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Announcing the Winners of the Innaugural CUNY Junior Faculty Research Award in Science and Engineering

March 7, 2012

Introducing the 2012 winners of the CUNY Junior Faculty Research Award in Science and Engineering.  This award, supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,is designed to advance the research programs of research-intensive, early career, science and engineering faculty at CUNY through boosting their research productivity and accelerating their ability to attract significant external funding.

Mark R. Biscoe, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at City College was awarded the 2012 CUNY Junior Faculty Research Award in Science and Engineering to support his research program devoted to the development of simple, general, efficient strategies for the rapid formation of biologically important molecules for application in pharmaceutical manufacturing and drug discovery.

Prior to coming to CCNY in 2009, Dr. Biscoe was a graduate student in the laboratory of Ronald Breslow at Columbia University and an NIH post-doctoral fellow in Stephen L. Buchwald’s lab at MIT. During these crucial formative years studying organic and organometallic chemistry, Dr. Biscoe was already distinguishing himself by an astonishing creativity and scientific rigor in both his research approach and output. Between 2005 and 2008 he published seven oft-cited papers in high impact journals including the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie, and Organic Letters.

While at MIT, Dr. Biscoe conducted structural, mechanistic, and synthetic studies on palladium-catalyzed carbon-nitrogen bond-forming reactions. These groundbreaking studies transformed the field and are directly related to his current research project which focuses on developing methods to apply optically-active, configurationally stable organometallic reagents in transition metal-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions to create new single-enantiomer compounds. His lab is also engaged in research to develop new cross-coupling reactions that exploit the unique properties of aqueous and fluorous media. Dr. Biscoe strives to apply “green chemistry” principles to all of his methodology projects by using environmentally benign solvents.

In 2011, Dr. Biscoe published two influential papers, which were then highlighted in Synfacts, a journal dedicated to the consolidation of the most useful and innovative method development research in organic chemistry.  Dr. Biscoe has also received an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund New Investigator Grant, and more recently, an NIH Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) Pilot Project Award to fund his research and his mentoring work with CUNY students.

Doug Boyer, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Brooklyn College will use his CUNY Junior Faculty Research Award to advance new methods of comparative morphology. He is developing an online database for the storage, viewing, and distribution of 3D digital replicas of biological specimens.

Dr. Boyer has been publishing influential papers on primate evolution since he was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan graduated 2002). During his years of graduate and postdoctoral work at Stony Brook University, and since joining the faculty of Brooklyn College in 2010, Dr. Boyer has expanded the number of his scientific publications to more than forty, including articles in Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), as well as many other articles that appeared in top-ranked journals in his field.  In 2011, Dr. Boyer also received two awards, one from the NSF and one from the Leakey Foundation, to study the digital evolutionary morphology of primate anklebones and teeth.

Boyer’s current research promises to transform evolutionary science through his novel approach to comparing the shapes of biological objects while working within the context of broad interdisciplinary teams of scholars. Boyer recently published an article with collaborators at Duke University, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and the University of Helsinki Institute for Biotechnology (Boyer et. al. PNAS 108(45): 18221-18226) showing that anatomical structures could be automatically compared and examined for genetically meaningful information in a way analogous to the automatic aligning and searching of genomic base pair data.

New methods in analytical morphology require databases like the one being developed by Boyer to make it possible to synchronize the study of morphological and genetic datasets. Such synchronization has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the genetic basis for morphological diversity, which has a wide applicability across the biological sciences.

Ana Carolina Carnaval, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at City College will use her CUNY Junior Faculty Research Award to expand her important research aimed improving biodiversity prediction and conservation in tropical regions, and to foster her career development as a Latina professor in a minority-serving institution.

Dr. Carnaval is an evolutionary biologist who studies amphibians as bioindicators to gather new and much needed data on the interplay between biodiversity patterns and long-term evolutionary processes. She was recently awarded an NSF grant to examine how climate changes affect the habitat of 15 species of lizards and glassfrogs in the Brazilian Atlantic forest. Dr. Carnaval has published extensively and has established numerous national and international collaborations aimed at conserving the Amazon rainforest.

Her CUNY project will create a novel framework to predict evosystem service loss under economic growth and development in the world’s largest tropical forest. Data on amphibian alpha diversity (species richness) and beta diversity (among‐community compositional dissimilarity) will be gathered and interpreted in the context of environmental and evolutionary processes. Dr. Carnaval will integrate phylogenetic analyses based on DNA sequence data, environmental information collected from Earth-orbiting satellite remote sensing datasets and weather stations, taxonomic inventories, and biochemical assays of natural products.

Dr. Carnaval’s work on coupled natural human systems in the Amazon forest is part of a burgeoning field of research that asserts that an evolutionary perspective is essential for understanding the links between biodiversity and human well-being. This concept of evosystem services is intended to complement the already well-known ecosystem services model that was developed to explain how humankind benefits from the wide array of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems, such as clean drinking water and climate regulation.  Evosystem services include the capacity for future evolutionary change and continued discovery of the ways in which evolutionary processes impact biodiversity.

Heng Ji is a leader in the field of computational linguistics, especially information extraction and natural-language-integrated text mining. The CUNY Junior Faculty Research Award will support her current research on multimedia information networks.

Dr. Ji studied computational linguistics at Tsinghua University and completed her graduate work in the computer science program at New York University.  She was appointed to the faculty of Queens College and the Graduate Center in 2008. Her research on Knowledge Base Population is considered among the very best in the field, as indicated by her grant support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Army Research Lab, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Google Research. She received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award in 2010 and an NSF EAGER (EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research) in 2011.

Dr. Ji he has been publishing since she was an undergraduate and has authored or co-authored more than 80 research papers published in refereed scientific journals, international conference proceedings, and as book chapters. In the field of computer science, the most important research competitions are held at the annual international conferences, therefore, the significance and scope of her work is best demonstrated by the her extensive list of publications in conference proceedings. Moreover, she has also published in the most influential journals in her field.

Her scholarly record amply demonstrates her commitment to research; however, she has also demonstrated her commitment to the University. Her grant funding supports a productive research lab consisting of 12-15 postdoctoral associates, PhD students, Master’s students and undergraduates. She has created an ideal environment for students in the field of computational linguistics to receive professional training while working on important and cutting-edge research projects.