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  • Featured Alumnus Mahmoud Shabana ’20, MS ’21

    Mahmoud Shabana

    In his own words: Upon completing my graduate degree at Monmouth University, I worked as a Junior Software Engineer at Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc. At Broadridge, I was responsible for refactoring the flagship Foreign Exchange and Liquidity software solution and improving the integration workflow for our clients. This experience advanced my interest in software security, prompting me to take a leap of faith and apply for a Master’s in Cybersecurity at NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

    Fortunately, I was accepted to the program on a full scholarship as a CyberCorp Scholarship for Service recipient. During my time at NYU Tandon, I studied and implemented best software security practices, Offensive Security techniques and procedures, and Machine Learning algorithms to aid in adaptive security solutions. In addition, I worked on several research projects while at NYU Tandon. Specifically, I worked with U.S. Cyber Command on researching novel techniques utilized by nation-state actors like Iran to weaken the U.S. Election Infrastructure. I also worked on researching innovative methods for leveraging Machine Learning Algorithms for Hardware Reverse Engineering workflows during my internship with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. Finally, I am currently exploring the use of Generative AI models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 to aid in reverse engineering malware applications with NYU faculty Dr. Brendan Dolan-Gavitt and Dr. Hammond Pearce. I hope to continue my efforts in defining the framework for AI in Cybersecurity as I begin my work at Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute as an AI Security Researcher.

    Recalling my time at Monmouth, it is clear that my disposition to innovate and learn stems from my time there as a student-athlete. Monmouth Athletics taught me the value of hard work and persistence, which are requisite characteristics of a successful researcher. My coaches emphasized effort and excellence in the goals their players set, on and off the field. Thanks to the support of Coach Brian Gabrial, Jeff Gallo, and Kevin Callahan, I approach all new challenges head-on at full speed and full effort. Additionally, as a Software Engineering major at Monmouth’s School of Science, I experienced early on the fast-paced nature of the software and computer field. It was not enough to be knowledgeable in my many software-related topics, but it was paramount to learn such topics quickly and efficiently. This dedication to learning was instilled in me as a student of passionate faculty at the School of Science. Specifically, the support of professors like Dr. Raman Lakshmanan and Prof. Jamie Krestch helped make learning enjoyable, with my love for learning becoming a natural outcome.

    My work in the Summer Research Program alongside Mr. Gil Eckert and my amazing colleagues Steven Cassidy and Nianqi Tian, (see photo below of my colleagues presenting a poster) helped foster my passion for addressing challenging questions and finding creative solutions to achieve tangible results. During this research project, I encountered new obstacles as I delved into the field of Computer Vision, which was previously unfamiliar to me. Through the support and passion of the faculty at the School of Science, I learned 3D imaging in Computer Vision and contributed to improving the process of 3D image generation. Thanks to the investment of Mr. Eckert, I fell in love with the research process and carry that passion with me today.

    A groups of smiling men standing with a poster in the background
    Mahmoud Shabana (back) presents with student colleagues Steven Cassidy and Nianqi Tian, with Professors Gil Ekert and Jim Nickels (far left)
  • Monmouth University Team wins Department of Education Grant for Climate Education

    The Monmouth University Climate Education Collaborative (MUCEC) was developed by Drs. Michelle Schpakow (Education) , Catherine Duckett (Science), and Peter Jacques (Political Science) in collaboration with Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute, New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, and Monmouth Conservation Foundation.  With a competitive grant of over $311,000 from the NJ DOE our goal is to build a program to train  and better prepare NJ K-12 teachers to teach climate change at grade appropriate levels across all subjects. Monmouth Conservation Foundation and NJ Sea Grant Consortium and the Urban Coast Institute will help us provide a place-based curriculum.  Our programs are open to all public school teachers in New Jersey, with preference being given to teachers in collaborating districts in Monmouth, Mercer and Union Counties. We will serve central NJ teachers starting in June and going through March 2025.  Teachers will be compensated for their time for professional development programing delivered outside of school hours and funds for substitute teachers are available.

    We are proud to be one four New Jersey Universities to receive a Climate Education Collaborative grant, and Monmouth University is the only private university to receive funding from this program.

    You can reach us at MUclimateeducation@monmouth.edu

    A schedule of upcoming professional development events for teachers can be found on the MUCEC project website.

  • School of Science Welcomes New Vessel Captain

    We are thrilled to welcome Virgilio Gonzalez as our new vessel captain.  Virgilio is a 2016 graduate of East Carolina University and comes to Monmouth with a wealth of experience.   He will serve as the captain and primary operator of university vessels and oversee operation, maintenance, servicing and repair of university vessels, vehicles, and trailers. Virgilio will be instrumental in providing technical support to our students, faculty, and institutes such as the UCI on research projects, training activities, and grants and contracts.

