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Timothy Glotch. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

It’s almost easier to figure out what makes Earth unique among the planets than it is to list the ways humans are unique among Earth’s inhabitants. Earth is, after all, the only blue planet, filled with water from which humans, and so many other creatures, evolved. It is also the only planet on which seven enormous plates deep beneath the surface move. These unique features have led scientists to expect certain features that give Earth its unique geological footprint.

Not so fast.

According to a recent paper in the high-profile journal Nature in which Timothy Glotch, Professor of Geosciences at Stony Brook University, was a co-author, the moon has a vast swath of over 50 kilometers of granite in the Compton-Belkovich Volcanic complex, which is on the its far side. 

Usually formed from plate tectonics of water bearing magma, the presence of this granite, which appears in greater quantities around the Earth, is something of a planetary mystery.

“Granites are extremely rare outside of Earth,” said Glotch. “Its formation process must be so different, which makes them interesting.”

The researchers on this paper, including lead author Matt Siegler, a scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, suggest a range of possibilities for how the granite formed. Over three billion years ago, the moon, which, like the Earth, is over 4.5 billion years old, had lava that erupted to form the Compton-Belkovich Volcanic Complex, or CBVC. Researchers think most volcanic activity on the moon ended about two billion years ago.

This illustration shows the Compton-Belkovich Volcanic Complex (CBVC) on the Moon’s far side and the boxed area indicated a large granite zone, which could not be picked up by topography. Image courtesy of Matthew Siegler/Planetary Science Institute/Nature

The magma formed as a result of a melting of a small portion of the lunar mantle. Melting could have been caused by the addition of water or the movement of hot material closer to the surface. Scientists are not completely sure about the current nature of the lunar core.

As for the granite, it might have come from fractionation, in which particles separate during a transition from different phases, in this case from a hot liquid like magma to a solid.

Additionally, the presence of granite could suggest that some parts of the moon had more water than others.

“There are other geochemical arguments you could make,” Glotch said. “What we really need are to find more samples and bring them back to Earth.”

The analysis of granite on the moon came from numerous distant sources, as well as from the study of a few samples returned during the Apollo space missions. The last time people set foot on the moon was on the Apollo 17 mission, which returned to Earth on Dec. 19, 1972.

A 10-year process

The search and study of granite on the moon involved a collaboration between Glotch and Siegler, who have known each other for about 18 years. The two met when Glotch was a postdoctoral researcher and Siegler was a graduate student.

In 2010, Glotch published a paper in the journal Science in which he identified areas that have compositions that are similar to granite, or rhyolite, which is the volcanic equivalent.

Since that paper, Glotch and others have published several research studies that have further characterized granitic or rhyolitic materials, but those are “still relatively rare,” Glotch said.

Long distance monitoring

Led by Siegler and his postdoctoral researcher Jiangqing Feng, the team gathered information from several sources, including microwave data from Chinese satellites, which are sensitive to the heat flow under the surface.

The team also used the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, which is a NASA instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, that measures surface temperatures.

Part of the discovery of the silicic sites on the moon comes from the identification of the element thorium, which the Lunar Prospector Gamma Ray Spectrometer found. Similar to uranium or plutonium, thorium is radioactive and decays.

Another piece of data came from the Grail mission, which measures the lunar gravity field.

Glotch suggested that the study involved a “daisy chain of observations.” In his role, he tried to identify sites that might be rich in granite, while Siegler applied new data to these areas to learn more about the underground volcanic plumbing.

In addition to doing long distance monitoring, Glotch engages in long distance recreational activities. The Stony Brook professor is preparing for a November 11th run in Maryland that will cover 50 miles. He expects it will take him about 10 or 11 hours to complete. 

Looking at other planets

By analyzing granite on the moon, which could reveal its early history, geologists might also turn that same analysis back to the Earth.

“Can we use the results of this study to take a more nuanced view of granite formations on Earth or other bodies in our solar system?” Glotch asked. “We can learn a lot, not just about the moon, but about planetary evolution.”

