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Three Minute Thesis: Analogies vs. Technobabble

Yi zheng

“How Do We Understand Foreign Accents?” wins the third 3MT competition at Stony Brook University

Research is teeming with technobabble. There are thousands of words that make perfect sense to a specialist, but no sense to an average person.

Yi Zheng, first-place winner of the 2018 3MT competition and a PhD candidate in Psychology, talks about our ability to process language and accents (photo by Taylor Ha) 

“The public and our policymakers don’t understand academic research very well. It’s a fact,” said Charles Taber, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education at Stony Brook University. “And much of the responsibility for that unfortunate fact is ours.”

“There’s a way to break through the technobabble,” said Taber. “Be vivid. Be exciting. Get to the point.” And that’s exactly what 17 Stony Brook University graduate students did last week.

Students competed in SBU’s third Three Minute Thesis competition, an international program founded at the University of Queensland in Australia. The event was created to teach doctoral candidates how to explain their research to any person. The catch: They only have three minutes to do it.

Rap, poems and songs were forbidden at the event, held on April 13 at the Charles B. Wang Center on campus. So were props and plastic models. The students had only their words, their wits and a single, static PowerPoint slide.

Their research topics were diverse: Uber’s introduction to the NYC taxicab market, the invisible victims of the opioid epidemic, the point of alternative medicine. But each student found ways to connect with their audience.

“Have you ever had diarrhea?” asked Joanna Kim, a PhD candidate in Pharmacological Sciences.

“How many of you didn’t get enough sleep last night?” said Anusha Shankar, the third-place winner and a PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolution.

“How many of us have tried to do regular exercise and stick to a healthy diet – but failed?” asked Vihitaben Patel, a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering.

They tried to resonate with the audience with their only tangible tool – their PowerPoint slide. Barbara J. Brennan from the Social Work PhD program, whose project was called “Siblings: The Hidden Casualties of the Opioid Epidemic,” showed a snapshot of a heroin overdose victim and his sister. Others leaned toward comedy, like Vihitaben Patel and her picture of an overweight mouse from the Pixar movie  Ratatouille .

Additionally, they all used conversational language that could be found in children’s textbooks – analogies that tugged at each audience member’s imagination. One contestant explained that the smallest hummingbird is about the weight of a dime, while another described the small intestine as a six-meter long tube with a surface area of 330 square feet, which was half the size of the lecture hall they stood in.

“At this point, when you are ready to compete, I think the most important thing is to be connected to the audience,” said Zoya Vallari, PhD candidate in Physics and Astronomy, the winner from last year’s 3MT competition and a judge for this year’s contest. “Don’t try to memorize every single thing. The important thing is to be present.”

A panel of judges evaluated each competitor in two categories: 1) Comprehension and content, and 2) engagement and communication. The judges included faculty, staff, alumni, graduate students and postdocs. The competitors with the top eight scores from Round 1 advanced to the final round and competed for the top three spots, as well as a People’s Choice Award voted by the audience.

The first-place winner  and  People’s Choice Award winner was Yi Zheng, a PhD candidate in Psychology who spoke about “How Do We Understand Foreign Accents?” The runner-up was Molly Graffam, a PhD candidate for the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, for her project “Nitrogen – Public Water Enemy #1.” The third-place winner was Anusha Shankar for her project “The Surprising Secrets of Sleeping Hummingbirds.” They won $850, $500 and $250, respectively, through prizes provided by the Alumni Association.

Zheng is investigating how our brains process language. Even the most sophisticated machines like Siri and Alexa can misunderstand us, said Zheng, who speaks with a slight Mandarin accent. So why and how do humans get better at understanding accents?

She advises students to seek training from SBU’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science , which helped her and the other graduate students prepare for the competition. Founded in 2009, the Center helps people convey complex research topics in clear, colorful, and engaging ways.

“They should walk away believing that all the scientific topics – there’s a way to talk about them in a very easy way that everyone can understand,” said Zheng.

SBU 3MT 2018 was jointly organized by Graduate and Postdoctoral Professional Development, the Career Center and the Graduate Student Organization, with additional support from the Alumni Association, the Center for Inclusive Education and the Graduate Career Association.

— Taylor Ha

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Xiaoqing Zhang wins People's Choice and Second Place Overall in 3MT Competition!

Have you heard of Stony Brook University's Three Minute Thesis (3MT)? Congratulations to Xiaoqing Zhang, PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences May 2020 Degree Candidate, for her entry into the 3MT competition, winning first place for the People's Choice Award, and second place overall based on the scoring from the judges’ panel!  To view the entry, go to:  https://youtu.be/dA7-jKPvHds .

Xiaoqing’s research focuses on the risk and protective factors and their interaction contributing to the psychological resilience of left-behind children (LBC) in rural China. In China, 61 million children have been left behind in rural areas under the supervision of their grandparents, relatives, elder siblings, or self-supervised. Research and anecdotal documentation have consistently reported negative mental health sequelae faced by those children, including depression, anxiety, negative self-perception, and loneliness. Xiaoqing conceptualizes resilience in LBC as a dynamic process of adaptive functioning when encountering adversity and an interactive process between risk and protective factors, and measures resilience with an outcome of the absence of depressive symptoms. Xiaoqing hypothesizes that resilience is improved by understanding the mechanism of the interplay between risk and protective factors and by promoting the protective factors that target specific risk factors.

Using survey data collected from 1,572 young students in Henan Province of China, a set of logistic regressions were performed to examine the effect of risk and protective factors on LBC’s depressive symptoms. The findings show that positive beliefs about adversity, hope, and perceived social support mitigate the negative impact of stressful life events on LBC’s depressive symptoms, meaning that in the presence of those protective factors, LBC facing stressful life events become resilient. The research findings improve the knowledge of factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of resilience to improve the health and well-being of LBC. These findings suggest that future interventions should consider the protective influence of the parent-child cohesion on LBC’s depressive symptoms, and the impacts of protective factors (i.e., positive beliefs about adversity, hope, and perceived social support) on LBC’s resilience when they face stressful life events.

