ePoly Briefs



a monthly publication of news and events for faculty and staff


                                                                                            February 2003 Edition




University Enters Phase 2 to Reduce Deficit

Controversial Science Author Stephen Wolfram to Speak at Poly

Blue Jays Basketball Team Wins Championship Title

Time Warner Cable Chairman and CEO to Be Honored at Promise Fund Dinner

Did You Know? Poly Inventors and Innovators

Publications and Presentations

This Month in History




At a special University-wide meeting on February 6, President Chang outlined plans to further reduce Polytechnic’s deficit by $12 million and balance the budget by June 2005. [Chang's  presentation can be viewed on My Poly in the documents section of faculty/staff organization].

The president, with the approval of the Board of Trustees, has instituted a two-phase reduction plan. Phase 1, completed in October 2002, sought to save $4.5 million in annual spending by combining several administrative offices, eliminating several senior-level staff positions, reducing senior-management salaries by three percent, cutting budgets for materials and supplies and for IT and consulting services and financing selected equipment (reported in the October issue of ePoly Briefs).

Phase 2, summarized at the February meeting, focused on the remaining $7.5 million and affected operations, academic programs and employee benefits. Cost-cutting efforts included cancelling under-enrolled classes, not filling open positions, outsourcing Polytechnic’s mailroom and print shop, temporarily halting annual merit raises and reducing employee benefits. The Summer Research Institute, a pre-college internship program housed in the YES Center, has been cut back, and the YES Center will be folded into Admissions. Future initiatives may include bringing Information Services, now outsourced to Grumman, back inside.

Other initiatives discussed at the meeting were the reduction of administrative staff and the reorganization of offices and responsibilities; something that Executive Vice President and Provost Ivan T. Frisch told the audience corrected “a structural problem that had been in place for the past 60 years. Our revenues cannot support the size of our overhead and administration.” The most senior position eliminated was Frisch’s as provost. He will stay on until July. Under the restructuring plan, Admissions and all graduate and undergraduate recruiting now report to President Chang. In addition to their other responsibilities, Vice President Ellen F. Hartigan now oversees Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund and Vice President Richard S. Thorsen now oversees the Registrar and will assume responsibility for Strategic Planning when the provost steps down; Thorsen continues to manage on-going fundraising efforts. Hartigan's title has changed to vice president for student and alumni development and Thorsen's to vice president for university relations, planning and assessment. Bud Griffis, vice president and dean of engineering and applied sciences, now oversees the Dibner Library and the Polytechnic Web site.

The reorganization, said Chang, places priority on growing revenue for the University, particularly through tuition, by improving recruiting and retention efforts. Currently, Polytechnic’s retention rate for first-year freshman who return the following fall is 80 percent and the six-year graduation rate is 50 percent. The University would like to increase those numbers to 85 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Administrators are also working toward expanding undergraduate applications annually by 15 percent and increasing graduate enrollment by five percent.

As part of the recruiting effort, the president will work with the dean of undergraduate admissions, executive director of the Graduate Center, a newly created enrollment-management council and the Campaign 1-2-3 teams for recruiting and marketing. Proposals for improving enrollment include establishing new undergraduate and graduate programs and utilizing the branding and marketing expertise of BP plc, courtesy of Poly trustee and alumnus Ralph C. Alexander ’77 ’78, group vice president of exploration and production at BP.

One question asked during the meeting was the status of the money raised from the 1997-2001 capital campaign. Of the $275 million raised, Lowell W. Robinson, interim chief financial officer, said that $246 million is “cash in the bank,” and $29 million is yet-unfulfilled pledges (of which $6 million is to come from Joseph J. Jacobs). From the money collected, $135 million was put into the endowment; $46 million toward an unrestricted endowment to use as cash on hand; $23 million into new buildings, facility renovations and network upgrade; $13 million for annual funds; $12 million into academic programs; $9 million toward endowed chairs; and $8 million for endowed scholarships. Polytechnic also holds a $90 million bond debt for construction of the two buildings and the new cafeteria and student lounge.

At the October meeting, Chang explained that  Polytechnic’s current financial situation arose from a bleak economic market that lowered the University’s invested endowment, an eight-percent decrease in new-student enrollment for fall 2002, a 25-percent vacancy rate in the Othmer Residence Hall and an increase in financial aid for students because of a depleted pool of money for restricted scholarships (currently, financial aid for students is running at approximately 42 percent of tuition).

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Stephen Wolfram, creator of Mathematica, a scientific computer program used by millions, and author of the best-selling and much-discussed book A New Kind of Science, will speak at Polytechnic on Wednesday, March 5, at 4 p.m. in the Dibner Auditorium.

