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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 8

Beyond the

MANTLE: Digging deeper, looking more closely turns up rich ore of knowledge across the disciplines

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Foretelling a major meltdown Rare mineral might portend return to hothouse climate of old

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 8





About Binghamton Research

Taking the bite out of malaria

Ballots in the balance

3 Messages

8 Dig New York Archaeologists uncover new clues, theories of prehistoric life

14 A fault-finding expedition

Research targets defenses of rapidly mutating parasite

Election turnouts, outcomes might hinge on citizen convenience



Platinum ambition

A measured approach

Fuel cells get performance boost

Creative research techniques afford bold new insights into mental health issues

46 Squeezing juice from the sun

Wu leads quest to expose hidden forces behind earthquakes

Tapping solar energy could provide limitless power


The alchemy of absurdity

Foretelling a major meltdown

Fridrich transmutes nonsensical questions into dazzling discoveries

Rare mineral might portend return to hothouse climate of old


Instilling hope Pilot program empowers parents to learn from each other

80 In Brief



Keeping it ‘real’

Stumped no longer

High-tech training looks to virtual reality to minimize costs, improve results

Fossils from Earth’s oldest forest divulge long-sought secret


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A pregnant pause

Beyond the mantle

Who’s your daddy?

Census data reveals new insights into fertility decline

Cover Story: New laboratory helps redefine the edges of possibility

Big business takes heart Do companies really benefit from the good will they generate?

Fathers who acknowledge paternity play a role in promoting prenatal care


Binghamton University / BINGHAMTON RESEARCH / 2008



NEW YORK STATE CENTER OF EXCELLENCE Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center (S3IP) Director: Bahgat Sammakia ORGANIZED RESEARCH CENTERS Center for Advanced Information Technologies (CAIT) Director: Victor Skormin Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM) Director: Bahgat Sammakia Center for Advanced Sensors and Environmental Systems (CASE) Director: Omowunmi Sadik Center for Applied Community Research and Development (CACRD) Co-Directors: Pamela Mischen and Allison Alden Center for Cognitive and Psycholinguistic Sciences (CaPS) Director: Cynthia Connine Center for Computing Technologies (CCT) Director: Kanad Ghose Center for Development and Behavioral Neuroscience (CDBN) Director: Norman Spear Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender (CHSWG) Co-Directors: Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin

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Center for Integrated Watershed Studies (CIWS) Director: John Titus

Center for Writers (CW) Director: Maria Mazziotti Gillan Center on Democratic Performance (CoDP) Director: Michael McDonald Clinical Science and Engineering Center (CSEC) Director: Kenneth McLeod Institute for Materials Research (IMR) Director: M. Stanley Whittingham Institute for Primary and Preventative Health Care (IPPH) Director: Gary James Institute of Biomedical Technology (IBT) Director: John G. Baust Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC) Director: Bahgat Sammakia Linux Technology Center (LTC) Director: Merwyn Jones Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) Director: Nina Versaggi Roger L. Kresge Center for Nursing Research (KCNR) Director: Gale Spencer

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

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

Center for Leadership Studies (CLS) Director: Francis Yammarino

Institute for Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies (IAADS) Director: John Chafee

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

Institute for Evolutionary Studies (EVOS) Director: David Sloan Wilson

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

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

Center for the Teaching of American History (CTAH) Director: Thomas Dublin

Watson Institute for Systems Excellence (WISE) Director: K. Hari Srihari

Editorial Staff

Binghamton University

Editorial Team Susan E. Barker, Rachel Coker

,OIS"$E&LEUR President


Gerald Sonnenfeld Vice President for Research

0HOTOGRAPHY Jonathan Cohen, Wayne Hansen, iStock Images

-ARCIA2#RANER Vice President for External Affairs

Contributing Writers Susan E. Barker, Rachel Coker, Merrill Douglas, Katherine Karlson, Bridget Meed, Amy Roach Partridge, Kevin Wright

3USAN%"ARKER Executive Director, Research Advancement

#OPY%DITING John Wojcio, Katie Ellis

Binghamton Research is published annually by the Division of Research, with cooperation from the OfďŹ ce of University Communications and Marketing.

Illustrations iStock Images Cover: Martha P. Terry

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Binghamton Research, OfďŹ ce of University Communications and Marketing, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, New York 13902-6000. Binghamton University is strongly committed to afďŹ rmative 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.



A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT Binghamton’s world-class researchers and scholars push beyond the boundaries of their fields, in some cases literally going “beyond the mantle” to solve centuries-old mysteries. They explore new knowledge with extraordinary imagination and deep understanding and seek insights that will change our world. There are examples of this creativity at work throughout our campus. A psychologist uses innovative LOIS B. DEFLEUR mathematical techniques to answer some of his field’s most vexing questions. A paleobotanist examines a fossilized tree and is able to visualize the Earth’s oldest forest. An engineer designs a virtual reality environment that makes training for employees in electronics manufacturing more effective — and less expensive. Binghamton’s patent applications have nearly tripled in three years and the University’s grant applications are up more than 20 percent last year alone. It’s no surprise, then, that our 15 percent research growth was second among New York’s universities. Multidisciplinary projects and industry partnerships deepen the impact of our research endeavors. And our mission as a public research university ensures that the benefits of this new knowledge are broadly shared. We’re excited to share a sampling of the latest Binghamton breakthroughs with you.

A MESSAGE FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH At Binghamton University, researchers and scholars are aided by emerging technologies that empower them to go where up until recently no one could hope to go. Using the latest technologies, our faculty members are able to dig deeper, scrutinize more closely, analyze more exactly and map important processes more accurately. Through facilities such as our Advanced Analytical and Diagnostics Laboratories, we make available to regional industry otherwise cost-prohibitive state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. Through our Public Archaeology Facility, libraries and museums, we provide unprecedented access to public research and scholarship, supported by a wealth of informational and cultural resources and expertise. Across the disciplines, whether they are dealing with historical data sets, small-scale electronics, fuel cells, earthquakes, ancient artifacts and climates, business practices, health trends or a host of other pursuits, researchers and scholars here are taking full advantage of technologies that allow them to identify and tap rich deposits of information never before available for consideration, let alone study. Our faculty in the humanities are making significant contributions that will likely inform policies, practices, products and planning key to the future of our communities, state and nation — and indeed to the future of the planet itself. We are in every sense of that phrase going Beyond the Mantle … beyond the superficial crust in search of discoveries and awareness that can benefit all.



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But in addition to calling upon us to narrow our view and deepen our investigations, research and scholarship also requires of us the ability and the willingness to step back so that we can creatively envision and critically assess new knowledge, understanding and insights. Just a few of the important research and scholarship projects led by Binghamton faculty are presented here. We hope you enjoy the adventure.


“Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock, when the bough breaks, the cradle

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will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.” — An American nursery rhyme and lullaby


Something extraordinary began happening in the United States in the mid- to late 1800s. Cradles began to go empty, and an unaccustomed hush fell over nurseries. In almost every hamlet, town and city in the country, family size began to deflate dramatically and a profound social revolution began to swell up. This long-lived phenomenon, which curiously enough began more than a century before the advent of the birth control pill, saw the average number of live births per woman drop from seven or eight in 1800 to slightly more than two today.

Using uniquely prepared and processed census data and his own specialized talents, skills and training, J. David Hacker, a demographic

Steven Ruggles, director of the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota, says Hacker’s work is causing historians “to rethink early American historical demography from the ground up.” But Hacker’s research and scholarship has secured him more than praise and recognition from his peers. He was also tapped last year for a fiveyear $674,000 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. A prestigious award for

“In some ways I was the ideal candidate,” Hacker said. “They were looking for people interested in population topics including fertility decline, who perhaps came out of other disciplines, without formal training. I’m mostly self-trained and have a strong background in statistics and quantitative methods.” Fertility decline is of interest from a historian’s standpoint for what it says about historical actors, Hacker said. “It’s quite interesting when and why people began new, revolutionary behaviors,” he said. “It says something about the changing status of women vis-à-vis men, industrialization, urbanization and the increasing cost of raising a child. It says something about individuals’ control over their own lives. It speaks to us about something that was going on in family life that wasn’t discussed openly.”


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This decline changed the fabric of society throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and remains key to important social, economic, political and policy issues facing the United States in the 21st century.

historian, is revisiting and studying the early origins of this societal sea change. As he attempts to tease out and better understand the broad-based repercussions of this trend, he is also turning back and rewriting some important pages of history by helping to clarify the forces and factors that fueled it.

a researcher in any field, the NICHD grant is all the more noteworthy for a historian. Hacker’s NICHD proposal was immediately well received and it was clear soon after his submission that he would receive the award.

“It’s quite interesting when and why people began new, revolutionary behaviors. It says something about individuals’ control over their own lives. It speaks to us about something that was going on in family life that wasn’t discussed openly.” — J. David Hacker

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Perhaps even more important, however, are the almost endless repercussions declining fertility rates produce across every realm of human activity and governance. From raising armies and growing the economy to housing, health and social service concerns, almost every policy consideration one can think of is significantly affected by population size and aging trends — both of which are directly linked to fertility rates. Hacker’s NICHD-funded project has two objectives that could have a major impact on policy debates influenced by the ebb in fertility rates. First, Hacker intends to describe American fertility decline in greater detail than ever before possible. Second, he intends to explain that decline, and to shed light on the economic, social, cultural and geographic factors correlated with it. In addition to its value to historians, Hacker’s work could provide important clues about how to reverse the trend, and that might someday become not only advisable but necessary. Today in the United States, the total fertility rate hovers at about 2.1, very near to “replacement rate,” the rate at which every death is offset by the birth of a child who will survive to adulthood. Beyond this point, populations begin


to decline and age rapidly. Couple that with a decline in mortality and the effects on the population can be staggering. In the 19th century, for instance, half the population in the country was 15 years of age or under. Today the median age is 32. By 2050, with the national fertility rate holding at its current level of 2.1 births per woman, half of the population will be 39 or older. In the 1880s, life expectancy was only about 40 years. By 1920, life expectancy had increased significantly, and, today, it hovers near 80 years. This major demographic transition, which has been mirrored around the globe, is therefore key to important social, economic, political and policy issues facing the country and the world. It represents a serious challenge to the social welfare state, which by its nature relies on a preponderance of young workers to support retirement and health-care programs for the poor, the sick and the elderly. While non-historians are likely surprised to learn that the timing of fertility decline precedes by more than 100 years the advent of the birth control pill,

historians have long held that it began at the turn of the 19th century. Hacker’s research shows, however, that the decline actually began much later, starting in 1840 and becoming more pronounced after the Civil War. Debunking theories of American demographic exceptionalism, his work brings the timing of the U.S. fertility decline in line with that of most other industrializing countries. “We’ve long known there has been a long-term decline in fertility in the United States,” Hacker said. “There’s been a great deal of research on it. It’s interesting to economic historians, social historians, women’s historians, historians of medicine. Everyone’s taken a shot at this research.” But not everyone has had Hacker’s resources or abilities. Ruggles, who was Hacker’s doctoral adviser at the University of Minnesota, credits Hacker with the first major revision of 19thcentury fertility estimates in nearly 40 years, the first national own-child estimates of marital fertility trends and differentials in the 19th century, and the first under-enumeration estimates for the period before 1880. Ruggles calls Hacker “the most important historical demographer of his generation.”

Hacker came to the discipline of history relatively late after earning degrees rooted in science and engineering and working in industry as an engineer for eight years. With a strong background in math and statistics, he was a natural fit for the field of demographic history, and when he chose to focus on it for his PhD, his timing couldn’t have been better. His work would not have been possible even 10 years ago. The recent completion of a full set of microdata census samples spanning 1850 to the present is critically important to his work, he said. The only year not included in the samples, which provide searchable information on all individuals in sampled households, is 1890. A significant portion of the 1890 Federal Census was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington, D.C., in January 1921. The records of only 6,160 of the 62,979,766 people enumerated survived the fire. The microdata census samples were constructed at the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota, where Hacker completed his doctoral studies. As a doctoral student there, he was involved in compilation of the first 1 percent density sample of the 1880 manuscript census and so saw early on what microdata analysis could do. When working only with published census data, researchers were limited to making crude estimates of fertility. They did so by dividing the number of women of child-bearing age in a county by the number of children.

Historian J. David Hacker has uncovered the unseen demographic cost of the American Civil War, the bloodiest in U.S. history. The four-year war claimed an estimated 620,000 lives — more than the total killed in all other U.S. wars from the Revolutionary War through the Korean War combined. Working with census data, however, Hacker was able to calculate that the actual toll on the population of the United States was three times what the war’s death count alone would indicate. Nationwide, the Civil War’s extraordinary death toll figured out to about one in nine men of “military age,” at the time defined as between 13 and 43. In the South, the cost was even higher; one in five men and boys of military age lost their lives. “What really struck me,” Hacker said, “was that the demographic cost was actually significantly higher in missing births than it was in men killed outright.” Based on marriage and fertility rates before, during and after the war, Hacker calculated the total of missing births — the number of children who would likely have been born if not for the war. “The fertility deficit during the war was roughly equivalent to 1.2 million missing births,” Hacker said. Although he originally expected that such a significant population shock would have led to a long-term impact on age of marriage and marriage and fertility rates throughout the nation, Hacker was surprised to discover instead that the war’s demographic reverberations were relatively short lived. “With the marriage patterns, we see just a short-term shock,” he said. “Men were able to marry younger, and because of the relative dearth of young men after the war, women had to delay a bit. So we see slight changes in the age of marriage and proportions that are marrying.” Within just 10 years of the war, people were marrying at the exact same age and in the same proportions as before the war, and fertility rates returned to where they had left off in their long-term pattern, Hacker found. “Maybe I went in a little naïve,” he said. “I was expecting to see a major change in the age of marriage and in marriage fertility patterns. I guess what I learned is that it is remarkable how quickly populations can adjust to a demographic shock.”

— Susan E. Barker


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“What the microdata allows me to do is, rather than to look at these really aggregate county-level statistics, I look at the level of individual women, individual families, and correlate their individual child-bearing experiences with economic and social indicators,” Hacker said. “I can create a much better series of data and do a much better job of describing fertility decline.”


