Grand Staircase Handrail Update

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)

Last year, I spoke with Vice President T.C. Westcott about whether or not there are plans to install a handrail on the Grand Staircase. She confirmed that a handrail was indeed in the works but was not sure when construction would take place. This month, I sat briefly sat down with her again to see where we currently are with these plans.

The Cooper Pioneer: Are we still going to install the handrail?

T.C. Wescott: We are still going install the handrail. The holdup at this point is that we are on the eve of getting the final certificate of occupancy for our new building, and filing new building permits prevents that from happening.

So the way new buildings work is that when you move in you get a temporary certificate of occupancy, which is standard. Actually some buildings that have for a very long time still have only a temporary certificate of occupancy and we don’t want to be in that group.

We’ve renewed our temporary certificate of occupancy as we’ve finish the remaining pieces. You need to close out all your permits, all your applications. Our tenants have to close out all of their applications to do work. Once that happens, the fire department comes in, the building department comes in, everyone comes in to do a final check off. Then you get your final certificate of occupancy. If you have open permits, you can’t get your final certificate of occupancy.

We’re just on the eve of that, so I’m told. Now, the building departments, I’m also told, run on their own time schedule. So we’re waiting to get that final certificate of occupancy so we can begin the work. We have to file the permit. Installing the handrail is a big job, so we have to have a permit.

So that’s the holdup at this point. But we’re still putting it in; it’s just a question of when we finally get our certificate of occupancy. Then we’ll move forward with it.

TCP: Last time we met, you said that Thom Mayne was going to submit a design.

TCW: We actually did get a design from one of the architects at Morphosis and we are working with some engineers and other to make sure we understand how the handrail needs to be installed. It’s a pretty straightforward design. Nothing as creative as some of the handrails I saw in the Pioneer, but consistent with the style with the staircase at this point.

TCP: Approximately when would you say this is going to be installed?

TCW: I shudder to say when at this point. I’d like to be able to say within in the next few weeks, but it’s up to the department of buildings. Once they get through the various things that they’re doing, we’re doing one last thing with the fire department. I’d like to say very soon, but last time I said it was going to be ready to go, I was found to be incorrect. So as soon as we get the certificate of occupancy we will commence work on that. As long as there’s a reasonable break; we can’t have students all over the place when we do it, but we may decide that that may make the most sense.

Budget Cuts: The Computer Center

Caroline Yu (ME ‘15)

As you may have noticed, there has been a significant decrease in number of students working in the Computer Center this semester. In order to find out more information about how the computer center is dealing with Cooper’s financial situation, I spoke to Alexander Erb, Computer Center Student Manager:

The Cooper Pioneer: In general, how is the Computer Center dealing with budget cuts?

Alexander Erb: In a similar fashion to all other departments at school, the computer center received a large budget cut for 2012-2013 academic year. What people might not know is that the computer center’s budget funds many other student work departments around the school as well. We felt strongly that we did not want to cut hours of services in these departments or the hourly wages and raises students receive in all these departments.

This left us only one choice – to cut the amount of shifts for student workers per hour. Since the computer center has the most amount of shifts per hour and all the other departments were running off the minimum number of staff to operate already, the computer center decided to shoulder most of the burden and decrease the number of employees working every hour.

TCP: What has changed and what hasn’t?

AE: Well, some of the obvious changes you see are that we went from as many as 5 operators an hour to one operator for all weekday hours of operation. On weekends now there are no operators regularly working any shift. But one thing people might not have noticed is with these changes, we have had students and full-time staff members generously donate their time and money to maintain the computer center so that it could continue to operate smoothly and so that student morale could be maintained.

One thing you might’ve noticed is that the computer center has been decorated for Halloween. This was paid for by the full-time staff members and has been well received. Many students have volunteered their time to help class mates and full-time staff when they see the computer center is busy. Supervisors and senior student staff members do additional work for free to help keep operations low when they see a chance to improve operations. We are all doing our part and it is nice to see that everyone has kept a positive attitude.

TCP: How much has the Computer Center interacted with President Bharucha, the Board of Trustees, and other administrators?

AE: Just like other departments, our full-time staff and student staff interact with the president’s office and administrators around Cooper on a daily basis. This is for both I.T. help and administration issues. As is the case for most departments at Cooper, the full-time faculty has some, but limited interactions with the board of trustees.

TCP: What has your role been during this time of transition and planning for the future?

AE: This year my role is that of the Student Manager for the Computer Center. I have had to oversee and put into action most of these changes and continue to look for more ways that we can improve our efficiency – that is with respect to my performance as well. I have been fortunate to work with a dedicated staff (students and full-time faculty) who have made all of these transitions go very smoothly.

