Public 4-Year Schools

Rutgers Receives $19 Million to Develop Drugs to Treat Chemical Weapons

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Rutgers University a five-year grant for more than $19 million for research that would lead to the development of drugs to treat toxicity from chemical agents used in a terrorist attack.

The grant – which first received funding in 2006 and again in 2011 – provides scientists at Rutgers, New York Medical College and Lehigh University the funds they need to continue a decades-long collaboration, aimed at devising drug therapies to use if deadly chemical poisons were released into the general population. Over the course of this project, NIH has provided more than $60 million to these investigators for this research.

“Our preparedness in case of an attack in the United States and how you treat it is still of the utmost importance,” said Jeffrey Laskin, director of the Rutgers University CounterACT Research Center of Excellence, a federal program pursuing medical countermeasures. “Another important issue is for our military, the warfighters who may be exposed to chemicals on the battlefield.”

The U.S. government wants researchers to develop drug products that would work as an antidote for individuals exposed to mustard gas, a chemical weapon banned under the 1925 Geneva protocol. First used by the German military against Allied troops in World War I and in subsequent wars including the Iran-Iraq conflict during the 1980s, symptoms range from skin irritations and conjunctivitis to severe ulcerations, blistering of the skin, blindness and irreversible damage to the respiratory tract.

More recently, The Islamic State used chemical weapons, including sulfur mustard gas agents at least 52 times since 2014 on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, according to a London-based intelligence collection and analysis service. News reports have indicated that ISIS militants have also loaded the gas into artillery shells and fired on people living in small villages miles away.

Newark Tops Harvard, Berkeley, Emory, Others in California Debates

Photo of Debate Team by Eleonora Luongo

The RU-Newark debate team took top honors in a recent competition held in California. Avenging an early-season defeat to Harvard, the team continues to gain momentum as the 2017 debate season progresses, in particular with a stellar performance and championship win at the Alan Nichols Debate Tournament hosted by the University of Southern California (USC) earlier this month.

RU-Camden Inks RN to BS Nursing Partnership with MCCC

Mercer County Community College (MCCC) and RU-Camden have created the Rutgers RN to BS Express program, allowing MCCC students to complete three years of a bachelor of science in nursing degree at MCCC and seamlessly transfer to Rutgers–Camden for completion.






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Changes Coming to Rutgers’ New Brunswick to Improve Traffic Flow, Student Experience
New Jersey State Senate Honors Rutgers as a ‘Globally Esteemed Higher Education Institution’
Ten Professors Named Fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science

Bike and bus lanes will replace metered parking on College to improve student safety, enhance the student experience and augment traffic flow.

Changes Coming to Rutgers’s New Brunswick to Improve Traffic Flow, Student Experience

Dedicated bike and bus lanes on College Avenue are coming soon, improvements that will increase safety for students and others traversing the RU-New Brunswick campus.

Photo: Nick Romanenko                                                               At Senate chambers: left to right, Sen. Ray Lesniak; Sen. Bob Smith; George LeBlanc, vice president, government and fiscal affairs, Rutgers; Gloria Soto, assistant vice president, state government affairs, Rutgers; Sen. Loretta Weinberg; and Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

New Jersey State Senate Honors Rutgers as a ‘Globally Esteemed Higher Education Institution’

The New Jersey State Senate presented Rutgers with a resolution recognizing the university as a “globally esteemed educational institution” in honor of its 250th anniversary.

The resolution highlighted the accomplishments of the university’s alumni, who include governors, senators and members of the Legislature and Supreme Court of New Jersey.

“The strength and success of the State of New Jersey, the vitality of our global communities and the effectiveness of our American society depend, in great measure, upon outstanding institutions of higher learning such as Rutgers,” the resolution stated.

Robert Barchi, Rutgers 20th and current president, traveled to Trenton to mark the occasion on Monday.

“We’ve been here longer than the State of New Jersey,” President Barchi said. “It’s nice to have the Senate recognize this milestone. I’m pleased to see they are proud of the university and expressed that pride by issuing a statement like this as we commemorate our 250th anniversary.”

Ten Professors Named Fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science

They are among 391 fellows from the U.S. and abroad who were chosen by their peers

Ten Rutgers professors have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an honor conferred on 381 other experts in the U.S. and abroad.

