East Conference Invites UAlbany
By Brian DePasquale
The University at Albany has accepted an invitation to become a full member of America East Conference, effective the 2001-02 academic year, President Karen R. Hitchcock announced on Jan. 31. Seventeen of the school’s 19 intercollegiate varsity teams will be immediately eligible for conference championships and NCAA post-season competition.
“We are most pleased that the University’s search for conference affiliation has reached a successful conclusion,” Hitchcock said. “The America East Conference’s membership and the University at Albany have similar missions. These institutions have high academic standards, operate their athletic departments with integrity and demonstrated quality, and value the student-athlete as a whole person. We look forward to a long and productive partnership.”
America East is in its 13th year of all-sports championship competition with a reputation as a comprehensive conference that is committed to broad-based Division I athletics. America East sponsors 21 conference championships for men and women. Admission to NCAA championships can be earned in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, men’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, and volleyball. In addition, student-athletes compete as individuals for NCAA events in cross country, swimming and diving, and track and field.
The current America East membership includes Boston University, University of Delaware, Drexel University, University of Hartford, Hofstra University, University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University, Towson University, and University of Vermont, although Delaware, Drexel, Towson, and Hofstra will be leaving the conference in 2002-03. The University at Stony Brook was also accepted as a conference member.
“Conference affiliation for our entire athletics program will enhance the institution’s Division I growth,” said Director of Athletics and Recreation Lee McElroy, who has led the University’s conference search process since his appointment in July 2000. “With America East Conference membership, the University’s goals and aspirations for intercollegiate athletics are now clearly defined. Our student-athletes and coaches will have an opportunity to compete for both conference and NCAA championships. America East will also provide increased visibility for athletics and strengthen our identity with the University’s students, alumni, faculty and friends.”
The America East Conference decision to add UAlbany and Stony Brook was noted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and in The Boston Herald on Jan. 31. UAlbany sponsors eight men’s teams, including baseball, basketball, cross country, indoor track, lacrosse, outdoor track, soccer, and football (Division I-AA). The eleven women’s teams are basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, indoor track, lacrosse, outdoor track, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball. Football will continue its association with the Northeast Conference, and is committed through 2002. Women’s golf will compete as an independent.
UAlbany has an athletic history that dates back to the late 1890s, when the first known intercollegiate teams arrived on campus. Albany competed at the college division level prior to the NCAA’s restructuring in 1972. The athletic program moved from Division III to Division II in 1995-96, and upgraded to Division I in September 1999.
Chancellor Robert L. King, State University of New York, said, “It is important to get our schools (Albany and Stony Brook) into conferences that are recognized and respected across the country. We are delighted by this affiliation because it starts to give some real credibility to our Division I programs. It will assist in our recruiting and give us the visibility we want to have. I think it is a win-win situation.”
Hitchcock said, “We have been intensely involved in this process over the last seven months. A lot of things had to fall into place to make it happen. When the four teams announced they were leaving in 2002, we knew our chances to get into the conference would improve. We immediately established a relationship with America East. We did a lot of work before the dominos began to fall.”
America East Commissioner Chris Monasch said, “Certainly (Albany) is very similar to the other institutions that we have currently in size and philosophy, academics, the reputation of the institution, what their athletic program is about. So it makes sense for all those reasons, and I just think we project them to be an outstanding Division I program.”
Women’s basketball coach Mari Warner said, “Our players will now have a chance to compete for a conference championship. Everyone wants to have a shot to win something. When you play in these conference games, anybody can beat anybody on any given day. We have everything to gain from this move.”
Men’s basketball tri-captain Will Brand said, “Now I have something to really play for in my senior year. It’s something (conference affiliation) that I didn’t want to go without. We haven’t played in a conference since my freshman year, so it feels good to play in America East.”
Vice President for Student Affairs James P. Doellefeld said, “America East Conference affiliation will enrich the experience of every student-athlete and elevate the visibility of the institution.”
Named Head of VA Cancer Genetics
McCormick, who also directs (along with fellow UAlbany biologist Albert Millis) the Center for Comparative Functional Genomics on the East Campus, trained at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute and has a long history of genetic research on cancer and metastasis. She has served as a consultant on several National Cancer Institute panels, including two terms (1992-96 and 1999-2003) on the Pathology Study Section.
The NIH has continuously funded McCormick’s work. Most recently, she was awarded a five-year (April 2001-April 2006) $1.5 million dollar grant to continue her studies on the use of retinoids for cancer therapy and prevention. This project is rated among the top five percent of all those submitted to NIH by scientists across the country and around the world.
Retinoids are natural and synthetic derivatives of Vitamin A. These compounds are able to modulate cell differentiation and proliferation and to exert anti-tumoral activities through interaction with specific receptors. McCormick and her research group have isolated a line of mutant embryonal carcinoma cells - the stem cells of tumors that develop in the gonads of both humans and mice - that exhibits a number of novel cancer phenotypes.
“The fact that this intriguing series of phenotypes was created through retroviral insertion into a single, unique, genetic locus provides us with the opportunity and tools necessary to analyze the interrelatedness of these very important phenomena,” writes McCormick in her research abstract on the study.
Her work has already identified two genes that are likely to play primary roles in regulating growth and differentiation in early mammalian embryos and, by extrapolation, in the development of cancer. She has also begun to unravel the bases of molecular mechanisms that could have a major impact on understanding RA response pathways, and potentially on the development of cancer therapies.
McCormick has another NIH-funded five-year grant of approximately $4.5 million to support the Mutant Mouse Resource Center, which she directs with Dr. James Geistfeld of Taconic Farms Inc. Awarded in February 2000, the center’s studies use mice as animal models for particular types of human diseases, such as cancer, arthritis, and diabetes.
