Jun 05

As the world awaits President Trump’s decision on continued US participation in the Paris Accord, the landmark global warming agreement signed in 2015, Stony Brook researchers continue to pioneer discoveries that shed light on pressing climate issues.

Stony Brook’s commitment to collaborative research yields dividends that expand knowledge and create real-world impact in the fields of environmental science and energy. Read about some recent discoveries and initiatives:

Climate Change Threatening Humans Through Toxic Algae Spread
Caribbean Bats Would Need 8 Million Years to Recover from Extinctions
Creating a Sustainable Earth: Batteries Included
SBU Study Says Climate Change is Major Factor in Predicting Future Drought
Activity of a New Synthetic Compound May Be Key to Cleaner Nuclear Energy
Stony Brook’s Got the Power: How One University Earned Four Major Energy Research Awards in Less Than a Year
SoMAS’ Ellen Pikitch Leads Groundbreaking Work in Ocean Conservation
Physics Discovery Could Improve Solar Cells
Climate and Ecosystem Instability Delayed Dinosaur Success

Jun 05

A Martian crater is providing more proof that the Red Planet may once have supported life, a Stony Brook geochemist and planetary scientist says in a recently published NASA study.

mars rock
Sedimentary rocks from three locations on lower Mount Sharp on Mars examined by NASA’s Curiosity rover provide examples of different textures interpreted as sediments deposited at different depths within a long lived lake. This example exhibits thicker layers which occur at the edge of a lake where sediment-bearing water enters the lake, slows down and drops much of its sediment. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
The study led by Assistant Professor Joel Hurowitz offers perhaps the most significant evidence to date that an ancient lake on Mars had all the ingredients of a life-sustaining body of water.

Building on the 2013 discovery that Mars’ Gale crater contained a freshwater lake more than 3 billion years ago, Assistant Professor Joel Hurowitz led a team of 22 international scientists using findings beamed to Earth from NASA’s Curiosity rover to determine that the lake was stratified, meaning that depending on the depth, its water created several co-existing environments where life could flourish, much like the lakes on Earth.

“The diversity of environments in this Martian lake would have provided multiple opportunities for different types of microbes to survive, including those that thrive in oxidant-rich conditions, those that thrive in oxidant-poor conditions, and those that inhabit the interface between those settings,” Hurowitz said. “This type of oxidant stratification is a common feature of lakes on Earth, and now we’ve found it on Mars.”

Hurowitz is an assistant professor in Stony Brook’s Department of Geosciences, as well as the head of one of three laboratories inside the University’s Center for Planetary Exploration (CPEx), which brings students and faculty together to pave the way for future human exploration of our solar system through interdisciplinary study and hands-on science.

The study, titled Redox stratification of an ancient lake in Gale crater, Mars and published in the June 2 edition of Science, uses evidence retrieved by the Curiosity rover from the base of a mountain inside Gale crater. After examining the physical, chemical and mineral characteristics of the mountain’s rock layers, the team was able to not only determine that the ancient lake was stratified, but that ancient Mars itself experienced distinct climate change.

During the time Gale crater held lake water, climate conditions changed from colder and drier to warmer and wetter. This relatively short-term climate change took place within a longer climate evolution, during which Mars transitioned from warm, wet conditions that supported lakes, to the cold, arid planet we see through our telescopes today.

Mars rocks
This diagram presents some of the processes and clues related to a long-ago lake on Mars that became stratified, with the shallow water richer in oxidants than deeper water was. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stony Brook University
“These results give us unprecedented detail in answering questions about ancient environmental conditions on Mars,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I’m struck by how these fascinating conclusions on habitability and climate took everything the mission had to offer: a set of sophisticated science instruments, multiple years and miles of exploration, a landing site that retained a record of the ancient environment, and a lot of hard work by the mission team.”

While evidence of life on Mars is still unknown, seeking signs of life there starts with studying the environment and its ability, in present or ancient times, to sustain life. Developments such as these achieved by Hurowitz and all co-authors on the study reinforce NASA’s strategy to use rovers to further investigate Mars.

Hurowitz’s involvement with NASA’s missions to Mars continues as he is also deputy principal investigator for the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), an instrument being developed within Stony Brook’s CPEx that will be part of the upcoming Mars 2020 Rover Mission, which will further explore Mars in search of possible signs of ancient life.

View a selection of press coverage this discovery received:
Nature: Life could have survived in Mars crater
Newsday: LI researcher: Mars crater held fresh water, key to early life
Popular Science: Mars was probably habitable for longer than we thought
Yahoo News UK: Ancient Mars Lake Had Multiple Environments That Might Have Supported Life
The Verge: An ancient Martian lake could have been teeming with lots of kinds of life
New Scientist: Mars rover sees signs of microbe-friendly layers in ancient lake
Space.com: Ancient Mars Lake Had Multiple Environments That Might Have Supported Life
International Business Times: Ancient Lake On Mars Was Stratified, Had Oxygen That Varied Across Depths

— By Brian Smith

Jun 08

When pro ballers indulge in late-night tweetstorms, they aren’t just courting controversy: they could also be impacting their performance on-court.

