Interdisciplinary Insights: the newsletter of the ASRC

January 2023 Edition

Headshot: Josh Brumberg
Josh Brumberg, Interim executive director of the CUNY ASRC and dean for the sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center

With the turn of the calendar, we have a chance to reflect on the successes at the CUNY ASRC these past months and to look forward to the spring semester. As you will see throughout this newsletter, our faculty and students have been driving scientific advances and STEM education across our five initiatives, and in partnership with other CUNY schools and New York City’s STEM community. From a student first-authoring a paper to discovering how our city’s shrubs help clear its air, here’s a peek into our world. Enjoy!

Josh Brumberg

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new immersive experience that allows guests to tour the CUNY ASRC from the comfort of their own devices!

Environmental Sciences

How New York City's Trees and Shrubs Help Clear Its Air

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A new study co-authored by Professor Andrew Reinmann shows how vegetation across New York City helps absorb a surprising amount of carbon emissions. He recently met with The New York Times to discuss it.


A New Multidisciplinary Program Training CUNY STEM Graduate Students

BioNanoNYC 2022 cohort
2022 NanoBioNYC Fellows: (top row, left to right) Mike A. Cornejo, Angelina V. Grebe, and Jack C. Mechler; (bottom row, left to right) Julinda Mujo, Tania Rajpersaud, and Milan A. Shlain

The NanoBioNYC program selected its first cohort of six CUNY graduate students, last year. Their training kicked off with a series of professional development workshops in Fall 2022 and continues throughout the new year, as they prepare for an immersive summer experience in three career tracks.

Structural Biology

Doctoral Student and Colleagues Track How Elastin Transforms From a Liquid to a Solid

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Alfredo Vidal Ceballos

Alfredo Vidal Ceballos, a current student in his last year of the Biochemistry Ph.D. Program at the Graduate Center, first-authored a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This experience has taught me about collaboration between labs with different skill sets, as well as given me an opportunity to practice my scientific writing,” say Ceballos, who’s interested in pursuing neuronal development and phase separation after graduation.


Andrea Alù Explains How He Tricks Light and Sound

photonics initiative director Andrea Alu
Andrea Alù, Distinguished Professor and Einstein Professor of Physics at The City University of New York Graduate Center and founding director of the CUNY ASRC Photonics Initiative

Creating metamaterials that trick sound and light may sound more like science fiction than science, but that is what Distinguished Professor Andrea Alù (Physics), founding director of the Photonics Initiative at the CUNY ASRC, does in his research. In a new article in Scientific American, the eminent physicist, a Blavatnik National Awards Laureate, describes in plain language his far-out inventions.


CUNY ASRC and Mount Sinai Join Forces for A New Research Initiative That Targets Climate Change

Professor Patrizia Casaccia, director of the CUNY ASRC Neuroscience Initiative, and Professor Robert Wright, environmental epidemiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in collaboration with several CUNY colleges, have created the “MSSM/CUNY Climate Change Health Impact Interdisciplinary Research Initiative.” The initiative, which will fund transdisciplinary grants that focus on climate change and health, is anticipated to advance NIH efforts to reduce health threats from climate change and build health resilience, especially among those at highest risk, as “The ability to have air conditioning is probably now — in some instances — the difference between life and death,” says Dr. Wright.

CUNY ASRC Hosts IlluminationSpace Hub Launch Event

Kendra Krueger and Shawn Rhea
Kendra Krueger (left) and Shawn Rhea (right) presenting at the IlluminationSpace Hub launch event. (Credit: Shanté Booker)

One of the most important things about being a scientist, or a bearer of any type of knowledge, is sharing it, or “bringing home the snap peas,” as Beau Morton, director of environmental health and education at WE ACT, described it during their address to a group of CUNY STEM researchers, local community groups, advocates and other stakeholders. The audience gathered recently to learn more about the CUNY ASRC IlluminationSpace Hub (IS Hub), which was launched last spring as a collective space for science communication, outreach and education at CUNY.

SEED Grant Awardee Sophia Suarez vs. Synthetic Mucus

Headshot: 2022 SEED Grant Awardee Sophia Suarez
2022 SEED Grant Awardee Sophia Suarez (Credit: Sophia Suarez)

Mucus gets a bad rap. Sure, the slippery, gelatinous goo produced by mucous membranes can be off-putting for some, but its capabilities are nothing to sneeze at. Organic mucus is a vital protective substance that allows bodies to perform essential functions, such as breathing, swallowing, and digesting. Animal mucus can provide filtrative, conductive, or adhesive functions that are useful to drug delivery and cosmetic industries. The downside about organic mucus, however, is its variability in samples and parasitic contamination, which can lead to structural degradation and toxicity. With the help of funding from the ASRC SEED Grant Program, Sophia Suarez, professor of physics at Brooklyn College, and colleagues are working to overcome these obstacles by studying synthetic mucus.

Facility Spotlight

Next Generation Environmental Sensor Lab

A group of Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY students visited the ASRC to learn about the CUNY ASRC Community Sensor Lab and built sensors.

The Next Generation Environmental Sensor Lab (NGENS) is an open resource for environmental sensors, equipped with high-end reference instruments for: greenhouse gases, radiation, soil and water measurements, and more. In addition, the Sensor Lab manages the rooftop observatory and a design and fabrication facility to prototype and stage environmental sensors, enclosures, and fixtures.

About Our Initiatives

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Environmental Sciences

The Environmental Sciences Initiative brings a distinct research vision to the environmental sciences, uniting state-of-the-art analytical capabilities, environmental analytics, and sensing technologies to create fundamental scientific knowledge for addressing the fundamental environmental research questions facing the planet today and into the future.

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The Nanoscience Initiative has a distinct research vision in nanoscience, focusing on the study and application of dynamic nanoscale systems, from fundamental understanding to applications ranging from biomedicine to food science and green energy.

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The Neuroscience Initiative actively promotes interdisciplinary approaches for the study of environmental influences on brain function and behavior and to develop transformative technologies and advanced platforms aimed at promoting mental health.

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Research in the Photonics Initiative encompasses biology, medicine, physics and technology fields such as computer display and lighting, as well as the futuristic fields of quantum information processing and quantum encryption, in which data reside on single photons, which are to light what electrons are to electricity.

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Structural Biology

Research in the Structural Biology Initiative brings together biologists, chemists, and physicists to tackle many of life’s central questions. How do cells respond to their surroundings? How do they make copies of themselves? What determines the balance between health and disease?

Connect With Us

Contact Us

The ASRC is located at 85 St. Nicholas Terrace, New York, NY 10031.

p – 212.413.3300
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For media inquiries or to speak with faculty or researchers at the ASRC, please contact Shawn Rhea,

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We welcome your inquiries about ways to partner with or support the ASRC, including any initiatives or projects that you’d like to impact.