How Long is the Shelf-Life of the Gluten-Free Diet?

Justine Cirola decided to start following a gluten-free diet in hopes of improving her “overall health.” So why is this 21-year-old Stony Brook University giving up breads, cakes, cookies and other gluten rich products? “I eat gluten-free because I know that gluten only causes harm to my body.”

Cirola is part of a growing trend that has erupted in the last few years. According to a study by the research firm NPD, 30 percent of U.S. adults follow a gluten-free diet, while only one percent of those have Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that causes a severe allergy to gluten.

The result of this ever-growing trend is an expanding gluten-free food market where aisles and sections of major grocery chains carry gluten-free products: everything from Betty Crocker Brownie Mix to gluten-free beer. In the past five years, the market for these products in major grocery chains like Whole Foods has expanded to around 6.8 billion dollars, according to a market research study by Markets and Markets.


While some may see this lifestyle choice as just another profitable diet trend, others see it as a way to become healthier.

When Jo Tutrani, a dietitian from Smithtown, NY started telling her clients about the gluten-free diet twenty years go, she could only get about one in ten people to give the diet a try. In the past five years, she said that the statistic has raised to seven out of ten.

“Probably 80 percent of clients feel better,” she said. “There’s less bloating, more energy and definitely some weight loss. There’s just an overall feeling of increased health.”

So why has this trend just started to pick up the past few years? Dietitians first started recommending gluten-free diets beginning in the 1980s. Before the gluten-free market expanded, Tutrani said that it was difficult for people who had Celiac disease because gluten-free products were scarce and expensive.

When the market began to expand in the late 2000s, it wasn’t only Celiac patients who bought the products. A new wave of nutrition conscious consumers like Cirola started buying in too. It seemed like gluten-free was becoming another American diet fad, similar to the Atkins diet, non-GMO or Paleo diet.

Ditch the Gluten-Free Packages and Pick Up Your Vegetables: The Right Way to Go Gluten-Free from Catherine Bonke on Vimeo.

But this newest trend isn’t just for get-skinny-quick dieters or nutrition enthusiasts. For the Nigro family, this trend has been a life-saver.

Their son, Cole, has Celiac disease, an extreme allergy to gluten that results in vomiting, diarrhea and bloating which can not be relieved by medication. With the expanding awareness of Celiac disease and access to gluten-free products, their dinnertime has become a lot easier.

Peggy Nigro, Cole’s mother, became emotional when recalling how her ill her son was before he was diagnosed and how it ravaged her family. “He would spend his nights throwing up and he lost so much weight.”

The entire Nigro family eats a gluten-free diet in support of Cole. “When you’re not supposed to eat gluten, it’s in places that you don’t expect,” she said. “They just want to be like everyone else.”

Infographic made by Catherine Bonke using

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye and is the cause of Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that results in the flattening of the villi, tiny-finger like structures in the small intestine, which makes gluten difficult to digest. Celiac disease causes bloating, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, weight-loss, anemia and fatigue, among other symptoms.

Another condition that has also been responsible for fueling this trend. It’s a self-diagnosed disorder called Non-Celiacs Gluten Sensitivity. It’s a disorder that has been researched extensively, but has caused a disagreement in the scientific community. Patients believed to have NCGS experience bloating, cramps and other gastrointestinal issues, but not to the same extreme as those with Celiacs.

“When doctors diagnose a gluten-sensitivity there is no real criteria to go on except for the patients symptoms, a lot of people might take it as someone overreacting,” said Courtney April, a graduate student in Nutrition at Stony Brook University. “But as a future dietician, I would never blow off someone’s symptoms and not talk about it.”

Some researchers have disputed the legitimacy of NCGS, saying that people must just be hopping on the newest dieting trend. Peter Gibson and Jessica Biesiekierski, researchers from Monash University in Australia completed an experiment in 2011 that tested 37 subjects with NCGS and irritable bowel syndrome and put them on a low FODMAP diet for two weeks. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Olio-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols, which in so many words describes a diet that is high in the carbohydrates found in processed sugars, lactose, wheat, legumes and some fruit.

All participants expressed that their symptoms improved after consuming the low FODMAP diet. After one week, they split the patients up into a high gluten group, a low gluten group and a control group. All three groups expressed that their symptoms worsened, even the control group that maintained the low FODMAP diet.

These findings have been examined by many researchers in order to show that it may not be gluten that causes the bloating and abdominal discomfort of those who have NCGS, but rather a diet high in FODMAPS. Following a low FODMAP diet often results in cutting out products with gluten, which may lead to the assumptions that drive this trend.

