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August 1, 2006

NASA/DoD Student Research Day at CCNY Showcases High School and Middle School Students

Astronaut and Renowned Physicist to Speak

NEW YORK, August 1, 2006 – Astronaut Mario Runco, Jr. and world-renowned physicist Michio Kaku will be the keynote speakers at a special NASA/DoD Student Research Day at City College that will showcase the research accomplishments of high school and middle school students. 

NASA/DoD Student Research Day at CCNY will be held on Friday, August 4, 2006, starting at 1:30 PM in The Great Hall of the College’s Shepard Hall, 138th Street and Convent Avenue.  Some 450 high school and middle school students who have benefited from enrichment programs at other City University colleges will also attend the event.

The students are enrolled in CCNY’s NASA/DoD Summer Research Program, a six to eight week program organized and co-sponsored by CCNY’s NASA University Research Center for Optical Sensing and Imaging (COSI), and the Department of Defense Center for Nano-Photonics (CNP).  The event will feature oral and poster presentations by students about their research projects.  It is part of outreach education efforts by the NASA and DoD Centers at CCNY to motivate youngsters to become the scientists of tomorrow.

NASA astronaut Runco is a 1974 graduate of CCNY, while Dr. Kaku holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in Theoretical Physics at CCNY, where he has taught for over 25 years. 

The NASA/DoD Summer Research Program at City College offers high school and middle school students an intensive, hands-on science and engineering research experience, including mentoring by CCNY faculty.  Students attend orientation sessions, participate in workshops and deliver oral and poster presentations about their research to students in similar programs from other college campuses.  CCNY faculty mentors offer guidance for the students’ research projects and involve them in their own ongoing research, providing a mix of hands-on and theoretical experience.  Students receive first-hand knowledge and encouragement concerning possible careers in the sciences, engineering, mathematics and technology.  For the past three summers the NASA-COSI and DoD-CNP Centers have jointly organized this special program, which accepts 21 students from a large number of applicants. 

Dr. Robert R. Alfano, Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering at CCNY, played a leading role in organizing the Summer Research Program and will deliver opening remarks.  Professor Alfano expressed his “deep appreciation to NASA and the Department of Defense for their strong support.”

Professor Charles Watkins of CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering will preside during Student Research Day.  Dr. Manuel Zevallos, the Technical and Administrative Coordinator of NASA-COSI, helped organize the summer program, with the assistance of Dr. Taposh Gayen, the DoD Technical Coordinator, and Mr. Daniel Moy of CCNY’s Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers.  Dr. Peter Gross of Riverdale Country School, and Ms. Charlene Chan-Lee of the Manhattan Center for Science and Math, have served as supervisors and instructors, and also offer guidance to students.

NASA-COSI is supported by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  It develops enabling optical technologies, laser instrumentation, and methods for sensing and imaging the earth and its environment.  The DoD-CNP, supported by a Department of Defense grant, seeks to merge and combine photonics and nanotechnology to keep the U.S. at the forefront of these important fields.  Both programs also recruit and train underrepresented minority students and encourage them to enter the sciences and engineering. 

Some students enrolled in the NASA/DoD Summer Research Program also participate in research programs offered by NASA-COSI, DoD-CNP, the New York City Research Initiative of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University, and the Harlem Children’s Society.  In addition, NASA-COSI offers a Pilot Program in which high school students work in CCNY labs during the academic year on a flexible schedule.  Some of these students are also enrolled in the Summer Research Program.

Biographical information about Astronaut Runco and Professor Kaku follows:

NASA Astronaut Mario Runco, Jr.

A veteran of three Space Shuttle flights (1991, 1993, and 1996), Astronaut Runco logged over 551 hours in space, including a 4.5 hour spacewalk.  Born in the Bronx, he received his B.S. in Earth and Planetary Science from City College in 1974, an M.S. in Atmospheric Physics from Rutgers University in 1976, and an honorary doctor of science degree from CCNY in 1999.

After graduating from Rutgers he worked as a research hydrologist conducting ground water surveys for the U.S. Geological Survey on Long Island.  In 1977, he joined the New Jersey State Police and worked as a State Trooper until he entered the Navy in 1978.  Upon completion of Navy Officer Candidate School in September 1978, he was assigned to the Naval Research Lab in Monterey, California, as a research meteorologist. From 1981 to 1983, he served as the Meteorological Officer aboard the Amphibious Assault Ship USS NASSAU. From January 1984 to December 1985, he was a laboratory instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. During 1985-86 he was Commanding Officer of Oceanographic Unit 4 and the Naval Survey Vessel USNS CHAUVENET, conducting hydrographic and oceanographic surveys of the Java Sea and Indian Ocean. He was Fleet Environmental Services Officer, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, prior to joining NASA in 1987.  He remained on active duty as a NASA astronaut until 1994.

Astronaut Runco’s honors include the Defense Superior Service, Defense Meritorious Service, NASA Exceptional Service, and Navy Achievement Medals; as well as three NASA Space Flight Medals, two Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, and the Navy Battle Efficiency Ribbon.  In 1993 Astronaut Runco was awarded the Townsend Harris Medal by the CCNY Alumni Association for outstanding postgraduate achievement.  A member of CCNY’s intercollegiate ice hockey team, he received the College’s Class of 1938 Athletic Service Award as an undergraduate.

Professor Michio Kaku

A theoretical physicist and co-creator of string field theory, a branch of string theory, Dr. Kaku received a B.S. (summa cum laude) from Harvard University in 1968, where he placed first in his physics class. He went on to the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley and received a Ph.D. in 1972. In 1973 he held a lectureship at Princeton University.

Dr. Kaku holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics at City College, where he has taught for more than 25 years. Presently, he is engaged in working on Einstein's "Theory of Everything," seeking to unify the four fundamental forces of the universe: the strong force, the weak force, gravity and electromagnetism.  He has also been a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and at New York University.

Dr. Kaku is the author of several Ph.D.-level textbooks and more than 70 articles in physics journals on topics such as superstring theory, supergravity, supersymmetry, and hadronic physics. He is also the author of popular science books, including the best-sellers Beyond Einstein, Visions, Hyperspace, and Parallel Worlds.  He hosts a weekly syndicated radio program, "Explorations," a production of station WBAI-FM in New York City, heard on Pacifica stations, community and independent radio stations and the world-wide web.  “Explorations” deals with the general topics of science, war, peace and the environment.  In April, 2006, Dr. Kaku started broadcasting “Science Fantastic,” which focuses on the future of science, on 90 commercial radio stations.  The only nationally syndicated science program on commercial radio, the program airs from 5 PM to 8 PM on Saturdays, and takes listener phone calls. Guests have included Nobel Laureates as well as top researchers in areas such as string theory, time travel, black holes, gene therapy, aging, space travel, artificial intelligence, SETI, and futurology.
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