January 2018


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Mammals Moving Less in Human Landscapes May Upset Ecosystems

Could baboons and other mammals worldwide soon need pedometers? Not likely, but a new study to be published in Sciencereveals that on average, mammals move distances two to three times shorter in human-modified landscapes than they do in the wild. 

Researchers worldwide, including Catherine Markham in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University, collected data on movement of 57 mammal species around the globe by using GPS tracking devices. To get the results, the research team – led by Dr. Marlee Tucker — compared the tracking data to a Human Footprint Index, which gauges how much each area was affected by human activities such as infrastructure, settlements and agriculture. 

The finding, scientists say, is significant because it is important that animals move with frequency and over a wide distance because they transport nutrients and seeds during their moving around. Traveling distances also brings different species together and balances the food web.

The authors conclude that by mammals moving less, ecosystem functions may be significantly affected in the human-modified landscapes. Professor Markham and colleagues with the Amboseli Baboon Research Project contributed to the study by tracking baboons living in the savannah ecosystem of East Africa. The research is led by a team at the Senckenberg Nature Research Society and Goethe University in Frankfurt.

The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

A survival lesson from bats—eating variety keeps species multiplying

Diet is an important factor influencing the survival and evolution of all species. Many studies have shown that when species evolve from being a predator or insectivore to being a vegetarian, the rate at which new species arise increases. But a new study published in Ecology Letters reveals that omnivorous New World noctilionoid bats, those species with diets including both plant and animal materials, produce more generations in the long run than specialized vegetarian or insectivorous species.

Co-author Liliana Dávalos, Ph.D., a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, and colleagues examined the rate at which  arise, as well as the rate of change for diet across the  of more than a hundred species of these bats. They found that adding plants to the diet increased rates of new species formation. The fastest rates of species formation corresponded to lineages that fed mostly —but not exclusively on plant products— or fed on many different types of products such a fruit, nectar and pollen.

Conversely, when the bats specialized on a single plant product new  formation was decreased.

"These bats illustrate that being a generalist herbivore or a modestly insectivorous omnivore is a boon, perhaps because it is a form of insurance against erratic or unpredictable plant blooming or fruiting schedules," said Dávalos.

The survival lesson: Omnivory that includes a wide variety of plant materials improves chances for survival and evolution.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-01-survival-lesson-batseating-variety-species.html#jCp

University Receives $1 Million for Transformational Energy Technology

A technique for detecting the presence of human beings in homes has been awarded $1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Led by Professor Ya Wang of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the project entails developing a Synchronized Low-Energy Electronically-Chopped Passive-InfraRed (PIR) Sensor for Occupancy Detection (SLEEPIR), an inventive occupancy sensing solution that could that optimize heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) of buildings while reducing cost and slashing energy use.

This non-mechanical oscillating technique, together with an advanced machine learning algorithm, is designed to address issues associated with high rates of false alarms in existing PIR sensors – a long-time complication in high-accuracy occupancy detection. This technology relies on the use of an “optical chopper” which temporarily interrupts the flow of heat to the sensor and allows the device to detect both stationary and moving individuals. The team will evaluate several approaches for the chopper, such as new low-power liquid crystal technology with no moving parts. They will also apply new signal processing techniques and machine learning to the infrared data, enabling differentiation between pets and people, and potentially sleep vs. active states.

Ya Wang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering , and Director of Nanomaterial Sensing and Energy Harvesting Laboratory,  will lead an interdisciplinary team including Professor Jon Longtin in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tom Butcher and Rebecca Trojanowaski from Brookhaven National Laboratory, and William Becchina from Stony Brook Building Science LLC, to address scientific and tech-to-market challenges to devise and commercialize SLEEPIR.

“Professor Wang’s research is critical to helping us understand how smart materials and machine learning algorithms can form intelligent systems in far-reaching applications, such as wireless sensing, advanced actuation, and energy harvesting,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences .  “I congratulate Professors Wang and Longtin, and thank them for their work to power a greener world with the development of highly impactful energy technologies.”

