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Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

Maurie McInnis has been named SBU's sixth president. Photo from SBU

After a months-long search, a new president has been chosen for Stony Brook University.

Maurie McInnis, currently executive vice president and provost at the University of Texas at Austin and a renowned cultural historian, was named SBU’s sixth president. Merryl Tisch, State University of New York Board of Trustees chairman, and SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson made the announcement March 26.

“This is an exciting moment for Stony Brook, and I’m confident Dr. Maurie McInnis will take the university to even greater heights in its unique role in fostering innovation, creativity and research that impacts the state, country and the world,” Johnson said in a news release.

McInnis will take over the role July 1. Michael Bernstein has been serving as interim president since last summer’s departure of Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., who took on the post of Michigan State University president.

As chief executive for SBU, McInnis will also oversee Stony Brook Medicine.

“It is now as important as ever to support all our campuses with strong and proven leaders who can quickly navigate challenges, such as the impact of the coronavirus, and keep our students on a path to the world-class higher education they expect,” Tisch said in the release. “Dr. Maurie McInnis has demonstrated experience and the characteristics of such a leader, and we are entrusting her to lead and inspire the students and faculty of Stony Brook University for years to come.”

McInnis is SBU’s second female president. Shirley Strum Kenny headed up the university from 1994 to 2009 after serving as president of Queens College from 1985 to 1994.

As the chief academic officer for UT Austin, McInnis leads strategic planning. Her responsibilities include academic programs and initiatives across 18 colleges and schools, budgeting for the university’s academic division and managing $1.8 billion of the institution’s $3.1 billion budget. She is also involved in the university’s fundraising efforts, leading a team of development officers.

McInnis said in the press release she was honored by the opportunity to lead an institution that is “both at the forefront of groundbreaking research and committed to advancing the American Dream.”

“The critical issues we face today have made it even more clear the important role higher education plays in educating tomorrow’s leaders and tackling today’s challenges by fostering cross-disciplinary research,” she said. “At higher education institutions, our responsibility is not just to admit students but to give them the tools to succeed throughout their collegiate careers and after graduation.”

McInnis earned her bachelor’s degree with highest distinction in art history from University of Virginia and received her master’s degree and doctorate in art history from Yale University. She is married with two children.

Her research has focused onthe cultural history of American art in the colonial and antebellum South. Her published works center around the politics involved in slavery. McInnis is one of the authors of “Educated in Tyranny,” which takes a look at the largely unknown story of slavery at the University of Virginia.

In a video posted to SBU’s YouTube page, McInnis applauded Bernstein’s service, especially in the last few weeks as SBU has been on the frontlines fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“He has been an inspirational steward in this extraordinary upheaval, and we all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude,” McInnis said in the video.

She complimented how Stony Brook Medicine has responded during the crisis and how SBU has been helping to ensure the academic continuity of its students. The incoming president also praised how the SBU campus and local community have been working together during the pandemic.

“This is a team that I want to be part of, and I look forward to joining you this summer with my husband and two children,” she said.

McInnis added that with such an announcement she normally would be meeting members of the university community but couldn’t because of the current COVID-19 precautions.

“I so look forward to meeting you all in person,” McInnis said. “And if not shaking your hand, at least elbow bumping because at that moment we will be on the other side of this unprecedented public health crisis.”

Stony Brook University Interim President Michael Bernstein during the school’s State of the University address in October 2019. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University interim president Michael Bernstein has officially withdrawn his name for consideration in the search for the next SBU president.

Bernstein made the difficult decision “after considerable reflection,” according to an email statement from SBU.

“As he considered his future career options, he felt he needed the freedom to pursue external professional opportunities, without the complication of being an internal candidate at Stony Brook,” the statement read. “Michael has stated that he has been enormously impressed with, and inspired by the excellence of the faculty, staff, and students throughout Stony Brook’s campuses. It is his and the cabinet’s expectation that we will continue to work together as a team over the course of this next semester to move forward on all of our key goals.”

The interim president took over the reins at the university after former SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. exited the position Aug. 1, 2019. In May of 2019, it was announced that Stanley would take on the role of president at Michigan State University in August that year.

In June of 2019, the State University of New York Board of Trustees approved Bernstein as interim president. Previously, Bernstein had served as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs as well as professor of business, economics and history at SBU since 2016.