    He will take over the operation of the R/V Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe, a 49-foot former NOAA vessel, the R/V Seahawk, a 27-foot May-Craft, the R/V Little Hawk, an 18-foot Parker.  Virgilio is already taking the lead in the final stages of securing the new university vessel, a 32-foot H & H Marine Company Ormond Beal design vessel which will be outfitted to support projects in areas such as wind energy and coastal research.

    We are also celebrating the retirement of our former vessel captain, Jim Nickels, as much as we are sad to see him go. Jim Nickels has been a permanent fixture around Monmouth University.  Officially, he has held the position as Marine Scientist in the Urban Coast Institute for nearly 16 years. Among the many responsibilities Jim had was that of vessel captain playing a pivotal role in contract and grant work as well as a mainstay in taking classes out on the water for hands on experiences. With the growing fleet, workload/demand, and Jim’s retirement on March 1, the duties of vessel captain have now transitioned into a full-time position that works directly with the Dean’s office in the School of Science. With careful planning, the school was able to fill this new position in time for a brief, but productive overlap prior to Jim’s departure. 

  • 22nd Annual Student Research Conference

    April 12, 2024, 10 a.m., Edison 201

    The 22nd Annual School of Science Student Research Conference showcased 31 research projects by teams of students and their faculty mentors. The keynote address was delivered by Kevin Dillon ’15, Ph.D., a faculty member who participated in student research at Monmouth University and presented at the Student Research Conference in 2014. Sample project titles include: Microbial Community Composition Analysis In Coastal Lakes Of New Jersey As An Indicator Of Harmful Algal Bloom Formations; Unlocking Student Engagement: Exploring Autonomy, Competence, And Relatedness In The Stem Flipped Classrooms; A Machine Learning Approach To Mitigate Injuries In Collegiate Tennis Players; and Analyzing The Effectiveness Of Monmouth University’s Math Placement Exam. The full agenda and all abstracts can be found here.


  • Youth Unstoppable: Part of the Climate Crisis Teach-in

    Wednesday, March 6, 7:30 p.m. | Pollak Theatre

    The Film “Youth Unstoppable: My Decade in the Youth Climate Movement” (formerly “An Inconvenient Youth”) captures the vibrant untold story of the global youth climate movement. Decisions made today are shaping the world they will live in, and they are no longer willing to sit idly as the planet is degraded for the short term gain of the older generations. Director Slater Jewell-Kemker has been interviewing celebrities and politicians about the environment since the age of 10. Now, she is telling the stories of these remarkable young people on the front lines of climate change. The feature documentary also gives life to a thriving online community, already forming, that will continue as a youth focused environmental social network. This is the story of the youth of today fighting for their planet, their future. This event is free and open to the public.

    There will be a post screening Q&A hosted by Professor Marina Vujnovic with special guest speaker Professor Catherine Duckett.

    This is a collaborative presentation with the Pearson World Cinema Series who is the primary sponsor.

  • Why Americans Doubt Climate Science:Part of the Climate Crisis Teach-in

    A presentation by Peter Jacques, Ph.D.

    March 28, 2024, 4:30–5:50 p.m. | Edison 201

    Dr. Peter Jacques

    In 2023, fifteen percent of surveyed Americans did not think climate change was happening, and 28 percent responded that warming was not caused by human activities. 22 percent were doubtful or dismissive of climate change. Why is this when over, according to a 2021 survey of climate experts found that 98.7 percent of them said the climate is warming and humans are driving this global environmental change? Between confirmed climate experts who published 20 or more peer reviewed papers on climate change between 2015 and 2019,  there was 100% agreement that the Earth is warming mostly because of human activity. At least part of this disconnect is because there has been a US-centered counter-movement organized to cast doubt on climate change science and climate scientists. This effort is organized by policy elites in conservative think tanks who have guided some of our narratives and these narratives have turned an elite-led counter-movement to one that is populist. This discussion will attend to the social science surrounding this climate change counter-movement (CCCM). 

    Peter Jacques, Ph.D., is the Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine & Environmental Law and Policy at Monmouth University and a member of the Climate Social Science Network which studies climate-related misinformation among other topics. More information on his climate denial research can be found in an interview with Monmouth Magazine.

  • IEEE/ACM Club Hosts High School Students from Across NJ

    This past Friday, Monmouth’s IEEE/ACM Club hosted the annual High School Hawk Hack.  In only its second year post-pandemic, this event grew significantly to include over 50 students from 12 schools across the state.

    More than a dozen IEEE/ACM club members organized, instructed and proctored the competition that has students compete in teams to solve a series of programming challenges. The results are then tallied by HackerRank, a platform with Computer Science problems,  used by many employers to assess the coding skills of potential candidates.