Face of Cooper: Leonid Vulakh

Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)

Meet Professor Leonid Vulakh – the mathematics professor who everyone from electrical engineering students to physics professors and alumni go to for mathematical clarifications and discussion. Many students love him for his teaching style and quotable statements.

Professor Vulakh is originally from the former Soviet Union in the region that is now Ukraine. He spent most of his time in Moscow where he earned a master’s degree in control science engineering from the Moscow State University. While getting this degree, Professor Vulakh was also pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics at an institute of automation in Moscow. After spending two years in industry after graduation, Vulakh went back into academia at the same institution where he pursued graduate studies. After successfully earning a Ph.D., Professor Vulakh then went to teach at an institution similar to Moscow State University. It was extremely difficult to find a teaching position at a university during this time because of competition – being a professor was a very well-respected occupation.

After immigrating to the United States, Professor Vulakh started teaching at Brooklyn College and Baruch College in 1985. However, he was so disappointed with the student bodies at both colleges that he almost gave up teaching entirely. In 1986, Professor Vulakh came to The Cooper Union as a visiting professor. Professor Vulakh knew Harold Shapiro, a professor at New York University at the time, who in turn knew a professor at Cooper. When Professor Vulakh was offered another year as a visiting professor, he decided to go to St. Johns as a visiting professor first. Professor Vulakh reminisced about this point in his life with a laugh: “Cooper called me back. Students had started asking ‘Where is Professor Vulakh?!’” In 1988, Professor Vulakh became an associate professor at Cooper. He is very happy with his decision. He believes that his students are – and have been – perfect.

Through the years, Professor Vulakh has taught almost all the mathematics courses offered at Cooper. Regarding the importance of teaching students mathematics, Professor Vulakh believes that “[students] need a strong foundation. They need to learn how to work properly.”

Other than Calculus I and II, Professor Vulakh most regularly teaches the discrete mathematics course at Cooper. Back in the Soviet Union, Professor Vulakh wrote a book on discrete mathematics – as well as one on linear algebra. He talked to the mathematics chairmen a few years ago about adding the course. With a smile again, Professor Vulakh commented by saying “since I created the course – I am teaching it.”

Because Cooper is an engineering school, Professor Vulakh strongly believes that the mathematics department has to closely work with other departments in the school. He was involved with updating and revising the calculus curriculum to better coordinate the material taught in Calculus II with other courses such as mechanics.

Other than teaching, Professor Vulakh also leads research. Selected research publications can be seen at http://engfac.cooper.edu/vulakh. Although Professor Vulakh used to be more active in the research field in past years when he attended science conferences every year, he still corresponds with other mathematicians about number theory – his area of expertise. In 2010 alone, he published three papers.

Outside of Cooper and number theory research, Professor Vulakh likes to play chess – as many people do in Russia he says. During the summer, Professor Vulakh very much enjoys swimming and biking – activities he has enjoyed since childhood. Being passionate about everything he does seems to be the trend; Professor Vulakh takes pride in always being there for professors and students: “I help students who need help. I am always available! I give them advice when I teach them. They need to spend a lot of time working. If you want to succeed you have to work – no matter how talented you are.”

Sports Update

Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14)

Cooper Union athletes started off the school year with a trip to Cape Cod for a week long training session. Teams managed to practice twice a day, have some time to enjoy the beautiful Cape, and take turns preparing dinners where every team was invited. At Cooper there is a boys basketball team, a girls basketball team, a boys tennis team, a girls tennis team, a soccer team, a cross country team, a girls volleyball team, and a boys volleyball team.

The boys basketball team is doing very well and found some hardworking new freshmen teammates including Matthew Smarsch, Andrey Kovalev, and Kenneth Oneill. New to their team but not to Cooper include Peter Liu and Ratan Rai Sur. They have been giving it their all every time they step onto the court. Their first game is a double header on October 27th against Kings College.

Girls basketball team has kept up the hardworking spirit from Cape Cod and were glad to find four new girls to join the team. There are two artists, Diana Yun and Paige, and two freshmen engineers, Nina Yajima Berlow and Jamie Chan. So far, they have been eager to learn the plays and enjoying the practices. The first game is an alumni game next weekend and the first official game is on October 27th against Kings College. Both teams practice twice a week, generally Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, usually separate but every once in a while, there is a joint practice.

Girls tennis team practice Tuesday and Thursday mornings. They have already played three matches, twice against New Rochelle and once against Pratt and won two of the three. The girls tennis team is made up of some very strong players and were glad to have Leticia Lew, Natalia Zawinsky, and Jacquline Le as strong and determined new additions to the team. Their next match is October 19th against St. Joeseph‘s.

Both the soccer team and the cross country are not gender specified so there is one team for everyone. Soccer practices twice a week in the morning. They were very happy to have ten new players join this year.

