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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 9

Sound strategy:

A symphony of finely tuned ideas helps raise the curtain on big breakthroughs

In this issue: Youth violence in the post-columbine era self-interest and the economy Helping Parkinson’s patients

pg. 20

Earnest money: Experimental economics puts the world of finance under a microscope

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 9

co n t en t s




About Binghamton Research

Earnest money

Aging gracefully


Experimental economics puts the world of finance under a microscope

Binghamton University leads the way in meeting growing demand for social workers who specialize in geriatrics


4 The Parkinson’s predicament The side effects of treating this devastating disease can be almost as awful as the illness itself

10 Merchants, moneylenders and middlemen

36 Search smarts


New technology could leave Web ‘crawlers’ in the dust

A new dream for 21st-century science

40 Cultivating entrepreneurs

It’s time to abandon the search for a single principle to explain the world

Binghamton proves to be fertile ground for technology transfer



In Brief

New view of Jewish history offers understanding of capitalism, anti-Semitism

Whole lot of shaking going on





From social networking to swarm intelligence

Sound strategy

Partnering with parents

Industry allies

Tiny devices may lead to advances for technology ranging from cell phones to air bags

f e at u r es

Nurse on a mission to ‘rescue childhood’

The Center of Excellence turns corporate partners into catalysts for discovery


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Research shows how complex systems rule everyday life

Cover Story: Composer dissects his creative process

About Binghamton Research

New York State Center of Excellence Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center 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

Center for Writers (CW) Director Maria Mazziotti Gillan Clinical Science and Engineering Research Center (CSERC) Director Kenneth McLeod Institute for Materials Research (IMR) Director M. Stanley Whittingham 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) Interim Director Ann Myers

Center for Integrated Watershed Studies (CIWS) Director John Titus

Institutes for Advanced Studies Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations (FBC) Director Richard E. Lee

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

Institute for Asia and Asian Diaspora Studies (IAADS) Director John Chaffee

Center for Leadership Studies (CLS) Director Francis Yammarino

Institute for Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) Director David Sloan Wilson

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

Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS) Director Ali Mazrui

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

Watson Institute for Systems Excellence (WISE) Director Krishnaswami Srihari

Editorial Staff

Binghamton University

Editor Rachel Coker

Lois B. DeFleur President

Art Direction and Design Martha P. Terry

Gerald Sonnenfeld Vice President for Research

Photography Jonathan Cohen, iStock Images

Marcia R. Craner Vice President for External Affairs

Contributing Writers Rachel Coker, Eric Dietrich, Merrill Douglas, Katherine Karlson, Anne Miller, Kathleen Ryan O’Connor Copy Editing Katie Ellis, John Wojcio Binghamton University / Binghamton Research / 2009

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

Illustrations iStock Images

Binghamton Research is published annually by the Division of Research, with cooperation from the Office of University Communications and Marketing. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Binghamton Research, Office of Research Advancement, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, New York 13902-6000. Binghamton University is strongly committed to affirmative action. We offer access to services and recruit students and employees without regard to race, color, gender, religion, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or national origin.



A message from the President When scholars from different fields collaborate in deep and meaningful ways, they often arrive at new perspectives and challenge commonly accepted views. At Binghamton University, these efforts include partnerships of engineers and management experts as well as poets and musicians. It requires commitment as well as time for faculty members with such varied backgrounds to develop meaningful projects and a certain kind of courage to go beyond the familiar terrain of one’s own discipline. The University’s goal

Lois B. DeFleur

is to nurture the initial phases of these projects with campus grants because we believe in the potential and rewards of multidisciplinary work. At their best, these collaborations reward the risk-takers with unexpected innovations and even artistic breakthroughs. This was the case last year, as faculty composer Paul Goldstaub and Martin Bidney, professor emeritus of English, worked to set poetry to music. They allowed the research magazine to follow them through the creative process, from basic recordings of Martin reading poems he had translated to Paul’s revelation that the poems could be performed in song as a dialogue between people in a relationship. The composition will come to life in a concert of new music on campus this year. I hope you will enjoy the opportunity to accompany them on their musical journey, just as I hope you will enjoy the sampling of other faculty research and scholarly work presented in our magazine.

A message from the Vice President for Research Creative people and innovative ideas come together every day at Binghamton University, resulting in a symphony of discovery that’s making itself heard across New York state and around the world. Our faculty members are conducting research that may one day ease the troubling side effects of Parkinson’s disease treatment, protect your laptop computer from damage if it falls and revolutionize the way you search for information on the Web. Other experts are challenging commonly accepted views of topics such as economic history, youth violence and caring for the elderly. One especially exciting interdisciplinary collaboration promises to change the way we understand decision making and teams. Through the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships and our unique industry collaborations — as well as through publishing, teaching and performing — the University community brings these breakthroughs to a wider audience. On that note, I’m pleased to say that our a nearly 60 percent increase in licensing revenue. Binghamton research expenditures grew by 3 percent in 2007-08, bucking a national trend of flat or even falling figures. In addition, awards to our researchers rose by more Gerald Sonnenfeld

than 20 percent last year. It’s all evidence of our sound strategy at work.


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faculty members received a record number of new patents last year. We also recorded

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The Parkinson’s predicament The side effects of treating this devastating disease can be almost as awful as the illness itself. One Binghamton

to change that.


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researcher hopes

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Christopher Bishop

Christopher Bishop has a novel theory about how to suppress the involuntary movements associated with Parkinson’s disease. His idea could revolutionize the way patients respond to the drug that has been the gold standard in treating the disease for more than 50 years and lead to vast improvements in the quality of life for the roughly 1 million Americans who suffer from Parkinson’s. 6

The situation is an increasingly urgent medical concern; 50,000 more Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year.

Parkinson’s disease patients have trouble with movement. They move slowly. They have rigidity in their limbs. They have balance problems and tremors. These cardinal symptoms are a result of a deficit of dopamine in the brain.

In Parkinson’s patients, neurons that make dopamine die. Scientists still aren’t sure why; genetic factors are believed to play only a small role.

The brain converts L-DOPA into dopamine, which is why it’s an effective replacement therapy for patients. And for five to 10 years, this treatment works well. “The problem is that Parkinson’s is a progressive disease,” said Bishop, assistant professor of psychology at Binghamton University. “You lose more and more of these neurons as time goes on, so therapeutically, doses of L-DOPA must increase.”


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Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s essential for movement; it also plays an important role in behavior, cognition and sleep.

This deficit of dopamine can be reversed with treatment using a compound called L-DOPA.

Many patients suffer troubling side effects as the dosage increases.

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“By year 10,” Bishop said, “as many as 90 percent of patients will start to suffer from motor fluctuations and something called L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia. So you go from a state of no treatment where you’re not moving well, to a state where the drug is working well and you’re moving fluidly, to a point where L-DOPA doses are very high and you’re producing these abnormal, involuntary movements.”

“We are beginning to believe that dyskinesia is actually the inability to suppress motor memories as a result of the drug’s stimulation. These abnormal movements may be an expression of motor memories that can’t be shut down.”

Think of the actor Michael J. Fox’s recent television appearances. The excessive movements he displays aren’t a result of his Parkinson’s disease, but rather a symptom of the L-DOPA therapy.

One possible treatment relates to glutamate, a neurotransmitter in the brain that can play a role in these memory processes, helping to lay down new pathways for motor memories.

“It’s this inability to suppress movement that’s a real problem for patients later on in the disease’s progression,” Bishop said. And patients can’t simply stop taking L-DOPA, Bishop said. If they do, they face a nearly “frozen” life with incredibly limited ability to move.

Bishop has developed a way to look at dyskinesia as it’s occurring and measure glutamate levels in different parts of the brain. “That is a huge leap forward,” he said, “because now we can make an association between the behavior and the glutamate levels. And we’re doing it in a very specific area of the brain. It’s a very powerful technique.”

It’s unusual that there hasn’t been a change in the primary treatment for Parkinson’s in five decades, Bishop said. In that time, there have been huge advancements in the ways other neurologic disorders are treated.

Kathy Steece-Collier, an associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Cincinnati, said “surprisingly little” research effort to date has taken the direction Bishop is pursuing.

With Parkinson’s, there are still a number of big unanswered questions. The cause of the disease is one; how dyskinesia develops is another.

“Chris’ approach has been to delve into novel molecular mechanisms,” she said. “These mechanisms have a strong potential to provide insight into new clinical approaches that could prolong therapeutic treatment and lessen side effects associated with L-DOPA therapy in Parkinson’s disease.”

Bishop and colleagues at Wayne State University’s medical school and the Veterans Administration hospital in Chicago hope to find a way to reduce dyskinesia and suppress these movements. “We’re asking, ‘Is dyskinesia abnormal learning?’ There are parts of the brain that allow us to store memories. And that involves laying down new neuronal pathways that become permanent. You can now go and retrieve that information.


It’s not always at the forefront of your mind, but it’s something you can get to if you need to,” Bishop said.“In the same way, your ability to produce a movement is a memory. It’s a motor memory, but it’s a memory nonetheless.

In 2008, Bishop and his team received a $1.33 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The funding will allow Bishop and his team to study serotonin compounds that reduce glutamate following L-DOPA

treatment. Bishop hopes to find out how these compounds work — and what dyskinesia really is. Early experimentation has supported Bishop’s theories, showing a reduction in dyskinesia as the serotonin compound is administered. “Dr. Bishop’s research is important because he has focused on a brain chemical transmission system that may represent a new therapeutic target for treatment of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias,” said Beth-Anne Sieber, a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “His NINDSfunded studies suggest that activation of

About Parkinson’s disease Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called motorsystem disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination.

a receptor for the neurotransmitter serotonin can block overactive brain signals and dampen involuntary movements.”

The situation is an increasingly urgent medical concern; 50,000 more Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year. “That’s only going to increase as our population ages,” Bishop said. “This is not something that’s going away.”

There are many theories about the cause of Parkinson’s disease, but none has ever been proved. At present, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, but medications provide many patients dramatic relief from the symptoms. The disease is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. Although some people become severely disabled, others experience only minor motor disruptions. Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

— Rachel Coker


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Bishop said he believes L-DOPA treatment will remain in the mix of therapies, even if other advances such as stem-cell transplants advance to a point where they can be used regularly.