Three Minute Thesis, or 3MT® for short, is a spoken word thesis competition. 3MT is an opportunity for SBU graduate students to present their dissertation research findings to a general audience in three minutes with only one PowerPoint slide. The goal is for students to engage all their communication skills to make their research vivid and engaging while emphasizing its key point without technical terminology or field-specific jargon. 

Graduate students who compete will receive specialized coaching.  Speakers will work with coaches from the nationally recognized Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. While 3MT is a competition, SBU emphasizes the professional development derived from a cohort approach where students participate in small group coaching that encourages peer feedback and support.  

The SBU Alumni Association kindly sponsors prizes for the best talks. 

Cornell University --> Graduate School

Careers beyond academia, comscicon-ny 2023 names inaugural three minute thesis winner.

ComSciCon NY logo

ComSciCon-NY is a science communication communication workshop for STEM graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Organized by graduate students from Cornell University, Stony Brook University, and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, the conference aims to empower students through panels, presentations, and workshops relating to science communication. This year’s offering was on June 1-2, 2023 and marked the first time a Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition was celebrated at ComSciCon-NY. As part of the competition, graduate students presented their research in 3 minutes and were judged on their skill to communicate complex scientific topics to a general audience. The winning 3MT presentation was: “Folic Acid: Too much of a good thing?” by Katarina Heyden, doctoral candidate in Nutritional Sciences.

"Folic Acid: Too much of a good thing?" slide with graphics depicting folic acid effects in rats and humans

ComSciCon-NY is made possible through generous sponsorship and amazing speakers.

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Dr. Deshpande Named BNL Interim Associate Lab Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics

This is a critically important position for bnl and will further strengthen bnl-sbu cooperation. congratulations, dr. deshpande, kenneth lanzetta receives 2024-2025 fulbright scholar award to chile, awardees engage in cutting-edge research, often continuing research collaborations started abroad, laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions. congratulations to dr. lanzetta for this prestigious award, sbu research team makes progress towards quantum internet, dr. figueroa's group and collaborators have demonstrated the feasibility of a foundational quantum network measurement that employs room-temperature quantum memories, welcome to the department, we welcome five new assistant professors to our department, and we're excited to see what new discoveries they'll find welcome drs. arnold, dao, kumar, riccio, and esha, t2k experiment enters a new phase in world-leading neutrino research, the t2k collaboration has started taking data using enhanced detectors our department's neutrino and nucleon decay group plays a leading role on this experiment. click to read more, happy holidays, many members of the department were recognized for their outstanding research, teaching and services and many were promoted. we got together in person, shared our lives, and created new stories and memorable moments., adjunct prof. ilan ben-zvi receives dieter möhl award, this award, sponsored by cern, recognizes "his outstanding contributions to the development of high energy electron cooling and application of particle beam cooling at bnl.", department news, congratulations to our 2024 graduate school award winners.

The department is delighted to share the news that two of our graduate students have won awards in the annual competition for Graduate School Awards.

yichul choi

Yichul Choi working with Shu-Heng Shao and Zohar Komargodski is one of the winner's of the President's Award to Distinguished Doctoral Students for his work on Generalized Symmetries in Quantum Field Theory and Particle Physics.

waltraut knop

Waltraut Knop working with Leonardo Rastelli is the winner of the John Marburger III Fellowship for Science, Engineering and Mathematics for her work exploring theories of Quantum Gravity. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Waltraut for her enormous and ongoing service contributions to the department!

Both of these awards will be presented at the Graduate Awards Ceremony on May 13.

Please join us in congratulating both of these outstanding students!

Catherine Feldman Wins First Place in 2024 3MT Competition!

Catherine Feldman, advised by Dr. Alan Calder, won first place in the 2024 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition!

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Catherine Feldman (second from left) along with the other competition winners.

The need for effective science communication is stronger than ever, especially when conveying complex ideas to audiences of varied backgrounds. The 3MT competition is designed to test one's skill at just that, and is held in over 200 universities around the world. On March 8, 2024, Stony Brook University held its own competition, and our department is proud to have a student claim first place!

Feldman, through her presentation "FLASH Photography: Exploding Stars on Computers," sought to describe how simulating reactions that occur in stars has important implications on real-world challenges.

“ I loved the practice sessions and really looked forward to sharing each new draft because I knew that it would be even better afterwards. For me, 3MT turned into a larger challenge of explaining why basic science research is so important. ”

- Catherine Feldman

Feldman joins a list of 3MT laureates from our department, including Derek Pope (advised by Angela Kelly) in 2022, Sonali Gera (advised by Eden Figueroa) in 2020, and Zoya Vallari (advised by Chang Kee Jung) in 2017.

Feldman will continue to the regional 3MT competition at the University of New Hampshire on April 26 as our university's representative. She will defend her thesis in May before beginning her post-doctoral work at MIT.

Congratulations Catherine on this significant achievement!

Read more about the event here .

In Memoriam, Robert (Bob) Segnini

With deep sorrow, we announce that Bob Segnini, who served the department exceptionally as the Director of Laboratories for many years, passed away last Tuesday, January 9, 2024.

bob segnini

Robert's life was a testament to hard work and perseverance. His career in robotics was distinguished by groundbreaking achievements, including the development of the first robotic vision sensors used in the Trident nuclear submarine for the US Navy. His innovative spirit led to numerous patents and a position on the Board of Directors. Later in his career, he served as the Laboratory Director of Physics and Astronomy at Stony Brook University, where his leadership and expertise continues to positively impact those he worked with.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Robert was known for his resilience and kind hearted traits, that endeared him to all those who knew him. His toughness was matched by his compassion, making him a respected and beloved figure in both his personal and professional circles.

