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Seeing the Light: Harpur Professor Studies Photochemistry

Harpur College's Alistair Lees spends much of his research time hoping to see the light. Using tools that improve by several orders of magnitude on the accuracy of microscopes and stopwatches, Lees is working at the molecular level to explore the effects of light on chemical systems.  The field is called photochemistry, and Lees efforts could help to find new and cheaper ways to produce gasoline, make the environment cleaner and safer, and enhance the quality of microcircuitry and any equipment that relies on it.

Shining light on matters: Alistair Lees works with a photochemical lamp.

While most chemists work with molecules in their ground or normal states, Lees has spent the past two decades working with molecules in their "excited" state, a state attained when molecules absorb light. Known as "second chemistry," the chemical reactions that occur during these excited states are incredibly fast-typically about one tenth of one quadrillionth of a second. To be studied, they must be slowed down or in some other way inhibited, and Lees has developed a unique approach.

Excited state molecules generally emit light, give off heat, or break apart into fragments as they return to the ground state. Relying on this, many chemists-- like forensic experts who determine the nature of an explosion by studying resulting debris-- use a technique called matrix isolation to study the fragments produced immediately after a molecule emits light. 

Lees has instead synthesized whole new molecules that do not fragment in their excited states.  When cooled, Lees' creations remain intact and display luminescence, giving him an unprecedented chance to study the second chemistry involved. This approach has opened the door to the development of several promising applications.

Working with about $1.2 million dollars from the Department of Energy and the American Chemical Society, Lees is studying hydrocarbon activation, particularly how some new rhodium and iridium chemical compounds act as catalysts to break apart the bonds of methane (model pictured right). The reaction suggests the possibility that the small methane molecule could be built up to the size of the larger oil molecule. Methane, or natural gas, usually does not react with other compounds but because it is both abundant and recyclable, it is an attractive alternative to oil. Lees preliminary research indicates it might someday be able to replace oil in the production of many fuels as well as a host of other products including plastics and pharmaceuticals.

Lees' research is also likely to help manufacturers of a wide range of products.  Supported by a $350,000 grant from IBM, Lees is incorporating some of his light-emitting molecules into adhesive polymers.  As the adhesive sets, its luminescence changes from red to orange to yellow, signaling appropriate curing and an optimal bond.  The microelectronics industry is keenly interested in this research.  If adhesives aren't completely set during the assembly process, machines fail, parts break, and production costs soar. The aerospace and motor industries are also interested, Lees said. "Clearly, it's important, when you're riding in a car or a plane that it not fall apart."

He is also working on photoinitiators.  "We found that some of our organometallic compounds actually initiate polymerizations reactions when exposed to light," he said.  With about a quarter of a million dollars in support from General Electric and IBM,  Lees is now collaborating with the two companies to learn more about how this technique could be used to enhance microcircuitry production. 

Another "exciting" application of Lees work is likely to stem from the arena known as supramolecular chemistry. Lees is finding ways to insert luminescent compounds into the cavities of  some large molecules.  Because the luminescence of such molecules changes substantially in reaction to their environment, some make excellent sensors.  Recently, Lees and his team found a compound that is a good sensor for cyanide. Others, he said, are sensitive to hydrocarbon vapors, which may help detect pollutants, another important application in today's industrial world.

co-written by Susan Barker


Dean Mileur Speaks to Emeriti and Senior Faculty and Alumni Founders

Dean Mileur spoke about Harpur College's mission to preserve a top-quality, accessible education during difficult financial times.

To a packed crowd of retired professors, senior faculty and "Founders" (alumni who graduated from Triple Cities College and Harpur College between 1948 and 1961), Dean Mileur presented "Harpur College: the Challenge of Maintaining Quality During Fiscally Difficult Times."

Emeriti and Senior Faculty and Founders enjoyed lunch and a presentation by Dean Mileur. Click here for photos

Mileur explained how the mission of public higher education has been expanded to include new initiatives such as urban renewal and technology.

"Public universities have always been about the democratization of the elite," Mileur said, meaning that Harpur College makes a top quality, Ivy League-level education available to the public.

He also stressed how much research has expanded at Binghamton University and the importance of its payoff. "Our faculty research finds itself back in the classroom," he said, referring to how our professors teach the students what they themselves learned in the laboratories.

Mileur said humanities at Harpur College also continue to grow, as employers more often realize its value. "Liberal arts students are in high demand in the business world because of their communication and analytical skills," he said. "I feel exhilarated that we've accomplished so much."