During an exclusive interview with TBR News Media in August, Bernstein said he had been originally planning to step down as provost and move to San Diego. When Stanley announced he was leaving, he was asked if he would consider the interim role. During the interview, when questioned if he would consider staying permanently, Bernstein said he had an open mind.

“Let’s see if I like the job and more importantly let’s see if the job likes me and we’ll go from there,” Bernstein said at the time.

The news came as a surprise to members of the Three Village Civic Association, who were aiming to create a stronger relationship with the university, and TVCA 1st Vice President George Hoffman said the group was disappointed.

“Michael Bernstein was an affable and outgoing person,” he said. “The first thing he did when appointed interim president was to reach out to all of the community organizations and invite us for breakfast to discuss how we can improve the relationship between the university and the community.”

Hoffman said the civic association “had great hopes for future relationships under Bernstein.” It was something they felt like they didn’t have with the previous administration.

“It is our hope that the search committee will select a candidate that has the same understanding of the importance of community partnership as Michael Bernstein,” he said.

In September, SUNY announced a search committee that includes faculty, staff, Stony Brook Foundation members, students, administration, alumni and Stony Brook Council members. To aid the search, the committee set up the email address [email protected] for comments and suggestions to be submitted.

Stony Brook University has been awarded more than $2 million in grants. Photo from SBU

Stony Brook University is preparing for the next academic year.

On June 20, SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. sent an email to students, faculty and staff announcing that the State University of New York Board of Trustees appointed Provost Michael Bernstein interim president of SBU. The new position will be effective on or about Aug. 1.

“Michael is an outstanding selection for this role,” Stanley said in the email. “During his three-year tenure as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Stony Brook he has made extraordinary contributions to every aspect of the university. His decisive and energetic leadership has been welcome and needed, and Stony Brook University is fortunate to have his steady hand at the helm going forward.”

On May 28, it was announced that Stanley will be leaving SBU and taking on the role of president at Michigan State University.

According to a press release from SBU, Bernstein was appointed provost in October 2016, and he oversaw initiatives aimed at supporting the school’s missions in research, scholarship, art-making and teaching. Before SBU, Bernstein served as the John Christie Barr professor of History and Economics and provost and chief academic officer at Tulane University in New Orleans from 2007 through 2016.

“I am filled with enormous gratitude for the opportunity to serve Stony Brook University in this new role,” Bernstein said in a statement. “Our university is a spectacular place — and it flourishes today due to the impact of an exemplary decade of accomplishment, growth and excellence that is Sam Stanley’s legacy. I eagerly look forward to my ongoing work with faculty, staff and students in pursuit of our shared mission as one of the nation’s premier academic institutions.”

Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. addresses the crowd at Stony Brook University’s 2019 commencement May 24. Photo by Greg Catalano

Less than a week after Stony Brook University’s commencement ceremony, the school’s president will also be moving on.

On May 28, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees announced that SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. will take on the role of president at MSU at a special meeting. Trustees chair Dianne Byrum said the goal was “to identify the best person possible to lead Michigan Student University.”

Melanie Foster, co-chair of MSU’s 18-member search committee, commented on the
announcement at the May 28 meeting.

“I know the Spartan community has been profoundly troubled by the events of the past years that have shaken confidence in the institution.”

— Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

“Today represents a pivotal moment in MSU’s 164-year history as we begin what I am confident will be an engaged and exciting future under the leadership of Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.,” she said.

Stanley was in East Lansing for the announcement along with his wife and three of his four children.

“MSU is one of the world’s leading research universities, and I am grateful to the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee that so ably represented the entire MSU community for giving me the opportunity to serve this great institution,” Stanley said in a statement on the school’s website. “MSU’s core strength is its amazing students, superb faculty, dedicated staff and proud alumni, and I cannot wait to get to campus to meet with you and learn from you.”

Previous MSU president Lou Anna Simon resigned from the position in January 2018 after being criticized for how she handled allegations that the university’s doctor Larry Nassar molested female gymnasts and athletes. Since the resignation, the school has been led by interim presidents.

In his statement, Stanley commented on the scandal.

“I know the Spartan community has been profoundly troubled by the events of the past years that have shaken confidence in the institution,” he said. “We will meet these challenges together, and we will build on the important work that has already been done to create a campus culture of diversity, inclusion, equity, accountability and safety that supports all of our endeavors.”

