November 2016

Raju Venugopalan Awarded Prestigious Humboldt Research Award

Raju Venugopalan, an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University and a senior physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award for his remarkable achievements in theoretical nuclear physics. This prestigious international award — issued by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany — comes with a prize of €60,000 (nearly $70,000 U.S.) and the opportunity to collaborate with German researchers at Heidelberg University and elsewhere. Venugopalan joins 13 other Brookhaven National Laboratory physicists who have received this award since 1974.

Raju Venugopalan

“This is a great honor and I’m delighted to be in the company of other Humboldt winners over the past years,” Venugopalan said. “This award gives me a wonderful opportunity to build on and establish new collaborations with my colleagues in Germany, where I’ve been on sabbatical at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Heidelberg University for the past year. I look forward to widening and deepening these connections.”

Venugopalan’s work is focused on developing theories to explain and predict the behavior of extreme forms of nuclear matter-including the several-trillion-degree soup of quarks and gluons, known as quark-gluon plasma (QGP), generated in energetic particle collisions at colliders like Brookhaven Lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and Europe’s Large Hadron Collider  He’s also explored the behavior of matter at the opposite temperature extreme, namely in ultra-cold atomic gases.

“Quark-gluon plasma has remarkable properties-like extraordinarily low friction, strong interactions among its constituent particles, and patterns of flow-that are different from what we observe in ordinary matter,” he explained. “And there are intriguing connections we see across different systems-from the hottest matter ever created in a laboratory to the coldest atomic gases. The microscopic interactions and particles that make up these systems are completely different, but the collective properties can be described by the same equations.”

For example, both systems undergo a similar sort of evolution as they expand from a vastly chaotic state toward equilibrium. “Expanding cold atoms behave the same way as QGP,” Venugopalan said, noting that the particles of each system momentarily get “stuck” in an eddy-like state along the way. “It’s as if you pushed all the particles in a room into one corner, then let them expand, but along the way, they get caught up in a swirling twister for a while before spreading to fill the room evenly,” he said. “How and why that is so is one of the big mysteries.”

The similarities suggest that studies of one system may help scientists better understand the other. “Can we reengineer tabletop experiments on cold atomic gases in ways that will offer insight into the much more complicated equations of quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory that describes the behavior and interactions of subatomic quarks and gluons?”

Since 2009, Raju Venugopalan has served as an adjunct professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts & Sciences. He earned his Ph.D. from Stony Brook in 1992. He came to Brookhaven Lab as an Assistant Physicist in 1998. He rose through the ranks, receiving a tenure appointment in 2002, and has held the title of Senior Scientist since 2007. From 2010 to 2015 he served as Group Leader of the Lab’s Nuclear Theory Group, ranked highest among 62 DOE-supported university and lab groups during that time. Venugopalan took a sabbatical as an Excellence Initiative Guest Professor at Heidelberg University’s Institute for Theoretical Physics from 2015-2016, and returned to his Group Leader role this fall.

Prior to joining Brookhaven, Venugopalan held post-doctoral appointments at the University of Minnesota (1992-94), the University of Washington (1994-96), and the Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen (1997-98).

Stony Brook University is part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, joining an elite group of universities — including Princeton, Stanford, the University of California, and the University of Chicago — that run federal laboratories. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit applied science and technology organization.

Research Points to New Path for Understanding Alzheimer’s

A team of neuroscience and biochemistry researchers at Stony Brook University have announced a novel discovery that may provide a new path to research on Alzheimer’s disease and its cause.

Image of a cerebral blood vessel shown in red. The green deposits on this cerebral blood vessel are the vascular amyloid. The amyloid fibrils that comprise these deposits exhibit the newly found signature that is unique to vascular amyloid.

Their findings, which illustrate for the first time the difference between amyloid buildup in brain blood vessels and amyloid buildup around brain neurons, appeared November 21 in Nature Communications.

Lead investigator William Van Nostrand, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, says the findings stem from collaborative work with Steven Smith, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology. They, along with colleagues, mapped out the structural signature of amyloid, which is a fragment of a larger protein, that accumulates in brain blood vessels and compared it to the known structure of amyloid that accumulate in plaque around brain neurons.

The team found that the subunits of the amyloid that accumulates in vessels line up uniquely and in alternating patterns, which presents in a near opposite pattern of amyloid buildup in plaque around neurons.

“This discovery may help guide us to the development of a new diagnostic tool or therapeutic intervention for dementia patients who display this vessel pathology,” summarized Dr. Van Nostrand.

They hypothesize that the unique structure of this brain blood vessel amyloid could promote different pathological responses, i.e., inflammation, which likely contributes differently to cognitive impairment and dementia than neuron amyloid.


Researchers Receive INCITE Award to Study Stellar Explosions

Probing far beyond our solar system, a national research team led by Stony Brook University will carry out a comprehensive study of stellar explosions using one of the world’s most advanced computers.

