2023 in review: A year of innovation, community service, scholarly excellence and more

Neuroscientist Sandra Kuhlman posed in a research lab.

Neuroscientist Sandra Kuhlman, associate professor of physiology and biophysics, is among the 154 new faculty hires this past fall, which is believed to be the largest cohort of new faculty at UB since joining SUNY in the 1960s. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

By Cory Nealon and David Hill

Release Date: December 20, 2023

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BUFFALO, N.Y. – Harnessing artificial intelligence to diagnose and treat children with speech and language impairments. Drilling through 1,600 feet of ice to Greenland’s bedrock to better understand sea level rise. Raising more than $1 billion to cement our place as New York’s flagship university.

All these accomplishments and more – much more – highlighted a year of discovery, innovation, scholarly excellence and community service at the University at Bufalo.

As 2023 comes to a close, we reflect back on what has been a most remarkable year.

Research and innovation

Members of the National AI Institute for Exceptional Education.

Members of the National AI Institute for Exceptional Education. Credit: Douglas Levere.

In January, the National Science Foundation tapped UB to lead what promises to be one of the nation’s most groundbreaking – and needed – uses of artificial intelligence for social good. The $20 million National AI Institute for Exceptional Education will harness the power of AI to diagnose and treat children with speech and/or language processing challenges while addressing the nationwide shortage of speech-language pathologists.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: UB’s new AI Institute taps technology to aid kids with speech challenges

Drilling through 1,600 feet of ice to reach Greenland’s bedrock takes an incredible amount of planning, perseverance and good fortune. UB geologist Jason Briner and students, as reported in The Washington Post, succeeded in this mission. The work will help the world better understand and predict sea level rise. Elsewhere, geologist Elizabeth Thomas told The New York Times about her work analyzing ancient soil samples from Greenland, and geologist Jessica Mejia spoke to NPR about what it’s like to conduct research on Greenland.

As featured in:

The Washington Post: Buried under the ice

The New York Times: From an Ancient Soil Sample, Clues to an Ice Sheet’s Future

NPR: How glaciers move — and affect sea level rise

Enabling people newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes to reduce or completely stop insulin injections? A small study, led by UB physician Paresh Dandona, suggests the diabetes and weight loss drug semaglutide – known more commonly as Ozempic or Wegovy — could make this possible. Dandona notes it could be the most dramatic treatment change for Type 1 diabetes “since the discovery of insulin in 1921.”

As featured in:

NBC News: Popular weight loss drug may help people with Type 1 diabetes cut back on insulin, small study suggests

CNN: Drug in Ozempic may enable patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes to stave off insulin use, small study suggests

U.S. News & World Report: In Small Study, Ozempic Helped People With Type 1 Diabetes Quit Insulin Treatments

There “has been a massive expansion” of the pay gap between high-ranking executives and employees, according to accounting and law professor Michael Dambra. His research, cited during strikes this past summer at major auto companies like GM and Ford, found that a requirement that public companies disclose CEO compensation in comparison to their median employee salary has done very little to rein in executive pay.

As featured in:

Politico: ‘No defensible argument’: Anger boils over at CEO pay

CBS News: UAW strike puts spotlight on CEO-worker pay gap

Sleep apnea may be linked to low bone mineral density in adults, a condition that is an indicator of osteoporosis and can increase the risk of fractures and cause teeth to become loose and dental implants to fail. That was the chief finding of a study led by Thikriat Al-Jewair, professor of orthodontics, who said the work could have multiple implications for orthodontic treatment.

As featured in:

U.S. News & World Report: Sleep Apnea Linked to Weaker Bones, Teeth

Campus news

From left to right, Provost A. Scott Weber; President Satish K. Tripathi; Bonnie Kane Lockwood, regional director of Western New York for the governor's office; State Sen. Tim Kennedy; and Vice Consul General of Ireland in New York Dermot Fitzpatrick.

From left to right, Provost A. Scott Weber; President Satish K. Tripathi; Bonnie Kane Lockwood, regional director of Western New York for the governor's office; State Sen. Tim Kennedy; and Vice Consul General of Ireland in New York Dermot Fitzpatrick. Credit: Meredith Forest Kulwicki.

In October, UB President Satish K. Tripathi announced that UB has raised more than $1 billion for its Boldly Buffalo fundraising campaign. The milestone was punctuated by a $40 million commitment from longtime UB benefactor and alumnus Russ Agrusa, whose gift will kickstart the construction of a new student-focused engineering building on North Campus to be named in his honor.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: UB president announces $40 million gift for engineering school

This fall, UB welcomed 154 new faculty from across the nation and world, the largest cohort of new faculty since UB joined the SUNY system in the 1960s. The faculty growth is part of the university’s "Advancing Top 25" faculty hiring initiative, which is focused on academic and research excellence, and expanding the university’s engagement and impact locally, nationally and globally. It also aligns with goals of the President’s Advisory Council on Race, which stresses faculty diversity among its recommendations to make the campus a more inclusive place to live, learn and work.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: UB welcomes 154 new faculty in historic hiring effort

