Our NYU: October 2018
A Note from President Hamilton
Over the years, I have come to the rather brutal realization that not everybody is as interested in chemistry as I am. Even my wife, Jennie, who is a chemist by training herself, would wonder how I could easily lose myself for hours in the laboratory chipping away at my research, hoping to understand that puzzling result or finish the final draft of a key paper or grant proposal.
What is it that drives us obsessed scientists (and, I suspect, obsessed social scientists and artists)? I believe it’s the allure of being able to contribute something new and unique to the world, and for that contribution to have a positive effect on humankind. No doubt it is a lofty goal, and our work in furthering it requires tremendous focus and fortitude. It is also typically unglamourous as we mostly toil away in obscurity.
So it was indeed a proud day for all of us NYU "toilers" when our own economist Paul Romer was recognized for his outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of economics. Paul received the Nobel Prize in recognition of research that he had published decades ago. That research recognized and quantified the impact of innovative ideas on economic growth, giving economists new tools for measurement and, along the way, illustrating how government policies can advance or hinder innovation.
At universities, ideas are our business. We take those ideas and form hypotheses and then test them, rejecting those that don’t pan out and accepting those that do, with the aim of producing knowledge that others can build upon. There are countless examples of groundbreaking and life-changing research among my colleagues’ work in all disciplines at NYU. Whether it’s Steinhardt, Wagner, and Langone scientists studying how the environment influences children’s health, faculty at Global Public Health unearthing evidence-based solutions to tackle the opioid crisis, scientists at Abu Dhabi discovering alternatives for rainforest-destroying palm oil, or FAS psychologists unearthing cultural stereotypes that serve to undermine the advancement of women—the work our faculty, post-docs, and students are doing every day at NYU will likely be critical to the advancement of our global society decades or even hundreds of years from now.
Just taking a moment to ponder this fact is both exhilarating and humbling. Hopefully, it will inspire us all to continue to persevere in doing work that is a source of personal pride, despite the fact that we may not have received the Nobel prize—yet!
What could be more important to future generations than learning how to plan for and mitigate the effects of global warming? Researchers at Courant, together with scientists from NYU Abu Dhabi, use mathematical modeling coupled with scientific observations to predict the speed and effects of the sea level rise from calving icebergs.
The surge in opiate use has led to growing problems, like the spread of infectious disease from injection drug use. Researchers at the College of Global Public Health recently convened a round table to discuss what evidence-based solutions are available, including medication-assisted treatment and safe injection sites.
How environmental factors in childhood affect the health and development of children and adolescents is the focus of a longitudinal study by researchers from Steinhardt, Wagner, and the School of Medicine. The project received a $66 million grant from the NIH this year.
Beyond the Nobel Prize, another indicator of the excellence of our research operations here at NYU is the explosive growth in support for our research. The growth in grant funding received by NYU faculty has outpaced our colleagues at peer universities by more than seven times, according to the most recent data from the National Science Foundation.
Just last week, at a tour of the Tandon MakerSpace, I was treated to a display of top-notch student research—much of it conducted by undergraduates—including this drone designed to help the Coast Guard locate ship passengers who have gone overboard, speeding time to rescue and reducing fatalities.
And finally, in order to understand ourselves, we must of course study where we came from. That’s the focus of our Institute for the Study of the Ancient World uptown. Its new Devotion and Decadence show, which includes 90 pieces of Ancient Roman silver unearthed in 19th-century Normandy, is not to be missed!