Parkinson’s usually affects people over the age of 50. Early symptoms are subtle and occur gradually. The diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination. The disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately. Roughly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.

erchants, oneylenders iddlemen New view of Jewish history offers understanding of

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capitalism, anti-Semitism

In developed countries today, people argue over the roles and rights of low-skilled foreign laborers. “They’re crucial to our economy,” some maintain. Others say, “We need them, but just as guest workers.” Or: “Kick them out before they drain our economy and destroy our way of life.” 10

At the Usurers, Edgar Bundy

Political thinkers through the years have debated the economic role of Jews. Yet Jews who study Jewish history have long avoided the subject of economics, said Jonathan Karp, associate professor of history and Judaic Studies at Binghamton University.“These historians didn’t want to contribute to the stereotype, to the negative image of Jews as merchants or Jews as Shylocks,” he said. In the past, when historians did address the subject, they approached it as Marxists and Zionists who hoped to transform Jews into workers and farmers. However, Karp said, it’s impossible to understand the history of anti-Semitism, or of capitalism, without taking a non-


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For hundreds of years, Europeans waged similar debates, but not about the pros and cons of allowing poor immigrants to scrub floors and harvest tomatoes. They argued about the benefits and dangers of allowing Jews to serve in their countries as merchants, moneylenders and other kinds of economic middlemen. Did Jews take those roles because they were at heart a commercial people, or because they weren’t allowed any other kind of work? Was capitalism a progressive force or a corrupting one, and what did the growth of a market society imply about the Jews’ purported flair for commerce? If a country let Jews run businesses, should it also let them own land and hold political office?

Jonathan Karp

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ideological look at political theories on Jewish economics. Karp does just that in a new book, The Politics of Jewish Commerce: Economic Thought and Emancipation in Europe, 1638-1848. Examining writings on politics and economics published throughout the period, he traces evolving ideas about Jews’ traditional functions in the economy and, based on those functions, what rights they should have in society. For example, Simone Luzzatto, a Venetian rabbi and scholar, argued in 1638 that local Jews were willing and able to take on the risks of foreign


trade, keeping control out of the hands of foreign merchants. Although trade might make Venetian Jews wealthy, he said, unlike other alien groups they posed no threat to the state because they wanted no political rights. In contrast, British writer John Toland argued in 1714 that Jews should be allowed to work in many spheres beyond commerce. Jews were inclined by heritage to make good citizens, he said, and they should be naturalized as British subjects. In 1781, the Prussian Christian Wilhelm Dohm wrote a book sympathetic toward Jews that used them as a lens through

which to explore capitalism. Dohm felt that a commercial society promised greater equality and freedom, but he also feared that capitalism might undermine traditional values. Karp’s book is significant, in part because he tackles a subject that many scholars have avoided and in part because his research is so broad in scope, said Adam Sutcliffe, lecturer in early modern history at King’s College London. “He ambitiously takes on a long period of more than two centuries, straddling the early modern/late modern divide,” Sutcliffe said of Karp’s book. “This is an important strength of his study, enabling him to provide a deep exploration of

arp’s book is significant, in part because he

Jews, commerce and culture

tackles a subject that many scholars have avoided and in part because his research is so broad in scope. — Adam Sutcliffe, King’s College London

the roots of the emergence of the more familiar economic associations with Jews in the period since 1848.” Karp said he focused on the years 1638 to 1848 because that period marks an important transition in thought about the economic roles of Jews. “At the beginning,” he said, “writers and debaters were saying, ‘Sure, bring the Jews in. Let them do their magic. They neither want, nor will we give them, any political rights.’ Jews were a safe bet as long as they remained non-citizens.”

That dilemma lasted well beyond the period of the book — in fact, until

Because Jews gravitated to commerce, and because people weren’t sure whether commerce was a good or bad force, even when Jews seemed to assimilate, people weren’t sure they could trust them. “They’d say, ‘Aha! They are behaving as Jews, because they are behaving commercially. These people may share our language and culture, but their predominance in commerce shows that they have their own agenda, that they are a fifth column.’” It did not occur to people who thought this way, Karp said, that Jews’ commercial orientation was the result of centuries of habituation and restriction. For this reason, the focus on traditional roles and stereotypes also makes Jewish economics a perilous area for scholarship today.“It’s very tricky to talk about the subject objectively, without giving perceived ammunition to antiSemitism,” Karp said. “That’s why it’s such an explosive topic.”

While in residence during 2008-09, Karp is studying the Protestant Reformation, which occurred just before the period he covers in his recent book. His aim is to look at how that Christian reform movement changed the discourse on Jewish economic identity. Other scholars in the program specialize in a wide range of subjects, such as Jews in 16thcentury Mediterranean trade, American business history, economic life in Israel and the economic aspects of the Hasidic movement. It’s about time Jewish historians gave more thought to economic life, Karp said. “One scholar described Jewish history as a head without a body,” he said. “It’s as if the material, physical, life-sustaining part has been generally ignored, and only the stuff that goes on in the head is what anybody pays attention to. We’re trying to recover the Jewish body.”

— Merrill Douglas


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But the French Revolution changed the rules. Under the new order, in many countries, a person who followed local customs and pledged loyalty to the state could become a citizen. In theory, Jews could gain political rights, but not if they still stood apart as a merchant class. “The fact that Jews were anomalous in their occupations was a serious obstacle, in the minds of many statesmen and philosophers, to their acculturation, or their subordination to the discipline of citizenship,” Karp said. Society faced a dilemma: “Either we have to kick them out, or we have to transform them and reform them, so that they’ll no longer be a commercial people.”

the Holocaust. And it’s important to understand the debate, because it points to the fact that anti-Semitism didn’t spring only from religious prejudice or distaste for moneylenders, Karp said. It also grew out of ambivalence toward capitalism.

Jonathan Karp is delving further into historical thought on Jewish economics this academic year as a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Each year, the center assembles scholars from throughout the world to research and discuss an aspect of Jewish culture. Collaborating with two other researchers, Karp helped write the proposal for the current topic, “Jews, Commerce and Culture.”

From social networking to


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Research shows how complex systems rule everyday life

A new area of research — fittingly called “complexity science” — embraces the notion that an ant colony and the human brain, the stock market and Facebook all have something in common. All are complex systems, basically huge networks made up of individual components whose behavior is difficult to predict. 14

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A deeper understanding of these systems’ role in nature — and the emergence of computer science tools sophisticated enough to analyze them — offers scientists a more realistic framework for solving today’s most vexing problems, from global warming to ethnic conflict. “The rise of complexity science is not driven by researchers, but actually from the complexity in people’s lives,” said Hiroki Sayama, an assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Binghamton University. “Ten years ago, a network didn’t make much sense.” Today networks and complex systems are everywhere, and there are several university-based centers and journals devoted exclusively to their study. “It’s a fundamental conceptual shift,” Sayama said. It’s a different world At Binghamton, an interdisciplinary group founded in 2007 to study the collective dynamics of complex systems goes by the name CoCo. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the group is that instead of talking about an interdisciplinary approach, it lives and breathes it.

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“There are many people who claim to be interdisciplinary — it’s the computer scientist working with the electrical engineers,” Sayama, CoCo’s director, said with a laugh.

Hiroki Sayama


Of course there are plenty of computer science- and engineer-types in CoCo, but they work alongside faculty such as Shelley Dionne, an associate professor in Binghamton’s School of Management. She’s an MBA-PhD who got her first taste of management not as a budding Wall Streeter, but during a dietetic management rotation toward a degree in nutrition. “Each one of us is a unique mix,” she said. She was eager to join the group, but quickly discovered that when they finally got face to face, all that interdisciplinary joie de vivre didn’t come baggage-free. “We had no idea how to talk to each other,” Dionne said. In other words, they had swarm intelligence while she had SWOT, that classic business tool of identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Other members came to the table with similar diversity: Research interests include public administration, biomimetics and environmental toxicology. It took time, Dionne said. And, it turned out, a lot of office supplies. “Week after week, drawing pictures on white boards until we were out of ink,” she said. What emerged was a shared passion for understanding group dynamics. The

computer scientists might be happily creating swarm simulators or explaining the latest in agent-based modeling, but, she too, could dive headfirst into creating ways for businesses to survive the shift from Dilbert days to dynamic global leadership. “Gone are the days I sit in my cubicle alone for eight hours a day,”she said, describing today’s corporate environment. “Gone.” It is exactly that rapid-fire change of today’s business climate that has shown the pressing need for a new framework, said Ken Thompson, a United Kingdombased expert in the area of bioteaming, swarming and virtual enterprise networks and teams, which draws heavily on the understanding of complex systems in nature. His most recent book is Bioteams: High Performance Teams Based on Nature’s Most Successful Designs. Traditional business teams rely too heavily on a single dominant structure — command and control, also known as individually led teams, he said, drawing from the military. Such an approach “served us well in the era of mass production when costs, consistency and compliance were everything,” Thompson said. But that model falls well short in today’s world full of “networks, dynamic alliances, virtual collaborations — where agility, innovation, added-value and

“The rise of complexity science is not driven by researchers, but actually from the complexity in people’s lives.” — Hiroki Sayama

responsiveness are king,” he said. “We urgently need to find a new model which recognizes that organizations are not predictable systems, like clocks, but unpredictable ecosystems, like living things. The natural place to look for this model is nature itself with its numerous examples of self-organizing systems and teams in ants, bees, dolphins, wolves, geese and many more.” One of Sayama’s research goals is to create some way to self-organize heterogeneous swarms with several distinct types of particles into specific spacial patterns so one can evolve the internal mechanism. He envisions a system in which, collectively, robots can spontaneously create behaviors.

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“Gone are the days I sit in my cubicle alone for eight hours a day. Gone.” — Shelley Dionne

“That’s the key idea of any complex system,” Sayama said. “It’s very hard to predict.”

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But what’s not difficult to envision, especially for the younger generation, is the concept that groups react differently than individuals when part of a network, he said.


From ‘fringe’ to center stage David Schaffer, a member of CoCo and a visiting research professor in the Department of Bioengineering who also works as a research fellow at Philips Research, connected with Sayama through their shared belief that the concepts from modern complexity theory have something to offer societal problems. It’s an idea that didn’t seem to get much traction in the wider world until recently, he said. So it must be satisfying for scientists such as Schaffer, whose dissertation was on genetic algorithms — something once considered on the “lunatic fringe,” he said — to see their ideas get so much respect. Today evolutionary computation is seeping into every aspect of engineering and more applications are on the horizon, he said. “I’m kind of the utopian thinker,” Schaffer said. “I think we can do better than we are doing.”

Think of today’s college students, Sayama said. They get up, check Facebook, send e-mails. Their lives are all about connection.

CoCo’s research focus is both “new and old,” said Yaneer Bar-Yam, professor and president of the New England Complex Systems Institute, a Cambridge-based nonprofit research and education institute. Sayama did his post-doctoral work there and they still collaborate.