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Dig New York




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Divining the life stories of native North Americans who lived thousands of years ago but left no written records requires a unique blend of the social and life sciences. Thanks to a wealth of new data they’ve uncovered in recent years, and new techniques for extracting meaning from their findings, researchers at Binghamton University’s Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) are rewriting some of the most widely accepted theories about prehistoric life in New York state.


“foodways,” or means of accruing sustenance (foraging vs. farming) and settlement patterns (seasonal movements vs. year-round villages) occurred at the same time everywhere across the region that now contains NewYork state. For example, traditional chronological models stated that people changed the shape of their hunting tools or projectile points, replaced stone bowls with clay pots and began to plant domesticated species of maize, beans and squash according to an established temporal framework. Archaeologists in the early to middle 20th century based these chronologies on data collected from a small number of deep, well-stratified sites. “Researchers accepted these chronologies as fact and adhered to them for decades,” Versaggi said. “They were used by us, and they’re still used by archaeologists today. They’re not invalid. But they tend to hide a wealth of variability that could be related to cultural and ethnic differences among prehistoric peoples.”


Much of the new information used by PAF’s archaeologists has resulted from cultural resource management investigations for economic development projects across New York state (see sidebar pg. 12).

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Culling valuable data from ancient objects — stone tools, broken pottery, a few seeds, the remains of a hearth — archaeologists piece together a tableau of people who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago.“You take the data you have, you apply analytical techniques and then you weave the results into an interpretive story,” said Nina Versaggi, PAF director. As PAF personnel discover new sites and apply more powerful analytical techniques, their interpretations of ancient diet, community organization, division of labor and group dynamics within our valley systems become more complex. However, these interpretations are not static. “Somebody 20 years from now will be able to re-analyze the same data with new analytical tools and add to the story,” Versaggi said. For now, though, based on the work of the PAF, the story that is beginning to emerge about life here before Europeans arrived is more detailed and more complex than any version that archaeologists have subscribed to in the past. Chronological sequences are one example. For a long time, Versaggi explained, archaeologists maintained that changes in prehistoric technology (tools and how they were made),


New analytical techniques have assisted the process of discovery and interpretation. For example, a new method of radiometric dating, Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS), has become more accessible and affordable, allowing the facility’s teams to obtain a greater sample of dates from a larger number of sites than archaeologists did in the past. Sometimes, these new dates show that sites with certain artifact types do not agree with the traditional chronologies. This suggests that the boundaries between cultural periods aren’t as precise as scientists once thought. “We’re finding there are regional differences, and we’re finding these may be related to cultural differences,” Versaggi said. For example, early archaeological research showed that at about AD 1000, people living on the lakeplain surrounding Lake Ontario started forming larger villages and going through rapid cultural change, Versaggi said. The ease of travel from the St. Lawrence Valley through the Great Lakes into the Midwest provided opportunities for people and ideas to travel over great distances. Some of these changes included a great deal of innovation in pottery design and decoration. But on the Allegheny Plateau — which includes New York’s Southern Tier — the terrain is more rugged, and water travel is oriented north-south rather than east-west via rivers, such as the Susquehanna, Delaware and Allegany. Villages in this region were smaller, and people probably did not have the same degree of interaction as the northern groups had. “So, certain aspects of material culture, such as pottery traditions, did not change at the same rate,” Versaggi explained. This interpretation emerged when doctoral students Laurie Miroff and Tim Knapp (also PAF researchers) obtained a large

number of AMS dates from carbon associated with decorated pottery at the Thomas/Luckey site in the Chemung River valley. The dates suggested that certain types of decorated pottery persisted for about 100 years past the point traditional chronologies dictated. “Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, we would have said, ‘Our dates are incorrect due to contaminated carbon,’” Versaggi said. “But now we are building a body of evidence that supports an interpretation of how people interacted with each other, and how change was incorporated into their social structures.” On a similar note, traditional chronologies based on a few sites on the Ontario lakeplain marked a time around 1000 BC when people stopped using bowls made of steatite — also called soapstone — and started using clay pottery. However, PAF’s

Versaggi and Knapp have found that people in the valleys of the Southern Tier continued to use soapstone bowls, possibly alongside clay pottery, during periods that ranged from 900 BC to 200 BC. “The use of stone bowls persisted well beyond when people were supposed to have shifted to using clay pots,” Versaggi said. Steatite is a raw material that is not available in New York’s valleys. The closest quarry sources are in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania. However, when PAF’s researchers teamed with scientists at the Archaeometry Lab at Missouri University, and applied Nuclear Activation Analysis to the steatite, they found that the steatite probably came from more distant quarries in Maryland and Virginia. Not only that, but people were making a prodigious effort to bring those heavy receptacles to the region well beyond the time when


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Nina Versaggi

other groups were using locally available clays to make pots. “You’re traveling by canoe to a region where you may not have access to the quarry,” Versaggi said. “You have to negotiate with somebody to give you access, or to supply you with finished stone bowls.” The presence of the bowls in central New York suggests that people from this area formed trading (and possibly political) alliances with people near the Chesapeake Bay. In this case, science provided a means to speculate about how people were making decisions. “There was something complex going on that involved people, interaction and transactions that we were able to tease out of the artifacts and analytical results,” Versaggi said. Persistence in the use of steatite could signal that this material was an identity or alliance marker, she added.

PAF’s teams are not the only archaeologists to propose that regional variations in cultural material and sites are important to our understanding of the social aspects of prehistory. But they stand at the forefront of the movement to reassess the traditional, one-size-fits-all chronology and the interpretations that result from this framework. “Because of the dynamic exchange of ideas between the Anthropology Department’s faculty and students, and PAF’s researchers, I think we probably were more open to a lot of these revisions and new interpretations,” Versaggi said. “As we continue to present and publish our findings, other researchers may use our results to justify and support the patterns they are finding. They’re linking into what we’re doing, either to enhance our models, or maybe to advance new models of their own.” — Merrill Douglas


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Several federal and state laws require that, before starting many kinds of construction projects, developers determine whether any archaeological sites, standing historic structures or cultural properties of significance are present that should be preserved. Under a cultural resource management services contract, archaeologists survey a project area to answer a series of questions: Are cultural resources present within an area that will be developed? If so, are they significant? In legal terms, “significant” means eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, can impacts to significant sites be avoided, or will a final excavation be necessary? When the Public Archaeology Facility investigated the site of Binghamton University’s new downtown center, for example, the answer to the first two questions was yes. “We found the foundations


to the first European settlements in the city of Binghamton,” said Nina Versaggi, PAF director. The site also revealed remnants of carriage houses, outhouses, wells and cisterns, plus traces of Native American settlements. “We found a partial longhouse with hearths and storage pits,” she said. Also, pieces of cooking pots and numerous stone tools indicated earlier native settlements, going back 4,000 to 5,000 years. In a case like this, the PAF works with the developer to mitigate the impact of construction on the archaeological resources. That might mean moving the project to a different location, leaving the resources in place for scholars to study in the future. If that’s not possible — as was the case in downtown Binghamton — then PAF’s archaeologists excavate a final sample of the site to recover data for analysis and interpretation. The PAF does about 60 to 70 percent

of its work for the New York State Department of Transportation under contract to the New York State Museum. The current five-year contract, awarded in 2007, is worth $20 million. Other clients include federal, state and local government agencies, engineers and private developers. With a staff that varies seasonally from 30 to 60, the PAF conducts work throughout most of New York. “We try to focus on our research area, which is central New York and the Southern Tier,” Versaggi said. But if a client needs work in another area and PAF has the necessary expertise, it will send a team further afield. The PAF also negotiates with Native American groups on the appropriate way to handle, and often repatriate, any human remains or sacred artifacts found in its excavations, as U.S. law requires. “We have very good relationships with Native American groups,” Versaggi said.

FISHING FOR ANSWERS A sharply defined area of rich, black soil in Castle Gardens, a residential development near Binghamton University, has archaeologists wondering if they’ve found the site of a large, specialized site that focused on fish processing. “The organic soil contained a diverse assortment of stone artifacts and burnt animal bone,” said Nina Versaggi, director of Binghamton University’s Public Archaeology Facility. Moreover, the soil stain has a distinct boundary, outside of which the black soil isn’t present. “It’s clear that some form of human activity occurred here, but the exact function is not so clear.” PAF archaeologists Versaggi and Laurie Miroff have their suspicions. Thousands of years ago, they propose, local people used the spot to capture and clean masses of fish, whose discarded scales, skins and innards produced the organic compostlike soil. If people fished the Susquehanna at Castle Gardens, they probably didn’t use nets, since few stone netweights have been found, Versaggi said. But they might have built stone or wooden weirs in this narrow section of the river, funneling the fish into pens and keeping the fish alive until needed. “I don’t want to say it’s like a fish tank,” Versaggi said. But the comparison isn’t far off the mark. The holding area might have offered fresh fish anytime someone wanted to scoop out a bunch to prepare for cooking. Proving this theory is more difficult.

This is one of many ways in which PAF’s archaeologists collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines to coax new knowledge from old sites and the cultural material within them, Versaggi said. “We’re looking for innovative ways to try to get at other types of information, using techniques that are new to us, but that are not new to other scientists.”


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Joseph Graney, associate professor of geology at Binghamton, has suggested that the PAF test the blackened soil for mercury. The oceans have always contained some mercury, even before human activity raised its levels, and fish migrating up the Susquehanna would have carried the chemical as far as Castle Gardens. “If you had enough of a concentration of fish remains in the soil, even from thousands of years ago, you might see a spike in the mercury in that dark layer, and then the absence of that spike in the area just outside it,” Versaggi said.

A Fault-Finding


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Francis Wu


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Francis Wu is using bubbles, explosions, sensors and seismographs to look deep beneath the Earth’s crust. The lead investigator on a team of international scientists working on a project of unprecedented scope, Wu intends to capture the first high-def, 3-D image — a virtual MRI — of the abstruse forces at work in the growth of an active, young mountain range.

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By using explosive devices to send shock waves through the Earth’s crust and upper mantle and by employing emerging technologies to record and “image” the Earth using the wave, the project could help scientists around the globe find subsurface faults and better understand how tectonic forces act to build mountains. This knowledge will ultimately enable scientists to predict earthquakes more reliably.


“I often joke that when we talk about blind faults, we are talking only about faults that we as geologists can’t see,” Wu said. “But we may be able to image them with seismic waves; and once we can locate small earthquakes at crustal depth precisely, we can determine whether these faults are active.” Seismic waves produced by earthquakes, explosions or controlled vibrating sources are the primary method of underground exploration. They will also be the key in Wu’s project to unlock the mysteries of mountain building and tectonic activity that gives rise to earthquakes.

By sending waves through the Earth’s crust and upper mantle with a series of controlled explosions, and by sensing, recording and tracking waves from natural seismic events in the crust, the deep mantle and the core of the Earth, Wu’s team intends to develop a virtual three-dimensional image of the crust and upper mantle under Taiwan. Wu compares the process to that used by doctors to “see” cancerous tumors deep within the body using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Seismic shock waves bend inside the Earth because of changes in speed as they move through material of different density, composition and temperature. Abrupt changes in direction occur at the boundary between two layers, affording researchers using advanced technologies the opportunity to see what lies deep beneath the surface. A professor of geophysics at Binghamton, Wu has spent a significant portion of his research career doing fieldwork in the eastern hemisphere, most recently in East Asia. Having worked in Tibet and New Zealand among other regions, he is now concentrating on Taiwan. The small island nation, shaken by about 15,000 detectable earthquakes a year, provides an extraordinary in vivo laboratory for Wu’s current project known as TAIGER (pronounced “tiger”), Taiwan Integrated Geodynamics Research.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and headed up by Wu, the five-year, $8 million TAIGER project involves nine investigators from six U.S. institutes, one from a Canadian university and scientists from five Taiwanese universities, as well as Taiwan’s Institute of Earth Sciences and renowned Academia Sinica, supported by the National Science Council of Taiwan. The project calls for a comprehensive set of geophysical experiments that will help researchers determine the locations, factor the scale and impact, and obtain multi-scale images of the forces at work within the Earth’s crust and upper mantle during manmade and natural seismic events. Wu’s approach to earthquakes is respectful, but far from fearful. It’s clear he realizes that when the Earth stops quaking, breaking and belching forth gases and rock, we’ll be in more trouble than most of us would care to imagine. That’s because for all their unwelcome devastation, earthquakes and volcanoes provide irrefutable planetary “proof of life,” not to mention supporting many conditions necessary for it.

know that the Earth has heat inside and the heat is escaping, and that inside the Earth, it is still churning very slowly … convecting.” The geothermal heat produced is an important energy source. Furthermore, scientists have found a liquid outer core composed of iron and nickel. The convective churning generates the magnetic field that shields us from cosmic particles and has guided man’s travels through the ages, Wu said. The churning of the Earth’s outer layers results in the shifting of the huge tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust, giving rise, albeit through disparate processes, to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The plate movements led to the mountain building in Taiwan and elsewhere. But the movement also churns up materials from deep within the Earth, catalyzing complex chemistry that is critical to the formation of the very organic compounds from which life first arose. So in the grand scheme of things, it seems life itself is caught between a rock and a hot (or cold) place. In spite of our growing concerns that too much environmental CO2 might soon turn the planet into a hothouse unsuited to most species currently dwelling here, some carbon dioxide is essential.

“Although a lot of people think of earthquakes and volcanoes as destructive, as long as they are going on, we are assured the Earth is alive,” he said. “We


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Through the release of CO2 and other gases, earthquakes and volcanoes do more than simply relieve planetary flatulence. Without such greenhouse gases in our atmosphere to hold in some of the sun’s radiant heat, the planet would in short order become frigidly inhospitable to most known forms of life. But, no matter its importance to life on this planet, what’s going on deep within the Earth remains the subject of speculation and cause for intense studies for now. “Unfortunately, we can’t visit the core of the Earth, below the mantle, or the mantle itself,” Wu said. To do so would require the ability to “drill down” either by means of a bore hole or penetrating technology to a depth of more than 2,900 kilometers, more than five times deeper than the TAIGER survey will reach.

