VOLUME 23
NUMBER 14
April 13, 2000
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FEATURES

 
Graduate Student Gives His Brother “A Second Chance at Life”
By Carol Olechowski

      Ask 22-year-old University at Albany graduate student Mark Sykes how he’s feeling, and he responds cheerily, “Better every day!” What’s even more encouraging to the Ohio native, however, is that his older brother Brian is also doing “better every day” - thanks to the kidney Mark donated to him in early March.
    When Mark learned that Brian needed an organ transplant, he didn’t hesitate to offer to donate one of his own kidneys. 
    “My brother is sick. If I can do anything for him, I will,” was his first reaction.
    “I didn’t think about the consequences,” adds the Ohio Wesleyan University graduate, who enrolled in Albany’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology last fall and has been working with Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders Director Edward B. Blanchard since the summer of 1999. Among the consequences, of course, were the obvious: the risks of surgery he and his brother would face, and the possibility that Brian’s body would reject the transplanted kidney. Less obvious were the consequences that might impact a student going for medical tests and undergoing surgery - while studying for his degree and working with Blanchard at the center.
Happily, “my professors were very understanding,” recalls Mark, who was attracted to the University because it “has one of the best programs in clinical psychology and because Ed Blanchard is doing some great things, like post-traumatic stress disorder research.” The faculty “helped a lot. I tried to get as prepared as I could before I left for the surgery, because I knew I wouldn’t be doing any work afterward. And Ed was terrific; I owe him a lot of credit. He was very supportive.” 
     Brian, 27, developed kidney disease as a teenager but, until about a year ago, was doing well, according to Mark. At that time, the Orlando, Florida-based filmmaker was becoming weaker and very tired, and a nephrologist predicted that he would require dialysis. Within a matter of weeks, that prediction came true.
     When it became clear that Brian would require a transplant, Mark, his other two brothers, and their parents underwent tests to determine which of them had the best chance of donating a kidney that would not be rejected. “I matched five of the six antigens,” remembers Mark. “And I was motivated; I realized Brian’s health was at stake.”
    The surgery, performed March 2, was successful. Although Brian has been re-admitted to the hospital once, doctors are monitoring his progress and are optimistic that the kidney will continue to function normally. “The first six months to two years are critical,” Mark points out. “I hope every day that the kidney will continue to work.”
    Mark himself underwent a laparoscopy, in which an optical instrument is inserted through the incision to permit the surgeon to view the abdominal cavity. “The doctor took my kidney out through my stomach. That hurt,” he says with characteristic understatement. He spent five days in the hospital, and even “made a little bit of medical history” as the first laparoscopic surgical patient in central Florida. “That’s my claim to fame,” jokes Mark, who has resumed his studies since returning to New York three weeks ago. 
    He modestly turns aside any suggestion that he is heroic. “A lot of people have been giving me credit. But I’ve thought about everything my brother went through and everything he faces every day, and I feel he’s more courageous than I am,” Mark observes. 
    Brian might disagree. A few weeks ago, he sent his brother an ultrasound photo of his new kidney. Mark carries it with him. The inscription on the back reads: “Dear Mark: I could never thank you enough for giving me a second chance at life. Love always, Brian.”













 