“They are already aware that everything is networked,” he said. “They already understand they are part of something bigger.”

It’s as old as the groundbreaking economic theory of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” put forth in the 1700s, and evolution itself, which of

course didn’t happen by one piece, BarYam said. What’s new are the computer sciencebased tools available for understanding and analyzing these ideas. “And Hiroki is one of the pioneers in the field,” Bar-Yam said. A recent National Science Foundation grant of more than $550,000 confirms that view and provides CoCo at Binghamton with the resources the group will need to explore and expand its evolutionary perspective on collective decision making. David Sloan Wilson, a distinguished professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton, a member of CoCo and the director of the interdisciplinary Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) program at Binghamton, said it is CoCo’s “combination of evolutionary theory and complexity theory that is so special.” So, too, is its emphasis on using its research to solve real-world problems. Wilson is part of the Binghamton Neighborhood Project, a collaboration among Binghamton faculty and community partners that uses CoCo to help make neighborhoods stronger. Think of SimCity, Wilson said, referring to the popular computer game that challenges users to create a city. You create

infrastructure, both physical and social, and see the consequences unfold, some unforeseen. It’s much the same in the real world. “Patterns develop within cities based on people making personal decisions — leaving neighborhoods if they can, or staying if they can’t,” Wilson said. “We are all interacting with each other.” The Neighborhood Project has been able to map seemingly intangible — but utterly familiar — neighborhood characteristics. One part of its research found a correlation between high marks for caring neighbors and the level of holiday decorations in a neighborhood. The juxtaposition of high science and holiday displays is nothing new. “Binghamton has always valued integration,” Wilson said, mentioning the University’s Languages Across the Curriculum program.“I think it’s one of the great things about the University. In order to have integration, you have to have a common language — one is the common language of evolutionary theories and complexity.” And that relatively new addition of evolutionary theory to the study of complexity science means a great deal more landscape for great thinkers to explore together. — Kathleen Ryan O’Connor


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Shelley Dionne

Earnest money: Experimental economics puts the world of finance under

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a microscope


What happens when economics steps into the lab? Can you test it? Touch it? Poke it? Of course. The result is experimental economics, a growing discipline that reaches into nearly every aspect of life, from the best auditing standards to how much candy an 8-year-old might share with a classmate. Researchers use reproducible, scientifically rigorous experiments to test fundamental economic questions.

And his work comes at a good time for economics, if also a bad time for the economy.

It also has served to bring into sharp relief the role of self-interest in financial transactions. Self-interest takes center stage in “The Effect of Honesty and Superior Authority on Budget Proposals,” a paper Schwartz researched with colleagues Frederick W. Rankin of Colorado State University and Richard A. Young of The Ohio State University. Their findings were recently published by The Accounting Review, a top-three journal in the field.


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Steven Schwartz, associate professor of accounting in Binghamton’s School of Management, is gaining notice from top academic journals for his work in the field, including a recent investigation into the interplay between authority and honesty in the budgeting process.

The financial crisis has left many 401(k)watchers wishing they could go back to school to learn more about terms such as credit default swaps and “naked” short selling, or understand better the accounting wizardry at work behind the massive federal bailout of Wall Street.

Steven Schwartz

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Here, they take previous research that shows subordinates have differing degrees of honesty in the budgeting process and move it several steps further — manipulating interactions to see what produces incremental differences in honesty. Does it matter if the subordinate or superior has final say over the budget approval? Will employees be more or less honest when they have to state the true cost of the budget versus something more akin to an offer? All of these, Schwartz and his colleagues discovered, affect honesty. And often the smallest difference in control has the biggest impact — a more finely tuned understanding than can be gleaned from mountains of data. Schwartz, like all experimental economists, must find creative ways to simulate the real world — he has also researched the best way to teach experiments in the accounting management classroom — so an incredible amount of attention goes into


the design of the experiments. The idea is to strike a balance between the relative simplicity of a controlled laboratory setting and all the messy motivations that make up human nature.

Schwartz and his colleagues discovered that the most honesty came from giving subordinates final say over the budget. That is, when employees are trusted to do the right thing, they tend to do it.

For example, in order to recreate a oneshot exchange between a manager and a worker over a budget in a lab setting, Schwartz and his colleagues found a way to give participants enough experience to “get” the idea of the experiment, but not skew results by having them get too comfortable with each other. Participants interacted for 20 rounds, but were randomly re-matched after each round.

This is not to say that employees should be trusted entirely. Schwartz’s results also suggest that while having the superior set the budget may be resented by employees, it does benefit the firm through greater control.

That same attention to detail was maintained when it came to money. As the budget communication manipulation played out, the subordinate either proposed an allocation of the project’s profit to the superior — they tagged this the “no factual assertion” treatment — or reported the project’s exact cost to the superior — the “  factual assertion” treatment.

Taken together, this research shows that companies must be careful in choosing just the right amount of authority for their managers. Give them too much and employees will act with resentment; too little, and they will run roughshod over corporate policies. It’s in this way that experimental economics can trump traditional economic models: It is better at capturing human behavior that isn’t always rational. And accounting, like human nature, is a natural application for the methods

Steven Schwartz and his colleagues discovered that the most honesty came from giving subordinates final say over the budget. That is, when employees are trusted to do the right thing, they tend to do it.

of experimental economics, said Shyam Sunder, a professor at the Yale School of Management and a noted experimental economist. As a largely institutional discipline, even small changes to accounting can have large consequences. “Of course no experience in the laboratory will give you a perfect prediction. That doesn’t happen even in science, but it gives you some idea, on a small scale, what might happen if you made this change, and that gives you a little more confidence on which path to choose,” Sunder said.

“They found, yes, it makes a significant difference,” he said. “If you have a chance to participate in deciding the norms and standards, you stick to them more, even if, in auditing context, it means personal sacrifice.”

That sense of fun has translated into all sorts of creative approaches, from finding a way to measure cooperation mathematically to pondering eBay’s feedback mechanism. Schwartz has also discovered that he shares a passion for the motivations of honesty and altruism with top names in the field such as Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, who recently published a provocative paper on the roots of sharing by testing children and candy. Schwartz also shares an interest in showing how economics can turn conventional wisdom on its head. He recalled a famous experiment, some 20 years ago, in which researchers found that if lying would net you only a paltry sum as a reward, you wouldn’t do it.

“You are not going to lie for a nickel,” he explained. But boost that reward to a quarter and all of a sudden fibbing emerges — or so the experiments said. “But we found that’s not really the case,” he said. He has seen firsthand how subjects forgo all types of selfish behavior in favor of more benevolent social norms. So we’re not just servants of our own self-interest? Not at all. “People,” he said, “are much more willing to return a kindness with a kindness than you think.” — Kathleen Ryan O’Connor


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Sunder recently attended a conference where a group of researchers wanted to know whether auditors choosing their own standards or norms would lead to an increase in compliance.

Schwartz was attracted to experimental economics for its hands-on approach and its respect for the enduringly popular game theory, or how people react strategically in situations where competing strategies are at work. Schwartz describes it all simply as “fun.”

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Soun Strategy Composer dissects his process


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Paul Goldstaub runs a laboratory of sorts The Binghamton University professor does extensive reading and research, delves into the history of his field, jots down ideas in a journal, performs experiments and tests his theories with the help of sophisticated software. Then he watches as it all comes together in a live concert performance.

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Goldstaub, an award-winning composer who joined the Music Department’s faculty in 1998, sees numerous similarities between his work and that of the scientists whose labs are in the building next door. “Although we all hope for the lightning bolt of inspiration, whether you are a scientist or an explorer or an artist, there is a lot of what I call pre-compositional thinking and research going on,” he said. “A scientist might spend years studying the available literature, doing sample experiments, designing problems that lead up to the big question. He might spend weeks, months or years walking around the outside of the problem, deciding first of all: What is the question? That is a process similar to what I go through. Before writing a note comes years of general research on the topic.” Take Goldstaub’s major project in 2008, for example. He spent much of the year composing a 25-minute piece inspired by a group of poems he first read three years earlier.


The poems, a series of Spanish folk lyrics translated into Russian by K.D. Balmont about a century ago, were translated into English by Martin Bidney, a professor emeritus of English at Binghamton. When Bidney first shared them with Goldstaub in 2005, there were more than 350 short poems addressing a variety of themes. By May 2008, Goldstaub had committed to writing a piece inspired by this poetry in time for a premiere at the 2009 edition of Musica Nova, the annual concert of new music that he directs each February. “I’m very fortunate in that almost everything I write gets performed,” said Goldstaub, whose work has been played at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and as far away as Japan. “Sometimes I’m writing for a specific occasion or situation and that in some ways helps me decide the style. Here at Binghamton with the Musica Nova concerts, it’s an atmosphere that seems to invite experimentation. People have trusted me to make interesting concerts and I’m delighted to say, ‘We’re going on a musical journey. Come along.’” Harold Reynolds, a trombonist and professor at Ithaca College, has worked with Goldstaub for more than 20 years. He has commissioned works from Goldstaub, both as a soloist and for an ensemble. “It’s really exciting to get a piece that’s written for you because it’s something brand new that no one else has,” Reynolds said. “It’s an organic process

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when you work with a composer. I find it exhilarating.” He said Goldstaub has attended early rehearsals and worked with the performers, occasionally making changes in the piece. “Paul is so close to the work that he does,” Reynolds said. It’s so integral to his being that he feels like part of the piece itself. He has a built-in interest in being right in the middle of it.” Reynolds said he appreciates the personal, even spiritual quality of Goldstaub’s compositions. “Paul’s works are always introspective. Often they reflect deep-seated emotions he’s going through at the time. I like that because it’s really genuine. He gives a lot of thought to what he wants to say.” In 2008, that process brought Goldstaub to western New York, where he sought inspiration on a working vacation near a lake. “Several hours were spent just reading the poems over and over and deciding which ones spoke to me,” he said. While there, Goldstaub whittled down the number of poems he was considering for the piece to about 50.

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Baritone Timothy LeFebvre, left, will perform the composition featuring poetry translated by Martin Bidney, center. Paul Goldstaub, right, wrote the music.

