special double issue
Connecting with Cornell
22 1–2 2009
from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research
11 YOUNG INNOVATORS SCANLON/GARCIA-GARCIA/ LIPSON/RASKOLNIKOV/O’DONOGHUE/SCHIFF/METTLER/ SONDERMANN/KLEINBERG/FINLEY/MATSUDAIRA
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
The Ideal Hub for a Maize Geneticist
An Exhilarating Niche
This Is Not Your Ordinary Ivy League
Body and Soul
A Compelling Question Drives a Long-Term Passion
Michael J. Scanlon
Maria J. Garcia-Garcia
Nicholas D. Schiff
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
Research In Progress
Shaping Attitudes, Shaping Politics
Signaling a New Path
When We Search the Web
A Visual Journey through Time
Bilingual Education/ “Any Person ... Any Study” Low-Wage Labor Market and the Lure of Research
Jordan D. Matsudaira
Research in Focus
Power in the Peel
The Essense of Cornell
Contents RESEARCH IN PROGRESS
The Ideal Hub for a Maize Geneticist
How Do Plants Generate and Continue Making New Organs throughout Their Life Cycle? Michael J. Scanlon, Plant Biology
An Exhilarating Niche
What Genes and Developmental Processes Are Essential for the Development of Specific Parts of an Embryo?
Why Cornell? 11 Young Innovators Explain
Maria J. Garcia-Garcia, Molecular Biology and Genetics
This Is Not Your Ordinary Ivy League
How Do We Design and Make Robots That Can Mimic Every Aspect of Nature? Hod Lipson, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering/Computing and Information Science
Body and Soul
How Does Medieval English Literature Fit in the 21st Century?
84 “Any Person … Any Study” and the Lure of Research 90 Undergraduate Researchers Pick Applied and Engineering Physics CENTER SPECTRUM
A Conversation with Masha Raskolnikov, English
96 News from the Research Centers
How Do We Incorporate Psychology into Economics?
RESEARCH NEWLY FUNDED
100 Sponsored Research Awards
Ted O’Donoghue, Economics
A Compelling Question Drives a Long-Term Passion
How Do We Develop a Brain Stimulation Method to Improve Cognitive Function in Patients after Serious Brain Injury?
103 11 Young Innovators Explain
Nicholas D. Schiff, Neurology and Neuroscience
Shaping Attitudes, Shaping Politics
How Have U.S. Social Policies Changed Since the 1970s? Suzanne Mettler, Government
Signaling a New Path
How Do Proteins Do Their Jobs?
108 Amplifying Science The Reach of the Cornell Center for Materials Research ue TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
117 Salt Matters SaltCheck Inc.
121 Power in the Peel AppleBoost Products Inc.
A Conversation with Holger Sondermann, Molecular Medicine
When We Search the Web
What Does the Relationship between Algorithms and Information Have To Do with Our Everyday Computer Use? Robert Kleinberg, Computer Science
127 In Support of Cutting-Edge Research Catherine E. Long RESEARCH IN FOCUS
129 The Essence of Cornell Robert A. Buhrman
A Visual Journey through Time
What Is the Role of Visual Culture? Cheryl Finley, History of Art
On the Web
From Bilingual Education to the Low-Wage Labor Market
Want copies of individual articles? Print them from the web at www.research.cornell.edu/VPR/pubsmain.html
What Can the U.S. Government Do to Help Low-Income People? A Conversation with Jordan D. Matsudaira, Policy Analysis and Management
Cover photo credits: Frank DiMeo; Jason Koski/CU Photo credits this page: Robert Barker/CU; Frank DiMeo; Lindsay France/CU; Jason Koski/CU; University Photography
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
I talked with 11 of Cornell’s young faculty, exploring a range of topics from how plants regenerate themselves to making robots that can do the same; from robots with body and mind to humans’ obsession with body and soul as reflected in literature; from web search engines that know the difference between an automobile, an animal, and a sports team with the same name and give you what you want at first glance to how to prevent people from ending up poor in the United States. How did they get hooked on their fields of research? We discussed this—their passion for research—along with what they enjoy about academia, teaching, their hobbies, and living in Ithaca, New York, the home of Cornell University. “Research in Progress” is based on these conversations. In this issue’s special feature, “Why Cornell?” the same 11 faculty reveal why they chose Cornell and would recommend it to other top recruits in their fields. These faculty are ingenious and inspiring. They are innovators in their chosen fields. Ernestina Snead
I FEEL THAT I AM PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER THAN THE HERE AND NOW, AND BIGGER THAN THE INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS OF EACH PERSON, AT CORNELL.… THE ENERGY OF TEAM EFFORT CHARACTERIZES THE UNIVERSITY.
Research in Progress
The Ideal Hub for a Maize Geneticist How Do Plants Generate and Continue Making New Organs throughout Their Life Cycle? MICHAEL J. SCANLON, PLANT BIOLOGY Shoot Meristems’ Amazing Ability I study plant development—specifically the way plants make shoot meristems and how meristems make organs. A shoot meristem is a ball of organogenic cells, a tiny mass at the tip of the plant shoot, that is responsible for all of the above-ground development of the plant—leaves, flowers, everything above ground. In maize, one of the larger shoot meristems that researchers study, the mass is about the size of the ball tip on a ballpoint pen. Unlike animals, plants continue to make new organs throughout their life cycle. This ability to remain embryogenic throughout its life cycle is due to meristems. Meristems do two things: they generate new, diverse organs, and they maintain themselves—an amazing ability. We focus specifically on trying to figure out how these two fundamental processes work. It is very complex. This is like a stem cell population in plants. We use classical genetics (mutations) and genomic approaches to look at global gene expression—and hopefully in the near future, protein accumulation in the meristem. Clarifying Stem Cells in Plants Although some researchers in plant development do not like to use the term “stem cell” when referring to plants, the practice has
Photos in Research in Progress: Frank DiMeo unless otherwise noted
become popular. Some properties of animal stem cells and meristem stem cells are the same. Both are developmentally naive and are able to differentiate into all the various cell types found in the mature plant. In this sense, the terminology fits. The meristem, formed in the embryo, is anything that has expansive growth. The meristmatic region at the base of a stem causes expansive growth at the stem, for example. This is meristmatic growth—expansive growth—but it is not generating new organs. It is the shoot meristem that is responsible for generating new organs. The shoot meristem is a special type of meristem that contains what we think of as stem cells, because it is able to differentiate into all kinds of organs of the shoot. Explaining Genetic Memory How can we map out the steps from an undifferentiated zygote, a single cell, to a beautifully differentiated and functioning mature plant? How do we understand all the interactions: external and internal, environmental and genetic, and signaling inside of cells? We can describe what happens during the steps, but even getting to that was not trivial. We still do not understand some forms and their variations or how they develop. This is the right time to explore the mechanisms underlying how this all happens and even more exciting, how plants can package the information into
Research in Progress
a tiny seed that has everything ready to happen again. How do these cells, the single zygotes, remember what to do in the next generation? This genetic memory is fascinating—it is how the whole genome interacts with itself and with the environment. This is what we, all plant developmental biologists, would love to discover! It probably will not happen in my lifetime, but I want to make a contribution to getting there.
Fascinated by a Clump of Cells I started working on maize kernel development as a graduate student. When I went to a postdoc position, I worked on leaf development—how leaves are made from meristems. You can peel off all the leaves of a young seedling, about 14 to 16 leaves (you can see it under a microscope), and get a tiny mass of cells. It is fascinating that this little clump of unimpressive-looking cells
Unlike animals, plants continue to make new organs throughout their life cycle. This ability to remain embryogenic throughout its life cycle is due to meristems.
Meristems do two things: they generate new, diverse organs, and they maintain themselves—an amazing ability.
How do these cells, the single zygotes, remember what to do in the next generation? This genetic memory is fascinating—it is how the whole genome interacts with itself and with the environment.
Once we have this knowledge, we have the tools for influencing major changes that can be useful to humankind—make more food, better fruit, or plants that are more resistant to diseases.… Most of the products we consume are plants—fruits, leaves, and stems, as in sugar cane. These come from shoot meristems. Biofuels are another potential application. I would like to start several new courses for nonscience majors.… An example of such a course deals with how biology is treated and discussed in the cinema.
Using the Knowledge of Basic Research Once we have this knowledge, we have the tools for influencing major changes that can be useful to humankind—to make more food, better fruit, or plants that are more resistant to diseases. Because this is basic research, it has widespread applications. Consider this: most of the products we consume are plants—fruits, leaves, and stems, as in sugar cane. These come from shoot meristems. Biofuels are another potential application. The perfect model biofuel organism is one that perpetuates itself vegetatively (not by fruits), makes lots of biomass (such as branches, but not lots of flowers, because flowers are energy-expensive), and packs all of that energy into the organs. And these plants do not need to be planted every year. Shoot meristems control most of this activity—the switch from vegetation to reproductive growth, degrees of branching, and formation of all the organs. Once we understand how everything works, can we make these research dreams possible? Possibly, but we have to follow the rules. Part of basic research is learning the rules. We can introduce different variations and put them in certain situations to generate different outcomes. I would like to see this knowledge used, however, to help feed the world—to help people grow crops in situations where they cannot grow them now. This is the applied side of my basic research, to be placed in the hands of applied scientists.
can generate a fine differentiated structure. Going from that undifferentiated state to a differentiated state is what captured my attention—the process of development. Plants are a convenient tool for studying development. Working with them has many advantages. We can do genetics without many of the moral or ethical underpinnings that come with research on animals. When transferring research knowledge from plants to animals, the conceptual strategies of going from undifferentiated to differentiated tissues are more or less retained, but the homology stops abruptly when we look at the genes that control it. Why Academia? Two advantages of working in academia are freedom to work on what I want and the constant opportunity to interact, help, and influence young people. I enjoy teaching in the lab and in the classroom. I can usually see when one person gets it. It is truly satisfying to see a student get excited about science or whatever I am talking about. And it is gratifying to see students move on. I look forward to graduating my first Cornell student. Biology at the Cinema I would like to start several new courses for nonscience majors. First, I have to get them into the science classroom. Once they are in there, they can realize that science, even plant science, is a lot more interesting
Scanlon at the lab with (l. to r.)Ryan Douglas, Josh Strable, Beth Takacs, Rena Shimizu, John Woodward, and Katie Petsch
The National Science Foundation just renewed our grant for $5.2 million for four years to continue our work on the developmental genomics of the shoot apical meristem. It is a collaboration between our group and five other laboratories begun in September 2008.
Research in Progress
than they ever thought. An example of such a course deals with how biology is treated and discussed in the cinema. Before the students watch a movie selected for its biological content, we talk about the biology in class—the actual real-life science mentioned, discussed, or spoofed in the movie. We then watch the movie outside of class
Living in Ithaca Out of the Lab. I grew up in the northeast, but it was not as extravagantly beautiful as Ithaca is. I lived in Berkeley for almost five years, and then I went to Georgia for eight years. Since I had not lived in winters for 15 years, I was worried about how I would deal with them in Ithaca. But the winters
The idea is to get people thinking. When they see something on the news or in the movies, they can discern if it is ridiculous or if the idea has potential. and discuss certain topics in class: Is it realistic? What are the ethical considerations? For example, who owns the rights to someone’s DNA sequence: the government, the insurance company, or the person? The idea is to get people thinking. When they see something on the news or in the movies, they can discern if it is ridiculous or if the idea has potential. Hopefully, they can better understand the science behind some of the critical biological issues that may come up in their lives and make informed decisions. Favorite Spots on Campus The arts quad has magnificent views. I love the suspension bridge. One of my favorite things to do when riding home is to go toward Forest Home and look down into the spot where Barbara McClintock’s old cornfield was. This is where McClintock did a lot of her Nobel Prize–winning work. The old field shed where the Emerson research team conducted its corn work is there. There’s an amazing photo we maize geneticists know well, and they are all in it: Rollins Emerson, for whom my building is named, and two Nobel laureates who worked on corn, including Barbara McClintock. They are standing in front of the shed in the cornfield. The famous photograph is in the book Maize for Biological Research. When I visited Cornell prior to becoming a member of the faculty, Steve Kresovich (Vice Provost for Life Sciences) knew that as a corn person, I would want to go down there. So we trekked down the hill through the snow—it was February—to the McClintock shed. This is my favorite spot. It is in part of the Cornell Plantations, which is beautiful.
have been terrific. They are beautiful. The summers are fantastic! I ride my bike to work all summer long, and I look forward to doing numerous projects around my house, like keeping the old barn from falling down. When I am not in the lab or classroom, this is what I do—I have enough projects to last for the next 20 years. This is my hobby, but I am also an amateur guitarist—I play blues and folk. I like to read histories; I like to travel; and I have four pets that keep me busy. Celebrating Winter in Ithaca. This place, Cornell and Ithaca, is fantastic—working hard to bring many activities to the area and to create new things to do, especially in winter. Cornell and Ithaca do much to overcome the feeling of “We’re kind of stuck out here.” In winter we have the weekend-long Light in Winter event, which is fabulous! And having the Chili Kick-off in the middle of winter when everybody is freezing is a wonderful thrill. You can suffer through winter or you can celebrate it. This town spends its energy to celebrate winter rather than contemplating how long winter may be. Ithaca’s Wonder. Any week or weekend, we can go to lectures, presentations, and museums on the Cornell campus, the Ithaca College campus, or the Sciencenter, or do so many other things. It’s unbelievable how much happens here. We can pick up Ticket, the events magazine in the Ithaca Journal, the Ithaca Times, or the Cornell Chronicle and read about a multitude of events. Plus, we have three excellent arts theaters.
en route, “I’ll be in New York, so I’ll plan on taking the train to Ithaca.” I said, “That would be great, but, we don’t have a train!” He replied, “I’m European. I just figured there would be a train.” The airport is good, but I will wish for one more thing in Ithaca. A train. I want an Ithaca–New York City train. I love to go to New York City, for example, to see a ballgame. The Last Word From Past into Future Cornell has a famous past, but more important is what is available here, now and in the future. Cornell has a wonderful legacy and a fantastic future—such great potential. For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://scanlonlab.plantbio.cornell.edu
About Scanlon Years as Cornell faculty
2.5 Came to Cornell from
University of Georgia at Athens Favorite spot on campus
McClintock shed at the Cornell Plantations Cornell’s research distinction
Innovation Cornell’s trademark
A legacy of inclusiveness—a founding principle of nondenominational religious preference and admission of women and people of any race I am also
A folk/blues guitarist Just a Train. Not long ago, a researcher visited from Germany, and he said to me
An Exhilarating Niche What Genes and Developmental Processes Are Essential for the Development of Specific Parts of an Embryo? MARIA J. GARCIA-GARCIA, MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND GENETICS
Disruptions in Embryo Development I study mutations that disrupt embryonic development in mice. When embryos die, I look at their defects and search for the genes that are responsible of those malformations. My studies are focused on defects that affect the embryos at their very early stages, when the embryos are just groups of cells that need to grow and reorganize to form an adult animal. I am interested in understanding how the embryo acquires its characteristic shape, a process called morphogenesis. We know that three basic mechanisms mediate morphogenesis: cell growth, cell movements, and cell specification. How these mechanisms are coordinated to generate tissues and organs during embryogenesis is still a mystery. The Parallel between Embryo Development and Cancer Studying how cells form parts of the embryo can reveal many things. For example, during cancer, cells can metastasize, and that process is directly related to one of the morphogenetic events we study. In one of the very early development stages, some cells separate from the layer they form and migrate. These processes of delamination and migration are very similar to the ones that produce cancer later in the life of the individual. Studying the
genes that regulate whether cells are able to detach from their neighbors and populate other locations can help us understand how to control metastasis. It is well known that genes identified as markers for cancer play important roles in embryo development. This makes mouse development a useful model system. My research group wants to know how genes control embryonic development. What do they tell us about how an embryo develops? What would this knowledge tell us about how cells behave? What is the correlation to human diseaseâ€”cancer, in particular? Embryonic Lethality Aside from its application in cancer, our research is also important for the prevention of human congenital malformations and miscarriage during pregnancy. All the mutations we study cause embryonic lethality, and therefore the genes involved likely cause embryonic death in humans, too. The embryonic defects that cause spontaneous abortions are very difficult to study in humans, since in most cases embryonic tissues are lost by the time women reach the clinic. Studying mouse embryos will allow us to identify those genes that are required for proper embryonic development in mammals. Knowing the genes that are important,
Research in Progress
we will be able to do genetic testing in parents and determine if they have a predisposition for an abnormal pregnancy or to carry babies with developmental defects and disease. This, which has been portrayed in science fiction movies, is starting to be a reality. Today, genetic testing is available for a myriad of human diseases. More knowledge about the genes important for embryonic development will translate into more tests and healthier babies.
Two other projects in the lab focus on mutants that affect how cells adhere to each other and how they grow. Teaching When I was a graduate student in Spain, I had some experience with guiding undergraduate students through their lab courses. This was a very gratifying experience that uncovered my calling for teaching. However, I always wondered if I knew enough, or I
Even though this process has been known for more than a century, the genes that control convergent extension in mammalian embryos had not been discovered.
My research group wants to know how genes control embryonic development. What do they tell us about how an embryo develops?
In an unexpected turn in the research, we discovered that one of our mutants had defects in the development of the placenta, a structure that mediates the exchange of nutrients between the mother and the fetus. Many spontaneous abortions in humans are caused by placental failure.
Today, genetic testing is available for a myriad of human diseases. More knowledge about the genes important for embryonic development will translate into more tests and healthier babies. It is well known that genes identified as markers for cancer play important roles in embryo development. This makes mouse development a useful model system.
A Mutant Called Chato We are currently working on three different mutants that affect different embryonic processes. We recently published our results on the analysis of a mutant we call chato, which means short in Spanish and refers to the shorter length of the mutant embryos. We found that chato embryos are shorter than normal, but growth is not affected. Rather, chato mutants fail to reorganize cells properly, so that embryos end up being chubby instead of elongated. We found that chato controls convergent extension, a process well known to promote elongation of the embryo in other model organisms. Even though this process has been known for more than a century, the genes that control convergent extension in mammalian embryos had not been discovered. We uncovered one of them, a zinc finger protein. My group is now trying to understand how chato functions to promote the correct reorganization of cells within an embryo. We discovered that chato also has a role in the control of placenta formation. The placenta is an extraembryonic tissue that mediates the exchange of nutrients between the mother and the fetus during pregnancy. If the placenta does not form, the embryo cannot survive. Many spontaneous abortions in humans are caused by placental failure. We are studying the defects in chato mutants to get a better understanding of how the placenta forms.
had to keep on learning. This way, teaching became my challenge. Luckily, my current position at Cornell allows me to do both: I can do research—continue learning new things—while I pass on to my students what I have learned. This influenced my decision to come to Cornell: I got job offers that entailed much lighter teaching loads in areas completely unrelated to my field of work. At Cornell I could teach in my area of expertise with a reasonable teaching load that still lets me focus on research—a full semester of teaching plus participation in graduate student courses and seminars. It appealed to me because I always wanted to teach, and it became the big challenge I wanted to tackle. Why Science? I was raised in a middle-class family in Madrid, Spain, and most of my family members are in business or industry— grandfathers, parents, and uncles. My father expected me to study for an MBA. He said, “If you want to study biology, you can do that, but why don’t you at the same time study for an MBA? And I’ll pay for it.” I asked, “Dad, why would I do that? I just want to learn biology.” Paradoxically, it was my Dad who always encouraged my brother and me to look inside of things and find out how they work. Not surprisingly, my brother chose the mechanical side of things and became an engineer. I chose the biological sciences.
Garcia-Garcia at the lab with (l. to r.) Chung-Sian Seow, Zhihong Lin, Elvin Wagenblast, and Maho Shibata
The Cornell Campus has beautiful architecture, but the one place on campus that I really like is the Mann Library. When I went to college and started reading scientific papers, I realized that science is a never-ending challenge with one puzzle after another to solve. It does not matter how advanced we may look today, there are years and years full of challenges and things to discover ahead of us. This thrills me. Feeling the Thrill of Working in Science As an undergraduate, I began work in an immunology lab because it was closely aligned with medicine, my original interest. Later, I searched for a lab in which I could better connect with colleagues, and I landed in a lab working on Drosophila (fruit fly) development. There, I studied neurogenesis with colleagues who exuded the excitement of working in science. This experience kept me in science despite the many challenges of this career. It was not easy to make a scientific career in Spain in the ’90s. In contrast, science seemed like a career I could pursue in the United States—it seemed like a professional choice rather than a professional risk. This propelled my moving to America for my postdoc studies and ultimately led me to continue my career at Cornell.
more hours working in the lab and still think about science once I am at home. I could not come to work every day without being intellectually motivated. Science motivates me. For me, it is a way of life, not just a job.
For my postdoc studies at Memorial SloanKettering Cancer Center (New York City), I took on the challenge of working with a different model organism and began studying mouse development. My postdoc adviser, Kathryn Anderson, Developmental Biology, had developed a novel approach to study mouse embryogenesis. It seemed a risky project, but very audacious. I frequently tell my students that during the first meetings I attended as a postdoc, people would come to see our posters with the expectation that our work would fail. However, I valued Kathryn Anderson’s courage for taking this approach, and I felt a thrill exploring where our research would lead us. Those were exhilarating times, and eventually we succeeded in our goals. This success allowed me to land a job here at Cornell and continue studying mouse development. I feel lucky that research has worked out well for me. Starting my own research group is a very exciting time in my professional career.
Looking Forward to … Everything! As a new assistant professor, recruiting and training lab staff and establishing lab methods take a lot of energy. But I am looking forward to establishing a solid research group here at Cornell and to making progress on our research goals. I am also looking forward to establishing research collaborations with researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College and other institutions. Science is very competitive, but the field of mouse development is an excellent community for collaborative work. Researchers share reagents and results—we talk to each other and develop new ideas together. I am eager to share my recent results with the scientific community.
Why Academia? Since I was a teenager, I knew I would never fit into a 9-to-5 job. I spend many
Favorite Spot on Campus The Cornell campus has beautiful architecture, but the one place on campus that I
Research in Progress
Living in Ithaca From City to Ithaca. I am a city person— always lived in cities (Madrid, New York). Although Ithaca is not a big place, it offers many attributes that I enjoy in a city, particularly good restaurants and social activities. There are plenty of things to do in Ithaca, but you have to look for them more directly than in New York City, where they are there for grabs. If you have five minutes free, you can do plenty of things in New York. Here, you have to plan ahead.
Everything Is Close. Everything is about five minutes away, and that is wonderful. The campus is unbelievable—gorgeous, fantastic. It is preppy, citylike, and at the same time peaceful and isolated. I wish that I could have been an undergraduate here. The Connection to Other Places. Living in Ithaca you have to go out to see the world, whereas in New York City, the world comes to you. I miss seeing tons of people moving about and the anonymity of it—I like that feeling of being no one in the crowd. Luckily, New York City is close. We go there frequently, sometimes using the fantastic Cornell campus-to-campus bus. Although Ithaca is well connected through planes and roads, it can still be difficult to reach, particularly during the winter months. Sometimes I wish there were more and better transportation options. Ithaca as a Place to Raise a Family. Everyone says Ithaca is a wonderful place to raise children. Now that we have a son, almost age one, we agree. The recently opened Cornell Childcare Center is a big help toward maintaining an active professional life.
really like is the Mann Library. Today, we do not have to go to libraries, because everything is on the computer and on the internet. However, when I began preparing for my course, I wanted to see what books and resources my students would be able to browse there. In this first visit, I was captivated by the study atmosphere of the Mann Library. Everybody is seated, studying, talking, or sharing something. The scene is intellectually stimulating. The library is beautiful and so well prepared for students’ privacy and comfort with small rooms and big open spaces. Now I sometimes go there to work with my computer. I also have a wonderful office in which to work.
About Garcia-Garcia Years as Cornell faculty
3.5 Hobbies. I have many hobbies, but the predominant one has always been dance. Since ballet, from age seven, I have continuously been involved in some kind of dancing. In Spain I did ballet, flamenco, and traditional folk dances. Then, during my postdoc in New York City, I tried tango and became hooked on it. Actually, during my interviewing circuit for faculty positions, I always stayed one extra afternoon to check out the tango scene and to survey places where I could dance. Ithaca passed the test—it has a lot of activities and fantastic dancers. My faculty responsibilities and the birth of my first son do not leave me a lot of spare time to dance, but I still manage to escape from time to time for some dancing downtown or here on campus at the Big Red Barn. Nature. Even though I miss living in a big city, here I have nature. Nature is important to me. Ithaca is an incredible location, with its lakes, beaches, and waterfalls.
The Last Word Moving Things Forward The place where you work plays a role in your professional future. It helps to be at Cornell, but ultimately it is you, your spirit and your drive, that moves you forward. If you have what it takes to make it, you can probably make it anywhere. Cornell is known for engineering and physics. I think this is Cornell’s signature. I am looking forward to experiencing how the New Life Sciences Initiative brings excellence and prominence to the biological sciences, as well.
Came to Cornell from
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City Favorite spot on campus
Mann Library Cornell’s research distinction
Engineering and physics Cornell’s trademark
Dynamic, intellectual place; beautiful campus I am also
A dancer, particularly tango
For more information: E-mail: email@example.com Website: http://faculty.cit.cornell.edu/mjg75
This Is Not Your Ordinary Ivy League How Do We Design and Make Robots That Can Mimic Every Aspect of Nature? HOD LIPSON, MECHANICAL AND AEROSPACE ENGINEERING/COMPUTING AND INFORMATION SCIENCE
Design and Make I look for ways to use evolution to design things. Robotics is the visible part of what I do, but underlying the robotics are two basic questions: Can we design machines that can design other machines? Can we make a machine that can make other machines? These are fundamental engineering questions. Engineering is about designing and making things. The ultimate thing we can design and make is the thing that can design and make other things. If we can do this, then we will have understood the underlying engineering processes well enough to automate them. It is the ultimate engineering challenge. As time moves forward, the kinds of things that the engineering community needs to design and make become increasingly complex. The only way to sustain this growth and complexity of products, the next generation of iPods for example, is by automating some of the processes. We must elevate the generic process from designing and making the products themselves to designing the processes that can in turn make new products. The Biology Connection Nature is my inspiration. Nature is always designing and making things through the evolutionary processâ€”through development,
growth, and learning. It is amazing. Its accomplishments dwarf those produced by the best teams of human engineers. If it is done in nature, however, I know it is possible, and there must be a way to automate some of it. Engineers can only do a small portion of this now, so we have a long way to go. While these questions permeate many engineering fields, we focus on robotics, as these represent a notoriously difficult, visible, and potentially high-impact challenge. Growing Robots You have seen plenty of robots in factories and in Hollywood movies. They are made out of rigid components, and while you might be able to reprogram them to do different things, the actual physical body is fixed. It cannot be changed. If something breaks, it cannot be fixedâ€”game over. Most of the products today are like that: their morphology cannot be changed. This is not the case in nature. Over a lifetime, bodies grow and change. If something breaks, it heals. If one muscle is used more, it expands. Over a developmental timescale, a baby develops and matures. Over evolutionary timescales, the body plans of a species change to match new environments and adapt to new tasks.
Research in Progress
How can we make robots that can change their physical structure? Grow? Adapt? We are trying to make machines that literally do that. We look at mechanisms that will allow materials to develop in an adaptive way—to heal, respond, and adapt to the situation. I am very excited about this project. The Body of a Robot We take two basic approaches to the problem: a materials approach and an approach based on small modules, or small artificial cells that join together to compose a structure. First, how do we find materials that are adaptive to their environment? We use 3-D printing to work with combinations of materials that together provide functionality. We build a robot like an onion. We gradually layer materials that provide structure, conduct electricity, and do sensing and actuation—adding more and more layers with different materials and in different locations to create a working device. We spray on these materials, and the object grows into a robot. We also build robots and machines made of very small interchangeable components, like cells in the human body. Humans live for a long time, but the cells are constantly replaced. New cells develop, and old cells die. Although our cells are constantly replaced, an individual—a collection of cells—remains the same person with every cell in the body having changed multiple times and none of the original cells left. We want to make a machine that does the same. We have various projects exploring how to make large-scale machines like robots from particles on the microscopic scale. We are trying to make components that are the size of a grain of sand. With a million or billion of these, we can make a machine. We can remove some of them or add more of them to get variability—the adaptation in shape, just as in nature. Even machines that can metabolize other machines and reuse their components—the ultimate form of recycling—are possible. Mimicking Nature’s Process How do we know which materials will mimic nature’s process? We start with a concept, and we try out different ideas. We fall off some dead ends, and these do not
get published. We go back to the concept, refine it, and try again. We are close to making a complete robot from raw materials using the layering process. We have been able to make robots out of large modules, using small modules, and now we can make them smaller and smaller and make more of them. Eventually, we want to make a robot out of a million small cells that can adapt and change.
