Page 1

30 Penn Arts & Sciences Alumni at Work

OMNIA 101: 36 Dark Matter

42 A Space for Discussing China’s Economy


24 Introducing Young Minds to Philosophy

CREATING A POWERHOUSE FOR ENERGY SOLUTIONS Arts & Sciences researchers see collaboration as key to recharging the planet’s battery. PAGE 14



FEATURES 14 Creating a Powerhouse for Energy Solutions

Penn Arts & Sciences researchers see collaboration as key to recharging the planet’s battery. By Erica K. Brockmeier and Susan Ahlborn









22 A New Home for

Energy Research

A record gift from Roy and Diana Vagelos will create an energy science and technology building. By Lauren Rebecca Thacker

24 Pint-Size Philosophers Philosophy’s Karen Detlefsen is opening young minds in the Philadelphia community to a new kind of philosophical thinking. By Michele Berger

30 On the Job The Penn Arts & Sciences at Work series follows the life experiences and unique career paths of College alumni.

36 OMNIA 101: Dark Matter Physics and Astronomy’s Mark Trodden and Masao Sako explain how dark matter and dark energy shape their work. By Karen Brooks

42 Giving Voice to

China’s Economy

Economics’ Hanming Fang and his collaborators have created VoxChina.org, a space for discussing China’s economy. By Sacha Adorno

46 Lost World, Lost Lives Hundreds of books looted by the Nazis during World War II provide a window into history and individuals we may otherwise have never known.




By Michele Berger







Fox Leadership International celebrates five years of shaping the next generation of global problem-solvers.






By Ava R. DiFabritiis



50 Lessons in Global Leadership



EDITORIAL OFFICES School of Arts & Sciences University of Pennsylvania 3600 Market Street, Suite 300 Philadelphia, PA 19104-3284 P: 215-746-1232 F: 215-573-2096 E: omnia-penn@sas.upenn.edu STEVEN J. FLUHARTY Dean, School of Arts & Sciences LORAINE TERRELL Executive Director of Communications LAUREN REBECCA THACKER Director of Advancement Communications BLAKE COLE Editor SUSAN AHLBORN Associate Editor LUSI KLIMENKO Art Director LUSI KLIMENKO ANDREW NEALIS Designers CHANGE OF ADDRESS Alumni: visit QuakerNet, Penn’s online community at quakernet. alumni.upenn.edu. Non-alumni: email Development and Alumni Records at record@ben.dev. upenn.edu or call 215-898-8136. The University of Pennsylvania values diversity and seeks talented students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. The University of Pennsylvania does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected class status in the administration of its admissions, financial aid, educational or athletic programs, or other Universityadministered programs or in its employment practices. Questions or complaints regarding this policy should be directed to the Executive Director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Suite 228, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106; or (215) 898-6993 (Voice) or (215) 898-7803 (TDD).

Cover Illustration: Sam Falconer

THE CASE FOR SCIENCE Liberal arts institutions are sometimes thought to be isolated from real-world concerns. In my experience at Penn Arts & Sciences, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Faculty from across the School engage in pressing issues every day, and our science departments are producing a steady stream of exciting discoveries that have the potential to reshape the future. In just the past year, Charles Kane and Eugene Mele from the Department of Physics and Astronomy received two major awards for their work on a new class of materials, known as topological insulators, that may enable superfast quantum computing (p. 3). Chemistry’s Virgil Percec led research that has uncovered how cells use sugars to communicate, and in doing so has provided a new tool that can be applied to a range of questions about how cells function at the molecular level. Other research, led by Biology’s Doris Wagner, has resulted in the discovery of a gene that, when turned off, allows flowers to form (p. 10). In Earth and Environmental Science, Reto Gieré and his colleagues reported on a new mineral that has the potential to immobilize nuclear waste. And if space allowed, this list could go on. Among all the pressing issues that are engaging the attention of our faculty, research on sustainable energy is particularly urgent. At recent regional events, a number of our alumni have had the opportunity to hear about some exciting work in climate science and energy research firsthand from our faculty experts. I’m thrilled to share that the efforts of Penn’s energy scientists just got a major boost in the form of a $50 million gift from P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99, and Diana T. Vagelos, PAR’90 (p. 22). The gift will be used to build a new Penn Arts & Sciences and Penn Engineering facility to house energy research programs, many of which are in place thanks to Roy and Diana’s previous generosity. In addition to making discoveries that are fueling advances across the sciences, our faculty are focused on teaching the scientists of the future. Penn’s Bridge to Ph.D. program aims to boost the number of mathematicians from underrepresented backgrounds, offering a master’s degree and preparation for doctoral programs. And this summer, as every year, our undergraduates will join labs across the University and engage in research alongside leading biologists, physicists,

