The Year In Review: Top 15 Stories of 2015
STONY BROOK, NY, December 29, 2015 – 2015 was a busy year for Stony Brook University. But which were the biggest stories? As we get ready to turn the calendar to 2016 – take a quick look back at some of the stories that made an impact in the news around the world, on social channels and at home at Stony Brook University.
An interdisciplinary team of Stony Brook University researchers garnered worldwide press coverage for their paper published in Nature that provided quantitative evidence that lifestyle and environmental exposures weigh heavily on the development of most cancers. A sampling of the global television, newspaper online, and social media coverage can be viewed in this Storify. Their research was inspired by and contradicted an earlier study published in Science, which concluded that most cancers could be attributed to “bad luck.”
Anthropologist, activist and Professor and Chair of the Turkana Basin Institute, Richard Leakey, will be the subject of a major motion picture to be directed by actress and director Angelina Jolie. Tentatively titled Africa, it will focus on Leakey’s experiences as chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Services, battling elephant poachers. Jolie’s husband, actor Brad Pitt, reportedly will portray Leakey.
Having raised $426 million since 2011, in November Stony Brook launched the public phase of a seven-year, $600 million comprehensive campaign. Led by the Stony Brook Foundation, the campaign is the largest in the history of the SUNY system. More than 30,000 individuals have already donated a total of $426 million and the Foundation expects to raise the remaining $174 million by July 2018.
Physicists at Stony Brook were recognized twice this year as contributors to the science that led to two of the most notable scientific prizes in the world—the Nobel Prize in Physics, and the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Stony Brook is connected to this groundbreaking research through the Nucleon Decay and Neutrino (NN) physics research group led by Chang Kee Jung. NN team scientists are members of the Super-Kamiokande, K2K and T2K experiments. The NN group has participated in Super-Kamiokande since the experiment’s very beginning in 1991, and played leading roles in K2K and T2K. Stony Brook scientists played key roles in constructing detectors for these experiments, and analyzing atmospheric as well as accelerator generated neutrino beam data.
Princess Charlotte wasn’t the only baby delivery to be celebrated in 2015. In August, Stony Brook University Hospital honored Luca Michael Picarella, who was born at 8:09 am on August 17 weighing 8 lbs., 9 oz., and 20 ¾ inches in length, along with his parents Katie and Mike Picarella, and big sister Gianna. During the ceremony, Luca met Jeffrey Solomon, the first baby born at Stony Brook University Hospital on May 28, 1980.
New York Times reporter Jessica Bennett followed Dr. Michael Kimmel into the classroom; she attended the Stony Brook Masculinities Conference in NYC; and caught up with him at home. Her reporting culminated in a feature story in the Sunday Styles section, highlighting the first-ever master’s degree program in “masculinities studies.” The founder of the Center for Men and Masculinities, presents classes in men’s studies, the academic pursuit of what it is to be male in today’s world. The article generated robust social engagement, a dialogue which continued for months following publication.
By using dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, Stony Brook Medicine researchers discovered that lateral, or side sleeping, effectively clears waste from the brain. These wastes are solutes that can build up within the brain and are known contributors to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases. The news went global leading billions reading to wonder if sleeping on one’s side will help keep our brains healthy. A glimpse of the buzz was captured in this Storify.
Capital Construction Projects Mark University Growth
New high tech academic, research and healthcare facilities that opened or reached major milestones this year include the 70,000 square-foot Computer Science building, the 6,000 square-foot Institute for Advanced Computational Science, and in July, during a “topping off” ceremony, the construction team working on Stony Brook Children’s Hospital installed the final steel beam needed to complete the building framework on the Stony Brook Medicine campus.
In June, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD announced that Stony Brook would join the UN Women’s HeForShe solidarity movement, which aims to mobilize one billion men and boys in support of gender equality. As an IMPACT 10x10x10 champion Stony Brook is one of 10 universities around the world committed to take bold game-changing action to achieve gender equality within and beyond their institutions.
More than three billion people took notice when, for the first time, scientists uncovered that the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish can reproduce without sex in the wild. The process, called parthenogenesis, or “virgin birth,” is believed to happen because smalltooth sawfish are so rare that females might sometimes fail to find a male during mating season. It was reported by more than 260 media outlets and 7,800+ were buzzing about it on social media.
A Stony Brook researcher proves that dinosaurs were likely warm-blooded creatures, not cold-blooded or somewhere in between. By re-assessing massive research previously published in Science, it was discovered that dinosaurs grew as fast as the average living mammal. Nearly 280 media outlets worldwide covered the news, and the buzz continued with nearly 1,700 shares on social media channels.
Six-time GRAMMY® Award winner, Billy Joel, received an honorary Doctor of Music degree at the spring 2015 commencement ceremony. The Piano Man, and now Seawolf, joins approximately 150,000 Stony Brook alumni around the globe and received media attention from over 180 publications worldwide.
With nearly 600 media placements, one billion+ potential readers and 4,800 social media posts, this discovery was heard around the globe. The stone tools were found by a team led by Sonia Harmand and Jason Lewis, at a site named Lomekwi 3 on the western shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. The tools date back to 3.3 million years ago, shedding light on an unexpected and previously unknown period of hominin behavior, disproving the long-standing assumption that Homo habilis was the first tool maker. A glimpse of this discovery, and the coverage it received, can be viewed in this Storify.
Seawolves’ basketball star Jameel Warney records most double-doubles in the NCAA, beating out nearly 5,200 players. He led Division I with 24 double-doubles, including a career-best consecutive six to end 2014-15.
Two years after he was attacked by chimpanzees while playing in his native Congo, 8-year-old Dunia Sibomana is undergoing facial reconstruction at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. The procedure, which aims to restore both lips and repair his face, is so rare it will be documented for a medical journal. The story was reported by Newsday in December, and the first surgery took place on January 11.
About Stony Brook University
Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. Since welcoming its first incoming class in 1957, the University has grown tremendously, now with more than 25,000 students and 2,500 faculty. Its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 100 universities in the nation and top 40 public universities, and Kiplinger names it one of the 35 best values in public colleges. One of four UniversityCenter campuses in the SUNY system, Stony Brook co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, putting it in an elite group of universities that run federal research and development laboratories. A global ranking by U.S. News & World Report places Stony Brook in the top 1 percent of institutions worldwide. It is one of only 10 universities nationwide recognized by the National Science Foundation for combining research with undergraduate education. As the largest single-site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook is a driving force of the regional economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.
Reporter Contact: Alida Almonte
631-632-6310; Twitter @sbunewsdesk