The Division of Information Technology awarded 15 scholarships to Stony Brook students this fall — more than in any year since the program started in 2005. Although the scholarship is designed to help students interested in information technology, the ambitions of the recipients could not be more diverse.
One of this year’s recipients is Sayid Yasin, a senior majoring in health science with a concentration in healthcare informatics. Yasin, whose parents are both nurses, wants to change healthcare by using information technology to improve medical records. Electronic records have the potential to make healthcare less expensive and more effective, but current systems are notoriously difficult to use. Yasin aspires to make medical information systems faster and more user-friendly.
Yasin says he’s always been interested in computers, but it was a project in his introduction to computer science class that struck home the potential for computers in medicine. The assignment was to create a program that would transcribe a DNA sequence into RNA. The task is simple enough. Take a string of letters representing chemicals, find the corresponding letter in a table and output the new string. But, imagine transcribing all three billion base pairs in the human genome by hand, and the benefit of using a computer becomes obvious.
“Computers can do work that makes us more efficient,” Yasin said. “They do things humans can’t do.” The key is integrating the technology so that doctors don’t spend more time entering information than using it.
Yasin is one of many students who surprised the scholarship committee with the exciting ways they are integrating information technology with their passions. In addition to being full-time students who had earned at least 24 credits, each student was required to submit a 250-word essay with their application.
“We looked at how thoughtfully they prepared their essay to explain how technology is important to them,” said Patricia Hoversen, DoIT’s VP Coordinator and Chair of the Scholarship Committee. “We tried to find well-rounded students who also showed interest in technology, whether they were in the IT field or not.”
To Yasin, the crossover between IT and medicine, or any other discipline, seems natural. “No field can be innovative without the expertise of another field,” he said.
The scholarship committee received more than three times the applications it has received in previous years thanks to new outreach efforts. “We were happy to see that there were so many high-achieving students who applied,” Hoversen said.
This year also marks the end of DoIT’s current scholarship program and the beginning of the new Richard W. Reeder Endowed Fund for Student Excellence.
Richard Reeder established DoIT’s first scholarship in 2005 during his tenure as Chief Information Officer. The program was part of the University-wide “It’s About Us” campaign, which encouraged faculty and staff to participate in improving the University. Since then, DoIT staff members have contributed more than $3,000 out of their own pockets every year to benefit students through the scholarship program.
After Reeder died in 2011, his family and friends worked with Hoversen and others in DoIT and at Stony Brook to establish a new scholarship fund in his name. Scholarships will be awarded from the fund beginning next year to students nominated by faculty for their performance, promise, excellence, integrity and citizenship. Preference will be given to students majoring in psychology or engineering, the two programs in which Reeder earned degrees at Stony Brook.
2014-15 DoIT Scholarship Winners
- Lawrence Chong
- John D’Angelo
- Bridger Hahn
- Rithy Huot
- Eun Hye Kim
- Frank Migliorino
- Linda Milano
- Julia Nam
- Yongwan Park
- Jennifer Wang
- Brian Yan
- Sayid Yasin
- Jim Yee
- Laisuna Yu
- Wendy Zheng
— Will Welch ’16; photo by Zifei Wu ’15