NASA is planning a DAVINCI+ mission to Venus in the coming decade, while a European mission is also scheduled for Venus. Some researchers have suggested that Venusian terrains, which are referred to as Tesserae, might be granitic.

“If Venus has continent-like structures made of granite, that’s interesting, because Venus does not appear to have plate tectonics either,” Glotch said.

Closer to Earth, some upcoming missions may offer a better understanding of lunar granite. The first is a small orbiter called Lunar Trailblazer that will have sensitive remote instruments. The second is a part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which will include a small lander and rover that will land on the Gruithuisen Domes.

Conference in Italy

In the shorter term, Glotch and Siegler plan to attend the 10th Hutton Symposium in Italy.

Glotch is eager to discuss the work with researchers who are not planetary scientists to “get their take on this.”

He is excited by the recent planetary decadal survey, which highlighted several priorities, which include lunar research.

In his opinion, Glotch believes the survey includes more high priority lunary science than in previous such surveys.

Countries including India, China, Israel and Japan have a renewed national interest in the moon. South Korea currently has an orbiter at the moon.

All this attention makes the moon a “really good target for U.S. science to maintain our leadership position, as well as providing a tool for geopolitical cooperation,” Glotch added.

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis talks to attendees at the fourth annual Light the Brook ceremony in November of 2021. Photo from Stony Brook University

From offering insights about higher education to The New York State Senate, to presenting her academic research on slavery to the University Senate, President Maurie McInnis earned kudos and appreciation as she completes her first full year at the helm of Stony Brook University.

McInnis, who earned her doctorate from Yale University, became the first president to present her research to the University Senate as a scholar in October amid her inauguration week, in a talk titled, “The Shadow of Slavery in American Public Life.”

“She hit it out of the park,” said Richard Larson, president of the University Senate and professor of Linguistics at Stony Brook. “She’s quite a remarkable individual from the standpoint of intellectual achievement.”

The talk included a description of the work of Eyre Crowe, whose 1853 sketches of a slave auction in Richmond, Virginia, provided an eyewitness account abolitionists would use and which formed the basis of an award-winning book by McInnis.

TBR News Media is pleased to recognize McInnis as a Person of the Year for 2021 for her careful guidance of the university amid the pandemic, for her goal of bringing diverse groups of people, departments and communities together, and for her efforts to enhance the profile and talents of the university.

“Day after day, I see a new initiative of hers that expands the visibility of Stony Brook or further tends to the needs of minority students, or helps researchers accomplish their goals,” Alan Alda, award-winning actor and founder of an eponymous science communication effort at the university, explained in an email. “Dr. McInnis brings people together and makes big ideas happen. I don’t think the university could be in better hands.”

Commencement ceremonies

Graduation at Stony Brook in May this year was like the movie “Groundhog Day” for McInnis.

Except that, instead of acting without consequence the way Bill Murray did in the film, McInnis attended 10 graduation ceremonies, which had to be separated to reduce the number of people at each graduation.

McInnis offered her congratulations for the academic achievement of the graduates and applauded their resilience, particularly amid the worst of the pandemic.

She was “quite insistent” that she attend each of these events, which were held over the course of three days in the warm sunlight, Larson said. “She wanted to hand out the certificates personally. That was an incident that just really struck home with me. Each ceremony was many hours long.”

During her inauguration week lecture, McInnis discussed her research in Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia.

Louis Nelson, a former colleague of McInnis at the University of Virginia, where he is currently vice provost for Academic Outreach and professor of Architectural History, sang her praises.

She is “one of the most impactful social historians of the American South at work today,” said Nelson, who co-edited the book “Educated in Tyranny: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s University” with McInnis. Her “scholarship has forged a path toward the truth telling that our nation needs to confront,” he said.


Photo from Stony Brook University

In addition to the scholarship and academic rigor she brings to campus, McInnis has won appreciation from her colleagues at Stony Brook for her compassion.