The fellows were chosen by their AAAS peers for efforts to advance science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished, according to the AAAS.

The new fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin at the AAAS Fellows Forum on Feb. 18, 2017. The forum will be held during the 2017 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

The new Rutgers AAAS fellows are:

Clinton J. Andrews, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, School of Arts and Sciences

Suzie Chen, Department of Chemical Biology, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

G. Charles Dismukes, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, School of Arts and Sciences, and Waksman Institute of Microbiology

Henry B. John-Alder, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences

Terri Goss Kinzy, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Ah-Ng Tony Kong, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Peter Lobel, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Pal Maliga, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and Waksman Institute of Microbiology

Christopher J. Molloy, Senior Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Monica Roth, Department of Pharmacology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science ( as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances, Science Immunology, and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement and more.

For more stories about Rutgers, scroll down:

Rutgers-Newark’s Arts Incubator Opens in Historic Former Hahne’s Department Store
Full Tuition and Living Stipend Now Offered for MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers-Camden
How a Tech Start-Up Pioneer Found New Meaning to Life in Health Care
Empowering Those Who Feel Powerless Post-Election

Rutgers-Newark’s Arts Incubator Opens in Historic Former Hahne’s Department Store

Express Newark is bringing new synergy to Newark’s arts district

If the walls of the former Hahne & Co. department store could talk, they’d tell a story of 116 years of booms, busts, triumphs, and tribulations. However, the iconic structure in the heart of Newark’s downtown will express a new story: one of reincarnation. Express Newark, an arts incubator conceived by Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) faculty, staff, students, and community arts leaders, will occupy 50,000 of the structure’s massive 500,000 square feet. Building on an already high level of synergy among Newark’s anchor institutions, Express Newark will partner with community arts organizations in the city’s socially, economically, and culturally diverse neighborhoods. RU-N arts classes in Express Newark began with the spring semester. Entrance to the building is at 54 Halsey St.; the building is designated as HAH on RU-N class schedules.

Express Newark is a bold plan to cultivate local artistic expression that resonates globally by facilitating public scholarship and community engagement, opening an exciting new chapter in the city’s cultural history. RU-N envisions Express Newark as the fulcrum of the city’s burgeoning Arts District, linking well-established institutions such as the Newark Museum, the Newark Public Library, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Military Park, and WBGO public radio, with Halsey Street’s studio art spaces and the Great Hall at RU-N’s 15 Washington Street. Designed by Goldwin Starrett and renowned for its striking architecture that embodies the department store aesthetic of early 20th Century urban America, Hahne’s has been an iconic focal point of the downtown Newark streetscape since opening in 1901.

Within the former store Express Newark will provide state-of-the-art interdisciplinary public learning spaces where artists, community residents, and community partners will create visual, spoken word, and electronic arts, foster democratic dialogue, and effect positive transformation. All of their collaborations, experimentation, and innovation will be done in partnership with RU-N faculty, staff, and students.

Express Newark will help fulfill one of the chief goals of RU-N’s strategic plan: to create third spaces where RU-N can engage collaboratively with community partners, further fulfilling its proud tradition of anchor institution investment in its home city.

Express Newark is co-directed by Victor Davson, founding director of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, Newark’s longest lived and most respected gallery, and Anne Schaper Englot, RU-N professor of architecture and humanities in the interdisciplinary Arts, Culture and Media (ACM) Department.

Developing Express Newark was an “organic process,” according to Davson. This evolution posed challenges in fulfilling EN’s mission of breaking down barriers between the university and the community, and creating partnerships in parts of the community that the university had previously been unable to reach, so that RU-N could truly be “of Newark, and not simply in Newark,” explains Davson. “We want people who walk past the building to feel included, to feel, ‘That place is for me,’” states Englot.

Express Newark will have facilities on the second through fourth floors of the Hahne’s building, which closed in the mid-1980s. Community organizations and members of the public will have access to Express Newark services such as a design consortium, 3-D printing studio, a photographic portrait studio, video production teaching facilities, smart classrooms, seminar rooms, and more. Community collaborators including the Newark Print Shop and Hycide magazine as well as artists-in-residence programs will nurture local artists as they grow their practices.

