RESEARCH

Rising Up to Meet the Moment

By pushing boundaries, SBU is reshaping the future 

As years go, 2020 has tested us all. We have been confronting a global pandemic, a contentious national election, a movement for racial and social equality, an unstable economy and extreme climate events.

And through it all, Stony Brook University’s mission has never been more relevant: Our students, faculty, researchers, physicians, scientists, staff and community never more needed to continue leading, collaborating, accelerating new ideas and serving as the nexus between higher education and our highest ideals.

“The past year has been difficult and exhausting — for everyone,” said Maurie McInnis, Stony Brook University’s sixth president. “But my belief in the importance of higher education has only been strengthened by this moment. It’s a moment where we absolutely must continue to invest in America’s higher education establishments — for the sake of our economic vitality, our health and well-being, innovative scholarship and discoveries that will power the world for generations to come.”

Strategic Collaboration
SBU already pushes the boundaries of knowledge to make discoveries that will improve our health and environment and help save the planet by investing in science and leading in areas such as energy, climate change and conservation, technology, healthcare, COVID-19 and cancer research.

“This University has incredible research capabilities and economic development opportunities that can make immediate and long-term impact,” said President McInnis. “There are so many areas of excellence at Stony Brook, and so many faculty members and students engaged in discoveries that are making a difference in their fields and around the world.”

This point is well-illustrated by how the university and Stony Brook Medicine have been leading antibody screening and enrolling patients in a convalescent plasma trial. Researchers have already launched more than 200 COVID-19 related studies to battle the virus and examine circumstances where it has or will change our societal landscape. The body of work spans 45 academic departments from eight different colleges and schools within the university.

This collaboration across disciplines has been key to propelling innovation and extends to our work with Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, two of the most prestigious research institutions in the country. The longstanding partnerships SBU has had with these labs have produced extraordinary discoveries — such as revolutionary renewable energy sources and innovations in cancer research — and empowered the university to recruit talented faculty and students, changing many lives in the process.

Driving Success
Of course, as an institution of higher learning, we are laser-focused above all on creating possibilities for young lives — the future leaders. How? By broadening our program offerings and increasing participation in all of our fields of study, especially in the much needed health, science and engineering disciplines.

A revolutionary program in quantum science — the only one of its kind in New York — is now striving to establish a pioneering industry from the ground up; one that will propel the next generation of the Internet, create new jobs and produce the workforce of tomorrow. To achieve that sizable goal, the program will recruit a diverse group of students and faculty to work together. By reaching out to high schools in lower-income areas, the program also hopes to plant the seeds of possibility that any student who wants to be a leader in a burgeoning field has an avenue to do so at Stony Brook.

SBU is also launching a new study on the psychosocial factors that promote STEM career achievement and engagement among underrepresented students. As our societal needs evolve and change, this is an opportunity to broaden our knowledge rather than limit it.

All these research opportunities and collaborations enhance equal opportunities and outcomes for students, better than any other institution in the region. In fact, we were recently ranked No. 1 among all U.S. institutions and No. 27 worldwide for reducing inequalities in higher education by the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2020. The university doesn’t just commit to diversity to lift students up, but also because it enables us to think differently to be innovative in our approach which, in turn, drives social and economic change (and helps us achieve our vision).

“On the broadest level, universities — particularly research institutions — play a significant role in advancing scientific discovery by spurring innovation and ultimately building a pipeline of skill and talent to meet future societal needs,” said President McInnis. “Stony Brook has a unique set of priorities and demonstrated success in educating a diverse group of students. We are the No. 1 institution in reducing social inequality, and I believe that looking forward we must continue to take this role very seriously.”

Forging Ahead
Alumnus Kevin Law ’82, chair of the Stony Brook Council and president of the Long Island Association, is one of the university’s most ardent advocates. Today, he’s even more bullish on the continued impact Stony Brook will have on helping fulfill the American dream, creating the new knowledge that translates into improving lives and fueling Long Island’s economy.

“I cannot overstate the importance of Stony Brook to our region, to New York and to our collective future,” said Law. “I’m proud of my alma mater and the impact it’s having on so many lives. The ideas the university is developing, the technology the university is creating, and the students the university is preparing for the future, day in and day out, is giving New Yorkers an incredible return on its investment.”

In fact, an educated workforce is key to driving Long Island’s vibrant economy as SBU contributes to the growth of new businesses and creates job opportunities in the region — recently to the tune of $7.23 billion in increased output.

SBU's economic impact
Graphic courtesy of The Rauch Foundation

“As a new president, I want to invest in cross-disciplinary scholarship and research that can provide creative and groundbreaking solutions to our societal complexities,” President McInnis said. “This is the way that research universities can, and must, remain both relevant and integral to our progress as a community, as a country and as a world. As researchers, we have the ability to both shape the future and respond to it. At Stony Brook, our commitment is to grow so that we can respond to society’s needs with ingenuity, responsibility and experience.”

While the world continues to grapple with constant change, Stony Brook University remains nimble, strong and ideally positioned as the vanguard that adapts and contributes to new knowledge — at a time when it is most needed.

— Liza N. Burby

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