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BINGHAMTON RESEARCH B i n g h a m t o n U n i v e r s i t y / S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y o f N e w Yo r k / 2 0 0 6 - 0 7

BRINGING THE

HEAT Ramped-up research

initiatives are giving a lift to local and regional economies, advancing national interests and launching promising careers across the disciplines

IN THIS ISSUE: BUILDING A CENTER OF EXCELLENCE HOPES FOR A HIGH-TECH HARVEST BATTLING “BUGS” AND BACTERIA TURNING THE TIDE ON CATASTROPHE


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Calming the Cultural Cacophony Asian and Asian American Studies program helps students succeed in global village


BINGHAMTON RESEARCH B i n g h a m t o n U n i v e r s i t y / S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y o f N e w Yo r k / 2 0 0 6 - 0 7

CONTENTS

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About Binghamton Research

From paperweight to pixels

Weathering the storm

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The digital revolution in research administration

Messages

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Nurse urges heightened awareness, preparation for calamity

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New hope for a high-tech harvest

Calming the cultural cacophony Asian and Asian American Studies program helps students succeed in global village

8 Five Es = better math, science teaching

Faculty start-ups and spin-offs find safe haven in ITC pre-incubator

Helping neighborhoods help themselves Evolutionist strives to understand communities in a new way

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“Flexing”its research muscles

Where the baloney meets the road

Binghamton takes a new approach to lab design and management

Center strives to meet the critical need for top-quality K-12 instructors

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Researcher finds key to biofilm breakup

Vanquishing villainous viruses

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Sending slime packing

Scholarship and the marketplace

63 In Brief

Human immune system inspires new approach to computer security

F E AT U R E S

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Beyond all reason

Bringing the heat

Taproot of excellence

High water

Human learning, behavior might be more mechanistic than rational

Cover Story: Ramped-up research initiatives are giving a lift to local and regional economies, advancing national interests and launching promising careers across the disciplines

Binghamton plugs into international research grid as small-scale electronics powerhouse

Rising tide of losses signals need for changing land use in vulnerable areas

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ABOUT BINGHAMTON RESEARCH

NEW YORK STATE CENTER OF EXCELLENCE Small Scale Systems Integration Packaging Center (S3IP) Director: Bahgat Sammakia ORGANIZED RESEARCH CENTERS Center for Advanced Information Technologies (CAIT) Director: Victor Skormin

Center for the Teaching of American History (CTAH) Co-Directors: Thomas Dublin and Daniel Lerner Center for Writers (CW) Director: Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM) Director: Bahgat Sammakia

Center on Democratic Performance (CoDP) Director: Michael McDonald

Center for Advanced Sensors and Environmental Systems (CASE) Director: Omowunmi Sadik

Clinical Science and Engineering Center (CSEC) Director: Kenneth McLeod

Center for Applied Community Research and Development (CACRD) Director: Allison Alden

Institute for Materials Research (IMR) Director: M. Stanley Whittingham

Center for Cognitive and Psycholinguistic Sciences (CaPS) Director: Cynthia Connine

Institute for Primary and Preventative Health Care (IPPH) Director: Gary James

Center for Computing Technologies (CCT) Director: Kanad Ghose

Institute of Biomedical Technology (IBT) Director: John G. Baust

Center for Developmental Psychobiology (CDP) Director: Norman Spear

Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC) Director: Bahgat Sammakia

Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender (CHSWG) Co-Directors: Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin

Linux Technology Center (LTC) Director: Merwyn Jones

Center for Integrated Watershed Studies (CIWS) Director: Joseph Graney

Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) Director: Nina Versaggi

Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Philosophy, Interpretation, and Culture (CPIC) Director: Maria Lugones

Roger L. Kresge Center for Nursing Research (KCNR) Director: Gale Spencer

Center for Leadership Studies (CLS) Director: Francis Yammarino Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) Director: Wayne Jones

INSTITUTES FOR ADVANCED STUDIES Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations (FBC) Director: Richard E. Lee

Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CEMERS) Director: Karen-edis Barzman

Institute for Asian and Asian American Studies (IAAAS) Director: John Chafee

Center for Research in Translation (CRIT) Director: Rosemary Arrojo

Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS) Director: Ali Mazrui

Editorial Staff

Binghamton University

Editorial Team Susan E. Barker, Rachel Coker

Lois B. DeFleur President

Contributing Writers Susan E. Barker, Rachel Coker, Merrill Douglas, Sandra Kazinetz

Gerald Sonnenfeld Vice President for Research

Copy Editing John Wojcio, Katie Ellis Art Direction and Design Martha P. Terry

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Center for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education (CSMTE) Director: Thomas O’Brien

Photography Jonathan Cohen, Diogenes Agcaoili Jr., Kathryn Deuel, iStock Images Cover: Gerald Dorland Illustrations Ashok Subramanian, iStock Images

Christopher Ritter Associate Vice President for University Communications and Marketing Susan E. Barker Executive Director of Research Advancement Gregory Delviscio Director of Publications Binghamton Research is published annually as a joint project of the Division of Research and the Office of University Communications and Marketing. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Binghamton Research, Office of University Communications and Marketing, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, New York 13902-6000. Binghamton University is strongly committed to affirmative action. We offer access to services and recruit students and employees without regard to race, color, gender, religion, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or national origin.

www.binghamton.edu research.binghamton.edu

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MESSAGES

A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT At the University, our scholars’ minds are constantly humming, giving off the sparks that ignite ideas in such diverse fields as microbiology and information security. From David Davies’ work with biofilms, which could transform health care, manufacturing, shipping and pharmaceutics, to Victor Skormin’s immune system-inspired approach to computing, our researchers are setting the pace for inquiry and discovery. They’re also raising the alarm about land use and disaster preparedness in the wake of devastating hurricanes and the need to improve science and mathematics education as part of important national debates with farreaching impact.

LOIS B. DEFLEUR

The tools and facilities available to these researchers are more advanced than ever. Consider the flex labs at our Innovative Technologies Complex, which are designed to be adapted quickly to new projects and to foster multidisciplinary work. State-of-the-art technology and facilities support creativity and innovation, which in turn attract additional faculty, staff and students. We are pleased to share these exciting stories with our colleagues, friends and supporters and hope you’ll enjoy learning about the many ways that Binghamton University continues to question and challenge existing knowledge.

A MESSAGE FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH Like the parts of a suspended mobile, many aspects of today’s world are interconnected, and, as such, advances in any arena often provoke reactive change in others. Few arenas, however, possess the transformative potential of research. Within and across the disciplines, research, scholarship and creative activity do more than just spur reactive change. They spark innovation, ignite invention and provide the fuel to define — or redefine — the future. New ideas and perspectives, new solutions to problems and new technologies and products — all of these are research dividends that significantly reshape the way we interact with each other and our environment. But each new research-inspired revelation also further informs and enhances the very activity from which it sprang. New questions materialize. New pathways of inquiry reveal themselves. New tools of observation and analysis take shape. And all such innovation opens up new creative possibilities and economic opportunities.

The “heat” generated by the creative engine of Binghamton research gives a lift to regional economies, advances national interests and launches promising careers within and beyond the academy. We trust you will enjoy reading about a sampling of the important work going on here. GERALD SONNENFELD

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At Binghamton University, our commitment to research is clear, and as the cover of this issue of Binghamton Research suggests, we are, in every sense of the phrase, “bringing the heat.” In a competitive research climate, this year’s 24 percent rate of growth in our research heralds the enterprise and dedication of our faculty researchers and of the graduate and undergraduate students who assist and learn from them. Twenty new patent applications signal their ingenuity and inventiveness. The opening of the biotechnology research building at the Innovative Technologies Complex, the designation of Binghamton University as a New York State Center of Excellence in Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging and the state’s commitment of $66 million for the design and construction of a second science and engineering research building at the ITC portend well for our future.


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CALMING THE CULTURAL

CACOPHONY

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ASIAN AND ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM HELPS STUDENTS SUCCEED IN GLOBAL VILLAGE

For a soldier seeking the trust of civilians in Kabul, a salesperson courting a client in Bangalore or diplomats forging an agreement over dinner in America’s prosperity and security increasingly depend on how well we can Seoul, greater communicate with people of other naWith that in mind, in January 2006, understanding tions. President Bush launched the National Language Initiative, a plan to yields greater Security dramatically increase the number of U.S. citizens who speak languages consuccess. sidered critical, such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Farsi and Hindi. The initiative will support language instruction in kindergarten through the university level and fund programs to train foreign language teachers.

Binghamton’s Asian and Asian American Studies (AAAS) program is poised to take a leading role in the movement

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Perhaps even more than gaining foreign language skills, understanding other cultures is crucial for success in an evermore-interconnected world. “The size of your vocabulary or the correctness of your grammar is trumped by your ability to deal with someone as a sympathetic cultural interactor,” said H. Stephen Straight, vice provost for undergraduate education and international affairs at Binghamton University.


for greater intercultural understanding. Historically an undergraduate program, AAAS recently added an institute of advanced studies. The new Institute for Asian and Asian American Studies could open opportunities to increase the undergraduate offerings within AAAS, perhaps add a graduate program and support interdisciplinary faculty research. For example, “there are some faculty who are looking to put together a mini-conference next year on issues of gender studies in South Asia,” said John Chaffee, professor of history and director of AAAS. Researchers with expertise in diverse areas might also collaborate on such subjects as migrations and the Asian diaspora, art history and Chinese and Japanese film, he said.

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AAAS evolved from Binghamton University’s East Asian Studies program, which for many years focused mainly on China and Japan. Responding to strong student demand in the early 1990s, the program added an Asian American Studies component. This was considered

UNDERSTANDING OTHER CULTURES IS CRUCIAL FOR SUCCESS IN AN EVER-MORE-INTERCONNECTED WORLD.

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a temporary measure until the University gained the resources to develop a freestanding Asian American Studies program. But toward the end of the decade, “we decided that this marriage of convenience could be turned into a strength,” Chaffee said. Few other universities have put the two fields of study under one roof, but the combination reflects current reality for Asians in the U.S. and in Asia, Chaffee said. “Those Asians who come to this country certainly become Americans, but in many cases they maintain their ties to Asia. In some cases, they go back and forth frequently. We find all kinds of very interesting social patterns in terms of how they negotiate the two cultures.” At the same time, “Asia itself is becoming increasingly globalized. The idea that you can compartmentalize Asia geographically, and say all we’re concerned with is studying Asia in the Asian context, no longer makes so much sense.” Seokyung Han, a doctoral candidate in philosophy, interpretation, and culture who earned a graduate certificate in


AAAS, has come to appreciate the global nature of cultural diffusion. In her dissertation, she is examining didactic texts and illustrations created in Korea, China and Japan in the 15th through 17th centuries to learn how ideas are transmitted among cultures. To fulfill the Asian American Studies requirement for AAAS, she studied how Asian literature and American literature influence one another. While she chose that topic purely because it piqued her interest, eventually, “I recognized the fact that this is part of my [PhD] study, too,” she said. “There is some kind of common denominator” among the mechanisms of cultural transmission. In 2006, Han and two other graduate students created their own milieu for intercultural exchange, organizing an offcampus exhibit of work by contemporary artists from China, Korea and Japan.

The Institute for Asian and Asian American Studies has plans for even further expansion, including numerous community development and outreach activities. AAAS is also collaborating with the Department of Public Administration to develop a joint five-year

The National Security Language Initiative could also hold promise for increasing Binghamton’s offerings in Asian language and culture. “We’ve been eyeing that program, especially with our desire to expand in South Asian languages,” Chaffee said. He hopes that the federal initiative might someday offer resources in that area, and also help satisfy the huge demand for more classes in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Courses in Asian languages are taught in the University’s Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages but AAAS maintains a close relationship with that department. Because AAAS already offers so many courses that promote the understanding of Asian and Asian American culture, Binghamton University now can focus on exactly what the National Security Language Initiative calls for: expanding instruction in critical languages, said Straight. “But we’ll be putting that in a context, thanks to John, that has a much greater chance of success than if we simply had the strength in languages.” A student who learned Hindi at Binghamton, for example, could also explore how people who grew up speaking that language interact with other people and cultures, within India and around the world.

AMERICA’S PROSPERITY AND SECURITY I N C R E A S I N G LY DEPEND ON HOW WELL WE CAN C O M M U N I C AT E WITH PEOPLE OF OTHER NATIONS.

“What we’re already doing,” Straight said, “can set the stage for success in these other areas.”

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A $1.75 million grant from the Freeman Foundation has helped AAAS greatly expand its program since 2002. Today, it offers an undergraduate major and minor, a graduate certificate and a community internship program in New York City. Participating faculty come from the departments of German, Russian and East Asian Languages; History; Art History; Sociology; English; Philosophy; Anthropology; Economics; Management and Human Development.

BA/MA program and to incorporate the graduate certificate in Asian and Asian American Studies into the master’s in public administration.


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CENTER STRIVES TO MEET THE CRITICAL NEED FOR TOP-QUALITY K-12 INSTRUCTORS

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At least since Oct. 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik and began the space race, leaders in government, business and academia have worried over the performance of U.S. students in math and science — and over how the nation’s standing in the world would be affected by it.


CSMTE’s science programs expose Today, that concern is as urgent as ever, and Binghamton University is stepping to the forefront of efforts to improve science and math instruction in U.S. schools, said Thomas O’Brien, associate professor in the School of Education and director of Binghamton’s Center for Science, Math and Technology Education (CSMTE). In 2006, the National Science Board reported that U.S. students were at or near the bottom among the 29 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that took part in a study of how well 15-yearolds use math and science knowledge.