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A major phase of the TAIGER project experiments will take place this spring. It will involve more than 1,000 seismometers to monitor 14 land explosions set off at depths of about 60 meters. A host of sensors and seismometers will also be

deployed from the American research ship R/V Marcus Langseth for marine experiments off the coast of Taiwan in the spring of 2009. This phase will involve blowing huge bubbles near the ocean surface and monitoring the seismic waves they create. Far outpacing the omnipresent forces of erosion, the peaks of Taiwan are rising 2 or 3 centimeters a year in places. That’s quite the growth spurt in geological terms, and because the mountain-building process is so active there, Taiwan has been the focus of many prior and current international geological studies. “In Taiwan, land keeps pushing up, and gravity pulls on it, and it comes down. So it is a very lively place in that sense,” Wu said. Landslides are commonplace, and residents take them in stride. “You certainly have to be careful where and how you build roads. I’ve come across several fresh landslides right after they had closed roads and my Taiwanese colleagues would say, ‘Oh don’t worry, in another two hours the road will probably be open again,’” Wu said. The high-resolution images provided by the TAIGER survey are expected to result in the most detailed map ever of Taiwan and its mountains. Imaging is expected to extend from 12,900-foot mountain peaks to the Earth’s upper mantle some 370 miles underground.

But Wu and others believe that all the commotion at Taiwan’s surface is just an indication of far deeper forces. The TAIGER project will afford a “rare geological test of theory” that ultimately could help architects and engineers build safer structures, Wu said. “Mountain building is not only in the crust, but also in the upper mantle, probably driven by forces that might be much deeper than previously understood,” Wu said. “My view is that one problem that keeps us from predicting earthquakes is that we don’t really understand all the processes in question. We know the crust is moving and strain is accumulating and eventually it will break. But when does it start to break and where are the faults? Some are probably too deep to be probed, but some are shallow enough for us to image.” By providing a better understanding of the forces involved in mountain building and the earthquakes to which that process gives rise, Wu also hopes that TAIGER might give scientists a better idea about which major faults to monitor for the purpose of early warning for earthquakes. For some potentially hazardous faults in Taiwan, a warning of 40 seconds or more for a metropolitan area may be possible.



“Maybe this would not be so useful for city dwellers who face a congested highway as they try to evacuate the city,” Wu said. “But on the other hand, even in cities, high-speed transport

— Susan E. Barker


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“Some people might ask the question, ‘What is the use of this information if we will only know 40 seconds before the earthquake?’

could be stopped, people could evacuate tall buildings and many businesses, particularly in the semi-conductor industry, which is very big in Taiwan, could have enough time to shut everything off. If you have tens of minutes, you can do all kinds of things. And if we could eventually predict within a few days of an earthquake, then we could effectively prevent loss of life.”

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Foretelling a major meltdown


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By discovering the meaning of a rare mineral that can be used to track ancient climates, geologist Tim Lowenstein is helping climatologists and others better understand what we’re probably in for over the next century or two as global warming begins to crank up the heat — and, ultimately, to change life as we know it the world over. “I think the Earth will be a very different place in the next hundred years or so, and that many species will adapt to it and many won’t,” Lowenstein said. “Humans are supremely good at adapting. But, rich countries will adapt much better than poor countries and other species will have far more trouble coping with environmental change. There are going to be challenges we can’t even imagine right now.” Lowenstein’s concerns are rooted not in unfounded speculation about unprecedented future happenings, but in the scientific discovery and analysis of mineral samples formed during the Eocene Epoch, the warmest period on Earth in the last 65 million years.


What Lowenstein and his colleague Robert Demicco at Binghamton University have discovered is that nahcolite, a rare, yellowish-green or brown carbonate mineral, only forms on Earth under environmental conditions marked by very high atmospheric CO2 levels. That establishes it as both a marker and a benchmark that can be used by scientists as they consider the likely climatic implications of ever-increasing CO2 levels in our atmosphere today. More specifically, nahcolite suggests that Eocene warming was concurrent with atmospheric CO2 levels of at least 1,125 parts per million (ppm), which is 3 times the current levels of 380 ppm, but not all that much higher than we can expect on Earth in the next 100 years or so given generally accepted scientific projections based on fossil-fuel consumption. Lowenstein and Demicco first reported their findings in a 2006 Science article titled “Elevated Eocene Atmospheric CO2 and Its Subsequent Decline.” They concluded that estimates of ancient atmospheric CO2 can be determined from sodium carbonate minerals precipitated from water in contact with the atmosphere. At present CO2 levels of around 380 ppm, the sodium carbonate mineral trona crystallizes at temperatures of around


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25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) in at least a dozen modern alkaline saline lakes around the world, most notably at Lake Magadi in Kenya. At lower temperatures, the same elements would form the mineral natron. Nahcolite forms from the elements only at significantly elevated CO2 levels of 1,125 ppm or more, a condition that hasn’t been present in the Earth’s atmosphere since the Eocene, but which many scientists project may again be reached within the next few centuries. Lowenstein and Demicco analyzed nahcolite samples they discovered from drill cores of the Green River Formation taken from deep beneath the surface in the Piceance Creek basin of western Colorado. The samples have been dated back to the Eocene, and Lowenstein says that between 49 and 51 million years ago, the nahcolite crystallized at the surface


and dropped to the bottom of salty lake beds, before being buried to its present depth below the surface. A trona deposit found in Turkey dates back 21 million years, suggesting that somewhere between 50 million years ago and 21 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 levels dropped enough to ensure that trona would become the prevailing sodium carbonate formation, Lowenstein said. Some of the most important fossil sites for understanding terrestrial plant and animal life of the Eocene Epoch are found in the Green River Formation in western Colorado, eastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming. Fossils found at these sites — and we’re talking flamingos, palm trees and crocodile fossils — indicate that the Eocene climate in Wyoming and Colorado was subtropical. “Actually the Eocene climate in

Wyoming and Colorado was probably similar to that of the Dead Sea between the West Bank, Jordan and Israel today,” Lowenstein said. During the early Eocene, there was no ice anywhere on the planet, and with higher sea levels, the oceans flooded larger portions of our existing continents. Besides being a rich fossil repository, the Green River Formation is home to one of the world’s largest oil shale fields and to an enormous sodium carbonate deposit. And the Eocene-aged nahcolite samples recovered from the region point not only to an Eocene climate characterized by Florida-like temperatures in the northwestern United States and Canada, but also to elevated CO2 levels, probably fed by significant ancient volcanic activity, Lowenstein said. Nahcolite deposits in the Piceance Creek basin of Colorado are up to 300 meters

thick and are finely interspersed with halite (sodium chloride, the same as table salt). Since halite also crystallizes under specific, known conditions, its co-existence with the nahcolite anchors minimum early Eocene CO2 levels at between 1,125 ppm and 2,985 ppm for reasonable surface water temperatures of about 20 degrees C to 35 degrees C, Lowenstein said. That, along with ancient palm tree and crocodile fossils recovered from the same area, suggests that for at least the warmest part of the 20-million-yearlong Eocene, mean annual temperatures in Colorado and Wyoming were similar to those measured in Miami today.

As for steep, projected increases in CO2 levels over the next century, Lowenstein thinks that might not be our only cause for concern. “The thing I worry about most is that

With a population of more than 4 million, for instance, the second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria, is just one of the many cities that would be inundated by a rise in sea level of 1 meter. More than 100 million people worldwide live within a meter of the current sea level. One recent study estimated the costs of adapting to even a 1-meter sea-level rise in the United States alone at $156 billion, or 3 percent of the GNP.

As a scientist, Lowenstein has no doubt that burning oil, gas and coal are fueling global warming and creating, along with environmental degradation, an immediate threat to some species of life on the planet. His opinion is unchanged by those who would point to the Earth’s ancient hothouse past as proof that natural swings in climate take place with or without human intervention.

Lowenstein said these consequences seem more and more likely without drastic change.

“If we assume that you and I are both in our 50s, the change in atmospheric CO2 in our lifetime is greater than the rate of any change in at least the last half million years,” Lowenstein said. Global warming experts say that melting of the world’s glaciers, including parts of the Greenland ice sheet and the western Antarctic ice sheet, could well produce a 1-meter (3-foot) rise in sea level in the coming centuries.

“The glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro has not much time left even now. Many mountain glaciers are going to disappear,” he said. “It all depends on how much oil we burn. But if we keep doing what we’re doing now, we will be up to the CO2 levels of the Eocene within another 100 or 200 years.” It is difficult to predict how global temperatures over the coming centuries will compare to the Eocene, but the “hothouse” world 50 million years ago should serve as a reminder of what global changes are possible. — Susan E. Barker


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Because CO2 is a forcing factor for climate change, increases in its levels can be directly tied to global warming. A greenhouse gas, CO2 absorbs radiation that would normally be reflected out of the atmosphere, helping to ramp up temperatures, melt glaciers and significantly alter ocean currents and weather patterns.

there will be an unexpected change,” he said. “Right now, we’re on a predictable pace. But there will likely be tipping points, unexpected things that could really change things, so all of a sudden we may get changes in ocean circulation that we never would have predicted, or the tundra may melt. Some unexpected thing is going to occur that’s going to be more dramatic than the progressive changes that we foresee.”

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For almost a century, researchers from around the world have flocked to an area near the Gilboa Dam in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York to examine the fossilized stumps of tremendous trees that predate man and dinosaur.


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Decade after decade, no matter how long or hard scientists studied the tree trunks, they could only guess at what the Earth’s first treetops had looked like. Just as there was no solid proof of how tall the trees had stood in their prime, there was no way to corroborate or to disprove any conjectured “treetop” reconstructions.

Frank Mannolini, New York State Museum

The Devonian-era tree trunks were first uncovered in the 1920s when excavation for the Gilboa Dam, a New York City water project, began. They seized the imagination and piqued the curiosity of scholars and naturalists the world round because they represented the remains of “aforestation.” That process — the original greening of the Earth — some 380 million years ago had a major impact on the planet’s climate, weather, carbon cycling and, ultimately, what kinds of animals evolved in certain ecosystems.

A few ambitious drawings pictured the treetops as giant seed ferns or as closely resembling a modern palm tree. An early researcher, Winifred Goldring of the New York State Museum, gave the trees the name Eospermatopteris because she also guessed that the trees looked like tall seed ferns.


Then, a few years ago, a call from researchers at the New York State Museum in Albany to paleobotanist William Stein at Binghamton University changed all that. The call was to report the discovery of an “odd specimen,” a fossil with an extensive trunk system and a crown attached. “I just dropped my jaw,” Stein, an associate professor of biological sciences, recalled about his first examination of the specimen. “I could not believe what I was seeing. It’s astonishingly large and more complete than seen before.”

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The fossil, more than 12 feet long, offered the first evidence of how big and complex the Earth’s first trees were and what their tops, or “aerial portions,” looked like. Last year, the prestigious British journal Nature published the findings of Stein and his colleagues, Frank Mannolini, Linda VanAller Hernick and Ed Landing of the New York State Museum as well as Christopher Berry of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom. The discovery created a stir, earning stories in Discover, New Scientist and newspapers around the world.


Diogenes Agcaoili Jr.

But like a root system tenaciously holding on long after the tree is felled, the mystery refused to be unearthed.

Stein and his colleagues now can credibly say that the trees, which predate the earliest dinosaurs by about 135 million years, were more than 26 feet tall, with a system of frond-like but leafless branches at their very tops. The trees were bigger and more complex than scientists had guessed, with a long trunk and small anchoring roots. The crown belongs to a previously known plant taxon, the cladoxylopsid Wattieza. But the trunk and base match a different group, named Eospermatopteris. The Cladoxylopsida is a class of big vascular plants with spectacular morphology for their time. “We now really have these trees nailed,” Stein said. “We solved a mystery that’s been around for 100 years. It looks remarkably tree fern-like.” The State Museum was able to collect the fossil the way dinosaur skeletons often are collected, which is unusual for this kind of work. Nearby, a second 19-foot-long fossil was recovered, reinforcing some of the data offered by the first.

The plants in the greenhouse are like the fossils, but nevertheless impossibly remote in time and quite a bit more primitive in other aspects of their morphology, Stein notes. Berry, who is also a paleobotanist, had been working on the group of plants that includes Wattieza since 1990. He said the discovery of the whole tree allows scientists to begin to understand the impact the plant group had on the terrestrial environment.

Stein also has a talent for drawing and photographing the specimens with which he works. That artistic ability came in handy for the Gilboa project; images of the giant fossils are on display all over Stein’s office and help provide a framework for the research going on in his lab. Though these trees are now extinct, Stein can point to possible modern-day descendants — including ferns and horsetails — as he walks through the greenhouse on campus at Binghamton. “You go to Hawaii today, or the tropics, and you can find similar great trees with big, upright stems and fronds,” he said. “Eospermatopteris was very much like this.”

“In forming the first forests, they must have really changed the Earth system as a whole, creating new types of micro-environments for smaller plants and insects, storing large amounts of carbon and binding the soil together,” he said. Landing, a paleontologist, studied the geology of the area where the fossils were found. He believes that when the trees died they fell over and became waterlogged as they traveled down a small stream. The trees then sank to the bottom at the foot of a small delta that formed in standing water. Layers of fossilized trees were found intertwined like pickup sticks in an underwater log jam in the quarry. “Science really is these kinds of discoveries,” Stein said as he looked over photos of the new Gilboa site findings. Gazing at the images of trees that had been the very first on the planet, he concluded with discernible reverence: “No one has ever seen this before.” — Rachel Coker


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Stein, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Pomona College and master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Michigan, joined Binghamton University’s faculty in 1988. His research interests include paleobotany (the study of fossilized plants) and plant evolution, which makes for a natural fit at Binghamton, which is home to a large and distinguished collection of fossils from the Devonian era.

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Taking the bite out of



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Humankind and malaria have been locked in an evolutionary arms race for thousands of years. The past century has seen major advances on our side, in the form of anti-malaria drugs and improved public health. But because the parasite has a generational lifespan of weeks or months and exists in vast populations within each infected host, it’s often able to stay many steps ahead of us, developing mutations to evade our medications.

