From the PhD to Research Policy

Michael Holland, Chief of Staff at NYU’s Center for Urban Science & Progress discusses how he went from imaging aluminum uptake in soybean roots to overseeing multi-billion dollar federal research programs in a talk at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS).

> Watch Michael Holland’s talk at the NYAS

Physics: A Different Kind of Impact Factor

“Physicists are good at finding [the data] and ferreting out new phenomena,” said Koonin [CUSP Director], who likes to joke that his ideal candidate is a graduate student that helped discover the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider, but now wants to do something with more immediate social impact

The American Physical Society discusses how applied science is taking off in New York with initiatives like CUSP, and how physics skills are in demand in these new programs.

NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) Receives New York State Curriculum Approval and Begins Accepting Student Enrollment Applications

NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) in Downtown Brooklyn announced today that the New York State Education Department has approved its curriculum for a new Master of Science and Advanced Certificate in Applied Urban Science and Informatics.

“The intent of CUSP’s educational program is to develop a robust, dynamic, and cohesive educational program that, together with the CUSP research program, defines ‘Urban Informatics’ as an academic discipline,” said CUSP Director Steve Koonin. “We are confident that CUSP’s program will serve the needs of a diverse range of potential students and employers.”

State approval allows CUSP to offer M.S. and Advanced Certificate courses starting in September, 2013.  Beginning December 18th, applications will be available on CUSP’s website:

Building on its mission to define the emerging field of Urban Informatics, CUSP will train the next generation of scientists to understand urban data sources and streams; manipulate and integrate varying datasets and data sources; study and use “big data” analytics to drive decision-making; model and understand how cities function; and develop solutions to pressing urban problems that recognize and account for the constraints embedded in complex urban systems.

Slated to begin in fall 2013, the M.S. program will provide students with the mathematics, science, and/or engineering backgrounds the opportunity to engage in the interdisciplinary study of urban science and informatics and to apply their technical skills to urban problems.  The one-year, three semester, 30-credit M.S. program provides students with core courses in urban science, urban informatics, and information and communication technology in cities.  Students will select from multiple policy domains to gain breadth and depth in the application of big data analytics to urban problems. The program also contains a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation leadership, and students will be given the option to study technology entrepreneurship or “change leadership” in an existing organization.  The core of the one-year curriculum is a two-semester project – the Urban Science Intensive – during which students will apply the principles of informatics to address an actual urban challenge in a particular field of study and with a specific city agency.

The Advanced Certificate is a 12-credit program completed over three semesters.  The CUSP program enables students interested in, and capable of, focusing on the structure and development of large-scale data from diverse sources to understand urban problems and their potential operational solutions.  The Advanced Certificate is designed for students holding a relevant master’s degree, holding an undergraduate degree in an appropriate field and currently employed, or for those concurrently enrolled in M.S. programs at NYU, NYU-Poly, and CUSP’s academic partners.

In their final semester, Advanced Certificate students will work alongside M.S. students as part of the Urban Science Intensive.

Following an extensive program design process involving faculty from NYU, NYU-Poly, and CUSP’s academic partners, CUSP educational programs are guided by a desire to provide students with an intensive and immersive experience that crosses disciplinary, academic, corporate, public, and geographic boundaries through exposure to CUSP’s partners and the NYU Global Network University.  This approach, combined with internship and fellowship opportunities, will prepare graduates to work for a range of private firms and public sector agencies, particularly those represented by CUSP industry and agency partners, in positions ranging from urban data scientists to technical management and leadership roles.

“NYU’s CUSP is a unique program that complements IBM’s approach to helping cities leverage technology to become more effective at planning, operations and predicting future problems,” said Jurij Paraszcak, director, smarter cities, IBM Research. “CUSP is defining a new approach by integrating academia, enterprise, and New York City in a living lab, preparing cities worldwide to manage their services with greater efficiency and ultimately improving the quality of life.”

Building on NYU’s existing presence in Brooklyn, CUSP will launch its inaugural programs and host its first class at MetroTech Center as the University continues to transform the former, long-empty Metropolitan Transit Authority facility at 370 Jay Street into the Center’s home. CUSP, one of the winning proposals submitted in response to the City’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative, is projected to generate $5.5 billion in nominal economic activity, creating more than 7,000 jobs, and spinning off 200 companies over the coming decades.

About New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress

CUSP is an applied science research institute created by New York University and NYU-Poly with a consortium of world-class universities and the foremost international tech companies to address the needs of cities.  This research will make CUSP the world’s leading authority in the emerging field of “urban informatics.”


Media Contact: Kim Alfred

(917) 392-0859

University of Warwick Appoints Scientists for ‘Living Lab’ Research

Two researchers have joined the University of Warwick to tackle the challenges faced by cities in the 21st century as part of CUSP.

Empirical State Building

A Distinguished Lecture and podcast from Dr Steven Koonin, Founding Director of CUSP, given at the University of Warwick, CUSP’s only European partner.

New York. Bright lights? Certainly. Big city? Unquestionably. Lab experiment?… In this Distinguished Lecture for the University of Warwick, Steven Koonin discusses his new role as the head of New York University’s new Center for Urban Science and Progress and how NYC is about to go ‘under the digital microscope’.

Can Megacities Be Resilient?

On October 24, Leah Cohen, New York City’s climate resilience advisor; Steven Koonin, inaugural director of NYU’s new Center for Urban Science and Progress; and David Biello, energy and environment editor at Scientific American had a wide-ranging discussion on how cities will cope with a century of accelerating change.