Harpur's Sadik Explains Sensor Research at Dean's Lecture

"I think it's a great honor and thank Dean Mileur for the opportunity to give the local community the chance to experience the efforts and products of research at Binghamton University," said Sadik following the lecture.

Imagine a wristwatch-sized sensor that can detect, classify and provide warning against a broad range of chemical and biochemical threats in air and water, or chemical sensors that can help distinguish good troops from the enemy, so as to cut back on "friendly fire."  Or consider a DNA biosensor that can detect specific mutations in tumor cells with the goal of early detection and control of tumors before they spread all over the body.

Omowunmi A. Sadik, associate professor of chemistry, is leading the way in developing this technology right here at Harpur College.  At the Dean's Distinguished Lecture on Wednesday, October 22, she presented "Intelligent Chemical and Biological Sensors: From Cancer Detection to Bioterrorism Applications" in Casadesus Recital Hall at 2:00 p.m.

Sadik showed pictures and explained her patented innovations in chemical and biosensors technologies and how they detect the presence and/or quantity of organic vapors, toxins, metals, nucleic acids and proteins. 

As our country deals with increasing threats from chemical and biological weapons (CBW) from terrorist organizations, scientists and government agencies are interested in tools that can be used to detect and effectively combat biochemical warfare agents.  Also, incidents of anthrax contamination following the 9/11 tragedies have increased awareness that CBW's may be cheap alternative weapons of mass destruction because they can effectively attack large populations while leaving infrastructures intact.

Through a combination of new immobilization chemistry and miniaturization techniques, Sadik's sensors are fast and highly sensitive.  The ability to manipulate the recognition, differentiation, assembly, and performance of these "molecular machines" will perhaps be a giant leap in biomolecular communications. 

Sadik earned a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1994 from the University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, and M.S. and B.S. degrees, also in chemistry, in 1987 and 1985 respectively, from the University of Lagos, Nigeria.  She is currently a visiting professor and distinguished fellow of the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. Sadik has published over 200 scientific articles, co-edited an American Chemical Society book on environmental chemical and biological sensors, and has seven patents/pending applications.  She has lectured extensively around the world and is actively engaged in collaborative research with several industrial partners including Procter & Gamble, AromaScan, Inc., and Daikin Corporation.  Sadik has received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research, the Chancellor's Outstanding Inventor Award, and the American Chemical Society Recognition for encouraging and mentoring women and underrepresented minorities in the field of chemistry. She has been on the faculty of Harpur College since 1996.


Harpur College Faculty Research Awards Announced

Several Harpur College faculty recently won research awards from a variety of prestigious sources.

David Cingranelli, Department of Political Science, $11,565 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for "Doctoral Dissertation Research in Political Science: A Cross-National Study of Economic Globalization and Women's Rights Under Diverse Institutional and Cultural Contexts." Cingranelli also received $153,000 from the NSF for the study of human rights practices around the world.

Anne Clark, Department of Biological Sciences, $30,000 from the National Science Foundation for "SGER: Behavioral Factors in the Transmission of West Nile Virus in American Crows."

Anna Tan-Wilson, Department of Biological Sciences, $140,300 from the National Science Foundation for "Introduction of a Proteomics Laboratory Course Into the Undergraduate Biology Curriculum."

Salvador Fajardo, Department of Romance Languages, $100,196 from the National Endowment for Humanities for "Reading Don Quixote."

David Davies and Karin Sauer (pictured below), Department of Biological Sciences, $150,500 from the National Institutes for Health for "P. aeruginosa biofilm-specific proteins and regulators."

Karin Sauer, Department of Biological Sciences, $140,300 from the National Science Foundation for "Introduction of a Proteomics Laboratory Course Into the Undergraduate Biology Curriculum." She also received $45,409 from Allegheny-Singer Research Institute (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) for "Pneumococcal Biofilms in Otitis Meda."

Thomas Head, Department of Mathematics, $7,525 from the US Army Research Office for "Biomolecular Mathematics."

C.J. Zhong, Department of Chemistry, $80,000 from the National Science Foundation for "Bifunctional Gold-Platinum Nanoparticle Catalyst: Fabrication and Characterization."

Eric Cotts, Department of Physics, (photo left) Bruce Murray, Department of Mechanical Engineering (not in photo) and Eugene Stevens, Department of Chemistry, (photo right) $140,255 from the National Science Foundation for "Integration of Polymer/Plastics Technologies Across the Curriculum."

