Volume 14,4


AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY IN CONNECTICUT:
Rapidly Growing Field Holds Enormous Promise for State

[Editors Note: This is the first of a three-part series on agricultural biotechnology in Connecticut. The second article will describe ongoing research at academic campuses. The third article will describe ongoing research in industry.]

By providing the tools to understand, combine, and alter genes, biotechnology, a field less than 30 years old, offers the ability not only to increase plant yields, but to protect crops against predators, develop faster-growing fish, produce medicines in rabbit milk, and, possibly, prevent deer from invading gardens. It is, according to CASE Executive Scientist Dr. Thomas Malone, part of a “cascade of knowledge” that will increase living standards worldwide. The following article examines some of the research currently underway at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, with special emphasis on the impact of a 1997 CASE task force study outlining the opportunities -- and some of the obstacles -- facing the state’s agricultural biotechnology community.


Imagine three high school auditoriums packed, floor to ceiling, with copies of Homer’s Iliad -- one hundred thousand volumes. The books are identical, except for this: in each one, a different, randomly selected word has been garbled. Your task? Examine every book, one by one, to find the copy in which the word “Mekisteus” has been changed.

For Dr. Neil Schultes, a geneticist at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) in New Haven, that “book” is the genome of the weed Arabidopsis, and the “word” he’s seeking is the gene named leaf permease1.

Schultes, who studies a family of proteins called nucleobase transporters that move nitrogenous compounds in and out of cells, works with a population of Arabidopsis mutants created by Dr. Stephen Dellaporta at Yale. The mutations, Schultes explains, were caused by extra pieces of DNA, which have been inserted somewhere in each of the plant’s genes. Using molecular techniques, he is searching the Arabidopsis library for a version of his gene that has been disabled by its mutation. “[Finding it] is a matter of brute force screening,” he says. The task can take months.

Once he locates the gene, he’ll go back to the mutated seed stock and grow out the plant. Differences between the mutant and normal Arabidopsis plants provide clues to the gene’s exact function. The work is important because, he says, even though nitrogen compounds are essential to plants, “no one knows anything about how certain nitrogen-containing molecules get from one cell to the other.”

Take soybeans. They fix nitrogen, with the help of bacteria living in their root’s nodules. Two kinds of cells are needed to process the nitrogen into a usable form—one must contain a lot of oxygen, but the other requires only a minimal amount. The cells, Schultes says, must cooperate, sending signals back and forth. They must also have a way of getting the nitrogenous compounds from one cell to the other. “That’s where I think these transporters are involved,” he adds.

The transporters could be a limiting factor in nitrogen fixation, he speculates. “How can you increase the amount of nitrogen that’s gathered in from the air and put into the plant? If you get more nitrogen into the plant, it’s going to give more yields, he observes, adding that it is unclear where the bottleneck is -- whether it’s the nitrogen fixation, the plant’s biochemistry, or the intercellular transport. If intercellular transport is the constraint, then engineering a way to increase the number of transporters could increase plant yield. “I don’t know for sure,” he says, “that we can increase the number of transporters and develop a more productive plant -- that may not be the case. But it’s an area to be investigated.”

The CASE Task Force Report

Two years ago, a CASE task force report, Building Agricultural Biotechnology in Connecticut, discussed how the state could increase its part in this burgeoning field. At that time, explains CASE member Dr. Thomas Chen, director of the University of Connecticut’s Biotechnol-ogy Center and task force chair, Connecticut was losing much of its defense industry. Many insurance companies, too, were moving their headquarters out of state. “You needed to diversify, to create jobs,” says Chen, and agriculture seemed a promising path. In fact, during the recession of the 1990s, agriculture was one of only two state industries that grew.

Biotechnological advances are critical to agriculture in Connecticut, Chen explains, because the state is small, with land both scarce and expensive. In order for agriculture to thrive, it must take advantage of biotechnology-generated, high-value products. “If you want to compete with other states on the basis of quantity, we’re not going to be able to do it, because there’s a limitation of land,” says Chen. But if you use biotechnology to develop high-value products -- plants that resist mold, flowers with unique colors and fragrance -- then, he says, Connecticut can compete.

But agricultural biotechnology is about far more than crops, he adds. “A lot of pharmaceutical products can be generated from transgenic farm animals and plants. Transgenic pigs, for example, can provide organs for human transplants, and transgenic plants can produce vaccines or industrial enzymes... If it’s just about providing food, then the economic potential in Connecticut is not going to be that great. But when you’re talking about using high economic value products for industrial, or medical/pharmaceutical purposes, then the potential becomes enormous.” The organs needed for transplantation, for example, could amount to a multi-billion dollar industry, according to Chen.

Opportunities… and Obstacles

The 1997 CASE report surveyed the resources available in Connecticut, concluding that although obstacles needed to be overcome, the state possessed many of the elements needed to foster a vigorous ag-biotech sector. “The important part is the science,” says Chen, which is copiously generated at Yale, UConn, CAES, and other research centers. Chen points out other advantages. Because of its universities and colleges, the state has highly-trained people. It also has specialties -- “sectors which we can develop and others cannot, like horticulture.”

Yet, though key elements exist, the sector itself has not coalesced. In particular, a large pool of startup companies has failed to emerge. The 1997 report cited several reasons: a shortage of low-cost “incubator” space (research space for startup companies), inadequate access to expensive specialized equipment, and a need for capital to help develop products.

The CASE task force recommended that the state focus its efforts on five critical areas: aquaculture; plant biotechnology, with an emphasis on greenhouse and ornamental crops; transgenic farm animals for pharmaceutical needs; new generation animal vaccines; waste management biotechnology; and bioprocessing. It suggested a series of “implementation vehicles” to encourage growth. In the two years since the report was issued, some progress has been made.

For example, a website suggested by the report’s task force has been established. Managed by Jane Slupecki, the state’s program director for the Agricultural Technology Program and a task force member, it serves as an information clearing house, pointing to state agricultural biotech resources.

The task force also recommended strengthening education programs. According to Slupecki, a program is being developed to incorporate agriculture and agricultural biotechnology into the K-12 curriculum. At the college level, Chen notes, programs are continually being modified. Just this fall, a new combined BA/MS degree program in biotechnology was proposed at UConn, which will permit students to earn both degrees in just five years. Significantly, Chen sees student interest in the field increasing, due, he says, both to the field’s high-profile activities, and to its many job opportunities.

A Core Equipment Center, one of three recommended in the CASE report, exists as part of the UConn Center for Biotechnology. (The equipment center predates the report, although it has been enlarged since 1997.) The Center furnishes businesses and researchers with equipment and services they cannot economically provide for themselves. These include sequencing DNA, analyzing protein interactions, developing transgenic animals, helping the greenhouse industry with micropropagation and product development, producing recombinant proteins, and, through its live cell sensing facility, allowing scientists to observe a cell’s functioning.

