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Picture in Edna's OfficeProfessor
Besides her research she loves to collect Latin American and Caribbean art and popular crafts. She loves antique books about Latin America and the Caribbean, especially those published right after the Spanish-Cuban-American War of 1898, when Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam became US territories. She also likes the fact that as a result of her research projects she gets to travel a lot!
Day in the Life

Distinguished Professors:


Edna Acosta-Belén

Catherina Somai

Written and Photos by Catherina Somai, Freshman

Edna Acosta-BelénSpending a day with Distinguished Professor Edna Acosta-Belén was an amazing opportunity for me. She is the chair of her department (Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies), a teacher of the LCS 400/500 Interdisciplinary Research Seminar in Latin America, the Caribbean, and U.S. Latinos, the author of numerous books and is involved in many research projects. How does she manage to do all of this? I shadowed her for a day to find out.

After checking emails Professor Acosta-Belén met with the department's Office Administrator Ms. Librada Pimentel to discuss content and select artwork for the display that will be used at the University's undergraduate academic fair and open houses.

Edna with Carmen CaamañoShe then met with her graduate assistant and doctoral student, Ms. Carmen Caamaño, to discuss the progress of her dissertation on "Costa Rican Migrant Solidarity Networks." Carmen described some of the experiences from her interviews in Bound Brook, New Jersey where many Costa Ricans now live. During her research she also took a trip and interviewed families in the towns of Los Santos and Perez Zeledon where the migrants came from.

Edna with Jamie VarrialeShe met with graduate student Jamie Varriale to discuss her research paper on the topic of U.S. Latino musicians in rock bands and how issues of ethnicity, race, and marketing influence their participation in this particular genre. Professor Acosta-Belén gave Jamie advice on good sources that will help support her research.

Edna with Xenobia Barrow and David MiljonerNext a meeting with graduate students Xenobia Barrow and David Miljoner who are co-teaching the course LCS 100 Cultures of Latin America this semester. She gave them some feedback on a recent classroom visitation and they discussed strategies to get the students more engaged in discussions after PowerPoint presentations are made.

Edna with Dr. Christine BoseShe met with the LACS faculty to discuss a draft of the department's Compact Planning and then met with Karen Ferrer-Muniz to discuss her research paper on Latino Leaders. Afterwards she sat down with Dr. Christine Bose, Chair of the Women's Studies Department to discuss some joint initiatives in the area of Gender and Globalization Studies.

She met with Jessica Caicedo, and undergraduate from UAlbany's Latino student organization, Fuerza Latina. Jessica wants to organize a seminar to educate students about an assassination of a pro-independence militant which took place recently in Professor Acosta-Belen's hometown in Puerto Rico. She gave Jessica suggestions for some good guest speakers for seminar.

Edna Acosta-BelénAfter her meetings, I finally had the chance to sit and talk with Professor Acosta-Belén about herself. She grew up in Puerto Rico where she was an honor student at the University of Puerto Rico. She then transferred to the University at Albany where she received her B.A. degree.  She completed her doctoral degree at Columbia University and began teaching here in the early '70's. She is pleased to see the way her department has developed and feels happy that she has also helped to bring many more minority (especially Hispanic) students and faculty to the University.

Being a distinguished professor is an honor to Professor Acosta-Belén: "I think it is an important recognition of some of the pioneering work that I and many other people have done to document different aspects of the previously neglected history and contributions of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos and Latinas to US society."

Related Links:
Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies
Center for Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies (CELAC)
Women's Studies Department
Fuerza Latina

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Helmut Hirsch

Laura Kilkenny

Written and Photos by Laura Kilkenny, Freshman

What's a typical day in the life of a University at Albany professor? Inquisitive freshman and intrepid work-study student, Laura, undertook the challenge to shadow one of her own professors -- Helmut Hirsch, a Distinguished Teaching Professor who has taught at UAlbany for over 30 years. Here's his day:

 Professor Hirsch in his office 10:00 am - Professor Hirsch arrives at UAlbany.  
10:15-11:30 - Professor goes to his office, B12 in the Biology building basement, and prepares his power point slides for today's lecture. Today he teaches Bio 110z, General Biology.
Professor Hirsch in the tunnels 
11:30-12:10 - Chats with friend and colleague Sara Everill about the grant that they are working on dealing with the genetics of the responses to lead. They discuss and analyze their data in a friendly, intelligent manner.
12:10 pm - Professor gets his things together for lecture and picks out music for his students to listen to at the beginning of class. He decides on American composer George Gershwin.
12:15 - Leaves his office. It's raining outside, so he decides to take UAlbany's convenient underground tunnels to class.
Professor Hirsch at the LC7 podium12:20 - Picks up his microphone at the Mic Office right across from his lecture hall. Professor needs a mic because his Bio 110z class has lots of students in it!
12:25 - Arrives at Lecture Center 7 and gets himself situated at the podium. Chats with the teacher from the last class that was in LC 7.
Students in Bio110z12:30 - Bio 110z students come in and find a seat. There is a lot of energy in the class and the students look eager to hear today's lecture.
Students discuss a few concerns with Professor before class. Many are asking when the test grades will be posted on ERes.
Professor Hirsch's Lecture12:35-1:30 - Bio 110z class
Prof. Hirsch talks to the class about extra credit assignment and then begins the lecture on human population and competition.
Professor Hirsch answering questions1:35 - Professor Hirsch talks to students who have questions after the lecture.
 1:45 - Returns the mic.
Professor Hirsch checks the fridge1:55 - Hirsch goes back to his office, checks the fridge for anything he can snack on, but nothing's there. He was rushed this morning and forgot to pack a lunch. It's too late to go get something to eat because office hours start in 5 minutes! He goes back to his desk and checks his emails.
2:00-3:00 - OFFICE HOURS
Professor Hirsch with student during office hours 
2:00 - Student comes in to go over test questions from Friday's exam. Professor Hirsch is very patient with the student as he explains to her the correct answers. He even gives her helpful study tips so on the next test she can try to do better.
2:30 - Another student comes in to talk about a letter of recommendation for Med school. The student took two of Professor Hirsch's classes and said he loved both of the classes and that Professor Hirsch was a fabulous teacher.
Professor Hirsch's lab 
2:40 - Another student comes in and wants a letter of recommendation as well. Professor Hirsch must have a good reputation for these letters.
 2:50 - Student comes in for a grade change slip, Professor made a computation error last semester. Hey, he's human too.
Professor Hirsch at Registrar's office 
3:00 - Office hours are over. Professor goes to the Registrar's office to change the grade. The people at the Registrar's office are very friendly and Professor seems to have many friends that work in there.
Professor Hirsch checking his mailbox3:20 - Walks back to the Biology building, checks his mailbox and returns to his office.
3:30-4:45 - Continues working on his grant, eats some of the blueberry crumb cake Sara brought him, and leaves at 4:45 to go have his computer fixed because he got hacked into!

 Grant Info:

  • How toxins (e.g. lead) affect the brain.
  • Starting point: developing brains (children)
  • Their brains are more vulnerable, and the exposure to lead results in a reduction of their IQ, ADHD, etc.
  • Children usually are exposed to this lead if they live in lower income areas, they eat paint chips because lead has a sweet taste.
  • It can happen in suburban areas as well, scraping off old paint on the walls, revealing lead paint.
  • Nutrition plays a big role in the prevention of this lead poisoning, especially the nutrition of pregnant women.

Related Links:
Helmut V.B. Hirsch
Department of Biological Sciences
Distinguished Teaching Professors 

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Steven Messner

Catherina Somai

Written and Photos by Catherina Somai, Freshman

Steven Messner

Distinguished Teaching Professor Steven Messner, of the Department of Sociology is one of the country's leading criminologists. His many contributions to criminological theory and methodology have led to his being named a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology — the highest research honor in the field.

Recognized for Excellence in Teaching in 1992 and Excellence in Academic Service in 1996, Messner has also published an impressive body of work with great impact on the sociological study of crime and deviance.

