April 13,  2000
Update Archives






Mellon Foundation Grant to Promote Urban China Research Network
By Carol Olechowski

    A three-year Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant totaling nearly half a million dollars will build on the already strong research expertise of the University’s China scholars while launching an initiative to expand research endeavors in that area.
    The $480,000 grant will support development of an Urban China Research Network, a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional network of scholars who conduct and support research and training activities focused on migration within contemporary China and its impact on urbanization. The program will facilitate the exchange of information among researchers at Albany and the other institutions collaborating on the effort, and provide incentives for interdisciplinary and international scholarly collaboration. In addition, the Mellon grant will add significant funding for research projects supported by the network and foster institutional development within the participating centers in China.
    According to Vice President for Research Christopher F. D’Elia, “the receipt of this prestigious grant from the Mellon Foundation underscores the enormous strength we have in the social sciences at our University. The Albany faculty leading this effort are among the nation’s finest researchers in their fields.”
    The Mellon Foundation award, says Center for Social and Demographic Analysis (CSDA) Director Stewart Tolnay, “will make the University at Albany a major player in the study of internal migration and urbanization in China. Only nine such awards were given by the foundation to study population movements in less developed countries, placing Albany alongside such outstanding research institutions as Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, and the University of North Carolina. 
    “Having the Urban China Research Network anchored here at Albany will also provide our faculty and students an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of research into these important topics. Furthermore, the results of the scholarship produced by the network will inform policy makers in China as they contend with the massive movement of people from the countryside to the city, and with the many consequences such migration has for the urban environment.”
    As a “virtual center,” the Urban China Research Network will bring University researchers together with their colleagues on three continents.
    International advisory board members at Albany will include the Department of Sociology’s John Logan, Christopher Smith of the Department of Geography and Planning, and Jennifer Rudolph, Department of History. University sociologists Glenn Deane, Nancy Denton, William Frey, and Scott South are expected to participate, as is geographer/planner Ray Bromley, notes Tolnay, a sociology professor who will also lend his expertise to the network.
    Other U.S.-based board members will include faculty at the University of California, Irvine; Virginia Commonwealth University; the University of Washington, Seattle; Queens College of the City University of New York; the University of Chicago; and the University of Southern California. Faculty representing the fields of sociology, urban planning, anthropology, and geography at foreign institutions, including Hong Kong University; the University of Liverpool, England; Canada’s universities of Calgary and British Columbia; and the National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute, will also participate.
    The proposal to develop the Urban China Research Network grew from a recognition that, during the past 20 years, “China has experienced a number of parallel and interrelated transformations,” says Smith. “The transition from a socialist economy to one that is market oriented is both a result of the country's reform process and a catalyst” that has privatized China’s farms, encouraged peasants to become entrepreneurial, stimulated internal migration, and spurred rapid urbanization. As a result, industrial and enterprise reforms in municipal areas have made China a player in the international marketplace, a leading exporter of manufactured goods.
    With economic reforms and the rapid increase in urbanization giving rise to “a wide range of social and economic changes in lifestyles, attitudes, and behaviors,” notes Tolnay, “we have an extraordinary opportunity to conduct research focusing on policy.” Initially, network research themes will include such topics as urban morphology and spatial reorganization, the dynamics of rural-to-urban migration; the operation of urban labor markets; housing and settlement patterns of migrants; and changing lifestyles and behaviors of migrants in the cities. These topics, in turn, relate to “migration and urbanization-related policy issues currently being debated in China, including policies related to housing, neighborhood development, social service delivery, urban planning, public health, and criminal justice,” Logan adds.
    Network participants will carry out their research through institutional exchanges of faculty, fieldwork in China, and funding to support graduate student research. Each year, researchers will gather at the University to review their progress to date and to determine the direction their future efforts should take. In addition, data will be made available through a special project Web site.
    Albany will supplement the Mellon grant with funding of $324,900 over three years. The University contribution will support a half-time programmer /analyst who will create and maintain the network Web site and ensure that archived data is available to network members. It will also cover a portion of the facilities and overhead costs.