State University of New York Chancellor Kristina Johnson will work with the SUNY board of trustees to appoint an interim president, according to a press release from SUNY. A campus search committee also will be assembled to conduct a national search for a permanent president.

“Under Dr. Stanley’s leadership, Stony Brook University has become a vibrant center of research and one of the most highly regarded universities in the nation,” Johnson said. “His commitment to advancing technologies and research in environmental protection and renewable energy has been among many of Dr. Stanley’s most notable accomplishments. On behalf of the entire SUNY family, we celebrate his achievements.”

Stanley will be Michigan State University’s 21st president and will begin his term at
MSU Aug. 1. 

Erwin Staller. Photo from Stony Brook University

The Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University is preparing to celebrate the life of Long Island real estate developer and philanthropist, Erwin Staller. A memorial service has been set for April 27 at the venue to remember the SBU benefactor who died Feb. 11, at age 97, at his Lloyd Harbor home.

“Over the years, Erwin Staller’s commitment to the center and to the university was steadfast,” said Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center. “He, along with his wife Pearl [affectionately called Freddie], his son Cary and the extended family, has been a true supporter of the arts and has been the foundation of the center’s success.”

After his father’s death in 1987, Staller and his family donated the first seven-figure gift to SBU of $1.8 million. The donation resulted in the establishment of The Staller Center for the Arts in memory of his parents, Max and Mary Staller. The developer received the Stony Brook Medal for Extraordinary Service in 1989 and an honorary doctorate of humane letters at SBU in 2001. He also served on the Stony Brook Foundation board of trustees for more than 30 years and was founding chair of Stony Brook Foundation Realty.

“It was always a pleasure to have him and Freddie in the audience knowing how much he enjoyed all kinds of performances,” Inkles said. “As a philanthropist, adviser and friend to the arts, the university and to the region, he will be greatly missed.”

In a letter sent to SBU faculty after Staller’s passing, SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said the initial donation of $1.8 million helped “create a foundation for the Staller’s legacy of philanthropy at Stony Brook University spanning 35 years.” Staller and his wife also funded Staller Scholars, which provides scholarships for graduate music students pursuing doctorates in the Department of Music.

The university credits Staller for championing a project to have a campus hotel for more than 23 years until its fruition in 2013. As a result, the roadway between Hilton Garden Inn and the Administration building will be dedicated as Erwin P. Staller Way.

Stanley said Staller, his wife, family and friends joined together in supporting the Staller Center’s mission, and to date they have contributed more than $16 million to fund various programs.

“As we reflect on Erwin’s myriad contributions in time and treasure to benefit our students, faculty, staff and our community, though I will miss him dearly, I am inspired by Erwin Staller’s vision and focus, and in the knowledge that his powerful legacy will live on at Stony Brook for generations to come,” Stanley said.

Staller was raised in Hempstead where he graduated from Hempstead High School. He attended Allegheny College in Pennsylvania before enlisting in the U.S. Army and served in the Signal Corps during World War II. In 1946, Staller married Pearl Friedman, whom he had dated in high school, and the couple had five children.

In the late 1950s, Staller and his father co-founded Hauppauge-based Staller Associates, and became among the first entrepreneurs to develop retail shopping centers on Long Island. A supermarket, drugstore and a U.S. Post Office anchored each of their early shopping centers. Together, the father-son duo developed numerous shopping centers, office and industrial buildings on Long Island and in Connecticut.

Staller is survived by his wife, four children and their spouses, and nine grandchildren.

The memorial service will be held April 27 at 1 p.m. The Staller Center is located at 100 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.

Stony Brook University representatives and legislators joined Jim and Marilyn Simons, holding scissors, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at SBU Nov. 1. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University is stepping into the future when it comes to cancer research and patient care.

“Imagine what we will accomplish once this building is filled with the pre-eminent doctors and scientists from across campus, the state and the globe.”

— Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Nov. 1 to commemorate the completion of construction of the Medical and Research Translation building, where Stony Brook University Cancer Center will be the primary occupant. The eight-level, 240,000-square-foot facility features expanded state-of-the-art space that will be used by clinicians and researchers to discover new cancer treatments, educate students, create more space for patients and family, and more. The building is slated to be opened to patients in January.

