Emeritus Faculty Association news September 2014
Friday September 5th, 10.30 am, Javits Room, 2nd floor library. Malcolm Bowman will speak on After Superstorm Sandy, Can We Continue to Live at the Edge of the Sea?
Abstract: Superstorm Sandy inflicted a huge amount of damage and destruction to coastal New Jersey, Metropolitan New York and the south coast of Long Island. Conflicting statements by former Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo made shortly after the storm with their views about what to do to better protect the region from future catastrophes have contributed to confusion, doubt, inaction, financial hardship and ruin for many thousands of residents living near the coast. Meanwhile well-publicized competitions for intelligent redesign have led to futuristic, imaginative proposals, some of which would be quite ineffectual in stopping another major storm surge such as Sandy. A philosophical chasm exists between the so-called "green" and the "grey" factions. Environmental and engineering groups talk past each other, rather than to each other. On the left, the environmental community is invoking "soft solutions" of reseeding long extinct oyster beds to absorb storm surges, placing huge mats of floating seaweed attached to the shoreline of Manhattan to dampen down the storm tide and rebuilding exotic offshore sand dunes, to replenish and protect the exposed ocean beaches. On the right, civil engineers are warning that many of these proposed solutions just will not stop the fury of an extreme storm surge, and robust European-style storm surge barriers are the only permanent solution for a sustainable future, keeping the city dry. These various points of view are complicated by the uncertain predictions of climate change, rate of rise in sea levels, expected increasing intensity of storms and continuing unwise development of the coastline in exposed areas. So the situation boils down to "resilience" versus "protection". Does the region have to settle for an inevitable future of occasional flooding, but with local strengthening of facilities and infrastructure designed to rebound quickly, or is a regional solution of storm surge barriers to protect not only New York City, but also heavily-industrialized northern New Jersey, the better approach? What does the future hold, given political uncertainties, fiscal restraints and lack of commitment to a sustainable future.
Our presentation will discuss these various points of view and the emerging science of storm surge dynamics. The Stony Brook Storm Surge Research Group develops modern ocean/atmospheric modeling systems to hind-cast storm surges based on the characteristics of historical storms (rather than synthetic storms) to better estimate realistic predictions of future storm surges and flooding scenarios for Metropolitan New York and New Jersey in an era of climate change and rising sea levels.
Bio: Malcolm Bowman is Professor of Oceanography and Distinguished Service Professor and a registered professional engineer with more than 40 years of experience in coastal marine science, ocean and water quality modeling, storm surge science and the interactions of the physical environment with marine ecosystems. He obtained his B.Sc., and M.Sc. degrees in Physics and mathematics from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and a PhD degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. His current research is focused on the northeastern seaboard, investigating storm surges, storm waves and associated threats and consequences for coastal erosion, inundation and infrastructure damage. Malcolm is the Founding Director of the Stony Brook Storm Surge Research Group, President of the Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy, a Distinguished Member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and a Director of the Environmental Defense Society (New Zealand). He serves on New York State's Infrastructure 2100 Task Force and the New York City Panel on Climate Change, which advise government on how best to protect New York City and coastal NY State against the threats of climate change, rising sea levels and storm surges. He is featured often in TV, radio and the print media. Hosts have included ABC, CBS and NBC News, BBC, CNN, Bloomberg TV, Reuters TV, NY1 News, Ch 12 Long Island, Dan Rather Reports, National Geographic Society, Science Channel, Franco-German Public TV, NHK Japan Public Television, Rode Vis Producties (Netherlands), PBS, WNYC, WCBS, WABC, WNBC, WINN, NPR, AP and Reuters International. Support for Dr. Bowman's research team has been provided by New York Sea Grant, NOAA, NWS, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, HydroQual Inc., Eppley Foundation for Scientific Research and the Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal Foundation.
