Albany, NY, United States
Albany, NY, United States

The University at Albany, known officially as University at Albany, State University of New York, is a research institution with campuses in Albany, Guilderland, and Rensselaer, New York, United States. The oldest university campus of the State University of New York system, founded in 1844, it carries out undergraduate and graduate education, research, and service.The University has three campuses: the Uptown Campus in Albany and Guilderland's McKownville neighborhood, the Downtown Campus in Albany, and the East Campus in the City of Rensselaer, just across the Hudson River from Albany. The University enrolls more than 17,300 students in nine schools and colleges, which offer 50 undergraduate majors and 138 graduate degree programs. The University's academic choices include new and emerging fields in public policy, globalization, documentary studies, biotechnology and informatics.Students take advantage of more than 500 study-abroad programs, as well as internship opportunities in New York’s capital and surrounding region. The Honors College, which opened in fall 2006, offers opportunities for the well-prepared students to work closely with faculty. The University at Albany faculty had $330.5 million in research expenditures in 2011-2012 for work advancing discovery in a wide range of fields. The research enterprise is in four areas: social science and public policy, life science and atmospheric science.In addition to offering many cultural benefits, such as a contemporary art museum and the New York State Writers Institute, UAlbany plays a major role in the economic development of the Capital District and New York State. An economic impact study in 2004 estimated UAlbany’s economic impact to be $1.1 billion annually in New York State — $1 billion of that in the Capital District Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Secure &Trustworthy Cyberspace | Award Amount: 477.48K | Year: 2016

Smart grid integrates sensors and communication infrastructure into the existing power grid to enable operational intelligence. The concept of microgrid is emerging in conjunction with the smart grid wherein small segments of the grid can be isolated into self-sufficient islands to feed their own demand load with their local energy, e.g., wind, solar. To date, microgrids begin to develop cooperative models for further improving the performance of global and local load management, such as global/local load balancing, energy exchange, and power transmission network topology design/upgrade with the integration of microgrids. However, all the cooperation among microgrids requests them to explicitly share their local sensitive grid operational information for global performance optimization, and thus compromises the privacy of microgrids. Then, microgrids privacy concerns would impede the development and implementation of the cooperative models such that significant benefits via microgrids cooperation on the power grid may not be available. This project tackles the privacy concerns in such cooperation, and enables microgrids to efficiently manage their local loads as well as facilitate the main grid to manipulate the global load with limited disclosure.

This project proposes a suite of novel privacy preserving cooperative models/techniques for distributed microgrids to efficiently advance load management on the power grid. Provable privacy/security is ensured in the end-to-end process of cooperation, including privately analyzing data collected from different microgrids and privately implementing the schemes/solutions derived from the cooperative models, by composing cryptographic primitives with the secure multiparty computation (SMC) theory and/or imposing defined rigorous privacy notions. Ensuring privacy protection with rigorous standards will allow data to be collected and used in ways that were prohibitive earlier due to the privacy concerns, and then improve both operational efficiency and user acceptance. Load management via privacy preserving cooperation further optimally allocates distributed energy and minimizes the transmission and storage costs in a more secure, reliable and efficient smart grid infrastructure. This project also integrates research and education by exciting undergraduates to join the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) research.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Macromolec/Supramolec/Nano | Award Amount: 450.00K | Year: 2016

This NSF award by the Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program of the Chemistry Division supports the project by Professor Marina A. Petrukhina, a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at the State University of New York at Albany. This project is to explore a diverse set of novel nanocarbon materials ranging from carbon bowls to nanobelts and warped nanographene. Studies of the addition of several electrons by novel nanostructured systems may improve our understanding of their fundamental properties. The research may also expand the applications of carbon-rich materials in several technological fields ranging from electronics to energy storage. This research lies at the interface of organometallic, supramolecular and nanochemistry and provides unique educational and research experiences for graduate and undergraduate students at the University at Albany. The project is designed to engage the students in a modern interdisciplinary research in synthetic, structural and materials chemistry and thus, to prepare them for successful careers in chemistry.

