Senior research officers from member universities of The Science Coalition and Association of American Universities met on July 15 for All Things Research, a roundtable discussion held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Among them was Stony Brook University’s Vice President for Research David O. Conover, who also serves as operations manager for the SUNY Research Foundation.
Members of these two groups share a common goal of maintaining America’s leadership in science and technology through strong and sustained funding for scientific research across all disciplines. Each year at All Things Research, senior research officers discuss with DC-based journalists issues related to research and public policy. This year the topics were divided into three general categories: science and the national interest, economic development and the research university, and finally, the ultimate question — is an innovation deficit on our horizon?
The roundtable began with officers discussing “the next big thing” coming from researchers on their campus. Conover said he wanted to talk about batteries.
“Batteries are something that we, as a society, have become increasingly dependent on, and we would like batteries that last longer and discharge more slowly,” he said. “Scientists at Stony Brook and Brookhaven National Lab have pioneered a novel approach to study batteries while in operation using the Synchrotron Light Source. High-energy X-rays that are produced by the Light Source enable us to see the inside of a battery without taking it apart and actually understand what chemical reactions are occurring and where they are occurring inside a battery as the battery discharges. It’s going to revolutionize our ability to create the next generation of batteries.”
He also talked about research at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya, which continues to make important advances in our understanding of human evolution, most recently with the discovery of stone tools dating back to 3.3 million years ago. The discovery pushed back the origin of tool use 700,000 years earlier than previously known.
Conover then discussed some of Stony Brook’s major initiatives in moving research from the lab to the marketplace.
“Start-Up NY is an effort to attract businesses to SUNY campuses to build collaborations with faculty,” he said. “At our campus we now have 18 companies that are going to be moving to our campus, and they are mostly startups. They will be creating 180 jobs and their total investment is about $12.7 million. It’s going to be a game-changer in how we interact with industry across the academia-industry boundary. I also want to mention that five research institutions on Long Island have gotten together to start our own venture capital fund called Accelerate Long Island. There have already been 10 new companies funded from this venture, and we will be expanding that in the future.”
Research officers from Boston University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Northwestern University, University of California at Riverside, University of Pittsburgh, University of South Florida and West Virginia University also participated in the discussion.
David Conover, an expert on the ecology of marine fishes and fisheries science, served as director for the Division of Ocean Sciences at the National Science Foundation for three and a half years before assuming the role of interim vice president for research in 2013. He is a professor of marine science in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University and was dean of SoMAS from 2003 to 2010. In 1997 Conover was named the first recipient of the Mote Eminent Scholar Chair in fisheries ecology, a prestigious international award honoring those who have made major advances in the understanding of harvested marine species. He also was awarded an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship.
Watch “All Things Research” on YouTube.
— Lynne Roth