The first exhibition in the expansive new gallery will be Records at Play: The Institute of Jazz Studies@50, a yearlong celebration designed to educate and heighten public awareness on the treasures of the world’s foremost jazz archive located on the campus of Rutgers University-Newark.

highly diverse advisory group of artists from the community worked with Davson and Englot to shape Express Newark and move it forward from vision and mission to a reality, determining what programs and partners to house in the building, as well as what facilities were needed. Providing critical input on the project was a broad-based operations committee, comprised of faculty, the directors of the galleries and the jazz archives, the director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at the Rutgers Business School, Newark artists, leaders from other Newark arts anchor institutions (New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark Museum, Newark Arts Council) and the Newark mayor’s cultural affairs director.

The Rutgers Board of Governors approved funding for the Express Newark renovations to the Hahne’s building in 2014; the key project investors, Prudential Financial and Goldman Sachs, provided additional construction financing for the remainder of the redevelopment project. Prudential, PSEG, the Bank of America, and The Kresge Foundation awarded grants to Express Newark.

Some additional funding came in the form of seed grants from Rutgers Chancellor Nancy Cantor. Jayne Anne Phillips, director of RU–N Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing Program, and Nick Kline, professor in RU-N’s Department of Arts, Culture and Media, received a $50,000 seed grant to work with MFA in Creative Writing students and Newark-based printmakers to create “Artists Broadsides in Express Newark.” This program – through which artists will compile chapbooks of various visual works they create – will bring MFA candidates to Newark high schools to mentor students there.

A $12,000 seed grant went to Institute of Jazz Studies archivist Adriana Cuervo to support the “Newark Citizen Historian” project with partners Newark Public Library, Newark History Society, Queer Newark, and Express Newark. This project will invite current generations of African-American residents to help make their forebears’ stories even more vivid by scouring their homes for artifacts and heirlooms that can then be researched and displayed.

Full Tuition and Living Stipend Now Offered for MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers-Camden

Students in the master’s of fine arts program in creative writing at Rutgers-Camden now have more time to focus on their literary pursuits.

Students in the master of fine arts (MFA) program in creative writing at Rutgers University–Camden will now have more time to focus on their literary pursuits, thanks to new funding available to full-time students that will cover tuition and living expenses.

The grant, allocated by Rutgers University President Robert Barchi, will enable five incoming Rutgers–Camden MFA students to receive traditional teaching assistantships with tuition remission. An additional five students will receive a new, interdisciplinary fellowship with the opportunity to teach composition.

In lieu of a traditional teaching schedule, these students will work in various departments on campus in exchange for tuition remission and a stipend. The first cohort of students benefiting from this new arrangement will begin classes in fall 2017.

“Full funding is a game-changer for the MFA program,” says Lauren Grodstein, an associate professor of English and director of the MFA program at Rutgers–Camden. “With Pulitzer and Guggenheim Award-winning faculty, a beautiful home in the historic Writers House at Rutgers–Camden, and an NEA-sponsored reading series, the Rutgers–Camden MFA program has all the pieces in place to become one of the top programs in the nation. By providing us with this crucial funding, President Barchi has recognized our potential and allowed us to offer full support to our incredible students.”

MFA students at Rutgers University–Camden will now have the opportunity to concentrate further on their writing under the mentorship of a faculty that is a virtual “who’s who” of successful award-winning writers, including poets Gregory Pardlo – a Pulitzer Prize winner – Patrick Rosal, and J.T. Barbarese; fiction writers, such as Robin Black, Lauren Grodstein, and Lisa Zeidner; and nonfiction writers, including Lise Funderburg and Paul Lisicky. The program also regularly welcomes visiting professors such as Karen Russell and Emud Mokhberi.

The competitive Rutgers–Camden MFA program in creative writing requires 39 credits of coursework and completion of a thesis for this terminal degree concentrating in fiction, poetry, and narrative nonfiction.

How a Tech Start-Up Pioneer Found New Meaning to Life in Health Care

Seeking more meaning to life, a successful entrepreneur pursues a career as a physician assistant

When Gidon Coussin’s children asked him what he did for a living, the business developer had a difficult time explaining it. The best he could come up with was: “I try to do deals.”

