Mission & Goals

The Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is the keystone of CUNY’s Decade of Science, an initiative launched in 2005 to help position CUNY as a significant research institution and reinforce its commitment to advancing scientific research and education.

The center was conceived and planned based on the premise that a great university needs great sciences, including state-of-the-art facilities. CUNY is responding with a science center that will not only serve the needs of cutting-edge research today, but envisions the demands and direction of scientific exploration for decades to come.
The mission of the ASRC is to be a catalyst for interdisciplinary scientific research and discovery and develop a university–wide integrated scientific research network. The ASRC will attract and retain top-level scientists, compete successfully for large collaborative research grants, and expand the University’s capacity to commercialize its intellectual property. The ASRC will help raise the profile of all science faculty across CUNY campuses and encourage and support science scholarship at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

The goals of the ASRC are:

  1. Investigate critical scientific/societal challenges
  2. Encourage interdisciplinary research and scholarship
  3. Promote community engagement and awareness
  4. Support student learning
  5. Develop solutions to benefit the people of New York and the larger community


The first phase of the two-phase plan for the CUNY ASRC is a $350 million, 200,000-square-foot, five-story science center with flexible space for laboratories, meeting rooms and offices for approximately 75 professionals.

Each floor will be devoted to one of five strategically selected program areas, or initiatives: Nanotechnology, Photonics, Structural Biology, Neuroscience, and Environmental Sciences. Although each program area will contain unique skills and capabilities, the ASRC mission and its physical structure support the intention of creating a highly collaborative research environment—a vertical integration of the horizontal blend of many disciplines.

The ASRC will be under the executive direction of Dr. Gillian Small, CUNY Vice Chancellor for Research and an established cell biologist. She is building an experienced yet streamlined organization with the goal of creating efficient operations and innovative ideas. A total of 20 new faculty researchers will be recruited, including a director for each of the five initiatives.

The directors are being recruited nationally and they in turn will recruit three faculty researchers as ASRC scientists. Each of the new faculty will also have a faculty appointment at one of CUNY’s senior colleges, based on the best fit for their area of expertise. The directors will also facilitate the development of integrated research collaborations both within CUNY and between CUNY and peer institutions across New York State and the nation.

The first of the five program directors is Dr. Charles J. Vörösmarty, who will lead the Environmental Sciences initiative. He is a water resources specialist recruited from the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, where he founded and directed its Water Systems Analysis Group. Dr. Vörösmarty brings to the ASRC an international reputation for excellence in interdisciplinary environmental studies.

The ASRC will provide approximately $50 million worth of sophisticated equipment and staff support to researchers at the ASRC and from across CUNY. These resources will also be made available for a fee to external collaborators. High-end core facilities and instrumentation in the ASRC, never before available at CUNY, will allow scientists to expand the scope and scale of their research endeavors. The core facilities will include a Clean Room/Nanofabrication Center, Imaging facilities, Visualization Room, and a Rooftop Observatory.

The ASRC will also include a Science Discovery and Education Center that will serve as an important introduction to visitors to the ASRC. It will provide stunning, hands-on learning experiences for visitors ranging from students to distinguished guests. The Science Discovery and Education Center will help CUNY promote science education and awareness and be a visible link with the community.

Research Initiatives

Five flagship areas will receive support through the recruitment of accomplished research faculty and the acquisition of high-end instrumentation that will be housed in the ASRC. These targeted key areas of science hold promise for real advances during the coming decades.


Photonics is the technology of generating and utilizing light and other radiant energy forms. It has the potential to change existing fields – from medical diagnosis (e.g. diagnosing cancer without biopsies) to the detection of bioterrorism (e.g., photonic devise for detection of bacteria and/or chemicals) – and provide basic knowledge (e.g. exploring plant photosynthesis).

Structural Biology

Bridging chemistry, physics, and informatics, CUNY’s structural biology research groups balance theoretical and computational strategies with a broad range of experimental approaches to investigating macromolecular targets. Researchers aim to obtain an atomic-level understanding of biological molecules – enabling advances in human health, agriculture, energy, and materials science.


Nanotechnology is science on the tiniest scale. It uses the body’s building blocks to fabricate electronic circuits thousands of times smaller than microcircuits for many applications used to solve health-related problems and combat bioterrorism.

Environmental Sciences

Water and environmental sensing provide satellite date for environmental, marine, and earth-science research. Studies planned or underway include assessing pollutants over the city, surveying the health of the marine ecosystem in coastal waters, predicting the risk of West Nile exposure, and monitoring for agents of bioterrorism. The ASRC’s state of the art remote sensing instrumentation will allow researchers to monitor environmental changes across the planet.