He also kept a journal about the process. “It’s filled with my thoughts about structure, questions I wanted to ask myself and references to music from other composers,” he said, citing Schumann, Britten and Berlioz as well as some contemporary composers. During the summer, Goldstaub recorded Bidney reading many of the poems aloud and thought about how the poetry would interact with the music. “That’s a great miracle,” Goldstaub said. “Music expands the emotion of the text.” By June, Goldstaub was seeing recurring themes in the poems and they were beginning to coalesce into groups. After one breakthrough, he made a diagram in his journal. “I drew a picture of how I wanted the overall piece to sound,” he said. “Usually I go with a more intuitive


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approach. I decided in this case to do as much pre-compositional planning and structuring as possible. “For some other compositions I’ve worked differently, which is to say, I’ll start building the front porch and maybe there’ll be a dining room and oh, maybe the wallpaper will have stripes. That’s more intuitive, and very valid, but for this new piece I decided to take a more architectural approach. It means that I spent time asking myself a lot of quiet questions. I feel I know where I’m going. I have a beginning, a middle and an end. “Now that I have my blueprint, the intuition kicks in.” Goldstaub may have a plan as he works, but he also strives to remain open to new ideas. A sketch that initially doesn’t seem to work may find its way back into the composition later. “The piece is constantly changing, even though I know where I’m going,” he said.

“Part of a composer’s training before the digital age was to be able to hear these things in one’s head,” said Goldstaub, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College as well as master’s

The software also makes it relatively simple to experiment with various tempos and with the ways different instruments might sound together. By October, Goldstaub had narrowed the selection of poems even further. It was clear that the still-untitled composition would have 10 sections divided into two parts, and that portions of the piece would be sung by a man and three women. Goldstaub had also settled on a pianist and two or three percussionists who would play several different instruments. Baritone Timothy LeFebvre, also a professor of music at Binghamton, will be the featured performer. As portions of the composition came into focus, Goldstaub said he relied on the five elements of music — sound, melody, harmony, rhythm and growth — to inform his decisions about the piece. “I ask myself, What’s the best way to use each of the five elements to serve the impression I’m getting from the lyrics? If it’s a quiet, mellow, reflective thing, I’m thinking, What sound world is that? Is it piccolo? Probably not. Is it a male voice,

perhaps in a quiet register? Maybe yes. That’s sound. Does the melody consist of notes that are close together? Does the melody jump around? Are the harmonies stable? Are they restful? Do they move from dissonance to consonance? Is it the reverse? Do I want to obliterate harmony? The same with rhythm. Some meters will fit the poetry exactly, some will not. How about that conflict? Does it even have to be a conflict? And there finally comes the question of growth, which is: What is this piece as a whole going to mean? What is the shape of the entire piece?” Goldstaub came to see Bidney’s poetic translations as a sort of dialogue between individuals in a relationship, from the earliest stages of attraction — in love with the loving, if you will — to darker themes of envy and scorn and then a resolution and brightness. “One of the mysteries of music is how it can open the door to various interpretations,” he said. “Martin and I are looking forward to what the experience of hearing the poetry and music together will do for our listeners.” — Rachel Coker

Visit Listen as the composition evolves.


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One way he tests out ideas is through a computer program called Sibelius. The music-notation software allows Goldstaub to generate sheet music that can easily be read by performers. It also enables him to save his work as an audio file and play it back with any of several realistic-sounding instruments.

and doctoral degrees from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. “But now I can share the sketches I’m hearing in my head with others during the process, even before working with the actual performers. It also means I can somehow be more objective. I can listen to the music as an audience member more easily and efficiently.”

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Partnering with Parents Nurse on a mission to ‘rescue childhood’ Ten years after the horrific massacre at Columbine High School sharpened the nation’s views on youth violence, Mary Muscari sees cause for optimism — and for deep concern — about the way adolescents are growing up in America.

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 echnology has T changed the way kids relate, and it has taken away some of their social skills. … It’s not to say technology is a bad thing, but it can be abused.

— Mary Muscari

“Many things have gotten better. School shootings are horrible things, but they’re incredibly rare,” she said. “Schools are still basically a safe place. However, we have enormous issues with bullying and cyberbullying. We have too many kids who don’t realize these are nasty things to do.” Muscari, associate professor of nursing at Binghamton University and a nationally known expert on parenting, has worked with juvenile delinquents since the early 1980s. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, she has also worked with healthy children throughout her more than 30-year career. Muscari, author of five books for parents, has conducted parenting workshops around the country on topics such as keeping kids safe from predators, bullying and how to raise nonviolent kids. She approaches the problem of youth violence using a public health model, she said.

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“We have primary, secondary and tertiary prevention,” Muscari explained. “We have kids without any issue at all, and you’re trying to keep them on an even keel. We have kids who are at risk and need more early intervention. And then we have kids who are already having problems requiring more intensive interventions.” Muscari recalls vividly how the Columbine shootings, in which two teenagers killed 13 people and wounded 21 others before committing suicide, changed her professional life. She was scheduled to lead a youth violence workshop for teachers and counselors the week of the incident in April 1999 and was expecting perhaps 10 or 15 people to attend. After the shootings, organizers moved her to a room that could hold 75. It filled to capacity, and Muscari began making plans for what became her first book, Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a NonViolent Child. The no-nonsense book, written in language any parent can understand, includes ways to help children build self-esteem, manage stress and develop tolerance. It also encourages parents


How safe are our children? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there is some evidence that student safety has improved in recent years. The victimization rate of students ages 12-18 at school declined between 1992 and 2005.

to watch for warning signs such as aggressive outbursts in preschoolers or mistreatment of animals in adolescents — and get help when they need it. A typically reassuring passage from the book tells parents: “If raising a teenager makes you feel like you’re losing your mind, don’t worry. It’s normal — and temporary. Sparked by raging hormones, adolescence is a period of rapid physical and emotional transformation that can create a tenuous sense of balance for both teens and parents.”

Muscari’s ability to address these concerns clearly and directly has made her not only a sought-after writer but also a popular speaker with several national organizations. “She’s one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve met,” said Dolores Jones, director of practice, education and research for

Among children ages 5-18, there were 17 schoolassociated violent deaths during the 2005-06 school year, including 14 homicides and three suicides. In 2005, among students ages 12-18, there were about 1.5 million victims of nonfatal crimes at school, including 868,100 thefts and 628,200 violent incidents such as assaults.


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Muscari continues: “Some degree of teen-parent friction is expected, but disruptive family conflict isn’t normal. Neither is persistent defiance, fighting or property destruction. This turmoil represents pathology, and it will not be outgrown. The early appearance of antisocial behavior is associated with more serious problems later in the adolescent period and on into adulthood.”She goes on to list some behaviors that warrant professional attention, including early experimentation with alcohol or drugs, a lack of close friends and themes of violence or death in writing or artwork.

However, the center reports, violence, theft, drugs and weapons continue to pose problems in schools. During the 2005-06 school year, the most recent for which statistics are available, 86 percent of public schools reported that at least one violent crime, theft or other crime occurred at their school. In 2005, 8 percent of students in grades 9-12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon in the previous 12 months, and 25 percent reported that drugs were made available to them on school property. In the same year, 28 percent of students ages 1218 reported having been bullied at school during the previous six months.

Mary Muscari

the 7,000-member National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. “She has real-life examples that she’s able to bring about kids that she’s seen in her practice. She’s able to talk about the children she has helped already.” Jones said she considers Muscari a role model for other nurse practitioners. “Educating is one of the most vital roles that nurses play,” Jones said. “Being able to talk to the public in a way that people can understand is a special talent.” Part of Muscari’s motivation when it comes to working on youth violence is the opportunity to break what can become a cycle of behavior.

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“When you have a child who’s a victim and a child who’s a perpetrator, you really have two victims,” she said. “You have two lives that are damaged. We really should not have all these violent kids. Kids act up, of course, but the extremes that we see are a failure of society.” Muscari begins each book project with a literature review, examining pediatric journals and other expert sources. She takes what she finds as well as what she sees in her own practice and in workshops with parents, and endeavors to come up with a book that parents can — and will — read. “My mantra is that kids are not just small adults,” said Muscari, whose core philosophy could be summed up as old-fashioned parenting for today’s times.


“Some of the things you want to do with kids are timeless,” she said.“They need values. We know that kids want values — and that if they don’t get them at home they’ll look elsewhere for them. Usually when they look on their own they don’t find very good ones. We know that kids want and need attention and they’ll do anything to get it. Negative behavior gets attention faster than positive behavior. It’s easier to be bad than it is to be good. So some of these things don’t change with time. “What I try to do is to say, ‘Now how can we do that today?’ We do need to spend more time with kids; it’s not just quality. They want quantity, too. What I try to do is work with parents to find time and to say, ‘Here are some options.’” That might mean turning breakfast into the family meal if everyone’s too busy to sit down to dinner together, for instance. Muscari acknowledges that parents today face certain new challenges. The increased sexualization of childhood is one, she said, recounting the story of a mother who struggled to find a bathing suit appropriate for her young daughter. Another is the way technology has changed adolescents’ dating relationships, allowing teens to be in touch through text messages and e-mail essentially all day and all night.

Mary Muscari’s books for parents The Everything Guide to Raising Adolescent Girls (with lead author Moira McCarthy) The Everything Guide to Raising Adolescent Boys (with lead author Robin Elise Weiss) Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Non-Violent Child Not My Kid 2: Protecting Your Children from the 21 Threats of the 21st Century Let Kids Be Kids: Rescuing Childhood The first two are from Adams Media, while the other three were published by University of Scranton Press. Proceeds from the Not My Kid and Let Kids Be Kids books were donated to the Keep Your Child Safe and Secure Campaign, which promotes child mental health.

“Forty years ago, Mom could stop you from answering the phone,” Muscari said.“It was on the wall. I know my mom did. We didn’t have the Internet. Technology has changed the way kids relate, and it has taken away some of their social skills. Back then, we had to talk to people face to face if we wanted to talk. It’s not to say technology is a bad thing, but it can be abused.” She also worries about how children and adults alike have become desensitized to violence through videogames, movies or other media. Muscari said she often asks people whether they thought for just a second that they were watching a movie when they saw coverage of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The vast majority tell her they did, she said. Other parenting concerns have changed relatively little over time, Muscari said.

Muscari has many qualifications for this work, including a master’s degree in pediatrics, a doctorate in nursing as well as post-master’s certificates in psychiatric nursing and forensic nursing. But she is not a parent.

Muscari said she wrote her first book hoping to help at least one child. She hopes now she has had an effect on many more. “It’s very rewarding,”she said.“There are results. And there’s no better reward than knowing you helped a kid.” — Rachel Coker


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She has adopted a fight against materialism as an ongoing cause, for example. She encourages parents to ask their children in January what they received for Christmas. “You’ll see they already can’t remember many of the gifts,” she said, suggesting that parents think about whether an item will still be a prized possession years later before putting it into the shopping cart.