For about two decades, the Israeli businessman and his friends had launched successful start-ups, including Boxee – a home theater application that streams media to television with a social networking feature – which was sold to Samsung in 2013. But as satisfying as creating new companies was, he felt something was missing. He longed to show his children, ages 5, 10 and 14, that there is more to life than the corner office.

When the Boxee sale closed, Coussin decided to make a clean break, also leaving his position as CEO at Feelday, a family activity locator app he launched. “I knew this was my chance to change my life and help people in a hands-on way,” he says.

He looked back to his experience as captain in the Israeli Defense Forces, where he watched in admiration whenever the army medics sprung into action. “I was a paratrooper and had medics under my command. They had to be real pros to care for the wounded while under fire,” says Coussin, who now studying to be a physician assistant at Rutgers School of Health Professions. “I think the seed was planted back then.”

Coussin’s road to Rutgers took many turns. Shortly after resigning, he noticed an advertisment for EMT volunteers in his hometown of Short Hills, and he signed up for training. “After only two shifts, I knew this was exactly what I was born to do,” he says. “Finally, in my 40s I figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up.”

After completing his EMT training, Coussin decided to continue his studies and become a paramedic – 90 minutes away in the city of Camden. “I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and help an underserved population,” he explains.

He enrolled in a two-year course at Camden County College. After a year of school, he worked two 12-hour shifts each week with paramedics in Camden to fulfill his fieldwork requirement while continuing to volunteer for double shifts each week as an EMT for the Millburn-Short Hills volunteer first aid squad.

The decision proved to be solid. “I learned more in one shift in Camden than I could in two weeks where I live,” he says.

A defining moment came when he answered a call in which a car struck children being pulled in a wagon. “The boy I was working on died. He was wearing the same pants that my son had. I thought, ‘This could be my son,’” he says. “I realized that if I still wanted to work in health care after this experience, this is what I was meant to do.”

While training to be a paramedic, Coussin already had his eye on the next level – medical school – but realized that it would take longer than he wished to be a clinician. Then, he learned about the increasing role of physician assistants in health care. “This was new to me; physician assistants didn’t exist in Israel,” he says.

Upon graduating from paramedic training last year, he enrolled at Rutgers School of Health Professions, whose physician assistant program is ranked 16th in the nation. “The more I learned about the work, the more excited I got,” says Coussin, who will complete his degree in 2019.

Coussin’s job prospects are excellent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for physician assistants is projected to grow 30 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than other occupations, partially due to the growing aging population.

“When I was studying toward my bachelor’s degree in engineering and management in Israel, I was not very interested,” says Coussin, who moved to the United States in the 1999 for business. “Now, I’m studying because the material is fascinating. I can also help my kids with their science homework – something I couldn’t do four years ago.”

Coussin says his years in business are a significant benefit. “Working as a business developer honed my skills in human interaction and gave me the ability to take a step back and look at things as a bigger picture – both of which are important in medicine,” he says. “There also are many opportunities for start-ups in health care, and I have a lot of ideas. My chapter in technology is far from over.”

As “definitely the oldest student,” Coussin finds inspiration in his classmates. “In the world of start-ups, you tend to work with your friends,” he says. “Now, I get to mix with a variety of people.”

Coussin says he loves challenging himself – regardless of the endeavor. “I approach my studies as I did my time in the army and in business: like it is an endurance sport,” says Coussin, a triathlete who has run six New York City Marathons. Despite the rigors of school, he still works one 12-hour EMT shift a month in Short Hills, and hopes one day his son will join him.

“I share what I learn and see each day with my kids,” he says. “I don’t want them to live in a bubble; I teach them there’s a world outside of our town.”

Empowering Those Who Feel Powerless Post-Election

Rutgers graduate student launches Action Together New Jersey to mobilize people who want to bring about local and national change

‘After the election the members of Action Together New Jersey as well as other groups in the ATN wanted to do more than just share their stories with each other. They’ve decided to create resources to help existing groups and provide the state with a cohesive network of passionate, similar-minded doers to enact legislative change.’ – Andrea Catone, founder of Action Together New Jersey

Rutgers graduate student Andrea Catone started Pantsuit Nation New Jersey as a safe space to talk about this year’s historic presidential election.

Like the national Facebook group it was born out of, hundreds posted uplifting stories about overcoming obstacles to gender equality and their first experience voting for a female presidential candidate.