All this is promising. But two key problems remain: the shortage of affordable incubator space, and the lack of funding to support startups through their initial years.

Most biotechnology companies, explains Chen, take 15 years to bring a product to market, and during that time, research and development must still be funded. Most biotech startups are eventually partly financed by large pharmaceutical companies, who provide funds in return for various rights. But before a startup can attract the private sector, it must perform extensive preliminary studies. Many questions must be answered, such as how toxic the treatment is, and the kinds of cells it can affect. “You need to collect data that are essentially like a preclinical trial,” says Chen. “Without that, there’s little interest.” That’s why he feels it’s so important for funds to be available to help startups through this initial period, until they have a product developed enough to pull in private investors.

Affordable Lab Space Critical

That, too, is why affordable incubator space is so critical. While some incubator space is available, Chen says, at $20 to $50 per square foot, “you can’t even imagine you’re going to have incubator space that costs more than $10 per square foot. When you set up something with 2,000 or 3,000 square feet, which is not a huge space, on the basis of $10 per square foot, you’re talking about $30,000 or $40,000 a year. For a startup company, that’s enormous.”

Carolyn Kahn, of Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CI), a quasi-public venture capital firm, estimates that the state needs an additional 350,000 square feet of laboratory space. “There’s a huge pent-up demand,” she says. “The biotech companies have no place to grow into.”

Connecticut is, encouragingly, taking steps to deal with the shortage. Together, CI and the state are making $40 million in loans available to biotech companies for laboratory space construction. That funding, says Kahn, can build about 200,000 square feet of space.

Chen, concerned about startup-stifling costs, would like to see incubator space itself provided. The state or universities could build it, he suggests, in prefabricated buildings, allowing it to be rented out inexpensively.

Another possibility exists: professors can be encouraged to start companies, based on their own research, using their own laboratories as incubator space. “The MIT model is the one you want to follow,” says Steve Clement, of the Connecticut Technology Council. “They encourage the professors to go out and start companies with students. But the university retains rights to part of the technology, licensing it back to the company.” This, says Clement, can generate a significant revenue stream for the university.

Chen, too, likes this model. “The universities gain the most out of the creation of spinoff companies. This is what Stanford does, this is what MIT does, this is what many private universities do.” He believes it should happen in Connecticut.

“A Huge Basic Research Machine”

“When you look at the applied work that’s out there,” says CAES’ Schultes, “behind it there’s this huge basic research machine that’s been around for years.” Many of the products that industry is releasing now, he says, are based on studies done 10 or 15 years ago. The work that he and his colleagues are doing will eventually be used too, in ways they can only guess.

But the possibilities are endlessly exciting. How about, for example, plants that don’t waste light?

Plants, explains CAES scientist Dr. Richard Peterson, often use very little of the light that falls upon them. “At light levels that plants normally encounter in agricultural situations, maybe 90 to 95% of the energy incident on that leaf will be lost.” Instead of being used to produce food, the energy may be re-emitted as warmth, through a process called quenching.

Quenching is a protective measure: if a plant absorbs more energy (photons) that it can process, that energy damages the plant, possibly killing it. No one quite understands how quenching works, says Peterson, but it probably involves temporary changes in the orientations of the pigment molecules that move the energy through the plant. “If a pigment molecule can’t transfer the energy of a photon to another pigment in a clean efficient way, then, given enough time, it will simply de-excite, resulting in the emission of heat.”

“I’m looking for genes involved in this process,” Peterson explains. “If one could identify the genes, then this will tell you something about how the mechanism of quenching is done.” Like Schultes, Peterson searches through vast populations of mutated Arabidopsis. He doesn’t yet know which gene he needs to study, so he’s searching not through genomes, but through actual plants, seeking mutants that don’t perform quenching well.

“We find the mutations that are involved, pull the genes out, and then identify what those genes do, in terms of the types of proteins they code for. Then you start to assemble a picture of how these proteins might be interacting.”

He’s already found one particularly exciting mutation: it’s deficient in quenching, but, instead of damaging the plant, the extra energy seems to go toward increasing photosynthesis.

“Let’s say,” says Peterson, “that the plant is 5% efficient in terms of CO2 fixation, in full sunlight. If you can increase that to 10%, it’s a doubling. That’s nothing to be sneezed at.” His mutant seems to reach the 20 to 30% range. However, he cautions, these data are very preliminary and still must be confirmed.

Peterson is eager to do so -- to see if just by producing this one mutation, by interfering with a plant’s ability to convert light to heat, more energy can be forced into photosynthesis. “Does it have a long term adverse consequence to the plant in terms of photoinhibition? Nobody knows. But I will try it. Because obviously, agricultural productivity is important.”
Increasing agricultural productivity also matters to Dr. Neil McHale, who heads CAES’ Biochemistry and Genetics Department, and who hopes to increase yield by learning to control, and perhaps change, a plant’s entire pattern of growth.
McHale’s gene, first found in snapdragons, is called Phantastica (or PHAN). Its effect is complicated: in an adult plant -- one capable of flowering -- PHAN prevents leaf blades from forming. All the plant produces is a leaf midrib. But in a juvenile plant, PHAN has almost the opposite effect. “It adds extra leaf blades, growing directly up out of the midrib.”

PHAN, says McHale, is “a controller of a controller,” determining when and where the genes that control plant development function. “These genes control initiation of new organs at the shoot tip, which controls the plant’s pattern of growth.”

McHale did an experiment that added PHAN’s function everywhere in the plant. “It was lethal,” he says. “It completely disrupted the organization of the shoot apex.” Eventually, he says, the plant stopped growing. “PHAN is a powerful regulator, so it’s not surprising that if you introduce it everywhere, you get chaos.”

McHale’s current work is aimed at creating a plant containing a version of the PHAN gene that can be turned on and off. “You want to be able to control when and where your gene is on, so you can ask precise questions about its function,” he explains.

“The engineering of plants that’s going on now is aimed at direct applications, like resistance to insects and diseases, and that’s obviously important. But we’re looking farther down the line, where more sophisticated manipulations are going to be taking place. These are tools for the future,” he says.

Genes that control growth pattern will eventually be used to engineer growth habit (bush versus vine) and plant stature (dwarf, semi-dwarf) in a broad spectrum of crop plants. “Small changes in plant architecture can be extremely valuable in an agricultural setting.” Regulatory genes will also be used eventually to control when a plant initiates flowers, which determines how soon the crop matures. They could control how many flowers the plant makes. “If you encourage a plant, with genes, to make a bush, and then you encourage it, with other genes, to initiate flowers at the termini of all those branches, then you have a much more productive plant than one that just makes a big long vine with one flower at the end of that vine.”

