A Case for Swallowing Your Tech
NYU Abu Dhabi / Tandon School of Engineering
Khalil Ramadi believes in going with the gut when developing revolutionary treatments for neurological, endocrine, and immune disorders. That’s because the GI tract interfaces heavily with the outside world via enteroendocrine cells, immune cells, and neurons galore. Along with his colleagues, Ramadi, director of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Laboratory for Advanced Neuroengineering and Translational Medicine and an assistant professor of bioengineering at both NYUAD and the Tandon School of Engineering, developed micro devices that are swallowed. Inside are electronics that send tiny bursts of electrical or chemical stimuli (what Ramadi calls bionudges) to gastrointestinal neurons. The hope is that these impulses will positively affect brain circuits and blood hormone levels and could one day be used to treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or obesity noninvasively and without drugs—“no drill, no surgery, no hospital stay,” Ramadi said during his recent TED Talk. “This is how medicine should be.”
—Dulcy Israel • Illustration by John Tomac
A Creative Pandemic Pod
Tisch School of the Arts
When COVID-19 forced everyone into a kind of solitary confinement, 10 Tisch School of the Arts musical theater writing students rushed to reverse the unraveling of their tight-knit community. They rented a partially disused town house in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. They formed what they termed a quaranteam and escaped the pandemic’s crushing isolation through group dinners, game nights, sing-alongs, and even meetings about recycling. And they produced art—lots of it (plays, musicals, a podcast). “Things get really niche really quickly,” says Sam Norman (TSOA ’21). “We had a group screening of The Music Man a couple of weeks ago. One of us will sing a line from a musical and nine voices will immediately join in on the next line.” And they also quote each other’s work. Says Norman: “It would be really obnoxious for anyone else, which is maybe why having so many musical theater people living together works.”
—Dulcy Israel • Reporting by Sarah Binney
Shanghai’s fifth-tallest building, the 65-story Sinar Mas Plaza, boasts the city’s largest digital display. This 350-yard façade typically showcases ads, but on evenings between December 2020 and May 2021, it was enlivened with original digital animations created by NYU Shanghai students in associate art professor Stavros Didakis’s Media Architecture course. An estimated (and impressive!) 826,000 people saw the students’ cutting-edge creativity in action daily.
During active duty, military personnel receive routine dental care. After they leave service, however, only about 8 percent of the 9 million veterans enrolled in the VA health care system are eligible for ongoing dental care through the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Stepping up to help the 92 percent of this vulnerable population not covered by the VA is the College of Dentistry. NYU was selected by the VA to operate a new pilot program in the New York City metro area, in partnership with the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System. The program, named the Veterans Oral Care Access Resource, or VOCARE, kicked off on July 1 and is expected to facilitate up to 5,000 patient visits within its first year. The ultimate goal is to accommodate between 6,000 and 7,500 patient visits in the years to come.
The Internet’s Carbon Footprint
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
There is a vast underwater fiber-optic cable network that allows people on different continents to swap emails in mere seconds. But what toll does this submerged high-tech system take on the environment? Nicole Starosielski, associate professor of media, culture, and communication at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, has set out to answer this question as part of a global group of engineers, network operators, scientists, lawyers, and humanities and social science researchers. Armed with a grant from the Internet Society Foundation, the team is tracking carbon emissions and collecting energy-use data across the six continents that these subsea cables connect. The goal is to devise a new metric and method for assessing power use. By documenting best practices from around the world, Starosielski says, “we will be able to offer recommendations to make the internet more environmentally friendly.”
—Dulcy Israel • Illustration by Matt Chase
A vast underwater fiber-optic cable network allows people on different continents to swap emails in mere seconds.
When Ideas Need Allies
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
In the simplest terms, upward voicing is when a junior employee communicates directly with a more senior coworker. So if someone who is upward voicing sees their idea shot down or ignored by the boss, can it ever be resurrected? Perhaps, with a little help from colleagues, it seems. Patricia Satterstrom, assistant professor of public service at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, examined this phenomenon with colleagues at Harvard and Yale. They wanted to learn the most effective ways for teams to support new ideas, regardless of the idea generator’s position within the company. The researchers found that most of the initially rejected ideas were indeed DOA, but 24 percent were revived and eventually implemented through a collective social process called voice cultivation. This occurred by amplifying, wherein colleagues revived an idea by publicly recalling it later; developing, where peers acknowledged the idea or asked for clarification; issue-raising, which promoted the generation of alternatives because another employee pointed out the idea’s weaknesses; exemplifying, which involved someone taking the initiative to demonstrate the idea’s viability; and legitimizing, which entailed a team member publicly vouching for the merits of an idea. Not surprisingly, the originator didn’t always get credit for their bright idea, especially when it was a woman.