Bob was a consummate professional with a kind heart and dedication to serve the department. He was willing to do anything to help faculty research, helping many with various aspect of experiment design. He cared about everything he did, was respected by the people who worked with him and was loved by all. We will miss him greatly.

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The Laughlin Lab

Chemical biology, & neuroscience, articles of interest.

May 15, 2018

Pratik and Ting's paper was accepted at Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry! See it here .

May 7, 2018

Alyssa's paper was accepted at ACS Chemical Biology! See it here .

April 27, 2018

Brianna's paper was accepted at ACS Chemical Biology. See it here .

April 26, 2018

Congratulations to Omar for winning the Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Award !

April 10, 2018

Brianna O'Neill will be awarded two Departmental Awards: The Chemistry Award for Outstanding Service , and the Chemistry Award for Advanced Graduate Student Teaching Assistant . Congratulations!

April 7, 2018

Congratulations to undergraduate researchers Kevin Tan and John Mannone for winning a URECA summer research fellowship !

February 1, 2018

The Laughlin Lab welcomes new Chemistry PhD students Lauren Butkus, Wei Huang, and Mark Kao!

December 20, 2017

The Lab welcomes Pharmacology graduate student Danielle Cervasio for her rotation.

October 6, 2017

Congratulations to Pratik Kumar for winning the poster prize at the Annual Symposium for the Stony Brook Institute for Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery!

September 1, 2017

The lab welcomes chemistry rotation students Lauren Butkus and Lei Chen!

June 1, 2017

The lab welcomes high school researcher Pavit Suri for the summer.

May 1, 2017

Congratulations to Josh Farr on his graduation and good luck at Stanford Chemistry!

April 4, 2017

Congratulations to undergraduate researchers Kelly Eckartt and Omar Zainul for winning URECA summer research funding!

March 31, 2017

Pratik wins the "Audience Choice Award" at the Stony Brook 3-minute thesis competition, Congratulations!

March 17, 2017

Congratulations to undergraduate researcher Joshua Farr for being awarded an NSF graduate research fellowship!

February 15, 2017

Congratulations to graduate students Brianna O'Neill, Alyssa Preston, and Pratik Kumar for being awarded the ACS division of Biological Chemistry Travel Award for ACS San Francisco 2017!

February 1, 2017

New chemistry PhD student Ting Jiang and undergraduate Kevin Tan join the lab, welcome!

November 7, 2016

The lab welcomes chemistry rotation student Ting Jiang!

August 29, 2016

Welcome PhD rotation students Michael Beaupre from MCB, Yilin Ma from Chemistry, and Xiaoyu Qi from Chemistry!  

April 4, 2016

Undergraduate researcher Josh Farr was selected a URECA researcher of the month! Check out his interview here .

March 1, 2016

The lab welcomes undergraduate researcher Lyle Suh!

January 27, 2016

The lab welcomes new undergraduate researcher Kelly Eckartt!

January 25, 2016

The Laughlin group welcomes new graduate students Anthony Santora and Sining Li!

July 23, 2015

Brianna O'Neill's teaching excellence is in the news. Check out Brianna's interview with the Stony Brook Graduate School and the "SBU Teaches" article . 

June 1, 2015

Congratulations to Alyssa Preston for winning another year of funding from the Stony Brook Chemical Biology Training Program !

The Laughlin Lab welcomes undergraduate researchers Breanna Jones and Joshua Farr.

March 16, 2015

Congratulations to Brianna O'Neill for receiving the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student !

January 30, 2015

The lab welcomes chemistry masters student Amber Wang.

December 3, 2014

Congratulations to Pratik for passing his first meeting!

November 20, 2014

Congratulations to Alyssa for passing her first meeting!

November 12, 2014

Congratulations to Brianna for passing her first meeting!

September 3, 2014

Jingming Wang joins the Laughlin Lab as a pharmacology rotation student.

August 28,2014

Alex Baker and David Shukhman joing the Laughlin Lab as Undergraduate Researchers.

August 18, 2014

The Laughlin Lab recieves BRAIN initiative funding from the National Science Foundation !

June 17, 2014

The Laughlin Lab welcomes undergraduate researcher Heather young.

June 11, 2014

Congratulations to Alyssa for being selected to receive support from the Stony Brook Chemical Biology Training Program!

April 24, 2014

Congratulations to Alyssa and Brianna for recieving the Chemistry Award for First-Year Graduate Student Teaching Assistant !

January 27, 2014

The Laughlin Lab grows by three! Welcome Pratik, Brianna, and Alyssa.

October 21, 2013

Welcome rotation students Brianna O'Neill and Alyssa Preston!

September 1, 2013

The Laughlin Lab welcomes chemistry rotation student Pratik Kumar!

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Spotlight on the Graduate Program in Genetics

Courtney Tello earns an NIH Predoctoral Fellowship 

Courtney has been awarded an F31 fellowship from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Her project is entitled 'Interpreting  Bone Morphogenetic Protein Gradients in Vertebrate Development.' Courtney is carrying out her dissertation research under the guidance of Ben Martin. Posted 10/18/23

Xiao Han receives an NIH F99/K00 Fellowship 

Xiao, who is pursuing her doctoral research in Mikala Egeblad's laboratory, has earned a prestigious F99/K00 Fellowship from the National Cancer Institute. These awards provide funding for both predoctoral and postdoctoral training. Xiao's fellowship is entitled 'Regulation of Dormancy at the Metastatic Site.' Posted 10/17/23

