CUNY’s Decade of Science

May 1, 2006 | CUNY Matters Columns

Over a year ago, we designated the years 2005 to 2015 the “Decade of Science” at CUNY, renewing the University’s commitment to creating a healthy pipeline to science, math, technology, and engineering fields by advancing science at the highest levels, training students to teach in these areas, and encouraging young people to study in these disciplines.

Recent news at CUNY indicates that the University is meeting these challenges. As reported in this issue of CUNY Matters, the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems of Queens College just received a four-year $19.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to support a research program of early detection of occupational disease. In addition, the National Institutes of Health awarded $13.2 million to Hunter College’s Center for the Study of Gene Structure and Function, and $12.5 million to City College’s Center for the Study of the Cellular and Molecular Basis of Development. The grants were made through the NIH’s Research Centers in Minority Institutions Program.

These and other awards indicate the high quality of faculty research at CUNY and the lead role faculty play in advancing science at every level within the University. Since 1998, CUNY has added almost 800 new full-time faculty to its ranks, in part by targeting selected areas, including photonics and biosciences, for ongoing cluster hiring. In the last four years alone, more than 400 full-time faculty have been hired in engineering, math, and science.

Our Decade of Science is moving forward on several other fronts, as well.

We will see a dramatic increase in the construction and modernization of science facilities around the University, most notably the CUNY-wide Advanced Science Research Center—which will concentrate on emerging disciplines such as photonics, nanotechnology, biosensing and remote sensing, structural biology and macromolecular assemblies, and neuroscience—and science facilities at Brooklyn, City, Hunter, Lehman, and Queens colleges. Over the next decade, we will be expending about $1 billion across the University on capital projects in the sciences.

The University has begun an operational review of our Ph.D. programs in the laboratory sciences, leading to new investments in graduate student support for highly competitive students, Ph.D. degree-granting authority for some of our flagship environment campuses, and expansion of master’s programs as feeders to the Ph.D.

Enrollment in CUNY’s math, science, and engineering degree programs increased by 26 percent over the last five years, compared to total enrollment growth of 12 percent, and included more than 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students in Fall 2005.

In Fall 2006, CUNY’s Teacher Academy will welcome its first class at six campuses: Brooklyn College, City College, the College of Staten Island, Hunter College, Lehman College, and Queens College. The academy will educate students at the baccalaureate level by integrating hands-on teaching experience in the public schools with a rigorous academic program in their majors—biology, chemistry, earth science, or mathematics. Each student will receive tuition support and will teach for a minimum of two years in New York City schools after graduation.

CUNY’s extensive—and growing—College Now program to prepare students for college enrollment will continue to run summer science programs and plans to expand summer programs in mathematics.

The University is also introducing a new “Science Now” program for middle and high school students, as part of the College Now program. CUNY will work with the New York Academy of Sciences and the Department of Education to create awareness and interest in science disciplines through specially designed courses and workshops after school and during the summer; an annual science competition that extends existing competition models, such as the Intel Science Talent Search, to students who have not traditionally participated in such contests; and an interactive television program to bring science activities and innovations to a wide audience of young people.

Science is not made in a laboratory; it is made when a young person gets that initial spark of inspiration, that flash of exhilaration. Through the University’s Decade of Science, we hope to encourage and sustain that sense of excitement and curiosity, whether in budding scientists or seasoned researchers.