School of Professional Studies’ New Dean
School of Professional Studies
Angie Kamath became dean of SPS on July 1. She holds a bachelor of science in business management and applied economics from Cornell as well as a master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School. A passionate advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equitable outcomes across industries, she also served as university dean for continuing ed and workforce development at the City University of New York.
—Dulcy Israel • Illustration by Johnalynn Holland
A True Field Trip
New York City is famous for its skyscrapers, but it’s also home to more parkland space than any other metropolis in the nation. Liberal Studies assistant clinical professor Leo Douglas takes full advantage of this fact with his course Birds, Biodiversity, and the City. One of the outings is to Central Park’s North Woods, 40 acres comprising large rock outcrops, cascades, trees, and serpentine paths that sit mid-park between 101st and 110th Streets.
With binoculars in hand, the group identifies bird species—including (illustrated above, top to bottom) the black-and-white warbler, the rose-breasted grosbeak, and the red-bellied woodpecker—on their migratory routes between the upper regions of North America and the southern United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. The fall 2019 class was treated to the drama of a cooper’s hawk devouring a chipmunk. Douglas is an unabashed ornithophile. “I have been a nature lover and bird watcher all my life,” he says, a statement backed up by his bona fides: he’s the former president of BirdsCaribbean, an NGO focusing on wildlife conservation in the region, and was a visiting scientist at the American Museum of Natural History.
—Dulcy Israel • Reporting by Sarah Kader • Illustration by Bob Venable
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
Ninety percent of wannabe laws introduced in the US Congress die in committee. Why do some ideas make it through both the House and Senate, while others don’t? Clinical assistant professor of computer science Anasse Bari and his colleagues at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences are working to reduce the guesswork.
They developed an artificial intelligence tool that assesses the likelihood of a bill passing both legislative bodies. By examining more than 30,000 bills, the researchers designed a set of predictive analytics algorithms that foretold a bill’s success in both houses of Congress with an astounding 80 percent accuracy. “While this is only a preliminary finding, it marks a notable step in using AI to illuminate the legislative process through data,” Bari says. The tool revealed one determining factor that legislators might want to consider when introducing a bill: the bills were most likely to pass in the three months preceding Congress’s recess in August.
—Dulcy Israel • Composite by Nathaniel Kilcer featuring the Schoolhouse Rock! character “Bill” created by Phil Kimmelman
Turning Tragedy Into Improved Workplace Safety
School of Global Public Health
The School of Global Public Health’s Robyn Gershon has made a career out of leaving as little to chance as possible. In the wake of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, the clinical professor of epidemiology surveyed survivors to understand the individual, environmental, and organizational factors that influenced their behavior and ability to evacuate. The study’s findings have informed the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry and led to the first updating of New York City’s high-rise fire safety codes in more than three decades. Preparedness—such as familiarity with the building’s layout and stairwells, signage, workplace training, and drills—was key. Those who were better prepared experienced less stress, anxiety, flashbacks, and other mental health issues, while people with disabilities or health conditions were more likely to be injured and suffer from PTSD and depression. Gershon and her colleagues are now examining the emotional and physical toll that COVID-19 has taken on New York City’s bus and subway employees, who reported to work throughout the pandemic, even before a vaccine was available. The goal is to collaborate with the MTA, unions, federal and city agencies, and other organizations to identify and implement effective infection-prevention strategies that reduce risk to these and other essential workers.
—Dulcy Israel • Reporting by Rachel Harrison
A Mournful Milestone
Since they topped out, in construction lingo, in 1970 and 1971, respectively, 1 and 2 World Trade Center were easily spied from Washington Square Park, the symbolic heart of this university’s Greenwich Village campus. It was there that, on the morning of September 11, 2001, when two hijacked passenger planes flew into the Twin Towers, Violets and locals gathered and watched in horror as the iconic structures first burned and then collapsed, passing into history in a mere 102 minutes. It remains the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil.
Some of our community members lost loved ones. Six downtown residence halls had to be evacuated, with many of the more than 2,000 displaced students temporarily housed in the Coles Sports Center. In keeping with city guidance to curtail activities below 14th Street, classes were canceled to allow first responders to do their heroic work unimpeded. In a message to NYU on the evening of that surreal day, this institution’s leadership wrote: “It is hard to capture this tragedy—this crime—in words, but we will say this: if New York City is known for anything, it is known for its determination, its courage, and endurance. We share more than a name with this city—we share its characteristics and its virtues.” Our colleagues at NYU News invited alumni, faculty, administrators, staff, and others who were on campus that day to share their memories from that morning and the attack’s aftermath. Read their moving accounts at nyu.edu/nyuam/sept11.
Photo by Stephen Hiltner