Former FSC President W. Hubert Keen and Wife, Sally, Fund Bioscience Student Research  

Farmingdale State College (FSC) has announced the recent formation of the Keen Undergraduate Research Fellowship, a new initiative established by former FSC President W. Hubert Keen and his wife, Sally, that will annually help support FSC biology students conducting research projects in collaboration with FSC’s faculty.  

Dr. Keen, who began his teaching career in 1976 as an assistant professor of biological science at the State University of New York (SUNY) Cortland, led FSC as College president from January 2007 until June 2016. Over his more than 40-year career in academia, he has held several vital positions including as provost and vice president for academic affairs at FSC, interim president at SUNY Old Westbury, special assistant to the SUNY system provost, and provost and vice president for academic affairs at York College in the City University of New York (CUNY). He holds a PhD in ecology and is a Fulbright Fellow. 

“The lasting impact will be the student’s experience working with the professor,” said Dr. Keen of the research projects, which will be separate from a student’s required coursework. “I have always felt it was extremely valuable for undergraduates to have that kind of experience and relationship with a faculty member. When I was a professor, one of the most rewarding things that I did was to supervise student research projects.”  

“The students who come to Farmingdale have had life experiences that motivate them to succeed,” agreed Sally Keen. “We are pleased to support them in their aspiration. We know the value of students’ relationships with professors.”

The fellowship’s first recipients are Jason Benitez ’24, a bioscience major, and his faculty advisor Professor Ada Mofunanya, who received $4000 and $1000, respectively. Together, they are studying ciliary dysfunction and its role in specific types of airway diseases.  

“Currently, the protein interactions involved in ciliogenesis, the formation of cilia, and ciliary function need to be better understood,” said Benitez. “We aim to understand the pathways and proteins required for ciliogenesis in efforts to alleviate ciliopathies and respiratory diseases such as COPD and asthma.” 

“Jason has grown immensely over the past year, a lot of that happening this semester as he took on more responsibility through his participation in the Keen Fellowship. He has gained more confidence in his abilities and is excited to pursue scientific research in the future. I am grateful to Dr. Keen for making this opportunity available,” said Professor Mofunanya, who added that the most rewarding aspect of her participation in the fellowship is being a part of Benitez’s research journey. 

“My successes in our research would not have been possible without their support,” Benitez said of the Keens. “I thank them for allowing me to pursue this research and supporting my dream of becoming a physician-scientist. I will always be grateful for this research fellowship, which has strengthened my research experience. Their support has inspired me to pay it forward to other students when I become a medical doctor someday. These research fellowships are essential for the success of future scientists.” 

“Dr. W. Hubert and Sally Keen have been key members of the FSC community for many years and we are deeply appreciative they will continue to support its mission with their undergraduate research fellowship--the first and only of its kind at FSC,” said Matthew Colson, FSC vice president for development & alumni engagement. “Their commitment to FSC’s students has never wavered.” 

Looking ahead, Dr. Keen noted FSC’s prominent place in the region’s prosperity and its strong community relationships through Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, Inc. (BHBP), and anticipates continued success for the fellowship. 

“Farmingdale is such an important institution--extremely valuable in my view--to the population, especially of Long Island but also the entire Metropolitan New York area,” he said. “My hope is that the fellowship becomes a continuing pursuit for the students who might benefit from it. I hope they see it as an opportunity.”