I believe that the key challenge is selfreflection—getting a robot to create a self-model, an internal image of itself, so it can anticipate what is going to happen to it. When a robot has a representation of itself, it can use that representation to anticipate and react in advance, like humans who anticipate a consequence of actions, from moving a hand to more complex long-term actions. We are able to make
We build a robot like an onion. We gradually layer materials that provide structure, conduct electricity, and do sensing and actuation— adding more and more layers with different materials and in different locations to create a working device. The Mind of a Robot The first project I described was about the robot’s body—how the body changes. This second set of problems is about the mind of a robot—how the mind changes. How can we make processes that analyze and discover—processes that allow machines to change their behavior or adapt their behavior over time to new situations? This question has many different approaches. It is basically an artificial intelligence (AI) question, but it is interesting to try to address it in the context of a physical body, not just an abstract algorithm playing chess. Most machines of automatic systems currently adapt to things that are foreseen by their designers. If a robot’s designer-engineer foresees situations that the robot might need to tackle, then these are programmed into the machine. Can we make machines that can change their behavior in response to drastic new situations? Can they adapt to new, unforeseen situations? We are looking at ways to make machines adapt like nature—like animals that adapt their behavior to drastically new situations and opportunities, such as collaboration and competition. Envision this: A robot loses a leg, and it begins to limp, or it discovers a new opportunity that it is curious about. Can we make machines like this? These are common themes in science fiction. (You can probably name a famous robot with these attributes, right?)1
robots that can do this rudimentarily. We have a robot that can move and internally form a self-image—an image of what it looks like and of what it can and cannot do—and use these attributes to make decisions. The next step is to see if a robot can create an image of other robots. Humans collaborate and compete with each other because of the ability to understand other people’s intentions, goals, and actions. Robots are not capable of this yet. The ability to model oneself and others is fundamental in cognitive science, and I want robots to be able to do the same thing, which is key to embodying intelligence. This is our goal. How Far Along Are We? We have a robot that can learn how to walk by randomly wiggling its feet and creating a self-image. For example, is it a spider or a snake? In the beginning, it does not know. But it creates an internal image and then figures out how to walk. Then we remove a leg from the robot, but we do not tell it. The robot figures out its self-image, adapts, loses a leg internally, and begins to limp. We did not preprogram it. It is all self-image, and it is spontaneous because it creates a model of itself. Right now, this is only for locomotion, which is simple. We are working on robots that can look at other robots’ behavior and by just observing
Lipson in the lab with (l .to r.) Michael D. Schmidt, Jonathan D. Hiller, Evan Malone, Floris van Breugel, Zhi Ern Teoh, and Viktor Zykov
Research in Progress
them, anticipate what they are going to do and how to work with them. Our earlier self-assembling robots, the ones that could change their shapes, were made of only four large cells. Now, we are working towards hundreds of microscale cells. Also with self-reflection, we are now seeing robots that model their own thinking, a sort of mental self-reflection.
Machine Creativity I have been interested in machine creativity for many years. A lot of work has been done to make computers smart. They can play chess or drive a vehicle across the dessert. These are hallmarks of intelligence, but not the ultimate artificial intelligence we are looking for. What uniquely defines human intelligence? I think the ultimate
We have a robot that can learn how to walk by randomly wiggling its feet and creating a self-image. For example, is it a spider or a snake? In the beginning, it does not know. Biology, a Treasure Box for Engineers [A copy of Thomas Eisner’s book, For Love of Insects, lies on a table in the lab.] For Love of Insects, by Thomas Eisner, Neurobiology and Behavior, is inspirational. Biology is a treasure box for engineers. Just take any animal, and see the fantastic things nature has figured out. We are so far away from doing anything near it. Every page of the book is a potential research project. For example, we have been working on insects’ flapping and hovering in the same place. We ask, “Can we make something like that?” The answer resounds, “We cannot.” We reply, “Why?” Immediately our questioning leads to interesting speculations. What is it about how insects work that we cannot figure out? If we could, what kind of insight would we gain? One example is the undergraduate research project of Floris Van Breugel (now a PhD student at California Institute of Technology). Van Breugel made a flapping, hovering machine like a mosquito that weighed 28 grams. There are many fantastic phenomena— insects, animals, cells, and primates—across all scales that can give us ideas about how to do engineering differently. I think evolution is the mother of designers. We use very crude methods to make things in engineering— cut and assemble parts made out of single materials—whereas nature grows complicated structures with multiple materials simultaneously. We analyze that, and bring new ideas to engineering from nature.
challenge is creativity and curiosity. Trying to understand what it means to be creative or curious in a way that we can imitate has been a long fascination. Can computers augment creativity or curiosity? Can computers ask intelligent questions? Generate new ideas? This is the epitome of AI. How can we make computers with these characteristics? Undergraduate Researchers, Awesome in the Lab Cornell’s unusually high quality of students, particularly undergraduates, has been remarkably rewarding. If I compare Cornell to other top schools, certainly we have excellent graduate students, but what is unique here is that we also have undergraduate students who are encouraged to do high-quality research. It is part of the curriculum. I have students who come into the lab during their freshman year and do research all four years, almost like a PhD student. Undergraduate researchers are a tremendous help, especially for a new faculty, because recruiting students and finding funds for them is one of the hardest things to do, and we spend so much of our time on it, along with building and funding a research program. Having an abundance of high-caliber undergraduate students capable of doing research and with the time and motivation to spend four years on research is exceptional. Undergraduate researchers have done some of my best work. Their work has even led to a paper in Nature. These days in order to get research grants, we have to do a significant portion of the work up front—before we get the funds.
Nature is always designing and making things through the evolutionary process— through development, growth, and learning. My research lab designs and makes robots to test ideas from nature.
How can we make robots that can change their physical structure? Grow? Adapt? We are trying to make machines that literally do that.
We are trying to make components that are the size of a grain of sand. With a million or billion of these, we can make a machine. Machines could even metabolize each other.
This second set of problems is about the mind of a robot—how the mind changes. How can we make processes that analyze and discover—processes that allow machines to change their behavior or adapt their behavior over time to new situations?
Is it a spider or a snake? In the beginning, the robot does not know. But it gradually creates an internal image and then figures out how to walk.
Research in Progress
Having undergraduates to help produce results before starting the ultimate research is an extraordinary resource for faculty, and a tremendously beneficial learning experience for the students. Many of my undergraduates have gone on to do PhDs, accepted into excellent schools because of their research and published papers.
and security—flexibility, creativity, and at the same time job security. This is usually a difficult balance to achieve. People who are creative, artists and authors for example, often do not have much job security. They take risks in order to do the work they love. A faculty position, if you are tenured, offers both.
The suspension bridge over Fall Creek Gorge near the Johnson Museum of Art is an enchantment. I like to stop there and take a moment. It is so beautiful.
About Lipson Years as Cornell faculty
7 Came to Cornell from
MIT/Brandeis, Boston Favorite spot on campus
Suspension bridge over Fall Creek Gorge Cornell’s research distinction
Freedom to pursue unconventional research Cornell’s trademark
The union of Ivy League and state college I am also
An improvisational jazz pianist
A Better Way Before I did a PhD, I spent five years in industry—in the Israeli navy and then in the software industry. I saw engineers design and make things in the early 1990s. Although computers were ubiquitous in the workplace, they were very passive, like word processors for engineers. The computer-aided design tools could record engineers’ thoughts and ideas, but they could not generate ideas or ask questions. I looked at these machines and thought there must be a better way. If we could crack the question of how to make machines creative and enable them to ask questions, we would gain a lot of leverage. As designers in society, we could focus on higher-level questions and relegate most mundane day-to-day things to computers and do more as engineers. This was the seed of my interest. We have recently applied this concept to scientists as well. We created a robotic scientist of sorts that can look at experimental data and deduce the underlying laws governing the system. It has been discovering things we cannot yet explain. But this form of AI will certainly be essential in our ability to make progress in science in the future, as the problems we tackle become increasingly complex. Why Academia? My father is in academia. I remember, as a teenager, thinking that I would be anything except a professor. And here I am. I chose this way of life after having done other things. It is the best combination of freedom
Taking the Research to the Public Connecting with the General Public. Interaction with the public has taken me by surprise. Much of our research in the lab is done internally, but we put one of our projects, 3-D Printing of Multiple Materials, on the web as an open source project. We call it the Fab@Home project. We placed the blueprints for one of our basic pieces of research equipment online, showed how to make it, gave the list of parts needed and where to purchase them, and said, “Assemble it, and in a weekend you can have your own machine, print these things, and do research at home.” It exploded. Ten million downloads! For an academic site, this is a lot. Many people have built these machines at home, and it has been fascinating to watch. People are exploring, and they send us e-mails and pictures of their machines. This is a huge amplification of the research. I think there’s a huge potential for at-home research. Just as universities are making teaching broadly accessible, research will go that way too. We were surprised by so much interest in our 3-D printers for printing—something I never would have guessed. It is not robots. What do you think people like to make with these printers?2 When we put this technology in the hands of the public, we get new ideas. Although not every project is appropriate, I look forward to involving the public more in the future with our research projects. To allow the public to participate in these ideas touches millions of people, in addition to the students in the lab. By opening our research to the
would be the countryside. I enjoy living in Ithaca. It has character. A Deeper Experience. If I had to wish for something, then 40 minutes to one of the big cities would be my ideal. There is a saying, “It’s a hole in the woods, surrounded by reality,” which captures the essence of the area. Ithaca is isolated and insulated, but it is isolated enough so that we can rise above the immediate concerns of the day and look at more significant things. On the one hand, this insulation is good. On the other hand, because it is in upstate New York, it is connected to reality in ways metropolitan areas are not. It is authentic and grounded in a deeper experience. If I’m Not in the Lab … I am with the kids. I have two children, ages 12 and 5 years, and sometimes the kids are with me here in the lab. The Legos under the table are for all of us—the kids, the people in the lab, and me. A wonderful advantage is that my children can understand what I do in the lab. I build robots. I can easily explain my work to them. This is my hobby—the kids and my research lab. I also play jazz piano and love to improvise. The Last Word public, we create incentives for the new generation of engineers. Kids, Teachers, Parents, and Video Games. Marvin Minsky (MIT) said if we compare schools 100 years ago and today, we find they have not changed much. We still have the teacher standing in front of the students at the blackboard dictating information and students sitting at desks. If we follow the students home, we see them spend three hours gaming, using computers, and expending a lot of energy thinking while playing games. But we are not tapping this use of time and energy for anything useful. One challenge is to figure out how to harness this immense attraction and investment that the kids are willing to put into games for teaching and education. As we try different approaches to get kids involved in science, we are beginning to develop educational games that are really fun to play. The current software is mostly
“feel good” software for parents. Imagine software that kids can’t wait to play, and they do not notice that they are learning. To design this kind of software requires a lot of thought. It is hugely untapped and has lots of potential as a resource for teaching. I look forward to doing some of this work in the future. Favorite Spot on Campus The suspension bridge over Fall Creek Gorge near the Johnson Museum of Art is an enchantment. I like to stop there and take a moment. It is so beautiful. People drive a long way to get to a spot a like this. I cross it every day. The campus is highlighted with many spots like this.
On Cornell I have worked at many places, but here I really have fun coming to work. Now, what is it? Is it the atmosphere of the department? Is it the students? Cornell has become a personal entity. It is more than a job or a place. I feel I belong to it. Cornell has the ambience of a state school and an Ivy League school, of a down-to-earth sensibility and an ivory tower. It is an indescribable aura, and it is fun to be here. For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.mae.cornell.edu/lipson/ Video online: http://ccsl.mae.cornell.edu/ research/golem/golem480x240.wmv
Living in Ithaca Choosing Countryside over City. I enjoy walking and love experiencing the four seasons. Coming from Israel, I am still excited about snow. Although I enjoy the city and the countryside, if I had to choose one, it
R2D2 in Star Wars
Food. Yes, they like to print food. They will put chocolate frosting, peanut butter, cheese, you name it, into these printers and make food constructs. Some companies are interested in printing wedding cakes.
Body and Soul How Does Medieval English Literature Fit in the 21st Century? A CONVERSATION WITH MASHA RASKOLNIKOV, ENGLISH
What makes a career promising for you here at Cornell? I teach medieval English literature in combination with feminist studies and critical theory, fields that are not often combined, although I believe that they need one another to thrive. Cornell has a long, proud tradition in medieval studies, and I am very honored to teach here. In the previous generation, it was famous as a bastion of traditional philological criticism, the study of what medieval literature can tell us about linguistic history, and also of patristics, the history of the church fathers. In fact, my very office used to be the office of Robert Kaske, who was an enormous, internationallyknown presence in medieval studies. It was something else to take over that office, to physically occupy his former space, although he’s been deceased for quite a few years now! Cornell’s English department as a whole has a tradition of acceptance and inclusion. When the so-called “culture wars” started in the 1980s, at other places there was a fight about whether it was worth teaching the “old stuff,” like medieval literature—or the folks who taught the old stuff would oppose the inclusion of works by women, people of color, or Third World writers because they didn’t fit with a traditional English program. Here at Cornell, however, literary studies always remained strong and cohesive. My colleagues knew that the curriculum had to make room for new fields of scholarship but without
sacrificing traditional forms, that it is crucial to let English literature grow as a field but to also find a way to teach the old stuff, the canon, in new ways—to transform it and to give new groups of people access to it. Why is medieval literature important? I have to object to this question! While medieval literature is most certainly important, it is also beautiful for its own sake. The experience of reading literature because it is beautiful is crucial to the education of any human being. It does not have to be useful, and it does not have to get you a job. Sometimes students are “forced” by schedules or requirements to take classes in early periods, and they discover—and this is one of those discoveries I am always midwifing— how simply beautiful the poetry and the drama are. That said, I would insist that the Middle Ages is such a historically distant period that learning to study its culture thoughtfully and to read its works critically prepares students to encounter, process, and comprehend challenging new information, honing those critical thinking, reading, and writing skills that are at the heart of a solid education. What do you research? One of the reasons I became a medievalist is because I am interested in origins—where we come from. One can have a biological question
Research in Progress
about origins or a physics question about it. My interest is where our “selves” come from—our current idea of what the self is— which may sound like a question for psychologists, but often ends up being a matter for poets. At the basis of this inquiry is the premise that, if we know where we come from, we have the freedom to change where we are going. We become less bound to the things that are given to us when we can go back and analyze them. My particular
everyday people in the Middle Ages would have imagined their selves—as beings whose physical and spiritual needs were always fundamentally at odds with each other. I look at these works and ask, How did we, and let’s just take the Western tradition here, actually become this thing called a “human being”? Why do we imagine ourselves as beings that are split between body and soul, the carnal and the spiritual? Some feminist theory would say that splitting
Graduate students need careers, and they still study medieval literature … Because there are still interesting things to say.
I am interested in origins—where we come from. One can have a biological question about origins or a physics question about it. My interest is where our “selves” come from—our current idea of what the self is.
My premise is that literatures and cultures structure our “selves.” I explore how medieval people conceived the content of who a person is and how they organized and disciplined it.
This is fundamental: how did we become human beings in the Western tradition where people are split between body and soul?
Often in this work, the body is imagined as female and the soul is imagined as male. I trace this. I investigate how it works and changes over time.
focus of study is one that runs through all of Western history and remains of primary interest to modern theorists, particularly feminist theorists: how my body relates to “me.” I study this by examining medieval debates between the body and the soul and other writings that rely on personifying parts of the self in order to explain what it’s made of. How did you become interested in this area of research? As a graduate student I started doing feminist theory and, in doing so, found myself always interested in origins, going back and then further back to earlier and earlier texts, often encountering works that are just fundamentally sexist. The man needs to be in charge of the woman the way the soul needs to be in charge of the body—that cliché gets repeated over and over again in all kinds of cultural traditions. But I found it interesting. Where did this come from? How far back does it go? And, still, a lot of my work and teaching asks, What is the logic of this sexism? How can we unmake it? Does our modern idea of the self have to rely on sexist assumptions in order to exist? When you look at origins, what specifically are you looking at in literature? My favorite part of my current book is where I examine several fairly obscure 13th-century debates between the body and the soul. Not a lot of people have studied these, so there’s room for me to say new things and to make discoveries by examining them. These works speak to how
body and soul and not loving the body is the cardinal sin, the first sin of Western culture. I look at how this split came about. Often in these debates I study, the body is imagined as female and the soul is imagined as male. I investigate how that works and changes over time. It is not always body = female. Sometimes when it is not, there is no female at all. In the early poems, all of us have a male soul. So, that’s my book: it’s called Body against Soul: Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory. Its publication date is July 2009 from Ohio State University Press, as part of a new series they’re starting called Interventions: New Studies in Medieval Culture, edited by a scholar I admire, Ethan Knapp of Ohio State. I’m honored to be the first book in the series! In the book, I explore how medieval people conceived the content of who a person is, and how they organized and disciplined it. Tell us more about your book. In the subtitle of the book I use this very odd word, “sowlehele” (pronounced “soul heal”): it confused everybody to whom I showed the book’s cover! Sowlehele is a medieval term. It shows up as part of the title of at least two medieval manuscripts, where it seems to describe how the manuscripts should be used—in order to help heal the soul. My book doesn’t take on everything in these manuscripts. One of them, the so-called Vernon manuscript, is huge. It weighs more than fifty pounds! But it looks at how the idea of the
soul, as a being distinct from the body, is used in some of the works intended to heal the soul. This goes back to why I think medieval literature is important: how it bridges any divide between didactic and entertaining, healing and damaging, all at once. We used to have great debates in literary classes about the purpose of literature— didactic or entertaining—and the debate began in medieval lit. It did! Chaucer poses that question at the beginning of the Canterbury Tales. The competition of the Canterbury Tales is framed by the question, who can tell the tale of the most sentance and solas? Sentance means usefulness, and solas means pleasure, like “solace.” The key is to balance the two. In the classroom I make a lot of references to contemporary culture, as well as contemporary political references, and I work through current questions using medieval literature. For some students, the parts that are the solas—the sweet part—is the medieval poetry, whereas other students want to get us away from medieval poetry and talk about how it is relevant to the current crises in our country or whatever. Can you talk about perspectives in medieval literature that have been translated to contemporary settings? What comes to mind is Chaucer’s other well-known work, Troilus and Criseyde. Troilus, the main character, cries frequently because he is a romantic lover, and sometimes he faints. He is also a great soldier, and his prowess on the battlefield is never questioned. Anytime I teach this work, my students are horrified by him, and they call him unmanly or something worse. It’s interesting to watch female students in particular really come down hard on this character. I think Troilus is super useful to show the cultural difference of the Middle Ages. Clearly, his weeping and fainting didn’t mean then what it seems to mean now. But I also tell my students to look at what they’re saying critically. We talk about how hard it can be to be a man, if what you are not allowed to do is cry when you are in love for the first time. We talk about how limiting life is if you cannot cry. Another point of translating medieval literature to another setting with contemporary
implications is one associated with Piers Plowman, which was actually quoted from in the 1381 Peasant Revolt. Poor people staged an uprising because things were hard, and the laws of the land were strongly against them. The rebels seem to have included literate people who had read Piers Plowman, as well as people who had heard this book read aloud. We know this because they quoted it, and when asked who their leader was, they listed Piers Plowman as one of the group of leaders. This must have stunned the author, who was still alive at the time. Finally, the king rode out to meet the peasants, and at just the sight of the
interested in what knowledge is and how the “common sense” we have today was created in centuries past. But they do not yet know where to ask their questions. What am I going to do with the modern theory to push it forward? What is going to be my archive? I try to get the students who come with hard questions and who are not sure where to go to ask those questions. I tell them that in the Middle Ages, these questions are wide open. There are fields of topics that have not been studied enough and questions that have never been asked. You can still do groundbreaking work.
Although there are many things to love about Cornell, the first thing that comes to mind is the students. I have had amazing students from the very first day I got here. king, they laid down their arms: they believed he would do right by them. They were then killed by the king’s men. That was the end of the peasant revolt. When I talk about this work, it seems like a philosophical or psychological work. It doesn’t say, “Down with the king!” or “Let’s take the land back from the rich!” Although it was not a successful revolution, the revolt of 1381 was incredibly important. What was the role of Piers Plowman in all this? Is there, within this meandering, digressive, allegorical work some sort of message, like “you deserve better”? Graduate students need careers, and they still study medieval literature … Because there are still interesting things to say. What don’t we know yet? There is so much. For example, my next project may be on didactic writings from the Middles Ages, which is part of the history of confession and sin. There’s a huge energy in the field right now to look at things in a new way. The kind of student I often talk with—students who come to Cornell because they are interested in critical theory (this is a great school for that), feminist theory, and philosophical questions—are
And if you had to convince undergraduates to take a medieval literature course from you, and of its relevancy, what examples would you use? I would say, “Medieval literature is going to surprise you—it’s sexy, funny stuff.” I would tell them about the new interest in romantic love that emerges over the course of the Middle Ages—interest in what it means to love and in what love does to the person. Some say that romantic love as we know it was invented in the Middle Ages. I would get arguments from the classicists about this, but it’s certainly a theory. I would also say that today, we often talk about the Western or Enlightenment idea of the person, which is the idea of the self as an enclosed thing, independent of any influence from the world—like a little ball floating in space and closed off. In medieval literature, we can trace the invention of the human to before the Renaissance. (Sometimes the blame or praise for the idea of the subject turns out to be yet another thing we give Shakespeare all the credit for!) We can trace the idea of the human in the 13th century in the body-soul debates I study and teach— it’s just getting invented! Maybe, knowing about this, we can start to imagine the self in a different way. Maybe it’s something other than a being that can
Research in Progress
be divided into body and soul. We have been trying to liberate the Western subject from its self-enclosed bubble for a lot of the 20th and 21st centuries. But they were trying to figure that out in the 13th and 14th centuries, too! Think Terminator movies. They are trying to save the child who is going to grow up and save humanity, but you must save the child first. The origin is where you’ll find your answers.
We start with Caedmon’s “Hymn,” which is considered the first poem written in English. Supposedly, it was written by an illiterate shepherd. He describes a vision about the creation of the world. By inventing English poetry, he actually recreates the world in a new way. It is a beautiful feeling, to go back to the beginning of something, especially when that “something” is as complex a topic as English literature.
A little while ago, I had an undergraduate who pushed to take a graduate course that explored a highly specialized question: how to study queer history in the middle ages. It’s pretty specialized, so I would not teach an undergraduate class like this, which is why he wanted to take the grad class. I think, for him, this was a way of finding out his own past and feeling like he had a place in the world. For example, we read about Edward II, king of England in the early 1300s, who is killed because of his love for a man. This is awful, of course, but it also says such a man existed and loved another man openly. When I do a history of the self, I am actually asking a much broader question about legitimacy. There are people like us in the past, who are nevertheless radically different.
Why did you choose academia as a career? My father was a teacher of literature back in Russia. He believed that teaching critical thinking skills was a way to help people to be free, even in a totalitarian state. The value of education and the value of teaching is very significant in my family, dating back to my grandmother who learned to read by eavesdropping on high school classes in a small village in the Ukraine.
What are you currently teaching? Right now, English 201 is my exciting new class. I feel like it’s the class I was simply meant to teach—it’s all you ever wanted to know about English literature and were afraid to ask, from Beowulf to Milton. Because it is a large lecture class, if I make them laugh, I feel a whole wave of response ripple through the hall; it’s a real high. The course is not only for English majors but also for students who love literature, so I get a lot of diversity in the class, including scientists and engineers. I have a special affinity for sci-fi geeks, who are often in these programs—they really get why it’s useful to understand all about Beowulf fighting Grendel, and it’s fun to go from there to, say, the power of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The class is actually called “The English Literary Tradition,” and it runs the risk of sounding like boring, dusty old stuff. But each work speaks to our predicament today, and it isn’t hard to make this canon appear vibrantly alive to students.
I love teaching, and I love research. I would be obnoxiously bored doing any other type of job. When I was younger, I dreamed of being a writer, but in academia, I am a writer, I am a teacher, I am even sometimes an activist—I get to think and argue, I get to be a stand-up comedian and an actor. Because I teach at Cornell, there is enough space to be both a scholar and a teacher with as much intensity given to both as I have energy to give. What excites you about this place? Although there are many things to love about Cornell, the first thing that comes to mind is the students. I have had amazing students from the very first day I got here. When I had just arrived, one of my colleagues very kindly sent a brilliant but maybe somewhat obstinate student to me. It was a little intimidating having a colleague’s prize pupil in my class all of a sudden, and the student certainly challenged me to see if I really knew my stuff, making me think on my feet and sometimes come up with new insights right on the spot just to be able to keep up my end of the debate. That student ended up writing an honors thesis with me and is now a graduate student at another institution.
hobbies. What I do every day is both my hobby and my job, since in my teaching and in my research I have the freedom to explore what really interests me. But okay, I have a dog. I like film, both high and low culture, so I go to the Cornell Cinema and the mall cinema complex. I go to the opera in New York City. Is there anything you love about Ithaca? I love that because we are in a small town, I run into my students on the streets, at the coffee shops, in the stores. A lot of people enjoy the natural beauty of Ithaca, but I am a true urbanite. If you take me hiking and I am out of cell phone reach, I nearly panic. I cannot wear heels when walking up along Cascadilla Creek, but I like Cascadilla Creek. I like walking past water on my way to campus, and there are ducks. [Lots of laughter.] There are ways in which Ithaca has bent me to its will. Ducks! That’s kind of exciting! For more information: E-mail: email@example.com
About Raskolnikov Years as Cornell faculty
7 Came to Cornell from
University of California at Berkeley Favorite spot on campus
My office Cornell’s research distinction
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Behavioral Economics How Do We Incorporate Psychology into Economics? TED Oâ€™DONOGHUE, ECONOMICS
What Is Behavioral Economics? Behavioral economics is an applied science that incorporates ideas from psychology into economics. Traditional economics completely ignores the psychology of decision making. Instead, it assumes a rational-actor model: people care only about themselves; they know exactly what they want; they always maximize what they want. Most economists recognize that this model is not accurate, but it provides a good principled methodology that can be used quite broadly. A large literature in psychology, however, studies human judgment and human decision making. This literature documents many ways in which the rational-actor model is systematically inaccurate. Behavioral economics starts with these ideas. It then investigates how modifications to the standard rational-actor model might alter important economic conclusions. Immediate Gratification A major area of my research incorporates self-control problems into economics. A standard assumption of economics is that when you make choices at multiple points in time, you will be â€œtime consistentâ€?: if you want to do something in the future, you will still want to do it when it is time to carry it out. To illustrate, I often give the following example: if I want to work on a problem set next Saturday
rather than next Sunday, when next Saturday arrives, I will still want to work on it then rather than the next day. This is a standard assumption of economics. But a lot of evidence from psychology says instead that people have a preference for immediate gratification. When thinking about the future, you want to behave patiently, but when it comes time to carry out those plans, you indulge in immediate gratification. In my example, when Saturday arrives, my preference for immediate gratification makes me not want to do the problem set now, and thus I decide to delay doing it until Sunday. Procrastination I have spent a lot of time studying this type of procrastination. A preference for immediate gratification can generate a continual procrastination, where you repeatedly plan to do something in the near future, but when it comes time to carry out the plan, you decide to do it a little later yet. If a person does this again and again, the result can be severe delay. This conclusion highlights how immediate gratification could have major implications for individual well-being. While any one of these decisions to delay may not do much harm, if you do it over and over again, it could sum up to a lot of damage.
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In follow-up work, I study which types of situations are more likely to generate severe procrastination. For instance, consider situations in which you not only choose when to work on something, but you also choose how much effort to exert. You could put in a little effort for a small reward, or you could put in a lot of effort for a big reward. Procrastination might be
prone to order it. It may cost $10 and you say, “ Oh, sure, I’ll order it.” After you have eaten your entrée, you regret the decision because you are full, and it ends up only being worth a few dollars to you now. This is projection bias—projecting your current feelings or tastes on what you expect your future taste to be.
A preference for immediate gratification can generate a continual procrastination. The result can be severe delay. It could sum up to a lot of damage.… I study which types of situations are more likely to generate severe procrastination.
People have a preference for immediate gratification.… You want to behave patiently, but when it comes time to carry out those plans, you indulge in immediate gratification.
As you debate whether to buy a new golf club, in your current excited-about-golf state you think about how valuable the club would be if you used it today. Projection bias then makes you think that you’ll feel this excitement every day for the next three years. As a result, you value the club too highly.
I wanted to find a way to test projection bias using economic field data.… We eventually hit on the idea of studying the impact of the weather on winter clothing items.
We chose to study orders of durable goods from a catalog company, where returns could serve as a measure of regret in ordering.
Asymmetric paternalism: the idea is to look for interventions that will help the people who are making errors, but have little or no effect on the people who are not making errors.
quite likely in such situations. If your only option is to put in small effort for a small reward, you might just do it right away. But if you also have the option to put in large effort for a large reward, you might decide that this is what you really ought to do. Unfortunately, when you plan to put in a lot of effort, a preference for immediate gratification creates a strong urge to delay that effort until later. This starts the cycle of procrastination. Projection Bias: Don’t Order Dessert First I am also very interested in another error in intertemporal choice, which my coauthors and I labeled “projection bias.” We asked whether people are able to predict how their tastes change over time. Do people understand, for example, how being hungry versus full affects their enjoyment of food? We find that, while people seem to understand the direction in which their tastes change, they seem to underestimate the magnitudes of those changes. Consider the following example. At a restaurant the waitperson asks before you order your entrée whether or not you want a soufflé for dessert. You are currently hungry, and that soufflé sounds exciting and good, and you think it is going to taste great. You may recognize that after you have eaten your entrée, it will taste less good, but you underestimate how much less good as you become full. The implication is that you might be overly
Applying the Theory: How Excited Are You about Golf? In my initial work on projection bias, we did an applied theory analysis. We started with an extensive review of research in psychology, which showed projection bias across many domains. We then built a simple mathematical model of the bias and applied this model to several economic applications. One application was to the purchase of durable goods—goods that you can use over and over again. We showed that projection bias makes people overly prone to purchase durable goods. Here’s an example. You go into a golf store, and you are excited about golf. As you debate whether to buy a new golf club, in your current excited-about-golf state you think about how valuable the club would be if you used it today. Projection bias then makes you think that you’ll feel this excitement every day for the next three years. As a result, you value the club too highly. Later, your excitement about golf diminishes, so you end up regretting the purchase and having spent too much. Testing the Theory: Do You Really Want That Winter Coat? I wanted to find a way to test projection bias using economic field data. Another set of coauthors and I chose to study orders of durable goods from a catalog company, where returns could serve as a measure of regret in ordering. We still needed something that shifts around tastes in a
predictable way. We eventually hit on the idea of studying the impact of the weather on winter clothing items. The idea is this: if you are thinking about ordering a winter jacket on a very cold day, the winter jacket would be very valuable to you on that day. If you project these feelings on the future, you will overvalue the jacket and be overprone to order it. As a result, you will be quite likely to return it. We got data from a catalog company. We could see the orders, the day of the orders, and the zip codes. We matched these with the local weather. We could also see whether or not the jackets were returned. This is a key variable because the prediction is that people who ordered on very cold days will have a high probability of return. The people who ordered on very warm daysâ€”thinking
that the jacket is not very valuable and projecting those thoughts on the future, and therefore undervaluing the jacketâ€”are underprone to ordering it. This group will have low propensity for returning. This is exactly what we saw in the data. Asymmetric Paternalism: Helping Error Makers One aspect of behavioral economics that really excites me is its potential importance for public policy. I believe that most people are good decision makers most of the time. But there are some situations where people do not get things quite right. Is there scope for government policy to help improve behavior in these situations? When I started studying this question, a big issue immediately emerged. Because we still do not fully understand the prevalence
of errors or the severity of errors in the population, we must be very cautious in any policy proposals based on behavioral economics. It could be that half the people are making errors and half are not. And a blanket policy to help the people who are making errors might actually hurt the people who are not making errors. A tax on potato chips might help those who overeat potato chips, but it might harm those who eat exactly as many potato chips as they would like. Hence, we need to proceed in a way that we can be confident an intervention will do more good than harm. My coauthors and I suggest a cautious approach. We label it asymmetric paternalism. The idea is to look for interventions that will help the people who are making errors, but have little or no effect on the people who are not making errors.