Professors Michael Zingale (front, right) and Alan Calder (front, left) will lead a team using supercomputing hours to model explosive astrophysical phenomenon such as white dwarfs (in background). Graduate students Donald E. Willcox and Maria Barrios Sazo are part of the team.

Led by Michael Zingale, PhD, and Alan Calder, PhD, Stony Brook University Professors in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the team has been awarded 45 million hours on one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, the Titan Cray XK7 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to further their research on explosive astrophysical phenomena and model these complex occurrences by way of supercomputer-generated simulations.

The award, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science through its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) Program, recognizes national research projects with high potential for accelerating discovery.

The project, titled “Approaching Exascale Models of Astrophysical Explosions,” is one of only six nationally in the area of astrophysics to be awarded by the 2017 INCITE Program. The team received a similar award for supercomputing hours in 2014.  (See the complete list of 2017 awardees.)

The research team will carry out a comprehensive study of stellar explosions and their precursors using a suite of simulation codes. The collaboration will study a host of astrophysics problems, and of particular interest to the Stony Brook team are problems powered by fusion reactions.

“The award and our continued use and development of simulations using this world-renowned supercomputer will further advance our understanding of astrophysical explosions,” said Professor Calder, also an affiliate of the Institute of Advanced Computational Science (IACS) at Stony Brook.

Professor Calder added that more specifically, the team will investigate problems involving explosions occurring either on the surface or the interior of compact stars. For example, if a compact star, a white dwarf or a neutron star, gains material on its surface from a companion star, then that surface layer can suddenly experience a thermonuclear runaway and explode. Or, in the case of a white dwarf, the whole star can explode.

“The supercomputer hours broadens our ability to explore a multitude of configurations of these stellar explosions,” explained Professor Zingale, also an affiliate of IACS. “Our focus will be on X-ray bursts, which are a layer of transferred material on the surface of a neutron star that explodes, and thermonuclear supernovae, the explosion of a white dwarf star.”

Both Professors Calder and Zingale have received supercomputer hours from numerous INCITE program awards in previous years. Two graduate students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Maria Barrios Sazo and Donald E. Willcox, will be part of the research team for the 2017 award.

The project also includes co-investigators from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of California, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee. The INCITE Program promotes transformational advances in science and technology through large allocations of time on state-of-the-art supercomputers.

Grantsmanship for NIH K-Type Career Development Awards, PART II: A Hands-On Workshop, January 4th, 2017

The Office of Proposal Development and the School of Medicine present the following 2 part workshop series: GRANTSMANSHIP FOR NIH K-TYPE CAREER DEVELOPMENT AWARDS: A HANDS-ON WORKSHOP FROM BETH SCHACHTER CONSULTING

Description: Are you aiming to prepare an NIH Career Development (K-type) application? Do you want to make sure that you submit a compelling, competitive proposal? This hands-on workshop will help you do just that! In this two-session workshop, Beth Schacter will engage participants by having them scribble down (for their eyes only) ideas and plans for their proposals. Just as importantly, she will pose questions to help them identify in writing those parts of their plans that are missing or unclear. She will also scrutinize successful K-type proposals and hear from former awardees. Consequently, participants come away with a sense of understanding and accomplishment as well as a plan of action for completing their proposal.

The takeaway: As a workshop participant, you will gain a solid understanding of the creative (scientific) and the organizational/administrative aspects of preparing a competitive career development application. To help you develop this understanding, along with discussing key elements of the proposal, you will draft a preliminary outline of these sections. Based on the outline, you will draft an action plan for completing the application.

Who should attend? Junior faculty (e.g., PhD, MD, MD/PhD) who plan to apply for a NIH Mentored Career Development (K-type) Award, either for experimental or clinical research

Part 1: 11AM-1PM on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 in the HSC Level 3 Classroom 171 (lunch provided, please arrive 15 minutes in advance) • Overview of award categories, NIH Institutes, application review criteria • Using NIH’s RePORTER Database and Matchmaker • Developing your Specific Aims page (the 1-page roadmap of the proposal) • Introduction to the Research Plan • Introduction to the Training/Mentoring Plan

Part 2: 11AM-1PM on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 (HSC Level 2, Room 232) • Your Mentoring Team and Training Plan – building them around your Research Plan • Writing your Biographical Sketch • Drafting recommendation outlines (and letters) for team members • How to handle re-submissions • Formatting and graphics • Visit from past awardees

IMPORTANT PREPARATION: Before the workshop, please watch the NIH video "Meet the Experts in Peer Review for Fellowship Grant Applications."

Special offer to up to 15 faculty who attend both workshops: Together with Beth Schater, OPD will offer 15 faculty the following one-on-one support: • A 1-hour individual session to discuss the plan and/or Beth Schater's reading and giving editorial feedback on, for example, a draft of the Specific Aims page. • Assistance from OPD with budget development and final proof-reading of the narrative.