“‘Can we, by examining how the falciparum parasite evaded this medicine, gain insights into slowing down the treadmill a little bit, trying to figure out ways that we can use medicines more intelligently? Are there insights we can gain from the failure of chloroquine to allow us to get the most bang for the buck from the new anti-malarials?’”

Meanwhile, this war exacts a terrible toll: Every year, more than 500 million people become severely ill with malaria. More than a million of them die.

Other researchers have speculated about the parasite’s genetic mutations, but no one has ever been able to document the path it actually took to its current status.

J. Koji Lum and his colleagues at Binghamton University want to take a closer look at how the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum evolved resistance to chloroquine, the best weapon humans have ever had in the fight.

The World Health Organization estimates that malaria causes an average loss of 1.3 percent annual economic growth in countries with intense transmission. Some 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, which disproportionately affects young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Lum, associate professor of anthropology and biological sciences, and Ralph Garruto, professor of biomedical anthropology, have about 11,000 archived human blood samples from malarious regions of the Pacific collected from the 1950s to the present.

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A $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow them to analyze these samples and document the accumulation of genetic changes that resulted in chloroquine’s treatment failure in the Pacific. “We’re on this treadmill running as fast as we can to create these medicines just to keep up with the relatively rapid mutation rate of the parasites,” Lum said. “Our project is trying to say, ‘Look, the most successful anti-malarial drug in history was chloroquine. It lasted for decades in some regions of the world. It’s still effective in some areas like South America.


Lum argues that global warming, which is expanding the tropical regions of the globe, and a global economy, in which parasites and mosquitoes can move across borders with goods, money and people, should spark renewed interest in malaria among people in developed countries. “All vector-borne diseases, everything that relies on a mosquito, are going to become bigger problems as our temperatures increase and the variance in our weather patterns increases,” Lum said. “And the time it takes to move around the planet is a small fraction of the incubation time for our diseases.”

Arguably, malaria has killed more people in human history than anything else.

— J. Koji Lum

Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache and vomiting, usually within 10 to 15 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito. Left untreated, malaria interrupts the blood supply to vital organs, in severe cases resulting in coma and death. There’s cyclical interest in eradicating malaria, which has effectively been eliminated from temperate regions of the globe. But the last full-scale push to wipe out the disease was a World Health Organization campaign following World War II. Experts theorized that DDT spray could kill the mosquitoes that carry the parasite while chloroquine tablets could treat those already affected by the disease. After 15 years of concerted effort, it was clear the plan was a failure.

Small-scale initiatives have since met with some success. For instance, malaria was recently eliminated from an island in Vanuatu with a population of about 600 using nothing more than existing tools

What stands in the way of repeating this achievement in the South Pacific across the globe? From Lum’s perspective, it’s largely an issue of health-care infrastructure. “On paper, it’s easy,” he said. “There are no ‘black boxes’ in the technology, but there are a lot of logistical hurdles. There’s a big gap between knowing how to do it and actually implementing it.” It’s as easy — and as hard — as answering this question: How do you find everyone every week and ensure they take the medicine? “It’s kind of a Catch-22,” Lum said. “If you knew how to find everybody, and you knew how to talk to everybody, it wouldn’t be a problem because you would have the basic health-care infrastructure. When you don’t have that, it remains a problem.”

Lum doesn’t hold out much hope for a new super-drug, either. “One of the problems with designing drugs for malaria is that there’s not much profit in it,” he said. “The people who need these medicines don’t have any money. If they could afford $2 a week to save their child, then they could afford to have basic health-care infrastructure. There’s not a big purse to entice these pharmaceutical companies into pushing the envelope of drug development.” That brings us back to chloroquine, which costs pennies per dose and was once incredibly effective. Lum wonders if a higher dose of chloroquine could be the answer, or perhaps periodically removing the drug from use and allowing susceptibility to recover. In any event, he hopes finding out more about the malaria parasite’s basic biology as it pertains to drug resistance will offer some insights. “Arguably, malaria has killed more people in human history than anything else,” he said. He still believes we can win the war. — Rachel Coker


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“Since then,” Lum said, “it’s been the ugly stepchild of public health because this massive effort had been tried and it had failed.”

and about $10 per person. The whole population — not just the symptomatic children, who are usually the most likely to be treated — had to be given medication once a week for 2.5 mosquito life cycles, or about nine weeks.

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“I can’t believe THAT!” said Alice. “Can’t you?” said the Queen in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.” Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said, “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”


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— Through the Looking Glass (1871), Lewis Carroll

Impossible things aren’t quite what they used to be. But when Larry Lehman steps up to any of the “looking glasses” at his disposal, just like Alice, he is likely to soon find himself in an unfamiliar world comprising landscapes that defy experience, laws that flout established thinking and relationships that challenge convention. Lehman’s journeys beyond the mantle of the commonplace and past the edge of possibility are the result of science and technology rather than magic mirrors or psychotropic fungi. Still, in ways that neither Lewis Carroll nor the White Queen could ever have imagined, Lehman’s efforts, and those of scores of other University and industry researchers who work alongside him, stand to underscore the advisability of believing the impossible. Lehman is the manager of Binghamton University’s Analytical and Diagnostics Laboratory (ADL). The facility, which is in the bioengineering building at the Innovative Technologies Complex, is the signature lab for Binghamton’s Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center (S3IP), a New York State Center of Excellence.

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Arguably one of the best analytical facilities of its kind in the Northeast, the ADL is home to $16 million in state-of-the-art equipment, all in an 8,000-square-foot laboratory designed for functionality and flexibility. The facility was developed with state money to advance high-tech commercialization by making resources available for academic-industrial collaborations, said Mary Beth Curtin, associate director of the Center of Excellence. The facility will seek to become self-supporting through fees generated by users in the laboratory. The multi-user facility opened its doors in September, and is expected to ramp up to full-scale operation during the next 18 to 24 months. By providing major instruments and technical support for diagnostics, analysis and characterization of materials used in small-scale systems integration and packaging, the laboratory will enable improvements to products and processes, which will translate into enhanced commercialization of microelectronics technologies, said Bahgat Sammakia, director of S3IP. “Technologies that will benefit from the ADL include electronics packaging, with products like computers and


— Samuel Chen, senior research scientist, Eastman Kodak Co.


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telecommunications, displays, new materials for electronics, organic electronics, defense and homeland security, and consumer products,” Sammakia said. “In other words, any technology that requires an understanding of materials behavior, molecular-level measurements and physics-based models of product performance in the field will benefit.” Outer shell taken on an optical microscope at 53x.

Binghamton University is already one of a handful of universities in the world that are at the forefront of research in electronic systems integration and packaging. “This lab will enable us to continue to compete and excel with this very distinguished and select group,” Sammakia said.

Edge of cracked shell taken on a scanning electron microscope (SEM) at 2470x.

Surface topography on an eggshell taken on a profilometer at 975x.

The laboratory also builds on the University’s successful track record of partnering with industry, particularly in the areas of electronics and micro- and flexible electronics. All under the S3IP umbrella, the ADL joins the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center and the Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing as another portal for companies seeking to take advantage of the extraordinary intellectual and physical research infrastructure the University provides. “Many small and even large multinational companies cannot justify investing in this infrastructure — both instrumentation and scientists — on their own, even though when they do need it, they will need it urgently,” Sammakia said. “The ADL enables regional and national industries to come to Binghamton and partner with us to conduct their R&D in key emerging technology fields.”

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As part of that kind of partnership, industries can tap not only into the physical infrastructure of the ADL, but also into the intellectual resources of more than 20 Binghamton faculty and scores of graduate students working in the area of small-scale systems integration and packaging. They can also count on support from PhD-level senior scientists and research engineers exclusively assigned to the laboratory.


Membrane on inside of shell taken on an SEM at 493x.

One company that was quick to take advantage of the ADL is Corning Inc., where Ralph Truitt directs research in the area of characterization and materials processing.

3-dimensional visualization of surface topography of an eggshell. Profilometer, 975x.

“Because of the breadth and ever-evolving types of technologies we support, and the capital-intensive nature of analytical measurements, we simply can’t acquire every tool and expert we need,” Truitt said. “Partnering with labs that complement our capabilities is critical. The ADL at Binghamton University is just such a facility. The staff’s expertise and the measurement tools that are being assembled are already a formidable set of capabilities to make unique surface chemistry analyses, material morphology measurements and thermal property measurements.”


That will mean a savings in research time and expense and will allow Corning to leverage its expertise in developing new test applications, Truitt added. “We particularly appreciate the obvious attention paid to making access rules and administrative requirements clear and simple for consortium members,” he said. Samuel Chen, a senior research scientist with Eastman Kodak Co., agrees. “It was a real pleasant surprise to find a place like the ADL at Binghamton University with such a large number of high-tech analytical instruments capable of assisting the digital microelectronics effort of Eastman Kodak Co.,” Chen said. “If we were to duplicate this type of analytical resource in Rochester, the cost would be prohibitively expensive. By being able to easily access ADL, this facility has provided us the complementary option to probe and understand different thin-film technologies needed for microelectronics and micromechanics.” Ultimately, the laboratory will put top-of-the-line tools in the hands of investigators, whether they are industry scientists, faculty researchers or graduate students, Lehman said. “If you want to see what’s going on at the nanometer or micron level, these tools are just the best there is,” he said.

“We go from extremely macro on one end … a microscope that takes pictures at 0.3 magnification, so images are smaller than the actual thing, to equipment where we have several million magnification,” Lehman said. “Then we are looking at individual atom rows in material and can say, ‘Well, in this particular layer here is where these two different crystals join


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When it comes to microscopy, for instance, the ADL offers state-of-the-art solutions.

“IT’S AN ADVENTURE OF THE HIGHEST ORDER TO JUST SORT OF STEP OUT OF THE REALM OF ALL THAT YOU KNOW INTO A PLACE WHERE YOU BEGIN TO SEE THINGS THAT CANNOT BE SEEN AND HARDLY EVEN IMAGINED.” — Larry Lehman, manager, Binghamton University’s Analytical and Diagnostics Laboratory (ADL) together, and there is one layer of atoms there that is different. You can see it and you can measure it.” Based only on the names of equipment in the ADL, even non-scientists will recognize that there must be something big going on in a lab designed to examine things in the most minute detail. There’s the atomic force microscope, scanning electronic microscope, dual-beam focused ion beam/electron microscope, transmission electron microscope, ultra-fast laser confocal imaging system, a spectroscopic ellipsometer, a scanning acoustic microscope, an X-ray diffractometer, and small- and large-angle X-ray scattering devices. And that’s just for starters. “What many of these tools have in common, is that they create images,” Lehman explains.

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Not just any images, you understand. We’re talking images of things so small that proportionately they would be to the period at the end of this sentence what that period would be to a football field. We’re talking images at the nanometer scale, keeping in mind that a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers. We’re talking about images that look like nothing you’ve ever seen or could ever hope to see with the naked eye or even the best optical microscope, which can afford only about 1500x magnification. In the ADL, smooth surfaces are transfigured by magnifications of up to several million times and microscopic creatures become beasts so enormous that only small portions of them can be seen at one time. “Looking at a plain piece of paper, the topography would be like a mountain range,” Lehman said.“It would look more like an open-weave piece of cloth, and you would find it chock full of garbage, fillers of all shapes and sizes. It wouldn’t look anything like the macroscale piece of paper you’re used to seeing.”


Popular wisdom suggests that whether you’re building a house or carving a roast, whatever the job, “it’s all about having the right tools.” When it comes to research, even though Lehman offers a caveat, he agrees that having good tools is critical. “Good research does not come from good tools; it comes from good thinking. But good tools enable you to probe the limits of good thinking,” he said.“When you get the chance to test your thinking and you say, ‘Oh this is not exactly what I thought,’ you get an opportunity to think again in a more informed way.” And the laboratory’s flexible design will also allow investigators to rethink even their practical approach to projects. “If scientists using the facility suddenly find themselves thinking, ‘Oh, I wish I had this tool right next to that tool,’ in this laboratory we can do that,” Lehman said. “If you want this optical microscope to sit next to that thermal tool, in 10 minutes we can make that happen.” That’s because the laboratory was designed with all utilities in the ceiling and all equipment, tables and benches on stabilized wheels. Depending on the type of analysis being employed in the laboratory, certain materials might be ablated and vaporize into thin air, while other substances will cling to each other in intractable crystalline cliques, refusing to mix in any proportion other than that of their own choosing. In person, it’s all pretty heady stuff, even for Lehman, who is a self-proclaimed, lifelong laboratory geek. “It’s mind boggling to me some of the things that are possible out there in that laboratory,” Lehman said. One of the most important roles of the ADL will be to serve as a meeting place for great minds from across the disciplines, something facilitated by the leading-edge nature of the laboratory and by the extraordinary mix of high-end equipment it houses. “To develop products, to develop new devices, new kinds of processes, you really have to cross all the boundaries,” Lehman said. “Used to be you could go to school and take your physics courses and say, ‘I’m a physicist, and I’ll go out and I’ll study electrons or something.’

Industry faces some of the same challenges. Companies need new ideas and products, but if they are to succeed in an increasingly competitive market they can’t afford as they did in the

So the industrial research and development model has shifted, and to the degree that they can, many companies are working to improve the design of or to reduce the cost of existing technologies, without the capacity to make independent quantum leaps to next-generation products. “They’re not making a brand new widget; they’re making the same old widget work a little better and maybe a little less expensive to produce,” Lehman said. “And you can go quite a ways doing that sort of thing. But if you want to invent a really new widget or do something in a completely different way, that’s going to take a bit more work.” The ADL will allow even small companies to compete with big companies when it comes to next generation, high-tech widgets. Say that a small company builds a good product and wants to move into a higher-end market with its product, Lehman proposes. “Suddenly they’re being asked to guarantee the quality of their product at a higher level. Well, generally you can’t do that without a lot of knowledge about the internal workings of your manufacturing process and the product itself. And generally you can’t do that without good analytical tools to actually find out what’s going on. Yes, you have a product or process and it seems fine. But how fine is it? How close are we to the edge of failure? “It’s not the same thing when you build a cheap product for short-term use and one in 10 fails. Then people will throw that one in the trash, no big deal. But when you’re building for a high-end application and the customer comes to you and says, ‘I want you to guarantee that no more than one in 10,000 of these things fails, and if it does you’re going to pay for the repair costs,’ now that’s a different ball game. Now you’re talking about,‘I really have to know what it takes to fail. I’ve got to really know how close my manufacturing brings me to that point.” Having access to the ADL tools and the expertise of University scientists to analyze and diagnose materials and systems will even the playing field for companies, better the chances for success in product design and hasten the process of developing new and better materials. But perhaps just as important, it will help researchers bent on believing impossible things, whether before breakfast or otherwise. “It’s an adventure of the highest order,” Lehman said, “to just sort of step out of the realm of all that you know into a place where you begin to see things that cannot be seen and hardly even imagined.” — Susan E. Barker


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“But if you’re going to build products in the real world today, you better know a lot about a lot of things, and what’s more you better collaborate with a lot of people who are specialists at things that you are not. Because all on your own, I’m sorry, you’re probably going to be behind the curve.”

past to invest huge sums in outright ownership of the necessary intellectual and physical infrastructure.