Candace DiCarlo

OMNIA is published by the School of Arts & Sciences Office of Advancement

Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience chemists, and other scientists, investigating topics ranging from the mechanisms of cancer to language processing and solar energy storage. Even as we celebrate the enormous impact of the Vageloses’ gift, other areas are in dire need of attention. The scientists of tomorrow are taking math and physics classes in David Rittenhouse Laboratory, a facility originally built in 1954, decades before the birth of nanotechnology or the discovery of the Higgs boson. In order to maintain excellence across the sciences, we will need a 21st-century building where undergraduates can learn and faculty can pursue cutting-edge work. As a scientist myself, it is sometimes easy for me to assume that the world outside the lab and beyond campus values science and its contributions to our society, economy, and general well-being. Yet, in my role as Dean, I am regularly reminded that the need to make the case for science is a job that has no end. But thanks to the compelling and important work of our students and faculty, and the incredible vision and generosity of supporters like the Vageloses, that job is easier.

Steven J. Fluharty



FUTURE SOLUTIONS The multidisciplinary nature of Penn Arts & Sciences makes it a nexus for innovation in tackling the world’s leading challenges. In this issue, we look to one such challenge: energy demands. Bolstered by a transformative gift from P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99, and Diana T. Vagelos, PAR’90, of $50 million for a new science center, our scholars are better equipped than ever to take on the challenge. Our cover story, “Creating a Powerhouse for Energy Solutions” (p. 14), gives readers a tour of the trailblazing research and bold initiatives that define our commitment to creating a sustainable planet. The humanities, ever a cornerstone of the arts and sciences, take the lead in “Lost World, Lost Lives” (p. 46), which examines a quest to catalogue hundreds of books once looted by the Nazis, and “Pint-Size Philosophers” (p. 24), in which a philosophy professor spearheads a program that is opening young minds in the community to a new kind of philosophical thinking. Turning to the global stage, “Giving Voice to China’s Economy” (p. 42) recounts an economics professor’s founding of VoxChina. org, a website that addresses rarely discussed aspects of China’s economy, pushing research by leading economists into the public sphere. And in “Lessons in Global Leadership” (p. 50), we examine Fox Leadership International’s (FLI) impact. Since its inception in 2014, FLI has prepared hundreds of students for roles as effective leaders who work to advance human well-being.


Recently, the fascinating first images of a black hole appeared, piquing increased public interest in space-based phenomena. In “OMNIA 101: Dark Matter” (p. 36), two physics and astronomy professors plot their own courses as they look to the unknown in a new series designed to offer readers a peek into what faculty do every day in their classrooms—and how they bring their expertise to the next generation. No issue of OMNIA would be complete without a check-in with our alums. “On the Job” (p. 30) delivers firsthand accounts of how an education from Penn Arts & Sciences helped prepare past graduates for the industry of their choice, whether it meant implementing skills they learned in a specific major, or adapting the rich liberal arts curriculum to a path not previously realized. In our Insomnia section (p. 62), we also invite you to peruse a few pieces from the award-winning poet Charles Bernstein, who will bring his teaching career to a close after serving as a full-time faculty member since 2003.

As you read through the features, keep an eye out for the icons below. They represent the key priorities of the Power of Penn Arts & Sciences Campaign. POWER.SAS.UPENN.EDU

Advancing Faculty Distinction

Realizing Student Potential

Driving Global Change

Creating a Sustainable Planet

With so many exciting avenues of research, it is never a challenge to fill OMNIA’s pages. We hope you find as much enjoyment in reading our stories as we do in sharing them with you.

