March 29,  2000
Update Archives






NSF’s Rita Colwell to Receive Honorary Degree from the University at Albany
By Lisa James Goldsberry

    As part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the University at Albany will present Rita R. Colwell, director of the NSF, with an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree. 

The special convocation will be held on Monday, April 17, at 2 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom. All are invited.

    Colwell will also speak at the convocation. Those who would like to attend may R.S.V.P. by calling 442-5373. Faculty interested in marching in the processional, which will include full regalia, should contact the Special Events Office at 442-5310.
    The University is the first academic institution in New York State to host a celebration of the NSF anniversary. The day of events planned for the occasion will include a luncheon for Colwell at noon in the Campus Center Assembly Hall. 

A reception and dinner will also take place, beginning at 5 p.m. in the new library atrium. Colwell will deliver the keynote address, titled “Where Discoveries Begin: A Vision for the 21st Century.” To R.S.V.P. for the dinner, call 442-5373.

    On August 4, 1998, Colwell took office as Director of the National Science Foundation, an independent agency of the federal government that provides support for research and education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. 
    Immediately prior to becoming NSF director, she was president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and Professor of Microbiology at the University of Maryland, positions she had held since 1991 and 1972 respectively. While at the University of Maryland, Colwell also served as director of the Sea Grant College and vice president for academic affairs.
    Born in Beverly, Mass., Colwell holds a B.S. in bacteriology and an M.S. in genetics from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in marine microbiology from the University of Washington.
    Since its inception in 1950, the NSF has served the nation by investing in research and education in all aspects of science, mathematics, and engineering. Over the years, NSF's investments in research and education have helped the nation achieve an unmatched competence in scientific and technical fields. 


NSF Fuels Research and Economy of the Future
By Vinny Reda

   Like many very successful teachers and scholars, Vice President for Research Christopher F. D’Elia has benefited from the support of the National Science Foundation for much of his academic life. In turn, he has tried to give something back to the NSF so that others will continue to benefit.
    It began when, as a Ph.D. student in zoology at the University of Georgia, he was awarded an NSF National Defense Education Act Title 4 graduate fellowship. While still at Georgia, D’Elia was part of a 2.5 month, 30-scientist research expedition to the Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands funded by the NSF. His graduate studies were supported thereafter by NSF grants to his major professor, R.E. Johannes. And his first major research grant as a faculty member was also NSF funded.
    “I am not a unique case,” said D’Elia. “Many in my cohort of graduate students had NSF support - supporting our studies and our research. I tell people that I cut my teeth on NSF research.”
    Since then, D’Elia has been honored to give back to the agency’s efforts as it seeks to aid newer generations of researchers. He has reviewed “countless” NSF proposals, either as a mail reviewer or through his service on numerous NSF review panels, evaluating research grant proposals. From 1987 to 1989, he took a leave of absence from his professorship at the University at Maryland (where he would later become director of its Maryland Sea Grant College for a decade), to serve as program director of the NSF’s Biological Oceanography Program in Washington, D.C. 
    “I’ve had a wonderful experience with the National Science Foundation, and an added bit of irony is that my boss of a nearly a decade at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Rita Colwell, is now the NSF’s very dynamic director,” he said.
    The leadership of Colwell, who will visit the University April 17 as part of NSF’s 50th anniversary celebration, may bear its greatest fruits by year’s end, as  the Congress weighs the President’s request for a 17 percent increase in the funding agency's budget. According to D’Elia, the hike is long overdue.
    “NSF’s funding is not nearly what it needs to be,” he said. “Compare it to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which at $18 billion is funded more in accordance with its needs, and the NSF, at just under $4 billion, is woefully under-funded.
    “People tend to overlook the scope of the NSF’s research projects in the physical sciences and computing. Yes, the NIH does critically important health-related research, but the underpinnings of everything done in the health sciences are done through basic science such as has been supported by NSF.” 
    “The proposal for a 17 percent increase is indeed a testament to Rita’s ability to use the facts of NSF success to advocate for the future.”
    According to D’Elia, New York has a particularly high stake in that future.
    “I would say that the NSF means as much or more for New York State as any other state in the nation. New York, because of its aging heavy industries, has had a particular challenge in transforming to high technology industries of the ‘new economy.’ NSF funding has been a springboard to modernizing the industry of New York.”
    One critical aspect of the NSF’s importance to the economic well-being of the nation, said D’Elia, is that “it tends to support basic research, even though the law does not limit it to. This basic research is absolutely essential, according to the developers of products on the corporate side, to the priming of the pump that allows them to develop novel applications of those discoveries.”
     Much of the proposed $650 million increase in the NSF budget would be devoted to information technology, with another $217 million directed to research on nanotechnology, which, through the manipulation of chemicals on the atomic scale, seeks further advances in memory chips, lighter materials, and biotechnology.
    The Administration’s emphasis this year on boosting the “hard sciences,” which will benefit, for example, mathematics, physics and chemistry, indicates the influence of Colwell. She recognizes that her own discipline, marine microbiology, depends on developments in other areas that have not been increasing at a fast enough pace in recent years.
    “In addition, she works very effectively on a bipartisan basis and is a powerful communicator,” said D’Elia. “I saw her at the Maryland General Assembly forging good relationships on both sides of the aisle, and I’m sure she is now doing the same with the Congress. She works hard to instill in everyone she works with a non-ideological support for the excitement of science.”
    D’Elia looks positively at the breadth of NSF funding that has touched the University at Albany. “One of our greatest strengths is in the social sciences, which have had good NSF support. Atmospheric science has been crucial to us, and the NSF has been very important to ASRC over the years, such as with research into cloud formation, global change, and regional climate.”
    “Another major NSF project here, run by Dan Wulff of biology, teaches high school teachers how to teach science research techniques. This too, like NSF college programs that provide research experiences for undergraduates, is part of another key mission of the NSF - to get young people fascinated in science, to get them interested in the methodologies, to make them understand you don’t have to be a genius to achieve in science. It gets young people to realize that your fascination and willingness to work hard in science will get you there.
    “NSF also touches lives now from the earliest stages, such as in the quality children's programming that it supports on PBS. It is helping to fund the development of better curricula in K-12 science education, as well. 
    “And, for many scholars, it has been an essential part of our careers. It supported our assistantships as grad students. It funded our research. Past NSF Presidental Young Investigator awardees at Albany, Caro-Beth Stewart, Alain Kaloyeros and Lenore Mullin, received wonderful starts to their careers.
    “Whether you are young or old, academic or non-academic, the NSF has positively impacted lives in America for the last 50 years.”