“I don’t think the general public is educated on what gluten actually does in the body,” said April. “On the other hand if they’re going to follow a gluten-free diet, a lot of people don’t know how to go about it the right way. The majority of the population has been gluten-phobic.”

Whether or not it is gluten that causes gastrointestinal issues or if it’s another trigger or a placebo, the food industry has taken advantage of this gluten-phobia. Some companies have started labeling products that never contained gluten as “gluten-free,” like gluten-free fruit juices or gluten-free yogurt. For people with Celiac disease, it’s important to know if the product was packaged in a location where it could have come into contact with gluten. But for the other 29 percent, this may just be playing into the impressionable minds of a diet-crazed society that is willing to fill up their grocery bills with products that are 242 percent more expensive than their non-specialized counterparts.

“I think some people get on it thinking that it’s going to cure everything,” Tutrani said. “‘I’m going to get off of gluten and I’m going to feel phenomenal.’ That doesn’t often happen because there a lot of other problems. It’s not a one fix for all.”

Instead, if you’re looking to go on a gluten-free diet to feel healthier or lose weight, it’s more important to focus on eating foods that are naturally gluten-free, like fruits, vegetables and meats, rather than products where the gluten has been removed. When gluten is removed, manufacturers replace the lost protein with extra sugar and sodium, which can raise the calorie count and lower nutritional value.

“Don’t just give up a standard American diet for another boxed diet,” Nigro said. Her family focuses on eating foods that are naturally gluten-free, like dried plantains or sweet potato Stromboli, rather than expensive gluten-free products.

After studying Nutritional Science for the past two years, April thinks that the trend will fizzle out in the next few years. “More people will be getting tested for Celiacs and less people will see that it actually causes weight loss,” she said.

MARCH ON: As the Earth warms, youth take charge in the fight against climate change

In September 2014, Stony Brook University students, accompanied by their professors, joined thousands of other young people on the streets of New York City in an effort to bring attention to the issue of global climate change.
In September 2014, Stony Brook University students, accompanied by their professors, joined thousands of other young people on the streets of New York City in an effort to bring attention to the issue of global climate change.

Human-induced climate change was first identified in the late 1890s. Yet it took almost 100 years for people to begin considering the process a serious threat to modern life on Earth.

Even then, it was mostly scientists and scholars who understood and preached the perils of climate change. Yet, with the once predicted impacts of climate change now a demonstrably devastating reality, the public is increasingly taking action to bring awareness to, and to fight, climate change—mobilizing an entire movement to further their cause.

For those old enough to remember, today’s climate change movement calls to mind the myriad social and political movements of the 1960s, complete with marches, demonstrations, lobbying, community building and divestment actions. And, similarly to past movements, the climate change movement has been propelled by three key factors: education, firsthand experience and youths’ energy.

Education, said Taylor Apter, a 20-year-old Stony Brook University marine sciences major and environmental studies minor, was what brought her to the September 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City.

“We learned that the UN is talking about a bill on the 23rd here, and they need to know that people care,” said Apter. “People are upset about climate change; people want radical bills to be signed about how to change it.”

With an estimated 400,000 participants, the People’s Climate March—hosted by climate change activist group, is, as of the present day, considered to be the biggest climate change rally in history.

Thousands of college students of the 18-24-year-old set, both American and international made up a significant portion of the march’s population. Inspired by their education, part of this youth demographic included students (accompanied by their professors) from Stony Brook University‘s Sustainability Studies Program and School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, like Apter.

To be a participant in the People’s Climate March was to be enveloped in a loud, multi-colored sea of concern, care and hope for the planet, for humanity.

There were religious groups, including Capuchin Franciscan monks in brown robes who flew in from Rome for the event; politicians including former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; and parents, with small toddlers carrying cherished stuffed animals. There were Superstorm Sandy victims marching together and carrying blue and yellow “Displaced: Underwater Homeowners” pop-up tents and protest signs shaped like orange life preservers. There were Latino-Americans with posters demanding “Tenemos La Solución;” Native American and other indigenous elders chanting and dancing in traditional garb; energetic street musicians from the Dominican Republic jamming with members of American high school bands…people representing virtually all imaginable demographic categories were present.

And that was the point of the People’s Climate March: bringing people together to demonstrate that, when it comes to climate change, all human beings are in the same boat.

“Oh this is fantastic, the biggest march I’ve ever gone on was the ‘No Nukes’ march in 1979 when there was 740,000 people,” said Dr. Marc Fasanella, Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program professor of ecological art and design. “I was hoping that this comes up to something like that; I don’t know if it will, but it’s great just seeing this many people out recognizing just how bad the situation actually is.”

It was back in 1988 when Dr. James E. Hansen, a former NASA scientist and current climatologist at Columbia University in New York City, announced to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that science had proven it was “99 percent” certain that rising global temperatures were not the cause of natural climatic variation, but the result of a buildup of human-emitted carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—a major cause for concern.