    Computer Science Professor Rolf Kamp, the IEEE/ACM club advisor, has been integral in creating this event that introduces high school students, interested in computer science, to a collegiate setting. Kamp states “It is clear the high school students, their teachers and  club member thoroughly enjoyed the event. Hosting this event is an excellent opportunity to get students interested in Monmouth’s offerings”.

    At the conclusion of the event, the members of each winning team received technology-based prizes.

    The 2024 High School Hawk Hack  winners:

    First place – Middlesex High School

    Second Place – Dwight-Englewood School

    Third Place – Lakeland High School

    The IEEE/ACM club and the Computer Science & Software Engineering department hope that this event continues to grow for high school students pursuing a career in technology.

  • DRIFT:Barnegat Bay’s Disappearing Shoreline, Part of the Climate Crisis Teach-in

    The Climate Crisis Teach-In is Proud to present DRIFT, A film by Erin Fleming and Monmouth University Production Services in collaboration with Save Barnegat Bay

    Tuesday, February 27, 7:00 | Pollak Theater.

    Barnegat Bay is an estuary. A convergence of fresh water from rivers and creeks with salt water from the Atlantic. It is one of the most productive ecosystems in the country. It is the stage on which species play out life’s performance to reproduce, restore, relax. It is unrepeatable. This film speaks to the past 50 years of human activity on the bay and the concerns including climate change impacting the estuary. Varying issues voiced by scientific experts are embedded in stories designed to connect with all of the stakeholders on the bay; fishermen, boaters, hunters, tradesmen, and residents. The message is clear: we all must be unabated in our efforts to protect this natural wonder for ourselves, for wildlife, and for future generations. The trailer is available.

    The film will be followed by a panel discussion with Erin Fleming Director, Monmouth University Production Services, Britta Forsberg, Executive Director of Save Barnegat Bay, Tom Herrington, Ph,D, Associate Director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University, and Pedram Daneshgar, Ph.D., Professor of Biology at Monmouth University.

  • Climate Crisis Teach-In 2024 Starts Strong

    Doug Tallamy’s presentation on January 23rd, 2024 was a strong start to the 2024 Climate Crisis Teach-In with more than 400 enthusiastic people attending the presentation.

    Dr. Doug Tallamy photographed by Rob Cardillio

    Doug outlined how regular citizens could impact both the ecological crisis and the climate crisis. There are more than 44 million acres of turf grass in the U.S. today, an area larger than New England. Turf grass is the worst plant choice for fighting climate change because it is the worst option for sequestering carbon. Our parks, preserves, and remaining wildlands are too small to sequester the amount of carbon needed to impact climate change. Moreover, they are also too small and separated from one another to sustain the native trees, plants, insects, and animals on which our ecosystems depend. These systems must be resilient if we are to have climate resiliency. We now must store carbon outside of parks and preserves, largely on private property, where we live, work, shop, and farm. Thus the concept for Homegrown National Park: a national challenge to create diverse ecosystems in our yards, communities, and surrounding lands by reducing lawn, planting native plants, and removing invasive plants, and, in so doing, fight the biodiversity crisis and climate change simultaneously. Doug introduced the concept of keystone plants, plants that support such a diversity of insects and other animals that they hold up large parts of a food web. Examples he gave were: Oaks, birches, native cherries, blueberries, goldenrod, native asters, black-eyed susan, Coreopsis.

    Doug ended the presentation with the request that we each go out and plant a native and ecologically keystone tree this year and that we encourage our friends and neighbors to consider removing some lawn and adding native trees, shrubs and flowers in the space where the lawn was. In the question and answer period he outlined how creating soft landings for insects that eat leaves as larvae and need safe places to pupate in leaf litter under trees. Perennial plantings of shrubs and shade tolerant flowering plants under trees help insects complete their life cycles. He emphasized that healthy plant populations promote healthy insect populations which are necessary for healthy bird and mammal populations as well. And after the presentation was over Doug signed at least 100 books.

    For the Teach-in we are proud to collaborate with other units within Monmouth University and with external partners to increase the impact and relevancy of the events; the climate crisis will not be solved by science alone. However, the interest from external partners in Doug’s talk was phenomenal! The Native Plant Society of Monmouth County, The Monmouth University Community Garden and the Monmouth Conservation Foundation all had tables prior to the event. The NJ Department of Environmental protection also contacted us to see if we would document attendance for Community Forestry Continuing Education Units (CEU’s); in the end 50 people earned one CEU for attending his talk. Monmouth Conservation Foundation also sponsored a well attended reception after the where vigorous discussion of planting plans and future projects proceeded until quite late.

