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Puppet Theater click here - Queens ... Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bertolt Brecht’s classic version of the traditional Chinese myth, was performed by the QC Drama, theatre & Dance Dept

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  • Graduating Student Profiles 3 ... Early Career Awards for Six Scientists 6 ...Project Excel Success 9 ...Using Birdsongs to Study Memory 7

    This year two extraordinary research opportunities drew Cecilia McHugh (Earth & Env. Sci.) to sites half a world apart. Last winter she took part in a three-month research expedition to New Zealand, and shortly after that she headed an urgent expedition to Haiti.

    Off the coast of New Zealand, on board the R/V JOIDES Resolution, McHugh studied “very deep holes that hold the history of global changes in sea level and the climate,” she explains.

    The vessel’s drilling rig, eight stories high, brought up the deepest core (1,927 meters) ever drilled by one expedition of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program in sediments. This sediment will give glimpses into sea level change as far back as 34 million years, when Antarctica separated from Australia.

    Analyzing other cores, “We were surprised at what we think were warm conditions during geologic periods generally accepted as cold. We thought the oceans had cooled much earlier,” she notes.

    Returning January 16, McHugh knew what she had to do in response to the

    devastating quake. “I began to propose an expedition

    to Haiti,” she relates. Unlike the South Pacific voyage that involved 300 international scientists and at least five years of planning, this time the principal investigators had to condense months of preparation into two weeks.

    On board the R/V Endeavor from February 20 to March 13, McHugh guided the research team in assessing the Haitian quake’s causes and why an unexpected tsunami had followed in its wake. Her team raced to document the ephemeral evidence before shallow waters dispersed it. PhD

    student Katie R. Mishkin was part of the expedition. It also involved several Haitian and U.S. geoscientists and opens up possibilities for bringing Haitian students to QC and CUNY.

    This National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response expedition merged seismic science with a mission of mercy: transporting 40 huge donated tents to be set up for schools.

    “It was an eerie feeling to go into the bay of Port-au-Prince,” McHugh recalls, for it was like a war zone with all the

    QUEEnS CollEGE FACUlty | StAFF nEwS MAy 2010

    fyi College Celebrates 86th Commencement on May 27 Commencement 2010 finds new hands guiding the more than 2,200 graduating students through the celebration of their achievement—and it all will begin with a gesture intended to become a new tradition. Just as incoming freshmen have begun each of the past two years with a welcome Day ceremony in which they enter campus through one of the Kissena Avenue gates, this year’s graduating class will enter Commencement in the same manner—this time, using both gates and having a final opportunity before they are conferred to reflect on the Queens College motto that appears in the iron work: "we learn so that we may serve."

    “Ceremonies are very important to people—especially to students,” observes Student life office Director John Andrejack, who is directing QC’s Commencement for the first time along with Events office Director wendy lee (see story page 11). He notes that the class of 2011 will be the first to fulfill President James Muyskens’ vision of students beginning and completing their QC experience by ceremonially walking through the gates.

    “All of the research shows that cer- emonies and college rituals contribute to

    Puppet Theater click here

    Continued on page 2

    McHugh leads Research trip to Haiti

    Continued on page 2

    Cecilia McHugh (holding lifering) and fellow researchers onboard the Research Vessel Endeavor.

  • better rates of retention and higher levels of student satisfaction,” he says. “So I’m glad that the college is continuing in this direction.”

    of course, QC’s Eighty-Sixth Commencement will be notable for the absence of Joe Brostek, who directed the event for the past 21 years. But before retiring in February, he passed along to new directors lee and Andrejack what they call “the Joe Brostek Bible.”