Platinum ambition:

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Golden goose eggs and the Midas touch are the stuff of fairy tales, but the cool reality of platinum-based catalysts is a major part of C.J. Zhong’s research into next-generation fuel cells that could help break America’s dependence on petroleum products. Zhong says hydrogen-powered fuel cells work something like a conventional battery, with one major exception: they never run out. The fuel cell has two electrodes, an anode and a cathode, separated by a membrane. Oxygen passes over one electrode and hydrogen over the other.

where they combine with the reduced oxygen species to produce water. It’s an approach that scientists agree will ultimately produce clean and low-cost energy. And, of all metals, the catalyst platinum turns out to be the best at speeding up the necessary chemical reaction within hydrogen-powered fuel cells. But, platinum’s superior ability to catalyze the combination of the oxygen from the atmosphere with hydrogen, which can be released from a water-electrolyzer that has been exposed to sunlight, is offset by both economics and chemistry, Zhong explained.

The electrons flow out of the cell to be used as electrical energy. The hydrogen ions move through the electrolyte membrane to the cathode electrode

Zhong’s research into refining platinum’s capacity as a fuel-cell catalyst has several goals. Besides reducing the amount of platinum used in the catalyst, he is also


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The hydrogen reacts on a catalyst on the electrode anode that converts the hydrogen gas into negatively charged electrons (e-) and positively charged ions (H+).

“Platinum is expensive, twice the market price of gold, and there is also a limited quantity, which further drives up the price,” he said. “Reforming of natural gas is one of the main sources of hydrogen, but that process also creates carbon monoxide as a by-product and carbon monoxide also destroys the platinum’s catalytic activity.”

C.J. Zhong exploring how to increase its activity and stability. Improving its stability is key because consumers will reasonably expect the fuel cell to last at least two to three years before any maintenance.

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Discovering a new catalyst material is challenging, he said, and in addition to doing that, his research will be more productive by focusing on reducing platinum load with increased activity and stability, because the catalyst could work better when there is less platinum present. This metallic marvel currently comprises about 30 percent of the cost in manufacturing fuel cells. Zhong is well aware of the consumer mindset that demands a low price point before adopting a new technology, no matter how much people would prefer to switch from carbonbased fuel sources to the so-called “hydrogen economy.”


To reduce the cost of fuel cells that use platinum catalysts, Zhong is pursuing two distinct avenues of research. The first focuses on alloy creation, in which less expensive metals such as nickel and iron are added to the platinum. Carbon is also added to the mix because it disperses the catalysts so that more surface areas can be exposed. The second technique exploits the latest advance in the growing field of nanotechnology for the design and fabrication of nanostructured catalysts. “It’s partially about surface area,” Zhong said. “When you use nanoparticles of platinum, you increase the surface areas significantly without increasing the total amount of platinum.” To advance his research in this project, Zhong received a major National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in September

2007, valued at $1 million over four years. It represents the first award from the NSF’s Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team (NIRT) program won by Binghamton University. “NIRT’s goal is to find societal benefits for nanoscale technology,” Zhong said. “Therefore, the major focus of our team’s fuel-cell research involves the use of this developing technology.” by-product of any energy source: pure water that can be returned to the earth or air without detriment.

The NIRT grant provides more resources that will sustain the team for a longer time, which allows it to conduct more in-depth research of nanotechnology into a critical area of fuel-cell development, Zhong added.

“No car company can afford not to do fuel-cell technology research,” Zhong said.

The government is willing to invest in this area of alternative energy research, whether as tax breaks to hybrid car owners or NSF grants to scientists such as Zhong and his team, because the payback in environmental protection is so significant. Fuel cells produce the most environmentally friendly

“Money spent up front is worth it to them because it represents a clean technology,” Zhong said. While hydrogen-fueled power sources are now mostly engineered for use in automobiles, they have enormous potential to run factories and other large facilities, he added. Zhong notes that estimates for producing commercially viable fuel cells range from an optimistic five years to a more realistic 15. Industry sources, notably automobile manufacturers such as Honda, are also contributing to the research for lower cost yet effective fuel cells.

“Remember what happened to Kodak and photographic film. Once, they set the standard and were the industry leaders. Now, others have taken the lead in the era of digital cameras,” he added. — Katherine Karlson


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The team comprises specialists in their field who contribute specific skills to the research outside of the basic chemistry, which is Zhong’s expertise. For example, Susan Lu, System Science and Industrial Engineering at Binghamton University, focuses on statistics from test results, and can thereby evaluate the reliability of fuel cells. Bahgat Sammakia, Mechanical Engineering, also at Binghamton, is expert in materials characterization and electronics packaging, coordinating equipment and research facility use. A fellow chemist from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Lichang Wang, has significant experience in molecular modeling and computational chemistry of the nanoscale catalysts under consideration.

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Tapping solar energy could provide limitless power




The biggest energy bang for the buck comes from sunlight, and Seshu Desu’s research aims to tap that immense supply of renewable energy and make it easily accessible as a flexible, large-area and low-cost, autonomous power source. “We’re attacking both sides of the problem: We want an integrated system that can generate power with solar cells and store that power more efficiently and at a lower cost,” said Desu, dean of Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the head of a research team tackling how to harness the sun’s energy potential. “The solar energy we could access in one day could support the electricity needs of the Earth for a year at the present rate of consumption,” Desu added.“By 2015, solar cells as power sources could be a huge industry.”

When materials are structured into much smaller dimensions as nanoparticles, it increases the number of surfaces. This, in turn, increases the capacity to interact with the environment without increasing the size of the basic unit.

The other side of the coin in developing lowercost power sources using solar cells is that the energy that is produced must be stored efficiently and still provide ready, reliable access for several years. Desu compares marathon runners and sprinters to explain the current state of energy storage devices. “Batteries are marathoners — they have high energy density but low power density,” he explained. “Capacitors are the opposite because they can supply high levels of power quickly, such as when you turn on your laptop computer.” The problem with energy-dense batteries is their size and lifetime, whereas lightning-fast capacitors run down quickly. The solution is to combine


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Desu’s research focuses on creating autonomous power systems based on flexible thin-film solar cells. Although the typical generation efficiency of these solar cells today is about 10 percent, he hopes to increase that efficiency through novel design and restructuring of the cell itself. The developing field of nanotechnology can help achieve this goal.

Scientists have discovered that materials also have other unexpected and often beneficial properties when their sizes are reduced to nano levels. Desu’s research will take advantage of these as yet unknown properties in constructing the next generation of thin-film solar cells, in which nanoparticles cover a large surface area to maximize generation efficiency, reduce the cost and increase reliability.

Desu’s research focuses on creating autonomous power systems based on flexible thinfilm solar cells.

Seshu Desu the best qualities of both into a supercapacitor, Desu said. “Potential for solar energy utilization can be maximized when the solar cells are integrated with high-efficient energy storage supercapacitor devices that could accommodate the accelerated power needs. We were able to produce supercapacitors with significantly high energy and power densities with extremely long cycle lifetimes using the advantages of nanostructuring as well as thin-film nanocomposite materials,” he said. “To achieve high-energy density and prevent self-discharge through open circuit reactions, we developed inorganic and organic solid-state electrolytes as gels or membranes with ionic conductors that are biologically derived.”

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Integrated solar-cell supercapacitor structures as autonomous power sources are also being investigated, Desu added. Desu holds degrees in mathematics, physics, chemistry, materials science and electrical engineering. His research activity began in industry, then continued at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Virginia Tech. He has secured 29 patents and published 235 refereed journal papers, which have led to more than 3,500 citations. As a professor and a researcher at both universities, Desu brought in more than $10 million in research grants. He was department head at Amherst from January 1999 to August 2006, during


which time the department increased its research expenditures from $3.5 million to $8.5 million and won a coveted National Science Foundationfunded Engineering Research Center designation worth $40 million. A former Amherst colleague, Professor Alok Rastogi, a physicist with 35 years’ experience in solar cells and nanomaterials, has joined Desu at Binghamton University to assist with this research. The direct applications of the autonomous power system based on solar cells are found everywhere, not just in computers or electronic gadgets, Desu said. “Research should ultimately transfer scientific innovations into useful products and processes that would benefit society. It’s not just curiosity,” he said. In addition to flexible, large-area autonomous power sources, there is a growing need for highly efficient large-area lighting. For that latter purpose, some members of his group are developing ZnObased light-emitting diodes (LED), he added. His group has also been developing flexible thinfilm medical sensing devices. Desu suggests that due to their flexibility and precision detection capacity, these sensing devices could be built into the environment. For example, if built into the walls of a shower stall, the devices would remain unobtrusive yet provide accurate monitoring of potential health threats.

“The future exists in latent form in the present,” he said. “If we can identify dangerous conditions, such as cancer growth, in their latent phase, intervention is easy and less costly.”

rough silicon surface. Rather than throwing out the result as a failed experiment, they looked at the outcome with fresh eyes and fit the surprise result between different layers in their thin films.

“We’re trying to migrate flexible electronics into that area of application. In effect, our cars are better monitored than our bodies are,” he concluded.

“It was something they found on the side that had interesting results,” he continued. “It was a good idea that worked and is now used commonly.”

“Desu’s research is goal-oriented — he’s a real engineer who wants to solve a problem,” said William T. Reynolds Jr., professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Facility at Virginia Tech. Reynolds recalls a situation in which Desu’s students were working on chemical vapor deposition of silicon-carbide thin films on silicon, and they serendipitously discovered a way to reduce defects in silicon carbide. Somewhat accidentally, they started their deposition on a

Reynolds, who sat on the thesis committees for several of Desu’s students, noted how they had adopted his approach to research. “Those students were open to what they came upon because they didn’t have blinders on. And at the same time, they were not randomly experimenting,” he added. “Desu doesn’t expect a specific result, but takes a path toward a goal by following a strategy,” Reynolds said. — Katherine Karlson

INSPIRING BOLD THINKING An environment in which creativity is valued and the culture of innovation is promoted is essential, and not just to an entrepreneurial economy. “This same environment also encourages ground-breaking research and provides students with the best possible education,” said Seshu Desu, new dean of Binghamton’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“The environment must be conducive to intellectual risk-taking. People must feel they are important and part of something larger than themselves. Students, graduates and undergraduates alike, must feel that they are making a difference in the world,” Desu said. “Our vision has to be bold, and to achieve that vision successfully it should be translated into the aspirations of individuals in the institution.”

“He has a deep understanding of education and applies ‘out-of-thebox’ thinking to it. Desu recognizes that undergraduates are the backbone of the university, and he therefore puts the students first, because they are the future,” Gong added. Desu said it’s essential to retain and develop faculty who have strengths in both research and teaching. “From that vantage point,” he added, “I need to identify the innate potential in people within the school and provide them with the necessary resources and freedom so that they can flourish.”


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A former colleague at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where Desu was head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, described how he keyed in on the faculty to advance undergraduate education.

“Desu put the best teachers, who are usually the best researchers, in front of the first- and second-year students, where at most other schools, they teach only graduate students,” said Weibo Gong, professor in that department and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow.

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The alchemy of absurdity


Jessica Fridrich transmutes nonsensical questions into dazzling discoveries

Many researchers have spent their careers asking different iterations of the question “Why?” Jessica Fridrich established a place for herself and remains in the vanguard of her field by asking the more audacious question “Why not?” Fridrich is known the world over for developing brilliant new approaches to problems involving information hiding in digital imagery. Her areas of expertise include digital image authentication, tamper detection, robust watermarking, steganalysis and steganography. Colleagues characterize her work as relentless in its originality and spectacular in its fecundity.

“A lot of big discoveries come out of trying to do the impossible,” Fridrich said. “So in my research group, we often start by asking stupid, silly questions. We look at what is thought to be impossible and say, ‘Can we do this?’ Anyone who listened to us would say, ‘These guys are nuts. Of course you can’t do this. What a silly question.’”

Her first thought, she now admits, was “That’s nonsense.” But rather than stopping there, she began to devise permutations that would allow her to do what seemed impossible at first blush. On the occasion in question, the result of her willful disregard for the presumed bounds of possibility was the development of a ground-breaking, erasable watermarking technique for digital images. Also known as lossless watermarking, the technology is now the subject of a large body of scholarly papers by others in her field. In lay terms, it involves embedding a watermark in the image so that the watermark can be later erased from the image to obtain the original, unwatermarked image. Like magic, Fridrich’s technique provides an image that has been changed, but which also remains the same.


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Her 12-year tenure at Binghamton University, where she is a professor in the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, includes an unbroken string of externally sponsored research projects that have given rise to five U.S. and international patents, as well as two pending patent applications. Law enforcement agencies, movie makers and government officials all want to know what she’s doing next because her work has such important implications in the fights against terrorism, child pornography, counterfeiting and digital piracy.

Time and again, however, Fridrich has demonstrated that entertaining seemingly ridiculous questions, while daring to ask “why not,” just might be the smartest thing a researcher can do. That’s what happened seven years ago, she recalls, when during a presentation on steganography — the art of hiding information — she was asked if she could hide something in a digital image without altering the original image.

