Category Archives: Features

Source: https://groupaffect.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/cooper-union-postcard-cover.jpg

The Cooper Story: “To the Trustees of The Cooper Union…”

By Afshin Khan (CE ‘19)

Photo source: groupaffect.files.wordpress.com. The Deed of Trust and the letter to the Board of Trustees can be found at library.coopr.edu.

On April 29, 1859, Peter Cooper and his wife, Sarah Cooper, bestowed upon The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art both the property and land that currently houses the Foundation Building. The Deed of Trust was followed by a personal letter that Peter Cooper wrote to the trustees of the institution. It was not until 97 years later, in 1956, that the letter was published in a pamphlet, to remind its readers of Peter Cooper’s vision for the institution.

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Who was Peter Cooper?

By Afshin Khan (CE ‘19)

Peter Cooper was born on February 12, 1791, fifteen years after the founding of the United States of America. Despite having one year of formal schooling, Cooper was able to make forays into several industries, including real estate, locomotion, and insurance. At the age of 68, Peter Cooper established The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art as the first of its kind, offering a free education that was open to people from all walks of life. But these are all factoids that a quick Google search can turn up. Who was the real Peter Cooper?

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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.”

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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?

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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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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. ◊