Qingting Hu and Joanne Saldanha are awarded Mow Shiah Lin scholarships 

Each year, the Brookhaven National Laboratory Asian Pacific American Association awards one or more Mow Shiah Lin scholarships . These were established in memory of Dr. Lin to "...make a difference for students who come to the United States, like Dr. Lin, to pursue a higher education and achieve their research toals with the purpose of making significant contributions to the environment and improving the lives for all humankind." Two scholarships  were awarded in 2023, and, remarkably, both went to students in the Genetics Program. They are Qingting (Tina) Hu, who is pursing her dissertation under the guidance of Michael Lukey, and Joanne Saldanha-Martis, who is being mentored by Hyungjin Kim. Notably, recent graduate Shruti Iyer also received this scholarship in 2020. Posted 10/17/23

Steven Lewis and Lucia Yang receive NIH fellowships 

Steven and Lucia, both members of the Medical Scientist Training Program, received F30 fellowships from the National Cancer Institute. Steven is pursuing his studies under the guidance of Camila dos Santos, and his fellowship award is entitled 'Investigating the relationship between the systemic response to infection and tumor initiation and progression in Brca1 breast cancer.' Lucia's award is entitled 'Inducing H3F3A exon skipping with antisense oligonucleotides as an approach to treat diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.'  Lucia's mentor is Adrian Krainer. Posted 8/15/23

Students Taylor Medwig-Kinney and Shruti Iyer receive GSO Distinguished Travel Awards

Students in the Genetics Program received highly competitive Distinguished Travel Awards from the Graduate Student Organization for two consecutive award cycles. Taylor received her award to present her work on dissecting the molecular mechanisms that control the invasive behavior of cells at The Allied Genetics Conference, held in April 2020. Shruti's award will support her participation in The American Society of Human Genetics Annual meeting in October 2020, where she will share her research on the application of long-read sequencing methods to cancer genomics. Posted 7/27/2020

Genetics students lauded as COVID-19 warriors

Dr. Kenneth Shroyer, Chair of the Department of Pathology and a member of the Genetics Program, thanked several students in the Genetics Program for their extraordinary efforts in performing SARS-Cov-2 tests in the department’s Molecular Pathology Lab. Genetics trainees who have contributed include Nuri Kim, John Yuen, Allen Yu, and Craig Marshall. John, in collaboration with Ken and others, also has developed an innovative protocol to recycle N95 respirators, highlighted recently in SBU News . Posted 7/27/2020

Student Keffy Kehrli wins third place in Stony Brook's 3 Minute Thesis competition

The pandemic moved this year's 3 Minute Thesis competition to a virtual format, but that didn't stop Genetics student Keffy Kehrli from shining. Keffy advanced to the final round of competition, where he placed third for his talk entitled 'Evolution: comparing more than just the sequences of our genes.' Keffy is completing his dissertation research under the mentorship of Josh Rest. Read an interview with Keffy and see his presentation and the talks of the other two winners in an article in  Stony Brook Matters . Posted 7/27/20

Student Abraham Kohrman receives the GSO/Graduate School Outstanding Advocate Award

Abraham's strong commitment to provide a voice for the graduate students at Stony Brook was recognized by his receipt of the Graduate Student Organization/Graduate School Outstanding Advocate Award. Abe was the Genetics representative to the GSO, where he chaired both the Board of Appeals and Disability Committees. He further represented the GSO on the University-wide Graduate Council, which sets policy for all graduate programs and advises the Dean of the Graduate School. Abraham received his PhD in May 2020 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Eszter Posfai at Princeton University. Posted 7/27/20

Student Taylor Medwig-Kinney is awarded an NIH Predoctoral Fellowship 

The Genetics Program congratulates Taylor on receiving an NIH F31 Individual Predoctoral Fellowship from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Taylor's project is entitled 'Transcriptional regulation of morphogenetic behavior and invasive cell fate specification in C. elegans ' and is being conducted under the guidance of Dave Matus. Taylor also won the First Place Poster Award in Stony Brook University's 2019 Women's Research in STEM Showcase. Posted 7/27/20

Student Jia Shen receives an AHA Predoctoral Fellowship

Jia was awarded a predoctoral fellowship from the National Center of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.  This award will support Jia's dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Shaoyu Ge, a member of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior.  Jia's project is entitled 'The study of functional hyperemia in adult hippocampal neurogenesis'.  Posted 6/6/2018

Student Rachel Caston and faculty member Bruce Demple attract media attention for research on lunar dust

Rachel, Bruce, and co-authors recently published research spearheaded by Rachel in an   article   in   GeoHealth .  This publication has attracted much attention in the media, and some of the articles can be found   here ,   here , and   here .  An additional   article   in TBR News Media showcases not only her work, but also the path that led Rachel to her career in genetics.  Posted 6/6/2018

Students Abraham Kohrman and Young Jin Kim are awarded NIH Predoctoral Fellowships

The Genetics Program is delighted to announce that two of its trainees have recently been awarded NIH Individual Predoctoral Fellowships.

Abraham received an F31 award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to support his project, 'Delineating the role of cell cycle control of acquisition and maintenance of the invasive phenotype'.  Abraham is carrying out his dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. David Matus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

Young Jin is performing his dissertation research under the guidance of Dr. Adrian Krainer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  Young Jin was awarded an F30 fellowship from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to carry out his project entitled 'Antisense-oligonucleotide-directed inhibition of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay of CFTR gene'.  Posted 6/6/18

Student Mansa Munshi and faculty member Maurizio Del Poeta are showcased in the media for research on a fungal pathogen

Mansa's dissertation research, which she recently successfully defended, resulted in a first-authored   publication   in   Cell Reports .  The senior author is Mansa's mentor, Maurizio Del Poeta of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, and co-authors include Genetics Program member Chiara Luberto.  The research identifies a possible target for improved drugs to treat patients suffering from infections with the fungus  Cryptococcus .  The potential clinical importance of Mansa's work has been highlighted in numerous media reports, including by Stony Brook's   alumni magazine , the   Association of American Universities , and   Newsday .  Posted 6/6/18