A Critical Time for Action

In 1997, Connecticut, according the CASE report, was viewed as “having a significant capacity to expand its agricultural biotechnology-based businesses… [But] its full potential has yet to be realized.” That assessment could still be made today.

Yet progress has occurred, and, importantly, the power of biotechnology grows increasingly obvious with every high-profile advance.

Now is a critical time, says Chen, for the state to make investments to overcome the obstacles noted by the CASE task force. State that are succeeding in this field, such as North Carolina and Maryland, have invested substantial sums in the effort, he says, adding that the need is immediate.

“I think agricultural biotechnology could be another whole industry for the state,” says the Agriculture Department’s Jane Slupecki. She believes it has the potential to be what the pharmaceutical industry is, adding that the state has the right mix for success: a core of research already occurring in the universities and a few strong companies already formed. “We have,” she concludes optimistically, “a lot going for us.” -- Karen Miller, science writer.


A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR NEW HAVEN'S HIGH TECH HUB

The sounds of construction are ringing out at Science Park in New Haven. Once a brooding relic of the Industrial Revolution, the crumbling façade of the old Winchester Arms factory is giving way to a grassy campus and modern facilities. The surrounding Newhallville neighborhood is getting a facelift too. Housing is being renovated and preparations made for new businesses and restaurants that will serve both local residents and employees of the Park. Here in the heart of New Haven, a traditionally troubled district is breathing new life.

Science Park was founded in 1981 by Yale University, the City of New Haven, and the Olin Corporation. The plan was to make a vital industrial center out of the pre-Civil War buildings that once churned out weapons for Winchester Arms. For a long time, however, the project was plagued with difficulties. Low cash reserves, which precluded needed renovations, an insufficient infrastructure, and the unappealing appearance of the buildings all limited Science Park’s ability to draw tenant companies. For several years, Science Park limped along losing money, with much of its space going empty. Says Dennis Lyndon, director of development at Science Park, “It was like a huge ship, headed for the rocks. Now it is beginning to turn around.”

Too Valuable to Lose

Despite its problems, Science Park retained its potential for becoming a successful business hub, and an economic engine for the Newhallville neighborhood. CASE member Dr. Frank Ruddle, a Yale professor and former chairman of the Science Park Board of Directors, emphasizes the value of Science Park: “It employs about 1000 people and is an important part of New Haven. It doesn’t get enough credit.”

Unfortunately, credit -- of the financial sort -- was what Science Park needed. With potential tenants choosing to locate elsewhere, Science Park slid toward bankruptcy. A wake-up call came when Genaissance, one of the resident biotech companies, began to consider moving its operations elsewhere. “Genaissance rang the bell,” says Dennis Lyndon. Convinced of its economic potential and unwilling to let Science Park fail, the city, the state, and Yale mounted an impressive response.

Through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, the state loaned Science Park $14 million, part of a $100 million commitment to improve the entire neighborhood. Yale made a grant of $500,000, and the city committed $300,000. Changes were also made in how the property is managed. Dennis Lyndon was hired to turn the financial situation around, and Fusco Management Co. has taken over managing the property. “[They] are doing an excellent job,” says Ruddle. Both Ruddle and Lyndon express the hope that Science Park will soon be in a financial position to start major reconstruction, including replacing some of the older buildings with modern ones. “We expect the Park to be financially self-sustaining in 12 months,” says Lyndon.

Adding to the revitalization effort, the state also has set aside money for the development of individual companies. Genaissance, which elected to remain at the rejuvenated Park, has received more than $3.5 million in loans from Connecticut Innovations, Inc., the state’s high technology investment arm. This money renovated Genaissance’s current space and will allow it to expand from 8,000 to 44,000 square feet.

Biotechnical Successes

A tour around Genaissance is a glimpse into the future of Science Park. From their airy and elegant reception area to their high-tech laboratories, Genaissance is filled with the bustle and anticipation that resonate success. Jean Bernardi, the controller, speaks enthusiastically about Genaissance’s future, noting that “we employ 60 people now, and next year we will grow to 120 employees.”

Genaissance is a pharmacogenetics company, and according to Senior Director of Research Connie Drysdale, “pharmacogenetics is the future of the pharmaceutical industry.” In more familiar terms, Genaissance provides pharmaceutical companies with information that allows the companies to “personalize” drug design. To do this, Genaissance documents small variations in human genes that are likely to be important in diseases. Genes are made of DNA, and the order (or “sequence”) of DNA elements called nucleotides determines the precise information carried by a gene. In the human population, small variations in the DNA sequences carried by individuals and ethnic groups can be found. For instance, the version of a gene found most frequently among Icelanders may be different from the version found most frequently among other Europeans. These small differences in DNA sequence may alter the effectiveness of certain medications. Genaissance is currently negotiating contracts with pharmaceutical companies to provide key information on DNA sequences to allow the companies to design drugs that take these DNA variations into account. They are also investing in new scientific instruments, and will go from the six state-of-the-art DNA sequencing machines they currently have to 22 of these machines after the first of the year. Given that these machines sell for $350,000 apiece, Genaissance appears confident of its future. “Our accuracy is the best in the business,” says Drysdale.

Another successful biotechnical tenant at Science Park is Vion Pharmaceuticals, which has been in the news recently because of its breakthrough approach to treating cancer using Salmonella bacteria. The discovery was made at Yale University by Dr. David Bermudes, now director of microbiology at Vion, in collaboration with Drs. John Pawelek and K. Brooks Low. Although treating cancer with a bacteria that normally makes people sick seems surprising, it turns out that Salmonella has a natural mechanism for locating tumors. When Salmonella was injected into mice with cancer, the bacteria migrated to the tumor sites, and grew 1000 times more in the tumors than in any other part of the body. Unfortunately, because Salmonella is a pathogen, it also killed the mice. To use the bacteria to fight cancer, the scientists needed to disarm its ability to cause disease while leaving intact its ability to migrate to tumors.