UB had a special reason this year to celebrate Bloomsday – the day James Joyce’s 1922 classic “Ulysses” takes place in 1904. That’s because State Sen. Tim Kennedy announced that UB will receive $10 million from New York State to pay for construction of a new museum to house its collection of materials of the famed Irish author, which is the largest in the world.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: UB celebrates Bloomsday with $10M in state funding for James Joyce museum

In June, UB broke ground on the Brittany Murchie Mulla Sports Performance Center. Scheduled to open in 2024, the 12,000-square-foot multilevel facility will double the training space for UB’s student-athletes, creating a state-of-the art environment for UB’s varsity teams that connects with the Murchie Family Fieldhouse.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: Building 'The Factory': UB athletics breaks ground for sports performance center

WBEN: Groundbreaking on new sports performance center for University at Buffalo

Two students – biochemistry major Lea Kyle and biomedical engineering major Sydney Swedick – became UB’s latest recipients of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious and competitive research scholarship offered for undergraduate STEM students. Kyle, a native of Martville, New York, and Swedick, from Johnstown, New York, plan to pursue doctoral degrees in biochemistry and neuroscience, respectively. And Rochester native Samiha Islam became UB’s second winner of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a nationally competitive award given to college juniors for leadership in public service.

As featured in:

UBNow: Two University at Buffalo students chosen for prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

UBNow: Samiha Islam is UB’s second Truman Scholar

Insights and Perspectives

Siwei Lyu in Davis Hall.

Siwei Lyu, above, fights misinformation by helping the news media analyze deepfakes. Credit: Douglas Levere.

News media worldwide routinely call upon UB faculty members to share their expertise. In 2023, more than 300 faculty were quoted in The New York Times, NPR, BBC, Agence France-Presse and other news outlets. Media forensics expert Siwei Lyu regularly analyzes deepfakes and other AI-generated content relating to politics, war, fake medical treatments and more.

As featured in:

USA Today: Wait, is that video real? The race against deepfakes and dangers of manipulated recordings

Poynter: How to spot deepfake videos like a fact-checker

Reuters: Video does not show Joe Biden making transphobic remarks

A year after the racially motivated mass shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo's predominantly Black East Side, news media again turned to urban planner Henry-Louis Taylor Jr. He told ABC News that "white racism fueled the shooter's racial hatred and also created the marginalized, underdeveloped neighborhood conditions that drew him to the city.” To address these conditions, Taylor and other officials are leading a project to tackle the root causes of the social determinants of health in order to improve the health of East Side residents.

As featured in:

ABC News: A year after racist shooting rampage, Buffalo struggles to correct decades of segregation and systemic racism

ABC News: 1 year after Buffalo mass shooting, some residents feel they're left to save themselves

In November, artificial intelligence expert David Doermann testified before Congress on the growing threat of deepfakes. Despite President Biden's executive order on artificial intelligences, there is not enough being done to curtail deepfakes and other manipulated digital content, he said. He also spoke to The Associated Press on how deepfakes from the Gaza war illustrate artificial intelligence’s power to mislead the public.

As featured in:

Courthouse News Service: Experts urge Congress to clamp down on deepfakes

The Associated Press: Fake babies, real horror: Deepfakes from the Gaza war increase fears about AI’s power to mislead

From serving as a guest editor for Education Week to speaking with The Washington Post, LaGarrett King delved into the origins of Black History Month, how a more nuanced approach to teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. is needed, and Florida’s ban on an AP African American history course, among many other topics. “Black History Month was always to be temporary. Yet, many schools and school districts struggle to build quality Black history programs outside of Black History Month,” wrote King, who directs the Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education.

As featured in:

Education Week: The Urgency of Black History: A Collection

Time: The New Ways Teachers Are Talking About Martin Luther King Jr.

The Washington Post: Black history is ‘being attacked.’ These parents found alternatives.

Immigrants and refugees are playing a key role in driving Buffalo’s population growth. They’re also key to the region’s economy, as well as its social and cultural fabric. Those were some of the takeaways from a panel discussion on immigration organized by The Buffalo News that featured Wooksoo Kim, associate professor in the School of Social Work. “Be curious,” she advised attendees, encouraging them to immerse themselves in other cultures and engage immigrants to make the region more inclusive.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: Panelists say Western New York's future depends on immigration

There is a nationwide shortage of mental health providers. While often overlooked, board-certified psychiatric pharmacists are addressing this problem, says Tammie Lee Demler, adjunct associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. To further their impact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should recognize them as providers and cover their services. This will help expand the mental health workforce and improve population health, she and co-authors argue in Psychiatrist.

Psychiatrist: A Comment on the Midlevel Care Provider System in New York State

Local community impact

Participants from UB Cultivator pose for a photo.