The freshmen are Eugene Sokolov, John DiBattista, Stephen Leone, Eavan O’Connor, Hunter Mckane, and Eli Soffer and they have all been solid players who bring a lot to the team. There are new juniors, Isha Patel, Jon Huang, and Ewan Kay, who have been very dedicated to the team as well. The last new player is Peter Kim who is a student from the New School and he is great contribution to the team.

The cross country team practices twice a week, once in the morning and once in the evening. The team was also glad to receive a handful of new players including two freshmen, Maria Hoffman and Peter Wang, Alex Lanuza, Gabriel Lopez, and Sebastian Brand, who happens to be one of the foreign exchange students. The new players have been running hard and working hard to keep up with the team but they’re doing great. They don’t have any more races against schools but they will be participating in two NY Roadrunners races, one this Sunday and one next Sunday.

The girls volleyball team has also been hard at work, since their season starts the earliest. They have also had a couple of new girls join the team. The new sophomores are Neema Aggarwal, Lauren Bishop, Mary Mazur, and Allison Colyer. The new freshma areAlexa Orrico, Amy Chambers, Jenny Jung, and Arielle Chin King. Most of the team is new so most practices have been focusing on team chemistry and as a team, they’ve been growing stronger every practice. They have another game on October 20th with New ROchelle and their last game will be on October 26th, with the College of St. Elizabeth. Both the boys volleyball and tennis teams are spring sports so they haven’t really started. That’s all for now and if anyone is ever interested in a sport, talk to Dean Dean Baker. C U later.

Faces of Cooper: Zinoviy Akkerman

Tensae Andargachew (ME ‘15)

The Cooper Pioneer: Where are you from?

Zinoviy Akkerman: Russia. [Well,] it’s a bit more complicated [than that]. I was born in what is now Moldova and then I went to the Novosibirsk State University and got stuck there already. So Novosibirsk is Siberia, Russia. So I came here from Russia – proper Russia. Siberia even.

TCP: Can you tell me about your educational and professional background?

ZA: [My] education [was at] Novosibirsk State University. On the outskirts of Novosibirsk there is a very famous little township [campus] called Akademgorodok, with about 20 what would be called in the United States, national laboratories. And there is a university, a famous one, we used to be in. Actually, we [were involved] in research, etc. So that was my educational background pretty much. And after [doing research at] the university, I worked there for 22 years and got my PhD there. And [I] worked [there] on materials research – semiconductors, insulating materials, or what we often called dielectric materials, stuff like this, optical properties etc.

TCP: When did you first learn about Cooper Union?

ZA: 2004. [To be] very specific – hadn’t heard about before. I was just uptown at City College. [I heard about it here] and then I went here for a job interview and lo and behold have been here ever since.

TCP: What brought you to Cooper Union? When did you start working at Cooper?

ZA: [I came here] in 2004. That’s when I started working at Cooper. And what brought me here actually, [was that] I was switching my career to teaching and I started teaching. There was an ad that I had seen and I applied and, as I said – actually, without any problems I had been accepted to teach here. I didn’t have too much trouble fighting for the place [job] but it was very nice and very unexpected. I like it very much here.

TCP: What is your role in Cooper? What is your department’s role in Cooper?

ZA: My role in the department in Cooper currently is pretty much to support Professor Wolf’s lectures. In the beginning, I was teaching a couple of courses – I taught Modern Physics. But after a while, and certain developments I am just teaching, supporting I should say, Professor Wolf’s teaching electricity & magnetism and mechanics.

TCP: How much do you like your job at Cooper?

ZA: [I like it] very much. It’s probably the nicest job that I had. I am teaching at different places, but Cooper is certainly the best place to come to teach. For a simple reason – because of the students.

TCP: What advice would you give to Cooper students?

ZA: Oh, that’s hard. Basically [the advice I’d give is] to use the opportunities that are given to them pretty much because they have very good faculty that teach them, they have very good courses here – their future is very bright. So better don’t screw it up.

TCP: Who is your favorite professor at Cooper? Why?

ZA: Well I don’t interact with many [so] I cannot say anything about them. But I can certainly see that the students are taught well. [Though, again] I don’t have too many to compare [to].

TCP: What are some of your hobbies?

ZA: That’s complicated. Pretty much, I read a lot. And I used to spend more time, [though] lately less, trying to develop some new problems in physics and this is very difficult. So physics problem composition I should say is still a hobby but, it’s a low yield hobby because it’s very hard to come by something new after three hundred years of Newton.

TCP: Do you have any closing remarks?

