newsroom

Stony Brook University recently announced that the School of Journalism will be renamed to the School of Communication and Journalism. The School is the first, and only, in the 64-campus SUNY system that is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

The new name aligns more closely with the School’s expanding undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and with the increased demand for professionals with backgrounds and experience in different communication-related disciplines.

“Communication goes beyond journalism, and Stony Brook’s School of Communication and Journalism will offer new opportunities for our students to explore important fields in science communication, health communication and mass communication, in addition to journalism,” Fotis Sotiropoulos, interim university provost and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences said.

In the past year, the School has begun to offer graduate programs in science communication, in collaboration with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and in public health, in collaboration with the Stony Brook Program in Public Health. Additional programs are in development.

“Faculty at the School and the Alda Center work closely on communication research, particularly in the field of science communication, and by renaming the School, we will be able to foster additional communication research,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the School, executive director of the Alda Center, and vice provost for academic strategy and planning at Stony Brook. “Effective communication builds trust among people, enhances mutual understanding, and creates opportunities for collaboration. Now more than ever, we need effective communicators, and Stony Brook is eager to help fill that need.”

The School of Journalism was founded in 2006 and enrolls approximately 250 students. Its faculty include Pulitzer Prize winners, award-winning international and foreign correspondents, and experts in digital innovation. Graduates have gone on to work as reporters and media professionals at organizations around the country, including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Moth Radio Hour, Council of Foreign Relations, Major League Baseball, and Nieman Lab.

The School is home to the Alda Center, the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting and the Center for News Literacy. It also offers the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists, a one-week intensive program designed to introduce students from across Long Island and New York City to the possibilities of journalism as a career.

Learn more about the School of Communication and Journalism at www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/journalism/