Perhaps the simplest example is rules for default outcomes. If we were ever to move to privatized social security where people had to make choices about their own investment accounts, we would have to specify a default that applies if people do not respond. Indeed, even under the current system of company-sponsored 401(k) plans, companies specify a default that applies if people do not respond. Standard economics would say the default is irrelevant. If it is the right choice, people will keep it. If it is the wrong choice, people will immediately switch. But behavioral economics says no. Due to procrastination and other errors, people tend to get stuck on defaults. Note then the potential to conduct asymmetric paternalism. The choice of default will have no impact on people who do not make errors. And by choosing the default wisely and finding one that is likely to be good for most people, we can help those who are subject to errors. Behavioral Economics versus Marketing The difference, and sometimes tension, between economists and marketers is in their focus. Marketing’s focus is on how to sell things and what types of things generate sales. The focus of economics is welfare or social surplus, which does include firms’ profits, but also the utility of consumers. Often the two do not conflict. Indeed, with respect to consumer choice, a standard line in both economics and marketing would say, “There are no worries, because anything people buy, they want to buy. Firms that figure out how to get people to buy more must have created value.” However, behavioral economics and, even more so, psychology point out ways in which people buy things they do not really want. This creates a tension between marketing and behavioral economics. Marketing uses this research to find ways to sell more. Behavioral economics uses the same research to identify policies that might help consumers make better decisions, which often means to buy less. Personally, I want my research used to help people buy what they really want or need, and not to sell people more stuff. Widening Our Vision Several years ago, there were only a few behavioral economists around campus:
Bob Frank, Johnson Graduate School of Business; Bill Schulze, Applied Economics and Management; and myself. It was a strong base, but small. Over the last few years, however, we have been fortunate to hire some exciting new junior professors.
ways to get more undergraduates involved in experiencing what takes place in behavioral economics and economics in general. We need more courses where students can get hands-on experience in applied economics and actually work with data on a topic.
My office has a beautiful view to the west, looking out over downtown Ithaca and West Hill. I like to look out while I think, particularly when the whole hillside is red and orange. The Johnson School hired two behavioral economists, Ben Ho and Ori Heffetz, and the economics department hired another behavioral economist, Dan Benjamin. With these new arrivals, the activity level has increased. So have the interactions with psychologists. We have always had a research workshop that focuses on the psychology of judgment and decision making. Now we have added a second research workshop that is dedicated to behavioral economics. We also have a terrific core group of 10 to 12 faculty and graduate students, psychologists and economists, who attend both. This level of interaction at Cornell between economists and psychologists is quite striking. The very best behavioral economics groups are at Harvard and Berkeley, but they do not talk to psychologists there. The very best judgment–decision-making groups are at Chicago, Duke, and Carnegie Mellon, but the economists there are not interested. Cornell is unique in having strong groups in both behavioral economics and judgment–decision making, and even more, we are actually interacting with each other. Our vision is to leverage this interaction and move to the frontier of research in these areas. The 2009–12 theme project of the Institute for the Social Sciences will focus on increasing our interactions between economists and psychologists as we pursue this vision. Hands-On Economics for the Students I love teaching Cornell undergraduates. They are an incredibly strong group. I want to help revamp our undergraduate economics program to make it a more exciting economics experience for them. I want to find fun
From the Beginning I was an undergraduate at Dartmouth. Like most undergraduates, I spent my first year taking courses to find out what I liked. I discovered that I was most interested in economics and psychology. I carried this interest to graduate school at UC–Berkeley, but I lost this focus during my first few years. I wrote my dissertation on mainstream industrial organization. I studied how to design patent policy to stimulate industrial research and development. I published several papers on the topic from my dissertation. But in my last six months at Berkeley, I began talking to Matthew Rabin about behavioral work, and those months were incredibly productive. We completed two behavioral economics papers during that time and continued to collaborate for many years thereafter. That collaboration rekindled my initial interest in economics and psychology, which has been my focus ever since. Academia Confirmed Ever since my sophomore year in college, I noticed how much I enjoyed teaching. This is probably why I chose academia: I enjoy teaching. I enjoy helping and guiding students through their work. When I was a chemistry teaching assistant at Dartmouth, it was fun and exciting. After Dartmouth, I worked as a ski instructor, and the idea of breaking information down into pieces and stacking it back up to teach people how to do something was very satisfying. When I went to graduate school, I was confident that I would enjoy and be good at teaching. But I did not know if I was going to enjoy and be good at research. I gave myself three years to find out, otherwise I would move on. I found that I was doing well and enjoying it.
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Living in Ithaca Ithaca. One of my favorite summer events is picking fruit—strawberries, cherries, raspberries. I love fresh fruit, and I also use it to make ice cream. I missed this experience the two summers I was in Pittsburgh. Ithaca is also a wonderful place for taking walks, playing in the parks, and yes—shorter and easier commutes. We were shopping one day, and my wife said, “We did all of this today! In Pittsburgh it would have taken us three days to go to all of those stores.” What a View! My office has a beautiful view to the west, looking out over downtown Ithaca and West Hill. I like to look out while I think, particularly when the whole hillside is red and orange. In the summer when the thunderstorms come, it is fun to watch the thunderheads come in and slowly build, then the rain blows sideways into my window. In the spring, colorful flowers flourish. We were driving through campus one spring day, and my daughter, who is age three, was so excited by all the flowers. It’s True. Ithaca is just a bit isolated. We do not have government agencies or other major research universities within an hour’s driving distance to appeal to some academics and their spouses. When recruiting, we can have a very high caliber candidate who is excited about Cornell and wants to be here, but ultimately cannot come because the spouse has limited opportunities in town.
Ithaca Is Very Easy. Ithaca’s beauty and dayto-day life is easy. We love all the festivals that take place on the downtown Commons and the many mid-range restaurants to enjoy. It’s a fun community.
My Favorite Walk on Campus—One for Visitors I often take seminar speakers and other visitors on this walk. I come out of Uris Hall and walk across the Arts Quad, which is an impressive place. I walk by the Johnson Art Museum and, if there is enough time, stop and go up to the museum’s fifth floor and loop around to see the full view of Ithaca in all four directions, which is breathtaking. Walking out of the Johnson Museum, I go down the steps opposite it to the suspension bridge. I cross the gorge on the suspension bridge. If time is short, I come back across the car bridge to Uris. If there is enough time, I continue to the other pedestrian bridge just below the dam, up behind Martha van Rensselaer Hall, and back through campus by Mallott Hall to Uris. It is very impressive, especially upon seeing the gorge.
Skiing in Ithaca. I’m a bit of a skiing elitist. I grew up skiing in Colorado and Utah and Lake Tahoe (I was a ski instructor at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe). Skiing is just not as enjoyable on the East Coast. Our local ski area, Greek Peak, is far from the excitement I am accustomed to. But I expect that I will take my daughter there in a couple of years, and it will be more fun. Golf and Ice Hockey. My hobbies are golf and ice hockey. Ice hockey is excellent here. For years I have played in the local adult ice hockey leagues. It gives me a chance to interact with non-Cornell people. Golf is also very good here, but since it takes a lot of time, I have not golfed as much as I might like, especially since my daughter arrived. The Last Word A Cap on a Cornell Theme I am excited about the social sciences at Cornell. The breadth of interdisciplinary work is outstanding, and the level of interactions across disciplines is extremely high. In addition, the diversity created by having social scientists spread around campus with their own unique focus enriches everyone. Even within the behavioral community, I interact with people in at least five colleges. To have these different groups around campus who bring their own unique nature is unique to Cornell.
About O’Donoghue Years as Cornell faculty
11 Came to Cornell from
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Favorite spot on campus
For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.arts.cornell.edu/econ/edo1
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A Compelling Question Drives a Long-Term Passion How Do We Develop a Brain Stimulation Method to Improve Cognitive Function in Patients after Serious Brain Injury? NICHOLAS D. SCHIFF, NEUROLOGY AND NEUROSCIENCE
Beginning a Journey I have been immersed in trying to develop a brain stimulation method in the central thalamus to improve cognitive function. I can tell a sequential story of when segments of the work were published, but the research has had an ongoing life of parallel events. The same set of problems has taken me from my initial fascination as an undergraduate researcher through medical school research, my residency—which crystallized my ideas after observing patients—and the stated long-term goal in the first National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant I received, to my work to date. As an undergraduate, I did historical research at the Montreal Neurological Institute, working with the collected archives of neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield. The institute’s director recognized my interest and said, “Not a lot of people are interested in consciousness any more, but there is one neurologist who is still doing it. His name is Fred Plum, and he’s at Cornell University.” That stuck in my mind. I came to Cornell, and on the first day of medical school at the white coat ceremony, I met Fred Plum (professor emeritus, Neurology and Neuroscience). He has been a mentor ever since.
Photos in the article: Patricia Kuharic unless otherwise noted
Consciousness in the Brain—Acquiring Skill Sets for the Journey How do some areas of the central part of the upper brain stem and the thalamus participate in establishing and maintaining consciousness in the brain? It is a compelling question. After my third year of medical school at Cornell, I received a Howard Hughes grant, and I focused on absence seizures and the organizational aspects of consciousness in the brain. How can we learn about the circuit mechanisms underlying this type of seizure? I wanted to obtain a new set of skills—to understand how to do mathematical modeling of electrical signals and to think about what the relationship was to consciousness. I went to work on applied mathematics in the lab of Jonathan Victor, now the Fred Plum Professor of Neurology. After my internship in Chicago, I returned to Cornell to do my residency, during which I figured out a way to take the model I had been pursuing for seizure problems and turn it into a deep brain stimulation question: how might deep brain stimulation modulate perceptual function? I began writing grant proposals to fund the research that could be the foundation for setting up models to develop new therapeutics. Fred Plum, however, made another recommendation, saying, “This
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is great, but I don’t want you to work only in the lab. I have another project I’m trying to get started. I’m working with Rodolfo Llinás downtown at New York University (NYU) with magneoencephalographic technology, and I want to restart a program that we worked on in the mid-’80s. I want you to come and work with me on that, as well.”
a vegetative state, but every now and then would say single words. I said, “Wait a second, that can’t happen. That’s not the way it works—you don’t say words if you’re in a vegetative state!” We examined the patient, got the history, and talked to the family. They were very clear—this patient showed absolutely no evidence of awareness of anybody. But every now and
If we knew a patient was able to talk every now and then, perhaps we could get the patient into that state and hold the brain in that state. But could we get the brain to function in that state?
This patient showed absolutely no evidence of awareness of anybody. But every now and then the patient would blurt out a single word, usually an expletive in one of two languages, and it did not appear to be related to anything.
A sentence, not a word, is the unit of meaning in language. A word could be like a reflex, given that one can speak so much faster than one can think.
We found that turning on the brain stimulator, at first gradually and then effectively, restored spoken language, the ability to eat, and the ability to control muscles and to move. We can take a few cases and go through this process thoroughly … to understand how the patient’s brain changes, how their behavior changes, how the patient changes, and how the family changes.
Plum and I evaluated patients in nursing facilities and other places throughout the tri-state area. It was one of the most interesting periods in my training.
then the patient would blurt out a single word, usually an expletive in one of two languages, and it did not appear to be related to anything.
Tough on teaching and pursuing funding, Plum said, “You must know how you’re getting funded. You should write your NIH grant as soon as you have preliminary data.” I wrote at least six grants my first year as a senior resident. As I finished my residency, I was funded with grants and the conceptualizations of two concurrent postdocs. Working with Victor, I got preliminary data and wrote my first NIH grant seven months out of residency. And I got it! It was a training grant that set me on a path.
It was a remarkable case, an unusual story of a patient who had an abnormality of blood vessels in the center of the brain. Over a two- to three-year period, the blood clot had continuously ruptured and destroyed almost the entire brain. The parts of the brain that it had not destroyed were like a little model of the human language system— islands that preserved the expressive language, cortical regions, the underlying parts of the basal ganglia, and some very small part of the thalamus that we could not identify anatomically or metabolically. We knew these parts were still there because we could identify them using magnetoencephalography, which showed us that a signal was going to the right part of the brain in the auditory regions.
“Words without Mind” We went back and examined patients in the chronic vegetative state. We reestablished an earlier benchmark created in Plum’s lab—the first evidence that the vegetative brain functioned at such a low level, 30 percent of normal function, and that it was apparently anaesthetized based on a resting metabolism—and correlated it with the new technologies. We worked, particularly with Llinás at NYU using magnetoencephalography, technology that measures magnetic signals in the brain. As Plum and Llinás joined forces, I became the point person for the study. We eventually enrolled patients in the trial. The first patient we studied had been coming to the clinic every day for about 20 years. The patient was known to be in
This became our first insight that had not been established in the literature into the existence of modular preservation, islands of functions—even where there is almost no brain remaining—that could produce a clinically visible feature, a fragment of behavior. In this case the fragment of behavior was a word. A sentence, not a word, is the unit of meaning in language. A word could be like a reflex, given that one can speak so much faster than one can think. We concluded in a paper—“Words without Mind,” by Rodolfo Llinás, Urs Ribary, Fred Plum, and me—that what we were looking at was a modular
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Longitudinal measurements of regional fractional anisotropy over an 18-month interval following late recovery from MCS
We interpreted our results as evidence that structural reconnection of existing cells over time in a severely injured brain is possible. circuit that, lacking motor fixed-action patterns, produced words almost like a reflex. We saw how the first level up from the vegetative state with no evidence of cortical activity might look. On the Trail As we studied other patients, we found more examples like the word reflex case, but nothing as dramatic. A concordance among the measurements we made with PET scanners, magnetoencephalography, and structural imaging gave us a systematic way to study it. Brains can be wiped out or almost wiped out. We began to see that there might be fragments of behavior attached to them, which led to another question: what about the many people who were not in the vegetative state, but their level of function ranged from barely doing anything to being conversant? And this led me to the brain stimulation work. If we were to target patients for brain stimulation, these were the kinds of patients we might be able to stabilize in their best level of function. If we knew a patient was able to talk every now and then, perhaps we could get the patient into that state and hold the brain in that state. But could we get the brain to function in that state? Play It Forward, Play It Backward The first study I conducted after the vegetative work was to look at two patients with minimal levels of behavior. These patients were not in the vegetative state, but they could do no more than follow a command
Illustration: Schiff, Ribary, Plum, and Llinas, “Words without Mind” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 1999, 11:6; 650-656
inconsistently; we could not communicate with them. We took them through the protocol of our previous study, but added a study of functional magnetic resonance imaging in collaboration with Joy Hirsch (then at Memorial Sloan Kettering, now at Columbia University), using a paradigm the Hirsch lab had developed for anesthetized babies. We played spoken language—narratives read by relatives the patients knew well. Then we turned around the narratives, recorded in digital audio, backwards in time so that they could not be understood. Data showed that normal subjects activated not only the same areas of the brain to both stimuli (forward and backward) when they listened to each version, but they activated these areas more strongly when they were presented with the stimulus they could not understand—as if they were listening more carefully in order to understand. The patients activated the same auditory and language areas. In one case we saw almost the entire language system; it looked very normal. But when we turned the narrative around in time, activity shut down dramatically compared to the normal subjects. It was as if the patients alerted to the familiar voice and engaged with it. We could not judge that from the scan, but they certainly activated this network in both halves of the brain and in all the relevant areas of the brain. One of these patients became the first brain stimulation subject four years later. We studied this patient because the patient fit the profile—injuries to the central structures
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of the brain and inconsistent responses. We obtained data that showed a robust language system in this brain, even though it did not seem to be working properly. Wow! What had been occurring in the brain with these measurements was not transparent, and the findings raised more questions than they answered. A Miracle Man and Cutting-Edge Research at Cornell As the work with that patient continued to evolve, we had an opportunity to study a case that came to public attention in 2003. A man in Arkansas, Terry Wallis, began to speak fluently on his own for the first time in 19 years. One day his mother walked into the nursing home, and the nurse said as she did every day, “Who’s that?” And he said, “Mom.” Everyone was stunned—he had been silent for 19 years. About eight months after his spontaneous recovery, which was widely reported in the world press, we got a chance to study him. We did the whole series of imaging studies— PET studies, EEG (electroencephalography), and we added a new study.
another patient to determine whether or not this might occur in other patients.” When we published the study, it made the front page of the New York Times (as did our fMRI study). The Miracle Man Improves Further Around the time we brought in another patient to study who also had very unusual changes many years after severe brain injury, we were also able to study Wallis
We licensed this portfolio into a startup company, called intElect Medical Inc., which is partly owned by Cornell and mostly owned by the Cleveland Clinic. again. He had improved. He was gaining more control of his articulation and speech. His ability to form new memory, which had been nearly absent, was beginning to show changes. He was also starting to move his lower limbs, which we thought would be permanently paralyzed. When we repeated his images, we saw that the areas in the brain that had shown increased connection were still changing while measurements in most other areas in his brain were stable. We also saw new changes in another area related to a motor control system—a quantitative result. We interpreted our results as evidence that structural reconnection of existing cells over time in a severely injured brain is possible.
At the time, Henning Voss, a MR physicist at Cornell, had been working on diffusion tensor imaging, a modality of MRI. Diffusion tensor imaging enables a measurement of how water molecules move in the applied magnetic field. Instead of pursuing the interpretive aspect of this technique that involves using algorithms to create pictures of the fiber connections in the brain, we focused on the actual MRI signal, which comes in a three-dimensional volume. We quantitatively assessed the measured water movement in three principal directions for each volume. This allowed us a way of doing very precise quantitative structural brain assessments. We were able to assess the extent of the injury in the man who recovered after 19 years.
At the same time of our finding, a prospective study appeared in the journal Brain. It included 30 patients with severe brain injury who were studied over a one-year period showing very similar results to ours. Researchers discovered that in a cohort of these patients who were improving, brain areas showed recovery of the same diffusion tensor imaging measures, and some patients, like Wallis, actually recovered to values above normal.
We were able to show unambiguously that the patient’s brain was overwhelmingly damaged when we qualitatively and quantitatively compared his brain to normal subjects. He had the worst grade of diffuse axonal injury. When Voss and I sent the findings to be published, we received comments that said, “This is real interesting, but we want to see
A Story of Parallel Projects I worked with ideas about how these structures in the center of the brain might be doing their jobs. History told us that these cells activate during wakefulness and had something to do with consciousness in turning the brain on. But what were these areas of the brain doing during the time
they were most active? They must be doing something. I searched the literature for characterizations of the cells in this part of the brain to give us insight into variations in their activities during a wakeful state. I found two fascinating papers that had been done in the early 1980s showing that these cells in the part of the brain associated with activation and arousal played a role in eye movements.
Keith Purpura, a visual neurophysiologist at Cornell, had been working on how visual information was partitioned and the role of the eye movement as a signal to the visual cortex. Purpura and I began a discussion that nearly immediately led to a published theoretical paper, which became the kernel of my second NIH application—to develop an animal model to test our theory. At the same time, I worked with Plum to develop a program where we could do brain stimulation in humans. I also worked with Ali Rezai, who had returned to New York after a fellowship in brain stimulation and was set to establish the brain stimulation program at the hospital for joint disease in the Manhattan veterans administration. Our effort to get a VA grant to do brain stimulation in 1998 began a seven-year process of grant rejections, with split reviews ranging from “the best proposal I have ever read” to “deep brain stimulation would never play a role in dramatic brain injury.” But the work of putting together ideas for grants led to a more precise formulation about how to set up a strategy for doing the brain stimulation. Back in 1995 when we could not identify a source of funding to do the work, I had thought about the companies that made the brain stimulation units and contacted the Medtronic Corporation. I was warned, however, to get a nondisclosure agreement. So, I worked with CRF (now the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise, and Commercialization, or CCTEC) for a year
and a half and was asked by CRF to write a disclosure to protect the intellectual property (IP). Cornell applied in 1997 for a patent issued in 1999. In 1997 I had begun a collaboration with Joseph Fins, Medicine/Public Health/Ethics, which was incredibly important as we recast our approach with a focus on where it would be most ethical to apply brain stimulation. The team—Plum, Rezai, Victor, Purpura, Fins, and I—physically went to the NIH to try to get funding for both the basic and clinical work. After long meetings with the program officer and, later, rejected grant resubmissions, the program officer finally said, “Well, you just can’t submit this grant until you do it.” During the same time, the director of the NIH National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, which has its own subcommittee on brain injury, contacted me and said, “We have a request for grants going out, but it disallows surgical costs. However, you could write a planning grant.” We got an easily fundable score for the planning grant, but the same grant with the surgical budget submitted to the traditional review panel had received an insanely high (poor) score. The only way to do the surgical work, which brings us to 2002–3, was to find a way to capitalize it ourselves. Licensing the IP In 2003 Cornell began negotiations with the Cleveland Clinic, which was founding a company around the technology they had developed for brain stimulation tools, methods, and systems. They were interested in our patent portfolio, which now included a series of patents. We licensed this portfolio into a startup company, called intElect Medical Inc., which is partly owned by Cornell and mostly owned by the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic used gap funding to develop their own technology. Cornell agreed to license these patents and principles to the Cleveland Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic put up the seed capital to do the first surgery. This is how we were able to start the trial. Cornell and Cleveland then partnered with the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Center and Joseph Giacino, a neuropsychologist and expert in quantitative behavioral
assessments of patients with limited ranges of behavior. How the Brain Stimulation Trial Worked For the study, I wanted to get the patient with inconsistent eye-movement communication and language responsive networks in the brain we had studied in 2001 (published in the 2005 paper). The patient had been in a nursing home several years prior to the approval of the study. When we brought the patient back to JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Center, which had become the site for the trial, the patient was measured to be in the same condition as four years earlier, and therefore fit the profile for the study. There was a four-month period of reentry into rehabilitation, getting healthy and recovering from various problems, and then off to surgery. We had a two-month period when the brain stimulators were not on. We compared the behavioral data of the on and off states. We had a five-month period of adjustment of the deep brain stimulation, during which many things improved, and a six-month period in a trial in which every 30 days the patient was on and off the stimulation and blinded evaluations were obtained. Over this period of 11 months when the patient was exposed to brain stimulation, compared to the earlier six months of measurements when the patient was not exposed to brain stimulation, we found that turning on the brain stimulator, at first gradually and then effectively, restored spoken language, the ability to eat, and the ability to control muscles and to move.
Back row: (l. to r.) Keith Purpura PhD, Neurology and Neuroscience; Daniel Herrera MD/PhD, Psychiatry; Renee Kahn RN, Nursing Staff Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Center; Jennifer Hersh MA, Public Health; Erik Kobylarz MD/ PhD, Neurology and Neuroscience Front row: Stanley Goldsmith MD, Nuclear Medicine; Schiff; Joseph Fins MD, Medicine/Public Health/Medical Ethics; Shankar Vallabhajosula PhD, Nuclear Medicine
About Schiff Years as Cornell faculty
11 Came to Cornell from
What Is a Brain Stimulator? A brain stimulator is like a cardiac pacemaker—an electrode that goes into the brain tissue and delivers an electrical current. It turns on and off, and we in this particular trial turned it on and off at 100 cycles per second (hertz). One of the reasons we did this is because my collaborator, Dan Hererra, Psychiatry, developed a study in rodents on brain stimulation looking at the effects of gene expression and behavior. We found that if we stimulated this part of the thalamus at 100 hertz, memory function in normal rats improved when we turned on the stimulator.
Stanford University Favorite spot on campus
A seven-block radius around Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City Cornell’s research distinction
Collaborative environment Cornell’s trademark
A legacy of unique talent I am also
A hobbyist dropout
Research in Progress
Now That We Know We Can Actually Do This … We have a lot of work to do. We and hundreds of other people could work on this for at least the rest of my career or a lifetime—figuring out the details will take a long time. How much of the how and the why of brain stimulation do we know? We have increasingly better ideas about how it works. And the “whys” that we propose make sense: the geometry of the cell connections to and from the area we stimulate makes these cells vulnerable to any process that causes a lot of neuronal death in the brain. Their main anatomical specialization is that they are connected to very wide areas of the brain, and they have an important functional capacity to maintain activity that allows us to hold a behavioral set—to focus attention, allocate attention over time, or keep things in our working memory. These neurons are the most vulnerable to multifocal injury. Part of what happens after a severe injury is that, although these cells may continue to play a key role in maintaining these functions, they do it poorly. This is in part why people with severe brain injury are cognitively slow. They have problems being attentive, remembering things, and acting in the world and remembering what they are doing. At this stage of the technology, we put electrodes in the thalamus, turn them on, and leave them on. The brain cannot learn anything intrinsically from the signal we give it. But it can override the output of the cells so that they keep target areas in different parts of the brain active enough to better maintain the remaining processes that allow memory, attention, and the ability to sustain a task. This is how we think it works. It turns out that, if we keep the brain stimulator on for a while, even if we turn it off, the person does not go back to the previous state. Changes are occurring in the brain that are like learning and memory, like the natural recovery process associated with this. The process to figure out the biology of this aspect of our findings will be long. When we think about how this will work out as a scientifically based method in the future, it will be not only about electrical stimulation, but also about the biology of the response.
Next Directions What’s next? We have two major directions: one is to understand more and in finer detail why the brain stimulation does what it does. We can work with the tools we have, but we also need to develop new tools. We want to know better how to assay circuit responses. Victor is returning to do a mathematical analysis of the EEG, and we have gotten a grant together. Part of the grant
a comprehensive database for understanding how to handle this difficult area of medicine. Fallen Hobbies I have hobbies that I have not been able to do for a while, but right now, I am raising my two children. Running, karate, and reading outside my work are among my fallen hobbies. I have little time for anything except work and family.
To develop insights into human problems presented by disease, to understand their mechanisms, or to develop new treatments are the top three goals one could have as a biomedical scientist. will develop a center—at Rockefeller and Cornell—for the study of long-term recovery. Fins and I will codirect the center and look not just at the scientific aspect of the recovery of consciousness, but also at needs of the families and patients and potential goals. We are setting up a project to study longterm recovery following severe injury in which we look at the scientific biomarkers aiming to understand the circuit mechanisms and how the brain evolves its recovery pattern. Very importantly, we try to understand carefully what happens as patients recover and the impact on their caregivers and families. These are very tough problems. Sometimes we will find patients who make amazing recoveries, and everyone is gratified by it. Most of the time, we will find in-between cases. We need to understand the goals of care. What is achievable? What is not achievable? How do we communicate information? How do we communicate uncertainty? How do we help guide people, and how do we learn from their experiences?
The Last Word Only a Few Special Places To develop insights into human problems presented by disease, to understand their mechanisms, or to develop new treatments are the top three goals one could have as a biomedical scientist. To do this kind of work requires a very special environment. The word translational is thrown around a lot, but it is not easy to achieve. Having a topflight academic medical center in a city with one of the largest populations in the world and access to science and medicine with ease is rare. And because we do systems science, which combines biology with imaging research, theoretical research, mathematics, and physics, vast opportunities for collaborative research with the Ithaca Cornell faculty are yet to be realized. For more information: E-mail: email@example.com
Fins and his research staff interview and compile data on the families of our study subjects. We hope to have a routine where we can take a few cases and go through this process thoroughly day by day, month by month, over a year’s time to understand how the patient’s brain changes, how their behavior changes, how the patient changes, and how the family changes. We will build
Shaping Attitudes, Shaping Politics How Have U.S. Social Policies Changed Since the 1970s? SUZANNE METTLER, GOVERNMENT
What Shapes Citizens’ Attitudes and Participation in Government? I ask a key question throughout my research: When people experience a government program—for example as a beneficiary of the GI Bill (one of my major completed studies) or recipient of Pell Grants, or when they encounter a government agency such as the Department of Motor Vehicles—how does that experience shape their attitudes about government? How does it influence how they perceive government’s role and which responsibilities should be left to the private sector? How do these experiences of public policy and government agencies affect people’s participation in politics? Many social scientists study the social and economic consequences of public policy. If they look at social policies, for example, they ask: “Do more people go to college as a result of Pell Grants? Are there fewer people or more people in poverty as the result of the policy of study?” But we rarely ask how policies shape politics— how they shape the political attitudes and participation of beneficiaries and other citizens. In the middle of the 20th century, many people participated in politics at higher rates than their counterparts have in recent decades. Since the mid-1970s, we have seen a decline among young people
and low-income people. By the same token, more affluent people take part in more and different activities than in the past, particularly given the growing importance of campaign contributions. To what extent do these changes have to do with transformations in the role of government in people’s lives? The middle of the 20th century was a time of high economic growth, but government also did much more to help ordinary people weather times of economic insecurity and to move people out of poverty than has been the case in the past 30 years. Does this make a difference? Illuminating a Change in American Social Policies I have two large-scale projects under way: one on 20 social policies, funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, and one on higher education policies. I look at 20 social policies at the national level in the United States and at how these policies have changed from the 1970s to the present. They include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, unemployment insurance, Pell Grants, and also student loans. They include programs that are part of the tax code, like the home mortgage interest deduction and the nontaxability of employer-provided retirement benefits. I want to know how the real value of these policies has changed over time. How have these changes affected the attitudes of citizens about government and their participation in politics?