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In an effort to explain and help reverse such a poor showing, the NSB, which is the governing body of the National Science Foundation, took a close look at the ranks of U.S. science and math teachers. “The number of certified science and math teachers at the middle school and high school levels is down, science education for pre-service teachers at our nation’s education schools appears to be less rigorous compared to other subjects, and elementary teachers do not feel qualified teaching science,” the board concluded. O’Brien agrees. “There’s a need for updating a lot of teachers who are in

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teachers to a concept called the Five E Cycle — “Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate.” — Thomas O’Brien

the field,” not only in terms of recent scientific developments, but also in “pedagogical content knowledge, the intersection between pedagogy with the particular discipline,” he said. Although they have mastered their subject areas and care deeply about their students, many public-school teachers face a challenge in teaching science and math because their training isn’t informed by the latest research, O’Brien added. Binghamton’s CSMTE, an organized research center, brings faculty and gradu-

ate students from Binghamton’s School of Education, Harpur College of Arts and Sciences and Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science together with practicing teachers for professional development programs. The aim is to raise the level of math and science education and enhance the use of technology in public-school classrooms. CSMTE’s science programs expose teachers to a concept called the Five E Cycle — “Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate,” O’Brien said. Relying only on “Engage” — enlivening lessons with hands-on activities — isn’t the way to make sure students absorb new concepts, he said. The most effective format for instruction is instead the integrated content unit, “a sequence of linked activities, some of which could be book learning, some of which could be a hands-on lab, some of which could be a computer simulation,” followed by an assessment, he added. Teaching math and science is especially challenging for many instructors in kindergarten through seventh grade. Unlike their colleagues in eighth grade and high school, these teachers aren’t required to specialize in a content area, said C. Beth Burch, a professor in the School of Education. They may have taken one or


two mathematics courses in their entire college careers, she said. Burch’s husband, Paul-William Burch, assistant research professor of education, leads a CSMTE-affiliated project called Teacher Leader Quality Partnership (TLQP). Beth Burch and Jean Schmittau, associate professor of education, are coprincipal investigators in the project. Supported by a $1.1 million grant from the New York State Education Department, the four-year TLQP project is a partnership among Binghamton University, SUNY Albany, the Sage Colleges, Mount Saint Mary and The College of Saint Rose. So far, it has provided 165 middle-school math teachers and selected fourth- and fifth-grade teachers in small-city and rural districts in New York state with professional training sessions that focus on teaching math.

Schmittau, a specialist in math education, provides the math content for teachers who attend the sessions at Binghamton University, including teachers from the Binghamton City School District.

TLQP trains participants to share what is learned in the seminars with colleagues in their schools. And since part of CMSTE’s mission is to focus on the needs of girls, students of color and students who are economically disadvantaged, TLQP offers “equity training” through the Albany-based New York State K-16 Alliance. Other CSMTE programs in progress or recently completed include the $1.3 million Enhancing Education Through Technology program, which is funded by a grant from the New York State Education Department and provides computer equipment and training to teachers in the Binghamton City School District; a $150,000 Klee Foundation Award, which supports five science and five math education students in Binghamton’s master of arts in teaching program; and ecological investigations at the University’s Nature Preserve, which brought 480 Binghamton seventh-graders to campus for science field trips, using $6,200 from the Stephen David Ross University and Community Projects Fund.

While many colleges and universities operate teacher education programs, few of them “place as much emphasis on research-informed pedagogy at the program level,” O’Brien said. And while many programs use public schools as student teaching venues, they don’t necessarily offer much to those schools in return. Binghamton’s School of Education models a different approach and “has a long record of serving area schools,” he said. Ron Fisher, assistant superintendent for secondary instruction and personnel at the Union-Endicott Central School District, agrees. “They’re integral partners with us, in terms of providing professional development for our teachers, as well as providing opportunities for their students to work in the schools,” he said. O’Brien feels confident CSMTE’s approach will add up to better math and science education. By working with public schools, promoting ongoing dialogues and training, better preparing new teachers and helping classroom teachers to employ research-informed teaching practices, the center seems to have devised a formula that promises to help spur a resurgence in U.S. math and science education.

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“In many cases, the grant is not only teaching methods for how to teach it, but teaching the math itself,” deepening teachers’ understanding of the concepts so they can better convey them to students, Beth Burch said.

Meetings are marked by a great deal of lively discussion and collaboration, PaulWilliam Burch said. The program gives teachers“the opportunity not only to talk to each other about what has been successful” in the classroom, “but to engage speakers and university educators.”


Beyond all reason

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HUMAN LEARNING, BEHAVIOR MIGHT BE MORE MECHANISTIC THAN RATIONAL

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People might have a lot more in common with Pavlov’s dogs than any of us would care to think. Learning might be a far more mechanical, even automatic, process than most of us — most notably modern-day educators — dare to These rather startling assertions only hint at the profound implications of imagine. And even a growing body of work by Ralph R. distinguished professor of psyif a student can’t Miller, chology. Miller’s work, which for more 37 years has earned continuous recite the times than federal sponsorship, deals both with conditioning and human decitables, that doesn’t animal sion making. It is opening new windows understanding the complex cognitive mean he didn’t on processes involved in acquiring, retrieving and using information to make deci“learn” them. sions. And it is calling into question the common belief that human behavior is a function of rational thought. “We don’t think the view of the rational mind as the basis of behavior is illuminating,” Miller explains. And even if there is such a thing as rational thought, there is certainly no good explanation for how exactly it works.

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In fact, assertions about the rational mind, Miller says, often amount to variations on the Homunculus Argument, which attempts to explain thought and behavior by positing that we have in our head an agent capable of rational thought — essentially a “little person,” or homunculus, who helps us make choices and reason our way through life. Most psychologists and philosophers have disavowed such accounts on the premise that to explain rational thought in such a way is circular reasoning. Rather than defer to our ability to reason, Miller studies the cognitive mechanisms and processes underlying reasoning in humans and animals.


Miller is an internationally prominent experimental psychologist whose current project, “Associative Determinants of Performance,” is funded by a five-year, $1.4 million research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

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But he is probably best known for establishing the foundation of temporal coding theory. While the name sounds off-putting, it is essentially a theory rooted in the proposition that the human mind is mechanistic rather than rational — that what goes on in it can be explained through physical and biological causes, many of which hinge on the timing of sensory input we receive. In essence, temporal coding theory suggests that in Pavlovian conditioning or associative learning, the timing of stimuli in connection to one another is not just important but integral to the association that results. In other words, receiving the food soon after the bell goes off doesn’t just catalyze learning. The contiguity or timing of these two events in relation to each other is actually encoded as part of the association. This theory is a radical departure from traditional views and has helped over the past two decades to change the direction of research in the field of associative learning. Miller’s theory also takes another dramatic step away from traditional thinking concerning the role of rewards and punishments, and asserts that if the timing between the conditioned response and the unconditioned response is close enough, nothing more is needed for an

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their approaches to complex tasks, there is little difference across the species in terms of such basic processes as influence-associative learning and causal judgments, he said.

association to be made. Good contiguity, it says, is sufficient for the formation of an association. It also asserts that temporal coding is critical in determining what behavior a cue will elicit, or if and when the behavior is elicited, and perhaps more important, that temporal information from independent episodes can be integrated to effectively create an association between two disparate events, events that were never directly paired. For example, if rats learn that pressing a lever produces a tone and, subsequently, with the lever removed, hear the tone right before they are fed, as soon as the lever is reintroduced, they press it with radically increased frequency. Presumably, they’ve associated the tone with the delivery of food and have arrived at the conclusion that the lever causes the tone and that pressing it will get them more food, even though there was no direct association between the food and the lever. This is just one of the many experiments in which Miller has explored how humans and rats attribute causality, or the relationship between cause and effect. While rats differ from humans in

Rats, of course, cannot tell us how they think. But by watching how they attempt to control effects by manipulating potential causes, we can draw conclusions about their perception of causality. And, as it turns out, rats, as in the situation above, behave in ways that are completely analogous to humans: both can arrive at causality without trial-and-error training. Because coming up with different explanations for such analogous behavior just doesn’t fly from a scientific perspective, Miller said he is forced to conclude either that rational thought has little to do with rat or human behavior, or that rational thought processes are also widespread among non-human species. Seen through the lens of his theory, results such as these begin to explain how something that might appear to involve a rational thought process is actually the result of purely mechanistic processes. Miller’s opinion is that the rats aren’t “reasoning out” the connection between the lever and the food, but are instead quite mechanistically calling upon temporal information from two independent learning episodes to create a meaningful association between events that were not directly paired.


Ralph Miller is an internationally prominent experimental psychologist whose current project, “Associative Determinants of Performance,” is funded by a five-year, $1.4 million research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Unlike most theories of associative learning, temporal coding theory also maintains a clear distinction between learning and the behavioral expression of that learning. Miller believes, in fact, that learning itself is ultimately an automatic process. He likens the mind to a garbage pail. “Everything goes into it, and the real questions are about the conditions under which we are going to be able to retrieve and make use of things,” he said.

Miller’s research also distinguishes between information processing that occurs during training and processing that occurs at test. His findings here contradict and reverse what he describes as the general view in academia that initial learning is a complex chore for an organism and that once something is learned, translating that information

into behavior later on is relatively trivial. He thinks instead that learning is relatively simple, and that complexity arises in retrieving and using that which has been “encoded.” “The conditions of testing are absolutely crucial to what is going to be retrieved,” Miller says, “with much better recall produced by matching conditions of retrieval to conditions of training. “This is fine,” he adds, “if you can control conditions of retrieval as you can in a laboratory. But in the real world, we don’t control them to any great extent. Hence, we should try to match the conditions of training to the conditions of retrieval, as imposed by real-world situations.” In successful 19th-century classrooms, Miller said, the focus was on teaching students by introducing them to problems drawn from the real-world experiences they would encounter when

Today, teaching often takes a more abstract approach, but Miller’s research suggests that educators who focus on trying to teach students to “think”might be misguided. There might be a small, highly elite part of the population that can benefit from training with abstractions, he said, but the vast majority of people learn better when training is specific to a real application. “We tend not to generalize from how to solve one task to being able to solve parallel tasks that are superficially quite different,” he said. Teaching to the test, which is another common approach these days, could, according to Miller’s research, be a better strategy — but only if the tests are based on real-world problems. Medical and business schools that are increasing the use of case studies to train students by exposing them to real-life problems and conditions are, according to his research, on the right track.

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“The problem is not so much about what you learn, but rather, what you can retrieve and how you use the information.”Again, our mathematically challenged student might have “learned” the times tables just fine, thank you, but for a variety of reasons might not be able to access that information.

they left school. A math test, for instance, might ask them to determine, based on the measurements of a wagon, the optimal size of hay bales to be transported in it.


anquishing illainous iruses HUMAN IMMUNE SYSTEM INSPIRES NEW APPROACH TO COMPUTER SECURITY

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In a twist of Orwellian proportion, the human immune system might hold the key to halting the spread of computer viruses. A pioneering technique developed by a team of Binghamton researchers goes existing virus-detection software one better.

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“When it comes to computer security, it’s an arms race. Each time you come up with a new way to defend a computer network, the bad guys come up with a new way to attack it. This could go on forever.”

— Victor Skormin

By exploiting the ability to self-replicate — generally a signal that software is up to no good — the new technique mimics the human body’s response to a biological intruder and detects even previously unknown malicious software — or “malware.” Malware is an area of intense interest to

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the computing community worldwide, and for good reason. According to Consumer Reports, computer viruses did at least $5.2 billion in damage last year, or about $109 per individual victim. The immune system-simulating malware-detection technique is the second spin-off of ongoing Binghamton research investigating biologically inspired methods in computer security. The first spin-off, a book titled Immunocomputing, won widespread acclaim for laying the mathematical foundation for applying immune methods in computing. The Binghamton team is led by Distinguished Service Professor Victor Skormin, director of the Center for Advanced Information Technologies and a co-author of the book. It includes Associate Professor Douglas Summerville and doctoral students Alexander Volynkin and James Moronski.

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“Victor is an innovator. He’s very creative,” said Joseph Giordano, computer scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y. “He’s pushed this biologically inspired network defense thinking — and when you really come down to it, it’s a new way of thinking.” The U.S. Air Force has already invested about $1.5 million in this research, and Skormin expects that figure will surpass $2 million in the near future. His long-standing relationships with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Rome laboratory have laid the foundation for the partnership and helped boost Binghamton’s profile in the area of information assurance. “Malicious biological tissue has very specific malicious genes,” Skormin explained. “A gigantic percentage of the genetic material in this tissue is the same as in healthy tissue, but it has some specific genes that make it malicious. This way of thinking led me to the concept of detecting the gene of self-replication in computer programs. It is very unlikely for a legitimate program to self-replicate. But a virus or computer worm self-replicates because it’s the only way to create an epidemic that would maximize its destructive impact.” The functionality of legitimate software can be traced through so-called “system calls, ” which enable different parts of


the computer system to communicate. Each system call has 40 attributes. Malware invokes the same system calls, but with different sequencing. Skormin sees amino acids as a parallel, in that typical cells and biological intruders have the same basic composition but are sequenced differently. The Binghamton researchers looked at the combination of attributes to identify signatures that indicate the incontrovertible mark of malware: self-replication. They then created a program to monitor system calls and their attributes and alert the user if there are signs of self-replication. The user can decide to delete the program — or, if it’s believed to be legitimate, to let it run. The Binghamton team intends next to apply this idea to a network of computers. They are in the process of building a testbed that will emulate a large computer network with up to 2,000 hosts and a number of servers. They’ll be able to deploy malware and other information attacks to investigate the proliferation of self-replicating software and assess its impact on the network. They’ll also evaluate possible defensive mechanisms. In essence, the Binghamton software will try to detect problems in individual machines and then report them to the server. “From the server level we

Skormin and his team will begin with a limited-size network, but he’s confident the approach has far wider applications. The immune system provides an example of

“Even the Internet could rely on this,” he said.

a distributed defense mechanism

relying

on highly specialized self-replicating “antiviruses.” Skormin and his team intend to replicate this approach in a computer network.

will see the big picture, ”Skormin said. “When you see the whole network reporting on attempts to self-replicate, this means that you will know if a distributed, evolving attack takes place.” The immune system provides an example of a distributed defense mechanism relying on highly specialized self-replicating “anti-viruses.” Skormin and his team intend to replicate this approach in a computer network. The trick at such a large scale will be spreading an anti-virus without exhausting the network resources; therefore, the key issue is the definition of a complex negative feedback mechanism governing this process.