A new study led by Stony Brook researchers suggests that NBA players had worse personal statistics in games that followed a late-night tweet.

Players scored on average about 1 point less in games following late-night tweets, and their shooting accuracy dropped 2.5 percentage points compared with their performance in games that did not follow late-night tweeting. After a late-night tweet, players also took fewer shots and had fewer rebounds, steals and blocks. “Using late-night tweeting activity as a proxy for being up late, we interpret these data to show that basketball skills are impaired after getting less sleep,” said lead investigator Jason J. Jones, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University in New York.

“While experimental studies have shown the impact of sleep deprivation on performance, this study uses big data to provide interpretable results on real-world performance of basketball players.”

According to the authors, most of the statistical changes following late-night tweets can be explained by fewer minutes played. Players had an average of 2 minutes less playing time following late-night tweeting.

“Our findings are relevant beyond just sports science research,” said study co-author Lauren Hale, PhD, Professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine in the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University. “Our results demonstrate a broader phenomenon: to perform at your personal best, you should get a full night of sleep.”

The research team led by Jones and Hale merged two public sources of data for the study, analyzing Twitter account activity from 112 verified NBA players as well as basketball statistics from Yahoo Sports. The data, which included more than 30,000 tweets, were compiled across 7 basketball seasons from 2009 to 2016. To reduce the potential performance effects of changing time zones, the analysis included only games within the same time zone as the player’s home.

“Twitter is currently an untapped resource for late-night behavior data that can be used as a proxy for not sleeping,” said Jones. “We hope this will encourage further studies making use of time-stamped online behavior to study the effects of sleep deprivation on real-world performance.”

Jun 09

SUNY ranked 38th in the “Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents for 2016,” according to the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association, which publishes the ranking annually based on U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data.

SUNY campuses overall were awarded 57 U.S. utility patents. Among those from Stony Brook University is a redesigned a catheter developed by a multidisciplinary team led by Annie Rohan from the School of Nursing. The catheter incorporates LED lights to reduce the likelihood of infection after the device is inserted into a patient’s body.

“Catheter-related infections are a multibillion-dollar-a-year problem,” says Rohan. “Healthcare providers have addressed it with prophylactic antibiotics, handwashing, and techniques to maintain sterility, but up until now there hasn’t been a product that can successfully reduce infection risk once the device is in the body.”

“Across SUNY, our faculty and students partner to make groundbreaking discoveries in a broad spectrum of areas,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Through more than 1,300 U.S. patents earned to date, SUNY research has led to hundreds of new technologies and advances that address society’s greatest challenges and have a positive impact on quality of life in New York and beyond. Congratulations to all those at SUNY whose important work has elevated us to this prominent world ranking.”

May 30

Stony Brook, New York, May 22, 2017 – Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, announced today that he is appointing Richard J. Reeder as Vice President for Research and Operations Manager for the Research Foundation at Stony Brook University, and promoting both Judith B. Greiman and Melissa Z.Y. Woo to the role of Senior Vice President.

In his role as Vice President for Research and Operations Manager for the Research Foundation at Stony Brook University, Reeder will oversee the Stony Brook research enterprise. Dr. Reeder served as the interim Vice President for Research since July 2016. At Stony Brook for nearly four decades, Reeder joined the Geosciences Department as a faculty member in 1980, where he served as Deputy Chair before being appointed Chair in 2008. From 2002-2012 he served as Director of the National Science Foundation-supported Center for Environmental Molecular Science. He also served as Chair of the national user group, EnviroSync, which promotes application of synchrotron X-ray methods to environmental sciences.

As a researcher, Reeder made extensive use of experimental beamlines at synchrotron facilities throughout the United States and participated in development of beamlines at NSLS and NSLS II at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He is a founding member of Stony Brook’s Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Research (CIDER). In 2014, Reeder led the team that, in partnership with Battelle, worked on the application which resulted in the successful renewal of the management contract of Brookhaven National Lab. In 2015 he was appointed Associate Vice President for Brookhaven Affairs.

Reeder received his BS in Geology from the University of Illinois, and his MA and PhD in Geology and Geophysics from the University of California, Berkeley. He was associate editor, and later editor of the peer-reviewed journal American Mineralogist, as well as editor of several review books. He has authored more than 120 articles and book chapters.