Fridrich says her seemingly contrary approach to challenging the bounds of possibility can be traced back to childhood. Growing up in Czechoslovakia, a precocious toddler’s fascination with and curiosity about the natural world took wing.

“A lot of big discoveries come out of trying to do the impossible.”

“When I was a little child, I liked nature very much,” she said. “I was interested in butterflies and birds, so I would be reading about them, getting binoculars and going out to watch and study them, to be able to identify them in the guide books.” By sixth grade, Fridrich’s interest moved beyond the treetops and settled on the stars. “I was learning constellations, what they were and how things worked. I wanted to see more. I wanted to build a telescope, and my father helped me to build one.” During that star-crossed process, Fridrich discovered a different sort of constellation that would change the course of her life. “I found some formulas where if you just plug in the diameter of the lens and some other parameters, it will tell you what you will be able to see with your telescope. There was this mysterious function called a logarithm in there. I was only in sixth grade and had no idea what a logarithm was, so I asked my math teacher.

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“When she explained, I was fascinated to learn that there are things like this that can magically give you answers to something you don’t know … that even before testing it out, this formula could tell you what the telescope could do for you. In this process, I discovered math and how powerful it is,” Fridrich recalled. Because Czechoslovakia was “just a little country,” and because “there would sometimes be no openings for astronomers for years at a time,” Fridrich took her concerned father’s advice, which was to retain astronomy as a hobby, but to contrive a course of study that could better ensure a job, not to mention a career. “I picked the school that everyone said was the hardest to do,” Fridrich said, “the Czech Technical University, School of Nuclear Science and Physical Technology, pursuing studies in applied mathematics.”


“They gave me a good background in physics and math, and I found I just like to crack things, to look at puzzles that seem impossible and find a way to crack them.” In fact, Fridrich’s name is probably better known for her success in puzzle solving than for her academic research. In the early 1980s, soon after the Rubik’s Cube was introduced, it seized Fridrich’s attention even before it became a global craze.

“There was a silent challenge in the cube,” she said. “There was no system developed for solving it when it first came out. There was a silent challenge to design a system to solve it fast.” So while most people were turning the cube over for hours, days and weeks at a time, gaining ground on one side only to lose on the others, Fridrich was developing a technique to accomplish the daunting task in seconds. Using the technique that is now known the world over as the Fridrich Method, Fridrich won the first Czechoslovakian speedcubing championship in 1982, and went on 21 years later to finish second in the 2003 Rubik’s Cube World Championship. “When I was at my best, I routinely solved the cube in an average time of 17 seconds,” she said.“At that time, I was actively using more than 100 algorithms, but the minimum is 53 algorithms.” The Fridrich Method remains one of the most-used speedcubing methods in the world. Last year, 18-year-old Ryan Patricio credited the technique with helping him win the 2007 U.S. Open Rubik’s Cube Championship in Chicago. He completed the puzzle in a mind-boggling 14.17 seconds. Fridrich’s willful disregard for the accepted limits of possibility is embraced by her entire research group. Among others, the group includes Fridrich’s co-inventers Miroslav Goljan and Jan Lukas and post-doctoral assistant Mo Chen. Most recently, they developed and continue to refine the only technology that can match still digital images and digital video to the specific device that recorded them. Two patents on the technology are in the works. “We are also extending the technology so we can identify the camera from images that were cropped and scaled at the same time,” Fridrich said. “You hit the limits of the technology faster

Jessica Fridrich

because you have to do the search for the scaling and cropping, but you can still do a lot.” The technology is now five to six times faster than it was in 2006, when word of its invention for use on still digital images attracted the interest of law-enforcement agencies the world over. In much the same way that telltale scratches allow forensics experts to match bullets to the gun that fired them, Fridrich’s digital fingerprinting technique can reliably link still and video digital images to the camera that shot them. That’s because every digital imaging device ends up with distinctive marks on its sensors during manufacture, and Fridrich and her group have figured out how to detect and analyze the pixilated fingerprint left by each device on the images it records. Child pornographers, counterfeiters and movie pirates should be forewarned. The technology promises to put many more of them behind bars in the future than has been possible in the past. Fridrich’s research team has even found a way to use the technology to find fingerprints in printed images, a development that grew out of another visit with apparent absurdity.

A week later, although the television crew was back in Sweden, that “silly” question was still knocking around in Fridrich’s head. So she went back to her team and asked, “If we can survive rescaling by 50 percent and jpeg compression, why can’t we survive printing and scanning?” In short order, the once

“It actually does work. It is easier to detect the signature in prints made at pharmacies or grocery stores than those you print in the lab or at home because the printing quality is much better in photo labs. We can identify the camera from regular postcard-size prints,” Fridrich said. “We were very surprised. It’s amazing. I would not have expected it in my wildest dreams. It’s not a big discovery, but people will be amazed. And we would not have come up with this on our own because we just presumed it impossible.” The key, Fridrich said, is not to dismiss those stupid questions if you get them in your head. “You must nurture them and think about them,” she said. “You must have the time to sit around and brainstorm and wonder.” Fridrich is fond of quoting Pablo Picasso, who once noted that “computers are useless because they only give us answers.” “I think this is a great citation, and though he said that quite awhile ago when computers were not what they are today, it is still true,” she said. Maybe in another 50 or 100 years artificial intelligence will change all that, and computers will start devising possibilityexpanding questions of their own. But for now, Fridrich thinks, it’s well worth our time and effort to strive to recognize and reap the true value of ill-informed questions. They might just offer us the potential to free ourselves from the self-imposed limitations of unexamined misbelief. — Susan E. Barker


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“We were being filmed by a Swedish television crew, and the reporter asked, ‘So if you print out an image, can you get a fingerprint on it?’ We said ‘No, that would introduce too much distortion, with the printing and scanning process and the signature will not survive this.’ But we looked at each other and chuckled, like, ‘… what a silly question.’”

absurd question became the vital seed from which sprang the group’s latest conference presentation, “Identifying Cameras from Printed Images.”

Keeping it

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‘REAL’ Surgeons use it to fine-tune risky procedures and to learn new ones. Pilots, firefighters and police use it to practice life-saving skills of their own. And before astronauts or aircraft inspectors enter a real shuttle or airplane, they spend many hours using it to “experience” all sorts of problems and complications that can arise in complex aeronautical equipment.

“I’m confident that this is going to work because of how virtual reality has worked in other industries,” says Mohammad Khasawneh, an assistant professor of systems science and industrial engineering at Binghamton.

Khasawneh’s research may one day marry Greater Binghamton’s historic strength in simulators with the University’s developing reputation as a leader in electronics manufacturing and packaging. The work builds on research Khasawneh did while a doctoral student at Clemson University, where he was involved in the creation of a virtual-reality simulator based on the L10-11 aircraft’s cargo bay. The project, supported by NASA, helped train inspectors in how to inspect different areas of the aircraft before a flight. That was less than 10 years ago, but the field has changed dramatically since then, Khasawneh notes. Back then, users wore goggles and sessions were limited to 30 minutes for safety reasons. Now, virtual reality systems have become more portable; some can even be run from a desktop computer.


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It is virtual reality, and thanks to a unique project at Binghamton University, it will soon take its place as an important tool in training the operators of hugely complex and expensive machinery involved in electronics manufacturing and packaging.

“The beauty of virtual reality is you’re doing everything offline. If you make an error, it’s not going to cost money or affect safety. And you can also give immediate feedback to the operators to improve their performance.”


Virtual reality has also made great strides in terms of what’s known as the “level of immersion” offered by programs. That is, how closely does the virtual environment match the actual environment? Experts classify a program’s level of immersion as low, medium or high. As the level of immersion increases, the person’s feel of presence in the virtual environment increases as well. In general, the higher the level of immersion, the higher the price tag for the program. While there are numerous variables, virtual-reality applications can cost thousands of dollars or more to design.

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So why use them in training?


immense cost associated with training at a central location. Khasawneh recently designed a prototype of a virtual reality model to train people to use a machine built by a Greater Binghamton company. Normally, the company holds a series of training sessions, including a five-day workshop that’s only offered in Binghamton — even for customers in China. But when it comes to complex equipment, operators mostly end up relying on on-the-job training. “They get very limited exposure to the actual machine until they go back to their companies and start using it,” Khasawneh says.

That question is less likely to come up when you consider the cost of “operator error” for a surgeon, for example. But even when human lives aren’t at stake, errors can still have huge costs in terms of broken equipment or badly manufactured products.

Virtual-reality training could change that process dramatically, offering operators individualized feedback as they learn to use the machine in addition to a virtual tour of the machine and a look inside at how its components move. Companies could skip the trip halfway around the world, or arrive in Binghamton ready for a more nuanced, in-depth class.

When it comes to electronics manufacturing, virtual reality could also reduce the

“A simulator should allow us to train very novice operators and bring them to

the skill level of those who are experienced,”Khasawneh says.“For those who are more advanced, it should allow them to experience things they have not done for newly designed products.” One of Khasawneh’s latest projects involves designing a training module for a microlithography machine recently acquired by the Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM) at Binghamton. The virtual-reality training could one day help ensure that employees of the CAMM’s corporate partners arrive at the lab ready to use the equipment effectively.

He’s also working with the inventors of a large sphere-shaped virtual-reality system called the VirtuSphere to help explore its potential in improving human

software grant from UGS Corp. valued at $13.2 million. The company provided software from its Tecnomatix suite of products, which is used by firms around the world to improve the ergonomics of product design and workplace tasks.

“This technology employs the most natural form of navigation, overcoming the limitations of existing virtualreality systems,” Khasawneh said. “The VirtuSphere allows the person to walk, jump, roll, crawl, run and move in any direction for virtually unlimited distances.”

Khasawneh sees such software and virtual-reality factories as an important industry trend. Soon companies won’t consider moving a machine, let alone building a new factory, without first testing it in the virtual world, he says.

This advanced system, created by Russian brothers Nurakhmed and Nurulla Latypov, uses a wireless headset that senses the movements of virtual explorers, allowing life-like movements controlled with a joystick or keyboard. Khasawneh, a native of Jordan whose research interests include human factors engineering in manufacturing and aviation systems, quality and simulation, joined Binghamton’s faculty in 2003. He has helped to establish a Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Laboratory at the University, aided in part by a recent

Other virtual-reality applications range from virtual museum expansion projects to “exposure therapy” in which people are exposed to something they fear in a controlled way. The military is also using virtual reality to treat some veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “Our focus now,” Khasawneh says, “is proving to the rest of the world that virtual reality is going to be successful in electronics manufacturing and packaging.” — Rachel Coker


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“We’re dealing with very complex machines,” Khasawneh says. “With the roll-to-roll process and creating flexible displays, they use very expensive equipment, in the millions of dollars. So training becomes very important. My involvement will help lower the cost of operating some of these machines.”

performance in a variety of applications, such as military and law-enforcement simulated training, education and learning systems, real estate and architecture virtual walk-throughs and rehabilitation.


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Not long ago, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was largely the province of a select few companies whose leaders had a particular flair for activism or whose products appealed to socially conscious consumers. But after a wave of corporate ethics scandals, a nationwide elevation in environmental awareness and a political push for stricter corporate governance, businesses are paying a lot more attention to how they operate.

CSR has become a hot topic, and many businesses

have committed to making it part of their identities. What’s less clear is whether this touchy-feely approach touches the bottom line. Binghamton University marketing professor Manoj Agarwal, whose award-winning work has examined branding’s impact on financial performance, is seeking to answer this question through important new research.


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Today, we expect companies to have a heart as well as a formula for maximizing profits — and many have taken note, embracing CSR activities aimed at making their businesses “green,” improving the communities where they are based and increasing workplace satisfaction.

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The very nature of CSR activity, Agarwal says, flies in the face of conventional economic wisdom, which denotes that companies are in business purely to make money. Because expenditures set aside for CSR activities naturally take dollars away from a different area, many economists view CSR programs as a waste of shareholder money. A newer, opposing perspective is that companies are corporate citizens, so shareholders are not necessarily the only stakeholders involved.

materials in manufacturing to improving corporate diversity and helping to cure malaria in Africa. Obviously, companies want people to know about these activities.

“Corporations are becoming a major part of most economies in the world, and their actions affect millions of people, based on what kind of products they sell, where they buy from and what practices they use toward employees,” Agarwal says. “It is very limiting to say a firm is only responsible to shareholders because they are the ones who are financially invested.”

In the academic arena, research has only recently begun to look at the correlation between marketing and the bottom line. To date, analysis on the topic has yielded mixed results. “Some studies — maybe 60 percent — show a positive link between CSR activity and shareholder performance; about 10 to 15 percent show no link, about 10 to 15 percent show mixed links and the rest show a negative link,”Agarwal says.

Agarwal’s current research should shed some much-needed light on the question of whether embracing this stakeholder theory — and advertising it — is a smart financial move. Along with Guido Berens of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, he is investigating how a company’s branding strategy affects the link between CSR activity and financial performance. The research is funded by the Marketing Science Institute. It is not hard to see why branding makes good fodder for studying CSR’s impact. A recent issue of Business Week provides a perfect example of the depth and breadth of companies embracing socially conscious advertising. On the magazine’s pages, readers find ads from Siemens, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and Exxon Mobil promoting CSR activities ranging from the use of recycled


“This kind of advertising is very topical right now,” Agarwal says. “Companies may be thinking, ‘Everyone is doing it so we should, too.’ But I am not sure how much these firms have analyzed their ads’ effectiveness.”

Agarwal’s previous research has shown that, overall, companies following a “corporate brand” strategy tend to have better shareholder value in the marketplace than firms using a “house of brands” strategy. Corporate brands are those, like Kraft Foods, whose brand name appears on all its products, while “house of brands” companies — such as Yum! Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut — do not use the firm name in advertising or packaging. That corporate brands fare better financially is fairly intuitive.“Economic theory suggests if more people know about the firm, more people are going to buy the stock. That creates more liquidity for the company, reduces cost of capital and brings better returns,”Agarwal explains.

