Category Archives: Features

FullSizeRender(3)

Architecture Studio Renovation

By Kavya Udupa (BSE ’19)

This past summer the School of Architecture renovated the computer lab, formally known as the Paul Laux Digital Architecture Studio, on the seventh floor of the Foundation Building. The renovations were spurred by a $2 million donation given to the school about ten years ago. The donor gave the money with the hopes that it would “have a significant transformation for the School of Architecture.”

Continue reading

After Tuition Part I: Questions and a Brief History

By Evan Bubniak (ME ‘21) and Matthew Grattan (ChE ‘19)\

Since the announcement in 2013, The Cooper Union has admitted four tuition-paying classes. That is to say: Barring fifth-year architecture students, every undergraduate at Cooper pays tuition, and the first-ever class of tuition-payers in Cooper’s century-and-a-half history will graduate in the spring.

Cooper is not—and never has been—the typical American college experience. Yet, is it possible that tuition has changed our institution? Have we lost something beyond the full-tuition scholarship? Or conversely, have we gained anything?

Continue reading

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.

 

Continue reading

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. ◊

1

The House of the Suicide

By Sam Jiang (ME ‘19)

Ominous black spikes point skywards in Cooper Square Park–it’s impossible to miss the new additions to the Cooper skyline: The House of the Suicide and the House of the Mother of the Suicide, also known as the Jan Palach Memorial. Based on the designs of John Hejduk, a Czech-American architect who served as Cooper Union’s founding Dean of Architecture from 1975 to 2000, the two installations blend sculpture and architecture, with the black structure–the Mother–containing a tiny room with a tiny window that forever watches over her Son.

Photos by Zheng Alex Liu
Photos by Zheng Alex Liu

Continue reading

The Glimmering Wing

By: Matthew Grattan (ChE ‘19) | Kavya Udupa (BSE ‘19)

The Glimmering Wing, an art show by Emma Faith Hill (Art ‘17), Mary Wichmann (Art ‘19), and Page Page, was held in the gallery of 41 Cooper Square, February 28 to March 4. The show’s title is a reference to a library wing, one of few private spaces for public use. Emma Faith Hill approached Wichmann and Page with the idea of “making work under the frame of a haptic library—haptic meaning learning through feel and touch. Physicalizing the visceral was the main approach of the show.

IMG_20170304_153829313 IMG_20170304_154037246 IMG_20170304_154150772

Everyone Shops Together!

By: Sam Jiang (ME ‘19)

For a university established “for the Advancement of Science and Art,” students from the different schools have very little opportunity for interaction. They are confined to different buildings and workspaces with almost entirely separate curriculums. There’s no good reason for this, especially considering that there are some important skills that all first-year students would benefit from: physical prototyping using hand tools and other equipment available in Cooper Union’s’ machine shops.

Recognizing this common ground between disciplines, a group of students working with Professor Lima drafted a proposal for a new class. This class would allow students from all three schools to work together in a shared environment to learn fundamentals of working with metal and wood using common tools, a skill set important to each of their majors.

Shop Class Now
Currently, all students are required to attend a machine shop “class” of sorts, where the different tools and machines are introduced and demonstrated. However, this tutorial amounts to little more than a general shop-safety orientation: students never get a hands-on experience and merely watch the operators describe and use the machines.
In reality, first-year engineering students have few opportunities to get their hands dirty—there just aren’t many 100-level classes that necessitate physical prototyping. EID101 is the only mandatory project-based class, and even then, the amount of hands-on work that you do varies pretty widely between sections: an engineering student can easily go their entire freshman year without ever returning to the machine shop.

In my experience, it’s definitely true that many engineering students are woefully inexperienced when it comes to building; in Design and Prototyping, a 200-level mechanical engineering course, many of the students in the class had zero prior experience, with at least a few admitting that this class was the first time they’d actually used a drill.

On the contrary, first-year art students have way more experience actually making things: 3D Design gets them familiar with tools and machines, with turning abstract concepts into physical prototypes. Engineers have no analogous class, and this proposed course seeks to rectify this issue, simultaneously opening up avenues for interdisciplinary cooperation.

The Pitch
Pranav Joneja (ME ‘18), one of the students who drafted the proposal, notes that “a class like EID101 doesn’t need to be limited to only engineers. Wouldn’t it be great if that class was cross-disciplinary? There’s no real reason it can’t be; the only limitation is the separated structures of the three schools.” This encapsulates the inspiration behind the proposal, whose main goals include the creation of a shared machine shop and a new class where artists, architects and engineers can work together to create installations for Cooper Square Park, turning it into a functional, student-built community space.

Another group of students has proposed a winter intensive with similar goals of fostering collaboration between the three schools. Students would work in small groups—mixed between schools—and use their differing areas of expertise to solve real-world problems similar to those encountered in EID101. Working together with other students with different skillsets and perspectives is an invaluable experience; it’s a shame that such interactions are so uncommon. These two proposals aim to break down the imaginary walls by promoting cooperation, collaboration and respect among the three schools. ◊