Richard Gatteau, vice president for Student Affairs, explained that he dealt with a health issue earlier this year. “Right away, she was empathetic,” he said. McInnis turned to him during a meeting and asked how he was doing. He genuinely appreciated her support.

A provost at The University of Texas at Austin before she arrived at Stony Brook, McInnis officially joined the school only months after the worst of the pandemic reached Suffolk County. An active participant in calls before her July 1, 2020, start date, she has helped oversee the university’s distinguished response to the pandemic.

Carol Gomes, chief executive officer of Stony Brook University Hospital, observed that McInnis does considerable homework in making decisions. She also emphasized how McInnis “always emphasizes the importance of working together.”

The university president asks “good, insightful questions and she can analyze different sides of an issue, process the information and provide meaningful feedback,” Gomes said.

Even before McInnis arrived on campus, she “did call me regularly to ask how things were going, to get acclimated to what was happening at the hospital during the height of the pandemic,” Gomes said. “It was very comforting to know that I had somebody to whom I was reporting who cared and was compassionate, and who thought about reaching out and developing a relationship before she began.”

McInnis also called state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) before she arrived on Long Island.

Gaughran is on the Senate Higher Education Committee, which held hearings around the state, including one on the Stony Brook campus, where McInnis was the lead witness.

“I was very impressed with her presentation and her answers to questions,” he said. “She clearly seems to be the right fit for Stony Brook during what are some very challenging times.”


McInnis is committed to developing and enhancing the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

She elevated Judith Brown Clarke, who joined Stony Brook as chief diversity officer in February of 2020, to vice president for Equity and Inclusion.

Brown Clarke described the promotion as “game changing” for diversity, ensuring that fairness and social justice are “woven into every part of campus governance and decision making.”

As an example, Brown Clarke is a part of the governance committee, which allows her to look at the equitable distribution of resources like software that make it possible for students to learn remotely.

Rosemaria Martinelli, vice president for Strategic Initiatives, had served as McInnis’ chief of staff for two years at UT Austin before McInnis joined SBU. Martinelli followed her to Long Island.

Martinelli is thrilled with McInnis’ support and guidance for Stony Brook’s bid to compete for a global competition to establish a climate solutions center on Governors Island in New York City.

SBU’s proposal, which involved numerous departments, “energized everybody,” Martinelli said. “We engaged our campus community and [McInnis] helped us identify the academic partners. She was involved in every step.”

Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president, lauded the McInnis leadership style.

“She is unique [among college presidents] in that she has all the credentials anybody might want, she has ambition for the institution, and she does not have an ego that gets in the way,” Greiman said. She has a “collaborative leadership style.”

Indeed, Doon Gibbs, laboratory director at Brookhaven National Laboratory, appreciated McInnis’ commitment to collaborations.

She has “galvanized impact at the university and among its partners with a new sense of energy, unity and inclusiveness,” Gibbs explained in an email. He suggested it was “a pleasure to work with her on behalf of Long Island and New York state.”

SBU President Maurie McInnis, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, Graduate Student Organization speaker Helena Van Nieuwenhuizen, Undergraduate Student Government President Manjot Singh, Kevin Law from the Stony Brook Council, and Dean of Students Ric McClendon join SBU mascot Wolfie to cut the ribbon. Photo by Kimberly Brown

Updated. The student union is currently closed due to damage after Hurricane Ida.

Stony Brook University officially opened the newest addition to its campus, the remodeled Stony Brook Union center, Wednesday, Aug. 25. With performances from the Seawolves Marching Band for the ribbon-cutting celebration, as well as free drinks and food, students were eager to explore the 177,000-square-foot building.

“We want students to consider this as a resource, to relax, to study, to learn, to perform, to meet new people and pursue new interests,” said Maurie McInnis, president of SBU. “There is so much to be discovered in this impressive space.”

The renovations for the Stony Brook Union center took three years to complete at $63.4 million. The finished building has three levels that include student services, an IT help desk, comfortable studying sections with couches and powered stations, as well as collaborative spaces.