At a presentation after the ceremony, SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said the MART is the result of public and private funds and donations. Support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the State University of New York and Empire State Development led to a $35 million NYSUNY 2020 challenge grant. Also, $50 million from a $150 million gift from Jim Simons, founder of Renaissance Technologies, and his wife Marilyn, and $53 million in funds secured by state Sens. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) added to donations from supporters.

The university president said the MART will bring together national and international experts in various fields including applied mathematics, imaging, chemistry, biology and computer science.

“Imagine what we will accomplish once this building is filled with the preeminent doctors and scientists from across campus, the state and the globe,” Stanley said.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president of health sciences and dean of the school of medicine, said the idea of the facility was conceived eight days after his arrival at Stony Brook nine years ago. He said it was envisioned as a catalyst for highly advanced cancer research and a facility to provide outstanding clinical care to patients.

“Because cancer researchers, educators and clinicians would occupy the same building and wait in the same lines for coffee, juice and food, what I’d like to term productive collisions would be inevitable, allowing the MART to serve as an incubator with the very best people to produce and then practice the very best ideas in medicine,” he said.

“With expanded space for patients and families, the MART offers a convenient access to Stony Brook Cancer’s experts, all of them in one location, whether you’re four years old or 84 years old.”

— Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky

Kaushansky said the building is more than medical professionals coming together and brainstorming.

“With expanded space for patients and families, the MART offers a convenient access to Stony Brook Cancer’s experts, all of them in one location, whether you’re 4 years old or 84 years old,” Kaushansky said.

The dean said since 2012 Dr. Yusuf Hannun, director of SBU Cancer Center, has assembled a dream team of researchers, physicians, staff members and educators dedicated to finding cures and compassionate care for SBU patients.

Hannun said the plan was to build a comprehensive cancer center on Long Island that conducts cutting-edge research to understand cancer and then design approaches to predict, diagnose, prevent and defeat cancer.

“The broad scope of activities that we conduct — research, education, clinical trials, prevention, patient care, survivorship and many others — is only possible in a setting of an academic medical center that can support this depth and breadth of activity,” he said.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson, who battled Hodgkin’s disease nearly 40 years ago, attended the event. As a cancer survivor, Johnson said she was happy to be at the ribbon cutting and wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for professionals that developed the treatment she had to undergo.

“I can’t wait to see what innovations are going to come out for the care and treatment of patients to come from the comprehensive team of cross-disciplinary researchers empowered by MART, and how this facility will change the way we educate physician-scientists here at Stony Brook University,” Johnson said.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. delivers his ninth state of the university address Oct. 3. Photo from Stony Brook University

As Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. looks confidently to the future, the school’s budget deficit is still at the forefront of his mind.

On Oct. 3, Stanley delivered his ninth state of the university address on the Staller Center’s main stage to an auditorium full of faculty, staff, students and elected officials. During the speech, which lasted about an hour, the university president touched on several topics including enrollment growth, Stony Brook Medicine’s future and financial woes and successes — like the university’s positive economic impact on Long Island.

When it comes to tackling the budget deficit, Stanley did not specify the exact amount but said there is more work that needs to be done to lessen the financial shortfall. He said a hiring freeze still holds for 2018-19 because nothing has changed externally as the university has not received an increase of state support since 2010. He said fee increases and enrollment growth has helped alleviate some of the financial burdens, and the university is actively communicating with the state to seek an increase in allocations.

Stanley touted SBU’s presence as a driver for the local economy, citing about $7.2 billion generated from the hospital’s research; people hired and contracted; start-up companies involved with SBU’s incubator; and purchases of students and faculty in the area, the president said.

“We always take these things with a little grain of salt, but I think it’s an important thing that we need to talk about because again the state puts a significant investment into Stony Brook University,” he said. “We appreciate the investment we get from the state, but it’s really nice to talk about the return on that investment from the state.”

The university also saw positive results from The Campaign for Stony Brook fundraising efforts, which raised $630.7 million. He said many people ask him why money can’t be taken from those funds to help with the school’s budget deficit.

“Ninety-eight percent of that money raised is directly allocated to specific goals that our donors have on campus,” he said, adding the funds are usually put toward scholarships, endowed professorship, research projects or a specific campus building.

Stanley said the four-year graduation rate for the class entering in 2014 has reached 62 percent, which signifies a 17-point jump from a 45 percent graduation rate for the class entering in 2007. Among the factors he credited for the success is the Finish in 4 Grants Program. Initiated in spring 2015, the program assists students in good standing who are about to complete their studies but are confronted with personal circumstances that prevent it.

