Our NYU: April 3, 2020
A Note from President Hamilton
I know you are all facing a relentless stream of COVID-related information, news, warnings, and directives—including those from me. This has been an extraordinary, challenging time. So I hesitated when writing this issue of Our NYU: Why add one more thing to read? But I decided to for two reasons: to maintain a connection and to continue routines in a time of upheaval.
I want to share with you some of the remarkable stories about how the NYU community is rising and responding to this moment. Among our students, faculty, researchers, healthcare professionals, administrators, and essential employees, there is ample evidence that our University has a unique and defining role to play in this moment of national, indeed global, crisis.
Our community is responding with innovation, ingenuity, generosity, and cooperation. Multiple NYU schools have stepped up to combat the shortage of equipment in New York, helping protect frontline doctors and nurses from the coronavirus. NYU Meyers, our College of Dentistry, the Tandon School of Engineering, and the Faculty of Arts and Science have donated more than 150,000 gloves, gowns, masks, and shields to local hospitals. Experts from Tandon Future Labs, Global Public Health, and NYU Langone Health have developed an effective, low-cost, quickly producible medical face shield that can be made with laser cutters (or even with scissors). They will begin manufacturing as many as 300,000 over the next week for hospitals in the metropolitan area. And they will share their design for free, so that it can be reproduced nationwide.
Adaptability and innovation don't only take the form of new inventions—sometimes they are changes in long-time practices. Our NYU Grossman School of Medicine is permitting eligible students in their final year of medical school to graduate early (their virtual graduation ceremony is today) so that they can join the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic.
I'm also amazed by the speed with which our researchers have dived into studying COVID-19. David Grier and Andy Hollingsworth in physics, and Kent Kirshenbaum from chemistry already have received an NSF grant to develop Grier's holographic analysis technology into a COVID-19 test that is accurate, fast, inexpensive, and fully automated. Biologist Elodie Ghedin, in collaboration with NYU Langone's Mark Mulligan and Mount Sinai, is conducting viral sequencing from patient samples to help track virus strains in NYC. And I'm proud to say that NYU chemical biologists—including some from my own lab—are working on developing and screening new classes of compounds to inhibit the entry into cells and spread of the COVID-19 virus.
And creativity hasn't been confined to external efforts; it's been applied to our academic mission just as fervently. The experiences at NYU Shanghai foretold what we would all eventually confront, so it's not a surprise that educational innovation began there, too. For example, Chen Wei in Shanghai figured out an effective way to teach piano via Zoom by arranging multiple cameras to show finger position while also delivering a lecture. Back in New York City, Steinhardt's Melissa Metrick rearranged her Introduction to Urban Agriculture class to encompass projects where students can grow plants from food scraps in their own kitchens or on fire escapes. A new Tisch Drama class—created, in part, by Rachel Friedman—allows students to act "with" one another in virtual reality using VR headsets. John Halpin in CAS has found ways to make a 400-person General Chemistry class—normally held at the Skirball Center—actually intimate by incorporating chat and real-time white board illustrations. And Yvonne Latty's Journalism class has been giving her students a vital experience by shifting the entire focus to live reporting on the pandemic. We have collected a number of these teaching stories on a page we are calling Zooming In.
I also want to mention those who are displaying admirable resiliency. The class of 2020, who will remain special to me, is the first cohort I welcomed as President of NYU. They, along with other graduating students, will be deprived of the company of their friends and classmates during the sunny spring days of their valedictory semester, and will not have the victory lap in Yankee Stadium they rightly expected this May (though we shall find another, later time to celebrate them). We should also keep in mind those in our community who are ill with COVID-19, and those with loved ones who are sick. And I am deeply thankful for the dedication of those employees who provide essential services and continue to travel to campus each day.
The COVID-19 pandemic will be a generation-defining event. It will shape us in much the same way that other major events have fashioned the outlook of earlier generations. No doubt, there are many uncertainties, hardships, anxieties, and irritations, but these experiences are part of what brings us together. We struggle together even if we are distanced, and that camaraderie allows us to overcome a challenge that is so large.
As we dwell in the eye of the COVID-19 storm, may we find some solace and hope in the bonds we have built, in the ongoing strength of our connections—both in our community at NYU and beyond. This is a time when the complexities of our lives are coming into sharp relief, as we are not only students, scholars, and colleagues, but children, parents, partners, friends, grandparents, and grandchildren. As you attend to these roles with equal commitment, be safe and be well.
You are all in my thoughts.
As I mentioned above, the speed and dedication with which the NYU community—from New York to Abu Dhabi to Shanghai—has been working to provide care, produce supplies, and devise new strategies to keep COVID-19 in check is truly remarkable. We have been following some of those efforts with an ongoing feature, On the Frontline, about University colleagues stepping up to confront the global crisis.
I can’t say enough about how grateful and proud I am of the healthcare workers at NYU Langone who are working tirelessly to serve COVID-19 patients in the New York City area. Langone Health also partnered with Sirius XM’s Doctor Radio to launch a podcast series, Coronavirus, Everything You Need to Know, available at no cost on Pandora. (Above, host Dr. Marc Siegel.)
The Law School received some great news amid the wave of headlines recently. New York State bar limitations on remote learning could have rendered our JD and LLM students ineligible for the state’s bar exam, but we petitioned the New York State Court of Appeals to waive those restrictions given the circumstances, and our request was granted.
The NYU Shanghai community has been adapting admirably to the coronavirus outbreak since January, a month after it first appeared in China. To help with public health habits, Interactive Media Arts majors Gao Xinyi '21 and Bi Yanran '21 recently released downloadable GIFs promoting the importance of handwashing and wearing a mask.
Even with the rapid COVID-19 changes, many aspects of NYU life carry on. We recently sent acceptance letters to over 13,000 prospective students who show tremendous talent and promise. It’s an extremely strong class—our most selective yet—and I look forward to welcoming them this fall.