“The advantage of what we do is that we’re not looking back into the history of known attacks,” he said. “We’re developing techniques that will help to oppose previously unknown viruses.” Giordano noted that the Air Force appreciates each of these innovations. “The way we are today in an information society, ideas get generated rapidly and we have the tools to experiment,” he said. “Things like this may make it to the market sooner than we all think.” Skormin likes to joke that he and his team have excellent job security because there’s such creativity on each side of the information assurance battle. “When it comes to computer security, it’s an arms race,” he said. “Each time you come up with a new way to defend a computer network, the bad guys come up with a new way to attack it. This could go on forever.”

are less common than they used to be, compared to other forms of malware. While viruses can be intentionally destructive, for example, by destroying data, many other viruses are fairly benign or merely annoying. Some viruses have a delayed payload, which is sometimes called a bomb. For example, a virus might display a message on a specific day or wait until it has infected a certain number of hosts. A time root occurs during a particular date or time, and a logic bomb occurs when the user of a computer takes an action that triggers the bomb. The predominant negative effect of viruses is their uncontrolled self-reproduction, which wastes or overwhelms computer resources. — From Wikipedia

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In computer security, a computer virus is a self-replicating computer program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents. A computer virus behaves in a way similar to a biological virus, which spreads by inserting itself into living cells. Extending the analogy, the insertion of a virus into the program is termed an “infection,” and the infected file, or executable code that is not part of a file, is called a “host.” Viruses are one of the several types of malicious software or malware. In common parlance, the term virus is often extended to refer to worms, trojan horses and other sorts of malware; viruses in the narrow sense of the word

Binghamton’s researchers hope to find a corporate partner to help commercialize the technique. Skormin has also begun talks with Wall Street representatives who envision applications for the banking industry.


COVER STORY

BRINGING THE

We’re in the late innings. An increasingly competitive economic and sponsored research climate finds successful, research-active faculty being courted by top universities with the same fervor professional teams bring to the recruitment of promising athletes to play on major-league baseball diamonds. Anxiously checking the bases and finding them loaded, the world is turning to its academic bullpen, where institutions of higher learning are warming up to take on the challenges ahead. But contracts have been renegotiated. It’s no longer possible to remain aloof — not in the skybox and not in the dugout. Where they did exist, ivory towers have long since gone the way of Ebbets Field. When it’s to the exclusion of other contributions, even coaching the bases from the sidelines borders on being called foul. Though the performance and preparedness of individuals are vital to the team’s success, much more than pedagogy is expected and required from players on the higher-education club.

Binghamton University / BINGHAMTON RESEARCH / 2006-07

So now, with the competition becoming ever more keen, veteran closers — institutions with long and storied histories of academic and research excellence — and energetic, nimble, rookie colleges and universities, eager to prove their worth, sense the importance and the enormity of what they are being asked to do. Curves have been thrown, not to mention wild pitches. Crises seem to come out of left field, one after the other. But when facing heavy hitters, the bullpen needs to be focused and strong. And while today’s potential all-stars of academe are expected to continue to do what they do so well — educate and explore — they’re expected to step up to the plate in many other ways as well. They are being asked to captain the team. They are being tapped to re-energize the game by generating ideas, technologies and products that advance local, national and global economies. They are being recruited to help even the score and level the playing field by solving pressing social and political problems around the globe. Ultimately, to help save the day, they are being signed by the global community — not just to teach others how to play or appreciate the nuances of the game, but to themselves suit up and play — skillfully.

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COVER STORY

T O W A R D B E T T E R U N D E R S TA N D I N G

While raising its aspirations across the continuum of research, scholarship and creative activity, Binghamton University research is pumping up local and regional economies, advancing state and national interests and teaching students how they can do the same. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. In the parlance of baseball, that often boils down to the club manager putting in a call to the bullpen for a relief pitcher capable of “bringing the heat.” An esoteric reference to a blindingly hot fastball, it didn’t take long for Wall Street advertisers, business executives and throngs of non-sports-minded people the world over to adopt the saying as shorthand for “raising your game.”

Roberta Rivero, vice president for quality management at United Health Services, where Binghamton University researchers are partnering to improve hospital protocols and practices, credits Binghamton’s burgeoning research programs with enhancing the regional economy, fostering “brain draw” to the community, generating local revenue and increasing cultural diversity.

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That, according to community partners and its own box scores, is exactly what Binghamton University has been doing in recent years, particularly as concerns its research initiatives. But raising its own game isn’t the only effect of Binghamton bringing the heat with ramped-up research, area business people said. Like the burner on a hot air balloon, when the University brings the heat, regional economies and quality of life are elevated as well.


COVER STORY

TOWARD IMPROVED QUALITY OF LIFE

THE UNIVERSITY’S STRATEGIC PLAN, “EXCELLENCE IN A CLIMATE OF CHANGE,” UNDERSCORES THE INSTITUTION’S COMMITMENT TO SYNERGISTIC AND INNOVATIVE COUPLINGS OF RESEARCH AND UNDERGRADUATE

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EDUCATION.

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COVER STORY

Cynthia Giroux, technology director of thin films and surfaces research at Corning, and Sandeep Tonapi, project leader of micro- and nanostructure technologies at GE, agree. University research, both said, is key to spurring the economy and keeping bright young professionals in the area. “Under President DeFleur, the University has flourished, garnered increased funding from state and federal sources and strengthened ties to industry,” Giroux said. “With linkage to quality companies through its centers and consortiums, this then allows graduates to be linked to industries in the area.” “We feel that BU research in the areas of small-scale systems integration and packaging, flexible electronics, and electronics packaging is crucial to the region’s economic growth and vitality,” Tonapi agreed. “BU’s participation in these globally competitive areas with very high potential for economic growth complements the industry’s growth and provides the critically needed young workforce in science and engineering.”

The University’s strategic plan, “Excellence in a Climate of Change,” underscores the institution’s commitment to synergistic and innovative couplings of research and undergraduate education. The plan, which “arises from the vision of a truly distinguished and unique

Meanwhile, the University has also seen significant growth in technology transfer activity. With its posting of a 53 percent increase in licensing income this past fiscal year, the University staked its claim as second in this category in the entire 64 campus State University of New York (SUNY) system. Notably, Binghamton was also the only SUNY institution to post an increase in licensing income on the year, with the other leading universities seeing declines of from five to 80 percent. University research has also spawned nine new start-up companies, and last year led to a 45 percent increase in invention disclosures and to the filing of 20 patent applications, up from just eight the year prior. The main significance of these numbers, said Eugene Krentsel, director of technology transfer and innovation partnerships, is not necessarily in the absolute numbers, but in the trends they represent. In a period of generally flat federal research funding, and when other SUNY schools are seeing a dramatic waning in the creation of new knowledge and its transfer to the marketplace, Binghamton is clearly bucking the trend. During the past several years, New York state has recognized and lent significant

support to the University’s successful blending of research and undergraduate excellence. The University received $15 million in state funds to renovate its Innovative Technologies Complex, $21 million to design and build a University Downtown Center and $66 million for the design and construction of a new science and engineering research building. The University has also received federal earmarks totaling about $11 million to support ongoing research projects and won a national competition leading to its selection by the United States Display Consortium as a Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing. That move was accompanied by the award of more than $13 million in firstgeneration roll-to-roll (R2R) electronics manufacturing equipment, establishing Binghamton as home to the world’s first prototype manufacturing and testbed line. Electronics is a major strength at Binghamton, and one the University has leveraged across the disciplines, culminating most recently with the designation of its Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging program as a New York state Center of Excellence. But research at the 887-acre campus spans the disciplines and more and more often draws upon the expertise of faculty from across the disciplines to form unique research teams addressing urgent world problems. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of some of today’s most pressing questions — questions involving human genomics, materials science, cell biology, bioengineering and biomedicine — these cross-disciplinary connections regularly develop into permanent working relationships. Binghamton faculty have formalized these relationships through the Center of Excellence, a host of organized

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Since its inception in 1946 as Triple Cities College, the University has changed significantly. From its roots as a four-year liberal arts college with a reputation for superb undergraduate education, it has evolved into an excellent doctoral research university, with a broad range of liberal arts and professional programs, all carefully designed to preserve and build upon its traditional undergraduate excellence.

institution of higher education, one that combines an international reputation for research, scholarship and creative endeavor with the best undergraduate programs available at any public university,” calls for and commits resources to achieve a doubling of sponsored research activity over the next five years. Quantifiable evidence affords strong support for the claim that the research environment at Binghamton is already vital and growing. In the past decade, sponsored research activity more than doubled. This past year alone, the University posted a 24 percent increase in sponsored research awards.


COVER STORY

research centers and three institutes for advanced studies. These organizations, which offer equipment and expertise that may be accessed by faculty across the disciplines and by members of the community who need specialized services, are one of the University’s most important links to larger local, regional and global communities. Ultimately, however, the University’s research success depends on the contributions and commitment of individual faculty. And there, the game is being raised as well. Toward better understanding Assistant Professor Leo Wilton, for instance, was chosen for a prestigious fellowship with the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California at San Francisco. Over the course of three summers, he will lay the foundation for a multimillion-dollar research grant proposal. His central goal is to address the disproportionate HIV/AIDS infection rate among people of color.

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Wilton, who holds appointments in the Department of Human Development as well as with Africana Studies in Harpur College of Arts and Sciences, will study body image and how it interfaces with HIV risk behaviors among black gay men. Issues he will consider include race stress, gay stress and internalized homophobia. Forty-six percent of black gay men are HIV-positive, Wilton said. “In terms of the nation, we’re in a crisis,” he added. In the School of Management, Francis Yammarino and other researchers have been given $160,000 to complete work driven by the changing nature of the U.S. Navy’s mission, equipment and technology. Yammarino and his team

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are helping to develop a database that will match Naval personnel and their skills with the numerous tasks the Navy may undertake and the kinds of people needed to fulfill them. When the project is completed, a Naval officer will be able to go to a computer, answer a series of questions about the tasks he or she has been assigned and receive a list of skilled people appropriate for the mission. “The thing that makes all of it work is leadership,” said Yammarino, who noted this project may eventually be part of a much larger reorganization of the entire Department of Defense. A distinguished professor of management and director of the Center for Leadership Studies, Yammarino has partners at SkillsNet in Texas as well as at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Central Florida. Toward improved quality of life Another new study led by researchers at Binghamton University’s Decker School of Nursing is looking at ways to improve heart-healthy behaviors among rural women. The work is funded by a threeyear, $150,000 grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research. Rural women may not be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease than the rest of the population, but they do face particular challenges. For instance, they were among the last groups in the country to start smoking — and they’re among the last to quit. “I’ve seen a lot of the issues firsthand,” said Associate Professor Pamela Stewart Fahs, a native of Kentucky and director of Binghamton University’s O’Connor Office of Rural Health Studies. “I’ve also seen what socio-cultural aspects of rural living both protect and cause problems for those citizens.”

The study will involve a total of 176 women ages 45-65 at moderate to high risk for cardiovascular disease. Half will be from Delaware County in New York and the other half will be from a rural Virginia county. Researchers will use two techniques in an effort to encourage study participants to be physically active, eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily and not smoke. The first technique, called community intervention, will be available to all of the women in the study. The second technique, a series of nursing interventions, will be part of the program for half of the study participants. Toward a safer world Researchers at Binghamton University are also exploring a first-ever opportunity to determine if chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer can be spread to humans who ingest “infected” meat. Ralph M. Garruto, professor of biomedical anthropology, is heading up a study to monitor the health implications for a group of people who are known to have consumed venison infected with CWD. Recently discovered in both wild and captive deer herds in New York, CWD is similar to mad cow disease in that it concentrates in the spinal cord and brain, and is caused by a virtually indestructible mutated protein called a prion. “We don’t know if CWD can be transmitted to humans,” Garruto said. “So this group, some of whom we know for sure ate infected meat, offers us a unique opportunity. I’m hoping the study will allow us to determine if this disease can affect humans in the same way mad cow disease has been shown to cause neurological disease in those who consume infected beef.” The study focuses on a group of people who attended a sportsmen’s feast in


COVER STORY

TOWARD A SAFER WORLD

THE UNIVERSITY RECEIVED $15 MILLION IN STATE FUNDS TO RENOVATE ITS INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES COMPLEX, $21 MILLION TO DESIGN AND BUILD A UNIVERSITY DOWNTOWN CENTER AND $66 MILLION FOR THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF

AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH BUILDING.

