CUNY ASRC key in Strathclyde-CUNY Collaboration

From left, Gillian Small, Vice Chancellor for Research and Executive Director of the CUNY ASRC; Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde and Vice Chancellor.
From left, Gillian Small, Vice Chancellor for Research and Executive Director of the CUNY ASRC; Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde.

Building on informal existing ties between the two universities, the City University of New York (CUNY) and the University of Strathclyde recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen the collaborative ties among scientific researchers at both institutions.

Strathclyde, located in Glasgow, is one of the top research universities in the United Kingdom and is regularly recognized for the strength of its scientific programs. It recently opened its Technology & Innovation Centre (TIC), designed to facilitate research, innovation and technology development in a dynamically-collaborative environment.

Dr. Gillian Small, CUNY Vice Chancellor for Research and Executive Director of the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), said the relationship between the two universities will serve to widen the scope of the research possible for all researchers involved.

“The research facilities at the two universities are bonded with a shared culture of focusing on the future of research in an academic environment,” said Small. “The mission of the TIC dovetails with that of the ASRC, which was built to form a highly collaborative research environment—a vertical integration of the horizontal blend of many disciplines.”

After a visit to the ASRC in October 2015, Strathclyde Principal and Vice-Chancellor Sir Jim McDonald and Small began discussions to formalize and develop a collaborative relationship between the two institutions. Small travelled to Glasgow in March 2016 to meet with research partners, tour the facilities—including the TIC—and to sign the MOU.

“We were delighted to welcome Dr. Small to Strathclyde and to cement our universities’ relationship through this MOU,” Sir Jim said. “The Technology and Innovation Centre was created to transform the way we work with other leading universities and partners in business and industry, ensuring our research has maximum impact. Our model mirrors the collaborative ethos at CUNY, and we are extremely pleased to be exploring opportunities for joint research.”

The explicit aim of the MOU is “to provide the framework for pursuing topical collaborative research and educational opportunities,” and to capitalize on “the potential for a long-term strategic relationship.” The memorandum identifies the primary areas for initial exploration and collaboration, including: nanoscience & bionanotechnology, photonics, structural biology, sustainable cities, and entrepreneurship & enterprise.

The ASRC is also the home of one of the earliest links between the two institutions: Dr. Rein V. Ulijn, ASRC Director of the Nanoscience Initiative and Einstein Professor of Chemistry at Hunter College, previously was a professor and Vice Dean of Research at Strathclyde and maintains a research team at the school. He and a number of researchers from the ASRC recently visited Glasgow to meet with potential collaborators and discuss possibilities for future research opportunities.

“The TIC and the ASRC share similar DNA—both were created with the new model of scientific research in mind,” Ulijn said. “Working across disciplines is how research is done now, and both centers will support our scientists through the entire process. From generating new approaches to addressing big questions, to implementation of outcomes, CUNY and Strathclyde have created a complimentary system to ensure our research has the support it needs.”

Dr. Jacob Trevino, Director of the ASRC NanoFabrication Facility, noted specifically the potential for collaborations with Dr. Keith Mathieson, Director of the Institute of Photonics, whose research concentrates on using microelectrode arrays for the recording of extracellular signals from retinal tissue. The research is somewhat limited because the materials are produced at the microscale—1000 times larger than the nanomaterials produced in the ASRC’s NanoFab.

“Strathclyde University’s TIC has strong research programs in LED, microfluidic and SERS device engineering with applications towards biomedical applications,” Trevino said. “The CUNY ASRC has world class nanofabrication and bio-nanotechnology facilities and expertise, needed to miniaturize these devices and interface them in biological systems. Leveraging both Centers’ strengths, there is potential for major breakthroughs in next generation biomedical diagnostics techniques and treatments through this newly formed collaboration.”

Thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of the research taking place every day at the ASRC, researchers from each of the Initiatives will benefit from the strong connection between the two schools.

One of the strongest areas of collaboration identified during the visit was a result of discussions with Dr. Richard Bellingham, Director of the TIC’s Institute for Future Cities. The Institute for Future Cities is focused on using data and analytics to understand city dynamics and improve the quality of life for cities around the world. A strong partnership with the Institute and with other researchers at the TIC will allow ASRC Environmental Sciences Initiative (ESI) researchers to co-develop new ways of looking at ecosystems and cities including, among other topics, the design and testing of sensors to better understand cities.

“We are living in an increasingly urban planet, and the only way to truly understand what this means for the health and well-being of the environment and its inhabitants is by cultivating strong worldwide research partnerships,” said Dr. Anthony D. Cak, Associate Director of the ESI. “Working with the Institute for Future Cities and the TIC will provide us with the complementary knowledge and expertise to truly understand not just the social, technological and environmental issues facing New York City, Glasgow or other areas of interest, but also how to develop ways to both measure and predict the future of these areas.”


About the ASRC: The CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is a University-wide venture that elevates CUNY’s legacy of scientific research and education through initiatives in five distinctive, but increasingly interconnected disciplines: Nanoscience, Photonics, Structural Biology, Neuroscience and Environmental Sciences. Led by Dr. Gillian Small, Vice Chancellor for Research and the ASRC’s executive director, the center is designed to promote a unique, interdisciplinary research culture. Researchers from each of the initiatives work side by side in the ASRC’s core facilities, sharing equipment that is among the most advanced available. Funding for the ASRC from New York State is gratefully acknowledged.