Zitomer Named Chair of Genetic Sciences Study Section
By Carol Olechowski

    Richard S. Zitomer, a professor in the University at Albany’s Department of Biological Sciences and a board member of the University’s Center for the Study of Comparative Functional Genomics, has been appointed to chair the Genetic Sciences Study Section of the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR). 
    NIH study sections are comprised of scientists, drawn primarily from the academic community, who gather three times each year to serve as the initial peer review groups for all NIH grant applications and Individual National Research Service Awards (fellowships). As chair, Zitomer will lead the review process, in order to ensure a full and fair review of all applications. 
    Zitomer, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, has been a UAlbany faculty member since 1976. 
    An internationally recognized expert on how genes are regulated by the availability of oxygen, he has conducted studies on yeast, identifying genes that repress gene expression in response to oxygen and those that activate the other genetic targets in the presence of oxygen. In addition, Zitomer has been at the forefront of determining how the regulatory proteins specifically recognize their DNA targets and other proteins with which they must interact. His research - the results of which are applicable to similar systems in higher organisms, including human beings - has also been published in such professional journals as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Genetics, and Molecular and Cellular Biology.
    Students collaborate with Zitomer on his research. Currently, “I have four Ph.D. candidates, a master’s student, and two undergraduates working with me,” he said. Their association with the 1999 UAlbany Excellence in Research Award winner allows them to gain experience that prepares them well for post-graduate pursuits. “My undergraduates have gone on to medical school and to graduate schools at Berkeley, Rochester, Albert Einstein, Columbia, Irvine, and other institutions,” observed Zitomer, a faculty associate of the Center for the Study of Comparative Functional Genomics. “I have also graduated 13 Ph.D. students; they include people who are on the faculty at Emory, the University of Kentucky, Baylor Medical School, and South Carolina Medical College, as well as on staff at pharmaceutical companies.” 
    While Zitomer’s students reap educational and career benefits from their research with him, they are also helping him - by furthering knowledge that may yield valuable medical treatment outcomes. “We have just begun work with the pathogenic yeast Candida. It and other fungal infections are among the most common immediate causes of death for AIDS patients; Candida is also a common topical infection. We hope some pharmaceutical possibilities will come out of our research,” Zitomer explained.
    Zitomer’s research is supported by a grant - currently in its 20th year - from the National Institutes of Health.
    Acknowledging the honor accorded Zitomer, University Vice President for Research Christopher F. D’Elia commented: “Dr. Zitomer’s service to the NIH Genetic Sciences Study Section recognizes his scientific expertise and competence as a reviewer of proposals. The service that he provides the federal government as a reviewer of research grants is essential in determining which proposals offer the most promise. We are grateful to Dr. Zitomer, and UAlbany colleagues like him, who perform this important role.”
    Zitomer and his wife, Marjorie, who works with him in his lab, are Guilderland residents and the parents of four grown children. Their daughter, Rachel, is a graduate student enrolled in the University at Albany’s English program.

Independent Food Safety Experts Hired
By Mary Fiess

    The University at Albany reopened Indian Quad dining hall on Sunday night after taking a number of steps to assure that all food preparation and handling meets and exceeds health standards.
    Preliminary New York State Department of Health findings, released Friday, April 7, identified contaminated and subsequently undercooked or improperly handled hamburgers and/or cheeseburgers as a likely source of the E.coli infection that sickened six University students. All  have recovered.
    “The health of our students is critically important, and we are taking immediate steps to prevent future serious lapses in food handling and food preparation procedures,” said University President Karen R. Hitchcock.
    President Hitchcock initiated the following actions:
     The dining hall, which the University closed on Friday, March 31, after three Indian Quad students were diagnosed with E.coli, opened under the review of an independent monitor, Thomas Heath, a faculty member in the culinary program at Schenectady County Community College who owns and operates a food-safety monitoring business. He will be on campus on a part-time basis through the end of the semester and will help University Auxiliary Services and other independent consultants assess food safety processes and make recommendations for ongoing improvements. The University is also putting in place independent food safety experts in every cafeteria on campus who will monitor food handling processes.
    All Indian Quad employees have been re-trained in food-handling and safety procedures by the Albany County Department of Health, and only those Indian Quad workers who have been tested and found free of E.coli are being permitted to return to work on campus. Indian Quad kitchen was re-inspected by the Albany County Department of Health on Saturday, April 8, and received a satisfactory rating.
    The top two Sodexho Marriott managers on campus have been released from their positions and have been replaced by qualified individuals who will remain with the University on behalf of Sodexho Marriott through the end of the semester.
The president is also forming a Campus Food Service Task Force. 
President Forms Campus Food Service Task Force
    To address the overall issue of food service on campus, University President Karen R. Hitchcock is forming a Campus Food Service Task Force consisting of students, parents, faculty, staff and others.
    “We are committed to providing food service that meets the needs and expectations of our students, faculty and staff and that meets and exceeds all health standards,” said Hitchcock.
    “The Campus Food Service Task Force will be charged with determining our community’s expectations for food services and the qualities which define an exemplary and customized food service program that best meets the needs of our community. The task force will review residence, retail and catering operations and study best practices in these areas,” said Hitchcock.
    “The findings and recommendations of the task force will help us shape the kind of exemplary campus food services that are so critical to our campus community” she said.
Hitchcock said she would announce the membership of the committee shortly.

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