Santiago Named Interim Provost, Effective July 1
By Greta Petry

    President Karen R. Hitchcock has named Associate Provost and Professor Carlos E. Santiago as Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, effective July 1. Santiago will replace Judy L. Genshaft, who has accepted an invitation to be the next president of the University of South Florida. Santiago will serve as Interim Provost while a national search is conducted for Genshaft’s successor.
    President Hitchcock said, “We are indeed fortunate to have such an experienced, accomplished and respected University teacher, scholar, and administrator as Carlos available, and willing, to assume this critical position as our chief academic officer. He has both a deep and informed understanding of all the multifaceted activities and aspirations of our University, a steadfast commitment to our students and faculty as well as to the mission and those values that distinguish this institution. Additionally, Carlos will provide the creative and knowledgeable leadership that will enable the University at Albany to continue its outstanding progress, a progress to which the Division of Academic Affairs under Provost Genshaft’s stewardship has so markedly contributed.”
    Santiago, who earned a Ph.D. in economics from Cornell University in 1982, was Associate Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies from August 1997 until January of this year, when he returned to the Department of Latin American & Caribbean Studies as a full professor in addition to retaining oversight of international education on campus as Associate Provost.
    The Office of International Education now encompasses international student services, the University’s Study Abroad programs, and the Intensive English Language Program.
    Under Santiago’s leadership in Academic Affairs, the University has enrolled more international students than ever before. It has reaffirmed several exchange agreements, opened up new initiatives in the Far East, strengthened the exchange programs in Cyprus and Russia, and raised substantial external funds to expand opportunities for UAlbany students to study abroad.
    Santiago joined the University in 1988 and has a joint appointment with the Department of Economics as well. From August 1993 to December 1995, he was chair of the Department of Latin American & Caribbean Studies. He is also associate director of the Center for Latino, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, a position he has held since 1993, and was special assistant to the Office of the President from September 1991 to August 1995.

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