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A NEW SCIENCE


COVER STORY

TOWARD AN INVENTIVE FUTURE

“THE IDEA IS, IF YOU’RE GOING TO GO INTO BUSINESS, CHANGE THE WORLD. DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING MUNDANE. EVEN THOUGH A STARTUP IS ALWAYS GOING TO START SMALL, YOU SHOULD HAVE AND HOLD ONTO THE VISION THAT

Binghamton University / BINGHAMTON RESEARCH / 2006-07

IT COULD BE SOMETHING BIG.” — Kenneth McLeod

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COVER STORY

Verona, N.Y., in 2005. At least some of the attendees, who had a choice of entrees, consumed venison from a deer infected with CWD. Upon hearing of the dinner, Garruto approached the Oneida County Health Department to determine if it would assist in a scientific examination of the people who ate the meat. The study will monitor the health of the participants over six years. Because of another research project, child pornographers will soon have a harder time escaping prosecution. Thanks to a stunning new technology that can reliably link digital images to the camera with which they were taken, in much the same way that telltale scratches are used by forensic examiners to link bullets to the gun that fired them, the rug will be pulled from under a common ploy used by child pornographers to raise “reasonable doubt” about their guilt. “The defense in these kind of cases would often be that the images were not taken by this person’s camera or that the images are not of real children,” said Jessica Fridrich, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Sometimes child pornographers will even cut and paste an image of an adult’s head on the image of a child to try to avoid prosecution.

Fridrich and two members of her Binghamton University research team, Jan Lukas and Miroslav Goljan, are co-inventors of the new technique, which can also be used to detect forged images. The three have applied for two patents related to their technique, which

Toward an inventive future Passing on to students not only the education but also the scholarly and entrepreneurial mindset that gives rise to this level of imagination, ingenuity and invention are a very real goal of Binghamton University’s research enterprise, even at the undergraduate level. Kenneth McLeod, director of the University’s nascent bioengineering department, for instance, focuses on teaching his students how to bring “magic” into their senior research project. The year-long project challenges teams of four to six students to identify an existing technology that can be tweaked or redirected so as to serve as the basis for a start-up business addressing a niche need in the marketplace. The “magic” he refers to is drawn from a principle promoted by Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and one of the original Apple Computer employees responsible for the successful marketing in 1984 of the first Macintosh. The term speaks to the catalyzing energy of finding and tuning into the world-altering potential of your product while fashioning your business or making a pitch to potential investors, McLeod explained.

if you’ve got 25 to 35 years, go ahead and start a company based on new technology. But most people don’t.” Once students settle on their product and marketing strategy, they must complete and present a business plan to a team of judges who are positioned as potential investors. The approach is considered bioengineering, McCleod said, because it challenges students to do exactly what nature does to create new, more successful life forms: “Use what’s already out there.” Students in last year’s first graduating class said the research project changed their worldview and gave them a new sense of possibility in their lives, more so than any of their traditional studies. “In a practical way, we’ve been taught a language to be able to talk to all the different disciplines,” said Michael Brown, who graduated last May with a double major in bioengineering and philosophy. “We’ve done research, we can read the research, we can interpret it, we can digest it, we can present it.” Giya Abraham, who landed a teaching job even before graduation last May, agreed. She can’t imagine not pursuing her newfound interests in entrepreneurship and business after being introduced to the “magic” during her senior project.

“The idea is, if you’re going to go into business, change the world. Don’t just do something mundane. Even though a start-up is always going to start small, you should have and hold onto the vision that it could be something big.

“With our experience, felt like we could go anywhere,” she said. “That has definitely changed my outlook on my future. It’s really been great. The door just opens in your mind.”

“What I really try to emphasize is that students shouldn’t focus on hightechnology,” McLeod added. “It takes roughly one human generation for a new technology to be incorporated into products that are commonly used. So

It’s a door that Brown and Abraham said they and 25 of their classmates will waste no time walking through, helping to ensure that Binghamton research will keep on bringing the heat into the next decade and beyond.

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“But if it can be shown that the original images were taken by the person’s cell phone or camera, it becomes a much stronger case than if you just have a bunch of digital images that we all know are notoriously easy to manipulate.”

provides the most robust strategy for digital-image forgery detection to date, even as it improves significantly on the accuracy of other approaches.


The digital revolution in research administration

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o r F

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ap p m

h g i e erw

o t t


s l e x i p

If five or 10 years have passed since an emeritus faculty member last submitted a research grant application, he or she probably wouldn’t recognize the process today. Initiated by a move to streamline government during the Clinton administration, and fueled by rapid advances in technology and electronic communications, the way federal-sponsored funding agencies — places such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities — do business with campus research administrators and the faculty they support has changed significantly during the past decade. And the changes at all levels of sponsored research funding and administration just keep coming. Federal mandates, for instance, call for all federal agencies to have transitioned to an all-electronic submission process by summer 2007. All agencies will also need to have their program announcements available for electronic response via a unified and aptly named website, Grants.gov, by then.

“What we tried to do was become part of any type of demo group we could,”

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Changes such as these don’t just affect the Washington end of the equation. They also mean that all applications submitted by Binghamton faculty will have to be prepared and submitted electronically, an eventuality for which Binghamton University’s Office of Research Development Services (RDS) has been preparing for years.


“Success tends to ease even the scariest of transitions.” — Lisa Gilroy said Lisa Gilroy, director of Research Development Services. “That allowed us to get a head start so we knew the ins and outs, and the quirks in the system. That way, when we worked with our faculty, we knew what to expect.”

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This year, to make the transition even smoother, Binghamton University is adopting, in cooperation with the other three university centers in the State University of New York system, a system known as Coeus. Developed at MIT and named after the Greek Titan Coeus, god of intelligence and deep, searching questions, the system allows for total online proposal management. “Say we’re submitting to the NIH,” Gilroy said. “We go in and tell the system which specific program announcement we’re submitting to. Then it will collect and deliver to us all the necessary forms and information related to that announcement. On their end, faculty can forward things to us, and we can go online and see if their information is complete and ensure that they’ve met the guidelines.” Coeus also facilitates required institutional electronic reviews, including those by department chairs and deans. Until just

30

months ago, that part of the application process still required walking proposals around campus to obtain administrative reviews and signatures, Gilroy added. Though Gilroy’s office has gone by several different names since she began working at Binghamton as a grant and contract administrator in 1988, the mission of Research Development Services has remained essentially the same throughout the years. The role of the office is to help faculty identify funding opportunities; assist with proposal preparation, review, negotiate and accept awards; and assist with award administration. Statistics suggest it’s a role the office performs well. Sponsored research funding applications have increased from $40 million in 1996 to slightly more than $110 million last fiscal year. In that same time, awards also more than doubled — from $16 million to $34 million. Meanwhile, in the post-9/11 era, compliance issues have grown increasingly complex and challenging, and Binghamton has seen a burgeoning of multidisciplinary and multi-institutional proposals, which by their nature are more demanding to prepare than single-investigator applications. But because


of the expertise embodied in its staff, and supported by advances in research administration practices and new technologies, the size of the Research Development Services staff has remained essentially unchanged during the past decade, Gilroy said, managing more than double the results with the same number of people. Last January, along with much of the Division of Research, RDS moved to the Innovative Technologies Complex, a shift that significantly enhanced the physical size of the office, as well as the space it now affords faculty working on grant proposals. “I can remember on more than a few occasions before we moved having faculty camp out at our desks to work on their proposals with us on deadline,” Gilroy said. “We were already doubled up or in very small offices as it was, but we had nowhere else for faculty to work.”

Last January, along with much of the Division of Research, RDS moved to the Innovative Technologies Complex, a shift that significantly enhanced the physical size of the office, as well as the space it now affords faculty working on grant proposals.

Now Research Development Services includes a private office for every grant and contract administrator and a comfortable faculty resource room, complete with six PCs and one Mac workstation.

And then with perfect comedic timing, Gilroy delivers the punch line.

Looking back, had the only goal of President Clinton’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government — the 1993 program that set in motion many of the changes in research administration — been to cut back on paperwork to avoid cutting down trees, the program would still have to be rated a huge success, Gilroy said.

Even that, it turns out, was likely a cakewalk compared to the preparation of a National Endowment for the Humanities application.

She remembers well the challenges she and her colleagues faced 10 years ago.

But that wasn’t the tough part, Gilroy said.

“While the application for some agencies, such as the NEH, might not have been that long, they wanted appendices of every faculty publication,” Gilroy said. “So some of our very successful, prominent faculty would give us publications in stacks maybe 2 or 3 feet high. “And we had to send two or three copies of those as well.” It has been said that most humor has its roots in the truth, so it’s no surprise that in 1996 Gilroy and her colleagues often joked that the defining moment of a great day in the office was finding a good, sturdy copy-paper box that had been left for recycling by someone in a neighboring office.

“Let’s take an NSF application for example,” she said. “A basic NSF would allow you 25 pages of project narrative, plus the forms. So you were looking at a good half-inch stack of paper when the documents were compiled.”

Still, Gilroy also recalls feeling wary about electronic research administration when talk of it first started up.

So “big deal,” you might be thinking. “A half-inch?”

“Success tends to ease even the scariest of transitions.”

“Oh, how times — and attitudes — do change,” she now says.

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“Back in 1996, the electronic age hadn’t quite hit us yet, so we spent a lot of our time preparing all these paper grant applications for faculty,” she said. “Many of the forms from sponsoring agencies were provided to us in packets or booklets, where we had to rip out the form and throw it in the typewriter to complete.”

“They required us to send anywhere from 22 to 30 copies.”


New hope for a high-tech harvest FACULTY START-UPS AND SPIN-OFFS FIND SAFE HAVEN IN ITC PRE-INCUBATOR

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Seeds of economic diversity, vitality and growth are germinating on the second floor of Binghamton University’s biotechnology research building at the Innovative Tech- There, administered by the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation nologies Complex. Partnerships, the University’s new

“IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU FAIL . . . ALL THAT MATTERS IN BUSINESS IS THAT YOU GET IT RIGHT ONCE. THEN EVERYONE CAN TELL YOU HOW LUCKY YOU ARE.” — Mark Cuban

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Start-Up Suite is filling up with nascent companies, rooted in the invention and industry of faculty and graduate student researchers, and working to commercialize discoveries in the life sciences and enabling technologies.

“I think it’s astonishing that at the end of the last fiscal year [2005-06], the University had seen the start-up and continued operation of seven companies that depend on technology that was generated here,” said Eugene Krentsel, director of technology transfer and innovation partnerships. “For a school this size, this is amazing.”


“WE HOPE THESE

Not all of the University’s spin-off companies, the ranks of which had expanded to nine at the time this article was written, are located in the Start-Up Suite in the life-sciences research building at the ITC. Only companies with a direct relationship to life-sciences research are eligible to be considered for space in the new facility. And while not all University spin-offs are still located in the Southern Tier, a majority of them are, which is good news from a regional economic development perspective. “We hope these companies grow to the point where they will be launched into the community and hire people,” Krentsel said. “That would be wonderful.” But beyond the regional economic potential, there are other important benefits to be gained as a result of the University’s commitment to provide bright minds with outlets beyond the bounds of academe, Krentsel explained. “Part of the benefit is economic development, but the Start-Up Suite also gives us an opportunity to provide certain outlets to a particular type of faculty member we are trying to retain and attract.

More than a few new faculty members specifically inquired about or requested access to facilities such as those the Start-Up Suite provides before deciding to come to the University. Its existence

— Eugene Krentsel

can also be expected to be a key factor in making Binghamton more competitive in future faculty recruitment efforts. “We’re talking about people who are academic stars — people we want to recruit, people everyone wants to recruit,” Krentsel said. “And this is something we can offer to them that some other schools probably can’t or won’t.” The Start-Up Suite, which provides lowcost space and business support services to approved, spin-off enterprises, can house up to eight new companies at a time. Already the suite is close to halffull with companies hoping to capitalize on bioengineering, chemistry and nanotechnology research done at the University. As Start-Up Suite residents, in addition to their designated office space, companies have access to a conference room, a workroom replete with all new office equipment (high-speed copier and color printer, scanner, fax machine, fridge, microwave, coffee machine, etc.) and a receptionist. NSC Technology, one of the first occupants of the Start-Up Suite, focuses on the development of materials for chemical and biological sensors and fuel-cell catalysts. These are an off-shoot of C. J. Zhong’s research. The company’s CEO is Zhong’s former post-doctoral student, Jin Luo.

“This is an exciting new adventure, and many things are not yet immediately clear,” said C.J. Zhong, associate professor of chemistry, and the chief academic consultant and adviser to NSC Technology.

What is absolutely clear, Zhong said, is that faculty, students, the University and businesses will benefit from the creation of the Start-Up Suite. “NSC Technology develops enabling sciences and technologies that start out in our research labs and aim at commercial products for applications in energy, biomedical devices, environment and human health,” he said. “The Start-Up Suite provides an important vehicle to facilitate this important stage of transition. The company benefits from having the office and conference rooms for its scientists and engineers to effectively interact with faculty and student researchers in R&D, and to interact with public or private agencies or companies of interest in regard to financial and commercial management. “The University benefits from the technology transfer and the further advancement of research, both on campus and as part of its industrial partnerships.” In the competitive global marketplace, just as in the laboratory, luck will always play a crucial role and no venture will ever be risk free. But by providing faculty with the opportunity to try their hands at business, while their feet remain planted in the relative safety of their established careers as academics, Krentsel said the University intends to improve the odds that cutting-edge research will find its way more quickly into the marketplace and people’s lives.

