- Research Initiatives
The Advanced Science Research Center will focus CUNY research in five strategic areas at the vanguard of 21st Century global science. They are specialized but inter-related disciplines that are compelling in their promise, important to the nation and build on the strengths the University has developed over the past decade. Two of the five founding ASRC directors have been appointed thus far; other directors and faculty will be named in the months approaching the center’s opening in the fall of 2014.
Here are descriptions of the five initiatives and a look at the work of some of the CUNY faculty scientists within those disciplines who have helped shape the ASRC.
Charles J. Vörösmarty
Director, ASRC Environmental
Professor of Civil Engineering
The City College
Established in 2008, even before the ASRC’s construction began, the Environmental CrossRoads Initiative is already widely known as a pioneering center of interdisciplinary environmental research. The initiative is led by Charles J. Vörösmarty, an internationally recognized expert in global water issues who is the ASRC’s first director. He established the initiative after joining CUNY from the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, where he was the founding director of its Water Systems Analysis Group. more
Director, ASRC Structural
Einstein Professor of Chemistry
The City College
Structural biology is positioned at the crossroads of three scientific disciplines, tackling questions inspired by biology, drawing on perspectives of chemistry and using tools provided by physics to take on a wide range of biomedical research. more
Director, ASRC Nanoscience Initiative
Einstein Professor of Chemistry
A CUNY focus for several years, nanoscience is the study and control of matter on atomic and molecular scales of 1 to 100 billionths of a meter. Nanoscience and nanotechnology are major sources of important scientific developments, creating extraordinary new materials and devices with a broad range of applications in fields from biomedicine to energy production. more
The technology of generating and using light and other radiant energy forms, photonics is best known for fiber-optic communications, but its potential in a wide range of fields of applied science is vast: From diagnosing cancer without a biopsy to detecting bioterrorism. Researchers also use photonics to explore areas such as plant photosynthesis to advance basic scientific knowledge.
Photonics was chosen as an ASRC flagship initiative because it has become a strength for CUNY—an area that has been expanded over the last several years through the University’s “cluster hiring” initiative in the sciences—and because it offers unusual potential for collaboration across disciplines. Photonics research encompasses biology, medicine, physics and technology fields such as computer display and lighting, as well as the futuristic fields of quantum information processing and quantum encryption, in which data reside on single photons, which are to light what electrons are to electricity.
Vinod Menon, associate professor of physics of Queens College, joined CUNY as one of its “cluster hires” in photonics and has quickly established himself at the forefront of CUNY’s emerging strength in the field. “You design materials that do not exist in nature,” he says, “and you send light through them, and the light behaves in the way you want it to. Or you design a medium so that the light changes the properties of the material, such as by switching between transparent and reflective.” Dr. Menon eagerly anticipates using the ASRC’s cleanroom and advanced imaging equipment to create new devices and techniques such as the flexible lasers he has developed for use in a light-emitting bandage that accelerates wound-healing.
Exploring and mapping the brain’s biochemical circuitry—studying its development, anatomy, functioning and pathology—is one of the most important and expansive fields of 21st Century science. With virtually unlimited avenues of inquiry and potential discovery, neuroscience is already a vast enterprise at CUNY, comprising a network of 55 neuroscience laboratories throughout its campuses. That made it a natural choice as one of the Advanced Science Research Center’s five flagship initiatives.
Researchers are at work trying to develop more effective drugs for brain diseases ranging from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s, and for preventing or even reversing paralysis after spinal cord injury. They are studying the mechanisms of depression and the actions of drugs to treat it; addictive behaviors and drug abuse; the development of the nervous system and how we experience vital sensations such as vision and smell.
Among CUNY’s leading neuroscience researchers is Marie Filbin, a distinguished professor of biology at Hunter College whose work is focused on the mechanisms of nerve regeneration and how they might hold clues to developing therapies for brain diseases as well as spinal cord injury and ALS. “Everything we find out about regeneration after injury could be applicable to neuron replacement in degenerative diseases,” she says. The ASRC’s labs will make genetic manipulation easier, she says, “so you can induce a neuron to make more of the molecules that you’re interested in.” The facilities also “will bring in some top neuroscientists to do their research, and that will be a big plus for me in terms of collaboration and expertise.”
Walking to her office in the morning, Ruth Stark often stops to observe a large construction site on the south campus of The City College. Over the last four years, she has seen it grow from a yawning pit of earth and rocks >
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