By Erik Bacharach
After a nationwide search for a position that would fulfill his two most important criteria, James Sobel has found the perfect environment that is equally conducive to both research and teaching.
Sobel, an associate professor of biological sciences/evolutionary genetics at Harpur College, grew up in Southern Michigan where he was always interested in natural history, the outdoors and identifying different species of insects, animals and plants.
"When we'd go camping, I'd have special notebooks to write down all the insects species I found or all the snakes I found," Sobel said.
Sobel's childhood passions would dictate the interests he would pursue as an undergraduate at Western Michigan University. He studied biochemistry and microbiology, and worked at a pharmaceutical company as an intern to gain a variety of different experiences in molecular protocols.
Five years after his undergraduate years, Sobel landed in graduate school at Michigan State University. He wrote his dissertation on the speciation of a group of North American wildflowers that were all located in the same geographic area in California.
"I got really interested in the general processes of how species form and how they adapt to their location and environments," Sobel said.
Sobel's first experience in front of the classroom came as a teacher's assistant while at Michigan State. He was confident in his knowledge and was chomping at the bit to start, but it wasn't exactly smooth sailing at first.
"My first TA assignment, I was sort of terrified," Sobel said. "To be thrown in front of a bunch of students and be told 'go teach' is really intimidating."
Still, while other teaching assistants would stick to one subject they knew well, Sobel tried to teach every course available to him as his passion and curiosity outweighed his fears. Throughout graduate school, Sobel had an increasing interest in conducting classes.
"I was surprised by how much I enjoyed (teaching)," Sobel said. "I just wanted to try and teach everything, so I TA'd for genetics and evolution and ecology and a tropical biology course and basically, anything I could get my hands on."
Sobel wanted to find a place where he could do some of the best research in the world and have the facilities to accommodate that. At the same time, he also wanted the opportunity to teach at a high level at a place that would appreciate it.
In Binghamton, Sobel got both.
"It's pretty unique. Most places will choose one or the other to focus on and it's been clear to me that Binghamton wants to be a top-notch research school, but its undergrads are clearly its bread and butter," Sobel said. "That was what drew me — the balance between (teaching and research) and not having to trade off one for the other."
In his first year at Harpur College, Sobel is already reaping the benefits of the perfect equilibrium. He's got enough time to teach his class, Genetics of Adaptation and Speciation, and also set up his lab to begin his research.
Still, while Sobel admitted that he's found a "dream situation" in Binghamton, he also said that the students he's encountered in Harpur College have only reinforced his decision to come to New York.
"A lot of the students I've worked with in the past are plenty curious, and that's something I can do a lot with," he said. "But without the ambition and energy to back it up, it can fizzle. That's something I've noticed so far: Students here are of high-ability level, and they're also willing to do the work that they need to in order to be successful."
"You can't find that just anywhere."
Reaching Higher - March 2014
A message from Upinder Dhillon, Dean and Koffman Scholar
This year, our graduates have seen a significant increase in job opportunities reflecting the continued recovery in financial markets. The School of Management is focused on leveraging these opportunities to add value to the lives and careers of our graduates.
The year began with alumni and firms hosting our students for New York City visits Jan. 13-17. Alumni spent time with students talking about their careers, the industry and opportunities offered by the firms. This year, the students visited 24 firms across a variety of industries that included accounting, finance, media and sports. The school has New York City visits in January and July each year. We are planning visits for July and if you are interested in hosting students at your firm, please let us know.
The students also participated in the Metro Career Night event on Jan. 15. The event is a career exploration forum held at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. Nearly 300 students interacted with a group of 90 alumni volunteers, and received valuable career advice through a panel discussion and informational interviews. I encourage you to think about how you can get involved with our school and make an impact. Learn more about the alumni volunteer opportunities available.
The School continues to host alumni events to foster networking opportunities. On Jan. 14, we hosted the Zurack Scholars networking reception at the New York Athletic Club with featured speaker Jeff Yass '79. He is the founding partner and managing director of Susquehanna International Group. Jeff provided insightful advice to more than 120 alumni and students on the principles that have made his firm successful. We look forward to continued interactions with him and our students. We thank Mark Zurack '78, former managing director of Goldman Sachs, for his ongoing support of our school and the Zurack Scholars Program.
Also, I am excited that our students, led by Don Sheldon, instructor of supply chain management, placed first and second at the Association for Operations Management (APICS) competition held recently in Albany.
I hope that you are proud of the success of our students and the school. We could not have done it without your support.
Computer scientist makes a power play
By Rachel Coker
A Binghamton University researcher aims to slash the energy used by computing systems ranging from smart phones to data centers.
A new $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help launch Timothy Normand Miller's ambitious new "introspective computing" project. The funding comes from the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, which awards the NSF's most prestigious grants in support of new researchers.
