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@Lehman College

“Some of the great advances which have been made in this country and in other countries have come into being exclusively because of research work and the advancement of scientific knowledge...” —Senator Herbert H. Lehman, 1951

Above: Bust of Herbert H. Lehman by John Belardo, Assistant Professor, Art Department Cover: Dr. Andrei Jitianu with undergraduate research assistant Gabriela Rodriguez Portraits:

Introduction by Professor Joseph W. Rachlin


ehman College is one of two public senior colleges in the Bronx, and as such it serves the community in many valuable ways. One of these is the development of new knowledge and its dissemination through a variety of means. This brochure on the scientific innovation and scholarship being done at Lehman College features several of our faculty members who are on the cutting edge of this knowledge development. Our faculty has a global reach as well as a local one. In addition to their personal research projects, they often serve as mentors to our undergraduate and graduate students. Two such programs are the annual Bronx Sci-Fest, which brings select high school students to the campus to work with our faculty, and the STEM Scholars program, which selects undergraduates from local community colleges for an intense summer of research working with members of our faculty Professor Rachlin and exposure to our state-of-the-art research facilities in Science Hall. In this brochure, you will hear about some of the amazing work being done at Lehman by our faculty, such as William Harcourt-Smith, who is involved in the study of the new hominoid fossil Homo naledi; or Renuka Sankaran, who is researching ways to increase the nutritional value of crops such as wheat and rice; and Moira Sauane and Prabodhika Mallikaratchy, a biologist and chemist, respectively, both conducting groundbreaking research in the field of cancer treatment. Then there’s Andrei Jitianu, a chemist, who works with graduate and undergraduate students and gives them the hands-on experience they need to pursue careers in the scientific fields. There is also Christine Rota-Donahue whose work in the Lehman Speech and Hearing Center benefits many of the young children from the community, as well as many other notable faculty members. Lehman College takes pride in its commitment to scientific inquiry and to its local community. We hope that after reading about the variety of research being performed here, you will too. Sincerely,

Professor Joseph W. Rachlin Interim Associate Provost and Dean for Research

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Better Living Through Plant Sciences

Graduate student Michael Tavarez (‘18) and Dr. Renuka Sankaran

CURRENT GRANT Triticeae Coordinated Agricultural Project: 4 years, $62,000


Her goal is to improve the safety of crops such as wheat and rice by reducing cadmium accumulation while simultaneously improving the nutritional quality of these foods.


ome of the College’s most innovative research is done in the field of plant sciences. Through collaborations with students, the New York Botanical Garden, and other labs and scientists, much of Lehman’s botanical research is focused on improving the lives of humans. Lehman Biological Sciences Professor Edward Kennelly and his team are the first to develop a cutting-edge method for detecting the presence of black cohosh—a perennial plant indigenous to the United States—in botanical dietary supplements. Kennelly, who works with students in the Ph.D. program in plant sciences and biochemistry in the CUNY

Graduate Center, as well as with the New York Botanical Garden and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, conducts much of his research in the College’s Phytochemistry Laboratory. According to Kennelly, up to one-third of products that claim to have the plant do not have any traces of it. “This is a public health and consumer fraud issue,” said Kennelly, who received a Fulbright Scholarship in 2014 to research traditional Chinese medicine. Professor Renuka Sankaran is another Lehman scientist using her interest in plants to make life better—and safer—for people.

She currently has a grant from the University of Montana to conduct research into how natural contaminants such as cadmium, a toxic heavy metal, are transferred into the food chain. Working alongside collaborators from Mexico and Johns Hopkins University —and in conjunction with the New York Botanical Garden—her goal, she said, is “to improve the safety of crops such as wheat and rice by reducing cadmium accumulation while simultaneously improving the nutritional quality of these foods.” Ultimately, Sankaran hopes her research can “address key malnutrition problems around the world.” A noble goal indeed.

Sankaran hopes her research can “address key malnutrition problems around the world.” discovery@Lehman College


Being a Student Means Being a Researcher

Dr. Andrei Jitianu with undergraduate research assistants Martin Kowaleff (‘18) and Gabriela Rodriguez (‘17)

CURRENT GRANT National Science Foundation: 3 years, $605,000


“It is a great experience when students realize they have figured out how to do something that no one has ever done.”


ehman College incorporates students into the research process. Lehman students enjoy the opportunity of working on social science discoveries and mathematic theorems or logging lab hours with scientistscholars like Professor Stephen Redenti, a molecular biologist who received a grant from Nikon Instruments towards their ongoing research in the development and regeneration of retinal and other central nervous system tissue. “It is a great experience when students realize they have figured out how to do something that no one has ever done,” said Professor Katherine St. John of the