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“Some researchers want not only to make an impact within academia, but also hope to change the world far beyond the bounds of the campus by seeing their work translated into the creation of new, marketable products, technologies or services — or by positioning their graduate students to do so,” Krentsel said. “This is a terrific opportunity for those faculty,” he added.

COMPANIES GROW TO THE POINT WHERE THEY WILL BE LAUNCHED INTO THE COMMUNITY AND HIRE PEOPLE.”


“FLEXING” ITS RESEARCH

MUSCLES BINGHAMTON TAKES A NEW APPROACH TO LAB DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT

Working in a dark, dank, cavernous laboratory, with only the aid of a fortuitous lightning strike and his faithful assistant Igor, Dr. Frankenstein, one of popular culture’s most fabled fictional researchers, supposedly discovered the very secret of life. Modern life-science researchers are tackling challenges of near equal complexity, but that’s where the similarity ends. Today’s biomedical, biotechnology and bioengineering researchers are helping to improve quality of life, enhance health care, ensure homeland security and enable exploration of the universe, and the interlocking supports that help to advance their research bear no resemblance to cinematic stereotypes of old.

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Which is why Binghamton University researchers and administrators are so excited about the addition of 37,000 square feet of new state-of-the-art laboratory space at the Innovative Technologies Complex, said Stephen Gilje, associate vice president for research. The new facilities comprise 30,000 square feet of core facilities and flexible laboratory space, as well as two new bioengineering teaching labs, and a 7,000-square-foot clinical science and engineering research facility in the life-sciences research building. Core facilities house common pieces of equipment, including autoclaves, tissue-culture equipment and a highpowered computer lab. Flexible laboratories are designed with as much of the infrastructure as possible — plumbing, electricity and HVAC — in the ceilings, and are furnished with lab benches that can be readily moved with a motorized hand-truck. This new approach to design and management of laboratory space allows the University to quickly respond to the expansion

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and contraction of particular research programs, and permits individual researchers or groups of researchers to add or remove equipment or change the laboratory configuration in a matter of days rather than months, Gilje said. “This is just what we needed when we needed it,” he added. The University, which hopes to double its research activity over the next five years, last year saw a 24 percent increase in sponsored research activity, despite a dearth of laboratory space and a flat federal funding profile for research.

“WORKING IN SUCH SPACE NOT ONLY BETTER ENSURES FACULTY SUCCESS IN ATTRACTING SPONSORED FUNDING BUT ENHANCES THE ACADEMIC CREDIBILITY OF THEIR WORK.” — Stephen Gilje


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“AS A RESEARCHER, THE GREATEST BENEFIT TO ME OF “Our group is working The new facilities for biomedicine, bioengiTHESE NEW FACILITIES IS THE with industrial sponsors to neering and biotechnolutilize flexible substrates for ogy research officially POTENTIAL FOR COLLABORATION fabrication of new sensors opened in October 2006, and devices,” she said. “Our with the completion of THAT THEY AFFORD. IT’S A VERY activities rely on the need to the first biomedical and interact directly or indirectly POWERFUL TOOL TO HAVE.” with other ITC occupants, biotechnology research suite. Laboratories in the such as the Center of — Gerald Sonnenfeld facility are equipped with Excellence, and incubator many pieces of cuttingcompanies with interests edge equipment and in commercialization. This modern laboratory benches and are designed with flexibility could foster innovation in the area of sensors and environmental and collaboration in mind, Gilje said. They are also helping monitoring, and help translate sensor research into finished the University to recruit bright young faculty and graduate products.” students — and that can only help to advance the University’s research initiatives, he added. Modern research programs also demand ready access to highend computers and assay equipment, and the availability of To optimize their chances for success in today’s competitive restate-of-the-art, environmentally controlled, vibration-free search climate, junior and senior life-science researchers alike laboratory space — space that can be quickly adapted to the need a number of other supports that the ITC labs will provide. new directions and priorities that regularly spin off from the Perhaps first among them are opportunities to engage in crossdiscovery of new knowledge. Working in such space not only and multidisciplinary collaborations, said Gerald Sonnenfeld, better ensures faculty success in attracting sponsored funding vice president for research. but enhances the academic credibility of their work, Gilje said. Sonnenfeld ought to know. He is an eminent immunologist whose research into the effects of stress on the immune system has multiple sponsors, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He is engaged in collaborative projects with colleagues at home and abroad, including a recent collaboration with Dr. Karen Burg of Clemson University, with whom Sonnenfeld is trying to develop, through tissue engineering, lymphoid tissue that will allow testing of new vaccines even before they are used on animals or humans.

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In a world where advances in technology and knowledge are blurring the lines and leading to an enmeshment of major scientific disciplines, collaboration is critical to researchers who want to stay at the leading edge of inquiry, Sonnenfeld said. “Science has progressed and changed so that now research techniques that apply to one area are often useful across the board. That means today, if I want to be a good immunologist, I have to know about proteomics, genomics, bioengineering, chemistry and physics, where 20 years ago I didn’t have to know much about these things,” he said. “As a researcher, the greatest benefit to me of these new facilities is the potential for collaboration that they afford. It’s a very powerful tool to have.” Omowunmi Sadik, professor of bioanalytical, materials and environmental chemistry, and director of the Center for Advanced Sensors and Environmental Systems, agrees.

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The new ITC labs offer all of the above, and do so in a building where involved faculty also find ready access to technology transfer services designed to help them protect and/or commercialize the intellectual property they develop; translational research support that can help them explore business opportunities; and a Start-Up Suite that facilitates pre-incubation of new companies arising out of faculty research. Any faculty whose work is externally funded, related to biomedicine or biotechnology and potentially marketable within five years through the development of new products or processes is eligible to apply for lab space at the ITC. What’s more, faculty with other science and engineering research interests can anticipate access to similar facilities in the not-so-distant future, Gilje noted. “I’m very excited at the prospect that this building is not the end, that we will also be developing another building comparable to this for science and engineering,” he said. “Hopefully it will be modeled on this successful building and will just add another layer of expansion onto our programs.” The University received $6 million in state funding to design the proposed science and engineering building, and last year was tapped to receive an additional $60 million to construct it at the 21-acre Innovative Technologies Complex. Construction is expected to begin in 2007 and to be completed by 2011.


The Clinical Science and Engineering Research Center (CSERC) When senior researcher Kenneth McLeod was recruited to Binghamton in 2002 to start a new bioengineering department, he faced an enormous challenge: no laboratories and very little office space. All that changed with the opening of the Innovative Technologies Complex, where bioengineering has found a home, replete with modern offices and thousands of square feet of laboratory space, including a new Clinical Science and Engineering Research Center. “We’re growing by leaps and bounds now,” McLeod said. “When you’re trying to recruit research-active faculty, it’s very different to be able to show somebody an actual lab and an office rather than to have to say, ‘Someday in that building we’re going to have those things.’” The bioengineering department, which graduated its first class last year, now has 16 faculty on its roster. Joined by four colleagues from the Decker School of Nursing — Sarah Gueldner, Geraldine Britton, Carolyn Pierce and Debra Bohunicky — they are tackling a host of research challenges, not just in laboratories, but also in the Clinical Science and Engineering Research Center.

(SELDI-TOF) mass-spectroscopy technology. Other areas being addressed in the clinic include smoking cessation, diabetes, edema, osteoporosis and two large-muscle studies, one looking at the musculature of the lower leg to develop new fibromiography techniques, and another, working in collaboration with a group of physical therapists, to accomplish proof of concept on an easy, quantitative measure of muscle force. “Given that we only opened in February or March of 2006, the center really ramped up nicely,” McLeod said. Though he and others in his department work with equipment such as atomicforce microscopes and measuring devices that require vibration-free space, McLeod said the new ITC facilities afford something even more valuable. “For what I do, I’m a pretty simple engineer-type person, and space is space,” he said. “To me, state-ofthe-art space means there are really good people there to collaborate with.” That being the case, the research facilities at the ITC are clearly state of the art, he added.

Laramee’s research focuses on the identification of biomarkers for human diseases such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) using high-technology approaches. Specifically, he works with surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight

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“My experience in the clinic has been fantastic,” said Craig Laramee, research assistant professor. “The facilities in the CSERC have allowed me to quickly set up and investigate new protocols for my research, without wasting time searching for space or equipment. Beyond optimizing our use of resources, the clinic has also helped to foster a collaborative environment, which I think is essential as we are increasingly challenged by complex diseases.”


CENTER OF EXCELLENCE

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INSTITUTE OF MATERIALS RESEARCH (IMR)

CENTER FOR ADVANCED SENSORS AND ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS (CASE)

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CENTER FOR ADVANCED MICROELECTRONICS MANUFACTURING (CAMM)

THE INTEGRATED ELECTRONICS ENGINEERING CENTER (IEEC)


Taproot of excellence BINGHAMTON PLUGS INTO INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH GRID AS SMALL-SCALE ELECTRONICS POWERHOUSE

Excellence. With origins dating back to 1350 and its Latin root cellere, meaning to rise high, excellence is defined as the fact or state of excelling; superiority; eminence. It’s lofty language. But with the official naming of Binghamton University’s Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging program as a New York state Center of Excellence (COE), the region can expect to see a lot more than idle talk, according to several of the COE’s industry partners.

Endicott Interconnect Technologies played a key supporting role in the founding of the Small Scale Systems and Integration Packaging Center, and the technology-based company is confident it will see a significant return on the investment of time, manpower and space that has gone into its partnership with the University, said Mark D. Poliks, senior advisory technologist and director of research, development and intellectual property for the company.

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From its impact on research and development in next-generation electronics, which is likely to lead to totally new products and processes, to its role as a magnet for student and faculty recruitment, creating a significant brain trust in the region, the COE won’t just be a nice addition, they said, but will help to make Binghamton a vital nerve center in the technology race.


“EI’s relationship with the Center of Excellence brings new capability and plans for developing new technologies that may be used to unlock new markets and business opportunities. It gives us the ability to attract a talented workforce because it offers highly technical, leading-edge work that translates into good paying jobs,” Poliks said. “Developing essential process technologies and manufacturing know-how so that components can be produced more efficiently, at higher yields and at a lower cost, makes us more competitive in the marketplace.” The COE is dedicated to the creation and development of new electronic applications that will enhance the way people live and interact with their surroundings, said its director, Bahgat Sammakia. As such, it will also serve as a center of economic acceleration, speeding the translation of technology into commercial applications, he said.

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“Infrastructure is half the battle in terms of both federal and industrial funding, so having unique capabilities that complement your research is extremely important,” Sammakia said.“There’s nothing I can think of that’s more important. “You can have the most talented faculty in the world but if they can’t build anything, it would be very hard for them to compete. Research today requires big labs and multidisciplinary teams working in these big labs and doing very challenging things that are really at the cutting edge. You can’t do the same thing in an office using a computer.”

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Located in the biotechnology research building at Binghamton’s 21-acre Innovative Technologies Complex, the center brings together partners from government, industry and academia, providing unique opportunities for collaborative projects. Those projects will advance the frontiers of microelectronics research and development by addressing challenges in small-scale systems design, development, prototyping, process development and manufacturing for the microelectronics industry, Sammakia said. That means work at the COE will likely find its way into applications in medical diagnostics and treatment, defense and homeland security, flexible displays and electronics, computers and telecommunications and a broad range of new or improved consumer products. “This lab is really exciting because it serves our research, it serves our companies, it will enhance economic development and activity in the region, it provides expanded educational opportunities for the student, especially for graduate students, and again, it’s a one-of-a kind lab. There’s nothing like it in this area,” Sammakia explained. In about 8,000 square feet of laboratory space, filled with $21 million in state-of-the-art analysis equipment, the COE coalesces and builds upon the intellectual resources of several of Binghamton University’s organized research centers, including

Bahgat Sammakia


“The Center of Excellence is dedicated to the creation and development of new electronic applications that will enhance the way people live and interact with their surroundings.” — Bahgat Sammakia

the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC). Internationally renowned for its research in electronics packaging, the IEEC, a New York state Center of Advanced Technology, has a history of advancing basic research and working with companies to respond to trends within the electronics industry.

Roll-to-roll material

Binghamton’s newly developed Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM), a national roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacturing research and development center, will also be engaged with and embraced by the COE. The CAMM is dedicated to demonstrating the feasibility of R2R electronics manufacturing by acquiring prototype tools and establishing processes capable of producing low-volume, testbed products. That augments the analytical lab of the COE by providing manufacturing capability.

“I would anticipate that by the middle or end of this year the lab will be a hub of activity. There should be all kinds of

Sandeep Tonapi, advanced process engineering manager at GE, another of the center’s partnering industries, agrees with Sammakia’s assessment. “We expect the COE to significantly add to the physical and intellectual infrastructure at Binghamton, which in turn will enable a broad spectrum of industrial partnerships,” Tonapi said. “This will be at the heart of New York state growth in high technology and emerging technology areas.” First-rate facilities and equipment and a critical mass of researchers all combine to position the COE to begin changing the face of the electronics industry within the next decade. And closer to home, the existence of such resources promises to enhance the vitality of the regional economy by positioning companies to be more competitive in a keenly contested international marketplace. “Without these things you really can’t get anywhere in today’s technology, especially in small-scale systems,” Sammakia said. “You really need very difficult analysis done to understand why things are working or not working and how to correct or optimize the design. “When you think about what we’re building, it will really enable the existence of small and mid-sized companies in this region, companies that are unable to afford this type of infrastructure and would otherwise either run into trouble

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Binghamton University / BINGHAMTON RESEARCH / 2006-07

“The COE demands that we excel at different levels,” Sammakia said. “It’s not enough anymore to just be a very strong advocate of industry, working very closely with them in solving their problems and even doing the research for them. We will, of course, continue to do that, but I really think we have to be ‘the best’ at research in this field, moving from responding to industry trends to leading the trends, defining the trends.

scientists and engineers from higher education and industry working side by side.”