Miller said manufacturing variations present a severe — and worsening — challenge for computer systems. Semiconductor chips produced by the same factory do not perform identically, which means systems are designed to accommodate the worst chips.
He envisions using machine learning to predict a chip's performance. "When you bring a chip online for the first time, it will monitor itself and dynamically adjust its own behavior," Miller said. "The chip will make sure it does the right thing on its own. That would improve not only energy efficiency but also the lifespan of the chip."
What makes that such a big deal? Energy efficiency in chips is critical to extending the operation time of battery-powered devices, and it's a huge factor in the cost of running larger systems, including data centers.
Current power-management solutions focus on large systems, said Miller, an assistant professor of computer science. His plan is to work at the chip level, offering more sophisticated control and a means of scaling the solution up to address systems of a variety of sizes.
Engineers assume worst-case conditions in designing computer systems, Miller said. These assumptions are built into a "guard band" that ensures the system will work for 10 years even with the worst possible chip from the factory, even if the voltage is too low and even when the temperature is too high.
"That safety margin accounts for about 70 percent of the energy used by a modern microprocessor," Miller said. "What we want is to have the safety margin be the minimum it has to be so that the circuit will operate reliably."
With a narrower guard band, he said, a chip could be 2.5 times faster or deliver the same performance using only a third as much energy. And with machine learning, a chip can reach an ideal tradeoff between performance and reliability, adjusting continuously over its lifespan.
Miller, who joined Binghamton's faculty in 2012 after earning a doctorate at The Ohio State University, worked in private industry for more than 15 years.
He said other disciplines — cognitive science, linguistics and experimental psychology, in particular — inspired this direction in his research. The patterns of thought and engineering habits he cultivated while working in the private sector continue to help him, too. "I learned a lot from industry about doing the engineering part of this job," he said. Miller said he often writes code to put ideas to the test quickly and enjoys helping students debug programs.
He is developing a short course for high school students that offers an analogy to introspective computing. Students will be challenged to come up with the careful scheduling required to operate a 22nd-century smart home with a restrictive amount of solar power and a set of activities that must be accomplished each day.
Nursing faculty member helps Rwandan midwives
By Eric Coker
Twenty years after the Rwandan Genocide left nearly 1 million dead and 2 million homeless, Binghamton University is playing a role in improving the nation's healthcare. Karen Feltham, a clinical instructor in the Decker School of Nursing, spent the 2013 fall semester in Rwanda working with women in the Rwandan Midwives Association. Feltham was hired through the Clinton Health Access Initiative; a non-profit designed to strengthen health systems in developing countries. "It was quite an experience," Feltham said. "It supports my theme of 'There's no substitute for adventure.'"
Also taking part was Laura Terriquez-Kasey, a clinical assistant professor who spent January 2014 in the Dominican Republic. Rwanda has come a long way in recovering from the 1994 genocide, Feltham said. The poverty rate has decreased from 77.8 percent in 1994 to 44.9 percent in 2009 and universal healthcare is provided to "the poorest of the poor," she said. In a nation that is 81 percent rural, Rwanda now stresses the use of community health workers, who diagnose and treat those with pneumonia, malaria or HIV/AIDS.
Despite a more structured healthcare system, Rwanda still can make gains in birthing, Feltham said. She taught midwives at Muhima Hospital in central Rwanda and in nearby birth centers. These birth centers, however, often lack electricity, running water and basic equipment. "In the health centers, they have things that look like equipment, but don't work," she said. "Just because something looks like an Ambu bag (a manual resuscitator) doesn't mean it works like an Ambu bag."
A typical labor room consists of four beds, one CTG fetal monitor (a technical means of recording the fetal heartbeat) and no toilets. A pregnant woman usually does not receive pain medication, Feltham said.
Feltham said she tried to emphasize the importance of one-on-one interaction between a midwife and patient to her 32 students. "Rwanda is very much a community culture," she said. "They think: 'Why would I want to sit by myself when maybe we all could sit together?' This translates to midwifery care: 'Why would I want to take care of this patient by myself when my four friends are over here?' That is friendly, but it doesn't make for good patient coverage."
Another obstacle to overcome is Rwandan midwives do not have an inherent love for the profession because they are not choosing it, Feltham said. Many times, the profession is picked for them. "(Westerners) go into something because our hearts are full or we go into midwifery because we can't imagine doing anything else," she said. "That's our motivation. Still, the students were special and it was a treat to work with them."
Feltham enjoyed her "adventure" in Rwanda, calling the country "sunny and beautiful."
"It's a good place to live as a minority. We developed a beautiful rapport and I am still in touch with many students and colleagues," she said.
For Terriquez-Kasey, there can be dramatic differences in healthcare within a country in South America, Central American or the Caribbean. Like Rwanda, these countries do not have enough electricity to support machinery donated from western nations. Terriquez-Kasey often leads students on a community health program overview in the Dominican Republic. There they can instruct local residents in CPR or first-aid classes. "We want them to take on the responsibility of doing a class," she said. "They can usually pick a health issue and present a class on their own."