Judith Greiman’s promotion to Senior Vice President for Government and Community Relations and Chief Deputy to the President follows several successful years as Vice President for Government and Community Relations/Chief Deputy to the President. While at Stony Brook, Greiman took on the oversight and implementation responsibility of several key areas and presidential initiatives including the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity and the recent appointment of Stony Brook’s first Chief Diversity Officer, Lee Bitsoi; Stony Brook’s Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity ; Stony Brook engaging as a 10X10X10 University Impact Champion in the UN Women’s HeForShe Movement; and, Stony Brook’s initiative to become a tobacco free campus. In this role she will continue to work closely with the SUNY legislative affairs office and with elected representatives to address higher education issues and opportunities locally, in Albany and in Washington D.C., related to both the main academic programs and the annual budget process. She will also continue to engage with the University's surrounding communities, enhancing existing programs and creating new ones, that help reinforce Stony Brook’s ongoing relationship as a trusted community partner.

As Senior Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, Melissa Woo will continue to lead one of the University’s rapidly changing departments. Woo’s credentials and her recent success leading the way to Stony Brook University becoming the first higher education institution in New York State to offer a 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) connection to the NYSERNet and Internet 2 network, speak to her outstanding ability to implement complex IT projects for the University. In her new role, Woo will take on responsibility for aiding in research computing and Teaching and Learning Technology (TLT) for Stony Brook University as a whole, including Stony Brook Medicine.

“ As Stony Brook continues to gain momentum as one of America’s most dynamic public universities, a center of academic excellence and an internationally recognized research institution, there comes a time to reflect upon and recognize those who work diligently behind the administrative scenes,” said President Stanley. “Rich, Judy and Melissa have demonstrated to be true leaders, making a real difference at the University. I look forward to continuing our work together in pursuit of the big ideas that will impact the University.”

May 10

Department of Computer Science (CS) chair Arie Kaufman and fellow researchers have been awarded new funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), paving the way for Stony Brook to become a university partner in the Center for Visual and Decision Informatics (CVDI).

Stony Brook’s Reality Deck
Established in 2012, the Center for Visual and Decision Informatics is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/URC) that works in partnership with government, industry, and academia to develop the next-generation visual and decision support tools harnessing Big Data.

More than five years ago, the National Science Foundation funded the creation of the Center for Dynamic Data Analytics (CDDA), an I/UCRC at Stony Brook University. As a result of the first phase of this I/UCRC and with Kaufman serving as CDDA’s co-director, Stony Brook University is a leader in developing industry research partnerships.

CVDI will be the country’s largest I/UCRC in the field of Big Data. The CVDI collaboration aims to develop cutting-edge tools and techniques necessary to handle the demands of large data volume endeavors, such as visual analytics and machine learning.

University partners of CVDI include Stony Brook University, Drexel University, and University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Virginia, and Tampere University of Technology in Finland. Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte are expected to join in 2017. Each member university will receive funding from the NSF for a minimum of five more years to encourage industry outreach and educational opportunities for students.

Companies that worked with CDDA during the first I/UCRC phase included Northrop Grumman Aerospace Corporation, Softheon, CA Technologies, Samsung, BioClinica, and Mobileware. The Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University, which is part of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is a good fit for an endeavor such as CVDI. Its facilities boast over 20 research laboratories and include the Reality Deck, a unique visualization facility designed and built specifically for mass data.

May 10

Seven Stony Brook student researchers earned prestigious fellowships from the 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Click here to meet the awardees.

The fellowships provide each winner a $34,000 annual stipend for three years plus a $12,000 yearly cost-of-education allowance. The NSF chose 2,000 winners out of more than 13,000 applicants from 449 institutions nationwide.

“Stony Brook students, both graduate and undergraduate, have again demonstrated their outstanding potential for cutting-edge research. This year’s seven NSF GRF recipients span a remarkable range of science disciplines, showing the strengths of research activities across the University,” Interim Vice President for Research Rich Reeder said. “The funding provided by these fellowships permits students to pursue graduate education and research in areas of their choosing. These GRF awards also provide a nice addition to Stony Brook’s research funding.”

The NSF GRFP was established in 1952 to help develop and boost diversity of the United States’ science and engineering research workforce by supporting graduate students who pursue research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in NSF-supported STEM disciplines.

Anne McElroy, professor and graduate program director in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, lead a writing seminar with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Graduate School. More than 100 Stony Brook students attended the seminar to learn about the GRFP and get help with preparing their applications.

“Once again, it was a real pleasure to work with so many talented and hardworking students across campus. I’m really proud of not only those recognized by winning the award or receiving honorable mentions, but everyone who put so much work into their applications,” McElroy said. “I’m sure they will all go on to very successful careers.”

May 12

The number of women with heart disease delivering babies increased by 24 percent over a 10-year period, a Stony Brook-led study shows. Reported in the American Journal of Cardiology, the research could prompt new guidelines for screening and care during pregnancy.