“I think it helps that I don’t have kids,” she said. “I can be objective about kids I’ve worked with as opposed to thinking about what my own kids are like. Some people say, ‘How can you write about kids when you don’t have kids?’ I think it’s an advantage because I’m never comparing to what I have. I’ve also had the advantage of work experience with perfectly healthy kids — and a lot of them — as well as kids with psychological problems who haven’t done anything illegal and kids who have broken the law. I’m fortunate to have a background that runs the gamut, from one extreme to the other.”

Search smarts

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New technology could leave Web ‘crawlers’ in the dust


One day in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to type a query into an online search engine and have it deliver not Web pages that may contain an answer, but just the answer itself. User: “Who starred in the film Casablanca?” Search Engine: “Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.” Not impressed? Imagine asking a more nuanced question, such as “What do Americans think of offshore drilling?” A search engine will be able to respond with a report indicating trends in opinion based on what has been posted to the Web.

The way Meng sees it, big search engines such as Google and Yahoo are fundamentally flawed. You see, the Web has two parts: The surface Web and the deep Web. The surface Web is made up of perhaps 60 billion pages. The deep Web, at some 900 billion pages, is about 15 times larger.


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Search engines may eventually be used to conduct polling and even help sort fact from fiction, said Weiyi Meng, a professor of computer science at Binghamton University. He’s helping to make such futuristic possibilities a reality, both through his research and as president of a company called Webscalers.

Not only can a metasearch engine probe deeper, it can also offer the latest information.

Google, which relies on a “crawler” to examine pages and catalog them for future searches, can search about 20 billion pages, just a small fraction of the entire Web. Web crawlers follow links to reach pages and often miss content that isn’t linked to any other page or is in some other way “hidden.” Meng, along with colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, has helped pioneer large-scale metasearch-engine technology that harnesses the power of numerous small search engines to come up with results that are more accurate and more complete. “Most of the pages on the deep Web aren’t directly ‘crawlable.’ We want to connect to small search engines and reach the deep Web,” he said. “That’s the idea. Many people have the misconception that Google can search everything, and if it’s not there it doesn’t exist. But we should be able to retrieve many times more than what Google can search.” Not only can a metasearch engine probe deeper, it can also offer the latest information.

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“In principle,” Meng noted, “small guys are much better able to maintain the freshness of their data. Google has a program to ‘crawl’ all over the world. Depending on when the crawler has last visited your server, there’s a delay of days or weeks before a new page will show up in that search. We can get fresher results.” The concept is not new. In fact, the first metasearch engine was built in 1994. “The big difference between our technology and the ones pursued by other people is that most of the other technologies do the metasearching on top of a small number of generalpurpose search engines, such as Yahoo, Google or MSN,”Meng explained. “We have a completely different perspective. We want to build large-scale metasearch engines on top of many small search engines.”


The Web has about 1 million search engines. Most universities have search engines, most newspapers have search engines and many companies and organizations have search engines. Since 1997, and with the support of five grants from the National Science Foundation, Meng and his collaborators have found innovative ways to run queries across multiple search engines and sort through the results. Webscalers, founded in 2002, is now based in the Start-Up Suite at Binghamton University’s Innovative Technologies Complex, which is home to several young companies that have their roots in faculty inventions. “If the Web keeps on growing, a company like Google may run out of resources to crawl all of those pages,” said Vijay V. Raghavan, a vice president of Webscalers and a distinguished professor of computer science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “We won’t have that problem. We will scale much better.” The firm has already launched several metasearch products. The first is a news metasearch engine called AllinOneNews. Available at, it connects to 1,800 news sources in 200 countries. That’s the largest metasearch engine in the world. Webscalers also offers MySearchView, a customized metasearch-engine generation system that allows any user to create his or her own metasearch engine just by checking off a few options at That site is a showcase for the company’s attempts to develop automated solutions to link multiple search engines. This kind of technology could be useful for large organizations with many branches or divisions. If each one has its own search engine, but the organization as a whole does not, a metasearch engine can connect all of the parts to the whole.

Weiyi Meng For example, Webscalers has developed a prototype that would allow a search of all 64 campuses in the State University of New York system as well as SUNY’s central administration. “People can use it to find collaborators,” Meng said. “It could also help prospective students find programs they’re interested in.” The technology could be adapted to large companies or even the government, Meng said. Webscalers has incorporated another unusual feature in its AllinOneNews metasearch engine called a “semantic match.” A search engine that’s capable of making such a match will find results for words with the same meaning, even if they’re not part of the original query. It will include pages with the word “ballerina” if you search for “ballet dancer,” for example, and “hypertension” if you search for “high blood pressure.” Challenges for large-scale metasearch engines include determining which search engines are the best for a given query, automating the interaction with search engines as well as organizing the search results. Meng and his colleagues have done extensive and pioneering research on these topics, publishing about 50 papers so far.

— Rachel Coker


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Meng hopes to one day build a grand metasearch engine that would integrate all of the 1 million small search engines into a single system. “There are still a lot of significant challenges in creating a system of such magnitude,” he said, “but I am optimistic that such a metasearch engine can be built.”

Cultivating entrepreneurs

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Binghamton proves to be fertile ground for technology transfer


There’s Binghamton University technology inside nearly every computer. That’s because Jiayuan Fang was encouraged to follow through on a great idea he had while he was on campus. Fang, then an associate professor of electrical engineering at Binghamton, developed and patented software that can provide electromagnetic analysis of integrated circuits from chip to package to board, assessing overall power and signal performance. Today, he’s the founder and president of a company that counts IBM, Cisco, Sony, Samsung, LG and other leading manufacturers among its clients.

How does a faculty member’s breakthrough concept travel from campus to the marketplace? Generally, that happens through a process known as technology transfer. At Binghamton, the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships offers guidance and encouragement to faculty members who may have a discovery worthy of a patent. Once the University invests in patent protection, the office works to license the technology’s use to an existing company or a start-up firm.


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“Virtually all the computer companies right now are using our tools,” said Fang, who noted these tools help these firms make computer technology more reliable, faster and cheaper.

“What is the mission of a university? It’s the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Now think about what technology In 2007-08, Binghamton faculty members filed 28 new technology disclosures and 19 patent applications. Royalties rose by 59 percent. While technology transfer is about ideas, not numbers, these statistics are still an important sign that the culture on campus is changing and that faculty members are responding to an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship, said Eugene Krentsel, assistant vice president for Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships. “When you talk to faculty, what excites them is an opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives, both in their community and, more importantly, nationally and globally,” Krentsel said. “That’s where technology transfer comes in, because by transferring that knowledge, we’re able to change people’s lives. That’s the driving force.” Fang’s story offers a dramatic illustration of that drive to make a difference.

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Sigrity, the company he created about 10 years ago to help customers overcome design challenges due to ever-increasing circuit speed in the world of integrated circuits, packages and printed circuit boards, now employs about 100 people. It has offices worldwide, including locations in New York, California, Texas, China, India, Japan and Germany. Sigrity negotiated an exclusive license on the patents owned by the Research Foundation of SUNY, which has generated more than $1 million in revenue to Binghamton University. Fang was honored as the Licensee of Distinction in 2008 by the University’s Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships, in conjunction with the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center (S3IP). His entrepreneurial spirit was an important factor in choosing him for the honor, Krentsel said. Fang said he received important encouragement both from people on campus and at Greater Binghamton companies to


is. It’s part of knowledge. When you look at technology transfer as a part of the creation and dissemination of knowledge, it becomes part of the critical mission of any university.” — Eugene Krentsel

pursue his discovery. Such support is vital, especially because it can take three years or longer to complete the process of applying for a patent. Scott Hancock, assistant director of technology transfer at Binghamton, said the patent process is arduous but also useful and stimulating. He has seen faculty members’ work take on a new direction after meeting with a patent attorney and reconsidering one element of their idea or another. That process helps to prepare researchers to respond to the challenges that often lie ahead as licensing deals are worked out and investors consider whether to become involved in a project. “We’re trying to maximize returns to the University, inventors, the region and students,” Hancock said. “We take a big-picture view. It’s a partnership. We need the faculty member’s active collaboration. It’s a hands-on endeavor that requires time, creativity and insight.” Fang said technology transfer challenges faculty members to consider the needs of industry in a way that pure research usually does not. “It certainly requires different thinking,” he said.

“What is the mission of a university?” he asked. “It’s the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Now think about what technology is. It’s part of knowledge. When you look at technology transfer as a part of the creation and dissemination of knowledge, it becomes part of the critical mission of any university.” — Rachel Coker


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That’s not to say that technology transfer is a distraction from research and teaching, however. In fact, Krentsel places technology transfer at the core of a research institution’s goals.

Whole lot of

going on

Tiny devices may lead to advances for technology ranging from cell phones to air bags

The vibrations start.

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A light switch flips. A car crashes. The Earth moves. A tiny structure inside a microchip senses the change, and signals a change itself. The light turns on. The air bags deploy. A seismic meter twitches.


For years scientists have known that tiny parts within tiny chips vibrate, and those vibrations, triggered by motion stopping or starting, can in turn trigger an action. But just as mothers know chicken soup works for a cold — without understanding the science behind it — engineers are still studying why these tiny vibrations occur, and how to harness them. Mohammad  Younis has worked for years to understand the vibrations and mechanics of these miniscule micro-electromechanical systems, known as MEMS. Younis’ work combines materials and chemical engineering with physics in a multi-million-dollar Binghamton University laboratory with a multi-disciplinary team. He believes that knowing how to control the vibrations will lead to better uses of the chips — faster air bags, more accurate seismic readings or scores of other uses no one has thought of yet. “It’s like the invention of airplanes,” Younis said. “The Wright brothers made their plane. But without understanding the laws of physics and the airplane and aerodynamics, we would not have the planes we have today.”

Younis grew up in Jordan, where his interest in math and science was piqued as a child. He studied mechanical engineering at the Jordan University of Science and

His adviser warned him that his chosen path of study wasn’t a typical master’slevel project — it was more. Younis still finished in a year and a half and continued the work as a doctoral student. The interdisciplinary nature of the study intrigued him. “You need to know mechanical and electrical engineering,” he said. “You need to know, for example, about solid mechanics, electricity, so it’s what I call multi-physics. … I’m trying to tackle those disciplines — thermal, fluid, electrical, you name it.” The MEMS and Nanotechnology Exchange, a clearinghouse for MEMS’ interests both corporate and academic, defines MEMS as “the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators and electronics on a common silicon substrate through microfabrication technology.”


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“It’s sort of the same,” he said of MEMS. “People fabricated MEMS, and then there was a lag between understanding the physics and the fabrication.”