Using genetic engineering techniques, Bermudes and his colleagues created a new strain of the bacteria that didn’t cause illness. Would it still be able to find tumors? When the new Salmonella strain was injected into mice with cancer, the bacteria did not make the mice sick, and did an even better job of finding tumors than the original Salmonella strain had. What’s more, the bacteria in the tumors multiplied and suppressed tumor growth by more than 90%. Bermudes says that Vion is now working on ways to alter the new Salmonella strain to completely eradicate tumors, and not merely suppress their growth. Although it will be some time before it is known how well this approach will work to treat human cancer, the first clinical trials of the Salmonella treatment will soon begin at Case Western Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Bermudes appreciates Vion’s Science Park location, pointing out that there is “a good synergism with Yale. Being in contact with a major university or medical center is critical.” Not only does Yale spin off biotechnical inventions, like the Salmonella project, but Vion returns the favor, says Bermudes, “by funding scientists at Yale, and [in turn] helping to keep the scientific and academic community going.”

Science Park’s Alexion Pharmaceuticals has also fared extraordinarily well. One of their projects has been to develop a novel treatment for inflammation in autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. After successful tests in animal models, an early clinical trial was run in humans suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Even though such trials are quite limited in scope, the results were very encouraging. The treatment was not only safe—it also reduced the activity of the disease. More extensive trials must now be carried out, but this is a promising step toward the development of an important new therapy.

A Biotechnical Future

Biotechnical companies are far from the only tenants at Science Park. The largest employers among the 50 or so companies there are Southern New England Telephone and US Repeating Arms Co., and one of the companies undergoing major expansion, Cyclone Systems, is a computer company. Nonetheless, many incoming tenants are likely to be biotechnical startups.

One major contribution to the biotechnical boom is that Yale University has become adept at spinning off biotechnical companies. Says Lyndon, “Development experts at Yale help develop Yale’s inventions -- not only attracting companies, but generating them.” Science Park, with its ties to Yale, is a natural place for these companies to get started. In fact, the demand for laboratory space in the New Haven area is so great that Genaissance’s Bernardi predicts, “Build it and they will come.” Ruddle also sees a big part of Science Park’s future in biotech. “This is an area that could grow dramatically once you get the infrastructure in place. The synergies work. Once you develop a critical mass [of skilled technical labor and financial managers], that tends to attract more companies.”

With so much support behind it, Science Park looks bound for success. As Governor Rowland said at a June ceremony celebrating Science Park’s revitalization, “We’re betting -- no, we’re investing to see that you are successful.” -- Grace E. Gray, science writer


THREE WINNING WAYS
Connecticut Teens Talk About Their Award-Winning Sience Projects


Unlocking the Mysteries of Variable Stars

When Mary Dombrowski was 13, she began peering through the Celestron telescope her father had mounted in the back yard of their Glastonbury home.

Observing the night skies allowed her to form a “special bond” with her dad, she says. It also taught her how to “really use the telescope,” a skill that helped her win the 1999 Connecticut Science Talent Search sponsored by Intel Corporation, and place as a finalist in the national competition.

Mary’s project centered on IP Pegasi, a cataclysmic variable star. Simply put, her goal was to explore why it appears extremely bright one night, then barely visible on another. She made her observations visually, studying the star for five hours at a time, and recording what she saw every ten minutes. She also used a computer. Working with Dr. Ron Vissell at Mount Holyoke College, she measured, electronically, the amount of light particles IP Pegasi gave off.

“IP Pegasi is a primary white dwarf star,” Mary explains. “Because it’s nearing the end of its life, it must take in matter -- other gases -- to produce light.” The star draws in these substances until it essentially explodes; it’s in this state that IP Pegasi shines most intensely. What follows is a period of quiescence when, conversely, the star is just a faint blip in the sky.

Another reason for the change in brightness has to do with our line of sight, Mary notes, in relation to the star and its source of gas intake. “There’s an eclipsing characteristic,” she says.

Mary’s conclusions, which support existing theories, have appeared in Mercury, a publication of the American Society of the Pacific. They’ve also been published in journals of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), an organization she belongs to that’s based in Cambridge, MA.

In fact, it was AAVSO that planted the seed for her project: she learned, through an e-mail message, that fellow members were seeking information on specific stars, including IP Pegasi. “From there, I did a lot of reading, and asked questions of everyone I could,” she says. At Glastonbury High School, Mary worked fairly independently on her research, and received academic credit for her efforts.

Mary has other interests in the field, such as the effects of microgravity, and the biological impact of extended flights in space. Not long ago, she was considering a career as a NASA mission specialist. As a freshman at Georgetown University, she’s pursuing a slightly different path, concentrating on chemistry and pre-med courses. “I’d like to be a doctor,” states Mary, “and specialize in space medicine or multiple sclerosis research.”

Energy Transfer: Probing the Dynamics

This past spring, James Lawler won a dizzying array of awards for his project in the physical sciences.

He took a top honor in the Connecticut Science Fair, then captured first place on the international level, marking an historic win for the state. Lawler, now a senior at Greenwich High School, went on to sweep the contest: he secured scholarships from two universities, the US Navy, and the US Marine Corps; a prestigious cash prize from the US Air Force; an award of excellence from United Technologies Corporation; and an honorable mention from the American Chemical Society.

But the crowning glory, says James, is a trip to Stockholm in December. “It’s a chance to witness the Nobel ceremonies, to see the actual presentations.” He’s also looking forward to attending the social activities, like the gala ball, where the dress is formal -- “black tie and tails,” he notes.

James’s highly regarded research focused on the dynamics of energy. Divided into two phases, the first part was experimental. “I designed and built a chamber where I could combine gases, such as ammonia, hydrogen bromide and nitric oxide,“ he explains. “I then tracked the transformations that occur in the molecular, or reaction, interface -- that area where the two gases mix together.”

James found that there were significant changes in the thermo-energy. In the second phase of his research, the theoretical portion, he derived several equations which allowed him to predict these changes. He created, as well, a mathematical framework for analyzing them. This, says James, was extremely challenging.

“The reactions are difficult to quantify and evaluate,” he explains. “That’s because the energy isn’t concentrated in particles that are easily measured; it’s spread over a wide range of physical properties.”

James’s work provided new perspectives of analysis -- ones that hadn’t been proposed before. And while the gist of his experiment was theoretical, there could be practical applications, he says, forecasting, for example, the course of large explosions, and projecting the changes in temperature and pressure that take place.

In the future, James may carry his experiment further. But for now, he’s satisfied his curiosity, he says, adding that the cost and complexity of the equipment and materials preclude his revisiting the project anytime soon. “I need special sensors for picking up the fluctuations in temperature, which are very expensive. Then there are the demands of getting the gasses, or figuring out how to make them.”

James credits much of what he’s achieved to the “great teachers” he’s had. “Generally, I feel that they aren’t appreciated as much as they should be. Many go far beyond what’s expected of them -- they dedicate their lives to their students.”

James may do the same someday. While he’s not sure about his career, he’s thought about teaching college mathematics -- in fact, he’s currently enrolled in a complex analysis class at Yale.