Research in Progress
GI Bill Users Participate More in Civic Activities and Politics I begin with the GI Bill story because of the implications for my two studies. Many people consider the GI Bill a landmark program in American politics. It enabled veterans after World War II to pursue more education or training at government expense—college or vocational training. How did this affect people’s participation
The Black Veterans’ Story I had to look at black male veterans separately. I reached veterans through their military unit organizations. The 87th Infantry Division, for example, gave me its mailing lists, and I contacted people. Because the military was segregated at that time, black veterans had served in separate troops, so I had to obtain separate lists for them. The big problem, however, for studying black
In the middle of the 20th century, many people participated in politics at higher rates than their counterparts have in recent decades. in politics? After people benefited from such a generous government program, might they become more active in politics, or might they have become dependent on government and be less active?
We rarely ask how policies shape politics— how they shape the political attitudes and participation of beneficiaries and other citizens.
I have two large-scale projects under way: one on 20 social policies, funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, and one on higher education policies.
Why are we no longer finding ways to keep expanding access to college education, as we did in the middle of the 20th century? Who are the culprits?
When people leave college $25,000 in debt, they may not feel grateful to government and ready to go out and be active citizens as a result.
It is interesting how policies, once established, shape politics. I examine this at organizational and individual levels.
Tax expenditures reinforce the idea that we are separate individuals rather than a society with obligations to each other.
I studied veterans who used the GI Bill and those who did not use the GI Bill. I did interviews nationwide and a survey of World War II veterans. These allowed me to combine statistical and qualitative analysis to understand what the GI Bill meant in veterans’ lives, or if they did not use it, why not? When I controlled for all other factors, the GI Bill was highly significant as a determinant of subsequent participation in civic activities. If there were two nonblack male veterans—black veterans have a different story—with the same level of education, the same socioeconomic background in childhood, and both served in the war, but one of them used the GI Bill for their education and training and one of them did not, the GI Bill user went on to participate in 50 percent more civic organizations during the middle of the 20th century and 30 percent more political activities. It turns out that they became “good citizens.” I sought to undercover how that had come about. Why? I found that they received the message through the GI Bill program that government was for people like them, and they participated at higher rates as a result. Government was relevant to their lives and made a big different for them. Many said, “I never would have gone to college had it not been for the GI Bill.”
veterans was life expectancy—they were dying sooner than white veterans. When I did this research beginning in 1998, it was 50 years after World War II and already too late to reach a representative sample of black veterans. I got as many lists as I could and ended up with a small sample of about 120 black veterans, whom I surveyed. Because this was not a representative sample, I had to use the data very cautiously. Using the data as best I could, it showed that among black male veterans, everyone who had gone to college used the GI Bill. This meant I did not have a control group, but it was instructive. Black veterans tended to have grown up in worse socioeconomic circumstances than the white veterans, and they would not have gotten an education— period—had it not been for the GI Bill. For them it was hugely important. But then I found that black veterans who had used the GI Bill became very active in civic life later on at a much higher rate than the black non–GI Bill users and at a higher rate than the white GI Bill users. They became tremendously involved from 1950 to 1964 in the Civil Rights movement. Then, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, those same individuals became active in formal politics. A Period of Rising Economic Inequality Up until now, in my historical research, I have examined the middle of the 20th century. The two new projects focus on the period from 1973 to the present, which has been a period of rising economic inequality
in the United States. For this period of time, I study how policies have affected people’s lives, how policies change, and how they affect people’s attitudes about government. 20 Social Policies I look at people’s participation in 20 social programs and how these programs have affected their rate of participation in a wide range of civic activities: voting, working on campaigns, serving on local boards, or protesting. The differences among generations of people are wide. For younger citizens, government has been less present in their lives, therefore it is less relevant to them, and they participate less, particularly young people with less education—those who have not gone to college and have lower incomes. My hypothesis is that there are three main experiences, each related to a different group of policies: direct benefits that remain strong; direct benefits that have deteriorated; and tax breaks, which have grown more
generous. The first category covers policies mostly for elderly people such as Social Security and Medicare, in which policies are as generous today as they were in the early 1970s. Social Security has cost-ofliving adjustments. It has maintained its value over time, and elderly people participate at the highest rates of anybody in the United States with no decrease over time. Government continues to be important in their lives. A very high proportion of the incomes of low- to moderate-income elderly people comes from Social Security. It is no mystery that government matters, so they get out and vote. People who are not senior citizens have different experiences depending on their income group. For most low- to moderateincome people, the policies that really matter are direct, visible programs, such as unemployment insurance, Pell Grants, and welfare. Many of these policies have deteriorated in real value over time because they do not have cost-of-living adjustments.
Congress has to decide, for example, whether to increase unemployment insurance. Incomes of low- to moderate-income people have not improved much, and some have declined. Government has not picked up the slack. For these people, government has likely seemed less present in their lives than it did for past generations. For high-income people, the social programs that are most beneficial are tax expenditures, such as the home mortgage interest deduction programs. We may think of the home mortgage interest deduction as a great program that helps people to buy homes, but the biggest amount of money in the program goes to the most affluent people— the tax break is for a home up to $1.1 million. These folks may be saving up to $21,000 on their taxes, whereas the average family in the upper middle class is saving $1,500. Most people who own homes do not qualify for the benefit because they are not itemizing on their taxes, so they receive nothing.
Except for the earned income tax credit, which is for low-income people, major tax expenditures have become more upwardly distributed for the highest income people and have actually grown over time. Does this make them better citizens? Are they becoming more active in politics as a result? My hypothesis is that this is not the case. Student loans are in the hidden welfare state. When I talk to students in my class about student loans, they say, “Well, that’s not a government benefit. It’s the banks that give student loans.” Yes, they are financed by government subsidies, but when people leave college $25,000 in debt, they may not feel grateful to government and ready to go out and be active citizens as a result. My hypothesis is that this may change their attitude and makes them more resentful of government. Tax expenditures reinforce the idea that we are separate individuals rather than a society with obligations to each other, while Social Security gives the message that we are in this together. I will be exploring these ideas through analysis of survey data and interviews over the next two years. Conducting the Research The survey is a random sample covering 1,000 people nationwide, 20 programs, and 400 additional people. I oversample lowincome people and young people, because both groups are hard to reach and both are essential for my research. I conduct in-depth interviews of people around the country from all of these different age groups. I will do about 35 interviews for the 20 social programs project; these will help me understand what the statistical trends mean in the lives of individuals. Sometimes I come across something in my data as I crunch the numbers, and I do not understand what it means. I can look back at the interviews, which enlighten the analysis and give the numbers meaning. The combination of qualitative and quantitative research makes for an interactive process. The interviews give context and help me write a more interesting book, because I can tell stories of people’s lives. Higher Education Policies—A Whodunit Why are we no longer expanding access to
college education the way we did in the middle of the 20th century? From the creation of the GI Bill in 1944 up through Pell Grants in the early 1970s, we were enabling more and more people from across the income spectrum to go to college in the United States. Since 1980, there are more people than ever going to college, but the increases come predominantly from families in the most affluent income quartile. Higher education is now reinforcing class stratification in American society,
people, so it was easier not to respond to them. However, young people participated more in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections than has been the case in a long time, and Congress does seem to be paying more attention to them now as a result. It is also interesting how policies, once established, shape politics. I examine this at organizational and individual levels. I investigate whether policies promote activities among certain organizations and discourage it among other kinds of organizations.
I remember that toward the end of my senior year in college, everyone else was becoming happier as they were counting the days until graduation—but I was becoming sadder. I thought, “It does not get any better than this.” rather than mitigating it. This is very disturbing, given that a college degree and subsequent job opportunities are more important than ever. Although equal opportunity is an American ideal, we are not making it a reality today through the higher education policy. This study asks why. What has changed? I am looking across the political system—it is like a whodunit story. Who are the culprits? First, I look at public opinion. Has public opinion changed? Are people less supportive of expanding access to higher education today? Are they less supportive of equal opportunity? The short answer is no. Americans are as supportive of these things as they were in the early 1970s. So I have to look elsewhere. I explore a wide range of possibilities. I have conducted interviews in Washington, D.C., with policy makers and people who work in interest groups. I use established survey data from the past, as well as the survey I conducted in the summer of 2008. I am conducting about 35 interviews with people in their 20s and 30s, asking about their college experience, why they did not go to college, or why they dropped out. Young people participated in politics at high rates in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was during that time period when we had our most generous policies for college students. During the 1980s and 1990s, elected officials did not hear as much from young
Why Are the Students Silent? In 1972, policy makers established Sallie Mae, the government-sponsored agency, because institutions were reluctant to make loans to students then. Over time, Sallie Mae became very successful. In recent years, the nation’s highest reimbursed CEO was Sallie Mae’s, because of the number of students going to college and because the government gives Sallie Mae generous subsidies and many incentives to loan money to students. Now Sallie Mae is a private firm, trading on Wall Street. The same is true of many banks that loan to students: their profits over the past 15 years have been tremendous. Our public policies have encouraged this development, and they have also helped facilitate lenders’ political activities. Sallie Mae and other lenders have become very active over the past 15 years in lobbying and campaign finance contributions. By contrast, you may ask, “What about students? Are they organized?” One group, the United States Student Association, has long been active in Washington, but they have very small numbers and a declining membership. Relative to the lenders, theirs is not a well-heard voice in Washington. The federation of public interest research groups, the U.S. PIRG, also works on these issues, but they also have much less power and voice than the lenders. I examine these kinds of organizational effects as well as what is happening in Congress.
Research in Progress
Remaking America My book with Joe Soss and Jacob Hacker, Remaking America: Democracy and Public Policy in an Age of Inequality (Russell Sage Foundation, 2007), has both a theoretical and a substantive significance. Theoretically, the book advances policy-centered research. Political scientists, ironically, have not studied public policy all that much—sociologists and economists study it more. Joe, Jacob, and I think public policy needs to be put front and center. We can better understand the political system by studying public policy and how it has changed over time. It is a prism through which we can understand what is happening more broadly and how power relations work. The book gauges, in a period of rising economic inequality, to what extent government is responding. To what extent is government part of the solution? How did public policy play into this trend of rising economic inequality? Connecting Academic Political Scientists and Policy Makers to Effect Change The connection between what most of us do in academia and policy makers is remote. Certainly our greatest impact is on our students, through teaching, advising, and mentoring. But in addition, I seek out scholarly projects that have relevance to social and political problems in the United States today, and I attempt to draw out those linkages in my work. When my GI Bill book came out, I appeared on numerous radio programs, and I wrote op-ed pieces. I focused on lessons that the historical story had for the present, on what it tells us about the role of government in people’s lives today relative to the past. In recent years, I also served on a task force on inequality in American democracy, a group convened by our professional organization, the American Political Science Association. This group recently returned to a practice it had 50 years ago, which was to set task forces in place to speak to broad public issues and to make connections between scholarship and politics. Choosing Academia Academia is where I thrive. I remember that toward the end of my senior year in college, everyone else was becoming happier as they were counting the days until graduation—
but I was becoming sadder. I thought, “It does not get any better than this.” I loved having the opportunity to think, to read, and to write. After graduating I worked in Washington a few years for a citizen lobbying group, and I enjoyed that. It was my bridge to practical politics. But I found that I most like being able to ask big questions, thinking about them, and bridging that activity together with practical concerns about public policies. At that point, I realized that I was drawn to pursue a PhD. So here I am in academia, and I love it! I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job I enjoy so much, and I am amazed by the satisfaction I derive from teaching and research. I get to do these things for a living! A Journey over Time Cornell is so large, and so much is happening across the campus that I feel like I am now just starting on a journey to get to know people and to affiliate with Cornell’s institutes. I am a member of the Center for the Study of Inequality. I am excited about the activities of the Higher Education Research Institute, run by Ronald Ehrenberg. I look forward to getting to know the people in Policy Analysis and Management who will have similar interests to my own. One could be at Cornell for a very long time and still find new ways to engage intellectually with scholars across campus. What I Love about Ithaca Ithaca. The area is beautiful. It is one of my favorite towns. It is pleasant to be in an academic institution that’s in a small town. One of our advantages is that because we are in Ithaca, we are less frenzied than people in more urban environments. We are able to give students more attention because of this—to be present to students more. Private Time. The rest of my life goes to my family—two daughters and a husband. We actually live in Syracuse, but we have always taken day trips to Ithaca. We love coming to Ithaca in the summer to swim and enjoy the lake, hike to the waterfalls, and go to the farmers’ market. We can’t leave town without visits to the Ithaca Bakery and of course, Purity Ice Cream. My favorite thing to do in Ithaca is swim in the lake at Taughannock Falls State Park. It has such beautiful clear, clean water. Ithaca has
always been a fun getaway for us. So now I work in a place that is a getaway location. The Cornell Campus. I love the suspension bridge. It’s fascinating to go there as the seasons change. In the winter, when there’s a ton of ice on the walls of the gorge, it’s very dramatic. On a windy day, walking across it is quite exciting—it gets your adrenaline flowing. And in summer, it’s astounding. On a hot day, you’ll see lots of students below, sunning on the rocks. The whole scene changes so spectacularly. The Last Word On the Move I did my PhD in government at Cornell in 1994. I was a faculty member at Syracuse University until 2007, when I returned to Cornell. Upon returning I found a more dynamic institution, particularly apparent with the new emphasis on the social sciences. Cornell is on the move, and it is an exciting time to return and be part of it. For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Mettler Years as Cornell faculty
2 Came to Cornell from
The Maxwell School, Syracuse University Favorite spot on campus
Fall Creek Suspension Bridge Cornell’s research distinction
Bringing together tradition and innovation Cornell’s trademark
The blend of excellence, relevance, and accessibility. Ezra put it best: any person can find instruction in any study. I am also
Working in one of my favorite getaway locations
Signaling a New Path How Do Proteins Do Their Jobs? A CONVERSATION WITH HOLGER SONDERMANN, MOLECULAR MEDICINE
I noticed how you photographed your drive from Berkeley to Ithaca. What did you think once you got here? Ithaca was a surprise for me. I had been interviewing for academic positions in Europe and in the States. Ithaca was at the end of my interviews. Although I enjoyed the process and meeting people, I was exhausted after flying back and forth. Once I left the plane, Ithaca grew on me very rapidly. Because I am accustomed to big cities, I was surprised by how many features of a big city Ithaca has, but yet it is affordable and pleasant.
methodology. Cornell is a unique campus where we have a very strong collaborative focus between these kinds of groups, which is not found at a typical medical school. The strong physicists and the strong chemists are not at a medical school. You find them at basic research universities. Cornell is an exception because so many of these areas are strong. This is what attracted me. It is similar to Berkeley—kind of like the old crowd I interacted with there. I also liked that Ithaca is similar to Berkeley, but more affordable.
I was at Rockefeller University in New York City for three months, and then the lab moved to Berkeley. I was at UC–Berkeley four years before coming to Cornell. I prioritized and applied for positions where I could see myself living and working. Prior, I had interviewed at the Max Planck Institute, a major university in Munich, and a research institute in Basel, Switzerland.
What differentiated Cornell from the other research institutions? I knew about the work of a lot of people at Cornell before I came just from the literature: Barbara Baird (Chemistry and Chemical Biology), Jerry Feigenson (Molecular Biology and Genetics), Rick Cerione (Molecular Medicine), Ruth Collins (Molecular Medicine), and Watt Webb (Applied and Engineering Physics). I knew about the academic strength of Cornell—the trigger came when I interviewed and saw that everybody was talking and working with each other, and I liked that idea. The synchrotron was another big factor. I do structural biology, and the synchrotron is an essential asset to my research. I wanted to be where my work is facilitated by facilities, as well.
What got you thinking Cornell? What made it promising to come here? I like to be at a place where the biologists can talk to physicists and chemists, and the chemists are not afraid to collaborate with the biologists. I want the way we think about and approach biology and science in general to be interdisciplinary at the interface of method development and cutting-edge, forward-driving
Research in Progress
Deciding to come to Cornell was a nobrainer in the end. It was the best in terms of scientific environment and personal preferences. And to try out a smaller town would be a positive challenge. What is your research? What questions are you seeking to answer? I study cell signaling. Within signaling, I study how proteins work, particularly proteins that have multiple modules—we call
the framework of how it can be applied in biomedical sciences. One application is to use this pathway—when we understand it a bit better—as a point of intervention for designing new drugs against the pathway, preventing the biofilm formation, which is linked to many chronic infections. If we can prevent this growth type from occurring, we might be able to treat chronic infections better or prevent them. As we study these enzymes, we think about controlling the
I was in a high-profile group doing exciting stuff—immersed in the lab with good postdocs, students, and very good mentors. I started to feel, “This is a life I enjoy.”
Bacteria can settle on the surface and form a little film. They live within this community, which is sometimes referred to as a social life form of bacteria because the bacteria talk to each other and interact. We study the signaling pathway that triggers this life form.
If we can prevent this growth type from occurring, we might be able to treat chronic infections better or prevent them.
We have a publication describing one of the enzymes, WspR for “wrinkly spreading phenotype R,” which creates a second messenger in the cell that triggers the switch in life form. We solved the crystal structure of this enzyme … which told us a lot about how it is regulated.
We do everything in the lab up to the state where we get a protein crystal. When Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) is in operation, we go down the road and shoot our crystals.
them protein domains. How is a protein regulated? How does it know when it should be on? When does it know it should be off? How is it regulated to switch between on and off states? My research group and I look at two specific areas. One area is a bacterial signal transduction pathway, which controls social behavior and virulence of bacteria. We use structural biology, enzymology, and cell biology to study how the signaling molecule in the cell is regulated, how cues are set up to trigger the production of the signaling molecule, how it is degraded, how the signal is turned off, and how this relates to the biology. Associated with bacteria is a specific phenotype, a growth form, called biofilm formation. This means that bacteria can settle on the surface and form a little film. They live within this community, which is sometimes referred to as a social life form of bacteria because the bacteria talk to each other and interact. We study the signaling pathway that triggers this life form, its differentiation switch. Although we work with pseudomonas, this activity applies to almost every bacteria out there. We work with pseudomonas because it is an opportunistic pathogen, which is found in cystic fibrosis and burn wound patients, and it has relevancy for treatment and for infectious biology. How will your research be applied? Our research is basic, but we think about
switch between the free-swimming life form and the biofilm-based life form. By understanding how this switch is mediated, we may find new avenues to block it and therefore battle chronic infections. What progress have you made? We have a publication describing one of the enzymes that creates a second messenger in the cell and triggers the switch in life form. The enzyme is called WspR for “wrinkly spreading phenotype R,” which is an annotation for a specific type of gene. It describes the morphology of bacteria colonies when we mutate a gene of this class or family of proteins. We solved the crystal structure of this enzyme in a particular state, which told us a lot about how it is regulated. The focus of our story is this: once the protein has been activated, what route does it take to be inactivated again? We mapped out the pathway, biophysically and biochemically, illustrating how the enzyme shuts off to lose its activity again once the cell has produced the signaling molecule that triggered a certain phenotype. We learned a little about ways in which it might be reactivated in the cell when it is needed again. This is generic basic research. We formed the question and phrased a hypothesis about how we think this enzyme works and how it is regulated. We do biochemical enzymology, maybe solve more crystal
Sondermann in the lab with (l. to r.) Thomas Payne, Marcos Navarro, and Qi Wang
structures to understand the different states of the protein, and then paste them together to understand the pathway. If we think about a switch and toggling a switch, the question is, what does it take to toggle the switch back in order to turn it off? Sometimes it is a rather simple switch with two states, but in this case, it is a sophisticated mechanism where the enzyme integrates multiple input allowing it to tune its activity. It has a lot of input to create the decision: do I turn off or do I stay on? This is protein chemistry, very basic, but we answer the questions so that eventually the research can be applied. How do you use the synchrotron in your research? We do everything in the lab up to the state where we get a protein crystal. When Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) is in operation, we go down the road and shoot our crystals. These experiments are called diffraction experiments. We take the crystal of our protein of choice that we grow in the lab, go the synchrotron, mount it, shoot it with the x-rays, and take the data back to the lab to work with it. The data are images—pictures with a lot of dark spots—diffraction spots, which represent the position of the electrons in our crystal. High electron density marks where the protein is and provides the coordinates of the atoms. We process the data in the computer and solve the structure. We get an electron density map calculated from the diffraction patterns, and then it is a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. We see the density on the screen, which is like a sausage, and we fill in the building blocks of our protein. The best analogy is a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle—we know what we have to build and what it looks like physically, and we start putting the pieces together. How did you arrive at your career in the sciences and in academia? In my teens I took biology, chemistry, and math in school, and they were my strong courses. Not because I thought I wanted to do science, but because this was what excited me. After school, the next decision was to go to the university or find a job. I decided to study biology and really enjoyed it, but I did not think about a career at that time. It was just something I enjoyed. I did
Deciding to come to Cornell was a no-brainer in the end. It was the best in terms of scientific environment and personal preferences. And to try out a smaller town would be a positive challenge. not worry about what came after my study. That kicked in during my PhD at the Max Planck Institute. I was in a high-profile group doing exciting stuff—immersed in the lab with good postdocs, students, and very good mentors. I started to feel, “This is a life I enjoy.” Because we spend so many hours in the lab and the office, we have to feel this way about science. We must have the passion, otherwise it would not be a good job. I went to a very good lab for my postdoc at Rockefeller and Berkeley. It was at this point I thought about a career—whether a position in a biotech company or a pharmaceutical company would have aspects that I would like better than academia. When I discussed this with my mentor, he advised, “If you want to be your own boss and decide what you do on a daily basis, stay in academia.” I like to come up with my own projects, and I like to be around students who are excited about what they are doing. This reminds me of another reason why I like Cornell. It was not apparent when I interviewed, but has since come to light in the three-and-a-half years I have been here: working with undergraduates is a great pleasure. They are not as hyped-up as
graduate students who feel the pressure of graduating, publishing, and making career decisions. Undergrads are much more pure, or freer, and they have enthusiasm about science. I really enjoy that scene. What is uniquely Cornell? One unique thing about Cornell is the biophysics program, which draws many top students. It is unique because it is so focused on physics, whereas other biophysics programs in the country are structural biochemistry or quantitative biochemistry. This distinctive difference makes the students very strong. It is one of the best graduate fields we have on campus. Cornell also competes with the top schools, so it is uniquely challenging. What are you looking forward to doing? I am looking forward to finding research collaborators at Weill Cornell Medical College and to interfacing with people in the nano sector here in Ithaca. I want to think about new ways of detection, such as biosensors for our research. I go back and forth with my research priorities. First, I think that I should focus on what I am good at because that is my bread and butter and that is what will give me publications and funding. But I must also think about new things. There has to be a balance.
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As assistant professors, we do not have extra time—if I am lucky, I can go home and relax for a few hours. I came to Ithaca, for example, with high ambitions of trying sailing and rock climbing, but I have not found the time. When you are not in the lab or office, what do you do? My second passion is music. I do not play an instrument, but I listen to music constantly, even when I work in the office. It is a driving force and motor for many things. I enjoy going to concerts. I love live music. I like the outdoors—hiking and biking. What is your favorite kind of music? I am a mixed bag. I listen to electronic music of a particular kind. I like contemporary classical music and the usual classical music. The music must challenge my ear. I still like college campus music, the live concerts that I cannot go to because I am twice the age of the audience and have supposedly outgrown that type of music. When I first came to Cornell, I went to one of the concerts at Barton Hall and ran into my undergraduate students. Some genres of music I like are not performed in Ithaca, and that is certainly a challenge. New York City, however, is close by—a weekend trip away—so we do that often. What do you do in New York City? I look for a particular type of electronic music, not the rave type of the college students. It usually attracts the mid-20s to the mid-30s crowd, and it is the kind of electronic music found in a club-based environment, or it can be enjoyed at home. We also go to New York City for dance performances and shopping. It is invigorating to walk around and see people on the streets in a city. Ithaca is beautiful, but there are moments when I feel that I need to see people moving around on the streets as in a big city. How do you find living in Ithaca? Coming from Europe, it’s nice to have seasons again, which I missed. I grew up in Cologne and studied in Munich. Ithaca can be a challenge if you are used to a big city, however. It actually depends on how many things you miss at the end of the day. My challenges are the availability of live music
in my favorite genres and good record stores. In Berkeley I would shop at the best record stores I could imagine. I was there twice a week and that was my two hours of spare time. What is wonderful about the area? The outdoors and the friendliness of people— it’s nice to see people I know when I go to the supermarket and to restaurants. For the size of the town, Ithaca is rich in culture. We have a very high quality of life in Ithaca and at Cornell, where we are not struggling with a salary to live and compromising on daily things like good food and good restaurants. I enjoy this in Ithaca. In Ithaca, what is supportive of the lifestyle you want to live? The short distances—we do not have long commutes. It is easy to get from A to B. What is your favorite spot on campus? The synchrotron. We usually get 24-hour slots, and we stay there for 24 hours. I love this type of work. It is a quiet place, even though it has a lot of background noise. It is soothing. When I work at the synchrotron, I am relaxed and excited at the same time. What is Cornell’s research distinction? For me, it is scientists like Watt Webb, Harold Scheraga, Rick Cerione—people who stand out and are focal points for interactions. These individuals brand Cornell for the life sciences.
What is Cornell’s greatest strength? Weill Hall is a perfect example—Cornell’s greatest strength is its interdisciplinary research.
Years as Cornell faculty
For more information: E-mail: email@example.com Website: http://web.mac.com/holger.sondermann/ Sondermann_lab/Home.html
Favorite spot on campus
3.5 Came to Cornell from
University of California–Berkeley
The synchrotron Cornell’s research distinction
Cornell faculty who are well known in their fields Cornell’s trademark
Interdisciplinary research I am also
Passionate about music
When We Search the Web What Does the Relationship between Algorithms and Information Have To Do with Our Everyday Computer Use? ROBERT KLEINBERG, COMPUTER SCIENCE Network Mapping Camp My research is on understanding the relationship between algorithms and information. Algorithms are the computational processes by which we process information and use it to make decisions. To illustrate the type of research I became excited about, I should first tell another story. My major at Cornell was math. I went to graduate school at MIT to study pure math. My PhD is in math. After my second year at MIT, I decided to take a summer job. The year was 1999. Boston was full of tech start-ups, many of them spin-offs from MIT. In particular there was a spinoff from my home department called Akamai Technologies, which has become one of the big players in internet services. It was founded by a MIT professor who became my thesis adviser. The company provides a service that makes other websites more scalable, fast, and secure. They accomplish this with a massive distributed network of tens of thousands of servers around the world. (We have some of them on the Cornell campus, for example.) If you are an Akamai customer, the content on your website gets spread out in these thousands of locations so that when people download it, it comes to them from a computer that is much closer to them. If an attacker tries to take down your site, instead of taking down one computer, they have to take down 10,000. If
you have a power failure that takes down your site, a power failure in one place cannot take out a site that is distributed over a thousand locations. I worked in a group called the network mapping group. If you have servers in thousands of locations around the world, and you are supposed to direct every user to the one that is best suited for serving their request, this is a gigantic optimization problem to solveâ€”millions and millions of users and thousands of locations. My group, the mapping group, was in charge of supplying the input to that optimization problem. We wanted to be able to tell the decision-making apparatus the information it needed to know in order to make the best possible decisions. Traditionally, one would take for granted that this information is easy to obtain and that the hard part is processing it and figuring out where each person should be routed. In reality, it is an incredibly tough engineering challenge to measure the relevant information for making this decision. This requires measuring the network conditions between each of our servers and every client. We would be performing billions of measurements every second, which is not technologically feasible.
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What information do we actually need in order to make the best decisions, and what is a smart and scalable strategy for acquiring this information? This is what I mean when I talk about the relationship between algorithms and information. We live in an age where most of the algorithms that ordinary people care about in order to make optimal decisions require a greater amount of information than is technologically feasible for them to obtain.
different players in control of the information to participate and reveal accurate, non-misleading information. What Price Should I Charge? One of the first things I worked on in graduate school was pricing problems. Let’s say that I have written a new piece of software, and I am going to sell it online. Because it is software, it is a digital good, and it costs me zero to create extra copies of the soft-
[As a search engine], if I notice people always jump over the number one spot and pick the number two spot, eventually I should learn to swap them.
What information do we actually need in order to make the best decisions, and what is a smart and scalable strategy for acquiring this information? This is what I mean when I talk about the relationship between algorithms and information.
You enter a query into Google, and the optimal thing for Google to do is to know the tastes of every single user in the world.
An application that has gained my interest recently is ranking web search results.
Say I am a search engine.… If I have a query with multiple meanings, where “jaguar” could refer to an animal, a car, or a football team from Jacksonville, how do I learn that it has multiple meanings?
How do we design learning algorithms that work well in tandem with each other, assuming each device uses the algorithm?