The Stony Brook team received this competitive award from ARPA-E’s Saving Energy Nationwide in Structures with Occupancy Recognition (SENSOR) program, which supports innovative and highly accurate presence sensors and occupant counters that optimize heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) of buildings while reducing cost and slashing energy use. SENSOR project teams can take advantage of existing low cost wireless and electronic communication technologies and could reduce HVAC energy usage by 30% while simultaneously addressing user requirements for cost, privacy, and usability.

“Professor Wang’s represents the fifth ARPA-E award for our Department , and her second,” said Jeff Ge, Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering. “This rapid build-up of our energy research program would not be possible without SUNY 2020 faculty hiring program that helped us recruit Professor Wang and other talented young faculty and achieve the department’s teaching and research mission.”

Stony Brook’s project is one of 15 ARPA-E projects that will develop a new class of sensor systems to enable significant energy savings via reduced demand for heating and cooling in residential and commercial buildings.  

About the Researchers:

Ya Wang’s (PI) research interests span a broad range of topics in the fields of smart materials, and intelligent systems, with integrated advanced sensing, energy harvesting and machine learning algorithms. She joined the Stony Brook faculty in 2013 and holds a PhD from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  Visit her research lab’s webpage:   Nanomaterial Energy Harvesting and Sensing Lab .

Jon Longtin (Co-PI) is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include two-phase heat transfer systems, building energy systems, waste heat recovery, and sensors for harsh environments.  He joined the Stony Brook faculty in 1996 and holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.  He is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of New York. Visit his research lab’s webpage:  Thermal-Laser Laboratory .

Grant Boosts Researchers’ Efforts to Stop Drowsy Driving

Suffolk County reportedly has recorded the most car accidents caused by sleepy drivers in the state; Stony Brook University researchers are on a mission to help turn that around.

Drowsy driving is a threat to safety.

The School of Health Technology & Management (SHTM) was recently awarded a General Highway Safety Grant to conduct research to put together insights, methods of prevention and a program to combat drowsy driving among college students.

The research project timeline runs from October of last year through September 2018 and will involve data collection on sleep habits and drowsy driving behaviors among Stony Brook commuter students, the development of a research-informed Drowsy Driving Prevention curriculum, a pilot implementation, and an external program evaluation.

“It is a myth that rolling down the windows and turning up the radio volume is a way to stay awake,” said Prof. Russell Rozensky, director of the Polysomnographic Technology Program (PTP) which is conducting the research as part of the SHTM. PTP consists of polysomnographic technologists that are health care practitioners who use “high-tech” equipment to diagnose and treat patients with sleep disorders.

According to stats compiled by the National Sleep Foundation, adults ages 18-29 are more likely to say they’ve driven drowsy (71 percent), compared to adults ages 30-64. The National Sleep Foundation estimated that younger drivers account for almost two-thirds of drowsy-driving crashes. A report conducted by SafeNY.ny.gov, a website developed by the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee that shares information about traffic safety and the state’s highway safety grant program, states that Suffolk County has the highest incidence of drowsy driving related crashes in all New York.

But the problem is not confined to New York. An estimated 6,000 fatal crashes nationwide each year are caused by people falling asleep at the wheel, according to the SHTM website.

The program and website StopDrowsyDriving.org were developed by the SHTM’s Drowsy Driving Prevention team in collaboration with the Governors Highway Safety Association and funded by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the National Road Safety Foundation. The educational and interactive website includes a sleepiness assessment quiz to help users realize their own risk for drowsy driving, facts and myths about the problem and strategies to help improve sleep habits to reduce incidence of falling asleep at the wheel and crashes associated with that.

The Drowsy Driving project is housed within the SHTM’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership and includes Rozensky, Principal Investigator Lisa M. Endee, co-principal investigators Erik Flynn, Pamela LindenStephen G. Smith, and Project Research Assistant Anna Lubitz.