    The presentation was filmed by the Monmouth University Production Services and is available on vimeo

  • School of Science Research Spotlight:  Drs. Naik and Moehring – A Chemistry Collaboration

    At the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, Dr. Naik stepped down from roughly two decades of academic administration to return to the Department of Chemistry and Physics and resume the role of a full-time faculty member.  Since then, a natural collaboration with Dr. Moehring that stretches across the School of Science with faculty and students has evolved.    This collaboration is a wonderful example of tenants significant to what the school aims to accomplish: elevating the student experience and research innovation within the school.  In this installment we take the time to get to know them and their work.

    Q:  Introduce yourselves.

    A:  Dr. Greg Moehring is in his 35th year as a chemistry faculty member and his 13th year at Monmouth.  Dr. Moehring has a PhD in inorganic chemistry from Purdue University in Indiana.  Dr. Moehring has been married for 31 years and has two sons.

    Dr. Datta Naik is in his 51st year as a chemistry faculty member and his 47th year at Monmouth.  Dr. Naik has a PhD in inorganic chemistry from University of Notre Dame in Indiana.  Dr. Naik has been married for 52 years and has one daughter and one son.

    Q:  What do you like about being in the school of science?  What brought you here?

    A:  Both of us appreciate the research support from the School of Science and the opportunity to work with a notable community of scholars.  We also value the opportunity to work and publish with our undergraduate student research colleagues.

    Q:  Tell us about your research.  What inspired you to be in a role that includes doing research?

    A:  A few years back, Dr. Naik noticed a research paper which described a molecule containing rhenium and an unusual component known as an alkylcarbonate group.  The paper noted that the molecule adversely affected certain cancer cell lines (the molecule was cytotoxic).  Both of us were intrigued by the alkylcarbonate group and were interested in exploring its chemistry.  As our students began transformations of the alkylcarbonate-containing molecule into new molecules, Dr. Jeffrey Weisburg, from the Biology Department, offered to test these new molecules against oral cancer cells.  Some of the new molecules significantly impact oral cancer cells while others only have moderate or zero impact on cancer cell viability.  At the same time, Dr. Tom Emge, the X-ray crystallographer,  Rutgers University Chemistry Department, was kind enough to determine the structure for one of our new molecules (Figure 1).  Dr. Massimiliano Lamberto, in our Department of Chemistry and Physics, also provided us with a reactant that had been prepared in his laboratory.  We were able to incorporate Dr. Lamberto’s reactant into a new rhenium-containing molecule and test it against oral cancer cells as well.  Our work, which will be submitted for publication shortly, indicates that differences in the cytotoxic properties of the various new molecules are due to some process or processes which occurs after the molecules have entered the cancer cells.

    A space-filling representation of one of our group’s new complexes that was tested against oral cancer cells.  White spheres represent hydrogen atoms, gray spheres represent carbon atoms, red spheres represent oxygen atoms, blue spheres represent nitrogen atoms, orange spheres represent bromine atoms, and violet spheres represent rhenium atoms.

    Towards a better understanding of how our molecules adversely impact cancer cells, we have developed new ways to make molecules related to our original set of molecules.  One of the properties that we have incorporated into our next generation of molecules is the ability to emit visible light when exposed to ultraviolet light (Figure 2).  Emission of light from the rhenium-containing molecules may allow us to identify where such molecules accumulate in a cell when the molecule has an adverse impact on that cell.

    Both of us became involved with research because we enjoy intellectual challenges.  It is a pleasure to apply our skills, knowledge and experience, along with reports from the scientific literature in efforts to better understand the world around us.  It also gratifying to learn new things and develop new skills as we explore the world around us.  It is stimulating to work with novice researchers and share our experiences in research with them.

    Q:  Do you include collaborators including students?

    A:  While we have a broad set of skills and knowledge between us, we often rely on collaborators with different skill sets and knowledge in order to make progress in our research.  We also make it a point to work on projects in which undergraduate students can contribute meaningfully to the project while developing or improving their skills.  Some of the skills that students in our research group develop include inert atmosphere synthesis techniques, the measurement and interpretation of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra, data analysis, and assorted other spectroscopic or electrochemical techniques.

    Q:  What are your research plans for the near future?

    A:  In the near future we would like to make further progress on our synthetic routes to potential cytotoxins.  We are also looking to better understand what happens to the cytotoxic molecules after they enter cancer cells.  Ultimately, we would like to use that progress to support a proposal for external support to continue this work.

    Q:  Do you have any advice for students that are interested in doing research?

    A:  Students who are interested in doing research should speak with faculty research mentors about their projects.  (Faculty members love to talk about their research so you are not bothering them by asking.)  Students should also talk with other students who are involved in a research project as well to get a different perspective.  Find a mentor, a group, and a project that is a good fit for you and then make a commitment to the success of the project and the success of your colleagues.