Technology in Irbid, Jordan, and came to the United States for his master’s and doctoral degrees at Virginia Tech. It was there, in Blacksburg, Va., that Younis first discovered MEMS.

Sensors gather physical data, which is processed by the chips’ electronics and, through some decision-making capability, directs a response. Take, for example, MEMS uses for air bags in cars. Vehicles have a complicated system of components, including sensors, that triggers the deployment of the safety device, Younis said. His work takes the sensor mechanism a step further, suggesting that car companies could build a single device, using MEMS technology, that would simultaneously sense the change in acceleration and trigger the air bag.

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The MEMS components could be programmed to expect certain velocities as the driver naturally starts, stops and drives. But an impact that suddenly halts a high velocity, such as a crash, could interrupt the MEMS system. That inter-


ruption could cause the chip to trigger an air bag. A single device that could serve as both sensor and trigger would be cheaper to fabricate than a system that requires several different parts. Such a MEMS device might also use less power, and be less susceptible to shock, even as the mechanism’s settings could be adjusted to cover a wide — or narrow — range of acceptable motion. The technology could be used to protect personal electronics such as cell phones, preventing damage when they are dropped, Younis said. Or it could help govern major systems such as missile defense to prevent accidental deployment. Younis is one of three Binghamton University faculty members, with Ronald Miles and James Pitarresi, who received a $280,000, three-year National Science

Mohammad Younis

Foundation grant for their work. General Electric, along with Binghamton’s Integrated Electronics Engineering Center, awarded him another $50,000. Miles has worked closely with Younis since Younis came to Binghamton several years ago. Younis’ grasp of theoretical mathematics and practical knowledge of dynamics offer a new perspective on the field, Miles said. “He’s really working hard to take that stuff and figure out how to work that into practical devices,” Miles said. “He’s able to have a very deep understanding of mechanics. That combination is something that not everybody has.” The NSF grant funds Younis’ work in a lab testing the thresholds of MEMS. In one experiment, he mounted a chip on a shaker that in turn was connected to

a lamp. When the shaker caused the chip’s vibrations to accelerate past a certain threshold, the lamp lit. A computer connected to the system measured the signals. For his next project, Younis seeks to tap chemistry and biology to use MEMS to build a detection system for dangerous materials such as TNT vapor and anthrax, again working in conjunction with Binghamton researchers. Younis and his colleagues propose to explore the feasibility of including a sponge-like substance on a chip that would trigger a response when certain particles are captured in the sponge’s cavities. The MEMS would react to the chemicals caught in the spores much like other systems would react to a car crash — it would trigger the mechanism to respond, in this case as part of a warning system.

The project involves not only creating a trigger mechanism, but also crafting a layer sensitive to biological molecules, as noted by project participant Omowunmi Sadik, director of the Center for Advanced Sensor Research and Environmental Systems at Binghamton. It’s work that Binghamton is uniquely positioned to support, Younis said, through the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center devoted to microelectronics. “I’m working on very small devices and structures,” he said, “and the University has a unique center with sophisticated equipment geared for those tiny devices.” — Anne Miller

An inventor’s first patent Mohammad Younis received his first patent last year for a MEMS device that would detect acceleration and mechanical shock. The device, he said, would be able to recognize when something crashed with a high level of force and then perform a desirable task. Applications might range from protecting the hard disk of a laptop computer to deploying a side-impact air bag. “This invention represents a revolutionary concept that provides a potentially low-cost, reliable and manufacturable solution for electronic shock sensors, which could be embedded in packages and products to detect abuse, and possibly protect sensitive components from damage,” said Steven M. Hoffberg, the lawyer who worked on Younis’ patent application and a partner with the firm Milde & Hoffberg of White Plains, N.Y. Younis is working on other inventions as well.

He’s also working with Binghamton chemistry Professor Omowunmi Sadik on a “smart” sensor that can perform an action. The idea is to develop a two-in-one device that would be able to detect a small mass — such as a biological or chemical gas — and then trigger an alarm or perform some other action.


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He has another patent pending on a similar device that would detect a lower level of acceleration. That innovation could prove useful in gas drilling, navigation systems and even early earthquake detection.


allies The Center of Excellence turns corporate partners into catalysts for discovery

Dynamic faculty-industry collaborations fostered by Binghamton University’s Center of Excellence result in breakthroughs in disciplines ranging from chemistry and physics to computer science and mechanical engineering.

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The projects also help to speed up the process of discovery in new areas, said Bahgat Sammakia, director of the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center (S3IP). He noted that flexible electronics — one of the center’s core strengths — is such a new field that there aren’t many “rules” hindering creativity. “If you don’t have too many standards, then you have a lot of freedom,” he said. “You can do more research and discover new things.” An unusual model governs the interaction between faculty researchers and companies that are members of S3IP’s Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC) or Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM). At the beginning of each year, there’s a meeting during which representatives of member companies discuss their research interests.“They give a perspective of shortterm, mid-range and long-term issues as well as whether it’s a research challenge or a research and development question,” Sammakia explained. “These are nonconfidential talks, so we post them on the Web and even faculty who did not attend can access them.”


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Faculty members follow up with questions and develop research proposals. Company engineers evaluate the proposals and help prioritize them for funding and the interests of the center. Sammakia chooses 10 to a dozen projects for funding through the IEEC and a similar number for the CAMM. “Each project has not only funding but also mentors,” Sammakia said. “They can work together.”

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Eric Cotts, professor of physics at Binghamton and co-director of the University’s Materials Science and Engineering Program, has researched lead-free solder with support of the IEEC. Strong interactions with people in industry have influenced the focus of his work, he said. “Corporations tend to distill a problem and have a lot of money focused in particular areas,” Cotts said. “It’s an engineering approach. They tend to distill a problem down to its basic physics. … It’s a good marriage, if you can find a problem where you can work on the basic concepts and use their characterization of the problem. It’s fun.” Cotts said he and his colleagues have taken work they’ve done with industry partners such as IBM, Texas Instruments and Universal Instruments and then developed funding proposals for state


and federal sources. “It’s important to do basic science just for the sake of science,” he said. “And it is good to work with industry. Binghamton is a nascent university. It’s a relatively small campus. There are a lot of bright people in industry and it’s interesting to talk to them. It’s stimulating. It’s a great experience for students, too, especially if only 1 in 20 will become a professor.” Faculty members present reports three times during the year. Member companies evaluate the research and offer feedback. This, Sammakia said, is what sets the process apart from other campus-industry projects. The funding model has been around for a while, but it’s the feedback mechanism that helps ensure that projects stay on track and that the results will be useful to the sponsors. Junghyun Cho, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Binghamton, is working on projects related to thin films through both the CAMM and IEEC. The work could lead to flexible solar cell devices and provide materials and processes that will make electronic devices smaller and lighter. Cho said that in one case the sponsor feedback gave him the confidence to continue with his work, knowing that it did indeed “make sense.”

“The partner said, ‘This has to be a top priority.’ We upgraded the project. It led to solving some fundamental materials problems.”

— Bahgat Sammakia

Center of Excellence goes ‘green’ with environmentally friendly projects “Green” technologies are central to many initiatives of the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center (S3IP), from solar power to lead-free electronics. n In 2008, the Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP) was established with $4 million in federal funding. CASP will focus on tapping into the sun’s immense supply of renewable energy and make it easily accessible as a flexible, large-area and low-cost power source. The multidisciplinary center, led by Director Seshu Desu, will focus on areas such as solar conversion efficiency, storage capabilities, solar module stability and power system cost reduction. CASP will enable people to use solar power in ways and places they never have before. n Faculty member Howard Wang and his colleagues continue to explore the possibilities of printed electronics, which may reduce the materials wasted and energy used in production. The key there is using an additive process, rather than a traditional subtractive process, which involves heavy-duty chemicals and wastes a tremendous amount of copper. n S3IP offered two summer programs in 2008, one for science teachers and another for promising students. The Go Green Institute brought together about 50 seventh-graders for an intensive 10-day, hands-on learning experience centered on the theme of a greener living environment.

n Ongoing S3IP projects also include initiatives related to low-power computing, data center thermal management and lead-free electronics.


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n The center assists with graduate-level classes in electronics packaging and flexible electronics via distance-education technology and often relies on videoconferencing technology rather than having in-person meetings that would require people to travel from around the country.

“The companies are helping us build a technology road map for the CAMM. They will help us decide: How should we be building the center to be of use?” — Mary Beth Curtin

Other projects, he said, just wouldn’t have happened without the industry collaborations. “The partnerships provided motivation for initial work and funding that could support graduate students, data for publication and proof-of-concept experiments that were vital to pursue larger funding from the federal and state governments,” he said. “Without this, it could have been much tougher to get into this research area.”

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Sammakia said the regular research status reports also allow work that turns out to be especially promising to be fast tracked with additional funding and staff. That happened recently with a project focused on process development for packaging. “In the middle of the meeting, the partner turned to me and said, ‘This has to be a top priority. We want you to increase the funding for this project and here are some additional questions we want answered.’ We upgraded the project, a lot more work was done and, of course, when you do that you get more research and more surprises,” Sammakia said.“It led to solving some fundamental materials problems.” Traditionally, sponsoring companies or agencies do not have much contact with researchers for a year at a time.“By that time, if you get misdirected, you may end up not meeting the requirements of your proposal,” Sammakia said. “The chances of success are low. You end up doing something interesting and maybe useful but it’s not what the sponsor had in mind. We want the work to be not only relevant and important but exactly what the company needs.”


Sammakia said the regular industry-faculty meetings have been so successful at the IEEC that they were introduced to the CAMM at its founding several years ago. He anticipates the process working across the Center of Excellence, including in the new Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP), which last year was founded with $4 million in federal funding. With the addition of CASP, the Center of Excellence is building a unique operation with capabilities unmatched by any other facility in the world. The CAMM, which opened its roll-to-roll electronics prototype manufacturing facility in 2008, has tremendous potential in terms of new products as well as economic development, Sammakia said. The first prototype products created at the University’s facility at Endicott Interconnect Technologies will be ready this year. Mary Beth Curtin, associate director of S3IP, said Endicott Interconnect is already using some of the CAMM’s tools to investigate future products and try to commercialize new technologies. She noted that member companies will continue to be an integral part of decisions regarding the CAMM’s facilities and its processes. “The companies are helping us build a technology road map for the CAMM,” Curtin said. “As we go forward, they will help us answer questions like: What gaps in tools and infrastructure should we be addressing? How should we be building the center to be of use to our partners? What research questions should we tackle?” — Rachel Coker

Binghamton University’s Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing helps to demonstrate the feasibility of roll-to-roll (R2R) electronics manufacturing with its prototype tools and by establishing processes that produce low-volume test-bed products. The R2R manufacturing process, one step at a time, as seen at the center:


A roll of new material arrives and is inspected for surface particulates, scratches or other imperfections.