In the coming decades, cities will be bigger than ever, energy more expensive, and the climate more volatile. These new challenges, to use the politician’s favorite euphemism, will make it harder than ever to meet electricity demands, run transportation systems smoothly and keep buildings safe. The answer? Resilience, say some experts. But what does that really mean? …

Read more & listen to the full audio of this event

New York City Council Committees Hear Testimony on CUSP

CUSP Director Steve Koonin and CUNY Vice Chancellor for Research Gillian Small testified at the September 28, 2012 oversight hearing, “The Applied Science NYC Initiative – Plans for a dramatic transformation of the City’s economy,” held jointly by the New York City Council Committee on Higher Education, the Committee on Technology, and the Committee on Economic Development.

Read Dr. Koonin’s testimony (PDF)

Read Dr. Small’s testimony (PDF)

Steve Koonin speaks at DataGotham 2012

DataGotham was a celebration of New York City’s data community, bringing together professionals from finance to fashion and from startups to the Fortune 500. The day-and-a-half event consisted of intense discussion, networking, and sharing of wisdom, taking place on September 13th – 14th at NYU Stern’s Paulson auditorium. Steve Koonin was invited to discuss his view of a connected city, as well as to discuss the newly formed Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).

Mayoral Press Conference Announcing Launch of CUSP

Mayor Bloomberg, NYU President John Sexton and MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota announce a historic partnership to to create the Center for Urban Science + Progress, a new applied sciences center, in downtown Brooklyn. The academic and private-sector consortium is the city’s next step in the City’s Applied Sciences NYC Initiative.

NYU Names Renowned Physicist Steven Koonin Director of New Center for Urban Science and Progress

NYU today named Steven E. Koonin – a theoretical physicist who has served as Undersecretary of Energy for Science, Chief Scientist of BP, and Provost of the California Institute of Technology – as the Director of the new Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), an applied science and engineering institute created by NYU as a consortium of world-class universities, global technology corporations, and innovative urban designers.

Koonin’s appointment came as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – accompanied by NYU President John Sexton and Dr. Koonin at a press conference in Brooklyn – announced the designation of CUSP as one of the winning proposals submitted in response to Applied Sciences NYC, a major City economic development initiative to increase New York’s capacity in the applied sciences and spur the growth of new tech-related businesses and jobs.

NYU President John Sexton said, “The creation of CUSP – and the announcement by Mayor Bloomberg of its designation as one of the Applied Sciences NYC winners — is an extraordinarily exciting event for NYU. Its research and academic programs will address one of the most pressing and pervasive challenges of our times – how to make an increasingly urbanized world work better. CUSP is not merely a new educational program or a new research center – it will be an incubator for an entirely new industry.

“An undertaking such as CUSP requires a person of exceptional talents – a scientist of outstanding abilities and credentials; a proven and experienced leader; and a person with the vision and entrepreneurial spirit necessary not only to create a new enterprise, but to aim it at solving some of the world’s great challenges. In Steve Koonin, we have found such a person. By dint of talent, accomplishments, knowledge, attitude, and energy, he’s a perfect fit. Recruiting a scientist of Steve’s stature is a tremendous validation of the idea at the heart of CUSP, and its promise.”

Sr. Vice Provost for Research Paul Horn said, “Steve Koonin is an exceptional choice to be CUSP’s director. His record of directing scientific efforts to solve complex and seemingly intractable problems makes him stand out as a leader in the scientific community. I don’t think there is anyone better suited to be CUSP’s founding director, to ensure excellence in its research agenda, and to focus on translating the research and discoveries into real-world, commercializable solutions. We are very fortunate to have Steve coming on board, and, on behalf of the entire NYU community, we welcome him and offer our congratulations on this new assignment.”

Director Koonin said of his appointment: “NYU and its partners have envisioned a remarkable enterprise that will simultaneously improve the workings of the City, advance technology, spur economic activity, and educate a global population of students in the development and application of Urban Science. I am extraordinarily energized to be returning to New York City to work with CUSP’s partners and other stakeholders to realize that vision; there is no place better to be doing this work.”

Dr. Koonin was confirmed by the Senate in May, 2009 as Undersecretary for Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, serving in that position until November, 2011. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, he was BP’s Chief Scientist, where he was a strong advocate for research into renewable energies and alternate fuel sources. He came to BP in 2004 following almost 3 decades as Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology, serving as the Institute’s Vice President and Provost for the last nine years. Koonin comes to CUSP most immediately from a position at the Science and Technology Policy Institute of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, DC.

Koonin’s research interests have included nuclear astrophysics; theoretical nuclear, computational, and many-body physics; and global environmental science. He has been involved in scientific computing throughout his career. He has supervised more than 30 PhD students, produced more than 200 peer-reviewed research publications, and authored or edited 3 books, including a pioneering textbook on Computational Physics in 1985. As Caltech’s Provost, Koonin oversaw its research and educational programs, including the hiring of one-third of the Institute’s faculty. At BP, he conceived and established the Energy Bioscience Institute at UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois, while at DOE, he led the preparation of both its most recent Strategic Plan and its first Quadrennial Technology Review for energy. Koonin has served as an advisor for numerous academic, government, and for-profit organizations.

Dr. Koonin is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the George Green Prize for Creative Scholarship at Caltech, a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, and a Senior U.S. Scientist Award (Humboldt Prize), and the Department of Energy’s Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award. He is a Fellow of several professional societies, including the American Physical Society, the American Association of the Advancement of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Koonin was born in Brooklyn, NY and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1968. He received his B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1972 and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from MIT in 1975. He and his wife Laurie have been married for 37 years and have three children: Anna (27), Alyson (24), and Benjamin (22).

Press Contact: John Beckman | (212) 998-6848