Students are also able to travel in the countries and assist and educate the public
on a variety of topics. One thing they must become accustomed to: the religious needs
of their patients.
"What's fascinating to me about community visits is that students not only visit a country but go into people's homes to understand the level of spirituality that their clients have," Terriquez-Kasey said. Saying a prayer with a patient in the Dominican Republic – whether it is for the family member or safe travels for the nursing team – is part of healthcare.
"There is an expectation that you will assist them in saying a prayer," Terriquez-Kasey said. "It is an eye-opener for many students."
Social work department to host conference
From staff reports
The college invites you to the Care Management Summit 2014: Achieving Excellence, the first conference of its kind in central New York.
Focusing on the specialties of care and case management, the summit promises to be a great event for those interested in best practices in a growing field. The summit is designed to provide the concepts, networking opportunities, and up-to-date information needed to practice care and case management in today’s dynamic, evolving environment.
Anticipated attendees include direct caregivers, educators, helping professionals, organizations, policy-makers and researchers from New York state and beyond. Participants are projected to include 200 individuals from many disciplines who provide care and case management services, with a concentration of practitioners from the Tri-State area.
Such services include, but are not limited to, case screening; education; individualized assessment; service planning, implementation and monitoring; palliative care; outcome evaluation; and utilization monitoring and review. In addition, the summit will highlight service models for growing and special populations such as elders, individuals with disabilities, patients with multiple chronic conditions and veterans.
A variety of advertising, exhibit and sponsorship options gives all individuals and groups the chance to increase knowledge about the benefits of their products and services. For example, all attendees will receive “passports” as incentives to visit every exhibitor for a sticker or stamp. You may also bring a door prize item that can be drawn from your vendor table. Other organizational representatives may choose to participate as speakers.
GSE undergraduate minor grows
From staff reports
GSE formally launched an undergraduate minor in education this fall enrolling nearly 150 students by the end of the first semester. The minor was established to provide avenues to engage students broadly in the field of education and to ensure that those students interested in pursuing education as a career are well prepared to do so.
Dave Archer who was appointed as the undergraduate education minor coordinator, immediately got to work to form a committee of undergraduate students to further develop the program. This group of hard-working, enthusiastic, and creative students has met biweekly to explore a range of interesting possibilities.
Molly Conway developed an advising manual, Jackie Franklin compiled a list of reasons students should apply to the minor, and Brynn Bohannon led the work to produce an electronic newsletter to enhance communication and disseminate information about the minor to students.
Andrea Cioffi and Alexandra Fernandez developed and disseminated electronic surveys to students in the minor as well as to those who might be interested. The compiled information aided the process of deciding course offerings, course times, and website information effectiveness.
Kait Reed worked on coordinating internships for students in places like the Campus Pre-School, Binghamton Boys and Girls Club, Roberson Museum and Science Center, as well as in school districts and educational organizations.
Alexander Cooper used his experience in an independent study to design the steps, responsibilities, and activities for future students who do an independent study.
Nicole Schindel combed through all of the course offerings at Binghamton University to identify courses that could be included to count towards the minor
Elizabeth Smyth formed a great partnership with the Career Development Center to further enhance existing internships to spread the word about the internship program. A relationship has also been established with the Watson School Undergraduate Course Assistants program.
While all of this was going on, an education club was organized mainly through the efforts of Matt DeCarlo, Angela Franz, and Brynn Bohannon. A constitution has been written for the club and the students are waiting to be officially chartered by the Student Association. In the meantime Assistant Dean Jean Dorak worked with the Newing Learning Community to organize a range of events for the Education Club. One was a guest lecturer to speak with students about their career paths in the education field; the second was a panel discussion with local teachers from the community.
As the spring semester begins, the Education Minor Student Advisory Group is excited to get back to work...and the possibilities seem endless.Back to top
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NEW SEASON, NEW JOB? To help you move ahead in your career, the Alumni Association offers two LinkedIn groups. Make new connections in our Professional Network group and search for jobs posted by alumni in our Job Forum group (and share postings if you have them).
SHARE YOUR EXPERTISE WITH US! The Alumni Relations office is asked to recommend alumni who are expert speakers. If you are well-versed, because of your education and professional experience, in subjects including national security, politics, technology, career networking, environmental studies or etiquette, please contact Melinda Holicky, associate director for volunteer engagement. Include your name, class year, and a brief description of your experience and expertise. Supporting material could include a c.v. or link to your website.
The Alumni Association and Uncommon Goods (founded by David Bolotsky '85) offer the opportunity to purchase banks made from mailboxes salvaged from Newing Dining Hall. This can be a great keepsake of your time as a student at Binghamton. Banks also make great gifts! Purchase a bank today.