“My main love is primary mathematics,” he says. His specialty is number theory -- the purest form of the discipline, he believes. “I have a real passion for it, a real need to try and solve the problems associated with it... I can’t go long without doing it.”

Linking Achievement with Learning Patterns

Is there a connection between getting good grades and having a certain learning style?

That was the question Sarah Evans, now a senior at Fischers Island School, posed for her award-winning project in the 1999 Connecticut Science Fair.

Sarah placed in last year’s contest as well, with her examination of Piaget’s theories on early childhood development. This time, she looked at 150 high school students from across the state, to see if high achievers shared similar traits in how they gained and processed knowledge.

Sarah launched her project by creating a survey. The 25-30 questions it contained sought to determine whether the student learned primarily through visual, auditory or kinesthetic means, and how he or she perceived a situation -- as a synthesist, pragmatist, analyst, idealist or realist. A typical question was: “If you wanted to go shopping at a mall, and didn’t know where it was located, would you: a) ask your parents, b) read a map, or c) drive around until you found it?

While Sarah drew up the survey, she did ask a well-known psychologist, Professor Robert Sternberg from Yale, to review it, to make sure that it was structured properly. “I approached him on-line, through an e-mail message,“ she says. “I was totally surprised when he responded... He was a great help to me.”

Sarah also turned to experts for assistance in calculating the results. “There are so many statistical models for evaluating data -- choosing the right one can be confusing,” she points out. In this case, she called on specialists from Connecticut College. Professor Michael Martin and his colleagues at Southern Connecticut State University also counseled Sarah on her project: “They constantly sent me information they felt was relevant to my research.”

After analyzing each survey, Sarah found that there were 15 combinations of learning and thinking styles in her test group. “This was not what I expected to find,” she says. “My conclusion was that teachers are instructing in such varied ways, that all students, no matter how they learn, have an equal chance to succeed.”

Sarah realizes that her discoveries touch but the tip of the iceberg -- that there is much more to be learned about her subject. Her current fascination, however, is with geropsychology. “I’m interested, for example, in the perspectives senior citizens have on issues, compared with those of teenagers.” Other fields, such as chemistry and biology, are also opening new doors for her.

As a senior, she’s now searching for a college, and though she’s considering “tons” of schools, they all have one criterion in common: an outstanding science department. She may ultimately settle on psychology, she says. “But for now, I plan to start my freshman year as an undecided science major.” -- Louise Petraitis, Indelible Ink


SURROUND SOUND. The results of a summer expedition that measured noise pollution on an underwater plateau about 25 miles off the Massachusetts coast could help determine the effect of manmade noises on animals like whales, which rely on sound to communicate and survive. The researchers, including two high school students from the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, and Dr. Peter Scheifele, a scientist with the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut, looked for evidence that the animals communicated with each other in response to the noise. An underwater microphone was used to pick up sounds of waves, sea animals, diesel engines, and low-flying airplanes. These sound signals were transmitted to a digital audio tape recorder, where they were divided into component waves by a spectrum analyzer using specialized acoustic software. The waves were then displayed on monitors, where changes in sound patterns could be tracked.

SEEING IS BELIEVING.
A technique that uses contact lenses to reshape the cornea can provide severely nearsighted patients with 20-20 vision, says Plainville optometrist Donald Higgins, one of the few in the state who offer the treatment. Known as orthokeratology, early versions of the technique required that the patient wear a series of rigid contact lenses overnight, which, according to critics, increases the risk of eye infection. But modern eye-imaging technology can map the topography of the cornea in detail, making it possible to treat the patient with just a single, custom-designed contact, and newer, gas-permeable lenses admit enough oxygen to the eye’s surface to make overnight use safe, according to an optometrist who researches the procedure for the contact lens industry. The procedure, says Higgins, works best on patients whose corneas are steep in the center and flatter on the outer edge, because the procedure flattens the cornea’s center.

IN SICKNESS OR IN HEALTH.
Through his company, RareSearch LLC, Raymond Salza of Wethersfield has joined the growing field of information brokers, whose clients hire them to search the often overwhelming Internet for reliable, credible, and usable information. Although most information brokers work for lawyers, marketing companies, or corporations, Salza serves people who suffer from rare diseases, and who want medical data to help them decide on treatments. By definition, a rare disease afflicts fewer than 200,000 people; according to the Fairfield-based National Organization of Rare Disorders, there are 6,000 rare diseases, affecting 20 million people in the United States.


MENTOR MIGHT. Through the University of Connecticut (UConn) Mentor Connection, 60 teenagers received the opportunity to work on the UConn campus with university professors this summer. The three-week program, which is sponsored by UConn’s Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, includes projects that range from working with transgenic rabbits to studying the development of the cerebral cortex. The program, which is funded in part by the state’s Department of Education and an endowment from UConn trustee William Berkley, accepted participants from New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Korea as well as from Connecticut.

CYBERCAFE.
In a new CyberCafe, students at West Haven High School can use their study halls for programming, word processing, and Internet research. Set up in a corner of the school’s cafeteria, the glass-enclosed computer laboratory includes 30 Gateway 2000 computer systems equipped with software, Internet connections, and access to printers. The computers are available to students based on sign-up sheets. Filter software blocks inappropriate material, and the CyberCafe is supervised by interns from area colleges, said assistant schools’ superintendent Paul Tortora.

RIVER RESTORATION.
In a research project that began last summer, Connecticut College students, along with physics professor Doug Thompson, are examining the effects of the state Department of Transportation’s 40-year-old relocation of the Blackledge River. Using field work and a state-of-the-art flume, or indoor river, which allows them to study streams in a controlled setting, the students hope to learn how channel and other river restorations are best used to provide habitat for salmon and other fish. “The students are assisting with high level research on channel maintenance processes—expected to become a national model—and can use the project as a basis for continued research,” said Thompson. The research is funded by a $232,000 National Science Foundation grant.


FUEL STORAGE. Spent fuel rods from Northeast Utilities’ (NU) defunct Millstone 1 nuclear power plant could be stored permanently at the Waterford plant site if a federal nuclear waste depository is not developed, according to plant official Robert G. Fraser. The approximately 721,000 fuel rods, which are 12 feet long, pencil-thin, and filled with uranium pellets, currently are kept beneath 30 feet of water, which cools the rods and serves as a radiation shield. In the proposed permanent facility, the rods would be stored in dry casks. This system, which is approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is already in use at seventeen nuclear power plants. According to NU, engineers will begin designing the storage facility next year; the spent fuel could be moved there starting in 2004. The federal repository is expected to open by 2010, but questions remain about the proposed site, as well as the safety of transporting radioactive waste across the country.