Program Director Martha Furie is named Editor-in-Chief of  The American Journal of Pathology

Dr. Furie, a member of the Department of Pathology and the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, was named the 14th Editor-in-Chief of  The American Journal of Pathology .  She is the first woman to hold this position in the 122-year history of the Journal.  A press release can be found   here  and a local news article   here .  Posted 1/30/18

Student Keffy Kehrli is awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Keffy is one of just three Stony Brook graduate students to receive a 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship; only 2,000 awardees were chosen nationwide from over 13,000 applicants.  Keffy is mentored by Dr. Joshua Rest in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, and the title of Keffy's fellowship project is 'Exploring difficult questions in transcriptomics by developing meta-analysis tools'.  Keffy's outstanding accomplishment has been   featured in Stony Brook Matters , and the article includes a   profile of Keffy .   Posted 7/17/17

Student Alex Bott receives new transitional fellowship from the NCI

The National Cancer Institute recently announced a new fellowship, the F99/K00, to support trainees in their transition from predoctoral to postdoctoral studies.  Stony Brook was allowed to nominate only one candidate.  Alex, whose mentor is Dr. Wei-Xing Zong, was chosen as the University's nominee after a rigorous selection process and was then selected by the NCI to receive this innovative award.  Alex works on defining the role of glutamine synthetase in promoting the development of cancers and recently published a   first-authored paper on this topic in   Cell Metabolism .   Posted 11/21/16

Stony Brook University highlighted Alex's accomplishments in an   article in SBU Happenings .   Posted 7/13/17

Christian Ruiz is awarded an F31 predoctoral fellowship from the NCI

Christian is the recipient of an F31 predoctoral fellowship from the National Cancer Institute to support his project, 'The Role of the Hexosamine Biosynthetic Pathway in Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma.'  Christian, whose mentor is Dr. Geoffrey Girnun, also received the Best Poster Award for basic science research at the Pathology Department's annual retreat in October.  Posted 11/21/16

Nitin Shirole and Rafaella Sordella decipher role of p53 truncation mutants in cancer

Nitin, a student working under the guidance of Dr. Sordella, recently published a   first-authored study   defining a role for p53 truncation mutations in cancer that goes beyond mere loss of this protein.  Truncation mutations in p53 are common in human cancers, and this work provides a fuller understanding that will aid in development of therapies for tumors driven by these mutations.  Posted 11/21/16

Program Director Martha Furie receives distinguished educator award

Martha Furie, the director of the Graduate Program in Genetics, has received the   2017 Robbins Distinguished Educator   award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology.  The award was formally bestowed at ASIP's Pathobiology for Investigators, Students, and Academicians conference in Houston, TX, on October 22, 2016.

Students Yiyang Wu and Michael Klingener receive travel awards from the GSO

Mike and Yiyang both received competitive Distinguished Travel Awards from the Graduate Student Organization to support their attendance at national conferences.  Mike, a student in Dr. Adan Aguirre's laboratory, will be presenting his work on the role of ADAM10 in central nervous system myelination at the American Society for Neurochemistry meeting to be held March 19-23, 2016, in Denver.  Yiyang is pursuing her research under the guidance of Dr. Gholson Lyon.  She will discuss her work on modeling the genetic disorder Ogden syndrome using human induced pluripotent stem cells at the 37th Annual Sessions of the Heart Rhythm Society, to be held in San Francisco in May 2016.

Student Abraham Kohrman and Faculty David Matus receive attention for research on cell invasion

An   article published by Abraham, Dave, and colleagues in   Developmental Cell   has garnered considerable attention from the media, including commentaries in   Scientific American   and   Inverse .  Their work uses the C. elegans model to demonstrate that cell proliferation and cell invasion are mutually exclusive events, a finding that has implications in understanding the metastasis of cancer cells.

Moises Guardado is awarded an AGEP-T FRAME research grant

Moises, who is pursuing his dissertation research under the mentorship of Paul Bingham and Zuzana Zachar, has received grant support from Stony Brook's   Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate - Transformation (AGEP-T) Frontiers of Research and Academic Models of Excellence (FRAME) program .  This program is funded by the National Science Foundation and designed to increase diversity in the academy in STEM disciplines.  The title of Moises's project is 'Investigation of Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition Induction by Nutrient Microenvironment.'

Student Sitapriya Moorthi is named President of the SBU Graduate Career Association

Congratulations to Sita, who will head the SBUGCA's Executive Committee for the 2015-16 academic year.  The SBUGCA will be hosting an introduction to 'The PhD Career Ladder Program' on Friday, August 14th, from 12:00 to 1:00 in Room 217 Frey Hall.  Upcoming activities of the SBUGCA can be found on its   website , on   Facebook , or on Twitter @SBU-GCA.

Student Cara Moravec presents her work at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Zebrafish Meeting

Cara gave a well-received oral presentation at the   Mid-Atlantic Regional Zebrafish Meeting , held at Albert Einstein College of Medicine on July 17th.  The title of her talk was 'Modulation of Larval and Adult Zebrafish Behavior by Maternal Rest/NRSF.'  Cara is pursuing her dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Howard Sirotkin.

Student Michael Klingener wins prestigious NIH fellowship

Mike has been awarded a three-year F31 Individual Predoctoral Fellowship from NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. His proposal was entitled 'The Role of ADAM10 in Central Nervous System Myelination and Remyelination', and the funding will be used to support Mike's dissertation studies in the laboratory of Adan Aguirre, Department of Pharmacological Sciences.