“We want to continue to build on this momentum, but it’s going to be important that we work very hard and continue to find the resources to support this very important program,” he said.

Stanley said a significant part of the university’s budget, $2.28 billion, is for Stony Brook Medicine.

“We are the destination, I believe, for quality care on Long Island,” he said. “We’re the only provider of a level one trauma center for Long Island. We have the only children’s hospital in Suffolk County.”

In the next few months, Stony Brook University Hospital will be opening the Medical and Research Translation building with a state-of-the-art cancer center, Stony Brook Children’s and Hospital Pavilion, and the Phillips Family Cancer Center in Southampton.

Stony Brook University’s Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., left, and Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, right, present the daughters of MRI diagnostic inventor Paul Lauterbur with a street sign that will be placed on a road leading up to the new MART building. Photo by Kyle Barr

Since its invention as a diagnostic tool in the early 1970s, MRI has touched the lives of many patients, helping doctors to diagnose innumerable diseases and injuries, but Selden resident Sharyn Lauterbur-DiGeronimo remembers it as a connection to her late father.

A plaque dedicated to Paul Lauterbur will be displayed in Stony Brook University’s new MART building. Photo by Kyle Barr

She recalls one day finding baby clams as a 9 year old in Setauket Harbor, and holding them up to her dad, Paul Lauterbur. They were perfect for what he needed to create the first two-dimensional image using nuclear magnetic resonance. The scientist’s daughter said she has a connection to MRI, feeling that she had influenced her father’s desire to find a way to diagnose without causing harm to a patient.

“My dad used to have two lab rats, one I called Notch because he had a notch in one ear,” Lauterbur-DiGeronimo said. “I thought they were pets. One day Notch wasn’t there, and my dad had to explain what happened. They cut him open because he was a research rat. I completely freaked out, and I said there’s got to be a way to see inside without having to do that. I think that disturbed him a great deal.”

On Sept. 5, Stony Brook University Hospital remembered and gave back to the Lauterbur family by hosting a ceremony in the upcoming hospital Medical and Research Translation Building. The hospital and co-sponsor, the Long Island branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, presented a bronze plaque to be displayed inside the MART building commemorating the first 2-D NMR image. The university and IEEE also surprised the Lauterbur family by announcing they would be renaming the road leading up to the MART building Lauterbur Drive.

Lauterbur, who worked as a chemistry professor at SBU, is also known as the father of MRI. The story goes that the late professor was munching on a hamburger in a Pennsylvania restaurant when he had a “eureka” moment. In his mind’s eye, he saw a way to use his research in nuclear magnetic resonance to display objects in multidimensional detail. He rushed out of the restaurant and wrote the idea into a spiral notebook.

“Quite simply, the MRI is one of the most important medical discoveries of the 20th century,” said Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., university president. “Lauterbur’s transformative work truly changed the course of modern medicine and trajectory of Stony Brook University.”

“You knew [Lauterbur] was doing an experiment because the lights would dim, the floor would shake, and the electrical bill was too high.”

— Tim Duong

Lauterbur published his ideas and the first example of a 2-D scan in the science journal, Nature, in 1973. In 2003 he was the co-recipient of a Nobel Prize for his work in nuclear magnetic resonance which led to the creation of MRI as a diagnostic tool before he passed away in 2007.

“MRI changed medical diagnostics around the world, and all that began right here at Stony Brook,” Tom Coughlin, the president-elect at IEEE-USA said.

Many who work with MRI technology said they owe their careers to Lauterbur.

“You knew [Lauterbur] was doing an experiment because the lights would dim, the floor would shake, and the electrical bill was too high,” said Tim Duong, director of MRI research at the hospital.

The half-sister of Lauterbur-DiGeronimo, Elise Lauterbur, 33, is a doctoral candidate in Stony Brook’s Ecology & Evolution Department and is working on her dissertation on the biochemistry and physiology of mammalian cyanide adaptation, particularly with Madagascar lemurs. She said it took years growing up before she truly understood what her father’s work had meant to the world.

“When I went with him when he was getting awards, I had people coming up to me saying, ‘Oh, your dad saved my sister’s life,’ or ‘Your dad is the reason I can still type on a computer,’” she said. “When my dad finally won the Nobel Prize it sunk in that his work had changed people’s lives in ways most scientists never manage.”