After the votes were tallied, the invite-only page turned into a safe space for its 14,000 New Jersey members to share frustrations about the election results. They expressed anger about increasing incidents of hate speech or actions they’d experienced, witnessed or heard of and fear of future human rights violations under a Donald Trump presidency.

In those conversations Catone, 35, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Graduate School-New Brunswick, recognized a common thread was a subject she’s studied for years: trauma.

“By getting together and sharing stories, we see that trauma is something shared in common, something outside of ourselves,” she said. “Soon after, that emoting and support turned into talk about what can be done to address hate and turn their feelings of despair into hope and action.”

But just as Pantsuit Nation New Jersey members – and members of other unofficial Pantsuit chapters – geared up to take political action in their communities, the Pantsuit mothership pumped the brakes by filing for nonprofit status.

“It is essential that no group using the name Pantsuit Nation engage in any attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities or participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates,” administrators of the national Pantsuit page announced in early December.

Pantsuit Nation wanted to steer clear of the political fray, while Pantsuit Nation New Jersey wanted to join it. After putting it to a vote among members, Catone renamed her page Action Together New Jersey. Pantsuit groups from other states and cities did the same, giving rise to a national Action Together Network (ATN) that includes 50 Facebook groups and 200,000 members.

“After the election the members of Action Together New Jersey as well as other groups in the ATN wanted to do more than just share their stories with each other,” said Catone. “ATNJ decided to create resources to help existing groups and provide the state with a cohesive network of passionate, similar-minded doers to enact legislative change. For example, we contributed to the Unite guide, a practical guide for people interested in using social media to build action groups like ours.”

Action Together New Jersey shares a similar mission with other groups under the ATN umbrella: provide resources to organizations advocating for human rights, push back against divisive elected officials and create sanctuaries within their communities to protect those targeted by discrimination. Local chapters have formed in every county in the state, and many members have met in-person to determine the issues that matter most to them.

Action Together New Jersey (which also maintains a website) is mobilizing their people power by advertising the services of existing nonprofits and grassroots groups. They encourage members to make daily phone calls or write letters, emails and tweets to state and federal legislators, and work county organizations to identify open seats for elected offices and recruit members to run. Nationally, groups in the ATN work to amplify local groups’ political actions or unite them behind calls to action.

“Ultimately, one of our goals is to elect progressive leaders that share our values at every level of government from every town council and school board to the White House and everything in between,” she said.

Catone has a long history as a community organizer, having helped organize mass anti-war mobilizations while interning with United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) from 2003 to 2005. As an undergraduate at Rutgers, she helped build and spread the Tent State University movement for improved access to higher education.

An American Association of University Women fellow, Catone expects to complete her dissertation this year. Hers research, which bridges the fields of sociology, psychology and molecular biology, examines the way parenting processes – from neglect to over attachment and child abuse – can trigger changes in the expression of the genes that regulate mental health. Identifying and understanding how those genes turn on or off could lead to interventions that alleviate the effect of childhood trauma. A self-described public scholar, Catone said her research dovetails with her community activism.

“My political work and academic research are connected by my desire to find interventions that help break the cycles of consequences of trauma,” said Catone. “Academically, I analyze how trauma spreads and operates socially and within the body. Politically, I work to intervene in the spread of trauma and to address its consequences.”

Right now that means empowering those who’ve felt powerless since the election. To do that Catone formed a team of volunteers with particular skill sets for Action Together New Jersey to better connect members with the resources they need to initiate social and political change. Among those volunteers is a pair of digital marketing consultants – Ashley M. Raymond, 31, of Hazlet, and Anna Dillulio, 30, of Old Bridge – who created the web app that Action Together New Jersey and other groups use to galvanize its members.

“Now we have 17 regional groups with eight live sites and are launching sites for nine other groups in the national network,” said Raymond, who graduated from Rutgers in 2010. “The whole thing has been moving and growing so fast.”

That surge in Action Together New Jersey membership and volunteerism is enormous in comparison with Catone’s previous activism efforts.

“The motivation, response and passion are extraordinary in my experience. What I think is different is the desire to sign up and do actual work,” she said. “It’s easy to get people to sign up for an email list, but now people are signing up by the thousands to do concrete tasks.”