3+2 Engineering Program Doubles Opportunity for Liana Rodriguez
By Greta Petry

   Junior Liana Rodriguez thinks everyone should know about the 3+2 program in engineering which UAlbany offers in conjunction with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
    In this program, students complete three years at UAlbany, majoring in either chemistry or physics, and then transfer to Rensselaer’s School of Engineering to study an additional two years. When finished, the student has a bachelor’s degree from UAlbany in chemistry or physics, as well as an engineering degree from Rensselaer. 
    “I just want students to know that there are a lot of opportunities out there that aren’t advertised, especially for minority students. You need to look for these opportunities, and if you don’t see an opportunity, make one,” said Rodriguez, whose parents were born in New York and are of Puerto Rican descent.
    A resident of the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and a native of the Bronx, Rodriguez found out about the 3+2 program through her older brother Mark, who finished the program in 1997. Raised in a family where education was stressed, (her father is a systems engineer with several advanced degrees and her mother, a kindergarten teacher, has a master’s degree in education) she saw her brother become a senior programmer analyst on Wall Street as a result of the 3+2 program.
    “He can do anything with a computer. He’s a whiz,” she said. “My brother really encouraged me and helped me out with my work when I needed it. He’s been my No. 1 fan since Day One.” He also introduced her to Dawn Kakumba, who has been her adviser.
    Liana Rodriguez said earning two degrees will add to her marketability after graduation. “Unemployment is very low right now and technology jobs are booming,” she said. “I am not worried about getting a job.”
    The junior explained how the program works. “Your first years are the same for the major and besides that, you fill the general education requirements. For the first three years I am a chemistry major, and I also take upper level physics, which is required for the engineering major. I will also finish some chemistry classes for the degree at RPI. I will take a leave of absence during my last two years, and will use that time to complete the engineering requirements at RPI. You can choose the type of engineering you want. I will graduate with a B.S. in chemistry from UAlbany and a biomedical engineering degree from RPI.”
    Rodriguez is also considering attend- ing graduate or medical school after graduation from Rensselaer. 
    Students are formally admitted to Rensselaer after their fifth semester of study, according to the Undergraduate Bulletin. Admission is based on the recommendation of the UAlbany chemistry or physics department and the student’s grade point average, which should be about a B+. For more information, contact the Advisement Services   Cen-ter/Undergraduate Studies office in ULB-36.
    “We’ve gotten some really wonderfully prepared students through the 3+2 program,” said Kathleen Stacey, associate dean and director of transfer admissions at Rensselaer. Stacey herself is a UAlbany alumna, having earned a B.A. in 1985 and an M.S. in 1988.
    While Rodriguez loved chemistry in high school, it was her experience at UAlbany that crystallized her interest.
    “I don't want to be a typical role model,” Rodriguez said. “I just did something I am passionate about. If you are passionate about something, you are going to do well in it, and you are going to be happy.”
    The 3+2 program exposes UAlbany students to opportunities at both universities. Rodriguez went to a Rensselaer career fair last year, where she learned about a paid internship with Corning Inc.
“I worked at a good job last summer, a paid internship,” she said. “I went out there and made my opportunity. I put myself out there. You have to start somewhere and make your own way.” 
    In order to earn college credit for the internship, Rodriguez said she worked out a plan with Professor Paul Toscano of the Department of Chemistry through UNI 390.
     “I reported to him (Professor Toscano). I didn’t know about this opportunity until Dawn Kakumba told me about it. They will let you do this if it is a meaningful project.” To find out more about internships at UAlbany, see Ivan Edelson in the Dean of Undergraduate Studies Office. As part of her internship Rodriguez conducted electro-optics research in the photonics division at Corning.
    UAlbany also has 3+2 engineering programs with Binghamton University’s Watson School of Engineering, the SUNY College of Arts and Sciences at New Paltz, and with Clarkson College in Potsdam.


UAlbany Doctoral Student Wins National Award

    Adam Haim, 25, a third-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, has won the student research award from the National Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy. The award was for the Autism and Related Develop-mental Disabilities Special Interest Group.
    Haim is a New Jersey native who earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Rochester. The award was for a poster Haim presented based on a paper about a research project teaching alternative communication methods to deaf and blind children.
    “UAlbany has a renowned program in clinical psychology. It is behaviorally based and is pretty strong in that. It’s a great program - the faculty are really approachable. I work for Dr. (V. Mark) Durand; he is at the forefront of research in developmental disabilities,” Haim said.
    Haim and his lab partners, Eileen Merges and Christie Tanner, have been working with deaf and blind children in New York City and teaching them alternative methods of communication. “If a child engages in problem behaviors, we assess the function of the behavior and teach the child to communicate his or her needs. What we have found is that as communication increases, problem behaviors decrease,” he said.
    The project was conducted at a school in Manhattan. UAlbany graduate students involved in the project also instructed teachers at the school in how to use augmentive communication devices.