Harnessing the Power of the Brain

Blake Cole, Editor

Exploring the Human Experience


CHARLES KANE AND EUGENE MELE HONORED FOR TOPOLOGY RESEARCH Charles Kane and Eugene Mele, both Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professors of Physics, have been recognized with two awards for their work on topology and symmetry in physics. As the recipients of the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, Kane and Mele will share a $3 million award. They also received the 11th BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Basic Sciences category. That award, with a €400,000 prize, will be presented at a formal ceremony in Bilbao, Spain, in June.


“What drives me is the beauty of what nature can do,” says Kane. “Certainly major technical applications could emerge from this, but what fascinates me is discovering what nature can do with these seemingly simple building blocks. This topic arose out of curiosity about how matter could arrange itself. At the time, we had no idea it was going to develop into such a broad enterprise.”

Eric Sucar

Mele agrees: “What is so nice about this work is that the underlying thinking is very mathematical—elegant, simple, and pretty. And that fusion of an underlying mathematical, simple structure and its connection with things that have a real-world technical payoff is what we are striving for in science.” 

2019 COLLEGE GRADUATION SPEAKERS Stacey Snider, C’82, PAR’19, the only woman to have run two major movie studios, and Hannah Sweeney, C’19, will speak at the 2019 graduation ceremony for the College of Arts & Sciences on May 19. (cont’d on p. 4) Courtesy of Stacey Snider and Hannah Sweeney

(L–R): Eugene Mele and Charles Kane, both Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professors of Physics

Kane and Mele have long collaborated, sharing ideas and predictions in their field of condensed matter physics. Their theoretical contributions introduced a new class of materials known as topological insulators. These materials have the unique characteristic of being electrical insulators on their interior, but also have surfaces that are conducting. This duality, many believe, could allow the incorporation of topological insulators into electronics with high efficiency, or provide a foundation for enabling super-fast quantum computing. The properties and potential applications of topological insulators, including the miniaturization of electrical components without increased risk of overheating, represent a groundbreaking area of study in applied physics research.

(Top to bottom): Stacey Snider, C’82, PAR’19; Hannah Sweeney, C’19 3



Three Penn Arts & Sciences faculty were recognized with University-wide teaching awards in 2019. Justin Khoury, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and Sheila Murnaghan, Alfred Reginald Allen Memorial Professor of Greek, received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching—the highest teaching honor at the University. The Provost’s Award for Distinguished Ph.D. Teaching and Mentoring went to Nancy S. Steinhardt, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Nine additional faculty were honored with teaching awards from Penn Arts & Sciences. Josephine Park, Professor of English, and Masao Sako, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, received the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching. The Dennis M. DeTurck Award for Innovation in Teaching was given to Whitney Trettien, Assistant Professor of English, and the Dean’s Award for Mentorship of Undergraduate Research went to Ivan Dmochowski, Alan MacDiarmid Term Professor of Chemistry. Michele Margolis, Assistant Professor of Political Science, received the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor, while the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by Affiliated Faculty was presented to William Ashmanskas, Senior Lecturer, Physics and Astronomy, and Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve, Senior Lecturer, English and Cinema and Media Studies. In the College of Liberal & Professional Studies, Nakia Rimmer, Associate Director of Undergraduate Mathematics and Senior Lecturer, received the Award for Distinguished Teaching in Undergraduate and Post-Baccalaureate Programs, and Angela Duckworth, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology, was given the Award for Distinguished Teaching in Professional Graduate Programs. 

Courtesy of Nakia Rimmer



Courtesy of Nancy S. Steinhardt

Sweeney came to Penn from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, as a QuestBridge Scholar. She majored in political science with a concentration in international relations, and minored in gender studies, religious studies, and German. She served in the Undergraduate Assembly and as an original board member of the first-generation/low-income student movement PennFirst. A Wharton Public Policy Grant recipient and B.A. Rudolph Public Service Scholar, Sweeney has interned with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Human Rights Council. She received the prestigious Thouron Award, which she will use to obtain a Masters in Human Rights at the London School of Economics. She hopes to pursue a future in international human rights and refugee law. 