Google It Think about using Google. You enter a query into Google, and the optimal thing for Google to do is to know the tastes of every single user in the world and present the search results that are most relevant to your query. For every user, query, and document, Google would need to be able to measure relevance. It is impossible. So what is the minimum set of information needed in order to make the right decision about presenting search results, and what is a smart strategy for acquiring that information? Increasingly these two questions are inseparable—the question of how to make the right decisions given perfect information, and how to acquire information. This has become a closed loop. The information acquisition process has to be informed by the decision-making process in a feedback loop, rather than the traditional method of running experiments to completion, getting a set of data, and then doing the decision making on that data. The reasons why information might be unavailable to decision makers are many. One is that the scale of the problem makes it technologically impossible to acquire all the relevant information. The other is that the information might belong to self-interested parties who do not want to reveal it to you unless it is in their interest to do so, or they might want to give you misinformation if they think they can benefit from doing that. The game theoretic aspect of this problem is to create a system that encourages the
ware once I have written it. However, I do not want to give it away for free; I want to charge a price. I have no idea what the demand is for my product. How do I figure out what price to charge? A traditional solution would be to hire a market research firm and conduct a survey to gauge the demand in the market, set a price, and post that price on my website, and a certain number of people would buy the product from me. A more automated solution would be to run my own price experiments on the site. Every time a new person comes I would present a new price, which might be different from any price I have charged before. They decide to click or not to click, and that gives me one more data point in my search path to finding the optimum price point. Suppose you want to do this kind of price experimentation. What is the optimum strategy for setting the sequence of prices so that the opportunity cost of learning the optimum price is minimized? How much better or worse off are you by doing this type of price experimentation, rather than paying the outside marketing research firm to give you the data? The answer to these questions is surprisingly robust. What is the value of knowing the information on day one? One way I could put the question to you is this: If there’s a person right here with a briefcase who knows exactly what price maximizes my profits, and that price is written down inside the
Kleinberg in Duffield Hall with (r.) Hu Fu and (l.) Bruno Abrahao
briefcase, how much should I be willing to pay him on day one to open up the briefcase, given that my outside option is to run an algorithm and experiment to find the optimum price point? The answer turns out to be roughly the square root of n, where n is the number of users who will ever visit my site. It is remarkably robust because it remains valid under almost any reasonable set of assumptions about the user population. The answer might be 10 times the square root of n; it might be 50 times the square root of n; but it always scales to the market size according to the square root of n. My adviser and I made this discovery on the way to producing my doctoral thesis. The same techniques I employed in answering that question have fed into other computer science problems in which my colleagues and I have an interest. Searching the Web I still work on the same kind of algorithmic experimentation problems, but an application that has gained my interest recently is ranking web search results. Say, for instance, I am a search engine. I get queries, then I present rankings to people, and they click somewhere within the ranking. I want to data mine the clicks I have experienced over time to improve my ranking. Take an
About Kleinberg Years as Cornell faculty
2 Came to Cornell from
University of California–Berkeley Favorite spot on campus
Olin Library terrace and Duffield atrium Cornell’s research distinction
A pervasive team spirit Cornell’s trademark
Collaboration I am also
A classical pianist
obvious example: if I notice people always jump over the number one spot and pick the number two spot, eventually I should learn to swap them. What is the optimum sequence of ranking experiments to rapidly rerank the search results and present the most relevant documents early? How do things like diversity of user tastes influence this search process? If I have a query with multiple meanings, where “jaguar” could refer to an animal, a car, or a football team from Jacksonville, how do I learn that it has multiple meanings? How do I learn to present at least one example of each high in the rankings so that people with different information needs are all satisfied by the search results? How do I choose the optimal sequence of experiments in order to learn this information? These would be my problems to solve. No Clobbering Allowed Another project relates to multiple learners interacting with each other at the same time. Let’s think, for example, about the wireless network in this building (Upson Hall). We have multiple wireless networks with different channels, and given the current utilization of the network, we get a clean connection regardless of the channel we choose. In the future, however, when we have hundreds of wireless devices operating simultaneously, we could have congested and uncongested channels. Imagine that every device runs an experimentation algorithm where it hops around from one channel to another trying to find one where it can get a clean signal under the current conditions. This is acceptable only if one device is doing it, and the others are staying put. But if all devices are doing it at the same time, bad feedback effects emerge where they respond in tandem to a problem on one channel and clobber another one. How do we design learning algorithms that work well in tandem with each other, assuming each device uses the algorithm? If they all do it together, they will not get into a bad feedback effect that clobbers each other’s efforts to find the optimal configuration. I am working on this problem with a colleague here in computer science.
It’s Second Nature @ Cornell When I first arrived here as a faculty member, it was striking how people—not only in computer science but also in electrical engineering, operations research, and others— would come to hear my talks. They brought great ideas about how my topic tied in with their work and how we could work together. This happens so often at Cornell that we treat it as second nature. I have been at other places that did not have this culture. People push their own research and excel in it, but they do not have the same outwardlooking attitude where one could come into another person’s talk, listen for an hour, and find a connection between what they do and what that person does. These unexpected interactions have been such an enriching factor in my own life. This is woven into a culture like Cornell’s. Senior faculty who have been here for 25— and in some cases 40—years still listen to junior faculty and find ways to tie in. To keep your eyes wide open like this all the time is a lot of work, but it benefits everybody and makes this a more fun place to work. What motivates me to walk up the hill every morning is knowing that I am going to have these interactions. From Abstract Math Problems to Yahoo Users to Higher Priorities As early as I can remember, I have loved math. This love of math has been passed down through my family. When we went on long vacations together in the car, part of the time would be spent talking about math. Math puzzles always floated around the dinner table. Very early on, I appreciated how much fun solving puzzles about numbers and geometry could be, and by my teens, I knew that math could be a very satisfying career. An important turning point came when I stepped outside of the sheltered abstract world of math to experience life in a start-up—a polar opposite of the math research process. One day I was sitting at my desk at MIT working on abstract problems that only five or six other people in the world would understand or even care about. Two days later, I had an office at Akamai with a team of extremely energized people who knew that the software they were writing today
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would be affecting every Yahoo user in the world next week. It is hard to overstate how radical and inspiring it felt to be part of that and working on something that was so rapidly and directly impacting millions of people. It was intoxicating. I knew that I wanted to have more of that.
MIT, so much of the research I read and heard about came out of Cornell’s CS department, which has been on the leading edge of trends that propagated to other top institutions. A concrete example is game theory, which is becoming an increasingly important aspect of computer science.
for slightly more than a year. Even though Ithaca and Berkeley have a lot in common, I identify more with the Ithaca way. I love the kind of people who choose to live here, and it is not just the university faculty and their families, but also the people I meet downtown and throughout the community.
The next turning point came with my decision to move back to academics instead of staying in the company. Working in academia prioritizes a different type of question, and it is one that suits my personality much better. I have worked on difficult and fun math problems in industry and academia. Here is the difference: in industry, the importance of a question and its solution is judged on its usefulness. Will it make this thing work better? Will it make us more money? In academia, the importance of the question and its solution is judged on longterm impact. Will this question teach us something novel we do not understand yet? In the end, these solutions are profoundly useful, so it is not as if we sacrifice usefulness. We take a view, which is slanted toward prioritizing questions for conceptual elegance and advancing human knowledge rather than immediate operational usefulness. This suits me better. I knew that my path toward self-fulfillment would lie in academia, not industry.
Computation now deals with interactions among multiple users online and among multiple software processes online, and they have conflicting interests. We cannot assume that they will cooperate with each other. Ten or 20 years ago, the science was
A Wish List for Ithaca. My wish list includes a good opera company, an Ethiopian restaurant, and a larger number of airlines to make it easier to travel in and out of Ithaca—more convenient for us to travel and others to visit us.
A bonus is that I discovered how much I love teaching. It is so much fun to see how smart and quick Cornell students are. If I make a mistake in my lecture, the students not only catch my mistake, but one of them will have figured out how to fix it by the time I get back to it. Where the Action Is Cornell’s excitement is all about the excellence of its people and the team spirit that pervades my department and the whole university. Academia is so often about individual excellence, so it is unusual and satisfying to be part of a department that feels like a team where every person contributes to the larger goal of building an excellent computer science department. Cornell is one of the places that the entire world looks to for leadership on defining the foundation of a new kind of computer science. When I was in graduate school at
As early as I can remember, I have loved math. This love of math has been passed down through my family. about how to get a single process to operate as efficiently as possible on its assigned task. Today we are focused on creating protocols that promote positive interaction among processes whose individual self-interests may be in conflict. My career and research trajectory led me naturally into those questions. Many of the papers I read came out of Cornell, which remains on the leading edge of the trend.
Hobbies. I enjoy playing piano, running, and tennis. I play classical piano, and my favorite composers are Beethoven and Schumann. As an undergraduate, I studied piano seriously, spending almost as much time on piano as math. Since then, I have continued it as a hobby. I have a piano at home, and when I need to get away from my work and relax, it is one of my favorite activities. The Last Word
Favorite Spots on Campus From the Olin Library terrace, I can look out over the Arts Quad. This is a very special place to me. Another place I especially love on campus is the Duffield atrium. Having this space where we can congregate and relax has added so much to the engineering college. The computer science department takes such advantage of the space. Our department typically has more than 10 people congregated around a couple of tables in the atrium every day for lunch. Living in Ithaca The Ithaca Way. Ithaca is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and the beauty is integrated into the Cornell campus. My walk to work each morning is though Cascadilla Gorge. We are right in the middle of a vibrant city and university, but walking through the gorge, I feel like I am in a different place and time. Prior to Ithaca, I lived in Berkeley. I was a postdoc in computer science working on game theory
Timeless Cornell I feel that I am part of something bigger than the here and now, and bigger than the individual efforts of each person, at Cornell. The people—students, faculty, and staff—and the energy of team effort characterize the university. As I walk around the campus in all of its space, there is a feeling of timelessness. For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.cs.cornell.edu/~rdk
A Visual Journey through Time What Is the Role of Visual Culture? CHERYL FINLEY, HISTORY OF ART
Cultural Memory of an Icon I am completing a book called Committed to Memory: The Slave Ship Icon in the Black Atlantic Imagination. It is a cultural study of the most recognized image associated with the memory of slavery and the Middle Passage: a black-and-white schematic print named “Description of a Slave Ship,” which shows the manner in which African captives were stowed on slave ships. I write about why I can describe the image to just about anyone, and they know it precisely. I explore the historical uses, interpretations, and adaptations of the image through time, beginning with the significance of why British abolitionists created it in England in 1789. “Description of a Slave Ship” revealed, for the first time, the system of transporting enslaved Africans from the west coast of Africa to the New World. It exposed the horror and inhumanity beneath the decks of slave ships, which was not visible from the shores of England. Tradespeople, from blacksmiths to textile manufacturers, facilitated the slave trade with their wares, but they were uninformed about the nastiness of the business. This image graphically illustrated how enslaved Africans were tightly packed as human cargo on slave ships, and the accompanying text, with mathematical calculations describing the cramped space per man, woman, or child, as well as documented incidents of sickening
torture, urged members of Parliament and ordinary citizens to join the campaign to end the slave trade. Using naval architectural precision, the slave ship schematic exposed the cruel business of the transatlantic slave trade to people who had the ability to change the law in Britain. These were members of Parliament and others, including the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, which eventually would rally enough people to organize a broad-based effort to end the slave trade. Known as the abolitionist movement, this was the first modern political campaign to utilize grassroots organizational tactics, including the dissemination of shocking visual images like “Description of a Slave Ship” drawn with small black figures representing African captives. The image was designed originally to critique the Slave Trade Regulation Act of 1788, which called for a slave ship doctor on board to treat illness and prevent loss of life, as well as a reduction in the number of captives a slave ship was legally allowed to carry in order to ease crowding and create a safer transatlantic voyage. But with “Description of a Slave Ship,” the abolitionists made the visual argument that even regulation was an abomination: the slave trade must be abolished altogether. And by 1807 it
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was ended in Great Britain and the following year in the United States. More than 200,000 impressions of the print had been reproduced and disseminated by the end of the 18th century, in what Robert Farris Thompson (and later, Paul Gilroy) called the Black Atlantic—the modern political and geographical space that connects black people around the Atlantic Rim through historical and cultural exchange. Yet the illegal slave trade persisted, and countries like Spain and Portugal continued the business well into the mid-19th century. What is more, slavery as an institution remained legal in most of the New World. In the United States, the image became an icon for ending slavery beyond 1807. It was reproduced in many different visual and material forms, including broadsides, children’s books, and embroidery. Even after slavery was abolished, it continued to hold an attraction for visual artists with its repeating black figures symbolizing the creation of an African diaspora. In the 20th century, artists started to adapt the slave ship icon for new uses, beginning in 1928 with a Mexican graphic artist named Miguel Covarrubias, who was also a caricaturist and a muralist. He illustrated a book called Adventures of an African Slaver about an infamous slave ship captain from 1860, Theodore Canot, using the icon in a series of drawings. By the mid-1960s, during the height of the Black Arts movement in the United States, visual and performing artists began to appropriate and rework the image. Eugene Lee’s set design for Amiri Baraka’s play, Slave Ship (1967), was based on the slave ship schematic with actors and audience members physically embodying the figures of the enslaved. This is central to my project, because I am interested in not only the immediate recognition of the image, but also why visual artists working in the 1960s—as well as in 2009—still find the image urgent and relevant when talking about a connectedness of African Americans, Africans, and African diaspora people and about the African diaspora and African American identity. The book is under contract with Princeton University Press and will be published in the coming year.
Autobiography and Memory Afro-Caribbean art history is another area of my research and teaching, stemming from my lifelong study of Spanish language and culture as well as my interest in black Atlantic cultural exchange. I have completed an extensive oral history interview with the contemporary Afro-Cuban artist Maria Magadalena Campos-Pons, which forms the basis of a monograph I have been asked to write about her. It is part of a new series
including people like Martin Luther King Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois, and others who visited Ghana and knew Nkrumah. Collaborative Work I thrive on collaborative teaching, research, and learning. Besides occasional guest lectures in my colleagues’ seminars, I take my classes to the Johnson Museum for guided, behind-the-scenes tours of collections by the museum staff. I joined colleagues Brett
“Description of a Slave Ship” revealed, for the first time, the system of transporting enslaved Africans from the west coast of Africa to the New World. called A Ver: Revisioning Art History (a ver means “to see” in Spanish), which documents the lives of contemporary Latino artists through oral histories that will be deposited at the UCLA oral history archive, and monographs will be published by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center and the University of Minnesota Press. Campos-Pons, who lives and works in Boston, is a photographer and installation artist who also uses sound and video to recall the memories and images of her childhood and extended family in Matanzas, Cuba. Her work reflects my own interest in autobiography and memory. Ghana and U. S. Civil Rights In 2007 I was the recipient of an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship, awarded for projects that further the legacy of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1954. Called the “Guggenheims for race issues,” by Henry Louis Gates Jr., who chairs the selection committee, the Fletcher Fellowship was instituted by Alphonse Fletcher Jr. of Fletcher Asset Management in 2004. My project explores the relationship between the Ghanaian National Liberation Movement and the U.S. Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in an exhibition and book project entitled Picturing Black Power. The project—with a focus mostly on film and photography—looks at the relationship between Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister and later president of Ghana, and Civil Rights leaders in the United States,
de Bary and Salah Hassan in organizing the conference Strange Fruit: Lynching, Visuality, and Empire in 2006. I have also collaborated with colleagues at Cornell on projects that have taken root elsewhere, including the exhibition of contemporary art and performance by David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Pamela Z, 3x3: Three Artists, Three Projects, cocurated with Salah Hassan for the 2004 Dakar Biennial of Contemporary African Art. Teaching Art History I teach a survey course on African American art from 1619 to the present; another survey course on African American cinema; Black International Visual and Literary Cultures, a graduate seminar that looks at key texts by important theorists, artists, and performers such as C. L. R. James, Katherine Dunham, Manthia Diawara, and Eslanda Robeson; Exhibiting Cultures, a museum studies seminar that is one of my most popular graduate seminars; and a seminar on the Black Arts movement that I taught as a distance learning course this past summer. I am developing a seminar that explores the history of the art market, which I am teaching for the first time in fall 2009. I am also developing a course called Reading Art History, a seminar that examines literature focused on certain aspects of visual art, such as a painting, an artist, an art school, or an art scandal. Another popular course is a seminar called Contemporary African Diaspora Art.
Monique Crine, MFA thesis project, “Painting in Burlwood”
I wanted the auction room to have more people of color with the knowledge, ability, desire, and money to be collectors of art. My courses are cross-listed with Africana studies and American studies, and often the Department of Theatre, Film, and Dance or gender studies. The Department of History of Art and Visual Studies offers students a way to understand the unfolding of time—the unfolding of history—through the study of objects of art and the diverse cultures and stylistic contexts in which they were made. Exhibiting Cultures One of my favorite courses to teach is Exhibiting Cultures: Museums, Exhibitions, Representation, and Display. This undergraduate/graduate seminar investigates the history of exhibitions, with an emphasis on African, African diaspora, and African American art. We look at the history of how people from Africa were actually put on exhibit in makeshift villages at world’s fairs, such as the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago or the 1931 Paris Exposition Coloniale. We also study the contemporary practices of installation, performance, and video art.
A recent focus has been on contemporary African artists and art collectives working in urban settings, some of whom utilize the blank spaces of walls in blighted neighborhoods for murals, like the Set Setal group in Dakar, Sengal. Others make sculptures out of found detritus in cities like Lagos, Nigeria. One such example is Ghanaian-born sculptor El Anatsui, who is known for huge kente cloth–like tapestries that he makes out of found scraps of liquor bottle labels, bottle caps, and other things he has pieced together, commenting on the continuing effects of colonialism on contemporary Africa. Upper-level undergraduates and graduate students from history of art, art, architecture and planning, visual studies, American studies, and Africana studies typically take the course. Most share an interest in museum studies and want to know more about the history of exhibitions and how curatorial practices have shaped the ways in which we see African diaspora people. The course allows students lots of creativity and leeway in designing their final projects. One MFA
student in painting wrote a paper that compared the short-lived careers of American president John F. Kennedy and Democratic Republic of Congo president Patrice Lumumba. As part of her project, she painted photo-realist portraits of each president from historic photographs. Another student, who had studied in South Africa, wrote a final paper on the popular contemporary practice of “township tourism,” where visitors take tours of economically depressed townships. In addition to visiting the Johnson Museum and other special collections on campus, such as the Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection and the Cornell Hip Hop Collection at the Kroch Library, we often take a trip to New York City. In New York, we go to places like the Metropolitan Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and commercial galleries such as the Jack Shainman Gallery, which shows the work of contemporary African American and African artists. On many occasions, I’ve arranged for the class to sit down and have a conversation with
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Jack Shainman, owner of the gallery, who often talks about what is currently on exhibition and what is in the back room. And if we’re lucky, we are treated to wonderful little gems of contemporary art that he recently acquired and has not yet put on display. Often we will run into famous artists like Emma Amos, who was at the Studio Museum when we were there, or Fred Wilson, who was at his gallery, Pace Wildenstein, on the last day of his show and took the time to give us an impromptu lecture about the exhibition. The Black Arts Movement Since fall 2007, I have also enjoyed teaching a seminar on the Black Arts movement, a new area of research for many scholars of African American art. In the seminar, we focus on the period from 1965 to 1976, a significant time in art history when African American visual and performing artists, as well as writers and poets, people like Amiri Baraka, were inspired by the work of Civil Rights leaders and came together as the visual and literary arm of the Black Power Movement. They created murals, a populist kind of visual art that honors slain leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and historical leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois, as well as spoken word poetry, the predecessor of modern hip hop. Among other things, the movement argued for a place in the mainstream art world for black visual artists, writers, curators, and museum professionals within New York City and in cities around the United States. Creating a Career in Art History I have always had an interest in the arts, particularly photography. When I was in high school, my father gave me a camera, and I took a course in photography at Howard University, a historically black university and my parents’ alma matter. When I went to Wellesley College as an undergraduate, I was a Spanish major with a work-study position in the art department. My job there was to show slides to art history classes. At the time, art historians taught their classes with analog slides (35mm and lantern) as opposed to digital images, which are common today. I also prepared new slides for use by art history professors in the department, which enabled me to see, up close, a virtual catalog of images documenting the history
of art! Over the four years as a slide projectionist, I had the opportunity to audit nearly every course that was offered by the art department. It was a fascinating introduction that whet my appetite for the discipline of art history. Upon graduating, I landed a job as a curator for an art collector who had purchased the archive of Berenice Abbott, a famous American photographer known for her architectural study of New York City from 1935 to 1938 called Changing New York. As curator of the collection, I mounted more than 25 exhibitions during my three-year tenure. I also put together small collections of photographs from the archive that were donated every year to museums and institutions as a tax benefit for the owner. These mini-collections of about ten prints each provided an overview of Abbott’s oeuvre and were given mostly to college and university museums. As part of the process of annual giving, I got to know and observe the appraiser for the collection, who assessed the value of each donation for the purposes of determining the tax benefit. When she needed an assistant, I seized the opportunity to train with her. Over the next several years, I learned the art appraisal business specializing in photography. Although I had always wanted to be a photographer, I had to be realistic. My mother is a computer science professor, and my father was a dentist. I came from an African American family that strongly advocated the traditional professions. To this day, I can still hear an elder saying to me, “You go to college; you graduate; and you become a doctor, lawyer, or someone like that.” So the idea of being an artistphotographer was a foreign concept, even to me. I often wondered, “How would I make it work financially?” But there I was, doing appraisal work, which was wonderful, exciting, and glamorous at the same time! I had the rare opportunity to examine some of the most important and valuable photographic collections, and I often met the artists and collectors behind them. This line of work, while not one of the traditional professions considered by my family, nevertheless combined for me the best of both worlds: art and finance.
A black-and-white schematic print of the hold of a slave ship: I write about why I can describe the image to people, and they know it precisely.
It was the leading piece of visual culture disseminated by British abolitionists to end the slave trade by 1807.
A project on film and photography looks at the relationship between Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister and later president of Ghana, and Civil Rights leaders in the United States.
History of art offers us a way to understand the unfolding of time—the unfolding of history—through the study of visual images in diverse cultures and stylistic contexts.
I wanted to be able to cultivate a new group of collectors—not just materialistic collectors who buy for the sake of status, but people who are interested in preserving the visual art of the African American culture.
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I started my own appraisal and art consulting business in New York and ran it for three years. As part of my work, I monitored auctions at houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s by regularly attending the fall and spring sales. Appraisers need to know how the market moves, where the market moves, what sells, who buys it, where it is placed, at what institution, and in what collection. Although I knew I had the option of joining the staff of either of these auction houses as a specialist in the photographs department, something was not right, but I could not yet put my finger on it. My decision to go to graduate school was spurred by two events, although my mother was always in the background saying, “Go to graduate school, honey, and get your PhD, please.” A friend studying at UCLA explained that I could apply to a major research institution to study for my doctorate and likely be eligible for a tuition reimbursement and a stipend, which would make it affordable. I thought about it: I could actually afford to study what I want to study! The other event that pushed me into action took place when I was observing an auction at Christie’s shortly after the death of Robert Mapplethorpe, an American photographer known for his stark, modernist images of flowers and nudes, particularly male nudes. Among his works offered in the sale was Man in a Polyester Suit (1980), a provocative nude of a black man. At the time, auction houses did not have digital projection of the works for sale. Instead, employees—who were usually black or Latino men dressed in blue-collar uniforms—had the job of holding up each work of art before the primarily white audience as the auctioneer opened the bidding. When Man in a Polyester Suit came up for sale, a very humble, uniformed black man held it up for display, but the work was pointing in the wrong direction. The entire audience erupted in laughter. My thought was that this should not be happening. This man should be able to be the auctioneer, not the man holding the picture, and this audience should be diverse. At that moment I knew I could not do this job any more. I wanted the auction room to have more people of color with the knowledge, ability,
The fifth floor of the Johnson Museum is one of my favorite spots. I love the view of West Hill and Cayuga Lake from there. desire, and money to be collectors of art. I wanted to have the knowledge to educate others about African American art and photography. That was what I wanted to do. And that is precisely what I did! This is why I chose a PhD program in art history and African American studies. I needed both fields to cultivate a new group of collectors who were interested in learning about and preserving the visual art of African Americans and Africans throughout the diaspora. I went on to earn my PhD from Yale in art history and African American studies. At the time it was the only joint PhD program of its type in the country. The program gave me the cultural analysis, historical accuracy, and political theory that comes from the field of African American studies, combined with the rigorous visual analysis
and material culture theory that are the hallmarks of art history. Art History on the Road I would love to teach a practicum on contemporary African diaspora art that would enable students to go to some of the places where artists are living and working and complete a project over the period of a semester or during the January term. The course would be based in Ithaca, but it would allow us to travel to places like Salvador da Bahia, Brazil; Havana, Cuba; or Dakar, Senegal to curate an exhibition, document an artist’s work, or experience a biennial of contemporary art. Opportunities such as these to collaborate with colleagues abroad make it exciting to be a member of the faculty here.
Favorite Spots on Campus The fifth floor of the Johnson Museum is one of my favorite spots. I love the view of West Hill and Cayuga Lake from there. I often find myself sitting in one of the comfortable sofas grading papers or reading. My daughter also likes to practice walking there. The Africana Studies and Research Center library is another great spot. It is a treasure trove, and the library staff, Eric Acree and Sharon Powers, make it a joy and honor to work in there. What I Love about Ithaca A Winter’s Night. I love driving across the Stewart Avenue bridge in the dead of winter on a moonlit night, stopping and turning my head to look back at the gorge and seeing the frozen formations of glowing ice. Ithaca’s colors are gorgeous—from the bold oranges, reds, and browns of autumn to the starkness of white and gray in the winter, to the fresh green blades of grass and springtime buds on trees. From Buffalo Street to Bailey Hall. I love the sweet, amorous perfume of the linden trees at the foot of Buffalo Street—I sit under them and go crazy. I love the briestuffed french toast and savory scones for breakfast at the Carriage House, and I adore the vintage high chair for my little girl. I love the great programming at the Cornell Cinema and that I can show films related to my classes there, and I love the concert series at Bailey Hall, where I had the pleasure of taking my daughter to hear the legendary Eddie Palmieri. I also love finding intriguing and unexpected pieces of art throughout campus, such as the portraits by contemporary black artist Barkley Hendricks that I stumbled across in Willard Straight Hall’s library. A New Residence. I have the honor of being faculty in residence at Clara Dickson Hall beginning fall 2009. I am looking forward to serving as a role model and mentor to the incoming freshman and helping to acquaint them with Cornell and adjust to their first experience living away from home. I plan to open my home to them for Sunday morning coffee and bagels and gumbo during the holidays, and to take them apple picking, visiting Niagara Falls, and on other outings in the area.
Community Outreach. I have given talks to groups in the community, and I would like to develop a regular program where I am able to do teaching or mentoring with, for example, the Lou Gossett Jr. Residential Center for Girls. Hobbies. I swim. I love the pool in Helen Newman Hall on a crisp fall morning. I walk. I embrace the challenge of walking up Buffalo Street or any of the gorges or just strolling the rolling hills of the Cornell Plantations with my daughter. I cook. I often enjoy finding a new vegetable that was previously unknown to me at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. History in the Area. There’s a lot of history in and around Ithaca that relates to my field, which is exciting. Harriet Tubman’s home is in Auburn and Frederick Douglass is buried in Rochester. I look forward to the opportunity to visit these places and to learn about them with my students.
Finley with daughter, Noura
The Last Word Grandeur Cornell is big, full, excited about ideas, and committed to nurturing scholars. When I say big and full, I am referring to both the grandeur of Cornell’s setting and the significance of what we as a community of scholars, teachers, and students are committed to doing together: learning. It is a huge responsibility to teach and train future art historians, curators, and museum directors. I love teaching. I think of my classroom as a workshop, where new ideas and theories are exchanged and tested. Every day offers up a new story waiting to unfold.
About Finley Years as Cornell faculty
5 Came to Cornell from
Wellesley College, Massachusetts Favorite spot on campus
For more information: E-mail: email@example.com commitment
to nurturing I am also: A mother and a swimmer
Johnson Art Museum; John Henrik Clarke Africana Library Cornell’s research distinction
The magnitude of intellectual ideas and learning Cornell’s trademark
The grandeur of location and commitment to nurturing I am also
A mother and a swimmer
From Bilingual Education to the Low-Wage Labor Market What Can the U.S. Government Do to Help Low-Income People? A CONVERSATION WITH JORDAN D. MATSUDAIRA, POLICY ANALYSIS AND MANAGEMENT
You grew up with Cornell at your back door. Did you dream of coming to school here, or did you want to go elsewhere because you grew up here? Growing up here, I definitely wanted to get a bit farther away, so I did not apply to Cornell. I went to Union College, a small liberal arts and engineering school in Schenectady, New York.
Letâ€™s talk about your research. I work in three areas: education reform, health policy, and welfare policy. The organizing theme of these three paths of research revolves around low-income people. I am interested in what government policies can do to improve the well-being of low-income people in the United States.
Upon coming to Cornell as a faculty member, what distinguished Cornell from other places you have been: Harvard, Berkeley, and Michigan, for example? These universities and places all have a similar feel, but only Ithaca is home. When I interviewed on campus, I stayed at the Statler Hotel above the room where I stayed for my senior prom. It felt good to come back. I have many fond memories here.
My education research covers numerous education reforms. I study education policies aimed at urban schools. Some of these policies relate to bilingual education. For example, what is the best way to educate immigrant youth when they come to the United States in order to prepare them to succeed in the labor market, so they do not end up poor? In general, what is the best way to keep people from ending up poor?
But what truly distinguishes Cornell for me is the combination of strengths in my different areas of research. We have a great group of labor and education economists in Industrial and Labor Relations and in my department, along with the health economists. Our department also has a lot of energy that stands out when compared to other places. We have a dynamic group of young faculty. However, I had incredible mentors while at the other places.
Welfare policy has a direct connection with the well-being of lowincome families. I explore how changes in the welfare policies after the 1990s have affected both labor force participation rates and the income of single mothers with children. My current research in the health field is more theoretical and relates to a fundamental question in labor economics. It investigates
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the empirical relevance of the main model that labor economists use to think about the low-wage labor market. A lot of economic theory is built on the premise that employers do not have a lot of leeway in setting workers’ wages. Rather, they need to pay them whatever the market commands or they will find all their workers leaving for jobs that pay them what they are worth. The basic assumption of this model is that low-income workers have many other
What is monopsony? Traditionally monopsony referred to a situation where there was only one buyer of labor in an area: a “company town” situation. Newer theoretical work shows that the same kind of dynamics can arise even with many employers if there’s limited information about other job options or if jobs are not perfect substitutes in the eyes of potential employees.