This research includes a broad fundamental investigation of chemical reduction processes occurring on novel curved and strained nanocarbon systems with different structural topologies ranging from carbon-rich bowl-shaped polyarenes to nanobelts and warped nanographene sheets. This diverse set of structurally well-defined carbon materials provides unique opportunities to study their multi-electron uptake properties at the molecular level. Specifically, investigations of the structural consequences of adding multiple electrons to the curved and bent surfaces are being pursued. Studies of alkali metal intercalation and self-assembly trends related to the non-planar and highly charged carbanions is also studied. As a result, this research may improve our fundamental understanding of the redox behavior and electron transport properties of carbonaceous nanomaterials having different structures and nanosized dimensions. The project may assist in describing alkali metal ion intercalation in between non-planar carbon surfaces, which is important for the advancement of carbon-based anode materials in energy storage devices. This fundamental research may advance the materials chemistry applications of curved carbon-rich polyarenes and enhance education opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students at the University at Albany. The education plan targets training of the next generation of materials chemists, including women and minorities, and is well integrated with the research.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: FED CYBER SERV: SCHLAR FOR SER | Award Amount: 297.53K | Year: 2016

GenCyber Initiative, co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency, started in 2014 to provide summer cybersecurity camp experiences for students and teachers at the K-12 level. In 2016, there are 135 camps involving approximate 6000 students and 1200 teachers. To help assess and achieve one of the goals of GenCyber, understanding correct and safe on-line behavior, the proposed project aims to develop an innovative tool, the Cybersecurity Judgment Questionnaire (CJQ), for assessing middle and higher school students understanding of cybersecurity.

CJQ is based on the heuristics and biases theory by Daniel Kahneman and focuses on cybersecurity judgment rather than on cybersecurity behavior or cybersecurity awareness because ordinary peoples daily behavior is significantly influenced by their intuitive thinking and thus it is important to get into young cyber users minds and compare their intuitive and rational cybersecurity thinking. The questionnaire employs the survey experiment approach that integrates the strengths of both surveys and experiments to collect data effectively and efficiently. In addition, to assess authentic cybersecurity judgment, it will use a real-life scenarios and ask young cyber users to judge the risk intuitively and rationally rather than asking participants to answer simple multiple-choice questions.

The project will attempt to verify and extend Daniel Kahnemans theory of heuristics and biases in the cyberspace in general and in the cybersecurity domain in particular. It will use the scenario-based survey experiment with the factorial design to develop, validate, and test the measurement of cybersecurity judgment. The measurement provides a tool to assess cybersecurity understanding of GenCyber student campers. In addition, young cyber users can see both their specific vulnerabilities for possible cyber-attacks and their potential strengths for protecting cybersecurity.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CLIMATE & LARGE-SCALE DYNAMICS | Award Amount: 486.42K | Year: 2016

The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is a large envelope of clouds and precipitation that forms over the Indian Ocean and slowly propagates eastward to the middle of the equatorial Pacific. It affects weather conditions worldwide including atmospheric rivers and flooding in California and hurricane formation in the Gulf of Mexico. Some MJO events appear to form independently and are designated as primary events. Other secondary events appear to be triggered by wave disturbances in the upper troposphere which propagate into the Indian Ocean from regions to the west, in the subtropical belts of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The triggering of MJO events by upstream wave disturbances has been well documented, but the processes through which the waves induce MJO events are not well known, and this project seeks to better understand them. Preliminary work by the PI suggests that the precursor waves are not fast moving triggers that impulsively kick-start the MJO, but slowly propagating Rossby waves with intraseasonal timescales. One possibility is that a secondary MJO events can be promoted by an earlier MJO event, which generates Rossby waves in the central equatorial Pacific which propagate eastward and toward higher latitudes, later recurving back into the tropics where they arrive over the equatorial Indian Ocean to induce the subsequent MJO. The project has a focus on Africa because the precursor waves enter the Indian Ocean from the African subtropics. A variety of statistical methods are used to detect and characterize the precursor waves, which are identified in observational data from satellites as well as reanalysis products. Moisture and momentum budgets are then used to understand how the waves contribute to the formation of secondary MJO events.

The work has societal broader impacts due to the variety of weather impacts associated with the MJO. There is some skill in forecasts of the propagation of MJO events, but predictions of the initiation of MJO events would allow greater lead times for prediction of MJO impacts. As the project focuses on precursor meteorology over Africa, the project may also have benefit for understanding and predicting African weather. In addition, the project provides support and training to two graduate students, thereby building the future workforce in this research area.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Secure &Trustworthy Cyberspace | Award Amount: 497.92K | Year: 2016

The threat and impact of cybersecurity breaches are felt throughout society with massive financial losses to businesses and breach of national secrets. Human behavior is increasing seen as a fundamental security vulnerability that is at the center of many security breaches. Several approaches have been used for improving user security behavior, including enacting information security policies, providing security awareness training, and introducing penalties for security violations; these approaches have not been very effective. In this research, we are influencing human security decision analysis through direct financial incentives and behavioral interventions such that the decision analysis aligns with economic rationality.