First-rate facilities and equipment and a critical mass of researchers all combine to position the COE to begin changing the face of the electronics industry within the next decade.

or have to relocate or go and do all their work out of the region.” The COE laboratory was established under a business model so that its operations would be to a large degree self-supporting. All the costs in the lab will be driven and covered by the research conducted there, and industries and sponsored researchers will pay set fees for access to the lab. Primarily, the lab affords University and industry researchers unprecedented access to analytical equipment, including two transmission electron microscopes that permit investigation and examination at near atomic-scale, down to a few nanometers.

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“Binghamton was uniquely positioned with a foundation upon which something like this could be built,” Sammakia said. “We had a lot of it, and we were missing some additional, very expensive and very difficult tools to get. By getting them, we’re really completing our analytical capability.” The impact of the COE is already being felt as it brings together companies that were previously affiliated only with the IEEC or the CAMM. These new business-to-business relationships are likely to create the kind of dynamic energy that readily translates into local prosperity, Sammakia said.

Corning, said establishing the Center of Excellence at Binghamton will add to the prestige of the University, attracting even higher-quality students and faculty. “Competitive edge in industry is built upon a good college and/or graduate education,” Giroux said.“Without a solid foundation in fundamental physical and chemical principles, it’s just impossible to win any technology race.” Recruiting faculty to the COE research team is critical to the center’s success, Sammakia agreed. Some of that can and will be done among existing faculty, he said. “People like faculty in materials science, sensors, engineering, computer science, all of those are a natural fit,” he said. “And if we really think carefully, we should be able to find ties to people in psychology, and even ties to people in art and history. If you think, for instance, about work on abating terrorism, it’s not just about hardwired sensors. There are all sorts of psychological, historical and cultural considerations to factor into that kind of project.” Innovative Technologies Complex

“And we’re absolutely hoping that cause of the COE, we’ll establish kind of relationships that result in local companies suddenly getting tional attention,” he added.

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bethe our na-

Especially in regard to external faculty recruitment efforts, the COE improves the odds that Binghamton will attract top-notch candidates, Sammakia said.

Cynthia Giroux, technology director in thin films and surfaces research at

“This puts us in a position that, when we are hiring faculty, they look at us and say, ‘This University has the same kind


of equipment that I would get access to in a major university like Stanford or Cornell,’” Sammakia said. “And so we’re already able to attract very talented world-class faculty who are joining us because they know they’ll not only have access to these tools, but actually more ready access, because on a campus of our size, they’ll experience less competition for lab time.” Ultimately, the most likely effects of the COE will be accelerating the move of technology from the lab to the marketplace and then also supporting technol-

ogy in the marketplace in a way that makes it more commercially viable. “It’s wonderful to ship things quickly,” Sammakia said, “but when they fail, you can’t get around the fact that you have to understand why, and that understanding will be enabled by the ITC lab. “People who have ideas and want to build prototypes can come and build them. And, if they want to understand and analyze them, people who have prototypes or products, no matter where they’re building them, can come to us.”

Key Center of Excellence Partners Kodak BAE Systems IBM General Electric Philips Corning Universal Instruments Endicott Interconnect Technologies Lockheed Martin Texas Instruments

Cornell University Army Research Laboratory National Aeronautics and Space Administration Arizona State University Analog Devices

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United States Display Consortium


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Sending slime

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packing

RESEARCHER FINDS KEY TO BIOFILM BREAKUP

David Davies has discovered and is synthesizing a molecule that could help put one of the most virulent “terrorist cells” in all of nature out of business. Biofilms are complex aggregations of bacteria marked by the excretion of a protective and adhesive matrix, which is why these bacterial colonies are commonly referred to as slime.

— David Davies

The small molecule Davies is working with appears to be one of the few known examples anywhere in nature of a communication signal that remains effective across species, family and phyla. In fact, though the evidence isn’t yet in on that, Davies predicts the compound may also prove to have communicative effect even across bacterial kingdoms. “I consider this the Holy Grail of research in biofilms,” he said. “It’s a new paradigm in the way we look at how bacteria regulate their behavior.” Davies’ prominence in his field was already secured when he showed in the

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“I CONSIDER THIS THE HOLY GRAIL OF RESEARCH IN BIOFILMS. IT’S A NEW PARADIGM IN THE WAY WE LOOK AT HOW BACTERIA REGULATE THEIR BEHAVIOR.”

Davies, an associate professor of biology at Binghamton University, has isolated a compound that will cause biofilm colonies to disperse, thus leaving individual bacteria up to 1,000 times more susceptible to disinfectants, antibiotics and immune functions, will likely mean a sea change in health care, manufacturing, shipping and pharmaceutics over the coming years. It will most certainly drive worldwide biofilm research in new directions.


JUST LIKE SUPER VILLAINS UNABLE TO CONTROL THEIR NEFARIOUS URGES, BIOFILMS ARE MORE OFTEN THAN NOT UP TO NO GOOD FROM A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE.

late 1990s that bacteria “talk to one another” through cellto-cell communication and that such signaling is key to biofilm formation. Davies discovered the molecular medium of that communication in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a biofilm-forming microorganism that is arguably the most common organism on the planet.

Since that time, building on Davies’ work, others in the field have characterized two other molecular signals, or autoinducers, that are key to various phases of bacterial development cycles either within a particular bacterial species or across species. The dispersion autoinducer Davies is now investigating has shown itself to be effective in dispersing biofilms containing Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus mutans (strep), Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (staph) whether those bacteria exist in a pure or mixedculture biofilm.

Binghamton University / BINGHAMTON RESEARCH / 2006-07

“We’ve also tested it on undefined mixed cultures that we just got from the air and the water in the lab, and it worked on that, too,” he said. The dispersion-inducing molecule provokes genetic and physiological changes in the biofilm bacteria, causing them to disperse and return to a planktonic state. In lay terms, Davies has discovered at the very least how to tell four of the most problematic organisms around to pack up and get out of Dodge. And in so doing, the bacteria become easier to kill than the average mosquito. “There have been a lot of people working on finding a dispersion autoinducer, and it’s been a very tricky thing to nail down,” Davies said of his most recent breakthrough. “But we now have a way of isolating and purifying the compound, and we should soon be able to synthesize it so we can make it in higher concentrations.”

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Ask any bacteria. There is strength — not to mention mischief and worse — to be found in community. And Davies’ discovery of the naturally occurring molecule that signals them to forsake the security of a biofilm and disperse is decidedly bad news for them. That’s because, although when traveling alone in planktonic form they are of small consequence and generally easy to manage even with antibacterial hand soaps, when they form biofilms, bacteria seem to gain super powers. And just like super villains unable to control their nefarious urges, biofilms are more often than not up to no good from a human perspective. Biofilms develop almost anywhere that water and solids, or solids and gases, meet, which means they are virtually everywhere. They are formed when individual microorganisms embed themselves in a gelatinous structure of their own making, so in human terms the characteristic “slime” of biofilms, which comprises organic polymers that can grow to several centimeters thick and cover large areas, spells all kinds of big trouble. Biofilms, for instance, fog your contacts, help to rot your teeth and cause or complicate outcomes in a host of diseases from ear infections and ulcers to colitis and cystic fibrosis. They are a leading cause of hospital infections and nonhealing wounds, and were even at the root last summer of corrosion that forced the replacement of 16 miles of the Alaska pipeline. As a result of that incident, 400,000 barrels a day of production from the largest oil field in the United States was suspended. The indefinite shutdown, at a cost equal to 8 percent of U.S. petroleum output, led to immediate increases in the price of crude oil, and drove up fuel oil and gasoline prices. The annual worldwide costs of biofilm infection and remediation are in the high billions of dollars, even according to the most modest estimates, and they are costs borne by industries and consumers alike.


Name a manufacturing process and biofilms are probably a serious and costly issue. They have even been discovered in pipes at factories producing prepadine, the anti-bacterial, iodine-based solution that doctors swab on patients to “prep” them for surgery. Biofilms’ resilience and unusual resistance to remediation stem from a combination of mechanisms, including such things as restricted transport of antibiotics through the biofilm, reduced metabolic activity of biofilm bacteria and such physiological resistance mechanisms as the use of membrane pumps to remove antibiotics from inside the cell, Davies said.

“I think this dispersion molecule is just something naturally produced with growth. And the idea is that the flowing liquid will wash out the dispersion-inducer molecule, so the faster the flow rate, the less the inducer molecule builds up in the biofilm, and the biofilm gets bigger and bigger and bigger,” he says. “So, in fact, if you have a batch system, like in a flask, the inducer molecule can’t get washed away. Instead it builds up so much that you can’t grow any biofilm at all.” Davies feels certain his discovery will dramatically change the way infections are treated.

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But even in “I think people nature, biofilms will start inducwill disperse ing dispersion when environto disaggregate mental condibiofilms and, tions become then, treat adverse. If them concursources of nurently, and IN HUMAN TERMS THE trition run low with signifior waste prodcantly greater CHARACTERISTIC “SLIME” OF ucts build up, efficacy, with bacteria within antibiotics.” BIOFILMS…SPELLS ALL KINDS a biofilm comOF BIG TROUBLE. munity “save” He envisions themselves his discovery by breaking first making its free of the bad way to market situation, turning on some genes and turning off as a topical treatment for cuts, lacerations and others, and returning to a planktonic state. minor burns, perhaps even as an additive in adhesive bandages. By homing in on the regulatory device that he thinks leads to their natural dispersion, But his major interest, and something he hopes Davies not only seems to have found the key to turn his attention toward in earnest in the to inducing biofilm dispersion at will, but might coming year, is the area of non-healing wounds. also have solved one of the older mysteries in Davies watched his diabetic great-aunt lose both microbiology. of her feet to amputation after bacterial biofilm infections set in. Biofilms will not grow in a flask — no matter how many bacteria you put there. They require a “If we can treat those kinds of wounds and flowing system — water, tears, saliva, a pipeline, clear up the infection, they will heal. We etc. — and nutrients. But against all intuition and know that from wound debridement studies,” previous thinking, turning up the flow in a pipe he said. “I really think we can make a difference or stream doesn’t shear off or break up biofilms. It with these people, and if that was the only only produces more robust biofilms. And Davies thing we did, it would be worth everything now thinks he knows why. we’re doing.”


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Rising tide of losses signals need for changing land use in vulnerable areas

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With meteorologists forecasting an extended, decade-long period of more and bigger tropical storms and hurricanes, a Binghamton researcher hopes to help coastal regions better withstand devastating winds and flooding by shaking up established thinking about building practices and land use.

From Montz’s perspective, life and property might be better protected if more thought was given to the steps taken in the weeks, months and years before a storm makes landfall in a region.

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Burrell Montz, professor of geography and environmental studies and graduate director of the Geography Department, focuses on the social, political and economic factors that shape land-use decisions, both before and after natural disasters. She concurs with Max Mayfield, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Tropical Prediction Center at the National Hurricane Center, who has said, “Preparedness remains essential. The most accurate forecasts are only beneficial when people react by taking the necessary steps to save their lives and property.”


“The question,” she said, “is who makes the decisions and who influences them? We want to keep people from making bad decisions because of a lack of information. We want them to go in with their eyes open.” On average, a north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, six of which would likely become hurricanes, two of them major. In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season — with a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes — blew by those averages without a backward glance. Seven of that season’s hurricanes were considered major, and a record four, including Katrina, hit the United States. And we cannot forget those affected in previous years.

Manufactured homes are increasingly popular with snowbirds and retiring baby boomers throughout the South, and are particularly popular in Florida, where they represent about 12 percent of all homes. In the region where Katrina wreaked the most damage — parts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas — between 6.9 and 15.8 percent of homes were manufactured homes, the Census Bureau reported. Montz and one of her students, Matt Zayatz ’06, examined what happened to manufactured homes in Charlotte County when Hurricane Charley pummeled Florida in 2004. They found not only that the bigger, newer homes didn’t always fare better, but that even their orientation on lots — whether they faced into, away from or in the direction of prevailing winds — made no real difference.

This was no fluke, according to the NOAA, which warns that more and stronger storms, along with greater chances of landfalls, are Montz doesn’t expect people to simply the hallmark stop living along the coast. After all, of a naturally those areas are some of the most beautioccurring cycle ful places in the country. But because her of increased findings seem clear, she wants people hurricane acwho live in areas at risk for major wind tivity that has damage or flooding to understand the been unfolding dangers and have plans for evacuation in the Atlantic and recovery; simply making homes “We want to keep since 1995. bigger won’t necessarily make them less Caused by the vulnerable. people from making bad interaction of decisions because of a atmospheric Even in homes far from the coast, people and oceanic are at risk if they live in hurricane alleys, lack of information.” conditions, inMontz said. “Many hurricanes are more cluding warm of a wind event,” she said, “so storm — Burrell Montz ocean waters, surge isn’t what’s causing the damage.” low wind shear and the pattern All of which points to a need for of easterly winds coming off the west coast of Africa, such cycles emergency managers, as well as homeowners, contractors and typically last 20 to 30 years or longer. At best, the current cycle legislators who create building codes, to reconsider accepted is only about halfway through. In the face of unprecedented approaches to risk management. coastal population growth, this is a recipe for disaster, particularly with so little understanding of things such as what makes Montz’s work has important implications for U.S. taxpayers. for a safe residence. Florida counties alone received about $3.3 billion in federal JONATHAN COHEN/THE NEW YORK TIMES

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Conventional wisdom — and even Florida building code, for instance — holds that larger, more modern manufactured homes are safer than smaller, older ones. But Montz, who has studied flooding in and beyond the U.S. for nearly three decades, says recent research, based on computer mapping and statistical analysis of 500 manufactured homes in four Charlotte County, Fla., mobile-home parks, calls that assumption into question.

