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December 2001

An Integrated City University Responds to the WTC Crisis

Bold, High-Tech TV Magazine Invites "Study with the Best"
NYC Past in Full Array At Inaugural History Festival
CUNY Community Colleges: Vital to City Economy
Arthur Miller Drops Back In for Finley Award at CCNY Dinner
Archaeologists Research Vikings
Faculty Experts Join Collaboration on World Trade Center Future
New Research Foundation Head
Asthma Initiative at BCC Registers Major Success
Oysters Reintroduced to Bay
York Grad Makes Naval History
Managing the 9/11 Crisis at BMCC
Hunter Cartographers Prepare Vital Ground Zero Maps For Rescue
CCNY’s Rosenberg/Humphrey Interns Continue Public Service Tradition
City Tech Prof Sheds Light on Titanic
New Device for Medical Diagnonis
Mina Rees, Pioneering Military Scientist
Annual Perspectives Nears 25th Anniversary
University to HIV Children: “Toys (and Lots Else) Are Us”
Fantastic Voyage to Patent for Dad & Son Developers of New Medical Device

Dad and Son
Scott Alfano and his father Robert in his City College lab.
Five years ago, after a trip to Disney world and after watching the science fantasy film Fantastic Voyage, 10-year-old Scott Alfano had a cool idea. Why couldn't you really, really miniaturize a camera and pop it into the body to perform diagnostic expeditions? He put his idea into a creative-writing paper he had been assigned in a science class.

The paper eventually came under the eye of his father, Dr. Robert R. Alfano, a CUNY Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering at City College with no fewer than 80 U.S. and foreign patents to his name. Clearly adept at spotting an envelope that's been pushed, the elder Alfano—who is also the director of CCNY's Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers and the director of the New York State sponsored CUNY Center for Advanced Technology for Ultrafast Photonic Materials—took his son's concept and ran with it.

Photonic ExplorerHe consulted with CCNY electrical engineering professor Ping Pei Ho and Dr. Quan-Zhen Wang, a former CCNY researcher to make Scott's concept more scientific. The conceptualization process progressed sufficiently to file a patent application in the fall of 1998, and on May 29 of this year U.S. Patent #6,240,312 B1 was granted to the team of Alfano, Alfano, Ho, and Wang for a "remote-controllable, micro-scale device for use in vivo medical diagnosis and/or treatment." Scott, now 15 years old, is a 10th-grader at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx.

This device, which has been dubbed a Micro Photonic Explorer (seen in the illustration), will be from 0.1 mm to 10 mm in length and will be introduced into the body either from natural body openings or by injection into the bloodstream. Once inside the body, an operator using radio controls and computer software will guide the Explorer to different locations in the body, gathering two-dimensional image information and spectroscopic data. This will be transmitted via video and radio signals to an external computer.

The information will then be processed, analyzed, and displayed to the operator/ diagnostician. The Explorer might then be instructed to render treatment on the site being examined, for example, the ablation (i.e. removal) of tissue using lasers or the binding of ruptured tissues with chemical glue, UV-cured epoxy materials, or photo- ionization techniques.

Alfano, a world leader in optical biomedical imaging (the use of laser light beams to replace mammograms and biopsies as the key tool for cancer diagnosis), says that the Micro Photonic Explorer would contain lasers, light emitters, a video camera, and spectrometers.

The Explorer patent, incidentally, is not the first for Alfano pËre et fils. Their attention has also focused on area of research vital to the interests of this baseball-mad city. Last year they were awarded U.S. Patent #6,045,465 for a revolutionary baseball training bat designed to improve a player's batting average. Out of fairness to pitchers, they should now brainstorm for a training baseball.