The dominant theoretical frameworks used by researchers to improve information security are Protection Motivation Theory and Deterrence Theory. These theories suggest that users make rational security decisions by cognitively weighing the relative gains and losses associated with their choices within a decision calculus. They assume that users will respond rationally to perceived security threats in the environment and to sanctions imposed on noncompliance. Users are expected to internally regulate their behavior based on an understanding of security threats and the consequences of risky behavior; however, in the course of daily activities users often minimize the risks associated with their behavior and may rationalize noncompliant behavior by perceiving that costs of compliance outweigh benefits. We seek to improve security compliance by changing the user?s security decision calculus. Drawing on principles of behavioral economics, we use extrinsic rewards (i.e. financial incentives) to initiate compliance, and psychological manipulations (nudges) to promote ongoing internal regulation of security behavior, such that users sustain secure behaviors when external incentives are no longer in place. The multidisciplinary nature of this work enhances understanding of many information security issues and provides a fresh perspective for research on behavioral security and security economics.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Molecular Biophysics | Award Amount: 159.44K | Year: 2017

CAREER: Predicting high-resolution RNA tertiary structures using an experimentally calibrated force-field for RNA folding

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a versatile molecule that plays many important roles inside cells. Small microRNAs can bind to and recognize messenger RNA and control their translation into protein, while giant ribonucleoprotein complexes can splice genes with perfect precision. Despite RNAs important role in modern cellular biology, current methods for predicting RNAs 3D structure are inadequate and have hampered our ability to discern the underling molecular basis of RNA function. This project entails the development of improved computer models for simulating RNA folding, in 3D atomic resolution. In this project, a new approach to calibrate the forces for RNA folding is developed, in which experimental properties of building blocks of RNA (nucleosides and nucleotides) in their natural environment are used to calibrate the model. The improved simulations will be applied to tackle two vexing problems in RNA structural biology. The first is determining how 3D structure plays a role in microRNA targeting, in which hundreds of distinct messenger RNAs can be targeted by a single microRNA. The second challenge is in the interpretation of RNA chemical probing experiments, which can be highly ambiguous to interpret for RNAs whose 3D structure is unknown. Along with this research program, an education program will be implemented to expose those students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds to STEM fields. To do this, freshman chemistry majors will live, eat, and attend a weekly seminar series together in order to expose these students as early as possible to real scientific careers (through invited speakers) and encourage early participation in undergraduate research.

In order for molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to accurately predict RNA tertiary structure the atomistic force-field must capture the complex behavior of single-stranded regions such as loops, bulges, and helical junctions. A thermodynamic cycle is devised for calibrating the strength of base-base interactions against experimentally determined free energies. Through this process, the solvation-dependent balance between base-stacking and base-pairing can be finely tuned for each nucleobase. Finally, a protocol is developed to determine RNA tertiary structures using MD simulations using secondary structure profiles as constraints. The salmonella four-U RNA thermometer will be used as a model-system where base-pair specific melting profiles can be directly compared with NMR. The model will then be used to investigate the structural basis of the microRNA code, by testing the hypothesis that bulge dynamics dictates microRNA recognition of mRNA targets by using miR-34a, a highly promiscuous microRNA.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 404.70K | Year: 2016

This project is investigating water vapor absorption of near ultraviolet (NUV) solar radiation in the atmosphere. The results of this research may help resolve a long-standing discrepancy between modeled and observed solar energy absorption under clear sky conditions in the atmosphere. This research combines laboratory experiments, field measurements, and modeling to investigate critically important issues regarding the role of water vapor absorption in determining the radiative equilibrium of the atmosphere.

The objectives of the project are to make laboratory measurements of water vapor near UV absorption cross sections and their temperature dependence at spectral resolution and intervals comparable to existing satellite/surface ozone monitoring instruments, to monitor water vapor near UV spectral absorption in the tropical atmosphere, and to evaluate the consequences of including this near UV absorption by water vapor on satellite/surface ozone retrievals and on models of atmospheric radiation, circulation, and climate. Field measurements will be acquired by piggybacking a UV radiation spectrometer on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) project, the AERosols and Ocean Science Expeditions (AEROSE) field campaign in the equatorial Atlantic. A different partitioning of atmospheric absorption by ozone and water vapor could alter model simulations of large-scale atmospheric circulation.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: CLIMATE & LARGE-SCALE DYNAMICS | Award Amount: 361.91K | Year: 2016