Applying the same approach to CSR activities, it is reasonable to expect that corporate-brand firms will have more success than house-of-brands firms in generating good will by positioning themselves as socially responsible companies. When Kraft showcases its devotion to environmental programs or employee diversity, consumers are likely to take notice of it because they know the company well through its products. In contrast, any CSR activities of Yum! Brands as a company would be more likely to go unnoticed by consumers as this name means little to them, Agarwal says. Thus Kraft will get more bang for its buck. To research this hypothesis, Agarwal and Berens have obtained historical data on the CSR activities of about 650 U.S. and 530 European firms over the last 10 years, which they are analyzing and cross-checking with corresponding financial and branding data.

Agarwal also expects to find that CSR activities aimed at consumers and shareholders have a stronger effect on financial performance than activities aimed at other stakeholders, such as employees and communities. If branding a company’s CSR activities motivates consumers to buy more of that company’s products, it creates liquidity and higher value for the firm. Similarly, share-

Companies that focus CSR branding activities toward employees or communities, on the other hand, are less likely to reap as much of a benefit on their balance sheets. While it can result in more motivated and committed employees, their impact on the bottom line is still an open question. “Something like being a good employer is not usually public,” Agarwal says. “Unless you work for the company or live nearby, you probably don’t know about those activities, so they don’t create as much of a financial reward.” In addition to bringing to the marketing literature a greater understanding about the links among branding, CSR and financial performance, this research holds important value for corporate America. What marketing executive wouldn’t want the ability to prove that a branding strategy has a positive impact on shareholder value while improving intangible assets such as corporate reputation? “Knowing which types of CSR activities are effective will help managers allocate resources more efficiently. It will also help to comprehensively measure the effectiveness of CSR expenditures targeted at consumers and other stakeholders,” Agarwal says.“Basically, we think companies that perform CSR activities and tell people about it are going to get more bang for the buck.” — Amy Roach Partridge


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Though Agarwal is still working through the modeling stage and applying econometrics to the data, his preliminary results are supportive. “We are finding that our initial hypothesis, which says the type of branding strategy a firm uses will make a difference on the link between CSR activity and the bottom line, is in fact coming out to be significant,” he says.

holders’ actions directly affect how a company fares on the stock market, so their endorsement of a company’s efforts to be a good corporate citizen have a direct impact on financial performance.

Ballots in the balance

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When millions of people cast votes in an election, a single ballot might not seem to count for much. In recent years, though, U.S. presidential candidates have run such tight races that the outcome has turned on a handful of votes in a single state. Think of George W. Bush’s 2 percent margin As the 2008 presidential primaries wind down and the general election draws in Ohio in 2004, or near, memories of past elections point the fact that in a close race, every his much small- out vote really does matter. That’s why the side in a squeaker contest might er — and highly losing challenge the accuracy of the tally, the of voting machines or the controversial — performance handling of absentee ballots, not to any factors that might have kept margin in Florida mention some voters from going to the polls. in 2000. And it’s why election officials would like


the University of California, Berkeley, received $165,000 from the National Science Foundation to expand their work in this area. McNulty and Brady have been examining how voters respond when a county reduces the number of polling locations used in an election. They’re developing a book on the subject, which should help election officials understand how decisions to open or close polling spots will influence turnout. “They’ll know exactly what to expect when they make any changes,” McNulty said. “In addition, when they open new polling places or have any kind of voter outreach, they’ll have a pretty good idea of how much additional turnout that might generate, so they can be better prepared for it.”

A good deal of McNulty’s research seeks to define the circumstances that boost or depress voter participation. In 2006, McNulty and Henry E. Brady, professor of political science and public policy at

A major assumption behind the study is that when you change a voter’s polling place, you make voting less convenient. Inconvenience is one of many elements that make up the “cost” of voting. In


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to push voter turnout as close as they can to 100 percent. “The outcome of a high-turnout election is perceived as having greater legitimacy than one with low turnout because the voters are presumed to be more representative of the entire population,”said John E. McNulty, assistant professor of political science at Binghamton University.

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general, the cost of voting includes any opportunity a voter gives up in order to cast a ballot — perhaps the chance to play with one’s children, take a shorter route home from work or watch a rerun of a favorite television show.

tune,” McNulty said. And in this highprofile contest, with famous actors, a porn star and the former commissioner of Major League Baseball on the slate, high turnout was likely to push the price tag even higher.

When people decide whether to vote, they do a cost/benefit analysis. And for many of us, the direct benefit of voting is not too compelling. “In many cases, you don’t perceive that the outcome of the election will have a tangible effect on your life,” McNulty said.

Because it was a special election, though, with no contests for city council, county supervisor or the like, every voter in the state would be looking at exactly the same ballot choices. Since counties didn’t have to tailor ballots to local needs, in theory an individual could vote anywhere. Counties could save money by opening polls in fewer locations.

“When you take that cost into account, versus the potential benefits, in purely mathematical terms, nobody should vote. Because there’s more value to you in sitting down and watching an episode of Seinfeld than there is benefit, in thin rational terms, in casting a vote at all,”he said. It’s not the expectation of benefit, but other factors, such as a sense of duty, that make many citizens overlook the costs and head for the polls. McNulty’s and Brady’s initial research sprang from the 2003 special election that recalled California Gov. Gray Davis and put Arnold Schwarzenegger in his place. “Running a statewide election in a state the size of California costs a for-


Los Angeles County, the state’s largest, cut the number of polling places from about 5,000 to 2,000. “This saved something on the order of $10 million,” McNulty said. But while it cut expenses for the county, that decision created another kind of “cost” for about 3.6 million registered voters who would have to cast their votes away from their accustomed polling places. Examining election records after the fact, McNulty and Brady found that this inconvenience factor did keep some voters away.

People who had to go to an unfamiliar polling place, they determined, were 3 percent less likely to turn up at the polls than people who could vote where they always did. Of the 3 percent who didn’t make the trip, about half took advantage of California’s liberal absentee balloting laws to vote by mail. “The other half abstained. So you had a net turnout dropoff of about 1.5 percent,” McNulty said. The NSF-funded book will extend this study with research on elections held in Los Angeles and several other California counties, plus selected locations in other states, including New York, from 2002 to 2006. McNulty and Brady will compare the turnout that counties saw when they employed the standard number of polling places and when they tried to save money by opening fewer polls. Those comparisons are relatively easy to make in California, which held another statewide special election in 2005, this time on a slate of ballot initiatives. For that contest, Los Angeles County again opened only about 2,000 polling sites, McNulty said. During regular elections in 2002 and 2004, it employed its typical complement of roughly 5,000 sites. McNulty and Brady also hope to pinpoint how changes in polling places affect specific groups of voters. “We’ll be able to isolate old from young,” McNulty said. “We’ll be able to isolate a long-term voter from a short-term voter. We’ll be able to isolate the frequent voter from the occasional voter. And, making some inferences from geography, we can make judgments about relative effects on different socio-economic strata.” Information for this analysis comes from voter rolls, which include addresses, birth dates, party registrations and voting histories.

With this breakdown, the study could have implications for efforts to get college-age voters to the polls, an effort McNulty terms “one of the great white whales of political consultants.” For the future, McNulty plans to investigate early voting. This practice, legal in more than half the states, allows people to vote in advance of Election Day, using systems set up in public locations such as shopping malls. Some observers believe early voting increases turnout by making it easier to vote; others think it cannibalizes Election Day voting, attracting mainly people who would have voted anyway, and leaving overall turnout unchanged, McNulty said.

McNulty plans to study whether offering early voting in different kinds of locations might increase turnout. “There’s some indication that putting polls into places like Wal-Mart might not be a cannibalizing initiative,” he said. While not everyone frequents traditional malls, in some communities just about everyone shops at Wal-Mart. “And if you happen to be there and there’s not much of a wait, it’s seems like it would be fairly costless to vote,” McNulty speculates. “I want to find out if that’s true, and if so, what difference it makes.” — Merrill Douglas


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John McNulty

Creative research techniques afford bold new insights into

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mental health issues

Personality disorders and severe psychopathology such as schizophrenia present arenas of inquiry long clouded by myth, misperception and grand theory, often confounded by inexact science. Mark F. Lenzenweger cuts through that murky shroud, using innovative data-analysis techniques to get answers to some of his ďŹ eld’s most perplexing questions. 66

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“The mindb ra i n - b e h av i o r interface of genomics, neurobiology and psychology requires more sophisticated methods than prior approaches in psychological science have allowed or even considered,” said Lenzenweger, a distinguished professor of psychology at Binghamton University. “The problems are complex and need to be understood in a rigorous way. That’s a theme that has run through my career in psychopathology research.”

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Psychologists tend to limit their statistical toolbox to fairly simple methods. Lenzenweger’s interest in more nuanced, complex approaches sets him apart. “To reveal order in data, you need to let it represent itself the way it really is,” he said. “And if you really want to tackle problems as nature delivers them up, then you have to get into the data, get your hands dirty and dig into it, sometimes with complicated methods.” To gather data on thorny problems, especially in the study of schizophrenia, Lenzenweger, an internationally recognized scholar and researcher in the area of experimental psychopathology, uses laboratory measures that offer more precision than was possible in previous eras. “It’s the difference between making a rough guess and using a ruler,” he said. “We do not say, ‘That looks like 1 foot and 9 inches.’ We measure it.” In addition to his faculty post at Binghamton, Lenzenweger is a senior research and clinical fellow at New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Personality Disorders Institute and an adjunct


professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Cornell University’s Weill College of Medicine. His collaborative work there focuses primarily on the enigmatic condition known as borderline personality disorder. He has also edited six books, published nearly 100 papers in refereed journals and uncovered ground-breaking findings that undo past misperceptions about personality disorders. He is writing a monograph on schizotypy – the liability, or risk, for schizophrenia – and research methods. Lenzenweger pursues two major programs of psychopathology research. The first focuses on schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related disorders. Schizophrenia, which affects 1 percent of the population, is a devastating illness that exacts a significant toll on those affected, their family members and society at large. For many years it was thought poor parenting practices led to schizophrenia; this erroneous view was debunked by research that focused on genetic factors. Researchers now know that genetic influences account for about 80 percent of the factors that cause schizophrenia. A particularly malignant feature of schizophrenia is that it usually begins early in life, appearing between the ages of 13 and 25. As a result, it spells a lifetime of challenges for affected individuals, their families and the larger communities concerned with their well-being.

“To reveal order in data, you need to let it represent itself the way it really is. And if you really want to tackle problems as nature delivers them up, then you have to get into the data, get your hands dirty and dig into it, sometimes with complicated methods.” — Mark F. Lenzenweger

“It just screams out to be solved as a public health problem,” Lenzenweger said. “I view it as something that demands our attention. It has always felt to me like the right battle to be fighting in mental health. It’s a real illness, not a ‘myth’ or ‘label’ as suggested in the 1960s. It’s based in the brain, it ruins people’s lives and it has a major genetic component.”

ously as it is heated to a boil or cooled to freezing, critical moments can be determined. So too is the case when it comes to schizophrenia. In short, one can measure something along a continuum or graded dimension, but, at some point, important transitions appear in the data.

Lenzenweger’s latest study in schizophrenia, which tested subjects’ eye movements and attention, was the first to confront the long-debated question regarding the structure of schizotypy using laboratory measures. It was also revolutionary for its use of two mathematical techniques, called finite mixture modeling and taxometric analysis.

“There may be a host of genetic factors that contribute to the risk for schizophrenia, but there may be tipping points or thresholds that are really meaningful, akin to the change in state from a liquid to a solid or from a liquid to a gas,” Lenzenweger said. “And there are statistical methods to help get at that.”

The techniques made it possible to divide research subjects into just two groups, those putatively at risk for schizophrenia and those not at risk. Other assessment techniques have generally failed to allow for this binary solution, and have instead forced researchers and treatment providers to assign graded risk assessments that afforded no one a clean bill of health.

Lenzenweger compares some of the logic of the theory behind the study to measuring the temperature of water. At some point, even if the temperature of the water is monitored continu-

The project was funded by a $100,000 Distinguished Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression. That support allowed Lenzenweger to do something risky: Rather than begin with people who had schizophrenia and study factors that set them apart, he drew more than 300 research subjects from the general community. These people were studied in the laboratory and attention and eye movement measures were taken for all 300. These data were then subjected to the finite mixture modeling and taxometric procedures for statistical analysis.


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In this study, Lenzenweger collaborated with Geoff McLachlan at the University of Queensland in Australia and Donald B. Rubin of Harvard University, both leaders in the application of new statistical methods to health-related problems. Their findings were published in 2007 in the prestigious Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Psychologists tend to limit their statistical toolbox to fairly simple methods. Lenzenweger’s interest in more nuanced, complex approaches sets him apart.

The risk paid off. Abnormalities in eye movement and attention — targeted as indicators of schizophrenia risk by earlier studies — turned out to be useful predictors. The smaller of the two groups in Lenzenweger’s study contained individuals who displayed dilute forms of schizophrenia-like symptoms even though they had never had the illness. Study of these people revealed schizophrenia in their relatives, but not other psychiatric illnesses. “What was exciting for us is that this method allows you to assign a probability to every person in the sample with respect to likelihood of risk for schizophrenia,” Lenzenweger said. “By doing this, one can generate precise estimates of where individuals fall on the risk dimension.”

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Professor Brendan A. Maher, the Edward C. Henderson professor emeritus at Harvard University and primary architect of the field of experimental psychopathology as well as a colleague and collaborator of Lenzenweger’s, said Lenzenweger’s work has “extraordinary potential.” One day it could even help lead the way to ensuring that individuals at risk for schizophrenia can be treated before they ever become ill. “The promise, particularly in the measurement and early identification of schizophrenia, which is still in its infancy, is huge,” Maher said. “The promise is that we would get good, solid data on early identification and be able to develop preventative techniques.” The next step for Lenzenweger will be to use mixture modeling to help identify people who might be gene carriers for schizophrenia risk.


Lenzenweger’s work has “extraordinary potential.” — Brendan A. Maher, professor emeritus, Harvard University

DNA assays on such individuals would contribute to the growing body of work on the 10 genes of highest interest to schizophrenia researchers. And it has become so much easier to gather DNA that Lenzenweger is optimistic about the work progressing further. “We can dig deeper,” he said, “because the technology has advanced yet again.” Lenzenweger also studies what are termed personality disorders. Different from a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia, people with personality disorders exhibit traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways and show marked occupational impairment. In a major epidemiological study, Lenzenweger recently reported that about 9 percent of adults in the United States have one or more personality disorders, which often limit their ability to function in relationships and at work. This work, conducted as part of the National Comorbidity Study-Replication, confirmed Lenzenweger’s earlier finding suggesting that 1 in 10 people suffers from a diagnosable personality disorder.