Susannah Gal, Dennis McGee and Steven P. Tammariello, Department of Biological Sciences, $288,346 from the National Science Foundation for "Acquisition of a Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope for Multidiscipline Research and Research Training."

Francis Wu, Department of Geological Sciences & Environmental Studies, $26,428 from the National Science Foundation for "SGER: An Exploratory Study of Surface Wave Dispersion in the Indian Ocean, Indian Subcontinent and Western China."


Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Alan Sherr `76

The old saying goes, "Step on a crack, break your mother's back."  But if Dr. Alan Sherr `76 (pictured right) is nearby, he and his colleagues at the Chiropractic & Wellness Education Center in Northport, NY will have mom back on her feet in no time at all. 

Tai Chi (top) and Reiki (bottom) are two of the services Sherr's facility, Chiropractic and Wellness Education Center, offers to clients.

A double major in biology and psychology at Harpur, Sherr went on to graduate from New York Chiropractic College in 1980. The same year, he founded Chiropractic & Wellness Services, a holistic health care center offering chiropractic care, acupuncture, psychological therapy, nutritional counseling, fitness training and massage.  Chiropractic & Wellness Services also offers classes in weight loss, yoga, Chi Gong, Tai Chi (both gentle movements and breathing techniques that increase energy), and Reiki (a form of healing).

Sherr Remembers his Harpur College Days

I remember my whole sense of Harpur College is that it felt like a small school.  I knew all my professors by their first names.  There were a few big lectures, but generally, all of my classes were small.  I had a wonderful experience there.

I remember Prof. [Emeritus] Norman Stillman and his late wife Yedida.  They helped begin the Jewish studies department and used to invite students to their house all the time.  My minor was Jewish studies and I studied for a semester at Haifa University in Israel right after the war in 1973. 

I used to eat at the Kosher Kitchen all the time.  We used to cook the food ourselves, along with the chef.  I met a whole group of people with whom I'm still in contact.

Prof. Norman Spear was a mentor of mine and I worked in his lab for more than 2 years.  He was a wonderful influence in my work in biopsychology.  I learned a lot about research techniques and he helped develop my passion for science. 

Sherr and his wife, Claudia, have two sons, Scott, 23 and Jerry, 21.

Once considered unconventional, alternative medicine is now so sought after and respected that medical schools and researchers are adding it to their array of traditional treatments.  While the term "wellness" was once leftover granola from the 1960's, today it is a regular concept in our nation's consciousness.  "What I do now is considered mainstream," Sherr said, "but 25 years ago it was revolutionary and odd."

"People see chiropractic medicine much differently today than they did 25 years ago," he said. "People misunderstand what they do versus their philosophy."   Sherr said the chiropractic model is not about treating symptoms, but helping patients achieve improved overall health.  "Our focus is to teach people to take responsibility for their own health care," he said. 

"People create a context for their care.  They're done with treatment when their pain goes away and they choose to no longer receive care.  Or they continue treatment to assist in maintaining their health.  It's not unlike someone going to the doctor for physicals.  They might go to the chiropractor to help maintain their overall health."

Sherr is the co-editor of Heart of the Healer, a 1986 collection of essays about the importance of patients' positive attitudes in healing.  The Publisher's Marketing Association awarded it the Benjamin Franklin Award for outstanding writing and design the year it went to press.

Sherr said his education at Harpur College laid the foundation for everything he knows today.  "I told my two children what they're learning in college are the tools they'll be using in life.  You don't realize that until you have enough experience in life to know that that's true."


Harpur College Dean's Advisory Council Members Return to Campus

Back row, left to right: Paul Turovsky 73, Alex Huppe' `69, Associate Dean Don Blake, Michael Najib `05, Andrew Sein `04, David Luden `04, Harpur College Dean Jean-Pierre Mileur. Front Row, left to right: Stacy Daniel `04, Charles Cobb, Professor and Chair of Anthropology, Michael Conlon, Associate Professor of English, Jim Bauer `68, Larry Schorr `75, Bill Atkin `69 and Andrew Quinn `04.

Harpur College Dean Jean-Pierre Mileur welcomed several of his Advisory Council members to campus for a business meeting and to meet with faculty members and students. The Council meets periodically with Dean Mileur to discuss issues of importance to the College and its mission of access and quality.

