HAVE YOU HEARD?  Working with NASA, Medgar Evers students launched a satellite … CUNY students and alumni won 23 National Science Foundation fellowships last year … The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter celebrated its 40th anniversary ….


Working on the railroad. A study by the Queens College Urban Studies Department may play a key role in determining the fate of a 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railroad line that runs through Rego Park, Forest Hills, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park.  The borough of Queens has been grappling with several plans, including one that would turn a section of the land into a public park. State Assembly Member Phillip Goldfeder praised the college, which is supplying $100,000 in grant money to evaluate the revitalization proposals and determine how they will affect residents.

A Medgar Evers College senior took center stage at City Hall during the Jan. 1 mayoral inauguration. Lissette Ortiz introduced former President Bill Clinton, who presided over the swearing-in ceremony of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ortiz, who was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States when she was 15, said she was honored to speak about the struggles of immigrant students. “I used to see Sonya Sotomayor and other prominent Hispanics, and I would dream of being where they stand. I didn’t expect it, but when it did happen, the only thing I could do was prepare and take the responsibility seriously,” said the public administration major. Ortiz, a student leader at MEC, was chosen to speak through her participation in the New York Needs You Fellowship — a career-development and leadership program at CUNY for first-generation students.

Medgar Evers senior Lissette Ortiz introduces former President Bill Clinton, who presided over the swearing-in ceremony of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Medgar Evers senior Lissette Ortiz introduces former President Bill Clinton, who presided over the swearing-in ceremony of Mayor Bill de Blasio, right.


Colum McCann

Irish letters. Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin and Colum McCann are among the 23 contemporary Irish and Irish-American authors profiled in CUNY-TV’s 13-part series, Irish Writers In America. The series, directed and produced by Lisa Beth Kovetz, was filmed over a year and a half.

Another ‘A’ for CUNY. A new study by the Institute for College Access and Success puts the CUNY Value in perspective. While the study showed that nationwide more than 70 percent of college students in 2012 had student loans and average debt that surpassed $29,000, nearly 80 percent of CUNY students get a debt-free education and only 15 percent end up owing money.

How many flips does it take to turn a pile of pancakes into a nicely ordered stack? It’s no accident that City College professor Jacob E. Goodman was asked this question during the celebration of his 80th birthday on Nov. 14.  It was he, after all, who found out the answer in 1975, but you might not connect his name to this mathematical puzzle because he published it in American Mathematical Monthly under the moniker Harry Dweighter. It seems that back in those days he had to concoct a pseudonym because he thought that such a trivial question would damage his budding mathematical career.  Although some of Goodman’s other papers were inspired by such staples as potatoes, he hasn’t published anything on birthday cakes, at least not yet.

Canine stress relief for Queens College students

Canine stress relief for
Queens College students

Students’ best friends.  During finals week, Queens College students got to work off their stress by playing with puppies and getting massages. The therapies, provided by the student association, lowered pre-test jitters and got an A from students.

Don’t count on videos. Not all math video games add up to learning experiences, according to a study of middle schoolers that CUNY conducted with researchers at New York University. It was only when students competed or collaborated that education was enhanced; those who played solo didn’t go to the head of the class.

Tipsy Fruit Flies. If you want to know how alcohol affects your love life, ask a drunken fruit fly. That’s what LaGuardia Community College honors student Wai “Kat” Lam did to win top honors in the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Best Student Poster Presentation competition. Her experiment showed that fruit flies that got a buzz on jazzed up their courtship rituals but did not have a higher mating rate than their sober peers and also produced fewer offspring.

National Science Foundation fellowships have been awarded to 58 CUNY students and alumni in the past five years, and 2013 was the best year yet. The University had 23 winners of NSF fellowships last year —each worth up to $126,000. But CUNY could increase that number in coming years by promoting awareness of the fellowships, reaching out to superior candidates and encouraging them to apply.

That was the message of the CUNY Conference on Prestigious Scholarships and the STEM Disciplines, a gathering in November that was both a celebration of this year’s success and an informational meeting aimed at reaching students throughout CUNY who either aren’t aware of the coveted fellowships or lack the confidence or support to seek them.