Brooke Sietinsons

Snider most recently served as Chairman and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film, overseeing all areas of the studio, including its five production divisions, global marketing, distribution, and home entertainment. Snider has also held executive positions at DreamWorks Studios, Universal Pictures, TriStar Pictures, and Guber Peters Entertainment. She currently serves on the boards of City Year, UCLA School of Law, and Harvard-Westlake School. She is a member of the Penn Arts & Sciences Board of Overseers, The Trustees’ Council of Penn Women, and the Parent Leadership Committee.

(Top to bottom): Sheila Murnaghan, Alfred Reginald Allen Memorial Professor of Greek; Nancy S. Steinhardt, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations; Nakia Rimmer, Associate Director of Undergraduate Mathematics and Senior Lecturer





The Penn Arts & Sciences Water Center, recently launched, serves as a regional hub of water expertise, maintaining a focus on urban water issues and advancing research into innovative and sustainable water solutions. Led by Howard Neukrug, C’78, Professor of Practice in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and former CEO and Commissioner of Philadelphia Water, the Water Center is building its research initiatives thanks to a recent grant from Spring Partners, LLC.

Two Penn Arts & Sciences faculty were recognized for their groundbreaking work by the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI), the University’s hub for innovation, venture creation, and commercialization. Courtesy of Amos Smith

The three-year, $1.5 million grant will allow the Center to bolster coordination among Penn researchers to address questions in chemistry, biology, earth and environmental science, and medicine, and to establish cross-disciplinary support for research on water issues in public health, technology, business, social sciences, urban studies, and city planning and design. “This grant will have an impact at Penn and far beyond, supporting some of the world’s best innovators as they collaborate on water programs, conferences, workshops, and research to find solutions to some of the most pressing water challenges,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “By improving water security and accessibility, their work will have a direct impact on health, social, and foreign policy.” 

Amos Smith, William Warren Rhodes-Robert J. Thompson Professor of Chemistry

Amos Smith, William Warren Rhodes-Robert J. Thompson Professor of Chemistry, was named Inventor of the Year. Smith is a world-renowned chemist who researches how to synthesize natural products, bioorganic chemistry, and materials science. More than 85 architecturally complex natural products have been prepared in his laboratory, and he has coauthored over 700 publications and 26 patents.

A topographic map of Philadelphia

“Smith has been involved in the synthesis and development of numerous drug candidates and medicinal molecules, and is very well known in the field with an extensive IP portfolio,” says John Swartley, PCI’s Associate Vice Provost for Research and Managing Director. (cont’d on p. 6) 5



Michael Kahana, Professor of Psychology, earned Device of the Year for his work to develop next-generation technologies that improve memory function. Funded by a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant, Kahana and his collaborators have learned to identify brain activity that indicates good versus compromised memory function, and are using targeted electrical stimulation to try to improve function.  Shira Yudkoff

Michael Kahana, Professor of Psychology

MENTORSHIP PROGRAM PROVIDES GUIDANCE FOR NEW FACULTY A new Penn Arts & Sciences mentoring initiative, called the First Two Years Program: Getting Launched, is bringing together junior and senior faculty for knowledge-sharing and networking. The program was co-developed in 2018 by former Diversity Search Advisors (DSA) Annette Lareau, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Social Sciences, and Greg Guild, Professor Emeritus of Biology, and current DSA Kathy Peiss, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of History. 6

Program participants meet on a monthly basis for workshops that cover a variety of topics critical to new faculty. Each session is led by three experienced faculty members representing the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Past topics have included time management, the tenure process, and networking. “There are informal rules of the game that new faculty are expected to know, but oftentimes people don’t tell them directly. The goal of the mentoring initiative is to provide an ‘insider’s guide’ to being a faculty member, and have a cohort experience where they get to know other junior faculty,” says Lareau, who serves as Faculty Leader for the program. “The First Two Years Program helps new faculty connect with the community of scholars outside their disciplines and departments and learn the lay of the land from experienced faculty members,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “Our faculty are what distinguish Penn and sustain our position among the nation’s top research universities, and this program helps them to develop strategies for successful careers as scholars and teachers.”