This is something I have always struggled with—how to effect change. When I was finishing college, I struggled with whether I wanted go into policy, academia, or journalism. Which would actually make a difference? employment options and, so, find it easy to switch jobs if their wages fall below what other firms are paying. For example, if one particular fast food restaurant tries to lower their wages, these workers find it easy to switch to a competitor of that employer. If you accept this kind of model for how the low-wage program works, employers do not have a lot of power to pay below market wages. This facet of the model has strong predictions for a variety of important government labor market policies. For example, one implication of the model is that minimum wage laws reduce employment, because they raise costs to employers. A lot of evidence, however, suggests that minimum wage increases may not cause reductions in employment, posing a puzzle for the competitive model of the labor market. If, on the other hand, you take the view that employers have some power to set below–market-level wages, then the situation becomes fuzzy. Monopsony-related theories of the labor market broaden the range of possibilities with a policy intervention like the minimum wage—the effect on employment becomes theoretically ambiguous. I am working on a direct test of which of these two labor market models is more applicable. Does the monopsony model apply to low-wage workers? Little empirical evidence exists on the question. I aim to contribute in this area.
What are your findings so far? Against my expectations, so far it looks like employers have relatively little market power in the low-wage market. My case study focuses on differences in labor market dynamics for nurses with different levels of qualifications. I contrast registered nurses, a traditional focus of monopsony theory, with nurse aides, who have a lot less training and a lot more options for switching into other less skilled jobs. Many economists dismissed the idea that a monopsony model could apply to these markets. Recently, however, more evidence suggests that even in the fast food industry, the monopsony model might apply, and a lot of theoretical developments suggest that it could be pervasive throughout high-skilled and low-skilled labor markets. Do you move from one industry to another in this particular research? Yes. I am working on the nursing industry now. I like to identify naturally occurring experiments—serendipitous events that happen and create settings that mirror experimental conditions in the natural sciences—that are hard to get in the social sciences. But you still do empirical research? Yes. I am examining an event, the passage of minimum staffing legislation for nursing homes in California, to test the models.
The “perfect competition” view says that if employers want to hire more people at their firms, they go out into the market, and they hire more people at the prevailing wage. It does not matter how many people they want to hire, they can always find as many workers as they want at that wage. The implicit assumption is that the job I offer is the same as the job my competitor offers, so there is no reason for the employee to ask me to pay a higher wage. If I pay a cent more, I could get everyone from the other firm to come over to my firm. The other view—monopsony—says there are specific reasons why people choose particular job sites: the job is closer to their home, or the job offers a less abrasive boss. For reasons like these, the monopsony view of the world says that if I want to hire more people, I need to offer higher wages to attract them away from where they currently are. This suggests a simple way of thinking about a test for monopsony: find some firms that are trying to hire more workers and see if they need to raise their wages relative to the market level. It is difficult to find examples, however, where only one firm in a particular industry is trying to hire more workers. Usually, all firms are trying to get bigger at the same time because they face similar business cycles. How will you test this model? The trick is to identify the reason why one firm would want to hire more workers, but another firm might not want to hire more at the same time. What I am relying on as my naturally occurring experiment is this: California has recently passed minimum staffing legislation for nursing homes and hospitals. Essentially, the law requires these firms to have a minimum number of nurses for every patient they have. Some hospitals already have high staffing levels, so they are in compliance with the law and don’t need to do anything. Other places have low staffing levels, so they are forced to comply with the legislation by hiring more workers. This creates the reason why, depending on initial staffing level when the law passed, some firms need to hire a lot more nurses, and other firms do not need to do anything. After
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the law went into effect, we do indeed see the differential changes in hiring among firms, even in the same local labor markets. Some firms need to grow in order to comply. The question is whether the firms that need to grow need to raise their wage offers in order to do so. This is the nature of the test. How will you want the results used? I think there’s a tendency for people to think of theory as evidence. Critics of minimum
pursuing a crazy policy. This is my version of Pascal’s wager: it is best to have the research there. To be in an environment where I can teach is what makes me feel useful at the end of the day. I think we have to have a lot of faith that our research will make a difference in the policy arena. But teaching students and watching the impact we have on them in real time is tangibly rewarding and a direct link to contributing to society.
wage laws sometimes cite the predictions of the standard theory as evidence that minimum wage raises are a bad idea. The bottom line for me is that I don’t think there’s a lot of empirical evidence about whether the standard model does a good job of describing the labor market. I’m hoping to fix that, and I hope to get people to reconsider their faith in the standard model with my work. How does policy research effect change? This is something I have always struggled with—how to effect change. When I was finishing college, I struggled with whether I wanted go into policy, academia, or journalism. Which would actually make a difference? I am still a bit agnostic about what is the best way. I have seen work that I have done on specific issues fall flat and not make a lot of difference. And I have seen work that I have done warped in order to be used—the policy it was used to support bore no relation to the findings of the research. Many times, policy making is done where the two sides stack up pieces of paper and whoever sets the highest stack claims the victory, or where the findings of policy research are not relevant at all to the real issue. Given that I am in this business, I have to believe that ultimately it will matter, even if it only jostles policy makers on the track of
You said that you must have faith that research does make a difference—that it raises the debate or highlights an issue and brings it into focus … Most of the cases I can think of where evidence has helped change a system— been put to good use—is in the debate process. But it is not clear that evidence was the decisive factor. People use evidence when they argue about policy, but it is not clear whether they used only the evidence that supports their position. Some of my mentors have a much rosier view of how this works than I do, but I believe there are positive results. Much of my research is on bilingual education. Many state legislatures have moved to ban bilingual instruction. A lot of the research cited—this is a research-driven debate—are studies that say bilingual education is not good. These studies are not uniformly high in quality, to put it mildly. Through the review process, researchers can and need to effectively hold research to a higher standard. For example, in the bilingual education literature, results that suggest bilingual education hurts children are often generated by studies that fail to compare students who are similarly situated. Children in bilingual education have parents who usually have less education, have not been in the country long, and do not speak English well. This is why they are in bilingual
To be in an environment where I can teach is what makes me feel useful at the end of the day. I think we have to have a lot of faith that our research will make a difference in the policy arena.
My current research: What is the best way to keep people from ending up poor?
One implication of the “competitive” model of the labor market is that minimum wage laws reduce employment, because they raise costs to employers.
A lot of evidence, however, suggests that minimum wage increases may not cause reductions in employment.
Against my expectations, so far it looks like employers have relatively little market power in the low-wage market.
I like to identify naturally occurring experiments—serendipitous events that happen and create a setting similar to the experimental conditions used in the natural sciences.
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programs. Comparing them to children who are not in bilingual programs and then saying, “Oh, bilingual doesn’t work,” is crazy. Yet there are studies that do exactly this that get published and cited in this debate. What are you looking forward to doing? I began a project in Japan (while working for a research institute there) on wage distribution and computer technology, which I have not written a paper about, yet it is still important and a key interest of mine. In order to get access to Japanese data that will allow me to do the work, I need to be deputized by the Japanese Ministry of Labor, which is a long process. I left Japan just shy of crossing that hurdle. The project was difficult to undertake in graduate school if I wanted to leave on time. And it is a high-risk project to take on as an assistant professor without tenure. I became interested when doing interviews with executives in Japan (at Fujitsu Computer Corporation’s research institute), asking how they had used computer technology to improve productivity. A few managers talked about how they had introduced a
About Matsudaira Years as Cornell faculty
2.5 Came to Cornell from
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, University of California–Berkeley Favorite spot on campus
Cascadilla Gorge Cornell’s research distinction
Top labor economists Cornell’s trademark
A strong combination of labor economics and health policy faculty I am also
An aspiring gourmet cook, an aspiring avid golfer, and an amateur photographer
new billing system that allowed them to save x number of hours per month. I wanted to know if there had been resistance among workers in adopting the technology that would make them obsolete, and how they handled it. When we asked large companies, they were puzzled and replied, “We didn’t get rid of anybody. They’re doing something else now.” I got the message that Japanese firms are more reluctant to fire workers whose old jobs are replaced by newly adopted technology. It seemed that large firms would find a different way in which these employees could be productive within their firms. Different versions of this might have a lot to do with how Japan has avoided the increase in income inequality that can come with the increase in computerization. What was interesting, however, is that many people I interviewed turned my research question around. I asked, “How have you avoided the increase in inequality that comes with computerization?” They replied, “I think this is a real problem with our economy—there is not enough inequality.” They talked about the lack of inequality leading to less incentive for people to innovate in ways like the United States. This is an intriguing question to which I hope to return. How did you become interested in academia and this area of research? When I went to Union College, I wanted to be an engineer because my grandfather was an engineer, and I had grown up idolizing him. I took a required economics class with a professor who was inspiring, and the topic was interesting. Gradually I began to shift my focus toward economics rather than engineering. I majored in economics and East Asian studies. After Union, I took a very circuitous path to get here. I pursued a volleyball career for a short time until an injury ended that. But while I was playing with an Ithaca volleyball club, I met a city planner, a graduate of the Cornell Institute of Public Policy, who was working on a project for Tompkins County Transit Authority. His work was to find the most efficient set of routes to replace the routes of the three systems in merging the bus systems
together in Ithaca. It was a mathematical project involving running the fewest number of miles for the bus system in such a way that served the most people. It tickled my brain, so I went to work for him for a year. After that, I decided on public policy and went to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. While I was there, I started to transition more into my current interest— working on economics and thinking about how public policy can improve the wellbeing of people in the United States. There must be more to your circuitous route. Yes, it took a while to get here, but I have enjoyed all the scenes along the way. I got a master’s degree in public policy at the Kennedy School, and although I had been accepted into the PhD program there, I decided to work for a bit. I received an interesting offer from a research firm in Japan. At the time, the outgoing chairman of Fujitsu Computer Corporation wanted to establish a think tank in Japan to focus on long-range public policy issues. Most of the think tanks in Japan had focused primarily on short-term economic forecasting. They were totally attached to banks, serving banks and the investment community in Japan. The outgoing chairman of Fujitsu wanted more debate over public policy issues in the interest of the average citizen. So Fujitsu put up a lot of money to establish a research institute modeled after the U. S. Brookings Institution—a place that focused on longrange public policy issues. The institute recruited people with research questions in public policy and gave them a lot of resources to answer their questions. My interest was how computerization impacts wage distribution. At the time, most economists blamed the introduction of computer technology for the increase in earnings inequality in the United States. I wanted to know why in Japan, where the same kind of computer technology was being introduced, we did not see increases in these inequalities—the research question to which I look forward to returning. I worked on that question and related questions for two years in Tokyo. I then convinced the firm to allow me do the same work while based in the U.S. I spent
another two years working in New York City for Fujitsu, going back and forth between the two cities. Because I was also interested in welfareto-work issues, I consulted for the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which is affiliated with Columbia University. This group had developed a treatment program designed to get women with substance abuse problems back into the workforce. The program combined job training with substance abuse training. I worked on an evaluation of these programs while I continued my work in Japan. How did you get back to academia? A couple of things happened. While I was working in Japan, people started to take my research seriously. I was invited to give presentations at the Bank of Japan and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. I became a bit worried. I wanted to be sure I was nailing the answers to the questions. I felt that if I wanted to stay in this business, then I needed to go back to school. I started to feel dangerous [laughter]. I went to the University of Michigan for my PhD and did a joint program in economics and public policy. You did a postdoc at UC–Berkeley after that. That’s right. I was at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health policy research program. I accepted a position at Cornell after my PhD, but deferred it for two years while I went to Berkeley. When you are in the classroom, think of all the stories you can tell. Yes. They definitely gave me knowledge of how policy makers actually use the output of the research community. I talk about limitations and how careful we need to be when doing research, because once it gets thrown into the debate, our research becomes a blunt instrument, and people are not always cognitive of the caveats and subtleties that we discuss in our papers. They take the bottom line and run with it. This has influenced me deeply. I make sure that when I talk about the effects of policies, I focus on the methods that are used and the impact.
How is living and working in Ithaca now that you are back? Because I grew up in the area, it is easy for me. My wife and I had a baby a year and a half ago, and I think it is a beautiful place to raise a family. It’s such a warm town. People are down-to-earth and friendly, and Ithaca has many family-centric things to do with children. It’s a good place to grow up, secluded from many things you find in
How is Ithaca supportive of the lifestyle you want to live? I hit the ground running when I got here. I had two classes to teach, and we were figuring out childcare. But we needed flexibility for both of us in our jobs and home life. I was able to move all of my classes to the fall semester so that when our baby was born, my wife and I could alternate workdays. Since I have to write papers, we
I talk about limitations and how careful we need to be when doing research, because once it gets thrown into the debate, our research becomes a blunt instrument, and people are not always cognitive of the caveats and subtleties that we discuss in our papers. big cities. I grew up running up and down the gorges and swimming in them. I loved all the waterfalls. I remember swimming at the bases of Buttermilk Falls and Ithaca Falls. These have always been some of my favorite places. And I still enjoy the Short Stop Deli and Stewart Park. Are there any disadvantages in Ithaca? My wife would give you more than I could. The biggest thing is geography. My wife grew up in Houston, Texas, a big city, and she was born in Vietnam. It is expensive and time-consuming for her to travel between Ithaca and Houston. Whereas I actually enjoy winter, it is colder here for her. She says, however, the only time she sees me upset is driving in traffic, so Ithaca is a good place to be. How did you convince your wife to live in Ithaca? Her field is international development, and she found satisfying work in international nutritional policy for the Division of Nutritional Science. She likes it here more than she ever thought. What are you looking forward to doing in Ithaca? I want to learn how to sail. I took one lesson when I was a kid and always wanted to do more. My wife and I want to take lessons together during a summer. I also want to plant grapes and make a wine cellar.
were specifically looking forward to the childcare center on north campus as a more permanent solution. We love to cook with lots of fresh ingredients. Ithaca is a very supportive place for community agriculture. We joined a CSA (community-supported agriculture); there are seven in Ithaca. We buy shares, then we can pick up our produce directly from the farm once a week. We immensely enjoy this and the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. What comes to mind when you hear “Cornell”? For me, home. It is the one institution I could have attended, and my parents would have been impressed [laughter]. The labor economists are an incredibly strong group of faculty. I’m planning on codeveloping a class with Ron Ehrenberg (Industrial and Labor Relations) on the economics of education. This is amazing to ponder—to be able to teach a class with someone of that stature. For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.human.cornell.edu/che/ bio.cfm?netid=jdm296
BOTH LATZKA AND BENTO FEEL THAT THE TRUE VALUE OF THE CPRS (CORNELL PRESIDENTIAL RESEARCH SCHOLARS) PROGRAM IS THAT IT ALLOWS ADVISERS TO EFFECTIVELY TEACH THEIR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS, LETTING THEM LEARN ABOUT THE RESEARCH PROCESS WHILE DEVELOPING A RANGE OF SKILLS.
“Any Person … Any Study” and the Lure of Research Cornell provides many opportunities for undergraduate students to experience a variety of fields and perspectives, truly fulfilling Ezra Cornell’s famous goal of “any person … any study.” During three years of writing the undergraduate research feature for Connecting with Cornell, I met and interacted with engaging, brilliant students who demonstrated extraordinary character and commitment to their study. The diversity of students and research gave me a chance to learn about topics such as high-energy physics, behavioral and medical entomology,
environmental policy, cancer research, nutrition, and psychology. This experience, along with my double major in biology and society and Spanish, provided a rewarding undergraduate experience. My last undergraduate research article for Connecting with Cornell features undergraduates Jah Chaisangmongkon ’09, Brandi
Jackson ’10, and Alex Latzka ’10, who take an interdisciplinary approach to undergraduate research. From Physics and Psychology to Neuroscience When asked about her major at Cornell, Jah Chaisangmongkon gives an answer that often surprises people. With a double major in physics and psychology, Chaisangmongkon has spent her undergraduate experience exploring two seemingly divergent courses of study. She conducted undergraduate research simultaneously in two labs, with James C. Seámus Davis, Physics, and Vivian Zayas, Psychology. She explains, “Both majors represent a means of education to discover the truth of nature. Physics helps me understand the truth of the outside world, whereas psychology helps me understand the truth of the inside world— that of the human mind. I love how, together, they help give me a complete picture.”
Chaisangmongkon came to Cornell from Thailand with a scholarship to study physics and nanoscale science. As an enrolling student, Chaisangmongkon was impressed with the diversity of people and areas of study at Cornell, compared to other American universities. She appreciates that a student’s academic path at Cornell is not restricted to the core curriculum. “Cornell’s curriculum is flexible. You can design your own unique path and determine your own future,” she says. “It’s easy to explore your true interests deeply and in an interdisciplinary way.”
The subject was asked to identify the gender associated with the target name. The concept behind the experiment is that a subject can process the target name faster if the prime and the target name belong to the same gender. The study found that the brain activity when the target and prime genders match is different than when prime and target genders do not match. Supported by this psychophysiological evidence, the experiment suggested that gender perception and categorization is an automatic, unconscious cognitive process.
“Cornell’s curriculum is flexible. You can design your own unique path and determine your own future. It’s easy to explore your true interests deeply and in an interdisciplinary way.” In the spring of her freshman year, Chaisangmongkon became intensely interested in observing human behavior while taking an introductory psychology course. She added psychology as a second major and searched for research labs in sociocognitive psychology. She ended up working with Zayas, studying the different patterns that brainwaves elicit from unconscious cognitive processes. Chaisangmongkon’s study focused on a cognitive phenomenon called the priming effect: the idea that the brain can more successfully process a given “target” stimulus if it follows an identical or related “prime” stimulus. The effect can occur even if an individual is not aware of the priming. The experiment monitored subjects with a device called an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap. The EEG cap connects electrodes to 64 spots on a subject’s scalp, measuring the electrical potential on the scalp relative to a reference point at the back of the ears. The subject performed an exercise on a computer while brain activity was monitored. First, a prime stimulus consisting of a male or female name was shown briefly on the computer screen. Next, the prime stimulus was covered by a mask stimulus, such as a blank picture or jumbled word. The mask prevents the subject from consciously seeing the prime, making the prime subliminal. Finally, a target stimulus was shown: a male or female name.
In her third semester, one of Davis’ lectures in quantum mechanics was so inspiring that Chaisangmongkon talked to him about participating in his research projects. Accepted into the lab, she worked on a project detecting on the submicron scale small deviations from Newtonian gravitational law. She enjoyed the independence and responsibility for conducting the design, calculations, and measurements involved in her physics research. In subsequent semesters as her work in Davis’ lab also continued, Chaisangmongkon became a data analyst in Zayas’ lab and trained new undergraduate research assistants. Zayas worked closely with the students in planning the experiment and design analysis, and Chaisangmongkon used these same techniques to develop her honors research project. Her project tested whether subliminal intervention can alter the priming effect. Zayas says, “Jah is extremely intelligent, enthusiastic, and diligent, and I have no doubt that she will be very successful in pursuing this line of work.” Chaisangmongkon also appreciates how Davis “is an excellent role model for any young physicist, and he always expresses his interest in my future career.” She hopes to excel scientifically in a specific area while enjoying the exploration of how different realms of science can work together to give a bigger picture. “It is not as fine a line between fields as people think,” she comments.
“ A demonstration
The experiment monitored subjects with a device called an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap. The EEG cap connects electrodes to 64 spots on a subject’s scalp, measuring the electrical potential on the scalp relative to a reference point at the back of the ears. The subject performed an exercise on a computer while brain activity was monitored.
85 Photos in Undergraduate Research: Frank DiMeo unless otherwise noted
Chaisangmongkon will pursue a PhD in neuroscience at Yale University beginning in the fall of 2009. She will do computational neuroscience research, mathematically modeling how neurobiological components of the brain work.
per day for adults. This RDA, however, may not adequately meet the folate needs of all people, particularly those with a genetic polymorphism, or change in the DNA sequence, in the region of DNA that codes for the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate
Jackson’s research may eventually allow nutritional scientists to individualize dietary recommendations in order to make up for shortcomings in biochemical pathways caused by genetic variation. Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Create Their Own Paths Brandi Jackson and Alex Latzka began their research experience at Cornell as Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars (CPRS). Offering faculty mentorship and financial support for research, the CPRS program allowed Latzka and Jackson to explore their research interests in their first year at Cornell. The program gave Latzka and Jackson the flexibility and financial support to redefine their research interests and granted them the opportunity to pursue these interests at the interface of science and society. Exploring Folate’s RDA Science and society have intertwined throughout Brandi Jackson’s research. In the first year of her human development major, Jackson studied international agriculture and rural development, with a focus on nutrition. She conducted an independent study on the effects of malnutrition and disease on African family structure. While learning about the social effects of malnutrition, especially prevalent in developing nations, she grew to appreciate the importance of having a background in biology when advising on nutritional problems. With plans to become a doctor, Jackson was eager to get involved with the biological research needed to advance the social understanding of nutrition. She has been working since the beginning of her sophomore year in the lab of Marie Caudill, Nutritional Sciences. Jackson explains that the folate recommended dietary allowance (RDA), established by the Institute of Medicine in 1998, is 400 micrograms
reductase. This enzyme, coded by the gene called MTHFR, converts the potentially toxic amino acid homocysteine to methionine. About 10 percent of the general population has the MTHFR polymorphism. Prevalence among people of Mexican descent is twice as high. Caudill’s research indicated that, when the RDA of folate is consumed, the level of homocysteine in the blood of Mexican American men with MTHFR polymorphism is markedly higher than in those with MTHFR, but without the polymorphism. Other polymorphisms may also correlate with blood homocysteine levels. Since high blood homocysteine is associated with atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart attack and stroke, its genetic basis is very important. Jackson’s project with Caudill investigated the genetic basis of high homocysteine. Jackson’s first task was to isolate BHMT and CHDH genes from unpurified DNA samples of Mexican American men using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This lab technique entails adding a specific primer to the DNA that attaches near the gene of interest and selectively copies that region. Once the gene had been copied many times, Jackson purified it, excluding the extraneous fragments of DNA from the product. She prepared the sample for sequencing by diluting it with water. The PCR products were then cleaned and sequenced by the Life Sciences Core Laboratory Center. By understanding the genetic roots of the higher homocysteine levels, Jackson hopes to learn how to modify standard dietary recommendations for people of Mexican descent. Caudill describes Jackson as “enthusiastic about her research project
and eager to make progress and take on more responsibility.” Her research may eventually allow nutritional scientists to individualize dietary recommendations in order to make up for shortcomings in biochemical pathways caused by genetic variation. Caudill published a paper on their findings in the Journal of Nutrition, with Jackson as a coauthor. During the past semester, Jackson has worked on a feeding study of pregnant and nursing women to investigate choline and folate metabolism and requirements in third trimester pregnant women, as well as lactating women. She will continue in Caudill’s lab throughout her senior year. Jackson says, “I decided to come to Cornell because I knew it would challenge me academically and intellectually, and at the same time, give me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.” From her undergraduate research experience, Jackson has acquired an appreciation for laboratory research. She explains that working in the lab takes independence and perseverance, as “often the tests provide more failure than success. But in the end, the results are worth it!” Jackson is considering a future as an MD/PhD. She hopes to combine biology and social understanding in a practice in global health. When she studied abroad in the fall of 2008, participating in SIT’s Development Studies Program in Uganda, the field experience was one more step toward her goal. Planning for Bioelectricity Production Alex Latzka, a natural resources major, was excited about choosing Cornell because of its great reputation and faculty in natural resources and conservation. He explains, “I knew that I would be well prepared to go on to law school, graduate school, or into the job market. Cornell provides many opportunities to learn, have fun, and get involved in interesting activities.” Latzka began his study at Cornell with a research project with Stephen Morreale, a senior research associate in natural resources, studying the impact of environmental management techniques—specifically water drawdowns—on the behavior of snapping turtles. Both Morreale and Latzka, however, became interested in climate change research.
Latzka wanted to pursue climate policy after taking a few economics classes. With the support of Morreale, Latzka contacted Antonio Miguel Bento, Applied Economics and Management, a new faculty member researching the economics of biofuels. Bento accepted Latzka as part of his research team studying the politics, economics, and environmental impact of the bioelectricity industry. Bento says, “Alex is an extremely talented undergraduate student with tremendous potential. I think this change in projects is part of his continuing growth as a future researcher.”
encouraging clean, renewable energy production.” Ongoing research will develop and fine-tune a model using the New York power industry as a representative of the electric industry. During the summer of 2008, Latzka visited different sites that could potentially produce biomass feedstock crops. He tested soil samples and looked at crop-growth potential, total transportation costs, and other economic and environmental impacts of crop cultivation.
Latzka’s research will allow the team to advise power plants on the most environmentally and economically sustainable method of bioelectricity production—and policy makers on the most effective ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Latzka began collecting background information and writing up policy briefs on the biofuel industry while developing ideas for an independent research project in the fall of 2007. The following spring he worked on a project to study the economics and environmental impact of biomass feedstock options, as well as technological innovations, such as carbon capture. The regional greenhouse gas initiative and renewable portfolio standard created incentives and requirements for power plants to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions using biomass as one alternative for energy production. Yet biomass from certain feedstock, although marketed as renewable energy, is not always economically sustainable. Using economic modeling techniques, Latzka analyzed the different emission reduction options for local power plants. He explains, “We analyze the costs and benefits associated with each option for emission reduction. For a biomass feedstock, we consider transportation costs, processing costs, and the cost of the feedstock compared with competing uses like food. Ultimately, the power plants will choose a method that maximizes their profits in compliance with the policies
Latzka continues to refine his work as he analyzes New York State’s potential to produce biomass for electrical power. With GIS software, he is mapping current land use throughout New York to estimate the biomass that could be available, looking at woody biomass crops, herbaceous energy crops, and agricultural and forestry residues as sources of biomass. Using economic data, the research team will be able to determine how landowners can maximize their profits, whether by completely switching to a biomass crop or by harvesting some portion of their residues. These decisions will indicate how much biomass may be available at any given price. In addition, the researchers are mapping the location of power plants that could utilize biomass to determine the costs of transportation and processing.
CPRS program is that it allows advisers to effectively teach their undergraduate students, letting them learn about the research process while developing a range of skills. Latzka also works with faculty in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, who are helping him incorporate a model to determine optimal land uses based on environmental data like latitude, precipitation, light intensity, and soil type. Once they have determined how to optimally use the land for biomass production, along with food cultivation and other land uses, they will have an idea of biofuel’s theoretical potential. The study will conclude by analyzing the effects that state, regional, and federal policies have on reducing greenhouse gases and increasing renewable energy in relation to the biomass market, and the environmental costs and benefits of the market. Latzka’s research will allow the team to advise power plants on the most environmentally and economically sustainable method of bioelectricity production—and policy makers on the most effective ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. He looks forward to writing his senior honor’s thesis when he completes his analysis. After Cornell, he hopes to go to graduate school or law school with an eventual career in environmental conservation and policy. Gillian Sarah Paul ’08 Gillian Paul is now in graduate school at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, studying tropical ecology and restoration.
Latzka says that his background in natural resources combines very well with the mathematical and economic modeling techniques that he learns with Bento’s research team. “Bento does a great job integrating different ideas into research and getting students to see the different sides of a complicated environmental issue and teaching the techniques needed to advance his students’ research skills,” Latzka says. Both Latzka and Bento feel that the true value of the
Undergraduate Researchers Pick Applied and Engineering Physics As the incoming writer of the undergraduate research feature for Connecting with Cornell, I chose to interview two undergraduate researchers in the Department of Applied and Engineering Physics. I, too, am fascinated by physics, a wonderfully challenging area of study. Undergraduates in the physics laboratories on campus do such interesting work. These students, Kenneth Ferguson ’11 and Nitin Malik ’11, are only two examples.
Designing and Building Custom Lab Optical Equipment Research was the reason why Kenneth Ferguson chose Cornell. “I wanted to go to a research university that does high-quality research and provides opportunities for undergraduates to become involved in it,” Ferguson says. “I think Cornell’s done that.” A junior in the Department of Applied and Engineering Physics in the College of Engineering, Ferguson has already made considerable progress in what he set out to do at Cornell. Ferguson is in the lab of Alexander Gaeta, Applied and Engineering Physics, where he designs and builds advanced optical equipment. Gaeta’s research group concentrates on quantum nonlinear optics, a field that studies the interaction between light and matter.