Student Brian Kinney is selected to speak at two conferences

Brian recently delivered a talk entitled, "Analyzing the Mechanism of Wnt Mediated Cell Fate Decisions in the Zebrafish Tailbud" at the   2015 Northeast Society for Developmental Biology Regional Meeting   held at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, April 10-12, 2015.  Brian was also selected to speak at the   11th International Conference on Zebrafish Development and Genetics   held in Madison, WI, June 24-28, 2014.  His talk was entitled, "Wnt Promotes EMT and Mesodermal Cell Fate in the Zebrafish Tailbud via Znf703 and Cdh6." Brian is carrying out his work in the laboratory of Dr. Ben Martin.

Student Meng Lin is selected to speak at the inaugural New York Area Population Genomics Workshop

Meng (more familiarly known as Lemon) was selected to deliver a talk at the inaugural   New York Area Population Genomics Workshop , which was hosted by the New York Genome Center on January 15th and attended by a prestigious group of area geneticists.  Lemon is pursuing her dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Brenna Henn, and her very well-received presentation was entitled, 'Genetic Architecture of Short-Statured Height in South African San.'  The San are the earliest people known to have inhabited southern Africa.

Alex Bott wins Best Poster award at the Micro Department's retreat

Alex, a student in Wei-Xing Zong's laboratory, won an award for Best Poster at the annual retreat of the Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department, held October 10, 2014 at the Port Jefferson Village Center.  The title of Alex's poster was ' Myc induces expression of glutamine synthetase through thymine DNA glycosylase-mediated promoter demethylation,' and the full abstract is as follows:

The proto-oncogene Myc is known to promote glutamine usage by up-regulating glutaminase, which promotes the catabolism of glutamine and thereby fuels the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Here we report that in a number of human and murine cells and cancers, Myc overexpression leads to elevated expression of glutamate-ammonia ligase (GLUL), also termed glutamine synthetase (GS), which catalyzes the de novo synthesis of glutamine. Elevated expression of GLUL promotes cell survival under glutamine limitation, while silencing of GLUL leads to decreased cell proliferation and xenograft tumor growth. Stable isotope based metabolite flux analysis showed that GLUL overexpression increased cataplerotic flux at the α-ketoglutarate step of the TCA cycle and increased glutamine synthesis. Mechanistically, Myc binds to the promoter of thymine DNA glycosylase (TDG) and upregulates its expression, which leads to the active demethylation of GLUL promoter and its increased expression. These results demonstrate an unexpected role of Myc in promoting glutamine synthesis, and suggest a previously uncovered molecular connection between DNA demethylation and glutamine metabolism in Myc-driven cancers.

Kimberly Bell is the graduate student project coordinator for an initiative to improve skills of Teaching Assistants

In the Spring semester of 2013, the course director for the Introductory Biology Lab sequence (BIO204/205: Fundamentals of Scientific Inquiry in the Biological Sciences I and II) approached the   Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science   (AACCS) with a problem. Inquiry labs are relatively new in this course and are challenging to teach. Students design components of each lab, make hypotheses and predictions, choose variables, analyze data and even design a full experiment. It was clear that the teaching assistants (TAs) needed a different strategy for teaching these courses, as a higher level of communication is required for these labs compared to the cookbook labs of the past. The AACCS offered to help improve the communication skills of the TAs in an effort to improve student learning. TAs volunteered for a series of workshops containing portions of two long-standing courses from AACCS’s repertoire, "Improvisation for Scientists" and “Distilling Your Message.” Kim had successfully taught both BIO 204 and 205 and had taken "Improvisation for Scientists", and she reports, "It was clear to me that improving my general public speaking would also improve my teaching in this environment." As a result, Kim was asked to be the graduate student project coordinator in order to design surveys (integrated into existing course surveys), plan assessment strategies, observe workshops, participate and demonstrate during the workshops, and analyze data. Preliminary results show that TAs who participated in this professional and communication development were rated similarly to experienced adjunct faculty on course evaluations and were rated “more clear” and “more interesting” in their teaching by students than TAs who did not participate. Students also noticed a significant change in their TAs' communication skills over the semester, as did the TAs. Student grades on the competency exam (similar to a lab practical) were higher for sections taught by TAs who participated in the workshops. Initially intended solely for professional development, analysis of this data at the end of the semester showed these striking differences. This is an ongoing endeavor, and Kim and her colleagues hope to share these findings in a publication in the near future, as well as replicate the Spring 2013 data this upcoming Spring semester.

Diana Guimet featured at CIE's Research Cafe

Diana recently presented her research at the Center for Inclusive Education's   Research Cafe .  Diana also currently holds a   Turner Dissertation Fellowship   to assist in completion of her work.  Diana is a student in the laboratory of Dr. Patrick Hearing.  Her dissertation, which she plans to defend this fall, focuses on the regulation of infection by adenovirus.  Diana has also earned Sigma Xi and Turner travel awards and was the 2013 recipient of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology's award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement by a Graduate Student.

Incoming students Moises Guardado and Steve Tsotras are awarded Turner Fellowships

Congratulations to first-year students Moises and Steve, who received fellowships from Stony Brook's   W. Burghardt Turner program .  These competitive and substantial awards are intended to increase diversity among students pursuing graduate and professional degrees at the University.  The fellowships are named in honor of W. Burghardt Turner, a Professor of History at Stony Brook for more than 20 years who did much to promote the success of underrepresented students.

Michael Klingener and Sitapriya Moorthi are named Scholars in BioMedical Sciences

Michael and Sitapriya were both selected as Stony Brook   Scholars in BioMedical Sciences   (SBS) starting in Fall 2014.  The SBS program is designed to foster translational science by pairing graduate students working in the basic sciences with clinical mentors.  Moreover, Scholars are provided with courses and other resources that foster insight into the clinical aspects of their research.  Mike is pursuing research on myelination in the central nervous system in Dr. Adan Aguirre's laboratory, and Sita is exploring the role of sphingomyelin synthase in leukemia in the laboratory of Dr. Chiara Luberto. 

