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Medgar Evers Biologist Receives Award for Summer Research at Queens College
Contact: Maria Matteo Maria Terrone
  (718) 997-5590 (718) 997-5591


NEW YORK, July 10, 2003 -- Professor Mohsin Patwary of Medgar Evers College has been selected to conduct research and study for a second summer in the laboratory of biologist Timothy W. Short. Trained at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, Short is on the faculty of Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). Patwary’s Visiting Professorship is one of only five awarded nationally by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC), with federal financial support. The visiting professors are all cell biologists who teach at institutions that serve primarily minority students.

These educational partnerships are intended to acquaint professors of science with the latest research tools and techniques, help them build a network with other scientists and institutions, and bring the excitement of science research to colleges, such as Medgar Evers (CUNY), that lack research facilities.

Professors Patwary and Short have been working together several years to understand how plants respond to different light conditions in their environment. Applying state-of-the-art molecular biology techniques to study a fern commonly known as “water sprite,” the scientists are examining the molecules that aid the plant’s ability to “see” its growth conditions, such as the presence of nearby competitors, the time of day, and the season of the year, and to adjust its growth and development accordingly. For example, the fern spores will germinate better, make new leaves, and even change the type of leaves they produce depending on the light in their environment. The results of this research may ultimately be used to maximize crop yields and to understand basic processes in all living cells.

Both scientists see the collaboration as highly beneficial for themselves and their students. “Research is such an important part of science teaching,” says Patwary, a native of Bangladesh who taught college-level biology in Bangladesh, Canada, and Texas before coming to New York. “I was looking for a collaboration that would allow me to use the latest scientific techniques and transmit my research knowledge to my students. Through this project, the most promising students have come to Queens College and have been exposed to a first-class molecular lab.” The Medgar Evers students also benefit from their interaction with biology graduate students at Queens College who are working on the same research project.

Adds Short: “Professor Patwary also brings his expertise to us, demonstrating some techniques that I didn’t have experience with. In addition, we are developing and refining new techniques for working with this plant right now, so Professor Patwary will be able to bring these methods into the classroom before many in the scientific community are even aware of them. That’s likely to give his students a real advantage.”

Plans are in place to build a modern science laboratory facility at Medgar Evers College, but the building won’t be constructed and completed for several years. For Patwary, who teaches a course in Molecular Biology Techniques, the new research facility will make an enormous educational difference. In the meantime, he says, he has access to “supplies, chemical solutions—even special storage needed for bacteria or the DNA clones that I use in my classes.”

To be eligible for the ASCB Minority Affairs Committee Visiting Professorship Program, the scientists were required to plan a research project together and submit it with a follow-up plan for the academic year. According to ASCB MAC member Anthony DePass of Long Island University, each application was scored in a variety of categories: the proposed research and the quality of planned interactions for the professor; the intended relationship between professor and sponsoring lab in the future; benefit to teaching; the qualifications of researcher and professor, and the potential impact on minorities and institutions with high minority enrollment.

Although the ASCB Visiting Professorship officially lasts only two years, the rich collaboration between Patwary and Short will continue, thanks to a PSC-CUNY research grant from CUNY’S Professional Staff Congress union. The scientists also have received grants of $175,000 from CUNY, which paid for sophisticated plant incubators, light sources, and microscopy equipment for their research.

Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY), founded in 1937 and located on a 77-acre campus in Flushing, Queens, enjoys a strong national reputation for the liberal arts and sciences and professional programs. Master’s degrees are offered in nearly 50 disciplines. Queens College was founded on the conviction that a high-quality education should be accessible to talented individuals from all backgrounds. Its 16,000 students come from more than 140 nations and speak 66 languages—creating an extraordinarily diverse, and welcoming, educational environment. Students are taught by an award-winning faculty renowned for scholarship and dedicated to teaching. Many special programs are offered for honors students, students in pre-law, pre-med and business, adults and “fresh start” students; weekend learners; and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. For more Queens College news, please visit: News and Media.


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