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disaster aid during the 2004 hurricane season. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency distributed nearly $6 billion in aid to individuals and families affected by the storm’s fury.

“The officials involved need to understand the rebuilding process and have better, more equitable rules,” she said, “so that the most vulnerable populations don’t get put in the most vulnerable areas by default.”

If there is an upside to a major storm like Katrina, it is the attention it has brought to the issues of land use in disasterprone areas, Montz said. She incorporated the storm and its aftermath into her classroom discussions. But she finds the politics surrounding recovery efforts in New Orleans distracting. Many Americans seem to believe that the racial and economic inequities Katrina revealed are unique to New Orleans, but that’s just not the case, she said.

Montz traces her interest in hurricanes back to the experience her family went through in the wake of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Their home, like thousands of others in northeast Pennsylvania, was flooded when the Susquehanna River spilled over its banks. A summer was lost to cleanup efforts, and Montz has not forgotten how much worse many of her family’s neighbors fared.

A concern for lower-income, less-informed coastal residents drives her interest in the development of public policy that can better protect them and their homes. That may require adapting and revising building codes. But it might also involve such things as getting TV meteorologists to use more accessible or direct language to relay the threat as storms barrel toward the coast. It might also involve educating community leaders to value good sense over die-hard stoicism or ill-advised neighborhood loyalty.

Today, technology such as geographic information systems (GIS) and even Google Earth helps Montz and other researchers in her field document changing land use. But the technology can’t yet provide a human context for those changes.

Essentially, Montz would like to see less bravado and more focus on what she calls “rebuilding with intelligence.” That would mean acknowledging that parts of New Orleans are so prone to flooding that they should not be rebuilt.

One thing about the study is already certain: The need to better understand how people perceive and respond to hurricanes and related natural disasters isn’t likely to blow over any time soon.

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“The Weather Service keeps saying, ‘If we can give people more warning, they’ll have more time to react.’ But not if they’re not going to react in the first place,” Montz said. “People are getting more and more weather information. But they don’t understand it any better.”

Montz now wants to look for new methods to help predict how, when and why people decide whether to return to their homes after a natural disaster. She’s working with a Binghamton systems scientist, Associate Professor Sarah Lam, as well as geographers Graham Tobin of the University of South Florida and Brent Yarnal of Penn State University and anthropologist Linda Whiteford of the University of South Florida to build a decision model that reflects the dynamics of post-disaster decision making. As part of that project, the researchers plan to examine the importance of a social network as well as people’s perceptions of natural hazards and risks.


NURSE URGES HEIGHTENED AWARENESS, PREPARATION

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FOR CALAMITY

WEATHERING

THE STORM 52


Laura Terriquez-Kasey comes by her understanding of disasters the hard way — through working at New York City hospitals, serving in the U.S. Army and reserves, and spending more than six years as a member of a disaster medical assistance team, or DMAT, a specialized group mobilized by the Department of Homeland Security in catastrophic emergencies.

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She has seen houses ripped from their foundations, elderly people evacuated from their homes without their medications and rescue dogs whose feet were burned in the rubble of the World Trade Center.


Laura Terriquez-Kasey

A clinical lecturer at Binghamton University’s Decker School of Nursing with 35 years of nursing experience, Terriquez-Kasey thinks it’s time to raise and respond, at local, regional and national levels, to the same pressing disaster-related questions she routinely poses to her students. “What do we do about it?” “How could this be prevented?” “What can we do better?”

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As she organized the annual disaster drill on Binghamton’s 887-acre campus last spring, Terriquez-Kasey called upon her experience and devised a hauntingly prescient scenario: several weeks of rain would flood Floral Park and Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton. The University’s Events Center would be needed as a shelter for special-needs patients and the elderly. As the drill began, her closing instructions to the team were plain and — as unfolding events would prove — prophetic: “It is critical we plan for such an event as it is perfectly plausible this could occur in this community.” Just weeks later, the drill proved a dress rehearsal, as torrential rains caused a precipitous rise in the Susquehanna, Delaware and Chenango rivers, breaching 500-year floodplains, closing an area hospital, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands and sending nearly 2,000 evacuees from throughout Greater Binghamton to a Red Cross shelter established at the University’s Events Center.

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Several weeks later, as Terriquez-Kasey sat in her office amid books such as Toxic Terror, The New Killer Diseases and Confronting Catastrophe, and reviewed lecture notes punctuated with stark pictures of the disasters she has seen, it was clear that she took no personal satisfaction from being dead-on accurate about the scenario she selected for last May’s disaster drill. But something else was also clear: She knows that if there is a silver lining to be found in the deluge that caused catastrophic flooding of the region, or in events ranging from Hurricane Katrina to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it is in the likelihood that such events will sharpen our focus on disaster management. “We as a nation need to change the way we think about preparation,” she said. “We have that syndrome: ‘It’s not going to happen here.’”

“DISASTERS ARE INEVITABLE, AND WHEN IT COMES TO SURVIVING AND

She added: “I see disaster education as a mission because many lives could be saved if we could better educate people. The community itself has to be educated. I think we need to get our heads out of the sand regarding safety issues. People don’t have a healthy respect for nature — and we should.”

RECOVERING FROM

Never content to just talk the talk, Terriquez-Kasey advocated, even early in her career, for more disaster education for the Army nurse corps, where she ran courses and conferences while in the military. When she worked at Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, N.Y., in the late 1990s, she put together central New York’s first hazardous materials response team. And now, at Binghamton, she continues to expand on and enhance the value of her personal DMAT experiences by sharing them with interested audiences.

MUCH PLANNING.”

That sometimes means presenting information about the disasters she has seen to government and nursing groups. It also often means tying her real-world experiences into the content of the two online graduate-level courses she teaches. One of those courses focuses

THEM, THERE’S LIKELY NO SUCH THING AS TOO

— Laura Terriquez-Kasey


“WE AS A NATION NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT PREPARATION.” — Laura Terriquez-Kasey

on disaster preparation for community and public health nurses; the other on emerging threats, with a focus on such biohazards as flu epidemics and plague. Terriquez-Kasey’s courses draw pre-med students and graduate-level nurses from as far away as the Canadian border and were developed with funding support from the Department of Health and Human Services. Her two existing courses will soon be joined by a third course focusing on chemical and radiation threats. All are a sign of her commitment to trying to raise our communal level of vigilance by educating next-generation healthcare providers to the sweeping scope of large-scale disasters.

“I wanted them to see the other side of the coin,” she said, “not just what the news was giving them.” That insider’s perspective put students in touch, for

The bottom line, from Terriquez-Kasey’s vantage point, is that disaster planning has never been more important. Betterprepared nurses and better-educated community leaders can forge a new path as the nation comes to grips with its vulnerability, both to terrorists and Mother Nature, she said. Her recent experiences led her to believe healthcare workers must pay particular attention to the special needs of geriatric patients following disasters. What she saw after Katrina intensified her concerns. “My concern is, how can we help these patients cope and better prepare?” she said. “We need to have a better plan for them.” Shut-ins, cancer patients and others with chronic diseases should keep on hand a medical history summary, a list of medications and a small supply of extra pills, she said. Those who must rely heavily on the help of friends and relatives should always keep a small suitcase packed and ready to go.

Patients and healthcare providers alike would also be better off if they could acknowledge the important roles of religion and culture in recovering from a disaster, she said. Medical personnel must see how important faith can be to patients recovering from a catastrophic loss, and they need to let patients talk openly about those beliefs. In addition, emergency responders need to feel that they can draw on their own faith to pull through what they see while responding to a catastrophe. They also need to take breaks to drink water and cool off, as well as find ways to share the emotional strain. Members of her DMAT, Terriquez-Kasey notes, usually take 24 hours to decompress after a deployment before returning to their families. They need time to think and talk about what they’ve seen and find ways of reconciling that with their day-to-day lives. “We’re seeing tremendous numbers of patients,” Terriquez-Kasey said. “Psychological support is a major issue for us, just like it is for them.You realize later you’re still reverberating from what you saw, so inundated with things that had happened.” Ultimately, Terriquez-Kasey said, it’s time we all accept and embrace an inescapable reality: Disasters are inevitable, and when it comes to surviving and recovering from them, there’s likely no such thing as too much planning.

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In 2005, for example, Terriquez-Kasey and her 200-member DMAT rotated into the disaster zone in 35-person teams to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest and one of the most dangerous storms in U.S. history. Although far from Binghamton’s campus, she made sure that her students remained engaged in and learned from the events in the stormravaged South. Using a laptop computer, she regularly posted photographs and news articles on the Web, along with journal-style remarks, and assignments that asked the students to think like disaster-management professionals.

instance, with the emotional and ethical tensions experienced by on-site nurses and doctors as they anxiously awaited permission to go into New Orleans and other affected areas, where security issues threatened to turn emergency workers into secondary victims of the chaos.


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HELPING NEIGHBORHOODS

HELP THEMSELVES

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EVOLUTIONIST STRIVES TO UNDERSTAND COMMUNITIES IN A NEW WAY

Now imagine taking the unlikely position that none of that has anything to do with how you and your neighbors view yourselves and the world around you — no impact on the choices you are likely to make, nor any effect on the major outcomes in your life.

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Wherever you live, take a moment and look around. Whether it’s in a gated community, a neighborhood plagued by gang violence, a large urban center where the only broad divides are those between “the haves” and “the have-nots,” or a small, tight-knit rural village where neighbors know each other by name, consider the influence the “environment” within your neighborhood has had on your development and the development of others in your community.


“YOU CAN’T JUST STUDY PEOPLE, YOU HAVE TO STUDY PEOPLE IN THEIR SOCIAL ENVIRONMENTS.” — David Sloan Wilson

That’s exactly what David Sloan Wilson thinks too many social scientists and researchers from across the disciplines have been doing — studiously divorcing their subjects from their social environment and relentlessly focusing on individuals, stripped of their communal context.

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Wilson is a distinguished professor of biological sciences with a joint appointment in anthropology at Binghamton University and founder of EvoS, the University’s unique interdisciplinary Evolutionary Studies program. His latest project, which aims to understand and improve the quality of life in the city of Binghamton on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, will emphasize the value of understanding people in the broader context of their communities. It’s an all-too-obvious point, he says, but one that unfortunately still has to be made. “You can’t just study people, you have to study people in their social environments,” Wilson said. “These are such basic insights; it’s a scandal that they would need to be pointed out and that still a very small fraction of research is of this sort.” Wilson’s project teams Binghamton University faculty members with city school district officials and Binghamton residents, with the goal of measuring variables that influence quality of life in the community, so that where needed, appropriate interventions can be designed with neighborhood leaders.

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Working in collaboration with Search Institute, an independent nonprofit organization devoted to promoting healthy children, youth and communities, Binghamton researchers are collecting data on “developmental assets” that Search Institute has identified as requisite to the development of young people who are healthy, caring and responsible. Included among these qualities are “external assets,” such as caring neighborhood and school climates and family involvement and support, and “internal assets,” such as reading for pleasure, honesty and motivation to achieve. Binghamton City School District Superintendent Peggy Wozniak said the idea of developmental assets isn’t a new one. Educators know that relationships with children are important. Though the district works with the University on a variety of initiatives, and Wozniak has worked with Search Institute for years, the district has never before brought this sort of neighborhood focus to the issue, she said. “There’s a lot that goes into students achieving,” Wozniak said. “When you look at students in poverty … it’s this idea of resiliency. Why do some kids make it and some kids don’t when they come from these challenging environments? The difference can be relationships with adults. Relationships in the bigger picture is community, not just school.” About 2,000 children in sixth through 12th grades in the Binghamton schools

took a survey in May 2006. On a scale of 1 (not at all or rarely) to 4 (almost always or extremely), they responded to statements such as “I take responsibility for what I do,” “I feel good about the future” and “I have adults who are good role models for me.” The questions were divided into five categories representing the contexts of a child’s life: personal, social, family, school and community. A single score was calculated for each context. There was substantial variation among individuals as well as among neighborhoods when the data was plotted in terms of the students’ residential locations. While Search Institute collaborates with many communities, the Binghamton Neighborhood Project is the first to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to visualize and study variations in developmental assets on a neighborhood basis. GIS is a collection of computer hardware and software for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. A method known as kriging extrapolates among the data points to produce a continuous surface of hills and valleys representing variation in the developmental assets. “The patterns illustrated on the maps reflect very complex social processes that we do not yet fully understand,” Wilson said.“Before something can be understood, it must be visualized. These maps provide a first step toward understanding and


improving the welfare of our community by helping us visualize how the underlying parameters vary on a neighborhood-byneighborhood basis.”

David Sloan Wilson, distinguished professor of biological sciences and founder of EvoS, the University’s unique interdisciplinary Evolutionary Studies program

GIS allows the information about developmental assets to be combined with any other spatially based information, such as U.S. Census statistics or information about the physical landscape. Working with Binghamton University’s GIS center, Wilson has also developed a user-friendly Web interface that enables anyone to create maps of Binghamton. “This information can be analyzed from any theoretical perspective, but evolutionary theory is especially well suited for studying organisms in relation to their environment, including the human organism,” Wilson said. “The important thing is to study people from all walks of life in the contexts of their everyday lives.”