A child prodigy, Wolfram published his first scientific paper at age 15 and received a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Caltech in 1979, when he was 20. Two years later, he was the youngest person to ever receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for his work in elementary particle physics. While a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, from 1982 to 1986, he made a series of extensive investigations into some of the simplest models of dynamical systems known as cellular automata, finding that their behavior could range from the trivial to the complex in only a small number of well-defined ways. This work led to an explosion of interest in cellular automata, and has had ramifications in physics, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry and other fields.

In 1986, Wolfram moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he established the Center for Complex Systems Research and held professorships in physics, mathematics and computer science. At the same time, he founded a software company, Wolfram Research, and created the software program Mathematica, which can quickly perform mathematical calculations and produce three-dimensional graphic images. Reputed to be the most popular scientific software ever developed, Mathematica has been used for everything from designing the flow rate of shampoo to calculating the Nielsen TV ratings and designing the cycling arena at the Atlanta Olympics.

Over the past decade, Wolfram has divided his time between serving as CEO of Wolfram Research and pursuing basic science. The results of his 15 years of work are presented in his book, A New Kind of Science (May 2002). A No. 1 bestseller on Amazon.com, A New Kind of Science constituted international science news and emerged as one of the most radical science books in decades.

Want to know more about Wolfram and his theories? Read the following online articles:

Forbes.com, God, Stephen Wolfram, and Everything Else (11/27/2000)

The (London) Daily Telegraph, "Is This Man Bigger than Newton and Darwin?" (5/15/2002)

The New York Times Book Review, "You Know That Space-Time Thing? Never Mind" (6/9/2002)

The Philadelphia Inquirer, "In One Huge Volume, A Theory of All Science" (7/4/2002)

Physics World, "Opening the Book of Revelations" (9/2002)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Rule Maker, Rule Breaker; Stephen Wolfram Coming to Pittsburgh to Talk About His Controversial New Theories Defining Natural and Artificial Systems" (9/30/2002)

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Sophomore Omar Nokaly (18 points) hit a key three-pointer to give Polytechnic a 65-62 lead with a minute to play, and teammate Abou Bomba also scored 18 points as the Blue Jays secured the Hudson Valley Men's Basketball Championship title, defeating SUNY Purchase  66-62. Brian King, a freshman liberal studies major, was named Tournament MVP; he had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the game. The tournament was played February 23, in the Jacobs Gymnasium.

For more play-by-play news, read the article on Poly's News site.

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Glenn A. Britt, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable, will be honored at the 15th annual Promise Fund Dinner on June 26. The black-tie gala, which supports Polytechnic’s largest scholarship program, will be held at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria. Tickets start at $1,000.

Britt will receive Polytechnic’s Distinguished Service Award for Technology and the Arts. Audrey Puente, weekend meteorologist for WNBC-TV, will serve as dinner emcee.

The Promise Fund was established in 1988 to attract disadvantaged youths, especially minorities and women, to science and engineering through scholarships and a pre-college outreach program. Since its inception, the fund has raised approximately $11 million and supported more than 1,000 students. Last year’s dinner drew more than 400 guests and raised nearly $1 million.

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From the telephone handset to life-saving antibiotics and the computer chip, Polytechnic alumni and professors have been credited for devices and discoveries that have contributed exponentially to the world’s economy and culture.

When Polytechnic closed the 19th century as a full-fledged school of engineering, its graduates were already making their mark: Robert G. Brown, class of 1868, designed France’s central telephone system and invented the handset phone, the same design used today. Charles R. Flint, class of 1868, a noted trust organizer and sometimes called the “father of trusts,” built the U.S. Rubber Company (now Uniroyal) and what is now IBM. Edward R. Knowles, class of 1870, designed searchlights for the U.S. Navy and invented the storage battery. Henry C. Goldmark, class of 1874, became one of the first men to use steel in bridge construction and later capped his distinguished career by designing and installing Panama Canal’s lock system.