ENERGY SAVER.
The One State Street building in Hartford was among the first 20 buildings nationwide to receive the new Energy Star label for outstanding energy efficiency. The Energy Star labels, which were announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy, are granted according to an EPA system that rates energy performance based on actual energy use, and can equitably compare buildings across the country by taking into account such factors as geographic location and level of business activity. Buildings that earn a rating of over 75, on a scale of zero to 100, receive the Energy Star label.

RELIABLE POWER.
In hopes of preventing the power fluctuations that caused a catastrophic 1997 computer crash, an Omaha bank has installed four fuel cells built by ONSI, a United Technologies subsidiary. Sure Power Corporation, of Danbury, oversaw the installation of the cells. The fuel cells, which are the size of a truck trailer, were installed in May in the bank’s data-processing center; each of the cells produces 200 kilowatts and is expected to run continuously, with only one annual 36-hour maintenance shutdown. The cells are backed up by two mechanical batteries and a connection to the power grid; the system is expected to operate with 99.99997% reliability. The failure of the bank’s previous system, which was 99.9% reliable, caused problems with vital bank functions, including check-clearing, credit card processing, automatic teller machine support system, and debit card system.


WEST NILE VIRUS. The discovery of what was believed to be St. Louis encephalitis in New York in early September led The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to trap mosquitoes in southwestern Fairfield County. These traps supplemented others at 37 statewide sites for the trapping and testing by the Station in conjunction with the state Departments of Public Health and Environmental Protection. In the past, Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has been found in Connecticut mosquitoes. Although there have been isolated EEE infections of animals, especially equines and exotic birds, no human case of EEE has been confirmed in Connecticut. In 1999, one trap from the Greenwich/Stamford town line yielded virus that reacted with a reference standard of St. Louis encephalitis, but subsequent investigation indicated that it was similar to West Nile virus, which had not previously been found in North America. In addition to testing mosquitoes, the Experiment Station tested dead crows from New Haven and Fairfield Counties sent through the pathobiology department at the University of Connecticut. Twenty-four of 25 crows tested were infected. They came from the towns of Greenwich, Darien, Fairfield, New Canaan, Norwalk, Redding, Stamford, Westport, and Weston in Fairfield County and New Haven, North Haven, and Woodbridge, in New Haven County.

FAULT-Y REASONING.
A fault line that runs through Connecticut may be responsible for the earthquakes that have rocked the state about every 200 years for the past 1,200 years, according to Wesleyan scientists. The researchers discovered the problem while analyzing buried sediments in two marshes less than a mile apart. They found that the sea seemed to rise at a different rate at each of the sites, which are on opposite sides of the fault. This, they realized, was because earthquakes had caused the land on the south side of the fault to drop below the land on the north side. If the 200-year earthquake pattern holds, the state is due for another earthquake any year now, say the scientists: the last episode occurred in 1791, and in fact, sediment analysis shows a marsh upwelling similar to the ones that preceded previous quakes. However, because Connecticut’s crust is so old and stable, a quake is not expected to exceed 5 on the Richter scale.

FORWARD MARSH.
By restoring five acres of filled-in wetlands at Hammonasset State Park to their natural state, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hopes to do more than just provide salt marsh habitat for waterfowl and fish. The marshes help control mosquito populations and they also filter such naturally occurring chemicals as phosphorus, nitrogen, and sulfur, preventing the chemicals from leaching into Long Island Sound. The project, which is part of the DEP’s wetlands habitat and mosquito management program, requires scooping out fill, and digging tidal channels and shallow ponds. It is being funded by both the DEP and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

CHEMICAL WARFARE.
Caterpillars of the genus Schizura use chemical weapons to repel predators, according to Trinity College biology professor Scott R. Smedley, who studies the chemical ecology of insects. Smedley found that if an attacking ant touched the droplets found at the tip of the caterpillar’s hairs, the ant stopped its assault and began cleaning the droplets from its body. Dr. Thomas Mitzel, of Trinity’s chemistry department, is analyzing the composition of the droplets. “It’s possible that we could one day use them as insect repellents ourselves,” Smedley said.

FLIES MAY HOLD CLUES.
Mayflies—an aquatic insect related to stone flies and caddis flies—provide a way to track the health of a river, according to biologist Steven K. Burian of Southern Connecticut State University. Mayflies spend much of their lives as wingless larvae, scavenging through the riverbed sediment. Oxygen diffuses from the water into their low metabolism bodies, and so they disappear when oxygen levels in water start to drop, which often happens as a result of sewage and fertilizer runoff. Researchers are able to plug mayfly data into mathematical formulae to determine the effects of pollution on bodies of water. The information could also be used in conservation and biodiversity plans.

BLOOD SUCKERS.
A new kind of mosquito has moved into the state, according to researchers at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. The Japanese Rock Pool mosquito, or Aedes japonicus, is one of two mosquito species known to have emigrated recently from Asia. It’s not known how the mosquito was transported, although one strong possibility is that the insects’ eggs were inadvertently carried over inside discarded tires. A daytime feeder usually associated with wooded areas, the mosquito is expected to be more of a pest than danger. Its arrival means that there are now 45 mosquito species present in the state.

WATER WEED.
To prevent the alien, invasive water chestnut from spreading through the Connecticut River, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staffers pulled hundreds of pounds of the brown-leafed plant from Glastonbury’s Keeney Cove recently. Although the plant, which forms dense mats atop shallow bodies of water, has already infested several coves in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, this was the first time the invader had been found in Connecticut. DEP workers pulled the plants, which bear spiked seeds, from the water with rakes, pitchforks, and their hands; the debris was trucked to the Glastonbury landfill to be ground up.


PIG CELLS MAY BE KEY. Fetal pig cells may hold the key to treating problems like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and injured spinal cords, according to researchers at Alexion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven. When the fetal cells are inserted into defective areas of a brain, they repair the damage by transforming themselves into replacements for the disabled cells. Cells from the Substantia nigra section of a fetal pig’s brain, for example, will integrate themselves successfully into the brain tissue of a rat or monkey in which the Substantia nigra has been destroyed; a damaged Substantia nigra causes Parkinson’s. Research has also shown that the olfactory ensheathing cells from a fetal pig form layers of the protective protein myelin around damaged rat spinal cord cells, allowing the cells to function once again.

STUDY FINDS LITTLE RISK.
“My first reaction was that I was ecstatic,” said Alexion president and CEO Leonard Bell, commenting on a recently published study showing that a pig virus known as PERV (porcine endogenous retrovirus) will probably not infect humans if organ from the animals are transplanted into people. Researchers recently discovered that all pigs carry PERV, a previously unknown virus, in their genes, a concern because some viruses are able to jump between species. According to company officials, the recent study confirms the safety of experiments conducted at Alexion, making it more likely that the company can develop approved medical treatments.