Since Hansen’s proclamation to Congress was made public, non-profits, grassroots groups and individuals all over the world, especially young adults, have increasingly taken part in the fight against climate change.

In the fight against climate change, many believe that older, longstanding environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, have benefitted from an injection of youth volunteers and from uniting with younger, newer groups, such as the Hip Hop Caucus and

Cory Tiger, 21, Stony Brook University senior and environmental humanities major, has been volunteering with the Sierra Club for the past three years. In that time, she said that she has noticed both a greater involvement of youth and greater success in the group’s ability to help bring about “positive pro-environmental progress,” including that made in the fight against climate change.

“I’m here to show that youth are playing a big role in this movement,” said Tiger of her attendance at the People’s Climate March.

One of the biggest youth contributions to today’s climate change movement has been young people’s use of the Internet, and, more recently, social media. For instance, the People’s Climate March youth volunteers campaigned for climate awareness and action during the months leading up to the event, using Facebook and Twitter to disseminate information about climate change, and the march itself, to the public.

People’s Climate March participants—young and old alike—were invited to tweet at @Peoples_Climate and use #PeoplesClimate to report, in real time, their thoughts, photos, videos and experiences at the event.

Presently, the People’s Climate March—which, besides the New York City event coincided with 2,646 climate change solidarity events across 162 countries—represents the apex of the climate change movement. Other large climate change actions have preceded the People’s Climate March, with each successive event growing in size and impact.

For instance, the April 2011 Brisbane Climate Action Rally in Brisbane, Australia, led by Union Climate Connectors, an Australia-based climate change activist group, drew an estimated 4,000 participants. Two years later, the February 2013 Forward on Climate rally in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Sierra Club, drew an estimated 40,000 participants. As in the case of in hosting the People’s Climate March, the organizers of these climate actions made use of social media to educate, organize and report event updates to the public.

Critics of the climate change movement include not just climate change deniers, but those who believe the climate change movement, organized by NGOs and held up by members of the public, are too mainstream and not radical enough to make meaningful change. However, others point to the success of the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C., which was, at the time, similarly criticized for being too tame and anti-capitalist.

Climate change activists acknowledge that, when it comes to inciting real political change, there is no sure-fire formula to get right. And then there’s the added pressure they face: to make change happen quickly enough to save the planet from climate change’s impending doom.

“We are in trouble,” said Apter, “and unless we start talking about it and telling people about it, it’s just going to keep getting worse and worse.”

Coffee as Theater: A Caffeinated Renaissance

by Anthony DeNicola and Ali Sundermier

A new, more sophisticated breed of coffee drinker has emerged on a large scale. While mass produced coffee from the likes of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, or just about anything fit for a Keurig, may appeal to many, the new breed are not content with wholesale java in small plastic cups brewed with the mechanical efficiency of a German car factory. They seek the kind of patient, subtle, yet undeniable quality reminiscent of Italian Renaissance painters. Ask yourself; do you think Michelangelo would have used a Keurig?

“Things have changed dramatically,” said Kevin Sinnott, creator of CoffeeCon, a consumer specialty-coffee event in Chicago, San Francisco, LA, and NYC. “I think the biggest change has been that consumers now are beginning to see coffee as a cooking art. “

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), as of December 2014, the retail value of the U.S. coffee market is estimated at $46 billion, with specialty coffees making up about 55% of that. This is reflective of statistics on national coffee drinking trends. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), who has kept statistics on coffee habits since the 1950s, 34% of Americans consume gourmet coffee beverages daily, a 3% rise from 2013, with high- end espresso drinks seeing the biggest rise in daily use, going from 13% – to – 18%.

“Our customers are so educated in coffee, it’s scary,” said Georgio Testani, owner and operator of Georgio’s Coffee Roasters on Long Island. “They have their own little labs at home.”

Georgio’s is one of several coffee roasters on Long Island catering to these ‘coffeephiles’ by finding the highest quality coffee beans on the planet and providing a plethora of unconventional brewing options such as a siphon, batch brewer, pour-over and trifecta.

The customers who frequent such places seem to want an experience, rather than just a caffeine fix. Brandon King, a former barista at Starbucks before he moved to Roast, another coffee roaster on Long Island, appreciates the differences in the two java dispensaries.

“People are very laid back and nice, they know what they want and they will wait for it,” King said. “We are not rushed all the time like a huge chain, like I was at Starbucks.”

Roast regular customer, Erik Fuhrer, personifies this sentiment. ”Sometimes I go to Starbucks when I don’t have much time but when I want to have an experience and sit down, I come here,” he said while sipping a dark Brazilian roast.