Rachel Caston wins award at the NASA Exploration Science Forum

Rachel Caston presented her   research on the genotoxicity of lunar dust   at the   1st Annual NASA Exploration Science Forum , held at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, July 21-23, 2014.  Rachel's poster won third prize, earning her a $1000 travel grant to a conference of her choice.  Rachel is currently a student in the laboratory of Dr. Bruce Demple, where her dissertation project focuses on changes in mitochondrial DNA repair after cellular differentiation.

Emmanuel Asare wins AGEP-T FRAME research grant from the NSF

The National Science Foundation's   AGEP-T FRAME program   fosters diversity in academic programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Emmanuel, an   AGEP-T FRAME Fellow , recently received a research grant from the program to support his studies on poliovirus in the laboratory of Dr. Eckard Wimmer.

Christian Ruiz receives an NSF Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship

Christian has received a   Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship , supported by the National Science Foundation and intended to help underrepresented students transition from master's to doctoral studies in the sciences. Christian is a second-year student who recently joined the laboratory of Dr. Geoffrey Girnun, where he studies cancer metabolism.

Cindy Thomas-Charles showcased at Commencement

Graduating student Cindy Thomas-Charles's accomplishments were   highlighted by President Stanley at the 2013 Winter Commencement .  Cindy was also named   Researcher of the Month   by the Center for Inclusive Education in October 2013.  Cindy completed her dissertation work on interactions of   Francisella tularensis , a potential bioweapon, with host cells in the laboratory of Dr. Martha Furie.

Monika Woroniecka, Stony Brook pediatrician, killed in fall from trailer on trip to view eclipse, police say

Dr. Monika Woroniecka, 58, "was known for her calm demeanor, kindness,...

Dr. Monika Woroniecka, 58, "was known for her calm demeanor, kindness, and dedication to her patients," a colleague said. Credit: Stony Brook Medicine

A Stony Brook Children’s Hospital pediatrician died Saturday after she fell out of a moving travel trailer, while on a trip with her family, according to state police and a spokeswoman for Stony Brook Medicine.

Dr. Monika I. Woroniecka, 58, and other family members were riding in a 2024 Airstream trailer during the last minutes of their trip from Stony Brook around 3 p.m. The family was traveling upstate to view Monday’s solar eclipse, the family told police.

Authorities said the woman’s husband, Robert P. Woroniecki, 59, was driving a 2019 Ram pickup that was hauling the trailer heading west on Route 12E in Brownsville, Jefferson County, near upstate Watertown.

Witnesses said they saw the passenger door of the trailer swing open, helped by the wind, and watched as Monika Woroniecka hung on to the door before falling off the Airstream, according to police. She struck her head on the shoulder of the roadway.

She was transported to the emergency room at Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown, where she was pronounced dead.

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Woroniecka’s daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend were traveling with them, police said.

Police were investigating the incident and no further details were released.

Woroniecka subspecialized in allergy-immunology since the early 2000s, and completed a pediatrics-allergy/immunology fellowship at Stony Brook University Hospital in 1996, according to her professional profile.

Stony Brook Medicine officials confirmed her death in a statement Monday, and in a statement emailed by a university representative, Dr. Susan Schuval, chief of the Division of Pediatric Allergy/Immunology at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, said Woroniecka had taught “countless” medical students and residents.

“She was known for her calm demeanor, kindness, and dedication to her patients,” Schuval wrote. “She will be missed by all.”

Schuval said Woroniecka had taught at Stony Brook since 2016. She was a graduate of Medical University of Warsaw, Poland, and completed her pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.

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Stony Brook Campus Celebrates Rare Solar Eclipse

  • April 12, 2024

Eclipse 2024 13

Eclipses are a phenomenon resulting from a coincidental match between the angular diameters of the sun and the moon. About every 18 months, somewhere on our planet, in a swath up to about 100 miles wide, the sun will appear to disappear, bit by bit, as it is blocked by the moon. 

On April 8, the Stony Brook University campus was alive and abuzz as several events celebrated the solar eclipse of 2024. In North America, a total solar eclipse was visible on a path from Mazatlan, Mexico, through the Canadian Maritimes. In the northeast, the path of totality hugged the southern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and crossed Buffalo, Rochester, and Watertown, NY. In Stony Brook, the eclipse was at its fullest at 3:26 pm. About 90 percent of the sun was blocked, leaving behind a sliver about the size and shape of a 1.5 day-old moon, but much brighter.

Music blared on the SAC Plaza as students, faculty and staff were given solar eclipse glasses and enjoyed ice cream and snacks. Several food trucks were also on site.

“Solar eclipses must have been terrifying to early humans,” said  Fred Walter , a galactic astronomer and a professor of  Physics and Astronomy  in the  College of Arts and Sciences . “Anecdotally, the Chinese would pound drums and bang gongs to scare away the dragon eating the sun — and it always worked.” 

Walter said that by 2500 BCE, Chadean and Chinese astrologers could predict eclipses with reliable if not perfect accuracy, noting that there are stories of Chinese astrologers His and Ho who were beheaded for failing to predict an eclipse in 2134 BCE. 

Eclipse 2024 17

“The ability to predict natural events is an important step towards the development of science,” said Walter. “But superstition still prevailed. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, in 534 BCE an eclipse stopped a war between the Medes and the Lydians. Clearly the gods did not approve.”

Walter said that partial eclipses can be pedestrian and that you must travel to the centerline for the full experience. 

“If you don’t know there is an eclipse happening and you don’t look up, you might think a thin cloud has passed over the sun,” said Walter. “However, words do not do justice to a total solar eclipse — it must be experienced. Having the sun fade away and disappear for 3-4 minutes during midday is an other-worldly, almost religious experience. Unlike at dusk, the color of the illumination does not change. And if you are elevated, you may see the horizon around you still fully lit.”

The next total eclipse in the U.S. will occur in 2044. For Long Islanders, the next one will occur at sunrise on May 1, 2079. 

