Noted and Quoted

Seeking Cures in Gowanus Canal Microbes

 

City Tech professors Nasreen Haque, center,
and Niloufar Haque, right, in lab with student
Fejzije Bala, a chemical technology major.
That icky gunk floating in Brooklyn's infamous Gowanus Canal could provide a potential source of new medicines, two City Tech biology professors report.

"What we suspected turned out to be true," Nasreen Haque recently confirmed. "The extracts from the microbes in the water proved to be potential sources of antibiotics or inhibitors."

For the past two years, Nasreen Haque along with her colleague (and sister) Niloufar Haque have traveled far and wide pursuing research for their biodiversity project, in which numerous University students have participated. But their most intriguing findings came from the Gowanus' biofilm.

"Despite the canal's toxicity, which includes cancer-causing chemical agents, microorganisms are surviving by adapting to the harsh environment there that shouldn't survive at all," Nasreen Haque said. "Working in synergy, they seem to sense if nutrients are available; they exchange genes and secrete substances - some of which operate like antibiotics. I believe these substances may provide clues that lead to the development of new drugs to combat human disease."

The Haques lab-culture the microorganisms on campus to extract their secretions. Next, scientists at Mount Sinai School of Medicine identify the extracts' exact chemical composition. DNA sequencing to identify the microorganisms is then done in the department of genomics at The American Museum of Natural History. "This," Nasreen Haque added, "is part of the process of hopefully discovering why some of the microorganisms are bacteria-resistant." Her previous research as a faculty member at Mount Sinai medical school, which illuminated how heart disease and cancer develop, may help evolve new medicines.

Niloufar Haque researches neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and also hopes to discover new drugs as a result of their Gowanus project. In India, she is conducting stem cell research to determine possible applications for treating dementia.

In the next phase of their Gowanus research, the Haques will examine whether any of the Gowanus microbial extracts can inhibit specific antibiotic-restistant bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus - again with the help of students.

Gillian Small named a Vice Chancellor

 

Gillian Small
Gillian Small has been appointed to the new position of vice chancellor for research.

"Dr. Small is a distinguished research scholar and administrator who has been serving as the University Dean for Research since 2003," Chancellor Matthew Gldstein said. "She is eminently qualified to advance CUNY's science agenda and provide inspired leadership for its research and technology development."

In her new post, Small will set strategy for the University's research programs with a view toward fostering visionary initiatives and new models of participation, encouraging information sharing, and connecting research and scholarly activities with emerging opportunities. Central to this will be the recruitment of distinguished research faculty across many disciplines. Her major responsibilities also include planning extensive new state-of-the-art science facilities, which include development of the University-wide Advanced Science Research Center, to be located on the campus of City College, where she is a tenured biology professor (see Page 6 for detailed ASRC story).

Pantaleo Appointed Trustee

 

Peter Panteleo
Peter S. Pantaleo, a partner in the law firm DLA Piper, has been appointed a trustee of The City University of New York for a term that ends in June 2015.

Pantaleo advises domestic and international employers in labor, employment and civil rights matters, specializing in complex, politically sensitive matters. At DLA Piper he is Joint Global Leader, Employment, Pensions & Benefits Group; Chair, US Labor & Employment Group, and a managing partner of the New York office.

Pantaleo is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and a member of the Business Advisory Council of CUNY, the Gaming Law Review's Editorial Board and the Institute of Directors, London.

Japanese Visit Honors Harris

 

Mayor Ishii and wife at
Harris' tomb, before City
College visit.
Mayor Naoki Ishii of Shimoda, Japan, led a 21-member delegation to The City College in July to honor CCNY founder Townsend Harris, who later became Consul General to Japan and opened the first U.S. consulate there.

This was the 22nd delegation from Shimoda to visit CCNY to pay homage to Harris, who founded the college as The Free Academy in 1847. The visit coincides with the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1858, which formalized relations between the United States and Japan. Harris, a prominent New York merchant who became Consul General in 1856, negotiated that treaty and is credited as the diplomat who opened the Japanese Empire to foreign trade and culture.

At City College, the Japanese delegation met Richard Rush, Harris' great grand-nephew, and visited the campus' Cohen Library Archives' collection of Townsend Harris memorabilia. Artifacts include the American flag that Harris flew in Japan, his diplomatic pouch, a volume from his journals and his diplomatic passport.

Staying the Course

 

Kristen Bowes pedals though lake Placid during
Ironman biking segment.
Long-distance running, swimming and biking are grueling sports by themselves and only world-class athletes tackle all three back-to-back in arduous Ironman Triathlons. University Associate General Counsel Kristen Bowes has done it two years in a row. This summer she finished her second Ironman USA: a physically, mentally and logistically challenging 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

A relentless downpour in upstate Lake Placid, site of the race, made running difficult and biking in the mountains treacherous. But she stayed positive. "I was not going to let a little rain ruin two years of training," she said. "It proved to be one of the greatest days of my adult life: I finished in 11 hours and 22 minutes (more than 40 minutes faster than last year), 17th in my age group and 45th out of the women.

"The lesson in all of this is to just keep going, no matter what challenges we face in life. We all have the potential to do something great if we put our minds, bodies and hearts to it. I never in a million years thought I could do the Ironman this fast. I was a runner, not a biker or a swimmer. But thanks to amazing coaches, supportive friends and family and a lot of hard work and hope, my dream became a reality."

NY Times Interactive Seminars

The New York Times Knowledge Network and The City University of New York this fall are offering an exclusive series of seminars led by scholars, researchers, artists and authors on contemporary topics and issues. The online courses, open to the general public, will feature interactive webcasts, video sessions and facilitated discussions that enable one to ask questions directly to the experts as well as share stories and interact with others in the course. The first two seminars are scheduled to begin in mid September with additional offerings in October and November.

Topics include managing lower back pain, dealing with Alzheimer's, the answer to insomnia, humor and the art of writing poetry, the new new immigrants, and the art of Christians, Muslims and Jews. For more information and to register, visit www.sps.cuny.edu/knowledge.

BCC Spurs Solar Progress

The 2008 New York City Solar Summit sponsored by Bronx Community College's Center for Sustainable Energy of The City University of New York brought together pioneers, scientists, business leaders, engineering students and specialists who want to use more solar energy to reduce dependence on costly, polluting fossil fuels.

The center also worked with the mayor's office to identify policies that would open up the city solar market and helped New York achieve the Department of Energy's Solar City status as part of the Solar America initiative.

BCC plans to launch a number of new energy alternative initiatives including the first New York City hands-on photovoltaic lab on the BCC campus, with photovoltaic courses now available at multiple CUNY campuses; an energy services and technology program that offers an associate in applied science degree; a hybrid vehicle training program partnered with BCC's Automotive Program that will be available this fall.

The center and the City University Economic Development Corporation also will develop a sustainable business and technology incubator as part of the Bronx Community College campus. And to register, visit www.sps.cuny.edu/knowledge.