“Most people would never consider driving when drunk, yet would not think twice about getting behind the wheel when sleepy,” said Endee, who serves as clinical assistant professor of the Polysomnographic Technology Program. “Driving while sleep deprived can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is this important message that our Drowsy Driving Prevention team hopes to bring awareness to.”
SHTM’s drowsy driving team offered these 5 tips to avoid drowsy driving:

  1. Take Power Naps on the Road: If you find yourself drowsy while driving you should pull over to take a 30-minute power nap, according to Professor Russell Rozensky.
  2. Make Regular Pit Stops: Get out of the car to every 90 minutes or so to stretch, as it increases the alertness level and helps prevent fatigued muscles.
  3. Avoid Driving in Early Morning Hours: Do not drive between midnight and 6 a.m. Because of your body’s biological rhythm, this is a time when you will feel the most powerful need for sleep, Rozensky said.
  4. Drink Lots of Coffee or Caffeinated Beverages: Drinking caffeine or other caffeinated beverages helps with alertness. A caffeine buzz can last up to six hours, Rozensky said. Rozensky added that drinking coffee on car rides also may cause drivers and passengers to pull over frequently to make bathroom trips. This, in turn, allows them to stretch, keeping them awake and alert, he said.
  5. Use the Buddy System: Having somebody to interact with while driving keeps you awake and alert to your surroundings, according to Rozensky. “The passenger can evaluate the driver to see if the driver is showing signs and symptoms of drowsy driving such as yawning, difficulty focusing, heavy eyelids, frequent blinking, or zoning out,” he said.

For more tips and information on how to combat drowsy driving, visit


— Suzanne Mobyed

CEAS Faculty Launch Global Conference on Computational Medicine and Big Data

Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, along with an interdisciplinary team from CEASrepresented Stony Brook University at the first Cheeloo Conference on Computational Medicine and Big Data in Jinan, China — a global US-China research partnership between the University and other partners, and the Jinan Supercomputer Center. The conference was organized by Professor Yuefan Deng from the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, together with colleagues from across CEAS.

This international conference was designed to identify critical problems and propose leading solutions and time-wise milestones, leveraging the most advanced supercomputer methods to biomedical research, healthcare, and massive analysis on intensive data. The conference attracted more than 300 attendees and two dozen distinguished speakers from Harvard, MIT, Brown, IBM, Tsinghua, Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Supercomputer Centers, University Auckland, and more.

Dean Sotiropoulos opened the conference by addressing the rapid advances in multi-scale and multi-physics computational algorithms — bridging the scales from cells to organs to organisms and enabling in silico models of the human body. This, combined with exponential growth in computing power, big data, machine learning and medical imaging, are converging to create a “perfect storm” to transform medical research, healthcare delivery and personalized medicine.

Professor Bluestein presented results of collaborative research conducted using the Jinan Shenwei Supercomputers.

During the past five years, the collaboration between Stony Brook University and the National Supercomputer Center in Jinan has been expanding from individual visits to joint projects to sharing the best resources, including supercomputing power and advanced algorithms as well as exchanges of students and junior faculty members.

Professor Danny Bluestein from the Department of Biomedical Engineering presented the latest results of this collaboration on multi-scale modeling of platelet activation and aggregation, which he, Professor Deng and their students have conducted using the Jinan Shenwei Supercomputers.

SBIR/STTR Workshop – NIH Focused

Wednesday January 17 & Thursday January 18, 2018 (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)
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) SBIR/STTR programs award over $2.6 billion in high-risk, non-diulted R&D funding annually to qualified small businesses.  
Learn more about SBIR/STTR funding at this 1.5-day session focused on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which will cover program essentials and how to compete for funding. Training 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: 
Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 8:30am - 4:30pm
Thursday, January 18, 2018, 8:30am –12:00pm
Location: Long Island High Technology Incubator
Main Conference Room
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: Those who will be submitting applications for the One-on-One Training must must have prior experience with either a sanctioned SBIR/STTR Intensive Training Workshop or an SBIR/STTR submission
*Workshop was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Commerce under grant #ED17HDQ0200003 awarded to the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University.
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