Although teaching is his favorite thing to do, Professor Steven Messner, on this particular day, is busy with non-stop meetings. He typically begins his day very early, responding to requests and issues that never seem to end. Those issues range from requests for specific articles to problems with students' accounts.

Urban China Research NetworkAfter answering his emails, Professor Messner gets ready for a meeting with the Urban China Research Network, of which he is group member. The other members of the network are from different departments: Chris Smith in geography and planning, Jennifer Rudolf in history, Zai Liang in sociology, and Cheng Chen in political science. The group is working to launch a three week, six-credit study tour in China for UAlbany students. They brainstorm about names for the program that would be catchy for both administrators and students. They even quiz me and I am glad to be of some help with my suggestions! They also discuss finances, living styles, and other issues that they will need to include in their presentation to President Hall at a future meeting.

Candidate and Professor MessnerBefore lunch, Professor Messner and I get a chance to chat about things that he likes. He has taught at other schools, but really likes it here at the University at Albany. He finds support among his colleagues in his department and says they all collaborate and help each other stay positive. Other than school, some of his favorite activities are reading, cross country skiing and traveling for work and pleasure. He especially likes to go to New York City, since he attended and taught at Columbia University. "Because of my ties to NYC, I'm a very big fan of the Yankees, Giants, Rangers, and the Knicks."

Kelly McGeever and Professor MessnerThere are more meetings in the afternoon, including one with the secretary of the Faculty Senate and interviews with candidates applying for jobs in the School of Criminal Justice and the sociology department. Later, he attends a colloquium presented by Zai Liang, his colleague in the Urban China Research Network.



"I came to graduate school with the explicit hope of working for Dr. Messner. He's an enthusiastic, motivating teacher and has been a great mentor."


Kelly McGeever


He also meets with graduate student Kelly McGeever, who takes his class Macrosociological Perspectives on Crime and Delinquency (ASOC666).

While teaching his classes may be his favorite time of the day, Professor Messner, like other faculty, aims to balance that with the demanding work of class preparation, research, writing, and the numerous meetings that make up a typical day in his life.

Related Links:
Department of Sociology
Steven Messner

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Marlene Belfort

Catherina Somai

Written and Photos by Catherina Somai, Freshman

Marlene Belfort

Marlene Belfort

Distinguished Professor Marlene Belfort does it all! She is the director of the Division of Genetics Disorders at the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health in Albany, a professor of molecular genetics at the School of Public Health here at the University at Albany and an amazing woman with many prestigious awards and honors under her belt. Her most recent is an honorary degree from the Hebrew University in June.

Professor Belfort's day usually starts off around 7 a.m. when she works from home. This is where she does most of her writing of papers for publications on research, for grants, recommendations, and also critiques for colleagues. She comes into her office by mid-morning where she has to deal with many different administrative duties, which typically come along with the role of director of the division. Professor Belfort also attends lab meetings, scientific discussions, faculty meetings, and seminars where she also meets with the speakers. Although this is a day full of all her duties, she feels there is no "typical" day.

Marlene's labOn the day I spent with her, I got to sit in on one of the lab meetings that she attends on a regular basis. It gives her an opportunity to meet with the students who work in her labs, to ask questions, and give suggestions on their experiments. This is also where she meets other colleagues, for example a professor who is here on sabbatical, and who attends these meetings to add to his knowledge of molecular biology.

Marlene with colleagueHer lab is a very international. Working in the lab are students, post-docs, and technicians from all over the world, including Professor Belfort who grew up in South Africa. Growing up, she loved biology. She also had a very big interest in art. She considered becoming a doctor; or a career as a scientific illustrator where she could use both her interests, but when she came to this country she had to gravitate toward one or the other and she is very pleased with how things worked out.

One of her favorite parts of her job are the scientific discoveries--she says that it's like falling in love. She also enjoys mentoring others, and talking and interacting with her colleagues. "I feel very honored to be a distinguished professor, and fortunate to get accolades for doing what I love to do so much."

Related Links:
School of Public Health >>
Wadsworth Center, Division of Genetics Disorders >>



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