December 2016

NSF Grant Bolsters Geosciences Education Support for Underrepresented Students

Stony Brook University (SBU) has received a three-year grant for more than $400,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand the University’s decades long commitment to engage underrepresented minorities in the geosciences.

Under the NSF-sponsored GeoPATH-IMPACT program, Stony Brook faculty will provide research and fieldwork opportunities for students, including during a six-week summer program.

The grant will be used to develop the Stony Brook GeoPATH-IMPACT program, which will cultivate STEM education and pathways into the geosciences to increase underrepresented student involvement and experience from high school through community college to 4-year institutions.

Led by Professor Brian Colle from Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), this project will: (1) Provide a research experience for community college (CC) students interested in the geosciences through the development of a six-week summer program at SBU; (2) Collaborate with CCs on joint club activities, seminars, and mentoring of CC students by SBU faculty, senior undergraduates, and graduate students, and (3) Work with local CCs to develop curriculum that results in a smoother transition for students from the CC to a 4-year institution, such as SBU.

Overall, this program will help mitigate the anxiety that transfer students often feel when confronted with the challenges of math and physics, while also enhancing their understanding of atmospheric science, geology, and marine sciences.

GeoPATH-IMPACT involves educational and research collaborations with SoMAS, the Department of Geosciences, and the STEM Smart program within the Department of Technology and Society. The Co-PIs for this project are Dr. Gilbert Hanson (Geosciences), Dr. Kamazima Lwiza (SoMAS), Dr. Hyemi Kim (SoMAS), and Dr. Edmund Chang (SoMAS). Senior personnel are Mrs Lauren Donovan and Mr. Paul Siegel (Department of Technology and Society). Off campus collaborators are Mr. Sean Tvelia and Dr. Candice Foley from Suffolk County Community College and Dr. Lisa Bastiaans from Nassau Community College.


Change to Standard due dates for Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity (F31)

Effective for calendar year 2017 due dates and beyond, the standard application due dates for F31 - Diversity applications will be the same as all other F Series Fellowship applications - April 8, August 8, and December 8. In the past they have had their own due date on the 12 of the month. For complete details see NOT-OD-17-029

SBIR/STTR Workship – NIH Focused Wed 1/18 and Thu 1/19

Wednesday January 18 & Thursday January 19, 2017 (1.5 days) 
Long Island High Technology Incubator

Hosted by the Center for Biotechnology* with support from Empire State Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR)

Is your life science or health tech company a candidate for federal R&D funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) SBIR/STTR programs? The two programs award over $2.6 billion in high-risk R&D funding annually to qualified small businesses. The process is complex but the impact of receiving $millions in non-dilutive funding is worth the effort.

Learn more about SBIR/STTR funding from well-known program expert and trainer, Becky Aistrup, M.B.A., Managing Partner of BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting LLC. During this 1.5-day session focused on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Becky will cover program essentials and how to compete for funding. Training is open to the public and will include:

  • Current information on the SBIR/STTR programs
  • Strategies for targeting your proposal to address the mission and requirements of the NIH
  • How to approach each section of your proposal
  • Planning your commercialization strategy
  • Writing to meet the reviewers’ expectations

Event Information: 
Wed, Jan 18, 2017, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Thu, Jan 19, 2017 8:30 AM –1:00 PM EST

Location: Long Island High Technology Incubator
Main Conference Room
25 Health Sciences Drive
Stony Brook, NY 11794

Registration Fee: $60 | Space is Limited. Pre-registration is required.

Interested participants have the opportunity to apply for partial-sponsored follow on counseling via one-on-one mentoring with SBIR/STTR experts. More info here. Note: participating in the SBIR/STTR workshop is mandatory for those who will be submitting applications for the One-on-One Training.

*Workshop was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Economic Development under grant #ED17HDQ0200003 awarded to the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University. This award aids the Center’s efforts to bolster the regional bioscience ecosystem by supporting a formal mentorship program, as well as a critical NIH-focused SBIR/STTR training and application development program which will assist in capital formation and launching new companies.

Changes to Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship (RCRS) Training

Dear Colleagues,

As a brief reminder, the Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship (RCRS) training requirement comes from regulations promulgated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and is specific to trainees supported by grants from those agencies.  It has long been agreed on this campus that training in RCRS is too important to be limited only to those research trainees that are identified in federal regulations.  University Policy P211 RCRS had applied those federal training requirements to a vast majority of the campus community.   