In the 1940s and 50s, Polytechnic advanced its teaching and research programs by attracting leading scholars. Among its professors were Leonard Bergstein, inventor of the concept of the zoom lens; Paul P. Ewald H’72, one of the founders of x-ray crystallography; Antonio Ferri, leader of a team that created the first practical hypersonic tunnel heater, used to heat air for dischage into a wind tunnel; Gordon Gould H'92, who coined the acronymn LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) and received a patent for the basic laser in 1977; Nicholas Hoff, a structural analyst whose calculations became the international guideposts in aircraft design; Herman F. Mark H’65, recognized world-wide as the “father of polymer science” and founder of Polytechnic’s Polymer Research Institute, the first such institute in the nation; Rudolph A. Marcus H’86, whose work in electron transfer reactions culminated in a 1992 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; Donald F. Othmer H’77, inventor of the Othmer Still, which removed chemicals from wood pulp to create non-flammable, non-explosive photography film; Raymond E. Kirk, editor, with Othmer, of the industry-standard Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology; and Ernst Weber H’70, pioneer of microwave engineering and founder of Poly’s Microwave Research Center (now called the Weber Wireless Research Institute); .

Also contributing to the era’s growth in industry, science and technology were Polytechnic alumni, including Bern Dibner ’21 H’59, who discovered how to connect electrical conductors still used today and who assembled one of the world’s most important history of science libraries, now housed at MIT and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History; George Ellner ’21, who developed the use of ultra-violet light for sterilization; Benjamin Adler ’26 H’67, who helped develop commercial television; Samuel D. Goldberg ’29 ’35, Polytechnic’s first PhD graduate, who revolutionized dentistry by inventing local anesthetics and making Novocain commercially feasible; Jasper H. Kane ’28 H’95 and Peter P. Regna ’32 ’37 ’42 H’94, who helped discover Terramyscin, an antibiotic effective against more than 100 diseases; and Leopold H. Just ’29, who designed virtually every major bridge and tunnel in New York City, as well as Washington’s Metro system and the Ohio and Connecticut Turnpikes.

Notable graduates from the period following World War II included Nobel Laurates Martin L. Perl ’48 H’96, who received the 1995 prize in physics for discovering the tau lepton particle, and Gertrude Elion H’89, who received the 1988 prize in medicine for her pioneering work in drug research. Eugene Kleiner ’48 ’51 H’89 founded Fairchild Semiconductor, an early developer of the computer chip, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture-capital firm that launched such high-tech giants as America Online, Netscape and Sun Microsystems. Mario Tchou '49 led a group of scientists from the University of Pisa to invent, in 1959, the ELEA 9003, Italy's first computer. Paul Soros ’50 created a new field of consulting that changed the way ports were built. John Gilbert ’53 ’55, invented devices ranging from a multiple-head pasta extruder for the Ronzoni Company to miniaturized registers for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. When asked by the DuPont Company to develop uses for Teflon, Gilbert suggested coating pots and pans.

In the 1970s, alumni Jerome Swartz ’63 ’69 and Shelly A. Harrison ’65 ’70 founded Symbol Technologies, which gave birth to the hand-held barcode laser scanner. Alumna Toruun Atteraas Garin '77, oversaw the development of the artificial sweetener aspartame and was a national spokesperson for the product. She also developed nontoxic processes to create food colorings and remove caffeine from coffee.

Many of today's professors are carrying on Poly's tradition of vanguard research that will impact the future. Among them are Stephen Arnold, who helped create the interdisciplinary field of Microsphere Photonics, an optical biosensor sensitive enough to detect unlabeled molecules such as protein molecules and strands of DNA; H. Johnathan Chao, who patented the first integrated circuit chip that demonstrates the feasibility of SONET/ATM networks, allowing large volumes of information--audio, date, image and video--to transmit at high speeds; Bruce Garetz, who invented (with former Polytechnic professor Allan Myerson) a method for using laser light to control the arrangement of molecules in a crystal; David Goodman and Phyllis Frankl, who introduced the first practical application of a wireless infostation that can communicate information to and from a PDA or notebook computer; Richard A. Gross, who is developing new ways to produce environmentally friendly polymers that use less energy and toxic materials in such products as plastics; Spencer Kuo and Iraj M. Kalkhoran, who helped discover (with Lester Orlick and Daniel Bivolaru) a use for plasma to solve aeronautical problems of sonic booms and severe wave drag in supersonic flights; Kalle Levon, who invented an electro-chemical method to identify bacteria; Eli M. Pearce, who designed fire-resistant polymers; Ed Weil, who discovered a new family of chemicals that inhibit corrosion and could be used in protective coatings; Edward Wong and Nasir Memon, who created a computer program that imbeds information in digital documents to authenticate, protect copyright or communicate covertly; and Zivan Zabar, who developed a computer code for Con Edison that helped restart the electronic network after a 1983 blackout; the program was again used after 9/11 to restore power in lower Manhattan.