    “our job,” says lee, “is to provide as much information as possible and to give attendees as broad a sense of the event as we can before they even arrive. what’s different about this year is that John and I have decided to put everything related to preparation for Commencement on the web.”

    with an anticipated crowd of 10,000—including students’ family mem- bers and guests, some coming from foreign countries—lee and Andrejack have also been busy urging students with foreign guests to complete the process of securing letters from the college affirm- ing their graduation so they can work with their respective embassies to secure proper visas and other entrance docu- ments in time for Commencement.

    this year’s honorary degree recipient will be author Amitav Ghosh, who was formerly (1997–2002) a distinguished professor of comparative literature at QC. one of India’s best-known writers, Ghosh studied in Dehra Dun, new Delhi, Alexandria, and oxford; his first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in new Delhi. He earned a doctorate at oxford before he wrote his first novel, The Circle of Reason (1986). His 1990 novel The

    Shadow Lines won the Sahitya Akademi Award, India’s most prestigious literary prize. His most recent book is Sea of Poppies (2008).

    the principal Commencement speaker will be Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician who has worked in Israeli hos- pitals and is committed to reconcilia- tion between Israelis and Palestinians. In January 2009, during an Israeli military operation in Gaza, three of his daughters

    were killed when an Israeli tank fired upon the fam- ily’s home. Despite his great personal tragedy, Abuelaish remains com- mitted to the peace effort. to honor his daughters, he has created Daughters for life, a foundation dedi- cated to providing educa- tion and health access to women and girls in Gaza and the Middle East.

    A nominee for the nobel Peace Prize, Abuelaish will be honored the evening before Commencement at the capstone event for QC’s new Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding along with lewis Bernstein, a QC alum and orthodox Jew who founded the Sesame Street Children’s Creative workshop. Bernstein has successfully pioneered “Sesame Street’s” global educational efforts, including in the Middle East, where his programs have reached Israel, the west Bank, and deep into the Arab and Muslim world. the center will also announce that evening the name of a QC student it is recognizing for fostering understanding between people on or off campus.

    QC’s Baccalaureate Ceremony hon- oring academic excellence will be held on tuesday, May 25, at 7 pm in Colden Auditorium. Some of our excellent stu- dents are profiled below.

    2

    massive ships docked. “You could see smoke coming out of the city, you knew there were flattened buildings and 250,000 people dead there,” she relates.

    With no visas, the Endeavor’s team could not go on shore. But from inflatables during surveying, “We saw a huge amount of destruction, houses demolished, where the earth had slipped into the sea,” she notes.

    Their survey delineated a potential site for a now-much-needed new port. McHugh hopes to continue mapping the area, in part to show how compression played a much bigger part. “When you have compression, you have the danger of a thrust earthquake, and the danger of a thrust earthquake is a tsunami,” she says.

    McHugh was invited to a March conference in Miami to mobilize efforts to develop

    earthquake-resistant buildings for Haiti. She is gratified that the United Nations is using “all of the recommendations we made,” among them devising a prototype to take to villages to show masons how to construct sturdier homes.

    In her report on the Endeavor expedition, Kate Moran, senior policy analyst for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was impressed with how it was “led by a dynamic woman with a long record of mentoring students of all ages.” Moran’s words well capture McHugh.

    the Research Vessel Endeavor

    Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bertolt Brecht’s classic version of the traditional Chinese myth, was performed by the QC Drama, theatre & Dance Dept. at the Performance Space at Rathaus on April 17.

    Haiti - from page 1 Commencement - from page 1

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    Sandra Jodha-Sirkisoon

    Sandra Jodha- Sirkisoon’s life path has taken her from a village on the island of trinidad that had no running water or elec- tricity to graduat- ing from Queens College with an

    undergraduate degree in sociology. As a child she had to walk to elemen-

    tary school a mile from home, often under a scorching sun. when she was six, her father suffered a stroke that kept him bedridden for the rest of his life. Her mother Samdai took over as the family’s breadwinner.

    Although her mother was illiterate, she insisted that all her children go as far as they could in their education. So when Sandra finished high school, she headed for new york, graduating in 1983 from Queensborough Community College with an associate degree in business manage- ment.

    In 1988 Sandra married Surren Sirkisoon, an immigrant from Guyana who later earned an engineering degree from City College. when the first of their three children was born in 1992,