2 3

4 5

The material is cleaned.

The roll is inspected again to verify the cleaning process.

The roll goes to the General Vacuum tool for metallization. The machine precleans (or “wets”) the surface just before coating to improve the adhesion of the metal.

In the resist-apply phase, a photoresist material is applied with a spray system or through a slot-die wet coating. (This step is the only one performed off site.)


Now there’s an ultraviolet-sensitive roll of material ready to be exposed, much like a roll of film. The material goes through a projection lithography system, which can expose up to 24 linear inches per minute of web.

7 The metal-patterned roll of material is ready. Possible applications include smart fabrics, sensors and medical devices as well as consumer electronics.


The material is etched, removing the exposed metal that’s not needed. A stripping process removes the remaining photoresist material.


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The material goes through a developer and is rinsed and dried.

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A g i n g

g r a c e f u l l y


Binghamton University leads the way in meeting a growing demand for social workers who specialize in geriatrics.

The generation that first rocked out to the Rolling Stones is now rolling toward retirement. By 2030 all of the baby boomers will be 65 or older. And just as they changed previously accepted views of sex, music and work, the baby boomers are going to introduce new ideas about aging. That makes the graying of America a concern for everyone from travel agents to architects. Social workers are no exception. The National Institute of Aging estimates that 60,000 to 70,000 specialist social workers will be needed by 2020 to work with older populations, which is a 40 to 50 percent increase from the current number of gerontological practitioners.

“Social work looks at the person’s relationship with the environment, and what’s going on that either supports or places obstacles in his or her way,” said Laura Bronstein, chair of the Department of Social Work in Binghamton’s College of Community and Public Affairs.


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Binghamton University is at the vanguard of a movement to address these needs. With new programming and partnerships, the University hopes to help swell the ranks of social workers who specialize in geriatrics, just in time to help the nation cope with an expected tsunami of aging baby boomers in need of social supports.

The University hopes to boost the number of social workers who specialize in geriatrics, just in time to help the nation cope with an expected tsunami of aging baby boomers in need of social supports. Most social workers are drawn to child and family practice, but research has shown that when graduate students are exposed to geriatric clients, as well as given extra support and training related to working with this segment of the population, it motivates them to work in this field. “This is where the jobs will be because it’s where the clients will be,” Bronstein said. “Whether it’s a school where the grandparents are raising grandchildren, or the aging prison population, social workers are increasingly serving older adults in every institution where they practice.”

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Unlike other master of social work programs, in which students spend each of their two years of internship in a single field placement, some of Binghamton’s graduate students spend one year in placements at various social service agencies or community organizations. They spend one day a week at each of two different agencies during the academic year, and research has shown that this type of exposure nurtures the future pool of geriatric specialists if the placements involve elderly clients. “It’s as much developing interest as expertise in working with older adults,” Bronstein said. The New York Academy of Medicine’s Social Work Leadership Institute provided this model of rotational field placements, and the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education awarded Binghamton University’s social work program a $75,000 grant over three years. This money and matching


funds raised by the department provides $5,000 annual stipends plus tuition to graduate students. It also pays for a parttime supervisor with a master of social work degree to work with students who are placed in agencies that do not have such a professional on staff. “Students report that field placement is the most important part of their education, so this money is a wonderful incentive for students to explore geriatric social work,” Bronstein said. The New York Academy of Medicine started looking at access to health care a decade ago and discovered most people had difficulty navigating the system. Those consumers who were also elderly and/or had chronic illnesses found it nearly impossible, said Patricia J. Volland, the academy’s senior vice president for strategy and business development. “We realized there was already a group of professionals — social workers — who could link social service systems to health care, but weren’t trained to do this type of work for that particular population segment,” she added. The academy’s educational model proposes three unique features that the Binghamton program has adopted: n It promotes school-community agency partnerships so the education is based on real-world experience. n It seeks to develop competencies in geriatric care. n It includes rotational field placements in its practicum component that let students experience the system the way elderly clients do.

“Our career assessment showed that 80 percent of these social work graduates are working in geriatrics,” Volland said. Starting in September 2007, Sunha Choi, an assistant professor of social work at Binghamton, conducted a yearlong assessment of graduate students who were in these rotational geriatric field placements to discover if they were developing more skills and a greater interest in the field. Students measured their gerontological competencies in four areas: values and ethics; assessment; intervention; and aging services, programs and policies. They completed a self-assessment scale before, midway through and following the academic year. The department also recorded student focus groups answering questions. In May, the students reported gains in knowledge and experience through the program. In direct contrast to September, they could identify specific areas in which they would like to gain additional knowledge and skills. One student said, “If you asked me last semester, if I wanted to (work with older adults), I would have said no, not really. But I actually applied to some of the assisted living social work positions. … There is so much you can do other than just hospice with the elderly.” Jennifer Marshall, director of field education for the MSW program at Binghamton, noted that through the variety of field placements, graduate students observe firsthand the final stage of human development.

Laura Bronstein “They learn about the issues that affect different types of elderly people,” Marshall said, “and through assessments, determine the appropriate level of service from those social services available in the community.” Heidi Bowne of Binghamton, who received her MSW in 2008, was placed in two Broome County social service agencies: the Council of Churches’ Faith in Action Volunteers and the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment Inc.

For the Council of Churches, Bowne assessed the needs and interests of individuals requesting assistance. This allowed volunteer care providers to be compatibly matched with clients.

By the numbers

Bronstein said this sort of insight is exactly what can be gained when social work students have regular interaction with elderly clients. “Geriatric social work specialists,” Bronstein said, “can connect older adults to the community services that will improve their quality of life and provide them with less expensive care. These geriatric social workers will be at the forefront of practice, program development and policy change to support all of us and our caregivers as we age.”

Nearly one in five U.S. residents is expected to be 65 and older by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This age group is projected to increase to 88.5 million in 2050, more than doubling the number in 2008.

— Katherine Karlson


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“I felt privileged to hear what people said about their lives and the challenges they faced as they aged and how they accommodated them,” Bowne said.

She also saw that these volunteers might provide much-needed transport for AVRE clients. The Broome County Office for Aging will have another MSW intern explore how agencies might expand their transportation services.

faculty essay

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A new dream for 21st-century science It’s time to abandon the search for a single principle to explain the world An essay by Eric Dietrich


faculty essay

An old curse supposedly goes, “May you live in interesting times.” Pretty obviously this curse, or one of its close cousins, has been hurled at us inhabitants of the 21st century, for this century bids fair to be the most interesting ever.

One of the largest changes will come to science. Since at least the time of the pre-Socratic philosophers, thinkers and researchers have dreamt of and searched for a single principle to explain the world. This search for a grand, unifying theory continued up through Descartes and

then Newton — who gave the search, in physics, a large and much-needed dose of steroids. After the individual sciences started to mature at their own pace, developing their own theories and methodologies, the search for a unifying theory became, and remains today, the search for unifying theories — each science searching for its own. In the 21st century, we will see this search move in two opposing directions. Some sciences will move closer to their dream of a unifying theory; others will see their dream dashed to bits. Why these two directions should prevail is itself a matter of great interest. To be specific, let us consider two sciences: biology and cognitive science. Biology’s success at finding a unifying theory is one of the great success stories in the history of science. The discovery of evolution and the creation of the


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Everything will change. The way we live on this planet, including the way we house ourselves, eat, work, learn, get from one place to another, communicate and use currency. The way we conceive of ourselves and our place in the world, including the ways we think of religion, morality, justice, our histories and cultures and the way we define what matters. With nearly seven billion of us here at the beginning of the century, we will be changing the way we think about reproduction, and perhaps even the way it is accomplished. And all of these changes will be, and are being, reflected in our art and music.

faculty essay

Binghamton University / Binghamton Research / 2009

theory of evolution was a remarkable accomplishment. To this day, however, many don’t appreciate how powerful the theory of evolution is. This will change. The way we humans define ourselves is deeply tied up with our religions and our moralities. As this century progresses, the theory of evolution will extend its reach to cover both of these. Evolutionary theory is now beginning to explain why humans are religious, why religions are structured the way that they are, and even why religions have a supernatural component. Evolution is also being used to explain our moralities — the implicit, internal rules of conduct that knit together our societies and are the foundation of our cultures. Furthermore, evolution is linking our embrace of religion and the way we conceive of our morality and moral duties. Allies in this bold advance include neuroscience, psychology and


philosophy. It is possible that by the end of the century we will know the biological and neuropsychological reasons that humans are religious and why we parse the world of human actions into right and wrong, good and bad, in the ways that we do. This possibility is sobering, to say the least, but there could well be important benefits from such advances. The 21st century is likely to continue to be a century tortured by terrorism of various sorts. The sheer stress of population increase will be one major contributor to this. But much of the terrorism will be, as it now is, based on deep religious and cultural differences. It’s a reasonable hope that we could place these differences in a better perspective once we know their biological and psychological origins. This might allow us to mitigate the problem of terrorism, for often progress toward solving a problem is made by knowing its cause.

Eric Dietrich, professor of philosophy, received his doctorate from the University of Arizona in 1985. His areas of research and teaching include cognitive science and artificial intelligence, metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of mind.