Council chair Paul Turovsky `73 and council members, Jim Bauer `68, Alex Huppe' `69, Larry Schorr `75 (M.A. `77), Bill Atkin `69 (M.S. `71), Neil Botwinoff `78 and members Rich Alpern `69 and Mitch Lieberman `80, who participated in the meeting via phone, discussed the challenges that Harpur College currently faces in these fiscally difficult times.

They were joined by Professor Charles Cobb, chair of Anthropology, one of many departments that has benefitted from the Harpur College Dean's Faculty Development Fund, Michael Conlon, associate professor of English, who spoke about the Binghamton Scholars Program, an honors program for students of exceptional merit, and Dean Blake, who spoke about the Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program, which encourages underrepresented minorities to engage in scientific research.

The Binghamton Scholars were Stacy Daniel `04, David Luden `04 and Andrew Quinn `04. Michael Nagib `05 represented the Bridges program and Andrew Sein `04 was a 2003 Harpur Law Council Public Interest Law Intern at the Federal Trade Commission - Region 2 in New York City.


Thousands Discover Harpur at Open Houses

More than 2,000 students eyeing a spot in Harpur College's class of 2008 and their families learned about Harpur College's academic programs, students, faculty, activities, and campus life at Binghamton University's "Bearcat Welcome Days" on October 19 and 25.

Each day began with school-wide information sessions throughout campus. "Harpur College teaches you to critically think, write well and become an expert in your field," Brian Hazlett, associate director of admissions, told a packed audience eager to learn more about Harpur College in the Anderson Center Concert Theater.

Don Blake, Harpur College's associate dean for academic affairs, gave a slide show depicting the Harpur College year from orientation to commencement. "The faculty, students and infrastructure are what make Harpur College such a great place to learn," said Blake. Anticipating parents' needs, he gave answers to what he said were the most frequently asked questions about Harpur College. (see below)

Michelle Walker `04 and Michael Mondazzi `05 gave campus tours.

BU is Mallory Prain's (pictured with her mom, Maureen) top choice.

Michelle Walker `04 and Michael Mondazzi `05 were among the tourguides leading families around campus throughout the day. Mondazzi said several prospective students asked about different majors and the differences among BU's five schools.

Mallory Prain and her parents traveled from Cornwall, NY to Open House. The future English major said this was her second visit to campus and that Dean Blake's presentation only confirmed for her that BU is her top choice school.

What do high school students (and their parents) want to know? Dean Blake Reveals the Top Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions About Harpur College:

  1. How do A.P. (Advance Placement), I.B. (International Baccalaureate) and Project Advance credits count towards my degree?
  2. A long line of prospective students waited to ask Dean Blake questions about Harpur College.

    What honors programs are available at Harpur?
  3. What tutoring or study support is available?
  4. How many large classes will I take (and how large are they)?
  5. Why are Harpur College courses 4 credits each?
  6. Can a student defer admission for a year?
  7. What services are available to help students find careers?
  8. Can students get the courses they need to graduate on time?
  9. Is Binghamton University becoming a private university?
  10. How are students academically advised?


Harpur Friends & Family

In response to your much-appreciated feedback, the Harpur Hotline has developed a regular feature of alumni news. Please send us anything you want: publications, promotions, marriages, babies, graduations, retirements, etc. Many thanks to everyone who shared their stories! Here's what some of your fellow Harpur alumni and friends are doing:

1952: Gail and Roderick Reeder returned to campus to attend Homecoming's Golden Anniversary Breakfast. He is retired from a long career in advertising and marketing at Binghamton's Channel 12 and Channel 40. Currently, he volunteers for Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), a local food pantry. The Reeders live in Binghamton and have 3 daughters.

1953: Ken and Harriet Franklin also enjoyed the Golden Anniversary Breakfast. After graduating from Harpur, Ken earned an MBA from Syracuse University. He is a former IBM employee and adjunct faculty member at Carnegie-Mellon University Business School. Ken helped found Arby's Restaurant chain and owns Franchise Developments, Inc., a consulting firm that designs and implements new franchises and advises existing ones. The Franklins have a son and a daughter.

1953: Harold Homyak came to Homecoming to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Harpur College. "The campus is different, but it's great to be back," he said, "It's very impressive after 50 years!" Homyak spent his career in Phoenix, AZ with General Electric (which eventually became Honeywell, and then Bull International) and retired in 1988. Homyak's wife, Mary (Popovich), passed away in 1997. He enjoys spending time with his son, David and grandson, Alex, age 11.

