STONY BROOK, NY, December 15, 2008 -- Dr. Henry Laufer, who served as a professor of mathematics at Stony Brook University for more than two decades before going on to spearhead research at a leading technology hedge fund, and his wife Dr. Marsha Laufer, also a former Stony Brook faculty member, in speech pathology, have announced a $10 million dollar gift to the University. The commitment goes to the University’s $300 million-dollar capital campaign, “The Emergence of Stony Brook.”
Drs. Henry and Marsha Laufer
“I can’t think of a better holiday gift this year, especially in light of the severe cuts in state funding,” said Stony Brook University President Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny. “But I shouldn’t be surprised. Henry and Marsha are people of remarkable vision. Their generosity is both an affirmation of the critically important mission of public higher education and of Stony Brook’s position as a world leader in research, particularly in math and the sciences.”
The majority of the gift, $8 million, will be used to establish a new interdisciplinary research center that will bring together experts in such fields as math, genetics, biochemistry, engineering, and computer sciences to achieve breakthroughs in biomedical research and health care. In addition to endowing the Louis and Beatrice Laufer Center for Computational Biology and Genome Sciences, named for Dr. Laufer’s parents, the gift will fund three endowed faculty positions, including two endowed professorships and an endowed chair, which will be held by the Center’s director.
The Laufers committed $1 million of the gift to provide scholarship support for students in the School of Health Technology & Management, where Dr. Marsha Laufer served on the faculty, and $1 million to support expanded programming at the University’s Staller Center for the Arts.
Dr. Henry Laufer, chief scientist at Renaissance Technologies – a company founded by another former Stony Brook math professor, Dr. Jim Simons – said he and his wife are “delighted to make this gift. The University has played a pivotal role in our lives. And because of its international – and well-deserved – reputation as an institution both on the cutting-edge of research in math and the sciences and one that fosters collaboration among traditional academic disciplines, it is the ideal place for this new center.”
In fact, the Laufer Center will play a key role in the newly created Stony Brook Collaborative Research Alliance, the unique public-private partnership between our university, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “In so doing, the Center will help pave the way to explore new frontiers in research and education which will have a profound impact on the future of biomedical research and health care for generations to come,” Dr. Kenny said.
The technologies that have enabled scientists to peer into smaller and smaller worlds of molecular interactions, including those that reveal the intrinsic functions of DNA and RNA, have brought with them a “dizzying array of information,” explained Dr. Eric W. Kaler, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The data sets generated by this research are so large and filled with so much information that they confound our ability to intuitively grasp the answers they contain. As a result, new disciplines depending on the use of bigger and faster computers and innovative ways to utilize them have come to the forefront. This has resulted in such exciting new fields as computational biology, quantitative biology, computational genomics, bioinformatics, proteomics, molecular modeling, and many others.”
These new fields require the collaboration of experts in a host of academic disciplines. To foster this collaboration and achieve breakthroughs in biomedical research and health care, new interdisciplinary programs must be developed and nurtured. “The Laufer Center is where all this will happen” Dr. Kaler added.
Dr. Henry Laufer is a Trustee and co-chairman of the Investment Committee of the Stony Brook Foundation, the separately governed charitable entity which accepts and manages private gifts and grants for the benefit of the University and its Medical Center.
After earning his doctorate in mathematics from Princeton, Dr. Laufer joined the Stony Brook mathematics department in 1971. His research over the next two decades – during which time he won a prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship – focused on complex variables and algebraic topology. He left Stony Brook in 1992 to join Renaissance Technologies, where he helped build a new short-term trading system that has enabled the Medallion Fund to pull in consistently robust returns.
Dr. Marsha Laufer holds a Ph.D. in speech pathology from Northwestern and was in private practice in that field until 2002. A year earlier, she was elected chairwoman of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee. She serves on the board of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic and the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee.
The Laufer Center is designed to be a focus for interdisciplinary research in the several fields that impact on – and are impacted by – computational biology and genome sciences. Laufer professors will hold academic appointments in departments reflecting their areas of expertise. As quantitative biologists, they will also play a central role in the Stony Brook Collaborative Research Alliance.
Five distinguished scientists visited Stony Brook this fall, consulting with the Laufer Center’s Executive and Academic Committees and giving seminars on their research. These lectures (available at www.laufercenter.stonybrook.edu) are an integral part of a new year-long course in computational biology and genome sciences organized by Dr. Carlos Simmerling, Professor of Chemistry.
Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,600 acres. In the 50 years since its founding, the University has grown tremendously, now with nearly 24,000 students and 2,100 faculty, and is recognized as one of the nation’s important centers of learning and scholarship. It is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, and ranks among the top 100 national universities in America and among the top 50 public national universities in the country according to the 2008 U.S. News & World Report survey. Considered one of the “flagship” campuses in the SUNY system, Stony Brook University is a driving force of the Long Island economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs. Stony Brook accounts for nearly four percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.