Dr. James Holland, chief of oncology at the Stratton VA, said, “We anticipate that Dr. McCormick’s studies will lead to the identification of new disease-causing genes in humans, particularly for cancer, and also lead to the development of novel drugs and therapies. We are delighted to have a scientist of this caliber on board.”
Biotech Firm Moving to East Campus
SmartGene, which also specializes in data-mining/bioinformatics, was attracted to the East Campus by the facilities available in the Center for Comparative Functional Genomics, according to Dr. Stefan Emler, CEO of SmartGene. The facilities will allow the company to isolate targets for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic agents.
President Karen R. Hitchcock said, “the fact that this company was attracted to our East Campus from Europe shows how powerful our model of co-locating University research scientists and private enterprise in the same facilities can be. We are thrilled to welcome SmartGene to our campus.”
The presence of Taconic Biotechnology, Inc., and the potential for collaboration with Albany Medical Center served as additional incentives for SmartGene to locate at UAlbany’s East Campus, according to Eugene Schuler, UAlbany director of technology development.
“Taconic Biotechnology offers services that are necessary for SmartGene’s drug discovery effort,” said Schuler, “and Albany Medical College is an important part of this equation as well, since any pharmaceutical products that are discovered can then be tested in clinical trials, which could be managed at the medical center.”
Dr. Emler said, “The combined presence of UAlbany scientists, Taconic Biotechnology, and Albany Medical College on the East Campus was extremely attractive. Our company will be able to pursue ventures in design and development of both new diagnostic tests and drugs for industrial customers through strategic partnerships.”
SmartGene is a start-up company which initially will have two employees located at the East Campus. “In 1997, Taconic Biotechnology was a start-up company on the East Campus with two employees,” Schuler pointed out. “Today, it employs close to 100.” He said that the 29-acre expansion of the East Campus announced last October will provide adequate space should SmartGene experience similar growth within the University’s High Technology Business Incubation Program.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said: “SmartGene’s drug discovery operation will be an excellent addition to the East Campus. There is a tremendous amount of economic opportunity in the fields of biotechnology and biomedical research that we are seeing right here in the Capital Region. I welcome SmartGene and wish them a future of growth and prosperity.”
Bruno added that the Senate’s Gen*NY*sis plan, which he unveiled last month, would provide additional state incentives to attract even more biotech companies like SmartGene to biotech centers throughout the state.
Paul Miesing Teaches
MBAs in Calcutta Over Winter Break
The Department of Management professor’s most recent destination was India, where he spent four weeks teaching Advanced Topics in Strategic Management to 24 second-year MBA students at the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta. IIM-C - established in 1961 in collaboration with MIT’s Sloan School of Management, the Ford Foundation, the Indian business community, and the governments of India and the state of West Bengal - “was India’s first national institute for post-graduate studies and research in management,” noted Miesing. Arguably the top graduate business school in India (IIM has three other campuses vying for that title), the institute offers the Post-Graduate Diploma in Management, which ranks among the top ten business degrees in Asia.
IIM-C, Miesing said, “believes that the future will be driven by technology. The world of business, as we know it, has been turned on its head. There has been a shift from the way we perceive business, from the friendly neighborhood store, to the online grocery over the ’Net. The institute has the latest in computer and Internet facilities - it leads Indian business schools in connectivity and computer usage - and attracts the best minds to use them.”
In his course, Miesing focused on “how managers can develop the resources and capabilities needed to gain and sustain advantage in emerging competitive markets - that is, in the evolving ‘virtual’ markets of the ‘new economy.’ ” India, he pointed out, is one of the “Big Emerging Markets” (BEMs) worldwide.
His students were “on top of things” and came from many different business backgrounds: “Some were in software; some in accounting; some in manufacturing. They were really diligent: bright, well prepared, and very ambitious. When teaching with the case method, as is common in our program, asking the right question is pretty important. There, the students were ready to mix it up. Even when their own classmates led discussions, they were very impatient. ‘Look,’ they’d say, ‘we’ve already read this. You don’t have to repeat it,’ ” he recalled.
Miesing found his Indian colleagues “gracious and friendly,” and the general population “very religious. I felt they were all true believers, whether they were Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or members of minority religious groups.” Given the poverty he witnessed on the two-hour drive from the airport to the IIM-C campus, their faith is, perhaps, remarkable. “Calcutta is known as the poorest city in the world,” he said, “and I saw nothing to diminish that impression.”
Another problem facing India - and other BEMs and developing nations - is pollution. In Delhi, “I could feel the air,” Miesing remembered. His daughter Debbie, who joined him later, “had to bring me cough medicine and cough drops. I’ve never been so ill.” The Indians, however, are entrepreneurial in their approaches to correcting the problem. At a trade show, Miesing noticed “a lot of businesses I would refer to as ‘environmentally friendly industries.’ I was surprised at the manufacturers of CFC-free appliances, autos that run on liquid propane gas, ‘non-wood’ wood for furniture and housing accessories, recycled products for furniture, and even a solar power plant.”
Most of his trips are educational - for him and for his students. During his stay, Miesing “got to tour Calcutta’s monuments, buildings, temples, and neighborhoods, as well as the countryside.” After visiting Bombay; the Taj Mahal in Agra; and the cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer - he explored the desert outside the latter “on camel” - “I know a lot more about that part of the world now than I did before,” he said.
Miesing’s Indian odyssey also served another purpose: He plans to collaborate with some of his new colleagues on research, and he is delighted that IIM-C’s director is interested in the possibility of pulling together “a conference related to my interest in the BEM economies as they undergo transition. Capital Region businesses are interested in emerging markets, so I hope that they can benefit from my recent experience in India. The more knowledge University at Albany faculty generate and share, the better we fulfill our mission of teaching, research, and service.”