But EvoS and its intellectual community of more than 50 faculty members are

“When we look at community development, we like to consider from the residents’ perspectives what are their priorities, their goals, their strengths,” she said. “And it’s very difficult to get that information.” She sees the Binghamton Neighborhood Project as an important first step in bringing together comprehensive community information. It’s also an unusual chance to ask young people directly about what they want and need. “Youth in particular is an interesting age group to focus on right now, and this will help us do that,” Alden said. “I’m interested in looking at meaningful opportunities for young people to become engaged in their community. Not just a volunteer project, but a way to really use their own talents.”

EXTERNAL ASSETS: Family support, positive family communication, other adult relationships, caring neighborhood, caring school climate, parent involvement in schooling, community values youth, youth as resources, service to others, safety, family boundaries, school boundaries, neighborhood boundaries, adult role models, positive peer influence, high expectations, creative activities, youth programs, religious community and time at home INTERNAL ASSETS: Achievement motivation, school engagement, homework, bonding to school, reading for pleasure, caring, equality and social justice, integrity, honesty, responsibility, restraint, planning and decision making, interpersonal competence, cultural competence, resistance skills, peaceful conflict resolution, personal power, self-esteem, sense of purpose and positive view of personal future

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EvoS establishes a multidisciplinary framework for studying evolution in biology and all human-related subjects. Wilson’s own research focuses on cooperation and altruism as behaviors that can be evolutionarily successful under certain conditions. The Binghamton Neighborhood Project dovetails perfectly with his prior interests, he said.

also well positioned to address a range of other important issues with the same database. And the University’s innovative Center City Coordination program, or C3, has the community partnerships to take the data and help residents act on it, said Allison Alden, director of C3.

Search Institute has compiled the following list of 40 assets it considers essential for young people to be healthy, caring and responsible.


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FACULTY ESSAY

Where the baloney meets the road

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FACULTY ESSAY

SCHOLARSHIP AND THE MARKETPLACE

In 1952, in a pique over bureaucratic language, then-assistant general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Milton Smith coined the word “bafflegab.” He was at a loss to otherwise characterize the incomprehensibility, ambiguity, verbosity and complexity of the language being used by those bombastic folks over at the Office of Price Stabilization. I first ran across the word almost 30 years later, when, early in my career as a doctoral student, I was assigned a Psychology Today reading with the curious title, “Bafflegab Pays.” In the article, author J. Scott Armstrong, a marketing professor at Wharton, offered this direct advice: “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” In the years since, the street translation of this advice has become part of the lexicon of most American workers: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with __.“ You know the rest.

In his research, Armstrong found a direct correlation between how difficult articles were to read and comprehend, and how the journals they appeared in were respected among academics. In other words, when professors ranked the prestige of management journals, the top-rated journal was the hardest to read, the lowest-rated journal, the easiest. And when Armstrong rewrote some passages from the hard-toread, highly ranked journals to make them easier to read, those same professors now rated the easier-to-understand ver-

Excited by the thought that I had just been handed the key to success in academe, I embarked on my own bafflegab journey. I quickly found, however, that there were strong forces aligned against me. Almost immediately it became clear that when it came to writing unintelligibly, doctoral students did not enjoy the same perception of competency that Armstrong had reported among professors. His observations notwithstanding, my adviser spared no opportunity to tell me that I made no sense. Later, and much to my dismay, I realized, too, that my PhD committee actually expected me to be able to explain how my esoterically titled dissertation, “The Effects of Reference Dependence on Decision Difficulty,” could inform the practices of real-life managers. Later still, as a new, tenure-track faculty member, I again realized that when my students asked me what exactly I did for a living, I would need to have an adequate and understandable response at the ready. Bafflegab wasn’t going to suffice. As management education enters the 21st century, at least three forces further challenge how we conduct and, more important, communicate our research to our stakeholders.

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But Armstrong’s bafflegab suggestion didn’t seem to be offered as irreverent, tongue-in-cheek advice. Instead, his article provided compelling data to support the wisdom and efficacy of employing bafflegab in academic settings, and seemed to warrant serious attention, particularly from doctoral students whose academic careers would depend on convincing journal editors of their research competence.

sions less competent than the difficult versions, even though their conceptual content had been carefully preserved.


FACULTY ESSAY

First, media rankings of business schools, such as those by Business Week and U.S. News & World Report, affect administrators, alumni, donors and especially prospective students who see a devaluation of their degrees with lower rankings. The influential Business Week rankings, for example, give 90 percent weight to their survey of graduating students and recruiters, and 10 percent weight to faculty publications. Although a BW ranking may not be the true measure of a school’s quality, and could be tempting schools to “look good rather than be good,” there is, nevertheless, an urgent need to find a way to express our research that is intelligible and responsive to the market. Second, executive education is a strong component in the strategy of business schools and requires, if not an outright, fundamental shift from research to teaching, at least a need to develop materials that are relevant to the practice. When experienced managers sit in the classroom, their question is how can they use what we teach to improve their business. Such questions, once again, challenge us to look at our research in practical ways.

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Third, as business schools embrace more and more international students, the resulting diversity challenges us to examine the cross-cultural implications of our research. Now the task encompasses extending the research into newer cultures where consumers hold different values and mindsets.

Second, I try not to think of research and teaching as a zerosum game, i.e., the more time I spend on research the less time I spend on teaching and vice versa. I always make it a point to include my research in my teaching. Not only has this made me strip the research of all its bafflegab components, my students have often provided insightful comments that have added to the richness of my research and follow-up papers. For example, the pain felt by one of my students when the University Bookstore took back a discount that had mistakenly been credited to her purchase prompted me to think about the implications and roots of this marketplace reality: Even unexpected (and undeserved?) gains are mentally coded as losses if they are not realized.

Here then, is where the baloney meets the road, and bafflegab, no matter how brilliant it might sound, just won’t cut it. As I strive for simpler language and more relevance for my research, I have learned at least three valuable lessons.

Third, I try to think from the simple to the complex, and not the other way around. My research on the role of film critics on box office performance stemmed from a simple observation of my own behavior. I blindly follow the recommendation of Joe Morgenstern, the film critic of The Wall Street Journal. Although this is not a bad strategy — after all, Morgenstern won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for his reviews of the new films of 2004 — it intrigued me about the role of critics in general, i.e., if they merely predict your taste, or actually influence it, and has spawned substantial research on my part.

First, I think about how my research can have an impact on others. For example, its esoteric title notwithstanding, my dissertation simply said that consumers had a more difficult time choosing between disliked alternatives than choosing

The results of that research? In plain language, critics — like professors who can clearly communicate the focus and results of their research — appear to have influence in the marketplace.

Subimal Chatterjee is professor of marketing, School of Management, Binghamton University. He teaches courses at the undergraduate, graduate and executive levels in consumer behavior, customer satisfaction, marketing management, product management and e-commerce. Chatterjee’s research investigates consumer decision making and how consumer judgment and choice can be altered

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between liked alternatives. The challenging task was to think of situations when consumers are forced to choose between bad options (when for example, they cannot afford the more expensive, latest technology gadget and are forced to choose between the old-generation alternatives) and figuring out how one could reduce the difficulty of such decisions.

in predictable ways by manipulating the decision task and context. In recent articles, he has studied how the persuasive power of different market signals can vary depending on the nature of market competition and the type of consumer. Chatterjee’s work has appeared in Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Production and Operations Management, Organization Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, and Journal of Consumer Psychology. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and Marketing Science Institute.


IN BRIEF

AIR FORCE TAPS PROFESSOR AS “YOUNG INVESTIGATOR” A Binghamton faculty member is one of 21 scientists and engineers nationwide who submitted winning proposals through the Air Force’s new Young Investigator Research Program. Assistant Professor Scott Craver will receive about $300,000 in funding during the next three years. His work focuses on information security. Craver, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Illinois University, earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from Princeton University in 2004 and joined the Binghamton faculty that year. Grant recipients must show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. The program will foster creative basic research, enhance early career development and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering. Much of Craver’s work focuses on digital watermarks, in which information is secretly embedded in a file. These watermarks can be used to provide proof of ownership or as copyprotection devices; they could also be used to send covert messages.

UGS Corp., a global provider of product lifecycle management software and services, donated software with a commercial value of $13.2 million to Binghamton University. The inkind grant, announced in August, is the largest in University history. Texas-based UGS will provide digital manufacturing simulation software from its Tecnomatix suite of products, which companies use to improve the ergonomics of product design and workplace tasks. The software will enable students in industrial and systems science engineering to create digital humans of various sizes in virtual environments, assign them tasks and analyze their performance. UGS earlier provided the University with grants of 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software, which has been made available to all students in the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science. “This software will provide Binghamton University undergraduate and graduate students with the same tools used in product innovation efforts by some of the world’s leading global manufacturers,” said Charles R. Westgate, dean of the Watson School. “A wide range of Fortune 100 and Global 50 companies use UGS’ software and solutions, so having our students gain experience with this cuttingedge technology will prepare them to be leaders in a global work environment.”

BOOK RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT FRENCH HISTORY Howard Brown challenges accepted views about one of the most important periods in French history with his book Ending the French Revolution. In it, Brown argues that the revolutionary era didn’t end until 1802 and that the period, sometimes considered an inspiration for its liberal democracy, was permeated by violence and a disregard for democracy and the rule of law. “This finding will change people’s ideas about the period,” he said. The revolution, which began in 1789, is generally considered to have ended with Napoleon’s rise to power in 1799. But Brown said the true end comes with the beginning of Napoleon’s dictatorship three years later. Until then, he argues, France’s first constitutional republic was still struggling to find ways to balance personal freedom with security concerns in the midst of the worst crime wave in modern French history. The 2006 book, winner of the Walker Cowen Memorial Prize in 18th-century studies, was a decade in the making. Brown’s most exciting discovery was a cache of some 500 boxes of military court records that had never been catalogued.

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Craver’s work through the Air Force grant will be relevant to any security that relies on a detection algorithm, including face-recognition and thumbprint-recognition systems. “You’re basically trying to circumvent an alarm system,” he said.

$13.2M SOFTWARE DONATION BOOSTS ENGINEERING PROGRAM


IN BRIEF

NEW LINUX CENTER AIDS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Michael A. Little, distinguished professor of anthropology, will receive the Charles R. Darwin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Physical Anthropology from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in April.

The new Binghamton University Linux Technology Center (LTC), one of just a few research programs in the nation dedicated to Linux and the associated open-computing software, focuses on improving research in Linux-based and open-computing applications by drawing together key competencies from the University and industry leaders IBM Corp. and Mainline Information Systems Inc.

Little, 69, who taught briefly at Ohio State University after earning a doctorate from Pennsylvania State University, joined the Binghamton faculty in 1971. He and Neville Dyson-Hudson, now an emeritus professor of anthropology at Binghamton, took on a major project in Kenya.

Unlike proprietary systems such as Windows, Linux and all the underlying code are available to the public without any restrictions or licensing fees.

Their 15-year initiative in the Turkana region incorporated social, biological, biomedical and ecological elements and remains the most significant study of pastoral nomads ever completed. The work led to a synthesis volume, titled Turkana Herders of the Dry Savannah, published in 1999 by Oxford University Press.

Students and faculty from the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science as well as the School of Management will provide research expertise and gain hands-on contract and development experience.

Although the researchers eventually won support from the National Science Foundation, they had trouble getting funded because the multidisciplinary nature of the work meant many specialists didn’t know what to make of it.

The center is the brainchild of the Southern Tier Opportunity Coalition (STOC) and member Len Santalucia, an IBM executive who grew up in Endicott and graduated from the School of Management in 1973. Merwyn Jones, an IBM computer scientist, serves as director of the LTC, which is based on campus.

Today, Little’s research focuses on the history of his profession.

STOC leaders expect that by expanding the open-computing knowledge base, the LTC will foster job creation and economic growth in the Southern Tier and beyond. Binghamton University / BINGHAMTON RESEARCH / 2006-07

ANTHROPOLOGIST WINS HONOR FROM PEERS

“Now everybody uses the term multidisciplinary,” Little said. “But then it was very difficult.”

GEOGRAPHERS COLLABORATE ON BOOK, CONFERENCE Geographers Eugene Tettey-Fio and John Frazier don’t have to look far for examples of how race and ethnicity are changing the face of America. And they didn’t struggle to find contributors for their latest book, either. It grew directly out of a successful conference they put together. Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America, published in 2006 by Binghamton University’s Global Academic Publishing, draws on the 2004 Race, Ethnicity and Place Conference held at Howard University. But it’s not merely the proceedings of the convention; the writers recast their papers in language suitable for undergraduates. The timely volume includes essays on topics ranging from health and health care to anti-predatory lending legislation and pieces focusing on places such as Buffalo, the Texas Panhandle and Washington, D.C. The book explores major themes in geography, including how humans interact with their environment and help shape it as well as migrations and how they affect people’s origins and destinations. Frazier, a professor, and Tettey-Fio, an associate professor, both contributed pieces in addition to editing the book.

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Taproot of excellence Binghamton plugs into international research grid as small-scale electronics powerhouse

BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY’S SMALL SCALE SYSTEMS INTEGRATION AND PACKAGING PROGRAM — A NEW YORK STATE CENTER OF EXCELLENCE (COE)

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