In an effort to develop a Policy that allows for greater latitude in RCRS training requirements (specifically for those individuals not subject to the NIH or NSF regulations), a working group of faculty and administrators revised University Policy P211 RCRS. (RCRS:

Specifically, the revised Policy empowers academic units to establish RCRS training programs and requirements appropriate for their own areas, referred to as a Complementary Policy in the newly revised University Policy P211.  This change in policy affords academic units greater flexibility in complying with training requirements.

It is important to understand that an academic unit’s Complementary Policy will not apply to NSF and NIH supported trainees.  NSF defines "trainee" as undergraduates, graduates and post docs, whereas NIH also includes any participant or scholar receiving training.  Faculty should pay close attention to any NSF or NIH RCRS training requirements when submitting proposals.

We are actively working with the representatives from each of the Dean’s offices to assist them in their development of their respective academic unit’s policy. Once these policies are reviewed and approved (by a subcommittee of the above referenced working group) they will be disseminated to each academic unit and linked to University Policy P211.  In the coming months, a plan to monitor compliance will be put into place through the Office of Research Compliance.  

Please direct any questions you may have to Ms. Susan Gasparo, in the Office of Research Compliance, susan.gasparo@stonybrook.edu631-632-9036.

Rich Reeder

North Atlantic Tuna Less Toxic, Study Finds

In a piece of welcome news for seafood lovers, a Stony Brook-led research team has found declining levels of mercury in bluefin tuna caught in the North Atlantic over the past decade. Mercury is a neurotoxin harmful to humans, and tuna provide more mercury to humans than any other source.

A study led by Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) and published in Environmental Science & Technology provides a new data set, the largest of its kind, of mercury concentrations in Atlantic bluefin tuna. The data demonstrate that, while tissue concentrations were higher than in most other fish species, there has been a consistent decline in mercury concentrations in these tuna over time, regardless of age of the fish.

The rate of decline parallels the declines – over the same time period — of mercury emissions, mercury levels in North Atlantic air, and mercury concentrations in North Atlantic seawater. Authors of the study include Stony Brook’s Cheng-Shiuan Lee, a Ph.D student in chemical/biological oceanography, and Nicholas S. Fisher, Distinguished Professor & Director, Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research at SoMAS.

According Fisher, the finding appears to indicate that changes in mercury levels in fish tissue respond in real time to changes in mercury loadings into the ocean. The study suggests that mercury levels may be improving as a result of declining coal use, reducing emissions that drift over the Atlantic.


The researchers measured mercury concentrations from the tissue of 1,292 bluefin tuna caught between 2004 and 2012. Some of the key findings:

  • Over the eight-year period, mercury levels in the fish fell 19 percent.
  • Mercury concentrations were generally high, and were highest in the largest, oldest fish; no differences were noted between males and females.
  • Mercury in the air over the North Atlantic fell 20 percent from 2001 to 2009.
  • Global levels of mercury emissions have fallen 2.8 percent a year from 1990 to 2007.

The study was supported in part by a grant from the Gelfond Fund for Mercury Research & Outreach.

Physics Discovery Could Improve Solar Cells

A team of scientists led by Stony Brook University’s Jin Wang, a Professor of Chemistry and Physics, and Physics graduate student Zedong Zhang, has announced a discovery that could help make sustainable solar energy a reality.

Jin Wang

The team discovered a mechanism in the energy transfer process of photosynthesis (for the pigment-protein complex) that illustrates quantitatively the maintenance of long-survived quantum coherence.

The role of quantum coherence – when subatomic particles cooperate reflecting a form of harmony in the microscopic world – is important to understanding energy transfer in photosynthesis. Recently, a new phenomenon with quantum coherence puzzled many scientists – that quantum coherence can last over long periods of time, even under the influence of the fluctuating environments. For the past decade, scientists have devoted significant efforts to exploring the underlying mechanism for this phenomenon. Despite progress, the physical and quantitative understanding on how long quantum coherence is maintained is still incomplete.

Wang’s research suggests that due to the strong interactions, the energy carriers are screened by the discrete vibrations of pigment protein complex. This shields the energy carriers from the environmental influence. The process leads to long lasting coherence and the remarkable enhancement of energy transport efficiency.

The finding, published in Scientific Reports, demonstrates the role of coherence and provides scientists with a deeper understanding of the ultrahigh efficiency of energy transfer in photosynthesis. The team believes the finding can guide researchers how to enhance solar cell efficiency, and potentially other devices with low energy waste.

Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges

Maung-Gaona, now 42, drew from her personal experience as the trilingual daughter of immigrants. While her parents logged long hours at a factory and a gas station, Maung-Gaona was often responsible for herself and her little sister.

She had to forge her own path at school as well. Growing up, she mixed Burmese, Korean, and English together in conversations with classmates. As a result, a teacher once chastised her parents for the difficulties she had sticking to one language in class, telling them to teach her English.

Maung-Gaona credits her parents with working incredibly hard to keep the family afloat, but recognizes that they just didn’t know about certain opportunities. As she finished her own education and then worked in Asia and Africa for international organizations like UNESCO and Save the Children, she saw the success that could come from connecting those needing support with resources that could make a difference in their lives.


Creating Community

She brought that perspective to her work as co-creator of Stony Brook’s Center for Inclusive Education and as the university’s former assistant dean of diversity. In both roles, she made it her mission to help students who can feel isolated because of their backgrounds. The absence of a sense of community and belonging can make an already demanding academic undertaking even more challenging, she says.

Stony Brook, part of the State University of New York system, first hired Maung-Gaona in 2000 as program coordinator for the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program, a grant funded by the National Science Foundation designed to increase the ranks of minority graduate students in STEM fields. Maung-Gaona started by identifying 33 graduate students who fit that description from a pool of more than 1,000. And even though they numbered fewer than three dozen, “A lot of them didn’t know each other,” she says.

Ramón Emilio Fernández, Ph.D., for example, now an assistant professor of mathematics at Pace University, recalls feeling excluded when Stony Brook classmates talked about weekend trips and study sessions to which he wasn’t invited. “It was a very isolating experience,” he says.



A Nourishing Experience at the Research Café

At Stony Brook, Maung-Gaona has worn many hats, cycling through roles from grant writer to student advocate and event coordinator in her search for ways to increase AGEP’s impact. Creating the Center for Inclusive Education, or the CIE, in 2002 has been her biggest accomplishment, she says. Minority graduate students — including those in STEM fields and other disciplines — now have a physical space where they can gather. The center has taken off, earning funding from seven grant programs.

One key success: The “Research Café,” where doctoral students present their research to colleagues, gaining valuable experience they can use when presenting papers at conferences — and, ultimately, when defending their doctoral work before a panel of professors. After they share their research, the center celebrates their work by displaying poster-size features about it on the center’s “wall of fame.”


The center has become a haven for graduate students seeking guidance. There, they find it easier “to let your guard down and say, ‘I’m hurting, this is what I need, can you help me?’” says Arthur Jay Goff, Ph.D., who studied at Stony Brook before becoming a microbiologist for the U.S. Department of Defense and working on therapeutic remedies for the Ebola virus.

Goff says he values the social support that Maung-Gaona, and the center, provided. “I had teachers that told me I would never be good at science and I should quit now,” he says. If not for Maung-Gaona and the center, “I wouldn’t be the man that I am, wouldn’t have the tool kit that I have,” he adds.

Back to School


For Maung-Gaona, the work continues on several fronts. In 2012, she enrolled as a doctoral student in Stony Brook’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences studying diversity and inclusion in STEM academic and career domains. She also transitioned earlier this year into a new role as the university’s associate vice president for research. Advocating for diversity is very much part of the job description, she says.

“People think diversity is just a number you have to achieve,” Maung-Gaona says. “It’s not about that — it’s about culture of belonging and access to opportunities, and so much more.”

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SBU Awarded NSF Grant to Support National Science Program for Educators

Stony Brook University received a $150,000 planning grant from the National Science Foundation to support a national program that will create science programming for educators. The funding was awarded to the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE), a research center within Stony Brook’s Department of Technology and Society, in partnership with the National Informal STEM Education Network (NISE Net), a community of educators and scientists dedicated to fostering public awareness, engagement and understanding of current STEM topics.

NCSCE’s Eliza Jane Reilly is co-principal investigator of this grant.

Eliza Jane Reilly, NCSCE deputy executive director for programs and co-principal investigator of the grant, says that the funding will foster new collaboration and synergy between Stony Brook’s NCSCE and NISE Net through the creation of science programming for the general public. Through this collaborative effort, they will identify themes and approaches to magnify their goal of helping educators engage broad audiences by making connections between science and real world issues of civic importance nationally and globally.