Not to be left behind, the biggest coffee chain on the planet, Starbucks, realized it had to get with the times. Several years ago, they implemented the coffee master program, to train select baristas to have a much deeper understanding of coffee, where it comes from and how it’s made.

According to Christina Koryluk, a Starbucks assistant manager and coffee master, the program requires that they learn about the variables involved in coffee production: the effects of geography and altitude, the different species of coffee trees, how it’s grown and how it’s processed. Coffee masters are able to identify where the coffee came from and the different notes it possesses based on taste and aroma.

Koryluk says that Starbucks has been putting more emphasis on this program as coffee drinkers become more sophisticated.

“They want to put more emphasis on it and have more coffee masters readily available,” Koryluk said. “People care more and are more selective in their process. They don’t mind spending the extra dollars on higher quality coffee.”

In response to the growing interest in gourmet coffee, Sinnott started CoffeeCon four years ago. Since then, it has attracted upwards of 1,000 attendees per event.

“I think it’s a trend,” said Sinnott. “People are moving away from coffee as caffeine and looking for flavor first.“

The great thing about CoffeeCon, Sitton says, is that not only do they do coffee tastings but they have classes on site that teach anything a budding coffee enthusiast might want to learn.

Coffee as fuel fits the mass- produced, mechanized model that has dominated the market. But coffee as theater, the kind that makes taste buds leap and nostrils flare, requires an artist’s touch and attention to detail.

“You’ll see at least one person today who will take a sip of coffee, who’s never had coffee brewed how we brew it,” said Sinnot. “Never had coffee roasted or as fresh as ours. They’ll take one taste of it and a great big smile will break out on their face. They’ll nudge the person next to them and say wow.“

Coffee as Theater: Georgio’s Journey from Alison Sundermier on Vimeo.

SBU Nature Trail: Creating a path

By Jasmine Blennau and Kelly Zegers

Hannah Mellor from Jasmine Blennau on Vimeo.

The Idea:

Hannah Mellor, a senior Environmental Policy, Planning and Design student, is trying to get her proposal for the nature trail picked up by administration. It hasn’t been easy.

The Stony Brook Nature Trail, originally called “The Mellor Trail,” is a proposal for a five mile trail revitalization project, not to be confused with a shortcut to get around campus.

“It was a shame that there was so much wooded area but it wasn’t being utilized,” Mellor said.

Her proposal to administration is to connect two and a half miles of existing trails by clearing two and a half miles of new trail. The nature trail would be a feature of the Stony Brook campus that could be used by anyone for walking, running and biking.

Currently the SBU Nature Trail Facebook page has 680 likes and Mellor has received 1,500 signatures on the petition supporting the trail.

The first mile of the trail is indicated by orange markers tied to trees. (Photo by Kelly Zegers
The first mile of the trail is indicated by orange markers tied to trees. (Photo by Kelly Zegers)

“I can get as many signatures as possible but if those signatures don’t mean anything then the trail truly will not happen,” she said. “If people start blindly signing – it means nothing. To sign it you have to be aware of what you’re signing and become an active member of the trail.”

Mellor has support from professors, too.

“I think it’s wonderful if people are outside and engaging with nature and connecting with it so the more we can do that the better,” Heidi Hutner, associate professor of English and Sustainability, said.

“I take my students to Avalon park. If we had more experiences like that here, that would be great. We do have the Ashley Schiff Preserve, that’s great, so I’m in full support of it and I think it’s a wonderful that she’s working on the design.”

The trail has gained interest of the community outside of the university. Mellor said that C.L.I.M.B., Concerned Long Island Mountain Bikers, are willing to loan materials and machinery toward the development and maintenance of the trail. The Green Belt and The Green Way, two local environmental groups and the Stony Brook Cross Country Team have also expressed support, she said.

“Exercise will probably be the main point of promoting things, but also, I don’t know which point will become more important to us, exercise or environmental awareness,” said Dylan McDougall, a junior geology major. “Exercise is a little more directly related to walking in the woods, but environmental awareness is kind of the motivation for our project.”


Despite the apparent growing support for the trail, the project has limits.

Donovan Finn, a visiting assistant professor in sustainability studies, gave Mellor informal advice on what to do, who to talk to and how to build support when she would stop by his office after classes.

Finn, who said he thinks the project is a great idea, said he had to remind Mellor of challenges she could face.

“For one thing, getting her to realize that the real world is not always what it looks like on a map and making sure that she got out and figured out where she wanted this thing to be and what the limitations would be,” Finn said.

“Realities might be different than she thinks,” he continued, explaining that although a route might look perfect on a map, it could be completely different on the ground.