Mathematics and Computer Science department. “It gives them the opportunity to work in collaboration with a team that’s passionate and to contribute and follow a project through.” St. John, whose current research focus is on phylogenetic tree reconstruction, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant, as well as a 2014 Simons Collaboration Grant. The chance to work with a professor paid off greatly for 2014 Lehman graduate Ebenezer Laud Vivienn Ewul. He researched materials for bone regeneration with Professor Andrei Jitianu, a chemist who was recently awarded a $605,000 three-year grant from

the National Science Foundation to investigate forming corrosion protection coating. “Our work exposed me to a lot of characterization methods in the areas of material science and inorganic chemistry,” said Ewul, one of 16 students to be granted the National Institutes of Health Scholarship for Research for 2015-2016. Currently employed at the National Institutes for Neurological Disorders and Strokes, Ewul credits Jitianu for teaching him valuable skills. “He taught me how to critique and read scientific journals.” Ewul said of his mentor. “I also learned how to write a very good scientific paper.”

“It gives them the opportunity to work collaboratively with a team that’s passionate and to contribute and follow a project through.” discovery@Lehman College


Teaching the Next Generation of STEM Students

Dr. Serigne Gningue

CURRENT GRANT National Science Foundation: 5 years, $1,041,471


“Children who are taught well at a young age can engage in critical, in-depth, higher-order thinking… can synthesize and interpret information, solve mathematical problems on their own, and communicate ideas…”


n a world of ever-changing technological discoveries and advancements, it is not surprising that careers in the STEM fields— science, tech, engineering, and mathematics— are in high demand. Reports claim that STEM jobs will grow 17 percent in the next decade, compared to just 12 percent growth for nonSTEM jobs. However, studies also show that these industries lack diversity, with people of color and women of all races employed in disproportionately small numbers. Lehman has taken on the challenge to increase the participation of all groups and to guarantee that its students can succeed in these industries. One of the College’s most rigorous commitments to preparing its students for such careers is the STEM Scholars Program. The program allows STEM scholars from Hostos Community College and Bronx Community

College the opportunity to complete a summer laboratory research training program at Lehman, working with faculty members and forming mentor relationships. Students also share their experimental data, learn how to properly present material, and defend their work when questioned by peers. Joseph Rachlin, a Biological Sciences professor and the interim dean of research, believes it is “a bridged research experience” for students moving from community to senior colleges. Serigne Gningue, associate professor of mathematics education, is committed to STEM-related research that will improve the ways in which children learn mathematics. If they are better prepared at a young age, he reasons, they are more poised to enter a STEM field when older. Gningue, who taught middle school math for a decade in the

Bronx, is principal investigator for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics for English learners (STEMELL). A National Science Foundation-funded program, STEMELL was designed to support the development of educators and strengthen mathematics teaching in Bronx middle and high schools. “Children who are taught well at a young age can engage in critical, indepth, higher-order thinking, and are able to reason,” said Gningue. “They can synthesize and interpret information, solve mathematical problems on their own, and communicate ideas, all of which leads to one’s development of self-confidence and self-efficacy in dealing and coping with real life situations.” With these programs, Lehman College is preparing its students for the future, and making sure that the future includes everyone.

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Collaboration is a Key Scientific Principle

Dr. Daniel Kabat

CURRENT GRANT National Science Foundation: 3 years, $45,000


“Some sharing of ideas will be done through collaborations, but most will be in the guise of informal discussions among colleagues, mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students, and conversations between faculty and students in different fields whereby cross-fertilization of ideas can occur.”


s further evidence of Lehman’s mission to be an innovative research institute, the College has created the Center for Theoretical & Computational Sciences, which opened in March 2015 with the goal of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration among students and faculty in the chemistry, math and computer science, and physics and astronomy departments. It will not only strengthen the College’s science community, but will also give students in various disciplines an outlet to explore their interests. “The Center is the first of its kind at Lehman,” explained Daniel Kabat, the chair of the physics department and the center’s director. “The idea behind it was that we have all this really wonderful and interesting research being done by our faculty

and our students, and there should be a place where it could all come together.” While Kabat’s work focuses specifically on understanding quantum gravity, including black holes, he envisions the Center as a productive environment for many departments. One way that will be achieved is through the Center’s commitment to encouraging collaboration between both faculty and students. “Some sharing of ideas will be done through collaborations, but most will be in the guise of informal discussions among colleagues, mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students, and conversations between faculty and students in different fields whereby cross-fertilization of ideas can occur,” said Jason Behrstock,

an associate professor in Lehman’s mathematics department. It was through this cross-fertilization of ideas that Behrstock became interested in his current research on probabilistic combinatorics. He now has a Simons Foundation Mathematics Fellowship to facilitate work. “The stereotype of the scientist as a lone genius lives on,” said Kabat. “But the fact is that the time when an isolated scientist could do significant research is long gone. These days science is an intensely collaborative activity, where a wide range of skills and knowledge must be brought to bear to make progress. When a diversity of ideas and perspectives are present, the truth gets revealed much more quickly.”