“We’re focusing on individuals of high potential,” Gisele Muller-Parker, program director for the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowships, told the gathering of CUNY faculty, advisors, mentors and administrators. “You’ve got an amazing population of people who should be thinking about applying.”

Muller-Parker praised the CUNY faculty and staff for their success in recruiting applicants, but urged them to reach out to students who may not recognize their own promise. “We want even more of your students to apply and succeed in our program,” she said.

The foundation awards 2,000 fellowships a year nationwide to graduate students who demonstrate potential to be high-achieving scientists and engineers. The fellowships give them the freedom to pursue scientific research early in their careers. While winners are typically funded for research in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, fellowships are also granted for research in economics, political science and other social and behavioral sciences. Half of this year’s award recipients were women and more than 20 percent were underrepresented minorities.

One way to help students submit strong applications, Muller-Parker said, is for more faculty advisers to join the specialized NSF panels that review fellowship applications from all over the country. That would help them become more familiar with the application process and what the NSF is looking for. “We view being a panelist for the program as the best outreach you can do for your schools,” she said.

Hunting Like a Shark. When it comes to finding food, humans and animals are on the same track. So says Hunter College professor Herman Pontzer, who studied the foraging habits of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania.

Members of the tribe, one of the last groups in the world to forage on foot using traditional methods, wore GPS-equipped wristwatches that recorded their movements, which showed that they, like sharks and honeybees, move in a mathematical pattern called the Levy walk.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to find the match.

CUNY-Cubesat-1Students at Medgar Evers College, with a little help from NASA, recently built a mini-research satellite that was launched into space.  The so-called CubeSat, which is a 4-inch cube, was part of the auxiliary payload aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and was NASA’s fifth Educational Launch of Nanosatellite mission that gives students, teachers and faculty members hands-on experience developing flight hardware by providing access to low-cost research.

Center for Puerto Rican Studies 40th Anniversary. To the driving beats of Latin jazz, more than 400 scholars, elected officials and community activists gathered Oct. 17 to mark the 40th anniversary of CUNY’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies, reaffirming its role as the nation’s only research institute devoted to Puerto Ricans in the United States.  The center, based at Hunter College and popularly known as Centro, was established in 1973 by CUNY students, faculty and community activists. Its origins were rooted in the largely black and Puerto Rican student-based efforts to secure open-admissions access to public higher education and the creation of ethnic studies academic programs.

PRflag“As part of our goals for the 40th anniversary, and with generous support from the Ford Foundation, we launched a national campaign to engage partners and celebrate events recognizing pioneers and Puerto Ricans who made a difference in their communities,” said Centro Director Edwin Melendez.

Fewer calories up, up and away. Air flights may be up in the air, but the calorie counts of their meals are down. That’s what Hunter professor Charles Platkin of the School of Public Health discovered in a recent annual study of the industry. From 2012 to 2013, he says, the average calorie count dropped from 388 to 360.  Virgin America and Air Canada offer the healthiest fare, he says, while Allegiant Air had the distinction of being at the bottom of the list.

Making kids safe. In the wake of the December 2012 fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Connecticut district is partnering with John Jay College to review school security and make recommendations.

‘Supreme Decisions.’ A free CUNY calendar of judicial decisions that shaped American life is now available. CUNY and The New York Times in Education have partnered to publish the “Supreme Decisions” calendar and its companion website. They chronicle the history of the U.S. Supreme Court and how its interpretations of the Constitution reflect in our politics, culture and society. Published in the wake of landmark decisions on marriage equality and voting rights, it is a timely and welcome contribution to the history of this powerful, unelected branch of our government, says Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly. This is the 10th calendar from a unique partnership between the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College and The New York Times Photo Archives. Previous calendars have explored voting rights and citizenship, women’s leadership, immigration, freedom, city life, public higher education, health, the economy, and science, technology, engineering and math. “Supreme Decisions”