SBU President Maurie McInnis. Photo by Kimberly Brown

“As we are fully reopening our campuses, we are feeling a renewed energy and optimism from everyone around,” said Jim Malatras, State University of New York chancellor. “Our students deserve this and it matches the outstanding education they receive from this university, one of the best in the world.”

The Stony Brook Union will be a central location for faculty and staff offices that will provide easy access for students to use at their convenience. Some of the new offices include Student Community Development, Student Engagement and Activities, Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Commuter Student Services. 

“I’m excited to see the new opening of the student union because I think it’s a great place to go to get some studying in, but also for socializing at club events,” said Jessie Lin, a SBU student.

The lower level of the building includes expanded space for the Stony Brook Food Pantry and resources such as the Interfaith Center, Club Hub, Esports Club and the Science Fiction Forum. 

With more than 26,000 students attending the university this year, the Stony Brook Union center will provide a large, welcoming space for undergraduates to enhance their studying practices. 

“Seeing the student union being built from my freshman year to now being fully completed as a senior gives me nostalgia,” said Tania Thomas, a SBU student. 

On April 6, Stony Brook University administered 1,400 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to students living on campus. The mass vaccination day fell on the first day that New York granted eligibility for those 16 of age and older. 

“I’m so thrilled that the eligibility came much earlier than we ever expected,” said Rick Gatteau, vice president for Student Affairs at SBU and dean of students.

The administration sent out an email to residents last Thursday with a link to sign up. Within two hours it was filled, and there is currently a waitlist of 500 students waiting for the next session.

The event took place in the newly constructed Student Union building, where students arrived at their assigned time and were guided through the process by dozens of volunteers. They will return for their second dose on May 4. 

“I felt compelled to get the vaccine”, said Victor Shin, a sophomore chemistry major. “I’m hoping that the campus will open up very soon and we can head back toward in-person learning.”

By the end of the day, 30% of on campus residents received a vaccine. With the semester wrapping up in a few weeks, the administration is hoping to vaccinate all students who are interested so that the second dose falls before the last day of classes May 4. 

“The fact that we’ve had such a huge turnout is reflective of our students’ interest in getting the vaccine,” Gatteau said. “We’re a big STEM school focused on research, and students know the value of the science and research that went into it, which is similar to their own career pursuits.” 

Residents were selected first due to their risk of transmission by living in close quarters in dorms. The next group to be offered a spot will be commuter students who travel to campus and those who are fully remote but live on Long Island. 

“Even if it was never required, I think we’d get to our herd immunity number just based on interest,” Gatteau said. 

The decision of whether or not vaccination will be required of students returning to campus in the fall is still up for deliberation by the State University of New York administration. This week they announced that in the fall, 80% of classes will be held in person. 

Screenshot from HACK@CEWIT

By Harry To

The Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology at Stony Brook University hosted its 5th annual Hack@CEWIT “hackathon” featuring student-made inventions, Feb. 26-28.

Usually this showcase takes place in person, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s event was hosted online. In place of the usual format, the over-200 competitors communicated through Zoom or Discord.

Satya Sharma, executive director of CEWIT, emphasized the abnormal circumstances weren’t a problem.

“This year’s 5th annual Hack@CEWIT had over 200 registered undergrad and graduate hackers from across the U.S.,” he said. “And though it was held virtually due to the pandemic, it did not diminish the quality of projects submitted by these bright and motivated students. It’s opportunities like this hackathon that builds confidence in their creativity and grows their entrepreneurial spirit.”

According to Sharma, this year’s theme, Innovating Through the Pandemic, reminds people that though there are sudden and unknown challenges, they can seize the opportunities those challenges create and harvest ideas never before imagined.

Students Mohammad Elbadry, 23 (left) and Aaron Gregory, 23 (right). Photo from event

A standout project was R-AGI: Radiology Artificial General Intelligence, created by Stony Brook University graduate students Mohammed Elbadry, Joshua Leeman and Aaron Gregory.