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Helping the Community

Christi Espade-Esposito and Dr. Christine Rota-Donahue

CURRENT GRANT American Hearing Research Foundation: 1 year, $20,000


“These various services help the Bronx community become aware of the severity of permanent hearing losses caused by noise exposure.”


hroughout its 48 years as a Bronx institution, Lehman College has shown an unwavering commitment to uplifting the community it calls home. One such initiative is the Speech and Hearing Center. Opened in 1968—the same year that Herbert H. Lehman College was founded—it provides diagnostic and therapeutic services to both the Lehman community and the surrounding region, with over 90 percent of its clients being Bronx residents. Graduate students, supervised by faculty members, offer treatment in various communication disorders in children and adults. In addition, noise awareness and hearing conservation are also promoted through free counseling on the danger of listening to loud sounds, and particularly loud music. “These

various services help the Bronx community become aware of the severity of permanent hearing losses caused by noise exposure,” said Professor Christine Rota-Donahue, an expert in auditory processing disorders, and a faculty member in the College’s SpeechLanguage-Hearing Sciences department. While Rota-Donahue, who received a 2015 research grant from American Hearing Research Foundation for her work in childhood auditory disorders, acknowledges the benefits of the Center’s noise awareness programs, her research helps Bronx residents in another way. “Several children from the borough have been screened and evaluated, at no cost to their families,” she said. “As a result, some of these children received frequency modulated devices to

enhance their ability to listen to their teachers and to their peers in the school environment.” In the same department, Professor Mira Goral focuses her research efforts on an older population. The recipient of a four-year funding grant from the National Institutes of Health, her work is concentrated on multilingual aphasia, an acquired language disorder that results from a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. “Many Bronx residents speak other languages in addition to English, but services are not always available in these languages,” said Goral, a past Fulbright scholarship recipient. “Assisting multilingual individuals with aphasia to not restrict their communication to only one language helps restore their sense of identify and connect them to their communities.”

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Building a 21st Century Library

Michael Ferraro and Jennifer Poggiali

CURRENT GRANT The Institute of Museum and Library Services: 1 year, $25,000


In 2013, the pair were awarded a $25,000 IMLS Sparks! Ignition Grant for Libraries for their animated information literacy advocate project. They have created Jasmyn, an animated character who provides information literacy instruction.


ew aspects of university life conjure as quaint an image as the library, bringing memories of card catalogs and dusty oversized tomes. And while some academic institutions may still have such old-fashioned rooms, Lehman College is dedicated to modernizing its libraries so that it is anything but outdated. How do you best move from card catalogs to Internet hubs, without sacrificing necessary research skills to technological shortcuts? How do you create a space that is adaptable and optimally organized for the various mediums of information, from print to Internet to video? These are the questions that Jennifer Poggiali, Lehman’s instructional technologies librarian, is tackling. “Academic libraries collect, preserve, organize, and provide access to information resources,” she said. “At Lehman, we’re a quiet place in a very unquiet world, where students can focus on solitary work or meet classmates for group learning.” Through her work with Michael Ferraro, associate professor of art at the College, she is keeping Lehman’s library future-focused in how it delivers these vital functions. In 2013, the pair were awarded a $25,000 IMLS

Sparks! Ignition Grant for Libraries for their animated information literacy advocate project. They have created Jasmyn, an animated character who provides information literacy instruction. They had previously collaborated on a web comic called The Researchers. Jasmyn, said Poggiali, has been well received by students who expressed that they would be receptive to online tutoring. “We’d like to work with faculty in a wide variety of departments to see how Jasmyn might be useful in other contexts and classes,” she said. There are a number of other challenges to building a library that melds the best of scholarship with technological advances and Lehman is meeting them head on, making sure the college is as informed as its students about how to use the technology. In addition, Poggiali said a top functioning library needs to constantly assess student needs while providing services and housing the technology— from computers and printers to excellent Wi-Fi access— to address them. “The 21st century library is a physical and virtual space,” said Poggiali. “It is mediated by outstanding staff and faculty, and designed to maximize student learning.”