RARE COLLECTION.
Over the past 30 years, over 1,000 living plants that date from Mesozoic era have been collected at the Arboretum at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. The specimens range from dawn redwoods to 2-inch tall podocarpus, one of the smallest conifers in the world, according to geologist Richard Krueger, who developed the arboretum, and is in charge of the park. Krueger hopes to collect representatives of as many Mesozoic Era plant families as possible; currently, Krueger says, he has amassed specimens of almost all the trees from the Mesozoic that can grow in this region, including 300 cultivars of conifers, some of which, he says, “no one else has.” Some of the collection’s more unusual species are cedar-of-lebanon, giant sequoia, incense cedar, plum yew, and monkey puzzle tree.

OYSTERS AGAIN.
The state hopes to aid Connecticut’s oyster industry by establishing a shellfish hatchery in Groton that will breed oysters from indigenous stocks known to be resistant to two parasites that have recently invaded the state. Plans call for the hatchery to produce five million seed oysters in its first year of operation; over half the seed will be used by private companies, although some will be used for recreational oyster programs. Normally, oysters take two to three years to reach market size, but if they are grown in a hatchery, the process is shortened to about a year and a half. The long-term mission of the hatchery will be to assist the state’s existing aquaculture businesses and help incubate new aquaculture businesses, said John H. Volk, director of the state’s Bureau of Aquaculture.


TOOTH IMPLANTS FOR KIDS. Children who suffer from the genetic syndrome ectodermal dysplasia can benefit from tooth implants, through a treatment pioneered by a team of oral specialists that included Dr. Thomas D. Taylor of the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. Ectodermal dysplasia, in which the outer layer of skin—the ectoderm—functions improperly, can result in missing tooth buds and an underdeveloped lower jaw. Taylor and his colleagues discovered that in youngsters without tooth buds, dental implants can stimulate jawbone growth. Implants aren’t usually used for children, because their developing bones overgrow the implants, requiring oral surgery. But in youngsters with this disorder, the benefit appears to outweigh that drawback.

OLFACTORY CELLS HOLD HOPE.
Olfactory cells could help repair damaged spinal cords, according to Yale professor Charles Greer, director of the Spinal Cord Research Program. Nose axons possess plasticity—that is, they are able to regenerate themselves and adapt to changes in their environment. The scientists hope that this will enable the cells to serve as a bridge, linking severed spinal cord cells. They’ve found that particular olfactory system cells—the ensheathing cells—act as a guide for the nerve cells, accompanying and directing them across areas that are resistant to nerve cell growth. The hope is that if ensheathing cells are transplanted into a damaged spinal cord, they will increase the likelihood of the nerve cells surviving and functioning, possibly reversing neurological problems, such as paralysis, that result from spinal cord injury.

TARGETING TYPE 1 DIABETES.
A research team at Yale School of Medicine has identified insulin proteins as the targets of diabetes-causing immune cells. “This is the first time that the target of CD8 cells that cause Type 1 diabetes has been recognized,” said Yale research scientist F. Susan Wong, one of the team’s co-investigators “Now that we know that insulin is an important autoantigenic target, we can use this knowledge to find out how to prevent the attacks.” Type 1 diabetes, which affects mostly children, is not considered hereditary; many researchers believe that it is triggered by as yet unidentified environmental conditions. The team’s findings should make it easier to identify the influences that allow the emergence of autoreactive clones, which cause the disease by attacking the body’s own proteins, said Wong.

APOPTOSIS.
University of Connecticut professor Charles Giardina has been awarded a $350,000 National Institutes of Health grant to study the processes that generate programmed cell death, known as apoptosis, an essential bodily process. Some agents that may prevent colon cancer seem to function by increasing cancer cell apoptosis. Aspirin, which reduces the risk of colon cancer by 50%, is one example. Another agent is found in fibrous foods, such as grain cereals. Giardina will study the ways in which these agents encourage cancer cell death. “That knowledge may provide valuable tools for the prevention and treatment of cancer,” he says, “since these agents could rely on the body’s ability to recognize transformed cells to target cell killing activity.”

NEW OPTIONS FOR STRESS INCONTINENCE.
A new, less invasive surgical technique for treating female incontinence is available at the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC). The TVT (Tension-Free Vaginal Tape) system, which was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration late last year, consists of a mesh-like tape that is surgically inserted to support the bladder and urethra, restoring the urethra to its natural position. This technique, which has proven just as successful as traditional surgeries in treating stress incontinence, is typically done on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia, according to Christine LaSala, chief of the UCHC division of urogynecology, who performs the surgery. Stress incontinence affects one in every nine American women.

HEALING MICROWAVEs.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlarged prostate, can be effectively treated with microwaves in a treatment newly available in Connecticut at New Britain General Hospital. Introduced to the state this summer by urologist Rafael S. Wurzel, the technique uses microwave-generated heat to shrink the prostate without affecting any surrounding organs. During the two-hour procedure, which can be performed in a doctor’s office, a catheter is inserted into the prostate. A computer pulses microwaves through the catheter, heating the prostate to at least 122°F., which kills prostate tissue. This opens up space for the urethra to function properly. A study shows that although treating the problem with medication provides more immediate improvement, the microwave procedure offers better results in the long term.


FIRST MOVE. By stretching fish scale cells on elastic rubber sheets, and then using video microscopy to monitor the flow of calcium ions into the cells, University of Connecticut (UConn) researchers were able to discover a mechanism by which cells convert physical stimuli into biochemical signals that can cause cell locomotion. The scientists found that calcium concentrations within a cell increased when the cells crawling on the rubber surface became temporarily “stuck.” The calcium increases, which came from calcium channels activated when the cells were stretched, induced the immobilized cell to detach itself. These stretch-activated calcium channels, which exist in many cell types, may represent a general mechanism by which cell movement is controlled. “This is the first research to demonstrate that stretch-activated calcium channels regulate motility,” said UConn physiology and neurobiology professor Barry Johnson, co-author of a report on the research recently published in Nature. Understanding cell locomotion will help researchers master such puzzles as the way cancer cells move, the immune system, and the development of human and animal embryos.