ZA: I pretty much said what I thought when I talked about the students and what advice I can give to the students. Maybe I should end on a sour note – my closing remarks are certainly the high school education in the United States should be improved because even the good students that are accepted to Cooper Union lack certain technical abilities. Is it good or bad? [It’s] hard to tell by the way, but I think it’s more bad than good.

So I think that this comes from very spotty, nonsystematic, high school education – very regional and not standardized. O.K. I admit that it’s hard to standardize some of the disciplines, some of the subjects in high school but physics and math certainly should have certain standards that go beyond just the multiplication tables. Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking.

New York Maker Faire - featured

New York Maker Faire

Saimon Sharif (ChE ‘15)

The World Maker Faire 2012 occurred on September 28th and 29th at the New York Hall of Science. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say many Cooper students attended Maker Faire. About 90% of students acknowledged they attended when Professor Wolf conducted an informal survey in physics lecture. Their motivation for attending was likely the same as the majority of the public. Maker Faire is ridiculously cool. Between 3D printers, life size mousetraps, ice cream eating competitions, Phineas & Ferb kites, there’s no reason to not make time for Maker Faire.

Beyond being entertaining for a day or two, Maker Faire serves the higher purpose of engaging both the public and children in science and engineering. A bit reductionist perhaps, but the more we engage the public in these fields, the more likely funding for them will increased. Furthermore, I can safely say that many of my fellow classmates would not have gone into science or engineering if they had not been exposed to the fields at a young age. We, as students, should present our projects as makers and inspire the next generation while passing on our passion for engineering and science.

Photos by Henry Wang (ME ‘15)

Foreign Exchange Students at Cooper

Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14) and Hindi Kornbluth (ChE ‘13)

Despite its small size, Cooper Union still manages to offer students a foreign exchange student program. This year, Cooper Union has five students from abroad studying here for either a semester or a year. Two are from Germany, two are from Spain, and one is from Iceland.

Cooper Union has also established connections with universities at these three countries that allow students from Cooper to study abroad during the summer. We were able to briefly interview three of the students: a junior civil engineer, a senior chemical engineer, and a senior mechanical engineer.

Alejandro Lanuza: Junior Civil Engineer. From Spain

The Cooper Pioneer: What school/year did you come from?

AL: The University of Burgos and I am in my third year. It is technically four years but you have to do a master’s degree because without it you can’t sign projects so most likely you won’t get hired. The master’s degree is a two year program.

TCP: Why Cooper?

AL: My university has a student exchange program. Every year there is a vacancy and students can apply. There are other universities affiliated with the exchange program but that involves having other students from the universities coming to my university as well. For example, if I was to study with one of those universities, they would send another kid to study at my university. It doesn’t have to be the same degree but the numbers have to match, more or less. With Cooper, it is just our university sending students over and Cooper decides on whether to accept each student.

TCP: What are the differences between studying in NYC and studying in Spain?

AL: Here the classes are more focused on practical applications while in Burgos it is more theoretical. The things you are taught here you will use in your future careers and work environments. In my city, there are 200,000 people and the university has about 11,000 students.

TCP: Is NYC what you expected it to be?

AL: I thought it was going to be cleaner than it turned out to be. The ideas I had of NYC came from the movies I’ve watched that were filmed in NYC. I love the atmosphere, the people, and the friendliness of the city.

Halldis Thoroddsen, Senior Chemical Engineer. From Iceland, here for the year.

TCP: How did you hear about Cooper?

HT: When I was looking for an exchange program from the University of Iceland I just went through the list of schools they had for chemical engineering and one of them happened to be Cooper.

TCP: Why did you pick Cooper?

HT: Mainly because of the location. You don’t get the opportunity to study in New York City often.

TCP: What are the biggest differences between Cooper and your home school?

HT: Midterms! Almost all of our finals are [worth] 100%. My school is also bigger, it’s like the biggest university in Iceland (they only have 4). But mainly the program is the same.

TCP: How are you enjoying New York?

HT: I really love it here!

Blanca Quiralte, Senior Mechanical Engineer. From Spain, here for the year.

TCP: What school/year did you come from?

BQ: I came from ICAI, an engineering school from Madrid, Spain.

TCP: Why Cooper?

BQ: When deciding which school I wanted to go to, I did some researched and I found that Cooper was a very good engineering school. It was a great opportunity for me and it would open many doors for me in the future. I also thought New York was a plus in my decision. So I guess the school’s reputation and its location made me choose it.

TCP: What was the biggest difference between NYC and home city? Biggest similarity?

BQ: The biggest difference I can see is the absolutely amazing culture cocktail NYC has. The biggest similarity is the dynamic of the city, how you can always find something to do.

TCP: What do you think of the experience so far?

BQ: I think it will be a unique experience, not only in an academic but also in a personal way. I want it to make me more of a professional and more skilled person.