It would take years of tests for Lauterbur’s theories to turn into the prolific MRI machine, but the technology has improved immeasurably since then. Lauterbur-DiGeronimo said her father would appreciate that.

“When they were doing tests with it I’d spend like four hours in one, with a break for two hours in between sessions,” Lauterbur-DiGeronimo said. “The MRI I had last week took about 15 minutes.”

The new MART building, which is scheduled to open in 2019, will be used for cancer biology research, clinical research, biomedical informatics and imaging, according to dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. recently announced the success of The Campaign for Stony Brook fundraising efforts which raised more than $600 million for the school. File photo by Greg Catalano

Stony Brook University continues to make history.

After graduating the largest class in May since SBU opened, the university announced Aug. 21 it concluded the most successful fundraising effort in the State University of New York’s history.

The breakdown of donations to The Campaign for Stony Brook and what areas the funds will go to. Graphic from Stony Brook University

In the past seven years, The Campaign for Stony Brook raised $630.7 million, according to a press release from SBU. A total of 47,961 friends, alumni, foundations and corporations donated to help the university achieve its campaign goal of $600 million.

“Philanthropy, and the generosity of our donors, provides the margin of excellence for an R1, [Association of American Universities] public research university like Stony Brook, during a time when state support is waning, and more and more students are seeking access to excellence,” said university President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. in a statement. “The Campaign for Stony Brook dramatically underscores the importance and impact of philanthropy across our campus and I am extremely grateful to my fellow campaign leaders, and to those who contributed the extra resources we need to continue to educate and prepare the leaders of tomorrow.”

The money raised from the campaign has enabled the university to add 44 endowed chairs and professorships in various departments. Before the campaign, SBU only had 11 endowed faculty positions on campus, according to the press release. In addition to the endowed positions, new investments have been made in areas such as the Southampton graduate programs in creative writing and film, undergraduate research, the Alda Center for Communicating Science, the Gelfond Fund for Mercury Research, and the Dubin Family Athletic Performance Center.

The university will use $52.6 million of the funds raised for student financial aid, with $40.3 million for current use and $12.3 million for endowed undergraduate scholarships and graduate student fellowships. According to the press release, the contributions will also benefit the Medical and Research Translation and Stony Brook Children’s Hospital buildings scheduled to open this fall, the university pool will be refurbished, and plans are underway to modernize the North and Central Reading Rooms in the Melville Library and to expand the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics. To create and support academic centers, $209.1 million has been set aside. Among the centers that will benefit are the Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging, the Institute for Advanced Computational Science, the Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology, the Mattoo Center for India Studies, the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program, the Lourie Center for Pediatric MS and the Thomas Hartman Center for Parkinson’s Research.

“The Campaign for Stony Brook dramatically underscores the importance and impact of philanthropy across our campus.”

— Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

The campaign began in the fall of 2011 with a lead gift of $150 million from the Simons Foundation and former Math Department Chair Jim Simons and his wife Marilyn. After the Simons’ donation, employees of Renaissance Technologies in Setauket, a hedge fund firm Jim Simons founded, donated more than $127.4 million.

Richard Gelfond, chair of the Stony Brook Foundation board and CEO of IMAX Corporation, said in a statement that the Simons’ donation “created a groundswell of support.”

“Their confidence in Stony Brook and the investments they inspired have given the University the financial capacity to compete for the best researchers, clinicians, teachers and students and to aim for excellence in every way,” Gelfond said.

Funds raised have already helped to catalyze several innovative and impactful research and clinical programs, according to Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, Stony Brook University School of Medicine dean and senior vice president for Health Sciences.

“Campaign funding has also greatly enhanced our strength in imaging technology to diagnose and treat disease, in leveraging big data to help detect patterns of disease and response to treatment, and in new procedures to reduce the risk of stroke, colon cancer and heart disease,” Kaushansky said.

For more information on The Campaign for Stony Brook results, visit www.stonybrook.edu/campaign.

By Daniel Dunaief

Replacing batteries in a flashlight or an alarm clock requires simple effort and generally doesn’t carry any risk for the device. The same, however, can’t be said for battery-operated systems that go in human bodies and save lives, such as the implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD.