The troposphere is the domain of weather systems that affect people and conditions on the ground, while the stratosphere is home to more slowly varying and larger scale circulation features which lie above tropospheric weather. Yet there is increasing awareness that the circulation in the stratosphere can affect tropospheric weather, and a proper representation of the stratosphere is important for numerical models used in medium-range weather forecasting. Likewise, circulation disturbances in the troposphere are known to affect the stratosphere, but the established theory for this influence emphasizes large and slowly moving jet stream meanders known as planetary waves rather than the smaller and faster synoptic waves associated with frontal weather. But recent results suggest that certain kinds of synoptic disturbances can also affect the stratosphere. Research conducted under this award seeks to advance understanding of the mutual interaction between these synoptic disturbances and the stratospheric circulation. Three types of synoptic disturbances are investigated: blocking anticyclones (stationary high pressure systems which induce persistent weather conditions), explosive cyclogenesis (which is associated with severe winter snowstorms along the US eastern seaboard), and the extratropical transition of tropical cyclones (which occurs as hurricanes recurve out of the tropics and interact with the mid-latitude jet streams). All of these disturbances have been shown to have a far-field influence in the downstream direction, through their ability to perturb the waveguide associated with the jet streams. Previous research has also suggested connections to the stratosphere, for instance blocking anticyclones are associated with later sudden stratospheric warmings, and several well-known cases of explosive cyclogenesis (including the 1979 Presidents Day storm) were preceded by downward wave propagation from the stratosphere. The research will be conducted using objective criteria to identify specific instances of the three types of disturbances, and to subdivide these into cases in which the circumpolar stratospheric circulation is strengthening, strong, weakening, or weak. The analysis will be conducted both using reanalysis datasets and extended-range ensemble forecasts performed as part of the Stratospheric Network for the Assessment of Predictability (SNAP) experiments.

The work has broader impacts due to the potential for improvement in weather forecast skill that can come from a better understanding of stratosphere-troposphere interactions accompanying synoptic disturbances that are associated with severe weather. The PI is directly engaged in SNAP, which has been organized to address issues known in the operational medium-range forecast communities. The PI will also create a webpage devoted to real-time diagnostics of stratosphere-troposphere interaction. The webpage will serve as an educational tool for use in real-time forecast discussions in a classroom setting. Beyond these broader impacts, the project supports a full-time PhD student and provide summertime support for an MS student, thereby promoting the next generation of scientists in this research area.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 545.88K | Year: 2016

This project is focused on investigating the nucleation or formation of very small new particles in the atmosphere. The method relies on complex calculations involving the structural and thermochemical properties of atmospheric clusters. Modeling results will be compared with measurements where they are available. The project will result in nucleation schemes that can be incorporated into regional and global models to reduce uncertainties in the assessment of the climatic and environmental impacts of atmospheric aerosols.

The objective of this effort is to develop new schemes of multicomponent nucleation in the atmosphere involving sulfuric acid, water, ammonia, methylamines, and organics. The project consists of 4 tasks: (1) Quantum chemistry studies of neutral and charged ternary clusters; (2) Development of new nucleation models; (3) Application and evaluation of new nucleation schemes in the atmosphere; and (4) Assessing the climate implications of ternary nucleation processes. The implications of the new nucleation schemes on the aerosol indirect radiative forcing will be evaluated using the GEOS-Chem model.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: I-Corps | Award Amount: 50.00K | Year: 2017

The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is to provide accurate measurements of solar radiation and sky condition for weather, climate, air quality, and solar energy applications. The I-Corps project enables accurate monitoring and understanding of the inherent variability of solar radiation due to cloud cover, aerosol loading, and other atmospheric gases that are essential for determining solar energy generation. The technology and associated data analytics enable solar energy producers, developers, distributors, and researchers to improve solar energy prediction, to enhance solar panel efficiency, to reduce operation and maintenance costs, and to potnetially increase the penetration of solar energy into the power grid.

This I-Corps project will enable customer discovery for a core technology which integrates a multi-channel radiometer and a sky imager into a shadowband scanning smart system. This smart system measures spectral and angular solar radiation distribution and meteorological parameters for monitoring solar radiation and weather conditions. It also combines communication, computing, remote sensing, and advanced analytics, and responds to feedback from the prevailing environment to deliver improved accuracy and performance. Thereby, it represents a multi-fold improvement over existing methods/systems. This enables more accurate retrievals of optical properties of aerosol, cloud, ozone, and water vapor in the atmosphere. The proposed activities will advance science and technology in weather, climate, air quality, and solar energy.

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