“According to a survey, radiologists only have about 3-4 seconds to look over an X-ray and determine if there are any anomalies,” said Elbadry, a Ph.D. student with over 20-plus hackathons under his belt. “They don’t have much time, so if they had an AI that could help them that would be very useful.”

The limited time for scanning X-rays may result in a higher frequency of errors or discrepancies, with some studies citing an average 3% to 5% error rate, he said. That’s about 40 million radiologist errors every year, mistakes that could potentially cost hundreds of lives.

With the problem in mind, the team of three went to work to create AI that would offer a solution — a program that automatically scans X-rays and detects anomalies. This is something that could save not only time, but human lives.

By using an existing dataset of labelled X-rays, the team trained its AI to detect the presence of pneumonia as well as its specific manifestation. The AI then labels and informs the user of any further anomalies.

The SBU team ended up with an impressive showing, including Top-Tier Graduate Best in Show and Best Healthcare Innovation.

Another award winning project was DarkWebSherlock, created by Andrew Zeoli, Colin Hamill, Donald Finlayson and Ian Costa from Johnson & Wales University,  Providence, R.I.

The sale of personal information on the dark web, a hidden part of the internet accessible through the TOR Browser, is a problem that has persisted for years, and DarkWebSherlock aims to create a solution.

The program allows users to scan through online marketplaces on the dark web to see if their data is up for sale anywhere.

This enables victims to be proactive by updating their passwords or changing their credit card numbers to better secure their information.

Costa said the program will be an invaluable asset. “Searching for usernames on the dark web is something our team does on a daily basis,” he said. “Our project will save valuable time for investigators and with some extra work will become a staple tool for dark web investigations.”

DarkWebSherlock won Top-Tier: Undergrad Best in Show.

Another award-winning project, Vaccine-Finder, aims to help speed up COVID-19 vaccine distribution for 65-year-old-plus vaccine seekers.

The interface allows the elderly, also people with disabilities, to plug in their zip codes and view the appointment availability of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Joshua Muckey started this project only recently, and it won Best Pandemic Innovation.

In all, the event hosted 15 projects, many of which showcased student ingenuity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year is a reminder of why innovation is key to our success and our survival as a region, as a state and as a society,” said Marc Alessi, a judge for the event, CEO of SynchroPET and executive director of Tesla Science Center. “This weekend’s hackathon at Stony Brook University’s CEWIT center is an example of bringing together emerging innovators from very diverse backgrounds for the purpose of celebrating and practicing innovation in its most raw form. This is essential to foster an environment of innovation.”

All of the participants’ projects can be found online here.

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.

SBU Journalism Newsroom

By Daniel Dunaief 

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/

Stony Brook University. File photo

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 a two-part series, Interim Provost Fotis Sotiropoulos and President Maurie McInnis share their approaches and solutions, while offering their appreciation for their staff.

Part I: Like many other administrators at universities across the country and world, Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Interim Provost of Stony Brook University, has been juggling numerous challenges.

Named interim provost in September, Sotiropoulos, who is also a SUNY Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, has focused on ways to help President Maurie McInnis keep the campus community safe, keep the university running amid financial stress and strain, and think creatively about ways to enhance the university’s educational programs.

Stony Brook University which is one of two State University of New York programs to earn an Association of American Universities distinction, is in the process of developing new degree programs aimed at combining expertise across at least two colleges.

“We have charged all the deans to work together to come up with this future-of-work initiative,” Sotiropoulos said. “It has to satisfy a number of criteria,” which include involving at least two colleges or schools and it has to be unique. Such programs will “allow us to market the value of a Stony Brook education.”

Sotiropoulos said Stony Brook hoped that the first ideas about new degrees will emerge by the middle of January.