UAlbany Faculty and Students Provide High-Tech Training for Urban Youth, Community Groups
By Greta Petry

    UAlbany’s School of Education has received two grants for separate programs that promote high-tech training in inner city neighborhoods in Albany.
    The first grant, for $96,000 from the State Education Department, is being used to reinstate the Science, Technology Entry Program (STEP). In this program, UAlbany graduate students are teaching  in the after-school program at Livingston and Hackett middle schools. STEP enhances the knowledge of middle school students through the Web, multi-media CD-ROM technology, video production and desk-top publishing.
    “We are focusing on using technology-based programs as a hook to get students excited about science, math and English,” said Joseph Bowman Jr., an assistant professor in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Theory and Practice. Bowman teaches video production, Web page design, and a seminar in technology and education at UAlbany. Through the SUNY Learning Network, he also teaches popular on-line courses for the master’s degree program in curriculum development and instructional technology.
    “STEP is teaching urban youth at an early age about particular opportunities and careers they may want to pursue. We’re dealing with students who don’t all believe they are going to college. Our goal is to get them into the college environment early on,” Bowman said.
    The state-funded STEP program began in 1985 but was not operational last year, Bowman said. “Assistant Vice President Carl Martin and the State Education Department called me and asked me to restart the program. In addition to providing the middle school youth with experience, we are offering training for three of our graduate students in instructional technology, who are serving as instructors. We also have one or two students from other colleges who are in education.”
    Bowman wears another hat as director of the Center for Urban Youth and Technology. “The center is designed to develop technology-based programs for urban youth and adults, and it falls nicely within that area,” Bowman said. “It also develops collaborations between University departments and schools and community organizations, and is part of my research theme, ‘The Urban Cyberspace Initiative.’ ”
    The second grant to UAlbany - at $92,000 for the first of three years - is part of 100 Black Men’s Community Technology Center Grant. The funds will be used to expand a technology network and strengthen the telecommunications infrastructure to allow for desk-top video teleconferencing among sites that include urban churches, schools, and non-profit organizations. 
    “In 1996 I wrote the first grant, working with the group 100 Black Men, to establish a technology center in Albany and to link nine sites in the Capital Region. Since then we have developed a technology center and are in the final stages of linking them all,” Bowman said.
    “So we are expanding the network to include ten sites. In addition, the University is working with the partners and empowering them to use the technology,” Bowman said.  “We put four to five small computers in their facility and discuss programs they want to do.”
    As part of the project, Department of Geography and Planning Professor Ray Bromley is developing a summer program to train 30 students and adults in Web design, PowerPoint, and the use of a digital camera. In addition, they will learn to research their community and introduce geographic information systems capabilities.
    “We will have the students look at a particular area in Albany, possibly the Clinton Avenue corridor where the technology center is. They will canvass that area, photograph it, identify where the pay phones are, check the number and location of traffic accidents, and this will help them create an asset map of that area,” Bowman said.
    “My focus is to produce a group of students who are looking into high-end fields of technology, like computer graphics. Between Ray and myself, we want the students to consider the fields of architecture, education, engineering and instructional technology. We will also try to develop a community of students and adults who are responsible to the needs of their community, who can look at the community from different perspectives and then determine how they might change their community for the better,” Bowman added.
    “In addition, One Hundred Black Men has the goal of making the center financially sustainable so that it can provide economic opportunity to the city of Albany by empowering participants to use technology,” Bowman said.
    He said the group is also looking into how to establish a Cisco training site in the city of Albany that would train high school juniors and seniors to be certified Cisco technicians in router and networking technology. One training center already exists in Schenectady. 
    Professor Shirley Jones has been asked to develop a research design model on how to improve and empower the partners.
    “She is one of the premier people in action research - our goal is to develop an action research model,” Bowman said.
    All of the professors involved have at least one graduate student working on the project. A few undergraduates are involved as well.
    Sociologist Haywood Horton will be the project evaluator for both the CTC and the STEP program. He will conduct assessments to test whether the programs are meeting the objectives and outcomes they set for themselves.


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