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Vladimir I. Tsifrinovich (with G.P. Berman and D.L. Allara), “Entangled Spin States in Self-Assembled Monolayer Systems”, published in Physical Review B (Vol. 66, 193406, November 15, 2002)



Ron Hirshon (emeritus), "Misbehaved Direct Products," published in Expositiones Mathematicae (Vol. 20, 2002)



Blair Williams, "Advanced Supplier Partnerships: A Case Study," to be presented at Mid Atlantic Supply Chain and Resource Management Symposium, Congress for Progress, Atlantic City, N.J. (April 10)

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Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

English poet John Keats, died February 23 of tuberculosis in Rome at age 25 (1821)


Catherine Howard, fifth wife of England's King Henry VIII, beheaded for adultery (1542) . . . St. Augustine, Florida, oldest city in the United States, founded (1566) . . . Julia Ward Howe publishes poem "Battle Hymn of the Republic," later to become the best-known Civil War song of the Union Army (1862) . . . Mark Twain publishes Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1864) . . Harvey Wilcox of Kansas subdivides 120 acres he owns in Southern California and starts selling it off as a real estate development called Hollywood Land (1887) . . . Charlie Chaplin debuts as the tramp in "Kid Auto Races at Venice" (1914) . . . 24-year-old Clyde W. Tombaugh discovers Pluto, the ninth planet of our solar system; Tombaugh is the only American to discover a planet (1930) . . . four students stage first civil rights sit-in, at a Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro, N.C. (1960) . . . Cassius Clay becomes a Muslim and adopts the name Muhammad Ali (1964) . . . Al-Fatah-leader Yasser Arafat becomes president of PLO (1969) . . . women win the right to vote in Switzerland (1971) . . . Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier flees into exile in France, ending 28 years of rule by his family (1986) . . . cinematic masterpiece “Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure," starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, opens in theaters (1989)


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ePoly Briefs is published the last week of each month by the

Office of Communications and Media Relations

Editor: Therese E. Tillett, 718/260-3165, JB 551A

Polytechnic University, February 2003


On the Edge: Exploring Nature and the Urban Environment

Now until March 27

Dibner Library



Saturday 1

11 a.m.

Poly vs. Ramapo/Stevens Institute

Men’s Volleyball

Jacobs Gymnasium


Wednesday 5

4 p.m.

Stephen Wolfram, "A New Kind of Science"

Dibner Auditorium


5 p.m.

Principal's Scholars Dinner

Kalle Levon, "Macromolecular Detection of Biological Agents"

LC 400


Friday 7

8 p.m.

New York City Opera's "A Little Night Music" ($80/person)

New York State Theater at Lincoln Center


Saturday 8

12 p.m.

Poly vs. Skidmore

Men's Baseball

Floyd Bennett Field


Sunday 9

11 a.m.

Poly vs. Baruch

Men’s Baseball

Floyd Bennett Field


12:30 p.m.

Folk musicians Triple Play

Wunsch Student Center


2 p.m.

Poly vs. Yeshiva/Medgar Evers

Men's Volleyball

Jacobs Gymnasium


Thursday 13

11:15 a.m.

Symbol Technologies Distinguished Lecture Series

Maria Papadoupouli, assistant professor of computer science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

LC 102


7 p.m.

Poly vs. Webb

Women’s Volleyball

Jacobs Gymnasium


Saturday 15

12 p.m.

Poly vs. Brooklyn College

Men's Volleyball

Jacobs Gymnasium


Sunday 16

1 p.m.

Poly vs. Bard

Women’s Volleyball

Jacobs Gymnasium


Monday 17 - Friday 21

No classes

Spring Break


Wednesday 19

NYC Science & Engineering Fair Regional Finals

Brooklyn Marriott 


7 p.m.

Poly vs. Mount St. Vincent's

Men's Volleyball

Jacobs Gymnasium


Thursday 20 - Saturday 22

NYC FIRST Robotics Competition

Riverside Park, Manhattan


Saturday 22

12 p.m.

Poly vs. Jersey City

Men's Volleyball

Jacobs Gymnasium


1 p.m.

Poly vs. SUNY Institute of Tech.

Men’s Baseball

Floyd Bennett Field


Sunday 23

3:30 p.m.

Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus ($22/person)

Madison Square Garden


Thursday 27

7 p.m.

Poly vs. U.S. Merchant Marines Academy

Men's Volleyball

Jacobs Gymnasium


Saturday 29

12 p.m.

Poly vs. Pratt

Men’s Tennis

National Tennis Center


12 p.m.

Poly vs. St. Michael's

Men's Baseball

Floyd Bennett Field


Sunday 30

Spotlight on Scholars Reception