Fotis Sotiropoulos. File photo from SBU

Under financial pressure caused by the pandemic, the university has “undertaken this unprecedented initiative to think of the university as one,” Sotiropoulos said. Looking at the East and West campus together, the university plans to reduce costs and improve efficiency in an organization that is “complex with multiple silos,” he said. At times, Stony Brook has paid double or triple for the same product or service. The university is taking a step back to understand and optimize its expenses, he added.

On the other side of the ledger, Stony Brook is seeking ways to increase its revenue, by creating these new degrees and attracting more students, particularly from outside the state.

Out-of-state students pay more in tuition, which provides financial support for the school and for in-state students as well.

“We have some room to increase out-of-state students,” Sotiropoulos said. “There is some flexibility” as the university attempts to balance between the lower tuition in-state students pay, which benefits socioeconomically challenged students, and the higher tuition from out-of-state students.

While the university has been eager to bring in talented international students as well in what Sotiropoulos described as a “globally-connected world,” the interim provost recognized that this effort has been “extremely challenging right now,” in part because of political tension with China and in part because Chinese universities are also growing.

Stony Brook “recognizes that it needs to diversify right now. The university is considering strategies for trying to really expand in other countries. We need to do a lot more to engage students from African countries,” he said.

Sotiropoulos described Africa as an important part of the future, in part because of the projected quadrupling of the population in coming decades. “We are trying to preserve our Asian base of students,” he said, but, at the same time, “we are thinking of other opportunities to be prepared for the future.”

While the administration at the university continues to focus on cutting costs, generating revenue and attracting students to new programs, officials recognize the need to evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts for students. “Assessment is an integral part,” Sotiropoulos said. The school will explore the jobs students are able to find. “It’s all about the success of our students,” he added. The school plans to assess constantly, while making adjustments to its efforts.

Pandemic Response

Stony Brook University has been at the forefront of reacting to the pandemic on a number of fronts. The hospital treated patients during the heavy first wave of illnesses last spring, while the engineering school developed ways to produce personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and even MacGyver-style ventilators. The university has also participated in multi-site studies about the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Stony Brook has been involved in more than 200 dedicated research projects across all disciplines, which span 45 academic departments and eight colleges and schools within the university.

Sotiropoulos, whose expertise is in computational fluid mechanics, joined a group of researchers at SBU to conduct experiments on the effectiveness of masks in stopping the way aerosolized viral particles remain in the air, long after patients cough, sneeze, and even leave the room.

“Some of these droplets could stay suspended for many minutes and could take up to half an hour” to dissipate in a room, especially if there’s no ventilation, Sotiropoulos said, and added he was pleased and proud of the scientific community for working together to understand the problem and to find solutions.

“The commitment of scientists at Stony Brook and other universities was quite inspirational,” he said.

According to Sotiropoulos, the biggest danger to combatting the virus comes from the “mistrust” of science, He hopes the effectiveness of the vaccine in turning around the number of people infected and stricken with a variety of difficult and painful symptoms can convince people of the value of the research.

Sotiropoulos said the rules the National Institutes of Health have put in place have also ensured that the vaccine is safe and effective. People who question the validity of the research “don’t understand how strict this process is and how many hurdles you have to go through.” 

Part 2 will appear in next week’s issue.

#MeToo social media movement founder Tarana Burke answers questions during a public forum at Stony Brook University. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Long Island men and women are prepared to keep the #MeToo conversation going in their communities after an appearance by the movement’s founder, Tarana Burke, at Stony Brook University Jan. 28.

More than 500 people filled the Sidney Gelber Auditorium in the Student Activities Center for #MeToo … #LIToo, a Q&A with Burke led by three young women of i-tri girls, a free program working to raise the self-esteem of middle school-aged girls on the Island’s East End by training them for a triathlon. Abby Roden, Noely Martinez and Maria Chavez posed questions to Burke that covered a range of topics, from how she felt when the #MeToo movement gained momentum, to empowering survivors of sexual abuse and harassment, to showing empathy when a someone shares his or her story.

Burke, a survivor of sexual violence, said it can be difficult to talk about sexual assaults or harassment because he or she feels isolated.