died Tuesday June 17. William R. Taylor(1922-2014) came from the University of Wisconsin to Stony Brook in the late 1960s. His first year was divided between helping the History Department establish its new graduate program and working to develop an inter-disciplinary, very-1960s curriculum at the new SUNY College at Old Westbury. After one year of "letting the inmates run the asylum", as Bill described it, he devoted all his efforts to Stony Brook. When he came he had already published an extremely important book that helped set the path for cultural and social history, Cavalier and Yankee. At Stony Brook he used his impressive contacts and reputation in the profession to attract and train a large number of graduate students, some of whom had come with him from Wisconsin, and also to involve the Department in various teaching-oriented national projects dealing with teaching history. Bill Taylor had come from Kansas City to enter Harvard, shortly before the outbreak of WWII. He left college, served in the Army Air Force, and then returned to earn all his degrees from Harvard. At Wisconsin he developed a reputation as an innovative teacher, one of the first to offer seminars in social history and to welcome students from other departments and disciplines. At Stony Brook he became interested in urban history, especially that of New York City; he edited a volume, Inventing Times Square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World and he wrote In Pursuit of Gotham: Culture and Commerce in New York. For over 30 years Bill was a mentor and a role model for his younger colleagues and he graced the department with insights about history and historians, with stories about the profession, and with a depth of learning that few could match. On his retirement former students from Stony Brook and Wisconsin joined to present a volume of essays in his honor: The Myth-making Frame of Mind: Social Imagination and American Culture. He did much to put the Stony Brook History Department on the map and he left a lasting impression on those of us who were his colleagues. (Joel Rosenthal)
member and regular attendee, died June 16 aged 83. The NY Times obituary can be read here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=reginald-p-tewarson&pid=171537887&fhid=10169
Richard J Gambino
(professor emeritus of Material Sciences) died August 3. His wikipedia entry may be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_J._Gambino
Kenneth Dill spoke on The Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology of which he is the director. This is a pure research operation at the interface between the physical and the life sciences. Now 3 1/2 years old, it has set up shop in the old life sciences library building, which it will share, come next year, with the new Institute for Advanced Computational Science. Started with seed money from the Laufer family, the long term aim of the center is to support itself from external funding. Its purpose is to further biological research using techniques from physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computational sciences. It seeks to do this by creating an environment in which researchers with backgrounds in the different disciplines can interact in a congenial atmosphere, free from the restrictions of departmental area and course requirements. Of the current staff of 16, three are full time supported by the center with the remainder joint with their various departments, drawn not only from SBU but also from BNL and Cold Stream Harbor.
Increasingly the advancement of our understanding of biological function is coming to depend on structure at the atomic and molecular level. Drug discovery in particular is now mostly conducted inside computers rather than laboratories. For example a computer search might be done for a molecule whose shape exactly fits into a hole in the surface of another complex molecule shape. All known forms of life depend on large macromolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins whose long strings of molecular components twist or curl up in characteristic ways. Their proper functioning depends critically on the curled up shape. Many current problem diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, Diabetes, and Scrapie are in fact "protein folding diseases". They occur when the folded shapes deterioriate and the strings tangle up. There is currently no cure for them.
When the proteins are folded correctly they can achieve quite extraordinary functions. To illustrate, Ken showed us an animated film of proteins which operate as miniature electric motors and walkers. Your own body depends on trillions of these operating within your cells at all times. For those of you who did not witness this film (or even those who did) you might like to know that you can witness similar animations easily on the web. Given below are links to two of these that totally blew your correspondent away.
The first is the ATP-synthase enzyme which utilizes the stored energy in a protein gradient across the cell membrane to drive a molecular motor which in turn synthesizes ATP. See:
The second shows a kinesin protein which uses energy from the hydrolysis of ATP to move with a walking motion along microtubule filaments. Most kinesins walk towards the plus end of a microtubule transporting as they go a cargo of other proteins from the center of the cell towards the periphery. See:
These animations are based on research done in the last ten to twenty years. The creation of the Laufer Center will help foster this kind of research at SBU. For example work being done in the group of deputy director Carlos Simmerling is using computer simulations based on data from crystallographic and NMR experiments to assess bound structures and energies of molecules and point to new drugs to treat TB, HIV, and cancer. Unlike current chemo-therapies, such molecules would attack precisely the bacteria or wayward cells causing the problem and nothing else.
Some members have expressed anxiety about the state of the Gyrodyne debt. Gyrodyne did in fact receive a check from the state two years ago - $98.68 million in damages, $1.47 million for costs, disbursements and expenses, and $67.34 million in interest. Part of this was taken by a trim to the SBU budget, as well as trims for other SUNY campuses, which caused some amount of grumbling. The amount was bloated by the judge's ruling based on the assertion that the property would be rezoned residential (denied by town officials) and the 9% interest rate (see account in the newsletter of Sept 2012 in the archive). The latter comes from the Civil Practice Law and Rules enacted by state legislators years ago (no doubt with the encouragement of banks and credit card issuers) and never adjusted since. Fortunately all of this didn't prevent SBU getting a $60 million grant this April to build an "innovation and discovery center" in the former Gyrodyne property, with construction to start soon, - see: http://sb.cc.stonybrook.edu/news/general/140407_InnovationAndDiscoveryCenter.php#sthash.T5zk6KcM.dpuf