Matthew Whelan,Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, represents that reality. He spoke to Mellor about the trail but was not shown the proposal.

“Anything that is constructed or created on campus has to go through a process of vetting and various stages of approval,” Whelan said. With specific regard to the hiking trail, we have to be concerned first with student safety, we have to be concerned with environmental impacts, we have to be concerned with [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessibility.”

There is also the question of whether the trail in its entirety falls on university land, he said.

Watch out for thorns along the trail, which get caught on clothing. (Photo by Kelly Zegers)
Watch out for thorns along the trail, which get caught on clothing. (Photo by Kelly Zegers)

“The idea of trying to secure a trail on areas that are very remote is a major concern for us in addition to the cost that, even if it was approved, would not only have to be borne by someone to construct a trail, but the ongoing maintenance and security of that trail would need  to be considered in perpetuity,” Whelan said, asking who is the steward of the trail and what type of liabilities occur is people from off campus use the trail.

“It is a trail in the woods,” Mellor said. “No one would say that’s entirely safe. It’s a shame because they are really nice things that people enjoy during the day and now people have to actively avoid them in the night.”

She said that she does need to further address the safety issue. Maps in the proposal address the blue light system, which would be accessible on most parts of the trail. Blue light phones provide an immediate direct connection to University Police at any time of the day.

Excluding the part of the trail that runs through the Research and Development park, Mellor found that the rest of the trail falls within 200 meters of a blue light call box. She figured it would take approximately a 30 to 40 second sprint to reach a call box.

Mellor did not want to rely on the Blue Light System for safety, so she had a member of her team develop a mobile app.

Assistant Chief of Police Eric Olsen said there is no plan to phase out the blue light system.

The app, created by McDougall, shows which parts of the trail are clear and which parts need clearing. Green represents the existing trail, yellow of a pruned path that requires some clearing and red which represents sections with trees that require removal, according to the proposal. The app asks for access to the user’s location and, once approved, shows where the user in in relation to the trail with a blue dot.

“I think it will be really useful once people understand that they use this app to find where to go because lots of times I have to explain to people where to find trails,” McDougall said.

Beyond mapping out the steps of the trail, Mellor calculated the costs of completing the trail. This includes cost consideration of labor and equipment for tree removal on 2.6 miles of the planned track.

In addition to that, she priced signs, crosswalks and speedbumps for the three sections of the trail that cross roads.

In the proposal, Mellor eScreen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.56.45 PMstimates the total cost of construction to be $58,980.

Construction machines……………………….$43,560
(including labor and fuel)
Signs, cross walks and speed bumps…..$10,320
Outdoor fitness equipment…………………..$5,100
Total cost of construction…………………….$58,980

“In the proposal it’s a huge amount of money that’s seen to go into this trail,” Mellor said. “It’s better to high ball it than low ball it.”

In the conclusion of the proposal, Mellor argues that in comparison to the investment of $37.5 million for the Campus Recreation Center design and construction, “Investing $50,000 into an off-road trail has just as many, arguably more, benefits as the Rec. Center.”

Such benefits include physical health like nature walks and runs, as well as mental health like stress relief and meditation.

Moving forward:

Mellor is graduating this spring, but the push for the trail is not over. She has established a key group of students who will turn these efforts into a club. McDougall will become the SBU Nature Trail’s leader next year.

McDougall said he plans for the club to have a publicity branch to make people aware of the trails around campus, along with students who will deal with trying to gain administrative approval; for the proposed trail.

“Maybe it won’t happen while she’s here at Stony Brook University,” said Mellor’s professor and mentor Dr. Harold Quigley. “Even if there is never a nature trail, Hannah learned a lot about organizing. Something small takes a lot of work.”

Quigley, who has had more than 30 years experience in environmental work, said that if the president of the university acknowledged her petition and number of signatures it would be a symbolic gesture.

“When planning you need community participation,” Quigley said. “The process is between individual citizens. To make things happen you need resources, cooperation among the stakeholders and to know the rules.”

“It’s about creating the right relationships and having good will.”

See our experience on the trail through this interactive Stony Brook Nature Trail Map.

Multitasking Makes Students’ Lives Easier, Hinders Productivity

By Lauren Fetter and JD Allen

Homework. Textbook. Laptop. Internet. Open tab. Google Drive. Open tab. YouTube. Search. Cat videos. “Keyboard Cat.” For many students at Stony Brook University, multitasking while studying or completing school work is a norm. But are these Seawolves hurting themselves by performing more than one task at a time?

According to research done by Psychology Today, only 2 percent of people can effectively multitask. The other 98 percent can cause more harm than good for themselves* by doing multiple tasks at a time.