Visit You’ll find links there for further exploration of this topic.

faculty essay

Some sciences will move closer to their dream of a unifying theory; others will see their dream dashed to bits. If biology’s grand unifying theory has such success, obviously we will all be much better off. Oddly, the same is true if some sciences’ dreams of finding unifying theories fail.The most important science in this class is psychology, specifically, cognitive science. Cognitive scientists have been looking for decades for a unifying theory to explain the entire mind and brain. Their search was modeled on other, better established sciences, like physics (an irony, it turns out, since physics is also in this class). For example, one major contender in this heated race for unification is the computational theory of mind. Large parts of thought and thinking can be explained as the software of a very sophisticated computer (one we are currently unable to even come close to building). The computer is the brain, and the mind is its working software. While this theory has been enormously successful, it now appears as if the goal of using it for a grand unifying theory was wrong-headed.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that there is a paradox within biology’s and cognitive science’s futures. In so far as we think of ourselves as organisms subject to the power of evolution, we can explain some of our deepest beliefs and motivations — one unifying theory has enormous power. In so far as we think of ourselves as thinking things, we can only explain ourselves in a piecemeal way — one unifying theory is a pipe dream. But we are both a kind of African ape, subject to evolution, as well as cognizers best classified as unique in the animal kingdom. Paradoxes like this, which are starting to crop up in other sciences, make it hard to understand what nature is trying to tell us. Furthermore, we can’t predict which of all the sciences will wind up like cognitive science or like evolutionary biology. And just because a science at one time is closing in on its dream of unification, doesn’t mean that the dream will continue to unfold that way. As mentioned, physics, the Platonic ideal of a science, looks as if it is going to be forced to give up its dream of a grand unifying theory. So, though the situation is puzzling, the message is clear. We humans live in a vastly complex universe, and this complexity is mirrored in our own minds. The furniture of the universe does not fit into neat categories, fixed once and for all. Rather, it lies in categories that sometimes contradict each other, and

that often crisscross each other in ways we may never fully understand. All of this is going to play out on the 21st century’s stage. And nowhere will this drama be more important than at universities. The dream of one world, one theory is dead. Even the dream of one world, many theories is dying, for it is far from clear that there is “one world.” Our students need to be given a new dream. Our students need to be given the dream that humans, the world and the universe are far richer, far more wonderful than any single science can handle, and indeed more wonderful than all the sciences combined. Science is one of the greatest achievements of humankind. But one of the things science reveals is the universe’s inexhaustible supply of surprises. This new dream might be unsettling. But it is actually far more optimistic than the dream of unification. We need not fear this new dream, for it will reveal a universe of excellent beauty. And, as Francis Bacon taught us, “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”


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Looking for a unifying theory of the mind and brain is now being compared to looking for a unifying theory of the entire Amazon rainforest — a theory that explains all of its flora and fauna, their interactions, how they all came to be, the rainforest’s weather and its geology. No such theory is in the cards: The rainforest is simply too complex. The same realization is beginning to be accepted in cognitive science: The mind and the brain that produces it are just too complex for one theory to be able to explain all that needs explaining. The gap between the dynamics of the cytoskeletons of neurons and being able to pass a class in the history of the American novel is so large that completely different sciences are going to be needed to explain the relevant phenomena.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Developing theories of memory, reasoning, learning, perception, action and emotion all look like they will require very different methodologies. These different methodologies, though perhaps not lying in completely different sciences, will definitely lie in quite different subfields of cognitive science.

in brief

Evolutionary Studies goes national

more homework may not be the answer

Binghamton University’s Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) program will serve as a model for a national consortium that will link institutions ranging from major research universities to community colleges in a partnership of programs.

When it comes to math, piling on the homework may not work for all students. That’s the finding of a study by Daniel Henderson, associate professor of economics at Binghamton University, and colleagues at the University of Nevada.

“Evolution is usually taught strictly as a biological subject,” said David Sloan Wilson, professor of biological sciences and EvoS founder. “But it is equally relevant to human affairs, including areas as diverse as religion, economics David Sloan Wilson and literature. Current trends in research and scholarship are not yet reflected in higher education. EvoS was created to correct this imbalance.” The consortium will offer students a range of courses that can be taken in parallel with their traditional majors. Taught as a set of unifying principles that cut across subject areas, course topics range from the composition of DNA to the nature of sexual attraction in humans and other species. A two-year, $300,000 National Science Foundation grant will support the consortium project. “In the future, evolution will be regarded as essential for understanding humanity in addition to life as a whole,” Wilson said. “The EvoS consortium will help accomplish the transition sooner rather than later.”

The study, published in the Daniel Henderson Econometrics Journal, found that although assigning more homework tends to have a larger and more significant impact on mathematics test scores for high- and low-achievers, it is less effective for average achievers. “We found that if a teacher has a high-achieving group of students, pushing them harder by giving them more homework could be beneficial,” Henderson said. “Similarly, if a teacher has a low-ability class, assigning more homework may help since they may not have been pushed hard enough. But for the averageachieving classes, who may have been given too much homework in an attempt to equate them with the high-achieving classes, educators could be better served by using other methods to improve student achievement.” The study examined an area previously unexplored: the connection between test scores and extra homework. Researchers found that only about 40 percent of the students surveyed would significantly benefit from an additional hour of homework each night.

Sequels’ performance offers insight on film franchises

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Although movie sequels don’t always do as well at the box office as the original, they tend to do much better than non-sequels, according to a study by experts at Binghamton University and Florida Atlantic University. The study, which appeared in the Journal of Business Research, found sequels do not match the box office revenues of the parent films. However, week by week, they do better than nonsequels — more so, when they quickly follow the original.

Subimal Chatterjee

“Indeed, we have found that some franchises are closely following this practice,” said Subimal Chatterjee, marketing professor at Binghamton University. “For instance, New Line Studios released the Lord of the Rings trilogy in almost clocklike precision: Fellowship of the Ring in December 2001; The Two Towers in December 2002; and The Return of the King in December 2003. A shorter time gap for releasing a sequel is better than a longer time gap given that the ‘buzz’ and anticipation is likely to dissipate in consumers’ memory with a longer wait.” The study offers movie studios key managerial insight. “Studios who count on sequels as less risky ventures than non-sequels need to make sure that production budgets are carefully managed,” Chatterjee said. “Sequels may not perform as well as the original ... so studios need to manage the timing of the releases, the number of sequels and the gap in between releases.”


in brief

Engineer seeks to understand corrosion A Binghamton researcher hopes to shed light on why and how metals suffer corrosion, especially when under various types of stress. Guangwen Zhou, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, will use stateof-the-art techniques involving transmission electron microscopy, or TEM, to observe the oxidation process. Oxidation is the loss of electrons by a molecule, atom or ion. One common example is the rust that results when a metal such as iron comes into contact with moist air.

Guangwen Zhou

Preventing rust and related damage is of vital interest to materials engineers as well as industry An estimated 3 to 5 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product is spent on the repair of corrosion-related damage. The study, which will help in the search for substances that can protect the surface of metals, has implications for a number of fields, including thin-film processing and fuel cells. Zhou’s work is supported by a three-year, $250,000 National Science Foundation grant as well as a two-year, $50,000 grant from the American Chemical Society. He will apply stress to samples of copper and use in situ TEM to observe what happens on the nanoscale level when oxygen gas is introduced.

RESEARCHER PROBES VIRTUAL LEADERSHIP Surinder Kahai is fascinated by virtual worlds and how businesses use them. He’s especially intrigued by collaboration and leadership in Second Life, a vast online three-dimensional world. Kahai, an associate professor in the School of Management at Binghamton University, has compared the use of instant messaging (IM) with Second Life in experiments designed to see how such electronic interactions help shape decision making. Many companies with international workforces use virtual worlds to conduct meetings and even interview potential employees. But there’s relatively little data available about whether this practice is effective. Surinder Kahai “You need systematic studies,” Kahai said. “Right now, companies — Intel, Cisco, IBM — are making these decisions to use Second Life and other virtual worlds. But is it worthwhile? Is it really adding value? That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

“When participants have no prior experience with Second Life, they rate most things, including group cohesion and media richness, which are important A scene from Second Life for collaboration, lower in Second Life,” Kahai said. “On the other hand, with modest experience there is a greater feeling of presence, that you’re with others, in Second Life.” Kahai blogs about the topic at


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Kahai and his team expected users to experience more media richness and social presence in Second Life, which offers a visual environment complete with sound and even gestures, than in IM. But several studies found that wasn’t necessarily the case. The style of team leader, team orientation exercises and users’ previous experience with the technology they are using all play a role in whether virtual worlds enhance media richness and social presence.

in brief

Folklorist focuses on children A Binghamton faculty member wrote the first book in more than 10 years to address American children’s folklore, traditional knowledge shared by kids, usually without adult involvement. Greenwood Press published Children’s Folklore: A Handbook by Elizabeth Tucker, an associate professor of English. “So much has happened in children’s folklore since 1995,” Tucker said. “The world has changed so much. So many rules about protection of children have changed. There are patterns of children playing more in structured circumstances.” A child learning how to play “ring around the rosie” from parents would be an example of “nursery lore,” but “folklore” occurs when a child learns a similar game from peers with rhymes that do not come from adults. This still happens today.

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As she started her new research, Tucker wondered if technological advances, such as video games, the Internet and more television, had affected the amount of active children’s folklore. “I found that children’s folklore was as lively as ever,” she said. “It’s just morphed into different patterns.” Tucker, the author of Campus Legends and Haunted Halls: Campus Ghost Stories, is also the editor of Children’s Folklore Review, an annual publication that is the only journal in the world devoted to the subject.


Book explores Russian poets’ lives The fierce determination of several Russian poets who lived and wrote in the early 20th century provided the inspiration for a book by Binghamton faculty member Donald Loewen. Lexington Books published The Most Dangerous Art: Poetry, Politics, and Autobiography after the Russian Revolution by Loewen, an associate professor and chair of the Department of German and Russian Studies. Reading an autobiographical fragment by poet Osip Mandelstam sparked Loewen’s interest in the project, which grew to include Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva. “There was an incredible power in Mandelstam’s prose that had a different quality from what you see in his poetry,” Loewen said. “What he was doing was telling the story of the traumatic experiences he had for being a poet. It was the story of his life in literature. What I most admired about it was his determination not to give in.” Mandelstam, Pasternak and Tsvetaeva, he said, all turned to prose to defend themselves as poets, poetry as a genre and the concept of the poet. While their life stories are well known to those who appreciate Russian poetry, Loewen may be the first to seek the common elements in their autobiographies and offer a broader vantage point on the times in which they lived.

Sociologist examines Johannesburg Martin J. Murray believes cities in Africa and Asia are creating a new template for urban development. The professor of sociology at Binghamton University is the author of Taming the Disorderly City: The Spatial Landscape of Johannesburg after Apartheid, published by Cornell University Press. Murray conceived a series of three books on the city in the mid-1990s after the end of South Africa’s formal system of racial segregation. “Even though everything was changing, with everyone in the country having the right to vote and one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, at the same time it was visible that little had changed,” he recalled. “The enormous differentiation between rich and poor was still there. Those who lived well continued their lives as if nothing had changed.” Murray set out to explore questions of urban space and to understand why and how the affluent were able to insulate themselves from having to make any real sacrifice. Taming the Disorderly City focuses on the struggle between urban poor, urban planning and real estate capitalism. “Americans have a tendency to look at cities in Africa or Asia as lagging behind or lacking certain features,” he said. “I think it’s the opposite. The template for the future is in Africa or Asia: an entrepreneurial or private city that has leapt beyond the U.S.”

Merchants, moneylenders and middlemen New view of Jewish history offers understanding of capitalism, anti-Semitism

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