— Robert Emproto

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  1. SBU 3MT

    The Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is an academic research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. The goal is for students to engage all their communication skills to make their research vivid and engaging while emphasizing its key point without jargon. At Stony Brook, our students also craft their ...

  2. Communication Takes Center Stage at 3MT Challenge

    Such is the nature of the Three-Minute Thesis (3MT), an event designed to help advanced students develop their presentation, research and academic communication skills to explain their work more effectively to general audiences. ... On March 8, 15 doctoral candidates took the stage in Stony Brook's Charles B. Wang Center and had three minutes ...

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    Fourteen Stony Brook University doctoral candidates squared off in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) challenge April 5 at the Charles B. Wang Center. April 13, 2023. ... 25 Stony Brook PhD and DMA students have been working on talks about their dissertation research for Three Minute Thesis (3MT), a spoken-word competition held annually at Stony ...

  4. Eight Finalists to Compete in Three Minute Thesis Competition

    For several weeks, 25 Stony Brook PhD and DMA students have been working on talks about their dissertation research for Three Minute Thesis (3MT), a spoken-word competition held annually at Stony Brook. These short talks are designed to share the excitement of their work with anyone, regardless of area of expertise. Now, eight finalists will compete live on Wednesday, April 6, at 4pm ...

  5. Three Minute Thesis: Analogies vs. Technobabble

    "There's a way to break through the technobabble," said Taber. "Be vivid. Be exciting. Get to the point." And that's exactly what 17 Stony Brook University graduate students did last week. Students competed in SBU's third Three Minute Thesis competition, an international program founded at the University of Queensland in Australia.

  6. Xiaoqing Zhang wins People's Choice and Second Place Overall in 3MT

    Have you heard of Stony Brook University's Three Minute Thesis (3MT)? Congratulations to Xiaoqing Zhang, PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences May 2020 Degree Candidate, for her entry into the 3MT competition, winning first place for the People's Choice Award, and second place overall based on the scoring from the judges' panel!

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    See a snapshot of cutting edge research as SBU grad students compete in Three Minute Thesis, a spoken-word, general audience presentation of their whole dissertation in just three minutes.

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    For several weeks, 25 Stony Brook PhD and DMA students have been working on talks about their dissertation research for Three Minute Thesis (3MT), a spoken-word competition held annually at Stony Brook. These short talks are designed to share the excitement of their work with anyone, regardless of area of expertise. Now, eight finalists will compete live this Wednesday, April 6, at 4pm, as ...

  10. SBU Three Minute Thesis 2023: Yunting Yin

    Yunting Yin, Computer Science, The Sound of AgingThe SBU Three Minute Thesis (3MT) 2023 took place in-person at Stony Brook University on April 5, 2023. In ...

  11. ComSciCon-NY 2023 Names Inaugural Three Minute Thesis Winner

    Organized by graduate students from Cornell University, Stony Brook University, and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, the conference aims to empower students through panels, presentations, and workshops relating to science communication. This year's offering was on June 1-2, 2023 and marked the first time a Three-Minute Thesis ...

  12. STRIDE Trainee, Bhavya Ghai, Takes 3rd Place at 3-Minute Thesis!

    STRIDE Trainee, Bhavya Ghai, Takes 3rd Place at 3-Minute Thesis! Bhavya Ghai, a PhD student from Computer Science, studying in the lab of Professor Klaus Mueller participated in the 3MT competition today. ... Mailstop 5250 Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY 11794-5250. Phone: 631-632-4629 Fax: 631-632-4125 [email protected] Report an ...

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    Dissertation and Thesis Submission. All dissertations and theses must be submitted online through Stony Brook University's ProQuest/UMI ETD administrator site. All candidates should check with their dissertation advisor and graduate program director regarding additional departmental requirements. ... 2401 Computer Science Building Stony Brook ...

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    Catherine Feldman, advised by Dr. Alan Calder, won first place in the 2024 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition! Catherine Feldman (second from left) along with the other competition winners. The need for effective science communication is stronger than ever, especially when conveying complex ideas to audiences of varied backgrounds.

  15. Dissertations and Theses at Stony Brook University

    Director, Special Collections & University Archives University Archivist Associate Librarian Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY 11794-3323 t: 631.632.7119

  16. The Laughlin Lab

    January 27, 2014. The Laughlin Lab grows by three! Welcome Pratik, Brianna, and Alyssa. October 21, 2013. Welcome rotation students Brianna O'Neill and Alyssa Preston! September 1, 2013. The Laughlin Lab welcomes chemistry rotation student Pratik Kumar! The website for the Laughlin research group in chemical neuroscience and chemical biology.

  17. Program News

    Spotlight on the Graduate Program in Genetics Courtney Tello earns an NIH Predoctoral Fellowship Courtney has been awarded an F31 fellowship from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

  18. Monika Woroniecka, Stony Brook pediatrician, killed in fall from

    Dr. Monika I. Woroniecka, 58, and other family members were riding in a 2024 Airstream trailer during the last minutes of their trip from Stony Brook around 3 p.m.

  19. Stony Brook Campus Celebrates Rare Solar Eclipse

    On April 8, the Stony Brook University campus was alive and abuzz as several events celebrated the solar eclipse of 2024. In North America, a total solar eclipse was visible on a path from Mazatlan, Mexico, through the Canadian Maritimes. ... Having the sun fade away and disappear for 3-4 minutes during midday is an other-worldly, almost ...

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    3:30 pm No Physics Club This Week ... Lyubich, Stony Brook, TBD. Thursday, April 11 1:00 pm Condensed Matter Theory Seminar: ... SPL 51. Thesis advisor: Steve Lamoreaux. 11:00 am Elusives Journal Club: Topics in modern physics, Claire Laffan, Yale University, WLC 245. Host: Xiran Bai and Eleanor Graham.