William Floyd alumnus receives prestigious award

Daniel McCloskey, PhD, William Floyd High School Class of 1993 and an Associate Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island (CSI), has been named by President Obama as a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers. Dr. McCloskey is one of only 105 researchers to receive this distinction this year. He was selected for his research which combines “modeling, neurophysiology and systems biology/network science that will transform the field of social neuroscience by providing a comprehensive approach toward understanding the role of neuropeptides in complex behavioral systems,” according to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the organization that nominated Dr. McCloskey’s research for this award.

“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people.” The purpose of the award is to encourage and accelerate American innovation to grow the economy and tackle the country’s greatest challenges.

[quote_colored name=”” icon_quote=”no”] “I am humbled to receive this recognition,” said Dr. McCloskey.[/quote_colored]

“It represents the hard work, creativity, and support from a team of students and colleagues who share my enthusiasm. I am also proud that our efforts have been considered ‘promising’ by the White House, as this confidence recognizes the progressive combination of resources and brain power at CSI to not only conduct cutting-edge research, but also to see it succeed. We look forward to delivering on that promise, by continuing to find new approaches to study the social brain.”

Dr. McCloskey will deliver on that promise by studying the African Naked Mole-rat, a unique and highly social fossorial rodent, and harnessing the power of the Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center on the College’s campus, one of the region’s most powerful supercomputers. The computer center allows Dr. McCloskey to track the behavior of each of more than 100 animals in his colony with high resolution as they navigate their way through a complex system of tubes and cages. The animals are implanted with transponders similar to the ones used to pay tolls on bridges. Each time an animal passes through a tube with a sensor, the identity, location, and time of that event is stored in a database that receives hundreds of thousands of events each day. Analysis of these large datasets requires the power of a high-performance computer to manage them and ask questions about animal behavior. In this manner, insights into the organized social community will help the researchers to understand how individual differences in social behavior are influenced by physiological and environmental factors and understand the role of social behavior brain systems in health, as well as develop deeper insights into diseases such as epilepsy and autism.

The complex research being conducted “includes researchers from postdoctoral scientists to high school students, and all levels in between,” noted Dr. McCloskey.

“The College of Staten Island has received numerous national accolades this year highlighting the transformative educational opportunities provided to our students and the professional prospects of our alumni,” noted Dr. William J. Fritz, President of the College of Staten Island and Fellow of the Geological Society of America. “Dr. McCloskey’s recognition by the National Science Foundation and President Obama is a testament to the high-caliber research that our students are exposed to in Dr. McCloskey’s lab, and indicative of the overall cutting-edge research being conducted at CSI. I extend my sincerest congratulations to Dr. McCloskey and his research team.”

Dr. McCloskey is one of only 21 Presidential Award recipients whose research was nominated by the NSF. Foundation Director France Córdova congratulated the “teacher-scholars who are developing new generations of outstanding scientists and engineers and ensuring this nation is a leading innovator. I applaud these recipients for their leadership, distinguished teaching, and commitment to public outreach.” Dr. McCloskey was awarded a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the NSF in 2012, one of approximately 500 nationwide.

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