Jason Starr Elected a Fellow of American Mathematical Society

Jason Starr, a professor in the Department of Mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, was elected a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). Professor Starr is a world-renowned expert in algebraic geometry, the geometric study of solutions of systems of polynomial equations. His most celebrated contributions deal with the question of when such a system of equations has at least one solution. Starr’s work has given mathematicians a new way of thinking about such matters.

The AMS Fellowship program recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics. This highly competitive process begins with the nomination of individuals who must be supported by three other members after participating as a member of AMS for one year. A selection committee then reviews the nominee to decide who is among the elected fellows. Only a selected few from those nominated are then invited to become fellows.

Anissa Abi-Dargham, M.D. Elected to National Academy of Medicine

Anissa Abi-Dargham, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Psychiatry at Stony Brook University, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Becoming an elected member of NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the field of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service in their field.

Anissa Abi-Dargham, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and an expert in brain imaging in psychiatric disease, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Abi-Dargham joins current Stony Brook University School of Medicine faculty Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, Dean of the School and Senior VP for the Health Sciences; and Dennis Choi, Chair of the Department of Neurology and Director of the Neurosciences Institute, as members of NAM. Previously, only three other Stony Brook faculty were elected to NAM – Drs. Daniel Fox, Christina Leske and Nora Volkow. Dr. Abi-Dargham is among the leading physicians and researchers around the world elected as 2016 NAM members.

Dr. Abi-Dargham is an expert in the areas of molecular imaging, pharmacology, schizophrenia and addiction. She uses Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging to study the neurobiology of these disorders. Her research has resulted in seminal findings describing the complex alterations of dopamine transmission in schizophrenia and their relationship to clinical symptoms, cognition and response to treatment.

At Stony Brook, Dr. Abi-Dargham aims for her research to advance our understanding of the neurobiology of severe mental illness, and she plans to use novel therapeutics for treatment of comorbidity and resistance. She is building a multidisciplinary team with expertise in neurocomputational and neurocognitive disciplines.  As Vice Chair of Research in the Department, she oversees all research endeavors, with particular emphasis on translational multimodal imaging research and collaborations across disciplines, and mentors faculty and students.

“Dr. Abi-Dargham is a tremendous addition to our faculty and brings excellence to our research, education and our clinical missions,” said Ramin Parsey, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry. “She is a leader nationally in brain imaging and psychopharmacology of schizophrenia and substance use disorders. We anticipate that her contributions to science will be magnified by utilizing the tremendous resources Stony Brook has put into imaging technologies.”

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Dr. Abi-Dargham received her MD degree from Saint Joseph’s University. She moved to the US in 1985, completed her residency at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, Tenn., and followed that with a research fellowship at the National Institute for Mental Health. She then joined the faculty at Yale University, and Columbia University after that in 1996, where she has since spent most of her career. She retains an appointment as Professor Emerita of Psychiatry at Columbia University. Dr. Abi-Dargham joined Stony Brook in July 2016.

She has received funding over the past 20 years from leading organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Dr. Abi-Dargham is a Past President of the Brain Imaging Council for SNM, President-Elect for the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and serves on the scientific boards of the Schizophrenia International Research Society, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and Research Forum.  She is also a member of the NIMH Board of Scientific Counselors and is Associate Editor for Neuropsychopharmacology and Deputy Editor for Biological Psychiatry.

New Final RPPR (NIH) Change Coming in 2017.

NIH has updated this to include the following

​What This Means for You
If you have a final progress report due, and you wish to use the old FPR format of an uploaded document, you must submit the FPR before January 1, 2017. NIH will no longer accept any of the old format FPRs on or after January 1, 2017.

For more information see Guide Notice NOT-OD-17-022 or visit the NIH RPPR web page
Tentatively scheduled for required use as of January 1, 2017, the Final RPPR report will replace the current Final Progress Report for Closeout. Currently, the Final Progress Report is not strictly formatted, and basically has some half a dozen topics that need to be addressed, including a statement of progress; list of significant results, inclusion report, if applicable; list of publications; as well as any award specific instructions. The report is then uploaded as a PDF through eRA Commons and submitted to the agency by the signing official.

As part of Uniform Guidance (UG), we transitioned to the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) back in October of 2014.

Come 2017, the RPPR format will be extended to the Final Progress Report. One of the differences between RPPR and the Final RPPR is that not all sections will be part of the final report. For example, Section D – Participants; Section F – Changes; and Section H – Budget will not be part of the Final RPPR. Plus, instead of a PDF upload, the information will be entered into RPPR-like screens. The new screens will include a new Section I – Outcomes.

The transition date from the current Final Progress Report Process to the Final RPPR will be a strict one. The anticipated plan specifies that if you have a progress report due, and you want to use the old format, it must be submitted prior to January 1, 2017. Any final progress report submitted after January 1, 2017 will need to be submitted as a Final RPPR. Any other submission format will be rejected and you will need to resubmit in the Final RPPR format.

This is just an introduction to what is coming so you can be ready

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