Abnormalities in eye movement and attention — targeted as indicators of schizophrenia risk by earlier studies — turned out to be useful predictors.

More recently, in collaboration with his Harvard colleague John B. Willett, Lenzenweger showed that the changes that occur in personality disorders over time are not caused by changes in a variety of systems thought to underpin personality in general. This study also was published in 2007 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. “These data cracked open the notion that any change in personality disorder must come from changes in personality per se,”Lenzenweger said, “and they open the door to exploring the causes of change, especially considering possibilities that fall outside the box of conventional wisdom in psychiatry and clinical psychology.” These findings offer new hope and possibilities for treatment to those stigmatized by misperceptions and misinformation. — Rachel Coker


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Another part of Lenzenweger’s focus on personality disorders involves his National Institute of Mental Health-funded Longitudinal Study of Personality Disorders (LSPD). In 1990, he began this study of the longitudinal course of personality disorders, personality and temperament. The first study of its kind in the world, it has been yielding fascinating results regarding the fundamental nature of personality disorders.

The study has challenged traditional beliefs about personality disorders more than once. For example, he first used a statistical procedure known as growth curve analysis, as well as data from the LSPD, to show that personality disorders are flexible and may change over time, rather than being fixed in regard to severity over a person’s lifetime.

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Who’s your daddy? It’s vital that pregnant women seek early prenatal care. And a Binghamton researcher says that an accountable father willing to acknowledge paternity could be one of the most critical factors in predicting whether a woman actually seeks such care. Gale Spencer, Decker Chair in Community Health Nursing, recently conducted a survey for the Central New York Perinatal Center. She examined barriers to prenatal care for women in three counties in upstate New York with particularly low prenatal care rates: Onondaga, Herkimer and Broome.

Most existing literature, for instance, suggests that minority populations tend to seek prenatal care later. But in her study, Spencer found that the amount of education a woman received was far more significant than her race in determining how soon she sought such care. That is, women without high school degrees, no matter their race, sought prenatal care far later than women with high school and college educations.


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Her study confirmed some previously held assumptions, such as the idea that women with health insurance seek prenatal care earlier than those without. But it also led to some other important, potentially ground-breaking conclusions.

“Race is often identified as related to a health-care problem,” Spencer says. “However, most frequently the problem is related to the person or aggregate’s socio-economic status rather than to race. This finding, I think, is a good example of that problem.” Joan Dadey, director of Women and Children’s Services at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y., would like to see 95 percent of central New York women get prenatal care in the first trimester. But when a group she belongs to, the Central New York Perinatal Forum, recently looked at data for the three-county area involved in Spencer’s study, it realized that the rate hovered down around 75 percent, a disappointing statistic that has remained relatively constant since 2000. “What the forum looked at and really recognized as an issue was access to care,” Dadey says.“We wanted to better understand why women aren’t seeking care and what our initiatives could be to change that. “Dr. Spencer’s research is important because we know if people receive prenatal care we will have improved neonatal outcomes,” Dadey says.“Research consistently shows that if women seek out prenatal care, receive it in the first trimester and all the way through, that we will have improved outcomes at birth.” Spencer has been researching public health at Binghamton University for more than 30 years, and she realizes that putting resources into the beginning of life can mitigate problems that might develop throughout a person’s entire life. “The major systems of the body are developed during those first three months of life,” says Spencer, “and so you want to give the baby the best possible chance. Getting a mother in for prenatal care early is a positive force in having a delivery of a healthy baby.” Each of the three counties in Spencer’s study presents its own problems. Onondaga is a metropolitan county without good clinics in the city. Herkimer is rural, and there are no birthing centers in the entire county; all women there must travel long distances for prenatal care. And Broome has urban and rural populations, combining the problems of both.

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— Joan Dadey, director of Women and Children’s Services, Crouse Hospital


“What the Central New York Perinatal Forum asked of me was to give them a profile of the people seeking prenatal care after the first trimester,” Spencer says. “What do these people look like? What were the barriers as perceived by the women and as perceived by the health-care providers?” Spencer and Binghamton University colleagues Sharon Bryant, Serdar Atav, Laura McDermott and Renee Conklin studied several sources. Electronic birth certificate data gathered by each county at the time of birth was reviewed, and surveys were sent to new mothers and health-care professionals. Dadey and Spencer agree that the most exciting finding from Spencer’s study is the idea that the father acknowledging his child early in pregnancy strongly affected the mother’s decision to seek prenatal care. Spencer found that if the father acknowledges that the child is his, the mother is much more likely to seek prenatal care. It’s a finding with a lot of potential for in-

spiring initiatives to raise central New York’s stagnant prenatal care rates, she said. “If the mother identified that there was paternal acknowledgement,” Spencer says,“she was much more likely to seek prenatal care during the first trimester. It was a significant indicator across race and age group. We always target women with our major campaigns about prenatal care. But maybe we should be targeting young men, and saying, you know, fatherhood begins at the very beginning and that’s making sure that your baby gets good care prenatally, as well as after birth.” During its first three months of existence, a fetus develops all its major organs, and much more. Researchers also think blueprints for obesity and major diseases — or, conversely, for lifelong good health — are made during this time. Getting women into early prenatal care helps to ensure that they can receive support to eat well, as well as get help in ending such harmful behaviors as smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs. The first trimester is also an important time for screening for genetic diseases. Spencer plans to work with the Central New York Perinatal Forum to develop programming aimed at young men and women. High school health classes and established abstinence education programs would be good places to introduce the topic, she said. While she realizes that coupling abstinence education with advice on how to behave once pregnant seems counter-intuitive, she sees both as promoting the self-esteem of young people. “I think we need to talk more about taking care of our health and taking care of the infant’s health early on,” Spencer says, “and about if you’re going to accept the role of mother or father, then you need to take responsibility for having the healthiest pregnancy. I think those ideas need to be tied together.”


Spencer’s study showed that race was a much less significant factor in Broome and Herkimer counties than other studies had shown; in Onondaga County race continues to be a significant factor. In addition, lack of transportation hampered rural women’s access.

“There’s a large number of the working poor who are not figuring out that they can get Medicare,” Spencer says. “And usually, they only figure that out when they go into the hospital and they can’t afford to pay for the delivery.” Spencer plans to work with doctoral students to expand her study to the entire state, to see if her conclusions hold true across broader demographics. — Bridget Meed 75

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Spencer’s study also showed that education, insurance and whether the care came from a private physician or at a clinic also affected prenatal care access rates. While health insurance is available to all pregnant women in New York state, Spencer notes that working poor women (who make too much for Medicaid but don’t have insurance through employers) often don’t know about supplemental insurance programs and fall through the cracks.


Instilling hope

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— An essay by Kevin Wright

Parent training programs across the nation, crafted via a “top-down” strategy that makes experts responsible for the conceptualization, design and implementation of the program, seem to view parents as the problem or obstacle to the healthy development of the child. Project HOPE (Helping Our Parents be Educators), a federally funded, fiveyear project partnering Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs and the Youth Services unit of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, takes a starkly different approach to parenting education and family strengthening.


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There is no argument about these facts: For children to be successful and healthy and to abstain from behaviors that place them at risk, parents need to be active in the socialization of their children. They need to communicate with and educate their children about risky behaviors. They must accept responsibility for being the primary educators of their children. They must share, model and educate their children in the values they hold. They must be accountable to themselves as parents.



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But programs designed to prevent problematic behavior among youth by attempting to increase parental capacity through skill development might well be undermining the very process they are designed to enhance. Over the years, what parents have consistently expressed to me and my Lourdes collaborators is something more poignant and more basic than a lack of parenting skills. What we hear is that many individuals feel wholly inadequate to assume the role of parent. They often struggle to accept that they have the authority and question whether they can live up to the responsibility of parenting. They fear that they may not be able to help, support and guide their children, not because they lack the skills, but because they fear they lack the wherewithal. Parent training programs have traditionally relied on curricula written by experts in child development and family functioning, an approach that automatically places parents in an inferior role within the service provider/


parent relationship. We suspect this reinforces rather than productively addresses parental doubts and feelings of inadequacy. While designed to enhance parent/child relationships, support effective monitoring, encourage less family conflict and promote effective communication of parental expectations and prosocial values, the clearest message such programs might be sending to parents is that the service provider, not the parent, is the repository of the necessary skills, knowledge and commitment to really help children. In designing Project HOPE, my colleagues at Lourdes Hospital and I decided to build upon some shared core beliefs. We believe, for instance, that even individuals who are struggling in life have the capacity to effect positive change in their own lives and in the lives of their children. We believe that as they experience the possibility of effecting change in their own lives, parents will become more empowered to parent, that parents are most likely to engage in the change process when they have ownership of it and that feeling efficacious as a result of one’s own performance in an endeavor will likely elicit more frequent practice of that particular behavior. Who better, then, to instill these beliefs and to encourage good parental practice than parents involved daily in these very struggles and experiences?

From its inception, Project HOPE brought together a diverse group of parents from disparate racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. These parents then worked for a year to develop a parenting program. Later, they became the recruiters of new parents as well as the facilitators for the training program they designed. Now starting its fourth year, Project HOPE affords a unique “parent-designed” and “parent-driven” approach to strengthening families and preventing problematic behavior of youth, including teenage pregnancy, school misbehavior, failure and truancy, delinquency, substance abuse and suicide. The majority of the original parents who developed the program remain involved with it today. Why? They feel more knowledgeable about parenting and about themselves; they feel that they have created and are part of a community of parents; and, most importantly, they express a sense of accomplishment. They are making a difference in others’ lives. The program that the parents developed lasts 11 weeks. It involves a weekly three-hour meeting that includes a family dinner along with the training session. Seven groups have been recruited and have gone through the training, with 47 individuals graduating. What do participants say about their experience? They say they have learned that they are not alone in facing the challenges of parenting; other parents have the same problems and feelings. They learn that the problems of parenting cross all lines — ethnic, educational and economic. They report that they learn


from other parents and that by the end of the program, they stop and think before reacting to their child. Communication with their child improves. They report being more patient and feeling less guilty. They indicate that they are taking more active roles in monitoring and disciplining their children. They learn that it’s OK to hold their children accountable and to be stricter and more consistent. “That wouldn’t work with our parents!” one of the Project HOPE parent facilitators, Tim Johns, was told when he spoke about our program at a national conference of family service providers. Frankly, I’d bet that it would. Parents who because of their own struggles or those of their children have been involved in social services or the mental-health system often report feeling that they’ve “been through the mill.” They have been told what to do and have been made to jump through hoops. Their mistakes, they have been told, would need to be corrected by the experts and agency personnel. As parents, they have been left feeling alienated and disempowered to change their lives and the lives of their own children.

For most, the project name HOPE is no longer an acronym, but a new reality in their lives.

Professor Kevin Wright is the director of the Department of Human Development in Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs. He received his PhD from Pennsylvania State University in 1977 and has taught at Binghamton since 1980. He is the author of four books and scores of articles.


Binghamton University / BINGHAMTON RESEARCH / 2008

Project HOPE works differently. It is rooted in the belief that learning more about the day-to-day struggles that other parents experience heightens the likelihood of parental efficacy. People as a rule are significantly influenced by the feedback of others, particularly those with whom they share common bonds and experiences. Project HOPE participants tell us that for those in the throes of raising children and youth, suggestions and help from another parent help to legitimize the process and to empower them as individuals and as agents of change in their families.



Binghamton University faculty member Juanita Díaz-Cotto received two awards for her book Chicana Lives and Criminal Justice: Voices from El Barrio.

A Binghamton faculty member argues in his latest book that the policies and programs of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have led to increased violations of human rights in the developing world.

They include the silver medal in the women’s studies category of ForeWord Magazine’s 2006 Book of the Year Awards and an honorable mention in the best history book/ English category of the ninth annual International Latino Book Awards. The book is about the impact of the war on drugs on Chicanas/Latinas and their communities. Díaz-Cotto is an associate professor of sociology, women’s studies and Latin American and Caribbean Area studies. She joined the faculty in 1990.

Diogenes Agcaoili Jr.


David Cingranelli, professor of political science, worked with M. Rodwan Abouharb on Human Rights and Structural Adjustment, published late in 2007 by Cambridge University Press. The book considers the effect of structural adjustment agreements, in which countries liberalize and privatize their economies, on human rights. The rich countries of the world have invested a great deal of money over a long period of time with the goal of facilitating economic development in the Third World. Many economists have concluded that those efforts have not been particularly successful. “We argue in this book that one of the important reasons they have not been successful is that the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and World Bank have led to an undermining of respect for most types of human rights in the developing world,” Cingranelli said. “We believe — and we’re not alone in this — that respect for human rights is necessary for economic development to occur.” Cingranelli is among a small but growing number of scholars who use quantitative measures of human rights.

PHYSICIST INVESTIGATES NEW CLASS OF MATERIALS A Binghamton physicist has received nearly $400,000 in grants to investigate optical properties of new materials.

Binghamton University / BINGHAMTON RESEARCH / 2008

Oana Malis, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy at Binghamton, is particularly interested in the optical properties of gallium nitride, a compound semiconductor material. “I’m looking for new materials that would allow us to generate light in ranges that are not currently accessible,” she said. What does that mean? Think of a laser pointer. That’s a visible laser. “Technologically there’s interest in creating lasers that work at any wavelength,” Malis explained. “Why? Because these lasers could be used for sensing, to detect environmental conditions in a building, let’s say. There are defense applications as well.” Malis, who’s also associated with the Materials Science and Engineering Program, won a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as well as a Cottrell College Science Award of $44,244 from the Research Corporation and about $42,000 in funding through the University’s Integrated Electronics Engineering Center. She is looking for new materials that would allow her to create lasers in the mid-infrared range, and nitrides could be the answer.


Squeezing juice from the sun Tapping solar energy could provide limitless power

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