Ferguson became very interested in the course material of a freshman-level lasers and photonics course, taught by Gaeta. He asked Gaeta about the possibility of joining his research group. Ferguson’s first project was to design and build an erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA). The EDFA amplifies optical signals that pass through it for better detection and analysis.
gain using a 1550 nm signal wavelength and a six-meter fiber and built a working EDFA according to his findings. The motivation for Ferguson’s work derives from the unique requirements for optical equipment in Gaeta’s lab. Most off-the-shelf optical equipment is designed specifically for use in telecommunication and lacks
Ferguson assembled the necessary components for his design.…The main component of the amplifier is the erbium-doped fiber, which directly increases the intensity of an optical signal. After reviewing published literature on the subject, Ferguson assembled the necessary components for his design: pump lasers operating at 980 nanometers (nm), fiber connectors, two isolators, two wave division multiplexers (WDM), and erbium-doped fiber. The main component of the amplifier is the erbium-doped fiber, which directly increases the intensity of an optical signal. As the pump laser beam travels through the fiber, it excites erbium ions to high-energy states. A passing signal wave then de-excites the erbium ions, whose energy is transferred to the signal and amplifies it. In order to ensure that only the signal passes through the system, isolators are placed at its beginning and end to filter noise. Between the isolators and on either side of the erbium-doped fiber are wave division multiplexers, which effectively combine the signal wave (at 1550 nm) and the pump laser beam (at 980 nm) into the single amplifying fiber. The fabrication of the design involved cleaving and splicing fibers using specialized equipment. Ferguson comments that the greatest challenge of the project was becoming familiar with the technology and developing good techniques, particularly for fiber splicing. “I was told how the machine works,” Ferguson recalls, “but not the details.” Initially, ineffective splicing resulted in poor transmittance, but Ferguson quickly overcame that obstacle. Using his design, he worked to increase the signal intensity by experimenting with varying signal wavelengths and fiber lengths. He found a maximum
some necessary specifications for quantum nonlinear optics research. Ferguson’s custom amplifier meets the lab’s needs by offering low nonlinearity and dispersion properties that preserve the frequency and intensity of propagating light signals. In the course of his lab experience, Ferguson has developed greater confidence and autonomy in conducting research. Aside from some help and guidance from Mark Foster, a postdoc in Gaeta’s research group, Ferguson is able to work toward his project’s goal independently. “He likes less of me showing him stuff and more of him figuring it out,” Foster says of Ferguson. “He’s young, just starting out, but he does a good job getting everything working like we need it to.” Gaeta concurs: “Most of the undergraduates at my lab are juniors at least. He’s only a sophomore, and he’s done very well.” According to Gaeta, undergraduate research is important in two distinct ways. “It gives a little taste of research at a graduate level. At the same time, it gives a sense of what engineering and science really is, which is often open-ended and not a well-defined path. You encounter roadblocks, and you have to solve them.” With no prior research background, Ferguson appreciates the exposure to the laboratory environment and the work of professional researchers that this experience has provided. He says, “It has definitely shown me I like working in the lab. I could
“ Undergraduate research … gives a sense of what engineering and science really is, which is often open-ended and not a well-defined path. You encounter roadblocks, and you have to solve them. –Alexander Gaeta
see myself working there.” This is an excellent confirmation for Ferguson, since he plans to continue on to graduate school and possibly become a professor. Ferguson plans to continue working in Gaeta’s lab; he has begun to design a tunable optical fiber as his next project. He came to Cornell for research, and for this budding academic, his experience certainly did not disappoint. Studying Biofuels at the Molecular Level for an Improved Energy Source Nitin Malik chose Cornell partly for its renowned engineering college and partly for its stellar Department of Applied and Engineering Physics (AEP). But another reason for his decision was Libe Slope. “I was thinking of Johns Hopkins University, but I was at the top of Libe Slope on a college visit, and that’s when I really fell in love with campus,” he reveals. He applied by early decision and was accepted. He was awarded a place in the Hunter R. Rawlings III Presidential Research Scholars program and began his research experience at Cornell in the spring of his freshman year. In his senior year of high school, Malik had conducted an independent study project focusing on biology. At Cornell, as a prospective medical student majoring in AEP, Malik found his research match in the combination of physics and biology, studying the molecular-level interactions of cellulase through a technique called fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FSC). Malik works as part of a long-term collaboration between Harold Craighead, Applied and Engineering Physics, and Larry Walker, Biological and Environmental Engineering, to improve the processing of biofuels as a more efficient energy source. The current research examines cellulose-cellulase interactions through optical techniques and by developing nanodevices to investigate biological systems on the nanoscale. This past semester, Malik studied fluorescently tagged cellulases in solution to determine diffusion coefficients for different strains of the enzyme. He calculates diffusion rates using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), a technique in which a laser is focused through a high-aperture microscope into a sample containing a fluorescent species. As cellulase molecules pass
through the laser beam, they fluoresce due to excitation, and a detector observes and records their light signals. Malik spent a previous semester calibrating the laser in order to achieve maximum intensity readings for the fluorescence. In this optimal calibration, the molecules in the sample generate a time-varying intensity from which diffusion coefficients may be extrapolated. These results reveal the diffusive behavior of cellulase without cellulose. They will serve as comparison for the next stage
however, that these difficulties do not detract from the rewards of research, but are part of what is valuable about the experience. Malik plans to continue research after Cornell through medical or graduate school, depending on whether he decides to pursue clinical research or biophysics. As devoted as Malik is to his research, he also finds time for his hobby. Since freshman year, Malik has been a member of Cornell’s award-winning Bhangra team. Bhangra is a
Malik works to improve the processing of biofuels as a more efficient energy source. The current research examines cellulose-cellulase interactions through optical techniques and by developing nanodevices to investigate biological systems on the nanoscale. in Malik’s research, where he will perform FSC and diffusion coefficient calculations on samples containing cellulases incubated with cellulose. Malik’s efforts directly contribute to the research of Jose Moran-Mirabal, a postdoc working with Walker. Moran-Mirabal studies single molecule behavior of cellulase on cellulose fibril in order to understand how the enzyme moves along the fibril. Malik’s work helps characterize cellulase molecules by investigating their behavior in solution. “Nitin is quick to pick up on new techniques and is able to work individually,” says Jose. “He has good experimental judgment. We design experiments together, but he is running them on his own.” Reflecting pragmatically upon his undergraduate research experience, Malik says, “There’s an idealized vision of research, but in reality, things go wrong—like something goes wrong in the experiment’s design, or your hypothesis is wrong. It takes a lot of persistence to find anything significant, and to get there, a lot of fine-tuning is required.” Certainly there have been times in the past few months when persistence paid off: as, for instance, he learned to keep a good lab notebook, undertook the time-consuming adjustment of laser equipment, and found ways to schedule the six to eight hours he spends in the lab each week. Malik insists,
physically demanding form of dance that originated in northern India. Cornell’s Bhangra team has a hard-earned reputation for being one of the best college teams in the country. Besides training—sometimes up to four hours a day—and participating in numerous competitions across North America, the group also organizes and performs at Pao Bhangra, an annual Bhangra exhibition held at Cornell. Year after year, this event has consistently drawn more than 2,500 spectators and has become—as its tagline proudly states—“the biggest show on campus.” Striking a balance between such diverse activities is never easy. But through his research and Bhangra, Malik is having an incredible Cornell experience. Belinda Heyun Pang ’11 Belinda Pang has just declared a major at Cornell—applied and engineering physics. For more information: Chaisangmongkon, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Jackson, email@example.com Latzka, firstname.lastname@example.org Ferguson, email@example.com Malik, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR) supports a wide range of advanced materials research that explores amazing materials. One example is graphene membranes. These membranes are basic components of many physical, chemical, and biological systems. They divide space into two regions, each capable of possessing different physical or chemical properties. The stretched surface of a balloon is a simple example, where the pressure difference across the balloon is balanced by the surface tension in the membrane. CCMR researchers working with Paul McEuen, Physics; Jeevak Parpia, Physics; and Harold Craighead, Applied Engineering Physics, have shown that graphene membranes only one atom thick act like nanoballoons. In spite of their thinness, they are impermeable to gases and can support pressure differences larger than one atmosphere. Such pressure differences cause the membranes to bend like the surface of a balloon. These ultrathin membranes offer great promise for types of microscopy that can peer through the membrane into the trapped region.
The Abby and Howard P. Milstein Chemistry Core Facility and Program in Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease addresses some of the world’s most pressing public health concerns. It develops innovative treatments to combat antibioticresistant tuberculosis (TB) and other global health threats. In 2007 the Weill Cornell Medical College received two grants totaling $2.4 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help fight tuberculosis. As principal investigator of one of the Gates Foundation grants, Carl F. Nathan, Microbiology and Immunology, director of the Milstein program, and his colleagues work to shape a basic understanding of innate immunity and host-pathogen interactions. Nathan’s work builds upon his advances in identifying and understanding the macrophageactivating factor interferon-g, the respiratory burst in macrophage biology, and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). The success of Nathan’s team in the laboratory has suggested that a new chemical can lead to the prevention of active tuberculosis in people with a latent form of the bacterium. Nathan’s work aims to increase the efficiency of antibiotic-resistant TB treatment.
A two-dimensional imager, the W. M. Keck Pixel Array Detector, developed by Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) uses an array of pixilated integrated circuits that captures x-rays, using hundreds of thousands of miniature x-ray detectors all operating at the same time. By storing time-lapsed frames of moving matter in less than 0.5 microseconds, it can be used for time-resolved experiments where speed is a critical factor. The ability to study structural change on the microsecond timescale allows Cornell physicists to perform studies beyond the limits of today’s detectors. This revolutionary instrument complements the Energy Recovery Linac (ERL) in progress, providing tools for advancing the field of highenergy physics. Sol Gruner, director of CHESS, received a $2.19 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation and other funding totaling $4.06 million for the creation of this portable x-ray detector.
The Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF) has been an integral part of the research of Michael Shuler, Biomedical Engineering, and his research group. The students in Shuler’s group aim to change the way environmental contaminants are detected and evaluated for toxicity. The group’s cell culture analog chips simulate contaminants’ uptake and breakdown in the body and provide an estimate of their effects on human organs. For accuracy, the chips include analogs of complex organs, such as the gastrointestinal tract and the liver. Since the start of the project in 1998, generations of students have fabricated their microfluidic devices, including membranes, with nanoscale pores at CNF. The center is also vital to the group’s success in a recently established collaboration with Donald Cropek at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign, Illinois. The joint project will realize Shuler’s vision of measuring cell vitality on the devices electrochemically or optically, thereby detecting toxic effects of drugs or contaminants as soon as they occur.
Director Carl F. Nathan Director Sol Gruner Michael L. Shuler
Director Melissa Hines
Susan San Giovanni
The Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS) develops revolutionary solutions to engineering challenges by innovating effective nanoscale systems. Recent advances include the development of novel microelectromechanical switches and memory space on silicon that use polymer cantilevers. Researchers have also demonstrated all-optical regeneration on a silicon photonics chip, which can be applied to restore degraded signals in optical communication systems. Additionally, a newly developed technique has enabled the first quantitative measurements of spin torque in magnetic memory devices, which signal greater opportunities in developing magnetic technologies. Major advances have also been made in nanocharacterization techniques, including the application of a new electron microscope to produce atomic resolution pictures containing chemically specific details of a complex material. This instrument is highly valuable to nanoscale materials analysis and development of new materials and devices.
Judgment, Decision Making, and Social Behavior is the 2009–12 theme project of the Institute for the Social Sciences (ISS) beginning this fall. Cornell is uniquely positioned to bring together the fields of behavioral decision research (populated mostly by psychologists), behavioral economics (primarily pursued by economists), and other social sciences to address similar and important questions studied independently by each field. “The goal of this theme project is to put Cornell on the cutting edge of dialogue and collaboration between scholars in these two disciplines and throughout the social sciences where research is conducted on decision making processes,” says Ken Roberts, director of ISS.
As advances in nanobiotechnology research successfully address important questions in biology, biomedicine, and biotechnology, the Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC) continues to add significant numbers of new faculty members, particularly in life sciences. Incoming faculty further NBTC’s goal of expanding the center’s success in bringing together life scientists, physical scientists, and engineers to advance biomedical science and improve imaging, diagnostics, therapeutics, and drug discovery. NBTC researchers are committed to continuing these advances and to developing ever stronger partnerships with colleagues at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Cornell’s psychologists and economists already engage each other actively, but behaviorists are dispersed throughout campus. This project aims to transcend the physical barriers to interaction. The 2009–12 faculty fellows are Ted O’Donoghue, Daniel Benjamin, Peter Enns, Robert Frank, Valerie Hans, Ori Heffetz, Benjamin Ho, Emily Owens, Jeffrey Rachlinski, Valerie Reyna, and Vivian Zayas.
NBTC’s annual Nanobiotechnology Symposium showcases nanobiotechnology research at Cornell and partner institutions. It is an excellent time for learning about recent advances in the field, discussing related topics in depth at a poster session, and exploring opportunities for future collaborations.
Cornell’s Society for the Humanities (SHC) is an international residential research center with an interdisciplinary focus that promotes cross-departmental research across the humanities. Each year, the society brings together scholars from Cornell and around the world to conduct theoretical inquiry into specific areas related to a common theme. The annual themes reflect innovative and emergent thought and are cross-historical while remaining acutely relevant to contemporary issues. The focal theme for 2009–10 is “Networks/Mobilities,” intended to further an understanding of historical and contemporary flows of peoples, materials, images, and ideas across physical and virtual boundaries. The role of digital culture in relation to migrations, networking, and global cosmopolitanisms will also be examined. Individual projects are connected through weekly presentation and discussion led by a senior scholar in residence. Senior scholars in residence are Keller Easterling, Architecture, Yale University; and Brian Massumi, Communications, University of Montreal.
CNS has an aggressive agenda for the CNS Institute for Physics Teachers, a large-scale outreach program that provides training for high school teachers.
// www.socialsciences. cornell.edu
// www.arts.cornell.edu/ sochum
Director Alexander L. Gaeta Director Kenneth Roberts Director Harold G. Craighead Director Timothy C. Murray
Research Newly Funded
Research Newly Funded
Selected Sponsored Research Awards Development of a Rotavirus Biosensor Antje J. Baeumner Biological and Environmental
Cornell Higher Education Research Institute—New Grant Funding Ronald G. Ehrenberg Labor Economics, ILR $699,000, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
New Immigrant Destination Project: Contextual Data Collection and In-depth Interviews Michael Jones-Correa Government $17,500, Russell Sage Foundation
The Role of Youth Settings in Young Economic Evaluation of the Social Adult Development: The Ecological Determinants of Health Context of Rural Poverty Donald S. Kenkel Gary W. Evans Policy Analysis and Management Design and Environmental Analysis $36,970, World Health Organization $406,399, W. T. Grant Foundation
Impact of Maternal Anemia on Neonatal Iron Status, Placental Iron Transport, and Functional Outcomes at Birth among Pregnant Adolescents Kimberly O’Brien Nutritional Sciences $499,789, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Development, Implementation, and Outreach for Emerging Technologies of Plant Pathogen Detection Unipotent Representations Keith L. Perry Studies of Ionospheric On Evaluative Readiness for Goal and Automorphic Forms Irregularities: Origins and Effects Plant Pathology Pursuit: Testing Theoretical and Dan Barbasch $997,750, U.S. Department of Agriculture Paul M. Kintner Practical Questions of Breadth, Mathematics Electrical and Computer Engineering Mechanism, and Causal Impact $341,885, National Science Foundation Gene Control in Infection and $897,598, Department of Defense on Behavior Lysogeny by Phage Lambda Melissa J. Ferguson Stand-off SERS Detection Jeffrey W. Roberts Natural History of Urban Leptospirosis Psychology Using Nanoparticles Molecular Biology and Genetics Albert I. Ko $75,000, National Science Foundation Carl A. Batt $2,452,059, National Institutes of Health International Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Food Science Electron Spin Relaxation in Model WCMC $442,983, U.S. Department of Agriculture Competitive Orchard Systems and $1,731,008, National Institute of Allergy and Membranes Improved Crop Load Management Infectious Diseases Jack H. Freed A Collaborative System Approach to Diffusion for Apple, Cherry, Pear, and Peach Chemistry and Chemical Biology of Evidence-Based Prevention Terence L. Robinson SBIR Phase II—Highly-Integrable $1,754,350, National Institutes of Health Gilbert J. Botvin Microresonators with Fast Tunable Horticultural Sciences, Geneva Public Health, WCMC $245,000, New York Farm Viability Institute Group Delay for Broadband Kaust-Cornell Collaborative $3,569,527, National Institute on Drug Abuse True Time Delay Research Program Development of a Cell-Based HTS Michal Lipson Emmanuel P. Giannelis Characterization of the Human for Compounds with Activity Electrical and Computer Engineering Materials Science and Engineering Urinary Steroidome for against Tuberculosis $250,000, Morton Photonics $1,200,000, Aramco Services Company Antidoping Applications David G. Russell J. Thomas Brenna Microbiology and Immunology Quantifying the Genome-Wide Social and Statistical Mechanisms Nutritional Sciences Distribution of Transcriptionally- $913,185, National Institutes of Health of Prelinguistic Vocal Development $495,116, Partnership for Clean Competition Engaged RNA Polymerases at Michael H. Goldstein Role of Cortical Microvascular Ultrahigh Resolution Psychology Genetic Architecture of Maize and Lesions in Amyloid-Beta John T. Lis $351,859, National Science Foundation Teosinte Accumulation Molecular Biology and Genetics Edward S. Buckler Chris Schaffer $1,041,190, National Institutes of Health The Role of Environment in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Biomedical Engineering Evolution of Low-Mass ALFALFA $3,270,821, National Science Foundation $392,862, National Institutes of Health Defects of Mitochondrial Dynamics in ALS Galaxies Giovanni Manfredi Martha P. Haynes Video Categorization, Multiview Novel Technologies for NextNeurology and Neuroscience, WCMC Astronomy Capturing for 3DTV, GIS Generation Medical $1,846,318, National Institute of Neurological $54,995, NASA Streetview Integration and Instrumentation Disorders and Stroke Landmark Recognition James R. Shealy ECF Sigma Factors and Cell Tsuhan Chen Functional Properties of Protein Segments in Electrical and Computer Engineering Envelope Stress in Bacillus Electrical and Computer Engineering $1,276,012, Blue Highway Receptors and Transporters Subtilis $210,000, Chunghwa Telecom Company Ernest L. Mehler John D. Helmann Collaborative Curriculum Physiology and Biophysics, WCMC Microbiology Real-Time Control System for Development: Interdisciplinary $1,737,764, National Institute on Drug Abuse $1,873,418, National Institutes of Health Biological Experiments Middle and High School Education David J. Christini in Biomedical Engineering through Coupling Wind Generation with Controllable Regulating BDNF Action in Cardiology, WCMC Graduate Student/Teacher Interaction Program Load: a Time-Series Application of the Postnatal Development $1,938,241, Michael L. Shuler SuperOPF Barbara L. Hempstead National Center for Research Resources Biomedical Engineering Timothy D. Mount Hematology and Medical $2,910,000, National Science Foundation Applied Economics and Management Oncology, WCMC The Chemistry of Lithium Amides $75,915, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory $1,837,500, National Institute of Neurological David B. Collum 3T MR Scanner for Imaging from Disorders and Stroke Chemistry and Chemical Biology Mice to Human Fabric: A Higher-Level Abstraction $1,828,500, Yi Wang for Building Secure Distributed Beta-Catenin/TCF Signaling in Breast Cancer National Institutes of Health Biomedical Engineering Applications Louise R. Howe $2,000,000, National Institutes of Health Andrew Myers Cell and Developmental Biology, WCMC Theoretical Particle Physics Computer Science $1,727,855, National Cancer Institute Csaba Csaki Nutritional Cell Cycle and $996,276, Department of Defense Physics Differentiation Control Relationships between Laboratory$650,000, National Science Foundation Andrew Yen Novel Approaches to Heterocyclic Measured and Field-Derived Biomedical Sciences Synthons Properties of Pavement Layers Nonstandard Work Schedules $1,316,005, National Institutes of Health Jon T. Njardarson Lynne H. Irwin and Child Development Chemistry and Chemical Biology Biological and Environmental Engineering Rachel E. Dunifon $390,000, National Science Foundation $510,518, U. S. Department of Transportation Policy Analysis and Management $837,139, National Institutes of Health Engineering $203,522, Kimberly Clark Corporation
Photos in this article: Robert Barker/CU; Lindsay France/CU; Jason Koski/CU; Amelia Panico; University Photography; Provided
Why Cornell? 11
Young Innovators Explain
Michael J. Scanlon Plant Biology
An Exhilarating Science Community Very early, almost from the beginning, Cornell recognized and emphasized the importance of genomics. Cornell, therefore, has the infrastructure for doing genomics. The facilities I need to dig deeper into my research are right here. Cornell also has a large and diverse group of young, vibrant, and talented plant scientists, who are juxtaposed well. What’s particularly exciting for me is Cornell’s extremely active corn research group that conducts very diverse research. Although I work on other organisms, corn is my “home” model organism, and it’s stimulating to have great scientists with whom to talk. There are people across campus in various departments and colleges who can contribute to the research in my lab, for example, in different ways—not just computer scientists, but also physicists and chemists, and not just to generate new tools, but also to generate new ways of interpreting the data. The initiatives that have emerged at Cornell over the last 15 years came about to exploit this kind of interaction. Both Cornell faculty and administration realize the importance of diverse groups of scientists interacting. I would like to see even more interactions among Cornell scientists. So much new data is coming in that it is difficult for a single scientist to do everything needed to answer even his or her own specific questions. With Cornell’s eminent science community, think of what we could accomplish.
Robert Kleinberg Computer Science
The Cornell Mystique Cornell has a spaciousnessâ€”two kinds: geographical, the large campus with wonderful wide-open spaces; and scope and inclusiveness, its breadth of higher learning. I was a student here, class of 1997. I can remember the first time I walked around campus. In addition to buildings with names like mathematics and music, there were others like poultry and plant science. I thought, â€œYou can really learn anything here!â€? My family has had connections to Cornell since the 1930s, when my grandfather and one of his brothers attended. Since then, we have sent several generations of Kleinbergs to Cornell. Throughout my childhood, we visited my uncle, a Cornell statistics professor, here. I remember when we dropped my brother off here to start his undergraduate education. Even if I had no personal history with it, I would have chosen Cornell. My research area is theoretical computer science. This is an area that is undergoing a revolution, because our definition of what a computer is and what it can do for us changes so radically every five years. When I was a student here, networking was something you could do with your computer, but it was still a relatively minor feature. Now we hardly ever use our computers without using the network. The mathematical theory of what computers are capable of has to change profoundly in order to match the change taking place in how people use their computers. Cornell is one of the places that understands just how deep this transformation runs. It is one of the places that the entire world looks to for leadership on defining the foundation of this new kind of computer science.
Lindsay France/CU; Frank DiMeo
Masha Raskolnikov English
Invested in a Challenge For a nontraditional humanist, Cornell is an exceptional place to work: there’s a lot of intellectual space to do interdisciplinary research, lots of exciting dialogue going on, and many—sometimes, too many—speakers and colloquia to engage with. Many medieval studies programs at universities across the country are more Chaucer-oriented. One of the great things about Cornell is that it’s an extraordinary center for scholarship on Piers Plowman, a beautiful and frustratingly complex work by an anonymous author whose name might have been William Langland, written around the time that Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales. These two masters of English poetry could not have been more different. Where Chaucer is all-welcoming, jokey, and fun, with the steel of his intellect hidden underneath, Langland can be very challenging, but incredibly rich with multiple layers of political and philosophical ideas. I love teaching both and enjoy having colleagues who are so invested in Langland that we have to negotiate who “gets” to teach this difficult author.
Hod Lipson Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering/ Computing and Information Science
A Milieu for the Unconventional Using evolution to design things is not your standard mechanical engineering. It’s unconventional. I have a joint appointment—50 percent Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and 50 percent Computing and Information Science. I believe that Cornell has the capacity to accommodate unusual research. Many universities say that they support interdisciplinary research—it’s the thing to say these days. But the bottom line is whether a department will accept a faculty member who does this kind of work. Will they grant tenure for work that is outside the traditional boundaries? I now realize how much freedom I have had to pursue my type of research and how great this place is for me. To be able to do research unencumbered by traditional disciplinary lines is what excites me. Many new areas of research come from the merging of different ideas and disciplines.
Holger Sondermann Molecular Medicine
Dynamic Cornell Cornell is one of the big campuses with a huge investment in the life sciences. I see the potential for the future: the connection with Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, Weill Hall, the Nanobiotechnology Center, and the expansions in physicsâ€”all of these, plus the linear accelerator Cornell is building. These are positive future perspectives. At Cornell, there is no feeling of coming to a place that is all set or coming into a set structure with no development. Instead, we are surrounded by many dynamic possibilities that are moving forward. I want to be in this kind of environment.
University Photography; Patricia Kuharic
Nicholas D. Schiff Neurology and Neuroscience Weill Cornell Medical College
A Special Place to Be a Physician-Scientist Cornell’s historical legacy is the strength of its people with unique talents, experience, and skills continuing throughout time. I have been able to train with and to develop my own interests with outstanding colleagues. I have accumulated a base of collaboration—shared knowledge, ideals, and work—that I continue to build. It is rare to be in a place where one can be a physician and walk from a hospital to a laboratory and interact with scientists. Because so much talent is packed into a small area, many of us take advantage of this opportunity, not just in my field but also in many fields at Weill Cornell Medical College, to do bench-tobedside translational work. We also have many close collaborations in New York City—for example, across the street at Rockefeller or Columbia University. Cornell is a special place to be a physician-scientist. The type of work we do and have done over the past 15 to 20 years in neurology and neuroscience is possible because of this environment. Cornell is one of the few places in the world (the other places may be Cambridge, England, and Liège, Belgium) where serious scientific interest has been focused on the recovery of consciousness after severe brain injury and ways to diagnose and treat the problem. The ideas have grown up at Cornell, with core contributions from multiple collaborations. We have established a footprint in the very early stage of this new field.
University Photography; Frank DiMeo
Cheryl Finley History of Art
On the Move I came to Cornell as a visiting professor in the Africana Studies and Research Center in the fall of 2003. The following year I joined Cornellâ€™s history of art department. The department is on the move. By adopting an interdisciplinary approach to teaching visual culture alongside the foundational theories and methodologies of art history, the department has made a commitment to put itself on the cutting edge. Unlike other history of art departments across the country, Cornell has a global as well as Western focus. Around the same time that I joined the faculty to teach African American and African diaspora art, the department expanded beyond the traditional boundaries, hiring other new faculty specializing in archaeology and photography, contemporary South Asian art, and Native American Art. This signaled a change that recognizes nontraditional areas of study in art history in a way that enhances and complements the classic curriculum for which our department is known. I was also drawn to Cornell by my esteemed colleagues; the amazing collections of the Johnson Museum of Art; the research and teaching resources of the Kroch Library with the Hip Hop Collection and the Samuel J. May Antislavery Collection; the renowned School of Art, Architecture and Planning; the opportunities for critical engagement at the Society for Humanities; the pioneering Africana Studies and Research Center; and by Cornell's longstanding commitment to scholarly excellence.
Robert Barker/CU; Frank DiMeo
Jordan D. Matsudaira Policy Analysis and Management
A Fine Place to Call Home This is home. I grew up, age 2 to 22, in Dryden, New York, just outside of Ithaca. To me, Ithaca was the big city, and Cornell was a special place. Whenever we thought about going to a good college, Cornell was first to come to mind. It still has that resonance. My background is in labor economics, and I also work on education and health policy topics. Cornell has an amazing group of labor faculty in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a large group of health economists in my department. This overlap of health and labor economics is a great fit for my work. I can work simultaneously in labor economics and health policy. Having these kinds of people to talk with is a real asset. Another unique advantage that is important to me is Cornellâ€™s restricted access census data center. Itâ€™s invaluable for applied economists who work with government microdata.
Jason Koski/CU; Frank DiMeo
Suzanne Mettler Government
Where the Cutting Edge Is Cornell builds on the strength of the past, and at the same time, pursues new frontiers. The ways in which Cornell combines the old and new make the institution a truly stimulating and inspiring place to be. Cornell’s Department of Government has been long known across the nation as a place where exciting historical and institutional work is done. Now we draw on other approaches, as well, and bring them together with these older traditions. This is where we get creative and innovative thinking—here at the boundary between strong traditions and new directions. David Harris, Deputy Provost/Vice Provost for the Social Sciences, has been a tremendous presence in emphasizing the social sciences—coordinating and bringing together our strengths. Cornell is an unusual institution because it’s so decentralized, with faculty across campus in social science departments spanning eight colleges and schools. Without institutional mechanisms for bringing us together, we might not realize our common interests. The university also benefits from the growing prominence of the Survey Research Institute (SRI) here on campus. I was able to conduct a national survey of 1,400 people during the summer of 2008 through SRI. And for the first time, SRI conducted a national poll in October 2008—right in the heat of election season—to which we could submit questions. This is significant for Cornell. It’s at all of these intersections that cutting-edge work happens. I am thrilled to be part of it.
Lindsay France/CU; Frank DiMeo
Maria J. Garcia-Garcia Molecular Biology and Genetics
A Vibrant Vision The images that Steve Kresovich, former Vice Provost for Life Sciences, painted of the future of Cornell capture the imagination. His enthusiastic stories and maps of the future campus and Cornellâ€™s intriguing growth of diverse people, particularly in the life sciences, exerted an energy that convinces youâ€”this is the place to be. Several multidisciplinary centers across campus, including the Center for Vertebrate Genomics and the more recent Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, attract new generations of scientists and provide a scientific melting pot for innovation. Kresovich presented an exciting vision, and I want to be part of it.
Lindsay France/CU; Frank DiMeo
Ted O’Donoghue Economics
A Return to Cornell I left Cornell for a position at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, but returned after a year. I went to Carnegie Mellon because of its strong behavioral research group, particularly in judgment and decision making—the psychology side of behavioral research. I also liked the idea of being in an interdisciplinary department with both economists and psychologists. When I got there, however, I saw lots of behavioral research, but did not see nearly enough economics. The mainstream economists were not especially willing to talk across disciplinary lines. To get the most out of my intellectual life, I want to work with both the judgment– decision-making crowd and the economics crowd. I found that I missed the Cornell environment with its combination of both. In addition, Cornell made a commitment to reenergize its push to build the behavioral research community, particularly in behavioral economics. It made a lot of sense for me to return. Cornell works well for me. I get so much joy from walking around and seeing the Cornell campus and the Ithaca landscape. And the behavioral research community is already very good, and it’s getting even better. It’s very exciting right now.
BECAUSE WE HAVE DEVELOPED STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH TEACHERS, THE CCMR HAS OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK WITH ENTIRE SCHOOL DISTRICTS.
Amplifying Science The Reach of the Cornell Center for Materials Research Over the past decade, the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR) has brought Cornell scientists and Kâ€“12 teachers together to improve science education. Together, we have developed more than 50 educational resources, in addition to offering a wide array of hands-on programs for our local community, the greater New York community, and students and teachers across the nation and in Puerto Rico.
Photos in this article: Frank DiMeo unless otherwise noted
CCMR’s lending library of prepackaged experiments and our partnerships with faculty at Tuskegee University and the University of Puerto Rico have significantly extended CCMR’s reach. We are committed to helping raise the level of proficiency in K–12 science education in the United States.
CCMR members and participants create a lot of excitement among K–12 students and teachers. More than 60 faculty and 70 graduate students and postdocs are in K–12 classrooms, at the Ithaca Sciencenter, and on the Cornell campus, presenting lessons and workshops.