“There’s abundant evidence that our brains, particularly in any executive function, don’t divide attention,” Roberta Richin, an instructor of social entrepreneurship at Stony Brook University, said. “You can’t divide attention. It’s why nobody’s dunking a basketball and taking a selfie.” 

Richin teaches her students that a classroom is a team, adding that if students can pay undivided attention to a screen, they can pay undivided attention to another activity, as well — though paying attention to a screen or a page of a textbook can be a challenging task for some students.

Charles Calderwood, an associate psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, lead a study on media multitasking behaviors, which are the frequency and duration of distractions, as well as the types of media used while multitasking among college students. The results: College students are no exception to Psychology Today’s research. Multitasking is a feat students attempt often, but rarely succeed in.

During the weeks leading up to finals, students at Stony Brook University continuously struggle with balancing their hectic workloads.


Ryan Sullivan, a junior studying biology and sociology majors, said that although he recognizes the importance of good studying habits, the ability to multitask is readily available to him. While monotasking is realistic — stressing that he is actually capable of completing only one task at a time — he couldn’t see finishing all he is required to, Sullivan added. 

“You have so many things going in your life at once, its really hard to focus on one thing.  Sullivan said. “I think it takes a bit more dedication than what I have.”

Sullivan is like many other college students: He is taking five or six classes, he works one or two jobs and he has a family, friends and clubs that he needs to balance his time between. Study time sometimes is not his main priority, he added.

Sullivan said his normal studying habits include reading his assignments before class and reviewing lecture slides and videos, but he is often distracted by his Facebook newsfeed and Reddit posts. Sometimes his procrastination lands him playing video games, he added.

Richard W. Patterson, a doctoral student at Cornell University studying policy analysis and management, performed a study to see if software could be used to reduce student procrastination levels, thus increasing their school performance.

“In environments such as online education, where behavioral factors are likely to keep people from following their plans,” Patterson wrote in his 2014 article, “Can Behavioral Tools Improve Online Student Outcomes? Experimental Evidence from a Massive Open Online Course.” “Interventions such as commitment devices and reminders may significantly increase plan completion and improve well-being.” 

According to the Virginia Commonwealth University study, sixty undergraduate Georgia Institute of Technology students were given three hours to complete homework, which were student-supplied assignments, in three different subject areas. The students were recruited through flyers posted on campus, as well as by their professors. All participants who were recruited by in-class announcements were offered extra credit in their undergraduate psychology classes.

In a laboratory setting, which was designed to mimic a work study station, students were instructed to “do your homework as you would anywhere else,” according to the Elsevier Science journal article, using any supplies at their disposal. Tools included their laptop, mp3 or CD players or other audio materials and a cell phone to the study. Participants were also able to use an Internet-connected desktop computer and a printer that was provided by the study for the students to use during the session. Students were allowed to leave the room for a bathroom break by first removing any apparatus, or to eat or drink in an area away from the computer. All study habits were recorded in variety of ways including eye-tracking software.

The problem that arose for many of the students were the many distractions at their fingertips. In addition to listening to 73 minutes of music while studying, which is a factor whose effects are unclear causing either increased or decreased focus, students averaged 25 minutes of total distraction time on unneeded sites or completing unnecessary studying tasks.

“Higher homework task motivation and self-efficacy to concentrate on homework were associated with less frequent and shorter duration multitasking behaviors,” Calderwood wrote. “Greater negative affect was linked to longer duration multitasking behaviors during the session.”

Richin, the co-author of “Connecting Character to Conduct: Helping Students Do the Right Thing,” explains how test preparation and academic rigor alone cannot help students, and that a safe environment, which is produced by instilling a connection of a student’s character to their conduct, is conducive to learning.

“If students can’t spend a half hour working with somebody else without distracting themselves electronically, how are they going to get through an interview? How are they gonna get through a team meeting where they’re accountable for the output?” Richin said. Some students do not realize that the habits they form in college can impact their work later on, she added.

Monotasking: For Students, By Students from JD Allen on Vimeo.

Richin said she tries to prepare her students to operate the classroom like they would a baseball team. Teamwork is a task that requires interaction and a lot of communication, she added.

“So if I’m in the outfield, or somewhere else, I’m not entitled to suddenly take out my phone and start doing something just because, in that moment, I’m not completely engaged,” Richin said.

Teamwork is a leading competency in our work environments, as well as in our communities. Page Keating, a sophomore at Stony Brook University studying biology and sociology majors, said that multitasking is inevitable because people are expected to do things quickly. She added that she is often pressured by others to change her task.

“It’s hard for people that are expecting that email immediately to understand that you’re doing something else at the same time,” Keating said. “If we all start monotasking, maybe it will be simpler to do it, but the fact that we’re expected to do things so quickly, that’s why multitasking is so popular amongst all of us.”