1971: William Luis (pictured in the Panama Canal) has published Lunes de Revolución: Literatura y cultura en los primeros años de la Revolución Cubana (Lunes de Revolución: Literature and Culture in the First Years of the Cuban Revolution). The book chronicles the 131 issue existance of Lunes de Revolución, the lliterary supplement of Revolución, which was the official newspaper of the 26 July Movement. Luis is the author and editor of several books, including Culture and Customs of Cuba and Dance Between Two Cultures: Latino-Caribbean Literature Written in the United States. He earned a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1980 and is Professor of Spanish at Vanderbilt University.

1978: Bruce Lerner, seen at Homecoming shopping in the bookstore for Harpur College gear, is an attorney at Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC in Washington, D.C. In 1982, he earned both his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's of Public Administration from Princeton University. Lerner and his wife live in Bethesda, MD.

1978: Paul Bernstein earned an M.A. in International Affairs at Columbia University 1981. He is now a national security consultant at SAIC. Bernstein returned to campus for Homecoming and enjoyed seeing how much the campus has changed."My freshman year, we were the first class in Johnson Hall in Dickinson," he recalled, "and my sophomore year, we were the first co-ed floor." Bernstein and his wife have a 14-year-old daughter and live in Vienna, VA.

1980: Mark Cohen has published his first book: Last Century of a Sephardic Community: The Jews of Monastir, 1839 - 1943. Click the book for more information. In an August 15, 2003 review, The Forward called Cohen's book "an important addition to the study of Sephardic Jews." Cohen earned an M.A. in English from Tufts University in 1982. He is a self-employed writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife, Danielle, have two daughters, Ilana, age 13 and Rebecca, age 10. Cohen would enjoy hearing from old friends at

1980: Owen Pell returned to campus to lecture on one of his areas of specialization, corporate litigation in Professor Steve Scalet's Markets, Ethics and Law class. A frequent participant in Scalet's class, Pell also sponsors the Pell Honors Seminar in Philosophy, Politics and Law. He is a partner at the law firm of White & Case in New York City where he resides with his wife, Pearl, and their two sons, Nathan and Adam.

1982: Julie Hauptman-Jacobs owns her own business as a writer and editor, specializing in the health care field. She writes, edits and project-manages feature articles, press releases, brochures, directories, newsletters, annual reports and web copy. Hauptman-Jacobs lives in New Jersey with her husband, 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

1982: "The Monstrous and the Human," small sculptures by Ronald Gonzalez, associate professor of at Harpur College, will be on display November 6 - December 7, 2003 at the Tower Fine Arts Gallery, 180 Holley Street, State University of New York at Brockport. Gonzalez will give a lecture at 3:00p.m. on November 6, followed by a reception in his honor from 4:00 - 6:00p.m. For more information, please call 585-395-5325. Pictured right: "Strings 2002," one of Gonzalez's works coming to the show.

1993: David Balan earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois in 2000. Since then, he has worked as a staff economist at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.

1998: After graduating from Harpur College, Andrew Plant earned Master's in Industrial Labor Relations from Cornell University in 2000. He now works in Human Resources at Verizon.

1998: Scott Garozzo and Tracy Grosman Garozzo `99 are pleased to announce the birth of Benjamin Andrew on September 5, 2003, measuring 7 lbs., 2 oz. and 19 1/2 inches long. Scott is a buyer at QVC and Tracy is a human resources manager at Morgan Stanley. The Garozzo family resides in Kennett Square, PA.

2002: Congratulations to Jennifer Dietrich and James Jenks (Watson `03) on their marriage! The Jenks were married in a casual, lakeside ceremony on September 27, 2003, followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii. Jennifer is a preschool teacher in Vestal and James works for IBM in Endicott. The Jenks live in Johnson City.

2003: Our recent grads are already making their mark in the world. Michael O'Connell has published his first book, While Federalism Slept, which argues against government aid to states and municipalities. He is currently pursuing a Master's in Public Administration at BU.


Shop Harpur Online

Harpur students Hye Jin Oh `05, Erica Weinstein `07 and Stephina Dansoh `06 kick back in Harpur gear.

Shop the campus bookstore from the comfort of your PC or Mac. Want to pick up a copy of the new Harpur history book The Cornerstone? Visit The Campus Bookstore.

For more Harpur College merchandise, such as hats, shirts and window stickers, contact the bookstore at 607-777-2745.


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