Goal 3: Integration of the ASRC into CUNY-Wide Research and Education

researchers in lab coats and gloves working in a lab

We will integrate the ASRC into the culture and agenda of CUNY by encouraging faculty and students to leverage the center’s outstanding collection of cutting-edge technologies to enhance their research programs and their contributions to the modern scientific workplace within and beyond New York City.

Within the past five years, the ASRC has begun to fulfill its mission to be a premier, CUNY-wide scientific and educational resource by pursuing a multipronged strategy that ranges from opening state-of-the-art research labs and core facilities to the broader community to providing seed program funding to CUNY researchers to take advantage of these opportunities to training graduate and undergraduate students and hosting high-profile seminars and symposia in partnership with CUNY faculty and students. As such, many view the ASRC faculty, staff, and students as making positive contributions to the research and education mission of the university. Despite inherent challenges resulting from geographic distances that separate the campuses and administrative systems, progress has been made through the hard work of many individuals throughout the CUNY system collaborating directly with members of the ASRC. Importantly, The Graduate Center dean for the sciences is a constant advocate for the ASRC among the colleges, and The Graduate Center president and provost work to support and advertise the ASRC’s integration at the university level. Further, the strategic appointment of nine ASRC faculty to senior colleges, including Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Queens College, and and The City College of New York, has helped broaden the reach of the ASRC through teaching, service, and networking. By 2018, the ASRC also had more than 100 officially designated affiliates (most from other CUNY campuses), and these partnerships have already led to co-authored grants and publications between faculty at the ASRC and other CUNY campuses. An evaluation of the current status identifies many positive achievements along with some important challenges.

State-of-the-art Research Labs and Core Facilities

Hundreds of CUNY scientists from outside the ASRC are users of these core facilities, including faculty and students from Baruch College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College, Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, Hostos Community College, Hunter College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Kingsborough Community College, Lehman College, Queens College, The City College of New York, and York College – with new users continuing to join.

Numerous CUNY faculty members have been hosted at the ASRC for activities ranging from mini-sabbaticals to temporary moves to accommodation of construction-related inconveniences on their home campuses. Faculty members taking advantage of these opportunities have so far come from Baruch College, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Queens College, and Queensborough Community College.

About Our Core Facilities

Advanced Laboratory for Chemical and Isotopic Signatures (ALCIS)

Director: Brian Giebel, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Atmospheric Chemistry, Geochemistry, Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry, Gas Chromatography, Stable Isotope Reference Standardization and Calibration Techniques

Biomolecular Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Facility

Director: James Aramini, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor
Research Interests: Protein structure and dynamics using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy, metabolomics, characterization of chemical material by solution and solid state NMR

Comparative Medicine Unit (CMU)

Directors: Sulli Popilskis, DVM, Attending Veterinarian; Isela Lopez, LVT, Operations Manager
Research Interests: Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and United States Department of Agriculture overseen facility for the humane care of research laboratory animals

Epigenetics Facility

Director: Jia Liu, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor
Research Interests: Epigenetic regulation of glia and neurons, and effects of stress on gene expression changes

Imaging Facility

Director: Tong Wang, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor
Research Interests: Electron microscopy, cryo-EM, single particle reconstruction, protein structures, DNA, self-assembly, bio-nanotechnology

Live Imaging and Bioenergetics Facility

Director: Ye He, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Confocal microscopy, Two photon,  Live imaging, super resolution imaging, 3D/4D imaging, MALDI MS imaging, glial development and diseases, brain tumor, ion channel, Drosophila neuronal development

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Facility

Director: A. Duke Shereen, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor
Research Interests: Structural and functional neuroimaging (MRI, EEG), neuromodulation (TMS/TDCS), brain development and aging, imaging biomarkers, neurodegenerative diseases, speech and language, memory, cognition, multimodal and simultaneous MRI/EEG/TMS/TDCS/eye-tracking/physiological-sensing methods development