Kathleen Stergiopoulos, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and a specialist in heart disease in women at the Stony Brook Heart Institute, led the study of more than 80,000 women with heart disease.

From 2003 to 2012, researchers found, the prevalence of women with heart disease delivering babies increased by 24 percent. This jump may prompt greater awareness of heart disease in women of childbearing age, heighten individual screening of heart disease in pregnant patients, and institute a multidisciplinary approach to labor and delivery.

Heart disease is the most common cause of death among pregnant women in the United States and other developed countries. There remain significant gaps in understanding of the prevalence, trends and outcomes of heart disease in pregnancy in the U.S. population. Investigation of trends and outcomes in heart disease and pregnancy has been limited.

In this study, researchers used the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s National Impatient Sample to better determine the trends and relationship between women with heart disease and delivering babies. To do this, they studied existing heart conditions and outcomes using a large sample of women with heart disease (81,295) and without heart disease (39,894,032).

“We learned that in addition to the high and growing prevalence of women with heart disease delivering babies, the reasons are mainly related to increases in women delivering babies with diseases such as cardiomyopathy, adult congenital heart disease, and pulmonary hypertension,” said Dr. Stergiopoulos.

The study also showed that major adverse cardiac events in pregnant women with heart disease increased by nearly 19 percent, and there is a significant and gradual increase in these events for women who have delivered babies and have heart disease. The most common events for women with heart disease were heart failure and arrhythmia.

According to Dr. Stergiopoulos, while a maternal death is a rare event, the findings should impact clinical practices when caring for women with heart disease who are pregnant.

She emphasized that future strategies to mitigate risk in these women include individualized preconception counseling and heart disease risk stratification, meticulous pregnancy follow-up, and a multi-disciplinary approach to labor and delivery that includes a coordinated approach to labor and delivery for those with heart disease that includes specialists from Cardiology, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Obstetrical Anesthesiology and Neonatology.

The study co-authors include Stony Brook faculty from multiple University Departments. Co-authors are Fabio V. Lima, MD, MPH, of the Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology; Jie Yang, PhD, in the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine; and Jianjin Xu, MS, of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics.

The research was supported in part by the American Heart Association and an American Medical Association Foundation Seed Grant.

May 18

Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean of the Stony Brook University College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been selected to receive the 2017 Hunter Rouse Hydraulic Engineering Award by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Environmental and Water Resource Institute (EWRI). The annual award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to hydraulics and waterways. Sotiropoulos will accept the award in May at the EWRI World Congress in Sacramento, CA.

The award acknowledges Sotiropoulos’ leadership in waterways research and application, and for generating a quantum leap forward in the development and application of computational fluid dynamics for waterways.

“Dr. Sotiropoulos’ groundbreaking research in hydraulics has set the standard for how people will treat modeling of riverine flows for decades to come,” said ASCE-EWRI Director Brian Parsons. “He dramatically raised the bar for what pioneering research in hydraulic engineering should look like, and his insights can help solve real-world problems.”

At Stony Brook University, Dr. Sotiropoulos, together with faculty and students, research offshore wind and tidal energy resources. Working with Verdant Power Inc., which develops marine and hydrokinetic technologies, they aim to create the first grid-connected, tidal-energy research project in New York City’s East River. Turbines will be installed at the river-bottom to harvest the tidal energy and produce electricity to power Manhattan. The plan is to have a commercial-scale turbine array deployed in the river by 2020.

“Fotis Sotiropoulos exemplifies what it means to be a leader in academia,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD. “His insight into hydraulics and its real-world impact on our environment and economy, combined with his role as dean and educator, will help train the next generation of innovative engineers investigating this crucial issue.”

Sotiropoulos’ research focuses on simulation-based engineering science for fluid mechanics problems in renewable energy, river hydraulics, geophysical, and biological applications. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, National laboratories, private industry, and other state and federal agencies, Sotiropoulos has raised more than $34M for research and research facility development and renovation during the past 10 years.

“We are immensely proud of Fotis Sotiropoulos for receiving the Rouse Hydraulic Engineering Award, a much-deserved recognition for his extraordinary accomplishments in his field,” said Stony Brook University Provost Michael A. Bernstein. “Fotis’ cutting-edge work sets a high standard for research at Stony Brook University. Congratulations to Fotis on this tremendous national honor.”

Apr 13

An official helping to commercialize inventions from Stony Brook University has been tapped to lead Accelerate Long Island, a not-for-profit group seeking to grow the technology economy.

Peter Donnelly is Accelerate’s new executive director, and he continues to serve as the university’s director of technology licensing and industry relations, said Kevin Law, chairman of the Accelerate board...

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