Earlier versions of these life-saving devices that restore a normal heart rhythm were large and clunky and required a change of battery every 12 to 18 months, which meant additional surgeries to get to the device.

Esther Takeuchi with Michaëlle Jean, the secretary general of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, and moderator Fernando Tiberini at the award ceremony in Paris on June 7. Photo courtesy of European Patent Office

That’s where Esther Takeuchi, who is now Stony Brook University’s William and Jane Knapp Endowed Chair in Energy and the Environment and the chief scientist of the Energy Sciences Directorate at Brookhaven National Laboratory, has made her mark. In the 1980s, working at a company called Greatbatch, Takeuchi designed a battery that was much smaller and that lasted as long as five years. The battery she designed was a million times higher power than a pacemaker battery.

For her breakthrough work on this battery, Takeuchi has received numerous awards. Recently, the European Patent Office honored her with the 2018 innovation prize at a ceremony in Paris. Numerous high-level scientists and public officials attended the award presentation, including former French Minister of the Economy Thierry Breton, who is currently the CEO of Atos, and the Secretary General of the International Organisation of Francophony Michaëlle Jean. 

Takeuchi was the only American to win this innovation award this year.

Takeuchi’s work is “the epitome of innovation, as demonstrated in this breakthrough translational research for which she was recognized,” Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the president of Stony Brook and board chair of Brookhaven Science Associates, which manages Brookhaven National Laboratory. “Her star keeps getting brighter, and I’m proud that she is part of the Stony Brook University family.”

As a winner of this award, Takeuchi joins the ranks of other celebrated scientists, including Shuji Nakamura, who won the European Inventor Award in 2007 and went on to win the Nobel Prize in physics, and Stefan Hell from Germany, whose European Inventor Award predated a Nobel Prize in chemistry. 

Among the over 170 innovators who have won the award, some have worked on gluten substitutes from corn, some have developed drugs against multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, and some have developed soft close furniture hinges.

“The previous recipients have had substantial impact on the world and how we live,” Takeuchi explained in an email. “It is incredible to be considered among that group.” Nominated for the award by a patent examiner from the European Patent Office, she described the award as an “honor” for the global recognition.

The inventor award is a symbolic prize in which the recipients receive attention for their work, explained Rainer Osterwalder, the director of media relations at the European Patent Office.

Takeuchi was one of four women to receive the award this year — the largest such class of women innovators.

“It was very meaningful to see so many accomplished women be recognized for their contributions,” she explained. “I was delighted to meet them and make some additional contacts with female innovators as well.”

About half the researchers in her lab, which currently includes three postdoctoral researchers and usually has about 12 to 16 graduate students, are women. Takeuchi has said that she likes being a role model for women and that she hopes they can see how it is possible to succeed as a scientist.

Implantable cardiac defibrillators are so common in the United States that an estimated 10,000 people receive them each month.

Indeed, while she was at the reception for an awards ceremony attended by over 600 people, Takeuchi said she met someone who had an ICD.

“It is very rewarding to know that they are alive due to technology and my contributions to the technology,” she explained.

Takeuchi said that many people contributed to the battery project for the ICD over the years who were employed at Greatbach. These collaborators were involved in engineering, manufacturing, quality and customer interactions, with each aspect contributing to the final product.

The battery innovation stacks alternating layers of anodes and cathodes and uses lithium silver vanadium oxide. The silver is used for high current, while the vanadium provides long life and high voltage.

Takeuchi, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her doctorate from Ohio State University, has received over 150 patents. The daughter of Latvian emigrants, she received the presidential level National Medal of Technology and Innovation from Barack Obama and has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Takeuchi continues to push the envelope in her energy research. “We are now involved in thinking about larger scale batteries for cars and ultimately for the grid,” she wrote in an email. “Further, we have demonstrated methods that allow battery components to be regenerated to extend their use. This could potentially minimize batteries going into land fills in the future.”

Takeuchi is one of a growing field of scientists who are using the high-tech capabilities of the National Synchrotron Light Source II at BNL, which allows her to see inside batteries as they are working.

“We recently published a paper where we were able to detect the onset of parasitic reactions,” she suggested, which is “an important question for battery lifetime.”

In the big picture, the scientist said she is balancing between power and energy content in her battery research.

“Usually, when cells need to deliver high power, the energy content goes down,” she said. “The goal is to have high energy and high power simultaneously.”