It is with pride that The Press often editorializes against the mismanagement of this university. It’s hard to be optimistic when you have a new president trying to raise tuition while reducing the amount of classes offered. It’s hard to be positive when parking is as scarce as the number of well-planned and worthwhile events held on this campus. But our disappointment with the university’s leadership aside, we recognize that students should be more aware of the achievements of this under-funded school’s professors.
For one, Stony Brook’s very own Dr. Timothy Glotch, assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences, was part of a team of NASA scientists who discovered a different type of rock on the Moon than expected—take that, Russian studies! This is quite the feat; Glotch and his colleagues’ discovery will help scientists better understand the history of the Moon. This milestone comes more than 40 years after Oliver Schaeffer, founding chair of the then Department of Earth and Space and Sciences, worked with a team determining the age of the moon as 4 billion years old. SBU’s involvement with the moon continues!
And given that SBU is known for being a science school, where professors do work that wins Nobel Peace Prizes as recently as 2007 (for work on climate change), it’s fitting to have a federally-funded Center for Communicating Science. While all scientists are as intelligent as can be, conveying their brilliance is not as easy as exercising it.
Last February, Stony Brook professor Dennis Sullivan won the prestigious Wolf Prize in Mathematics. The award recognized his work on algebraic topology and geometric analysis—fields that are highly applicable to data-driven areas of study like biology and economics. The prize went on Sullivan’s shelf next to his National Medal of Science, but not many Stony Brook students have ever heard Sullivan’s name.
Stony Brook adjunct Professor Joanna Fowler shook President Obama’s hand last year when she received the National Medal of Science for her work in neuroscience and the study of diseases like addiction. While only an adjunct at Stony Brook, Fowler is a senior chemist and director of the Radiotracer Chemistry Instrumentation and Biological Imaging Program at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
It doesn’t stop there. In 2003, Professor William Jungers, led a team of scientists that discovered a set of bones believed to be a precursor to modern man. The bones were believed to be those of a real hobbit. The team called the discovery homo floresiensis, and the bones were put on display at the Seventh Annual Human Evolution Symposium in 2008.
And fighting for the voiceless, quite literally, Professor Christopher J. Gobler, Ph.D. and Stephanie C. Tamage, Ph.D candidate at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences discovered that shellfish populations may be declining due to rising CO2 levels in the oceans. The two Stony Brook professors’ report found that increased acidification of the oceans is killing off shellfish larvae.
While these names and honors are only a narrow slice of Stony Brook’s academic achievements, the point is that with increased budget cuts and lack of state support, future breakthroughs are in jeopardy.
Correction: In the printed edition of this article, it had mentioned that Stony Brook’s own Richard Leakey was part of a team that discovered the bones of a real hobbit. He in fact was not involved in the discovery rather was part of a symposium to discuss the findings. A correction will in the next printed version of the paper. Dr. William Jungers had led a team of scientists in the discovery of hobbit bones and deserves the recognition. Richard Leakey is an internationally reknowned paleontologist and conservationist and chair of Stony Brook’s Turkana Basin Institute.
The fact that we have mixed up faculty members on their accomplishments may either strengthen the stance of our editorial or just prove that we are what the French call “les incompetent” and should never be trusted. We do hope it’s not the latter.