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Keeping the Bronx Healthy

Dr. Jermaine Monk, Dr. Kate Gardner Burt, and Dr. William Latimer, founding dean of the Lehman School of Health Sciences, Human Services, and Nursing

DISTINGUISHED APPOINTMENT Dr. Latimer: Extraordinary Professor School of Health Sciences and Humanities, The University of Pretoria in South Africa


“We are promoting health equity and serving as a model for promoting health in dynamic urban settings.”


ehman College has a vested interest in bettering the lives of the residents of the Bronx. Most recently, the College opened the School of Health Sciences, Human Services, and Nursing as a part of its historical mission to uplift the neighboring community. “We are promoting health equity and serving as a model for promoting health in dynamic urban settings,” said William Latimer, an epidemiologist who is the founding dean of the school. Opened in 2015, the school’s four departments share a common vision: to narrow the current gaps in the health status of Bronx residents. Its guiding philosophy is that a connection exists between social determinants of health and subsequent rates of illness and death. Consequently, initiatives include a smoking cessation program led by Professor Jermaine Monk; research by Professor Sandra Levey in Speech-Language-Hearing services on noise levels in children’s toys; and a groundbreaking Nursing department. The Nursing department, which began

more than four decades ago, is committed to training a diverse pool of graduates, many of who go on to work in New York City hospitals. While at the College, students benefit from a program which was the first at CUNY to offer a degree that would prepare nurses with physical assessment skills on the undergraduate level. In addition, its professors, including Martha Velasco-Whetsell, are committed to helping to save communities.

One of the more creative approaches of the new school is the Kinsbridge Inline-to-Ice Skating program. “There’s a long history of building bridges between Lehman and the community— and we continue to build new bridges,” said Latimer, who is also the host of radio show Public Health Minute. Lehman is partnering with local high schools and the Knightsbridge National Ice Center, a 750,000-square foot rink that will open in 2018 and whose CEO is former New York Ranger captain Mark Messier. Not only will the students learn to skate, but, explained Latimer, “there is a study focused on linking skating with a healthy eating program that Dr. Kate Gardner Burt is working on and measuring the impact. We want to promote healthy weight in Bronx city schools.” Armed with a wealth of dedicated professors, academic resources and an unwavering mission to improving the public health of Bronx residents, Lehman is continuing to push forward to eradicate the health inequalities that plague the borough it calls home.

Dr. Martha Velasco-Whetsell

FELLOWSHIP Dr. Velasco-Whetsell: Inducted into the American Academy of Nursing, 2015

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Discovering the Wonders of the World

From left: Dr. William Harcourt-Smith, Dr. Cameron McNeil

CURRENT GRANT Dr. McNeil: National Science Foundation: 2 years, $210,268



ehman College has a proven record of working to improve the Bronx. However, its professors and students are looking far beyond New York and making discoveries that change the way we look at the world. Just three years after earning her doctorate in anthropology, Professor Cameron McNeil redefined the way the scientific world explained the downfall of ancient Maya civilizations. She argued that large-scale deforestation was not the cause of the collapse of the Maya city of Copan in Honduras —as many had believed—and in 2010 published her findings. Working with two students in Honduras, McNeil, who has a National Science Foundation grant for research, is investigating how the ancient Maya lived during Late Classic and Protoclassic periods in the eastern section of the Copan Valley.

This research will uncover significant data that can be used to analyze how humans impacted their environment—positively and negatively—in once-thriving ancient civilizations. Likewise, in 2014, an international team of researchers, co-led by Professor William Harcourt-Smith, another member of the College’s Anthropology department, discovered the remains of an ancient forest on Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya. Within this discovery was the fossil of a single Proconsul specimen, providing evidence of the habitat of the first ape. Their findings, which will help scientists understand the connection between ancient habitats and the emergence of ape lineages (including that of humans), were published in the February 2014 issue of Nature Communications. Harcourt-Smith, who also works as a

research scientist at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, is currently studying the origins of bipedalism, or upright walking, aided by a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Leakey Foundation. It was Harcourt-Smith that led the team of researchers who analyzed the foot bones of Homo naledi, the newly discovered human species that made global news in September 2015; thanks to his work, it was concluded that Homo naledi could walk upright and for long distances. Wherever his research takes him, he notes that his Lehman College students have contributed mightily to his work. Said Harcourt-Smith: “My students have played a very important role, collecting and analyzing data that has led to successful publication of the results.”