Minimalism Is Simple Living

By Gregory Cannella and Alexa Coveney

She carries around a pink duffle bag with all of her belongings, a black backpack for her school supplies and a portable hammock she relaxes in between classes. For Priscilla Moley, a 21-year-old Long Island resident, it has been over a year since she bought any type of clothing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 10.19.55 AM
Priscilla Moley, 21, biology major at Stony Brook University

“I use to really be into fashion,” Moley said. “Now I have two pairs of jeans and shorts, one pair of sneakers and a couple pair of shirts.”

Moley is part of a growing trend known as minimalism, a process of tidying up, stripping down and simplifying one’s lifestyle. This can include the clothes you wear, the car you drive and places you live.

“Minimizing the amount of clutter in my life gave me more money and more time,” Moley said.

Cynthia Braun, a 52-year-old certified professional organizer and feng shui consultant, who said that minimalism is a lifestyle and more than just decluttering

“Decluttering is relinquishing ownership of stuff accumulated over the years, minimalism is a way of life,” Braun said. “You’re more in control of your stuff instead of the other way around, it takes a large weight off of people once they declutter”

Minimalism goes deeper than just decluttering an individual’s life, it’s becoming aware of your surroundings, the environment and personal economic benefits.

“Minimalism as a movement is more about the conscious nature of paring down to essentials,”  Catherine Marrone, a sociology professor at Stony Brook University, said. “One is being aware of the environmental, economic and social effects of overusing or over consuming.”

Moley uses minimalism as a way to secure her financial future and struggles with the financial burden of college. She is a biology major at Stony Brook University, who plans to get her doctorate.

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Priscilla Moley, 21, studying on Stony Brook University campus.

“I have a lot of loans right now and sometimes I think about it and if it is really worth it,” Moley said. “It’s a conflict because it is a really big commitment.”

However,  the trend of minimalism isn’t the same as being cost effective, according to Erin Lowry, a 25-year-old founder of, a website for building wealth and understanding money, said there will always be people who want to live a simpler life.

“Much of it links to the recent rise in people pursuing early retirement and financial independence,” Lowry said. “The amount of media coverage and discussion around people being minimalists is certainly a trend.”

Although you can live comfortably as a minimalist, you need to already achieved a certain financial status, according to Lowry.

“Being a minimalist by choice is a privilege,” Lowry said. “Being a minimalist because you’re financially strapped for cash and unable to cover the necessities is not what people are referring.”

Moley comes from a middle class family, where she gave up her prius, bought by her parents, and other luxuries she owned. She said she has been judged because of her minimalist lifestyle.

“My parents have judged my extensively,” Moley said. “My mom ask how can I trade everything I could ever want, but what she doesn’t see is that it’s better to have this freedom.”

Marrone said the trend of minimalism is a movement seen within groups who tend to be more aware, more educated and more likely to use digital advances.

“Minimalist are conscious of their consumptions of resources in all areas of their lives,” Marrone said.

Moley said she doesn’t feel deprived from society’s standards of a normal lifestyle. The objects she has are essential, but nothing that is so essential she can’t without.

“It’s not for everybody,” Moley said. “Having material possessions for some people fulfills them, but for myself it has made me a lot happier. ”

Minimalism: Simple Living from Gregory Cannella on Vimeo.

Wearable Fitness Trackers – Measuring the Worth of a Rapidly Growing Trend


Ashleigh Pulkoski-Gross has only been running for five years. Within that time, she has participated in 12 5K runs, four 10K runs, eight 5-mile runs, six half-marathons, and one sprint triathlon.  She says she routinely exercises both outside and at the gym, and frequently participates in the fitness classes offered at Stony Brook University. She is currently working towards her Ph.D in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology.

Pulkoski-Gross has also become a devoted user of one of largest trends on the market today – wearable fitness trackers – to which she contributes much of her fitness success.

“I use it during almost every workout and would not be able to train appropriately for my races if I didn’t have it,” Pulkoski-Gross wrote in an email. “Phone applications used for tracking miles tend not to be as accurate, at least in my hands, as compared to my watch.”

She currently wears the Garmin Forerunner 405 – its capabilities include a wireless heart monitor to track heart rate and calories burned, and is also GPS enabled, which allows her to track her miles. On Amazon, the Garmin Forerunner 405 costs 140 dollars – but depending on the brand or its capabilities, these wearable devices can range from 50 to upwards of 700 dollars.

The Garmin Forerunner 405

According to Dean Bowen, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation for Fitness and Wellness at Stony Brook University, you get what you pay for, but regardless of how expensive, fitness trackers cannot replace the more traditional monitoring methods.