MALDI-TOF MS Imaging Facility

Directors: Ye He, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor; Rinat Abzalimov, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Label-free in situ profiling of proteins, lipids, metabolites and small molecules; MALDI Imaging including tissue preparation, matrix coating, MALDI-MS profiling, and imaging/data analysis

Mass Spectrometry Facility

Director: Rinat Abzalimov, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Biomolecular mass spectrometry, protein structure and dynamics via HDX-MS and intact mass measurements, macromolecule/liquid interactions, metabolomics, and mass spec-based imaging

Microbial Ecology and Genomics Facility

Research Interests: Genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and genomics of unicellular microorganisms

Nanofabrication Facility

Director: Milan Begliarbekov, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Lithography, thin film deposition, dry etching, metrology, thermal processing, and characterization

Next Generation Environmental Sensor Lab (NGENS) and Observatory

Director: Ricardo Toledo-Crow, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor
Research Interests: Environmental sensor development and calibration, sensor deployment, in situ sensing, remote sensing

Photonics Facility

Director: Alex Krasnok, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Lasers, light sources, measurement instruments, optical and mechanical hardware, photonics-related software packages for computational work

Radio Frequency & Millimeter Wave (RF/mm-wave) Facility

Director: Younes Ra’di, D.Sc., Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: In-house PCB prototyping, anechoic test chamber, high-end spherical nearfield measurement system, planar nearfield scanning

Rodent Behavioral Analysis Suite

Director: Jia Liu, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor
Research Interests: Behavioral analysis in models of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including learning, memory, anxiety, and depression tasks

Surface Science Facility

Director: Tai-De Li, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor
Research Interests: Soft materials, nanobioscience, nano-rheology, mechanobiochemistry, nano-surface science

Seed Grants

These match research-active faculty across the campuses to ASRC partners, who then jointly execute preliminary experiments with the goal of generating preliminary data for external grant applications and/or publishable results. The ASRC Seed Grant Program attracts a broad cross section of research-active CUNY faculty, just as the program was originally conceived. To date, the ASRC has awarded seed grants to 56 CUNY faculty from 12 different campuses. CUNY awardees have gone on to publish the data collected and receive external grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, in fulfillment of the program’s overall goals. Virtually all of the submissions are to single initiatives and thus have become a mainstay of cross-campus departmental engagement.

Education

This includes teaching undergraduate level science courses at City College, Hunter College, Queens College, Brooklyn College, and LaGuardia Community College, among others, and actively participating in The Graduate Center’s science doctoral degree programs, including biochemistry, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, and physics. Faculty also co-mentor doctoral and master’s students with colleagues at most of the senior colleges.

Since 2016, the ASRC has increased its level of engagement with community college faculty and students. In this context, ASRC faculty and staff have been strongly supportive of undergraduate education via participation in a variety of summer programs (e.g., CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program, National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates, and CUNY-IBM Business-Higher Education Forum summer fellows) that engage individual students in ASRC labs as well as through involvement in the development of and participation in the Illumination Space. The IlluminationSpace has also brought in students from Borough of Manhattan Community College and LaGuardia Community College for STEM education events. ASRC faculty have organized scientific events of varying scope (e.g., workshops, symposia, and seminar series), which have encouraged the on-site and remote participation of literally thousands of CUNY faculty and students.

ASRC exterior, looking up from ground level
diverse group of neuroscience researchers looking at a computer screen

Objectives

To enhance the integration of CUNY faculty, students, and staff into the ASRC’s interdisciplinary research and educational activities, and to collaboratively define unique opportunities for cross-campus convergence, we will:

  • Continue outreach to CUNY schools and colleges to build recognition of the ASRC as a common resource and encourage active use of its facilities.
  • Further support for research of CUNY faculty and students, in terms of core facility use, seed grants and scholarships, letters of grant support, and co-sponsorship of grants.
  • Engage faculty and students across CUNY at ASRC-sponsored symposia, seminars and workshops and co-sponsorship/co-organization of events by ASRC and non-ASRC faculty.
  • Support recruitment and programmatic needs of The Graduate Center science doctoral programs.
  • Promote CUNY undergraduate and master’s students to participate in ASRC-based research via programs such as the CUNY Research Scholars Program; the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program; and National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates hosted by the Center for Interface Design and Engineered Assembly of Low Dimensional Systems, the Materials Research Center, and the program in Biochemistry, Biophysics and Biodesign.
  • Participate in teaching and service at the campuses by ASRC faculty, including course/workshop lecturing and organization, formulation of new courses, co-teaching of classes, and service on graduate student dissertations and other committees.

Implementation Plan

There are challenges intrinsic to building collaborations across a complex, multi-campus university system, and there are limits to what one element of that system, such as the ASRC, can achieve. There are also adaptation strategies, which need to be developed that accommodate the evolving mosaic of organizational structures, leadership changes, and administrative processes.

Some potential solutions, both in terms of mitigation and practical accommodation, are outlined below:

We will proactively seek out opportunities for ASRC faculty to be engaged in teaching and service at both the senior colleges and community colleges, both to promote dialogue and to share work as appropriate to career stage. In particular, we will re-establish the ASRC Internal Advisory Committee to promote communication, and we will directly engage with Graduate Center executive officers as well as science department and program leaders across CUNY. We also see a need to assemble working groups that include stakeholders from the ASRC, The Graduate Center, and other campuses to address specific, recurring challenges.

Given the importance of making the cores available to members of the CUNY community of bench scientists, it will be important to ensure adequate input from that community. Therefore, it is proposed that all ASRC cores have advisory panels comprising mainly CUNY users, which will be provided with annual overviews of operations and given ample opportunity to provide input on the strategic directions of these facilities. We will also host core facility open houses at ASRC and Graduate Center events that would otherwise draw in faculty and students from other campuses, and continue to promote the cores through our website and print flyers disseminated to relevant science departments.

We have had success co-organizing symposia and seminars and have drawn significant numbers of CUNY faculty and students as attendees. Initiating a poll to gain further insights into the areas of interest, practical issues, and logistics will help us develop additional events.

Faculty members from the ASRC will focus additional resources to coordinate with Graduate Center executive officers in order to pursue recruitment efforts targeted at improving the quality and quantity of the incoming classes. This will have direct benefit to the talent pool of young researchers at ASRC as well as to all research-active groups in CUNY who are affiliated with The Graduate Center and its programs. As we consider new interdisciplinary educational programs, described earlier, we will work with relevant faculty from across CUNY to capitalize on unique opportunities at the ASRC that resonate with strengths elsewhere in the university.

The ASRC already hosts dozens of undergraduate students from a variety of senior and community colleges. Many of these come to us through programs, such as the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program. There are also about a dozen master’s students working with ASRC faculty. We will continue efforts to identify strategic partnerships with CUNY colleges where the ASRC can provide unique additional training opportunities for undergraduate and master’s students.

Visiting faculty and students from other campuses can incur substantial burdens in terms of commuting times, a nearly impossible situation with no on-campus parking at the ASRC. To address the important geographic challenges separating ASRC from the CUNY campuses, we are deploying appropriate communication technologies, including teleconferencing and streaming systems, to allow seamless off-campus attendance at seminars and workshops and to enable remote operation of core instrumentation, where safe to do so. The ASRC actively uses CUNY-wide resources (e.g., Dropbox, Sharepoint) and advocates for the deployment of much-needed additions (e.g., eduroam) to facilitate network access and sharing of information across CUNY. Deploying a “one-stop” page on the ASRC website will also provide easy access to materials commonly needed for grant applications (e.g., facilities/instrumentation pages for NIH grants). This is intended to increase the number and quality of ASRC-CUNY faculty grant applications.

We want to hear from you!

Send us your comments or questions on the 2020-2024 Strategic Plan.