Science for K–12 CCMR members and participants create a lot of excitement among K–12 students and teachers. More than 60 faculty and 70 graduate students and postdocs are in K–12 classrooms, at the Ithaca Sciencenter, and on the Cornell campus, presenting lessons and workshops. In addition, the CCMR Modules Series—lessons and experiments—run at elementary, middle, and high schools. Because we have developed strong relationships with teachers, the CCMR has opportunities to work with entire school districts, including the Syracuse City School District and the Harlem Children’s Zone Schools in New York City. We collaborate with the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences to offer professional development for teachers in New York. We also work with faculty at Tuskegee University to develop science modules for teachers in Alabama and with Ana Rita Mayol, Chemistry, and the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras to adapt CCMR’s modules for Spanish-speaking students. Weight and Force, Height and Force Last year, the Syracuse City School District received a three-year Mathematics Science Partnerships grant from the New York State Education Department, which enables CCMR scientists and engineers to reach 38 schools and impact about 14,000 students. Joel Brock, Applied and Engineering Physics, created a module on physics for fourth-grade students. Brock developed a hands-on activity on forces, using weights, form padding, and a clear Plexiglas tube. These activities help students see the relationships between weight and force and between height and force. At the request of the district’s field coordinator for science and technology, the CCMR also provided physical science modules for the district’s teacher professional development plan. Flow Like a Liquid, Bounce Like a Solid Itai Cohen, Physics, forged a collaborative relationship with the Harlem Children’s
Zone (HCZ) Promise Academy Charter Schools, created by president and CEO Geoffrey Canada to address the needs of underserved students and their families in central Harlem. Working with the HCZ administrators, CCMR organized workshops for students and for teacher professional development. Cohen and his graduate students traveled to New York City to give hands-on lessons in materials discovery. In one session, Cohen, his team, and 130 kindergarten and first-grade students explored states of matter and tried their hand at classifying some unusual materials. The students had fun mixing sodium borate with glue to make silly putty, which flows like a liquid but bounces like a solid. Cohen also fascinated the students with a superabsorbent polymer, sodium polyacrylate. Together, they experimented to find which formulation would absorb the most water to form a gel and then added salt to re-liquefy it. In a professional development workshop, elementary and middle schoolteachers experimented with a superabsorber material found in diapers and mixed cornstarch and water to learn about colloids, as they learned how to utilize everyday materials to explain states of matter. Forces and Motion The CCMR joined forces with Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences to provide a series of workshops for teachers from primarily minority-serving schools in the five boroughs of New York City. The workshops, the Cornell Science Sampler Series (CSSS), provide hands-on activities for K–12 teachers, along with a Cornell faculty presentation on the latest in scientific research. At a recent workshop, Christopher Ober, Materials Science and Engineering, presented the latest in engineering research to more than 70 teachers in New York City. The teachers then rotated through activities on topics ranging from forces and motion to probability and measurement. How Your Kid Can Ask Science Questions One of CCMR’s most popular community programs is the weekly column “Ask a Scientist” in the Ithaca Journal, which reaches 21,000 readers. Regional scientists and engineers answer questions from K–12 students. Both the scientist and the child
Ask a Scientist
Q: Why do scientists say Pluto should not be a planet? Rosaly Wilson
School: Carol City
A: It’s an excellent question! In fact, it’s a question that I ask myself a lot, because I happen to think that Pluto is a planet. Here’s some background: Pluto was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Even though it was known to be relatively small and very different in many other ways from the giant planets of the outer solar system, it was still dubbed the ninth planet. For a long time the astronomy books—including the ones I read in school—treated Pluto like an outpost at the edge of the solar system. It became a special place in many people’s minds—a frontier, of sorts. Recently, however, using bigger and better telescopes, astronomers have started discovering many other planet-sized worlds even farther away than Pluto. Thousands of these “Kuiper belt objects” (named for the astronomer Gerard Kuiper, who predicted their existence) have now been discovered beyond the orbit of Neptune. While none of them yet found are bigger than the Earth’s moon, a few of these worlds may be larger than Pluto. So that begs the question: Does the solar system now have dozens—or hundreds—of more planets? Do those “other Plutos” count, too? Do kids have to memorize all of their names in school? Such a large number of planets bothered some astronomers—so much so that many of my colleagues sought to reclassify objects in the solar system to try to better make sense of the large numbers of worlds out there. One way to draw the boundaries was to call a world a planet
Hometown: Miami, Florida
only if it is fairly alone in its neighborhood and if it isn’t orbiting another world. It’s a limited definition that only takes into account where a world is and how it moves, not what it’s actually like. By that definition, the solar system would have just eight planets, a bunch of moons, and a bunch of “dwarf planets” like Pluto and some of the largest asteroids. The International Astronomical Union took a vote on this new definition, and Pluto was demoted. I’m a member of the IAU, but I wasn’t allowed to vote because I couldn’t attend that meeting in person. I was bummed. I would have voted against it. Indeed, personally I have a rather different definition of a planet. I think a planet is any world that has had or still has an active, dynamic interior history—an interesting geologic life, if you will. Why should Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, larger than the planet Mercury and just as interesting, not be a planet? And why not Pluto, with three moons of its own? By my reckoning, the solar system has about 30 to 35 known planets—and perhaps more, depending on what else is discovered beyond Neptune. I think that all of these diverse and exotic neighboring worlds of ours are planets, and—I apologize, kids—we should take pride in memorizing their names and learning about their histories. Some of us are trying to get the IAU to reconsider its definition. The case is not closed—Pluto may once again be a planet! Jim Bell Astronomy Research: Planetary science; Mars, the Moon, and asteroids
SOS program, formerly run by volunteers on a shoestring budget, brings students and teachers from schools in Macon County, Alabama, to the Tuskegee campus for a Saturday morning of science experiments.
A lab, Name That Salt, at CCMR’s 2009 Summer Institute for Chemistry Teachers
are featured on the CCMR website, as well, which attracts approximately 1,200 hits per day from as far away as Croatia and South Korea. Since Neil Ashcroft, Physics, answered the first question on September 17, 1998—What is Jupiter made of?—we have had many remarkable questions answered. The column became so successful, we have taken it on the road! Held at Nottingham High School in Syracuse, “Ask a Scientist LIVE!” enables inner-city high school students to meet Cornell scientists, who answer their questions in person. Students have met with Alex Gaeta’s Question How do underwater flares and torches work, when water puts out fires?
Answered by Nobel laureate David Lee, Physics
What happens during a sneeze?
Chris Ogden, Medicine, Qatar
Why are some musical instruments still made out of wood instead of using new types of materials like plastic?
Former graduate student Catherine Oertel
What causes the earth to rotate and why?
Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”
group, from the Department of Applied and Engineering Physics, to explore diffraction of waves, and Paul Mutolo of the Cornell Fuel Cell Institute helped students understand how chemistry plays a role in developing fuel cells. From the Physics of Bridges to Marvelous Magnets The CCMR’s web-based lending library of science experiments enables educators nationwide to use modules developed by Cornell scientists. We streamlined and reformatted more than 50 modules that the faculty and graduate students developed over the past 10 years to ensure that they meet New York State standards. Each reformatted module includes a lesson plan, student activity sheets, and a kit of materials. Educators can view and download lesson plans from our website in order to evaluate science content, preparation, procedures, and assessment activities. Each kit contains all the materials and equipment needed for a teacher to carry out the activity in the classroom. The modules range from the “Physics of Bridges” to “Marvelous Magnets.” Reaching Rural Alabama At Tuskegee University we work with the faculty to pilot kits for the Tuskegee Science on Saturday (SOS) program. The
CCMR scientists worked with faculty from Tuskegee University to develop hands-on science modules for high school chemistry and physics teachers in the economically challenged Alabama school districts that surround Tuskegee University. Hening Lin, Chemistry, developed a lesson plan on isotopes, and a team of CCMR graduate students developed a lesson plan on electromagnets. The CCMR piloted the modules with a group of Alabama teachers and high school students, who suggested improvements that we have implemented. Reaching Spanish-Speaking Communities At the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, we work with Cornell alumna Ana-Rita Mayol to improve educational outreach on the island. CCMR graduate students have traveled to Puerto Rico to present our light-emitting diode module— in Spanish!—to high school students. CCMR scientists presented the Microworld module to elementary students and teachers in Mayagüez. Cornell scientists, with Mayol, also presented a module on fuel cells to elementary students at Arecibo Observatory. Buying into Science CCMR devotes substantial assets and time to providing resources and expertise to improve the quality of K–12 science education. We want the public to better understand science, its value, and how it touches our everyday life. We want schoolchildren and teachers better prepared in science—to undertake scientific exploration at all levels and to have fun doing it. Nevjinder Singhota Director, Educational Programs For more information: E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.ccmr.cornell.edu Ask a Scientist: www.ccmr.cornell.edu/ education/ask
Adding Up the Annual Stats Educational Outreach Events 125 Unique Modules Created 50
Parents of schoolchildren
Cornell Program Creators
Upstate New York newspapers
SALTCHECK INC., BASED ON CORNELL RESEARCH, IS WORKING TO DEVELOP AND COMMERCIALIZE AN ON-THE-SPOT TEST TO MONITOR SALT EXCRETION THAT CLOSELY MIRRORS SALT INTAKE FOR HYPERTENSION PATIENTS.
ue u Technology e Transfer
The National Institutes of Health specifically recommends limiting the intake of salt upon diagnosis of hypertension. For the five million Americans with heart disease, monitoring of salt intake is critically important. For some patients with hypertension, controlling salt intake can mean less medication. For patients with severe heart disease, salt control can make the difference between life and death. Despite its widely acknowledged effects on both blood pressure and on response to anti-hypertensive medication, salt intake is rarely monitored in clinical practice by either health care providers or patients. The current standard for monitoring salt intake requires urine collection over a 24hour period to measure sodium excretion. But the inconveniences of specimen collection—from the all-day collection to the delay in receiving the results from the laboratory— make this method too impractical for repeated monitoring.
Salt Matters SaltCheck Inc. The Problem with Salt Excessive salt consumption is a major problem for anyone managing high blood pressure and heart disease. More than 60 million Americans have hypertension, and for many it is not adequately controlled. In most people, blood pressure increases with increased salt intake and falls with reduced intake.
On-the-Spot Testing SaltCheck Inc., an Allied Minds company that is based on Cornell research, is working to develop and commercialize an on-the-spot test to monitor salt excretion that closely mirrors salt intake for hypertension patients. The test stems from research done by Samuel J. Mann, Medicine, Division of Hypertension, and Linda M. Gerber, Public Health at the Weill Cornell Medical College. It uses two dipsticks to conduct a spot check of sodium levels in the patient's urine (similar to an at-home pregnancy test). Results from the dipstick test are interpreted based on statistical adjustments derived from Mann’s and Gerber’s studies. A physician or a patient can perform this new diagnostic test as often as desired. Ready and reliable information on patients’ salt intake over time will enable medical practitioners to know which patients have unacceptably high levels of salt intake, and they can then recommend or reemphasize dietary changes or prescribe a more tailored drug therapy. Efficacy A recent 100-subject study conducted at the Weill Cornell Medical College, funded
u Technology e Transfer
Average Sodium Consumed in the United States
Sources of Sodium Are Hard to Control
7000 6000 5000
Linda Gerber, Public Health/Medicine, Epidemiology in Medicine, WCMC
4000 3000 2000 5% Added while Cooking
6% Added while Eating 0 Daily Sodium Intake (mg/day)
by SaltCheck Inc., demonstrated that the test could indicate, with a high degree of accuracy, whether a patient's sodium content was low or not, as judged against Averagemeasurements. Sodium Consumed laboratory SaltCheckâ€™s next in the United phases of productStates development include final product design and clinical trials for 7000 FDA or equivalent approval.
12% From Natural Sources 77% From Processed and Prepared Foods
Carol J. Dempster Senior Technology Commercialization and Liaison Officer Biomedical Sciences New York City Office
For more information: Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise, In addition to a test kit for physician use, and Commercialization (CCTEC) 5000 the company is designing a home test kitDaily Recommended www.cctec.cornell.edu for patients to use in the privacy of their Average 4000 homes. The SaltCheck technology can proIthaca Office vide immediate feedback to patients so 395 Pine Tree Road, Suite 310 3000 they can play a greater role in managing Ithaca, NY 14850 their hypertension or heart disease. (607) 254-4698 2000 Fax: (607) 254-5454 Allied Minds 1000 SaltCheck is a virtual company managed New York City Office by 418 East 71st Street, Suite 61 0 Allied Minds, a seed organization for early stage technologies emanating from New York, NY 10021 Daily Sodium Intake (mg/day) academic research. Allied Minds acts as a (212) 746-6186 holding company that creates subsidiary Fax: (212) 746-6662 companies and supports them with capital, management, and shared services. SaltCheck is one of 16 companies shepherded by Allied Minds. 6000
Samuel Mann, Medicine, Division of Hypertension, WCMC
Despite its widely acknowledged effects on both blood pressure and on response to anti-hypertensive medication, salt intake is rarely monitored in clinical practice by either health care providers or patients.
INTRIGUED AND EXCITED BY LIU’S RESEARCH, COPELAND SPENT MANY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS IMAGINING THE POSSIBILITIES.
The Perfect Snack What began in Liu’s laboratory as a journey to extract maximum medicinal value out of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has ultimately led to the first product of its kind: a low-calorie, high-fiber, highly nutritious apple-based energy snack that athletes enjoy, registered dietitians recommend, and moms love for their children and themselves. Liu has been on a quest in recent years to show that nature has provided some of the best possible preventive medicines in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. He is convinced that if his research team can find new ways to infuse the highantioxidant properties of apple skin into a wider variety of foods—yogurt, oatmeal, rice cakes, and applesauce, to name a few—he can help people measurably reduce their risk of illness and chronic disease simply by making more informed food choices.
Power in the Peel AppleBoost Products Inc. When nearly 1,000 U.S. Olympic athletes and coaches settled in for the long flight to Beijing to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, each of them was provided with a supply of a new type of “functional food” called AppleBoost™ energy snack tubes. What the Olympians found inside those portable 32-gram tubes was an organic applesauce fortified with the most nutritious part of an apple—the peel. But instead of raw apple peel, AppleBoost snacks are fortified with dried apple peel powder (DAPP™)
that adds fiber, increases antioxidants, and enhances anti-inflammatory properties; the latter is an especially important ingredient for athletes. What the Olympians could not have known was that those DAPP-enhanced AppleBoost snack tubes had their origin in Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, where Rui Hai Liu led the research team that developed the patented process of drying and “powderizing” apple peels without losing their intrinsic nutritional value.
Intrigued and Excited Liu developed his patented process for drying and milling apple peels in 2003. The first company that held the license to Liu’s patent failed to run with it, opening the door for Dave Copeland, a product developer in upstate New York who says he is constantly searching for greater efficiencies in the food supply. Intrigued and excited by Liu’s research, Copeland spent many sleepless nights imagining the possibilities. That, in turn, led Copeland on many five-hour drives to Ithaca to see Liu at Cornell. By 2006 Liu decided that if anyone could commercialize the application of dried apple peel powder, it would be Copeland, with his long track record of bringing innovative foods to market. Copeland decided to market dried apple peel powder capsules over the internet, and that’s when the real work began. He auditioned several companies that were able to process a limited supply of the dried apple peel powder, which was a good start. But in order to grow the business, he had to find a large, ongoing supply of organic apple peel, as well as a manufacturer that could dry and mill it at a reasonable cost. It was no easy task.
health-promoting or disease-preventing properties beyond the basic function of delivering nutrients, so nutrition preservation was imperative to Copeland. AppleBoost DAPP Caps Copeland dubbed his apple-peel capsules AppleBoost DAPP caps, and he worked the phones pitching the product to major college and professional sports teams. Copeland’s
AppleBoost Products, Inc.
Keeping It Functional “The challenges of commercializing the product have been numerous,” Copeland explains. “First, I had to find a steady source of apples. While there are a lot of good food processors who use apples for applesauce, cider, and pies, it was difficult to find a facility that left the apple peel intact. I looked all over North America for a supplier that could meet the criteria.”
(l. to r.) Dave Copeland, Jim Leahy, and Mike Leahy
AppleBoost Products now had a steady supply of apple peel from Leahy Orchards. Thanks to Leahy Orchards’ commitment to cutting-edge technology, they also had a strategic partner that would be able to dry and mill the peel at a reasonable cost. The concept of using apple peel instead of discarding it was so new that equipment did not exist that would not destroy the peel during the peeling process. Leahy Orchards’ top engineers designed custom equipment that would gently separate the peel from the apple so it could be dried and milled without damaging the nutrients. “Functional foods” are, by definition, those that have
NSF Certified for Sport The AppleBoost DAPP caps earned an important distinction early on, when in the summer of 2008, it was awarded the “NSF Certified for Sport™” designation, which ensures that the product is free from banned substances. With athletes, teams, and even organizations like the National Football League more determined than ever to keep foods and dietary supplements clean, the designation is a badge of honor. “NSF International has been in the business of ensuring the safety of food, water, and air for over 60 years,” says Copeland. “It is recognized as the top dietary supplement certification program in the world, and we’re proud to be part of the NSF family.” From DAPP Caps to Energy Snacks Once they had blazed a business pathway for DAPP caps, Copeland and Leahy came up with an even more intriguing idea: DAPP-fortified organic applesauce in durable, portable tubes that can be served at room temperature, chilled, or frozen. Their plan for 2008 was to pitch the DAPP caps to athletes and the AppleBoost energy snack tubes to large institutional customers, notably schools, hospitals, and major
The supplier was Leahy Orchards of Franklin Centre, Quebec, North America’s largest producer of organic applesauce and the fourth largest applesauce producer overall. Leahy Orchards, a family-owned company, was an especially fortunate find for Copeland, not only for its desirable location just north of the New York border, but also for the talents of the company’s founder, Jim Leahy. Although Leahy had officially retired, selling his business interests to his sons in early 2007, he was still involved in the company in an advisory capacity. Leahy and Copeland hit it off immediately and teamed up to form AppleBoost Products Inc.
own history as a college athlete helped him build rapport inside locker rooms and encourage athletes to try the product. Anecdotal reports soon came flooding in, with athletes reporting that DAPP caps were acting like a powerful Cox-2 inhibitor (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID), without any of the associated side effects.
Patent No. 11/018,833
Copeland decided to market dried apple peel powder capsules over the internet, and that’s when the real work began. Ironically, after searching from East Coast to West, Copeland found what he was looking for only 75 miles from home, smack dab in the middle of what is regarded in the eastern United States as “apple country” (no offense intended to Washington state).
Throughout his career, Rui Hai Liu, Food Science, has focused his research on dietary phytochemicals and disease prevention, and his research on apple peel has been some of his most exciting work so far. In 2003 Liu patented a process for drying and grinding apple skins to create dried apple peel powder (DAPP). Gram for gram, the powder is more nutrient-dense than fresh apple peel, and the powder form makes it more bioavailable than fresh peel. While Liu’s patent was written with cancer treatment in mind, the applications have proven to be much more wide-ranging.
energy snacks to date have liked what they have tasted. Add an American population that typically consumes only half of the daily recommended fruits, vegetables, and fiber, and one could reasonably conclude that there is a place in the American food supply for AppleBoost Products.
college and professional sports teams. Both men firmly believe that a successful introduction of DAPP caps and energy snacks will lead to wider commercial success, most likely when larger food companies choose DAPP as a nutrient-rich ingredient for fortifying cereals, energy bars, baked goods, and other types of food products.
“The research is very compelling,” says Copeland, “but it’s only the beginning. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what DAPP can do and how it can be used. We’re dedicating significant resources to more research so that we can make even more persuasive claims.”
By mid-2008, it was clear to Leahy and Copeland that DAPP had huge potential as a food ingredient. The endeavor was not without its challenges, however. Many of the big food companies learned of the dried apple peel powder before they were ready to properly present it, much less produce it on a large scale. The partners did not want to miss an obvious opportunity, but neither did they want move forward unprepared. One year later, having nurtured relationships with the large food companies, AppleBoost Products is now in a much better position to go after that market aggressively.
“The research is very compelling,” says Copeland, “but it’s only the beginning. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what DAPP can do and how it can be used.
Endowed by Nature At first glance, according to Liu, DAPP may look unsophisticated to the untrained eye. It is, after all, merely pure dried-andmilled organic apple peel. But in reality, he says, DAPP supplies hundreds of bioactive compounds that act both additively and synergistically with other whole foods to provide countless health benefits. These benefits come from the abundant natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds found in DAPP, along with the peel’s soluble and insoluble fiber. “Consumers are reminded to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to capitalize on the multiplicity of enzymes contained in whole foods,” Liu says. “The health benefits provided by nature are virtually impossible to replicate with multiple vitamins.” Liu’s early research suggests that dried apple peel powder will have a wide range of applications, starting with antioxidant protection, but also promoting digestive and cardiovascular health, Cox-2 inhibition, and even inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. As impressed as Copeland is with Liu’s groundbreaking research, he is careful to point out that creating a product in a lab is light years away from producing it commercially.
Even with compelling scientific evidence that supports the health advantages of DAPP and a patent license, AppleBoost Products, like any other food company, must meet the demands and expectations of health regulatory agencies. “The FDA has determined that DAPP is a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) substance,” explains Copeland. “It’s considered a physically altered whole food, not a chemical extract, which is a very important distinction in our favor.” The company is currently proceeding with more studies, such as a double-blind in vivo study on arthritis patients. Researchers will look at the participants’ blood markers for inflammation before and after consuming DAPP and evaluate typical arthritis symptoms, such as range of motion. Copeland has no reason to believe the results will be anything less than spectacular. Anecdotal evidence already demonstrates that DAPP helps athletes withstand the rigors of training and competing, which can contribute to joint inflammation. You Can Have It Chilled To Go When frozen, the AppleBoost energy snack tubes are already gaining traction in sports for providing “cool down” refreshment, not to mention good texture and great taste. Food service companies that supply schools and hospitals are eyeing the AppleBoost energy tubes as a healthy alternative to traditional salty and sugar-based snacks. And registered dietitians, with whom AppleBoost founders hope to form an alliance, may be the heroes in the end. Dietitians are trusted sources, and the handful of them who have had the opportunity to experience AppleBoost
AppleBoost on the Go As AppleBoost Products evolve from idea to incubation, from locker rooms and the summer Olympics to lunch boxes, school cafeterias, and beyond, Liu continues to play an advisory role. “Semi-retired” Jim Leahy presides over the administration and quality control, while his son Mike, president of Leahy Orchards, ramps up manufacturing capabilities to accommodate growth. Dave Copeland, meanwhile, continues to tinker around his home near Lake Placid, New York, working on new flavors, new packaging, and entirely new AppleBoost products. Eileen Coale Coale Communications for AppleBoost Products Inc. For more information: Dave Copeland AppleBoost Products Inc. PO Box 85 Churubusco, NY 12923 (518) 593-0278 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.appleboost.com
AppleBoost Products, Inc.
DAPP Caps and Tubes • What the Olympians could not have known was that those DAPP-enhanced AppleBoost snack tubes had their origin in Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, where Rui Hai Liu, Food Science, led the research. • Liu has been on a quest in recent years to show that nature has provided some of the best possible preventive medicines in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. • Their plan for 2008 was to pitch the DAPP caps to athletes and the AppleBoost energy snack tubes to large institutional customers, notably schools, hospitals, and major college and professional sports teams. • Food service companies that supply schools and hospitals are eyeing the AppleBoost energy tubes as a healthy alternative to traditional salty and sugar-based snacks. • Liu’s early research suggests that dried apple peel powder will have a wide range of applications, starting with antioxidant protection, but also promoting digestive and cardiovascular health, Cox-2 inhibition, and even inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. • Researchers will look at the participants’ blood markers for inflammation before and after consuming DAPP and evaluate typical arthritis symptoms, such as range of motion.
SUPPORTING AND FACILITATING THE ADVANCEMENT OF CORNELL’S RESEARCH IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, WE MUST UPHOLD OUR INSTITUTION’S PRINCIPLES AND FOLLOW EXTERNAL REGULATIONS. MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL SOLUTIONS ARE NOT ALWAYS EASY.
a continuum of support designed to best meet the needs of our researchers and our institutional obligations. As part of this continuum, I directly oversee the Ithaca campus research pre-award (proposal submission and award execution), compliance, information systems, and animal care programs.
In Support of Cutting-Edge Research A Changing Landscape for Research Administration The intense and growing competition for research dollars and the dramatic increase in external regulation are two challenges facing Cornell and other academic researchers. New federal regulatory requirements and the reinterpretation of longstanding regulations have resulted in unprecedented burdens on institutions and researchers. Cornell is also undertaking strategic shifts in some areas of research conducted on campus such as preclinical and human participant studies, which are even more highly regulated. Supporting and facilitating the advancement of Cornell’s research is of the utmost importance, but at the same time, we must uphold our institution’s principles and follow external regulations. Mutually beneficial solutions are not always easy. Consequently, research administrators seek ways to provide value-added and costeffective tools and services that will enhance the ability of researchers to compete for and obtain research funds, to ensure that researchers and the institution are able to
adequately meet the requirements of conducting this research, and to minimize the administrative strain on the researchers. Goals and Priorities This changing regulatory environment drives a considerable portion of the agenda for research administration at Cornell. My goal, as associate vice president for research administration, is to help ensure that Cornell’s research administration achieves a level of effectiveness that is as superb as our faculty and the research results they produce. Research administration at Cornell is delivered by individuals in research groups, departments, colleges, and central offices—
My priorities are to ensure that we deliver to our researchers and research administrators highly effective pre-award and compliance services and that we put in place the programs required to ensure the integrity and compliance of our research programs. Through collaboration with leaders across the institution, I look forward to developing and implementing a model for research administration across the continuum that is forward-looking and will ensure that Cornell is positioned to provide the services, staff skills, systems, and other administrative infrastructure necessary to support research now and in the coming decades. Crafting Solutions Areas that we will focus on include streamlining the execution of grants and contracts and the review of research protocols; identifying strategies for facilitating industry-funded research; enhancing compliance in areas of high risk; putting in place programs required to support newly emerging areas of research; improving system performance and availability; and minimizing the cost and burden, and maximizing the efficiency, of compliance programs. These focus areas propel some of our top initiatives, such as the implementation of performance metrics and service standards, development and implementation of an institutional research administration system, development of corporate blanket and multiuniversity protocol agreements, creation of educational materials and programs, creation of support structures needed for new types of biological research, and assesment of our animal care and use program. We are also enhancing the policies, programs, and expertise required to meet our obligations related to financial conflict of interest, effort reporting, human participant research, export controls, and responsible conduct of research.
and guide graduate students through their training and education; to the college level where diverse multidisciplinary and department organizations are managed; to the central university where cross-institutional initiatives and services are spearheaded. The Pleasure Is Mine I work with extremely dedicated and innovative staff and a management team
I look forward to advocating for the research mission of higher education and crafting value-added solutions in support of Cornell researchers. A Cornell Prepping I am fortunate to have had many opportunities to be part of Cornell’s exceptional community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. I joined Cornell in 1987 working in finance and budget in the university budget office. From there I moved to a management position in the School of Applied and Engineering Physics, where I first worked with Bob Buhrman, now senior vice provost for research. And now, I have the pleasure of working with him again. I later joined the dean’s office of the College of Engineering as assistant director for administration and then became the assistant dean for administration, concluding with 21 years of Cornell experience prior to joining the Office of the Vice Provost for Research in 2008.
And More I serve as the chief administrative officer for Cornell’s research centers and programs that report to the senior vice provost for research. In this role, I hope to develop and make improvements in systems and services that support their needs, for example, delivery of more cost-effective facilities design, maintenance and construction, and IT services.
that is fully committed to advancing our institution’s research. And I have the opportunity to work with talented faculty and administrators and to learn more about Cornell research and university initiatives. With the many changes impacting the conduct of research—competition, regulation, and the economy—it is not only an opportune time, but also a critical time to provide top service to our researchers, assess our effectiveness across the institution, and implement improvements where needed. I look forward to advocating for the research mission of higher education and crafting value-added solutions in support of Cornell researchers. Catherine E. Long, Associate Vice President for Research Administration
I have had an interesting and diverse set of responsibilities at Cornell, which included many aspects of the administrative functions required to support the research and educational missions of the university—far less glamorous than the work of our researchers and educators, but when done well, is valuable and essential to the mission of the university. My roles have encompassed planning, leadership, and oversight of areas including facilities, finance, human resources, compliance, research services, communications, and information systems. I have been able to learn at all levels of the university—from the department level where our faculty teach and advise students, run multimillion-dollar research programs,
Research In Focus
The Essence of Cornell When we talk about Cornell, we can describe the institution in many ways. Cornell has a beautiful campus; it is diverse; it is Ivy League; it is an American university with a global scope; it is cutting-edge. There are numerous ways to talk about Cornell research: it transcends disciplines; it directly involves students; it promotes teaching at its best; it’s usable; it’s authentically interdisciplinary; it’s dynamic, forever pushing the cutting edge. Cornell faculty and student researchers, however, put meaning to these words and phrases. For example, when they talk about interdisciplinary research, there is an authenticity that goes beyond simple words of description. They reveal innovation that spans many disciplines and how this cross-disciplinary work itself creates the innovation that transcends disciplines. In essence, no description is better than having the faculty and students make the institution and its environs, and their part in it, come to life. This issue of Connecting with Cornell is special because it brings together 11 faculty from across broad disciplines (biological, physical, medical, and social sciences and the humanities) to tell not just their stories of research at Cornell, but also to give you a glimpse of how they spend their lives both on and off campus and why they chose Cornell and the Ithaca community. The issue also includes an expanded feature on undergraduate researchers. Here, we meet 11 of Cornell’s young faculty who are innovators in their fields. By the time you have read what they have to say about their research and Cornell and its environs, you will have a good idea of the DNA of Cornell.
Robert A. Buhrman Senior Vice Provost for Research
Photo credits this page: Robert Barker/CU; Frank DiMeo; Lindsay France/CU; Amelia Panico; University Photography
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Connecting with Cornell
2009 VOL. 22, NO. 1-2 Published by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research 222 Day Hall Cornell University Ithaca, New York 14853–2801 Tel: (607) 255-7200 Fax: (607) 255-9030 E-MAIL
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www.research.cornell.edu/vpr SENIOR VICE PROVOST FOR RESEARCH
Robert A. Buhrman ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH ADMINISTRATION
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