“It’ll never take away from that professional, experienced personal trainer, or that experienced registered dietician or nutritionist that’s working directly with the person,” Bowen explained. “We can assess and ask more questions than that wearable device will.”

At least for now. Emerging digital technology seems to be serving the public well, especially in the sphere of health. In March, Apple announced the launch of its app “ResearchKit,” which allows doctors and scientists to gather more research on diseases such as asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s Disease simply by asking iPhone users if they’d like to participate in health studies. If users agree, these doctors and scientists have access to the data within the user’s “Health app” – weight, blood pressure, glucose levels – compatible with the latest Apple product: the Apple Watch, which also serves as one of the newest wearable fitness devices.    ResearchKit

The Apple Watch Sport has two modes: Activity and Workout. The Activity Mode tracks basic movement throughout the day, while the Workout Mode is designed to specifically monitor more rigorous movement, measuring distance, pace, time, and calorie burn. The device comes equipped with GPS capability, an accelerometer that can calculate steps, and a heart rate sensor.

But while major companies like Apple, Garmin, Fitbit, or Polar Electro may tout their product’s efficacy or design as unique to their competitors, the user must question whether these claims are true.

Bowen, who has been a serious athlete throughout his life and attended the SUNY College of Brockport for both his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Physical Education, explained that many of these devices’s “features” can be misleading, especially based on the type of activity one completes.

Though heart rate monitoring is beneficial, a measurement taken from an individual’s wrist will not be nearly as precise as a measurement taken from one’s chest – and a high heart rate may not be caused by rigorous exercise, consequently leading to their estimated caloric burn being inaccurate.

Despite his devotion to fitness, Bowen does not use a wearable fitness device.

“The big issue that I have with them, and mainly why I don’t use one – they’re only as good as you are,” Bowen said.

Here is some movement from the Stony Brook campus that can’t be measured. These three clubs at SBU aren’t concerned with following trends – they approach fitness in an alternative way. 

He went on to explain the error in an accelerometer measurement, “All it does is track movement” but it’s unable to identify the exact type of movement. In the case of yoga or pilates, where there is a minimal amount of vigorous activity, these devices may conclude that the individual burned less calories than they actually did because of the technology’s limitation.      

In order to compensate for this limitation, many of the devices require the user to self-report – though error can be found in self-reporting data – their fitness and health information into compatible applications to keep the wearable device updated and accurate.

Fitmotion Activity Tracker

“You’re going to get an idea of how much your moving based on the data these things are collecting,” said Ryan Parks, who has been a product buyer for Sound Around U.S.A. for over a year and managed the development of a “cheapie” fitness wearable called the Fitmotion Activity Tracker. “Obviously if it’s moving around more, you’re doing more, you’re burning more calories, and you’re being more healthy.”   


Trailer for Draw My Story: Line Dancing featuring Colleen Mcree

This trailer details how it is supposed to work: She speaks I draw, and the two are supposed to match. It’s sort of a novel idea in journalism. The concept needs some polishing but that’s the case with any new idea. I can’t wait to unveil the finished product tomorrow, I’m actually depending on the feedback for this one since I really want to make this a thing and it’s been a process of steering blind with it, having nobody to model after or bounce ideas off of.

MARCH ON: A climate action film by Erica Cirino to be released this Wednesday, May 6

“We’re running out of time.” Dr. James E. Hansen

Former NASA scientist and current climatologist at Columbia University in New York City

From droughts to floods to blizzards to melt, the impacts of Earth’s quickly changing climate are making themselves heard loud and clear.

Climate experts like Hansen agree that the Earth’s increasingly frequent extreme weather events, global warming and shifts in climatic patterns, are, without a doubt, primarily the result of human activity, not natural variation. And, these experts say, if nothing is done to slow global warming, the main culprit of climate change, we’re basically doomed to a future incompatible with human life. Our warming limit? Just two degrees Celsius. Which is not much.

“We’re running out of time.”

Youth have largely taken the reigns in the fight against climate change. They have reacted by holding “climate actions” such as marches, sit-ins and other peaceful demonstrations to communicate the problem to their representatives in government, who have yet to enact any sweeping climate change policies that actually stand a chance of saving the planet.

In September 2014, with an estimated 400,000 participants, the People’s Climate March—hosted by climate change activist group, is, as of the present day, considered to be the biggest climate change rally in history. Thousands of college students of the 18-24-year-old set, both American and international, made up a significant portion of the march’s population. Inspired by their education, part of this youth demographic included students (accompanied by their professors) from Stony Brook University‘s Sustainability Studies Program and School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

This is their story.

Catch the full film, and story, on Wednesday, May 6, 2015