Reilly has been affiliated with the NCSCE’s signature program, Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER), for 16 years as a senior scholar, general editor of the SENCER Course Model series, and co-editor of Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal.

Staffing Updates for the Office of Research Compliance (ORC)

(SUMMER 2016)------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ORC welcomes our newest staff member Ms. Jessica Lasebikan, B.A., who replaces Michael Rossano as IRB Assistant. Jessica has extensive administrative experience in the health care profession. She has undergone an internship in scientific research training, and has had graduate level courses in bioethics, neuroscience, and human physiology and pharmacology. Jessica joined us in late June, and is already well integrated into the ORC team. Welcome Jessica!

ORC would also like to congratulate Ms. Lu-Ann Kozlowski, BSN, RN, on her recent promotion from IRB Assistant to HRPP Administrator and Research Subject Advocate. Lu-Ann is responsible for being a resource to the research community and to current and potential research participants, providing support and advocacy throughout the research process. She is the dedicated IRB liaison for the Cancer Center (CC), the inaugural Investigational New Drug I Investigational Device Exemptions (IND/IDE) Administrator for the campus, and is in charge of quality Improvement of HRPP compliance and efficiencies. Congratulations to Lu-Ann! 

NIH Policy on the Use of a Single IRB for Multi-Site Research

(SUMMER 2016)----------------------------------------------------------------

From the NIH Office of Science Policy: On June 21st…”the NIH published its final NIH Policy on the Use of a Single Institutional Review Board for Multi-Site Research. This policy establishes the expectation that all sites participating in multi-site studies involving nonexempt human subjects research funded by the NIH will use a single Institutional Review Board (sIRB) to conduct the ethical review required by the Department of Health and Human Services regulations for the Protection of Human Subjects. The intent of this policy is to enhance and streamline the process of IRB review and reduce inefficiencies so that research can proceed as expeditiously as possible without compromising ethical principles and protections for human research participants.

The NIH recognizes that the sIRB policy will be a paradigm shift in IRB review. As such, the final policy will not take effect until May 25, 2017. NIH has prepared a number of resources to assist the research community in preparing for the implementation of the policy. A set of FAQs, as well as guidance on scenarios illustrating the use of direct and indirect costs for single IRB review under the policy are now available on the NIH Office of Science Policy website.”

Questions or additional information about the single IRB policy, can be directed to 

Preparatory to Research Activities (HIPAA) and Subject Recruitment

In the past, researchers employed under our HIPAA covered entity ‘umbrella’ (the Organized Health Care Arrangement; OHCA; see description in could submit to the Office of Research Compliance a completed Preparatory to Research Form (available in the forms and template library of IRBNet), and once approved, they could review the electronic medical records (EMRs) to see if specific patient populations had been seen at SBUH. This was permitted as part of the researcher’s assessment of resources for a proposed research study, but no information was permitted to be taken from the patient EMR.

Up to this point, our recruitment policy has prohibited researchers from approaching patients for participation in research unless either:

a) The patients answered affirmatively during initial encounter as an in-or out UH patient to being contacted for future research for which they may qualify


b) The researcher approaching the patient has a clear treatment relationship with them. 

Discussion between the AVP for Research Compliance and the Chief Information Privacy and Security Officer for SBUH has yielded the following modification to ‘b’ above:

Researchers may now, as part of their IRB submission, propose a recruitment plan that allows for the preparatory to research activity, with subsequent documentation of the identified patients' health care providers (who must be a part of SBU’s OHCA). Information sheets (to be submitted and approved by the IRB) could then be given to said health care providers who may, in turn, give or mail them to the eligible identified patients. Such information sheets would contain the contact information of the researcher if the patient wishes to obtain more information.

We hope this modification to our recruitment policy facilitates future subject enrollment in promising research endeavors while protecting patients’ right to privacy. 

UH Laboratory/Pathology Review Now Conducted by Dr. Spitzer

(SUMMER 2016)-------------------------------------------------------------------

For those of you who conduct clinical research at a Stony Brook University Hospital in- or outpatient facility, please note that Dr. Eric Spitzer has replaced Dr. Jay Bock as the relevant signatory for use of Laboratory/Pathology. This means you need to share your IRBNet study package with Dr. Spitzer, and obtain his electronic signature in IRBNet in order to have approval for use of UH lab/pathology services. 


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