Artwork by Emma Faith Hill (Art '17).

Thank You for Continually Teaching Me

By Emma Faith Hill (Art ’17)

When I found out, I was in a world history class with freshmen and sophomores (I was making up a credit to graduate). I was checking my phone every ten minutes and finally it came. The minute I saw it, I no longer saw it because I was crying. My teacher asked me if I was okay and a girl across from me gaped, figuring it out, “oh my God she got in.” I picked up my bag and ran out of the classroom and across campus to the visual arts building, rushing into the director’s office, heaving with salt water, “I did it!” She hugged me with a mother’s embrace, and a sense of fulfillment ensued for the last month of high school.

It is the experience of education without financial consequence, revealing a desire for knowledge and freedom you’d never realized you’d needed before.

 

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News Bulletin

By Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19)

Student Trustee Election Results
Mary Dwyer (ME ‘19) won the majority of the votes in the school-wide election for Student Trustee against Irisa Llana (Arch ‘21). Dwyer received 116 votes, and Llana received 81. The Board of Trustees will interview both candidates and select one to be a voting member of the board for a two-year term. The new student trustee will replace Jessica Marshall (EE ‘17) and join Julian Mayfield (Art ‘18), who was elected last year. The selected candidate will also serve on the Governance Committee and the Academic and Student Affairs Committee.

The student body selected the candidates in a ranked-choice system, where voters picked the candidates in their order of preference, so the total number votes do not correspond to the total number of voters. Votes were cast online April 5-11.

Dean Baker to Leave Cooper
Vice President of Community Affairs and Dean of Athletics Stephen Baker will retire on June 30, 2017 after 51 years of experience. In his letter, which was sent as a campus-wide email, Dean Baker expressed his gratitude to the Cooper community, and he added: “I know when I leave that I am leaving the college and its scholar-athletes in very capable hands as it continues to carry on our great traditions.”

“Many thanks, Steve,” President Laura Sparks wrote in the same email, “for all you have done and created for The Cooper Union.”

Dean Baker closed his letter with the usual “thanks and C.U. later.”

The Golden Cricket Project

By Sam Jiang (ME ‘19)

For many, there’s still a mental block on munching on bugs, but more and more people are embracing insects as an environmentally-friendly source of protein. Ranching bugs is considerably less resource-intensive than raising traditional livestock, but there’s some nutrients we just can’t get out of insects—like vitamin A! This summer, Professors Medvedik and Janjusevic at the Kanbar Center are kicking off a new project as part Cooper Union’s STEM Program, with the ultimate goal of improving the nutritional value of edible insects.

Vitamin A deficiency is incredibly prevalent in poorer countries, and is especially dangerous—children without enough vitamin A are in danger of going blind. While rich in protein, crickets lack β-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, and many other essential nutrients. Foods rich in β-carotene—such as carrots, or the genetically engineered Golden Rice—have a trademark yellow-orange color. The goal of the Golden Cricket Project is to use genetic engineering to create a cricket rich in both protein and β-carotene, which the body can synthesize into vitamin A.

Here’s the thing with genetic engineering, though: The more complex the organism, the harder it is to rewrite its genome without messing something up. Although we think of insects as fairly simple organisms, it’s still too difficult to genetically coerce the cricket into producing β-carotene on its own. Bacteria, on the other hand, grow rapidly, with some strains easily absorbing foreign genetic information, making them perfect candidates for β-carotene synthesis.

Before moving further, let’s have a small review session on high school biology. DNA codes for proteins, and proteins facilitate biological processes, like the production of vitamin A from β-carotene. In order to create a bacteria that produces β-carotene, the DNA sequence for every protein involved in β-carotene synthesis needs to be inserted into the bacterial genome. This bacteria will then be fed to the crickets; they will live and reproduce in the crickets’ gut, constantly churning out β-carotene, eventually turning the mundane cricket into a Golden Cricket.

Before the Golden Cricket can be made, many other issues need to be addressed. First and foremost is determining which bacteria to genetically transform into a vitamin factory. Professor Medvedic discusses potentially using common probiotics: “We’d like to use Lactobacillus, but maybe the type that we choose isn’t suitable for cricket gut.” Professor Janjusevic’s solution to that potential problem is to isolate and analyze an existing gut microbe, guaranteeing that the resultant β-carotene factory will be able to survive within the cricket. The final genetically-engineered microbe needs to be able to produce β-carotene and thrive and reproduce within the cricket in order to be considered a success.

Aside from technical difficulties, this project faces other, less scientific long-term hurdles. Most of Western society is still heavily opposed to eating insects, but the Golden Cricket itself is targeted more towards undeveloped nations where vitamin A deficiency is a real issue. In the media, there’s also a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering surrounding the use of genetically-modified organisms. Both of these are issues that can potentially limit long-term adoption of organisms like the Golden Cricket. ◊

Photos by Wentao Zhang (ChE ‘19).

The Cooper Dramatic Society Presents: “A Play”

Photos by Wentao Zhang (ChE ’19)

By Olivia Heuiyoung Park (ME ‘19)

The Cooper Dramatic Society put on their spring show, “A Play,” in the Rose Auditorium from April 7 to April 9. Directed by Toby Stein (CE ’18), this production was completely student run—including the set, costumes, lights, and sound. Even, the screenplay was written by Jack Pannell, Stein’s high school friend.

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Preet Bharara Speaks in Great Hall

By Gabriela Godlewski (CE ‘19) and Matthew Grattan (ChE ‘19)

Photo by Yifei Simon Shao (ME ‘19).
Photo by Yifei Simon Shao (ME ‘19).

Preet Bharara, the former United States Attorney for the Southern district of New York, spoke to a packed Great Hall on Tuesday night, April 6—or as he put it—“improbably [addressed] a captive audience in a legendary hall where Abraham Lincoln once spoke.” The “sold out” event was part of the 2017 John Jay Iselin Memorial Lecture Series, which commemorates the tenth president of The Cooper Union.

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