“The idea behind #MeToo being an exchange of empathy is that if you tell me this thing that is already difficult to say, one of the hardest things in your life, and my first response is, ‘Me too,’ that draws you in,” she said. “Regardless of what else is discussed, we have an automatic connection now.”

Giving advice for those who may not be able to say “me too” when a survivor shares a story, Burke said the best thing to do is ask what he or she needs. If the person says nothing, don’t keep asking.

After the #MeToo movement went viral Burke felt crippled. She said she stopped reading comments on her social media posts, even though most responses were thoughtful.

“I had people telling me I was too ugly to get raped, sexually harassed,” Burke said, adding that she is thick-skinned, and didn’t let the comments get to her. “‘You look like a man.’ Just awful, awful things.”

The movement also affects the LGBTQ community — something Burke said is personal for her, as her daughter identifies as queer and gender nonconforming. She said many young people in the LGBTQ community deal with sexual abuse, and it’s important they tell their stories, too.

“Survivors of sexual violence, we’re not victims,” Burke said. “That’s why we call ourselves survivors. We have solutions, we have answers and we have the experience.”

Attendees said the forum was uplifting and meaningful.

“It was very empowering and definitely brought the community together,” said Cassandra Gonzalez, a graduate student at LIU Post. “It just brings awareness to the #MeToo movement.”

Retired teacher Terry Kalb, of Wading River, said Burke is skilled at connecting others through experiences, calling the forum “beyond inspiring.”

“I liked the fact that there was such emphasis on the intersectionality of this issue,” Kalb said. “I think it’s very important that the vast majority of the people who are marginalized with domestic violence issues, sexual harassment issues and sexual violence issues — all people — are afforded a voice. This just can’t be about celebrity issues; it has to be about people who are often powerless to be able to respond. That they be the focus, because that’s where the most damage is done.”

Updated Feb. 1 to add additional quotes from Tarana Burke.

The temperature was high May 19 but that didn’t melt the enthusiasm of the nearly 7,000 students at Stony Brook University as they anticipated the moment they could turn their tassels and throw their graduation caps in the air.

The milestone event was chock-full of memorable moments including honorary degree recipients, Michael J. Fox — actor and advocate for a cure for Parkinson’s disease — and Jonathan Oringer — Shutterstock founder and a Stony Brook alumnus — clad in traditional caps and gowns, joining the students. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991, received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree for his acting career as well as establishing the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The university honored Oringer with a Doctor of Science degree for creating Shutterstock, the first worldwide subscription-based service for acquiring images, as well as his other contributions to the tech industry.

The first degrees awarded were to Oringer and Fox. Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. introduced Oringer, a 1996 graduate of the university, as one who has “personified technologic innovation.”

As Fox approached the podium to deliver his speech, someone yelled, “Marty McFly.” The actor cleverly responded with a line from his 1985 movie, “Back to the Future.”

“You’re just too darn loud,” he said.

The actor said before that day he didn’t hold a degree from college or high school. He said he respects the university for its dedication to the sciences and its research.

Described by Stanley as a “fierce warrior in the fight to cure Parkinson’s disease,” Fox said he’s optimistic about the future.

“When I look out at the sea of red, I am filled with hope for you represent endless possibilities,” Fox said. “Among you may be the first human to walk on Mars, the engineer who will revolutionize the world’s energy technology, the next great investigative journalist who exposes political corruption, or the scientist who discovers a cure for Parkinson’s.”

U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D), also addressed the graduates and their families. Schumer advised the graduates to always take risks in life even when feeling uncertainty. He said to always “go for it.”

“The key is not to fear the unknown,” Schumer said. “Embrace it, relish it, soak up every possibility it has to offer.”

Among the nearly 7,000 graduates, ranging in age from 19 to 65 years old, in attendance, 42 states and 71 countries were represented. The degrees awarded included 4,292 bachelor’s, 1,999 master’s and 449 doctoral degrees.