From left: Dr. Harcourt-Smith; Lehman undergraduate Aileen Fernandez teaching students from the National Autonomous University of Honduras how to analyze lithics from ancient Maya ruins; undergraduate Liam Riley extracting a sample.

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Fighting Cancer

From left: Dr. Moira Sauane, Dr. Prabodhika Mallikaratchy

CURRENT GRANTS Dr. Sauane: National Institutes of Health: 4 years, $1,031,550 Dr. Mallikaratchy: National Institutes of Health: 4 years, $433,300 18

“The level of cancer research at Lehman College to a great extent depends on our students on whom we rely for their intelligence, hard work, and creativity.”


ancer and affordable access to effective diagnosis and treatments are critical public health problems. At Lehman College, professors are committed to cutting-edge cancer research that can lead to therapies that will benefit populations globally. One such team of researchers at Lehman College, led by Moira Sauane, an assistant professor in the biological sciences department, is hoping to discover a mechanism for killing cancer cells. Sauane received a four-year, $1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for her work. “Our lab focuses on dissecting fundamental molecular mechanisms that regulate cell death with the ultimate goal of accelerating the development of novel experimental anti-cancer therapeutic agents,” said Sauane,

whose team includes Lehman students. “We aim to target specific signaling pathways in molecularly defined subtypes of cancer, with a major focus on melanoma, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers.” In 2013 her team published their discovery on the interaction of two proteins that promote the death of cancerous cells and make tumors more sensitive to radiation and chemotherapy. Today, their work is focused on exploring the potential of apoptosis-based gene therapy. Investigating effective methods to fight cancer is also the focus of another Lehman research lab. Led by Prabodhika Mallikaratchy, an assistant professor of analytical chemistry, the team is seeking a new class of synthetic antibody mimics based on DNA aptamers.

Funded by a National Institute of Health grant, the laboratory’s long-term goal is to develop oligonucleotide aptamer-based synthetic antibodies for biological and biomedical applications. In these two labs, as well as others, Lehman College has created a strong foundation to make key scientific advancements. Sauane believes there is another critical element, which distinguishes Lehman as a premier cancer research institution. “The level of cancer research at Lehman College to a great extent depends on our students on whom we rely for their intelligence, hard work, and creativity,” she said. Working with top undergraduate and graduate students, Lehman is poised to take its place on the front lines in the fight against cancer.

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Lehman College: Connecting With the World 1. CUBA

Dr. Teresita Levy and Dr. Anny Morrobel-Sosa are engaging in potential partnerships with Cuban universities through the efforts of the Institute for International Education and AASCU.


The Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute works to support and empower the Mexican immigrant community.


Dr. Cameron McNeil (Anthropology) conducts field research in Honduras.


Scientific Mobility Program enables STEM students from Brazil to study at Lehman.



Dr. Andrei Jitianu (Chemistry) conducts research at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Romanian Academy.


Dr. Yuri Gorokhovich (EEGS) and Dr. Maria Marinetti (History) conduct a summer research program in Crete with Lehman students.


Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, School of Continuing and Professional Studies enables Russian students to study at Lehman.


Dr. William Harcourt-Smith (Anthropology) conducts research on Rusings Island, Lake Victoria.


Dr. Eleanor T. Campbell (Nursing) conducts research in Cape Town.

Dr. Michael Buckley (Philosophy) participates in the Global Majority Program with Lehman students.










Lehman students study in the Irish language program at the National University of Galway. Dr. Davina Porock, Visiting Professor, England Centre for Practice Development, University of Canterbury Christ Church, Canterbury Institute D’Administration Des Enterprises in Montpellier has an exchange student program with Lehman. Distinguished Professor of Physics Dr. Eugene Chudnovsky collaborates with experimentalists from the University of Barcelona, exchanges students, and co-chairs annual conference in Coma-Ruga, Spain. Dr. Andrei Jitianu (Chemistry) conducts research at Instituto de Ceråmica y Vidrio in Madrid.


Dr. Adam Koranyi (Mathematics) performs research in Bangalore. Dr. Edward J. Kennelly (Biology) won a Fulbright award to study at the Institute of Chinese Medicine, Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Lehman has an exchange student program with the School of Business Management, Nanyang Polytechnic, Singapore. Korean nursing students participate in an English immersion program at Lehman.

Yokohama National University has an exchange student program with Lehman.


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Herbert H. Lehman College, The City University of New York 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, Bronx, NY 10468 718−960−8000 Above: Lehman College’s $70 million platinum LEED Science Hall

Discovery@Lehman Magazine  
Discovery@Lehman Magazine