UB Cultivator supports high-growth, risk-reduced startups and introduces them into the local startup ecosystem.

Thanks to nearly $1 million in federal funding secured by Rep. Brian Higgins, the School of Public Health and Health Professions will operate a mobile health clinic, initially stationed at the Seneca-Babcock Community Association, to reach medically underserved communities throughout the area. The mobile clinic will be able to serve 30,000 people annually. 

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: UB lands $934,000 in federal funds for new mobile health clinic

WGRZ: Federal funding going to support UB mobile health unit

Spectrum News1: Rep. Higgins announces nearly $1M to support new mobile health clinic

UB’s Social Impact Fellows certainly lived up to their name. This year’s cohort took on 10 projects, including a collaboration with Journey’s End Refugee Services to build a “dream” database and digital map of community resources to help support refugee resettlement. Each summer, student teams partner with a host of local nonprofit agencies to enhance their ability to respond to social issues. Since the program’s inception six years ago, participants have completed 60 projects for 46 organizations.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: Problem solvers for nonprofits: UB grad students seek solutions that make a social impact

WBFO: What’s Next?

Following the completion of the Buhite-DiMino Center for Implant Dentistry and Advanced Dental Education, the School of Dental Medicine in September announced a $2.58 million plan to refurbish its orthodontic clinic at Squire Hall on the South Campus, which provides quality, lower-cost care directly to the community. The work is part of a $25 million capital plan by the school. The school also received coverage in the community for its eighth annual Dentistry Smiles for Veterans event in November, during which U.S. military veterans were able to receive free dental services.

As featured in:

Buffalo Business First: UB School of Dental Medicine prepares for $2.6M expansion

Niagara Frontier Publications: UB to offer free dental care to WNY vets in honor of Veterans Day

UB’s Cultivator program has become such a major part of the startup support system in Western New York that entrepreneurs, such as Hennesys Disla, have relocated to Buffalo to take advantage of its resources. The program, managed by UB's Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships team, connects startups with mentors and local partners, providing a $100,000 investment to participants. Cultivator aims to democratize access to funding and prepare companies for future investments, fostering a supportive community for entrepreneurs. “It’s been really fruitful to see how the business has grown and moving to Buffalo has helped a lot,” said Disla.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: UB's Cultivator program becomes major part of startup support system

In May, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation allowing nursing students to complete up to one third of their 500-plus hours of clinical training through simulation. The School of Nursing, which has operated a simulation lab for the past 15 years, was positioned to immediately respond to the new law, which officials say will help ease the nursing shortage in Western New York and beyond. “This type of training will be growing exponentially,” James Cozza, the school’s simulation coordinator, told The Buffalo News.

As featured in:

The Buffalo News: An inside look at how simulated patients play key role in training future nurses

Critically acclaimed books

Samantha-Barbas-pod-module.jpg.

Law professor Samantha Barbas, above, wrote a much-acclaimed non-fiction book about press freedoms.

Some of the largest news outlets and book review websites in the world devoted considerable attention to “Actual Malice: Civil Rights and Freedom of the Press in New York Times v. Sullivan,” a groundbreaking book by Samantha Barbas, professor in the School of Law and director of the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy. The Los Angeles Review of Books wrote: “While Sullivan is widely considered ‘one of the most important free speech decisions of all time,’ Barbas convincingly shows that it ‘was as much about civil rights and the civil rights movement as it was about freedom of speech and press.’ The book comes at a critical time when, as Barbas notes, the constitutional protections afforded by Sullivan ‘may be in peril.’”

As featured in:

The New Yorker: The Dark Side of Defamation Law

The Los Angeles Review of Books: How Could He Possibly Lose? On Samantha Barbas’s “Actual Malice”

New York Review of Books: Keeping Speech Robust and Free

The Los Angeles Review of Books called “To Walk About in Freedom: The Long Emancipation of Priscilla Joyner” by Carole Emberton, associate professor of history, “a breathtaking book…that encapsulates some of the most tumultuous periods in Southern history – slavery, war, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow.” Emberton’s book is an exploration of emancipation told through the stories of Priscilla Joyner, a formerly enslaved woman in the antebellum South. Joyner’s life before and after the Civil War provides personal details of the experiences of someone who traveled what historians now call the long emancipation.

As featured in:

Los Angeles Review of Books: The Afterlife of Slavery: On Carole Emberton’s “To Walk About in Freedom”

In her book “Democracy in a Hotter Time: Climate Change and Democratic Transformation,” Holly Jean Buck, assistant professor in the Department of Environment and Sustainability, examines the interconnected challenges of climate change, authoritarianism and the Internet. She argues that these forces are amplifying each other’s negative impacts and hindering our ability to address climate change effectively, highlighting the urgency of addressing both climate change and authoritarianism, with a significant portion of the world's population living under authoritarian regimes.

As featured in:

Engadget: Hitting the Books: We are the frogs in the boiling pot, it's time we started governing like it.

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