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE.
Using x-ray crystallography, Yale researchers have obtained an image of a cellular structure at a resolution that allows many of the structure’s proteins and RNA molecules to be visualized. The group has produced three-dimensional images of the largest component of the ribosome, the cellular structure that synthesizes protein molecules in all organisms. Scientists hope to be able to determine the positions of its atoms. “We’re very excited to be on the brink of understanding this enormous macromolecular machine at the atomic level,” said Yale professor and CASE member Thomas A. Steitz, the study’s principal investigator. “The question we are still trying to answer is how the ribosome translates the genetic code into proteins on a molecular basis. The answer will lead to further understanding of early stages of evolution.”

WASTE DISPOSAL.
Wilton-based Startech Environmental Corp. has sold a plasma waste converter system to a Japanese company. The system, which will be used to process hazardous waste, uses ionized gas to convert waste materials into a usable byproduct. It can destroy five tons of waste material a day, and will be used to demonstrate how chemical munitions and other industrial wastes can be safely destroyed, according to Startech spokesman Robert L. DeRochie. The Startech system can also be used to dispose of radioactive wastes.


SPACE NEEDS. Pratt and Whitney, based in East Hartford, has announced the development of a new hydrogen-fueled rocket engine that can provide more than twice the thrust of today’s highest performing upper-stage engine. The RL50, expected to be available in 2003, offers increased payload delivery capability, improved launch operability, and enhanced cost effectiveness. Intended for both domestic and international launch vehicles, the new design improves on the company’s earlier RL10, which served as the industry’s workhorse upper-stage engine for the Atlas, Titan, and Delta launch vehicles.

INVENTORS NEEDED.
Begun seven years ago to study the state’s manufacturing sector, ProduCTeam has evolved into a “one-stop shopping center for product development,” according to Alan Kendrix, the group’s director. Associated with Central Connecticut State University’s School of Technology, ProduCTeam is dedicated to expanding the state’s small- to medium-size manufacturing sector by helping inventors develop and market their products. The group brings the inventors together with a network of professionals, including manufacturers and marketers; it can also provide a new company with subsidized production space, office support and student engineers. ProduCTeam can be reached through its website at www.producteam.com.

COPYRIGHT PROTECTION.
With the help of Content Guard, a technology recently developed by Connecticut-based Xerox Corporation, publishers can prevent the illegal copying of online books and documents. Unlike the digital rights management tools produced by other companies, the Xerox offering does not require that users download special software, and it allows protected documents to be read with any standard Web browsing program. Content owners will be able to indicate who can access a document, set a timeframe for protection, and designate the type of authentication needed to read the material.


AHOY THERE. The University of Connecticut’s (UConn’s) new 76-foot research vessel was dedicated this summer at UConn’s Avery Point Campus. The $2 million Connecticut, built in part with a $1.5 million grant from the state Department of Economic Development, features a wide beam hull that enhances stability and allows for precise low-speed handling; jet thrusters at the bow and stern enable the ship to be propelled in any direction, including sideways. The ship, which can remain at sea for up to seven days and can deploy a submersible, will give UConn marine scientists the ability to work in areas of the ocean that they couldn’t reach before.

SOUND STUDY.
Noise monitoring conducted over the summer at sites near Bradley International Airport was intended to provide the basis for a report on noise conditions due out this fall. The report marks the first phase of a comprehensive US Department of Transportation airport noise analysis study scheduled for completion by early 2001. Unlike a study begun last September, which looked only at the airport’s longest and busiest runway, the current research will involve all three runways. Possible noise abatement solutions should be announced by May, 2000, according to the consulting firm coordinating the study. Alternatives could include providing federally funding sound-dampening insulation for certain houses, or even purchasing some homes in high-noise areas.

AIR CONTROL.
Kaman Corp., of Bloomfield, has won a $4.2 million Marine Corps contract to install remote piloting equipment in its K-MAX helicopter and to program the aircraft to pick up and drop supplies at several locations. The K-MAX was developed in the early 90s for logging, firefighting, and equipment transport, while remote piloting equipment has been available since the 1950s. The challenge in combining the two capabilities will be in figuring out how the helicopter can pick up a load from one place and then make drops in several different places.

IN OVER THEIR HEAD.
Using a simulator in which pilots can actually be strapped into a craft and submerged in water, Groton’s Survival Systems Inc. trains aviators to survive controlled crashes, or ditchings, into water. The aviation safety training company uses a Modular Egress Training Simulator. With movable seats, panels, and interior bulkheads, the device can simulate many types of aircraft. In one session, trainees enter the module, are lifted 8 feet above a 100,000 gallon tank, and dropped in the water. With three rescue divers standing by, the simulator fills within eight seconds with 10 tons of water from which the students must escape. Survival Systems is the only facility in the Northeast with a simulator that allows strapped-in pilots to test their skills under water.

HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU...
Connecticut will become part of the East Coast Greenway, an urban trail linking 15 east coast states from Maine to Florida. The greenway will be similar to the Appalachian trail, except that it will run through major cities, including Boston, Charleston, and Miami. In Connecticut, the trail will run along the Long Island Sound as far as New Haven, turn north toward Simsbury, and then move through the eastern part of the state. One of 16 National Millennium Trails approved by the US Department of Transportation, the greenway will eventually be connected to other state trails, according to US Rep. Sam Gejdenson. The project is expected to be completed by 2010.

- Compiled and edited by Karen Miller


FROM THE ACADEMY
A Year of Transition for CASE

This is a year of transition for the Academy. We have learned much from our efforts to create a strategic plan for the Academy. We recognize that we need to be more responsive to the needs of state agencies, and at the same time develop a new approach to the funding of the Academy.

Over the last several months, we have been in conversation with state agencies and other organizations we have serviced in the past, as well as key legislators responsible for development of the state budget. It is reasonably clear at this time that the state funding will be derived from two sources. We may be funded directly from a line item in the General Fund. This source hopefully will be sufficient to fund the Academy’s membership systems operations. For projects or programs we initiate for a specific agency, we will seek a contribution, fee or grant from the agency.

Membership dues and corporate contributions will help fund the Academy’s annual meeting, forums and partial support for CASE Reports. We will need to seek new funding sources to fully cover expenses associated with CASE Reports. We hope that our readers value this publication sufficiently that they might consider making a contribution toward the cost of its publication.

If we are successful in gaining state financial support for the Academy, we will initiate a reorganization plan for the Academy as contemplated in the Strategic Plan.

The Strategic Plan, which calls for a new focus for the Academy, places a need on the Council to review all current Academy activities and to establish priorities given our limited financial resources.

We welcome any comments from our readers regarding the Academy’s transition, and the continuation of CASE Reports; we also would appreciate any assistance in our efforts to secure new state funding sources for the Academy. -- John P. Cagnetta, Vice President

We welcome your thoughts and suggestions on this subject.
Please call the CASE office at 860-527-2161 or email us at ctcase@tiac.net.

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