Assistant Professor of History Melissa Teixeira, who has attended multiple workshops, says the meetings are especially productive because they combine informal conversation over lunch with more structured presentations by senior faculty. “What makes this format so useful is that we get to think about the big picture while also having the opportunity to speak in smaller circles about our particular research and teaching practices,” she says. Professor of English Herman Beavers, one of the workshop presenters, spoke to a group of junior faculty about getting established as faculty members. “My experience on the panel was very positive,” says Beavers. “I talked about what it means to be a mentor to undergraduate students and the necessity for us to be compassionate and sensitive to their issues. In addition, I talked about being from a first-generation, low-income background. I was extremely impressed with the group. They were each engaged in very exciting research projects and were already making wonderful contributions in the classroom.”  A full schedule of workshops is planned for next year. 


Enhance your education without interrupting your career Designed for professionals seeking to advance in public service and leadership roles, the Executive Master of Public Administration program at Penn’s Fels Institute of Government offers an innovative, practitioner-focused education on a schedule that works for you. • Explore an innovative online learning platform combined with monthly on-site sessions • Work with world-renowned faculty and network with experienced leaders • Develop real-world solutions that you can apply immediately to your workplace


Plan Your Legacy. A gift in your will or trust can be an easy yet powerful way to make an impact. When you include the School in your estate plans, you strengthen the future of Penn Arts & Sciences and turn possibilities into realities for future generations of liberal arts students.


Assets remain in your control during your lifetime. You can direct your gift to the area at the School that means the most to you. Creates a lasting legacy.

Have you already made a bequest? Let us know so that we can thank you and welcome you into the Harrison Society. TO LEARN MORE CONTACT: Lynn Malzone Ierardi, JD Office of Gift Planning Suite 300 2929 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104 215.898.6171 giftplan@dev.upenn.edu www.powerofpenn.upenn.edu/gift-planning




NOT-SO-SELF-EVIDENT TRUTHS Sophia Rosenfeld, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History, digs up the roots of the relationship between democracy and truth. BY

When Oxford Dictionaries chose “posttruth” as its Word of the Year for 2016, the selection intrigued Sophia Rosenfeld. The Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History had already noted a “sudden explosion” in discussions about the role of truth in politics. A cultural and intellectual historian, Rosenfeld had been examining connections between truth and democracy for decades but had focused more on the past than on the present. She decided to take what she had studied and evaluate its bearing on modern-day politics. The effort resulted in Democracy and Truth: A Short History, in which she unravels not just whether the nation is experiencing a unique posttruth moment, but how that moment came to be. Before the Enlightenment set the foundation for democratic societies across Europe and North America, Rosenfeld notes, aristocrats and monarchs viewed secrecy and dishonesty as valuable tools of statecraft. “Think of Machiavelli; think of Frederick the Great,” she says. “Both explicitly took deception to be essential to good leadership.” But as republics emerged and open discussion gained traction, no single person or institution had the authority to call all the shots anymore. Instead, a blending of ordinary people’s opinions, expressed at the voting booth, with knowledge from credentialed experts such as scientists and academics would determine what constituted truth. “The problem with this concept of democracy is that it is a set of ambitions and aspirations, not a real thing,” Rosenfeld says. “From the start, there have been glaring exclusions—racial, gendered, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequalities that mean nothing like this collaborative 8

Courtesy of Sophia Rosenfeld

KAREN BROOKS regime of arriving at truth has ever really come to pass. Truth is more like a political football—something to be fought over, like sovereignty or representation.” Rosenfeld isn’t referring to logical truths like “two plus two equals four” or moral truths like “murder is bad,” but rather verifiable facts: Is unemployment up or down? Are throngs of terrorists crossing the nation’s southern border or not? “In politics, the debate is supposed to be over opinions, but people are treating facts as partisan. The idea that everything is spin has left us with no common pre-political starting point about what the world looks like,” she says. Rosenfeld’s book argues that challenges to democracy have persisted ever since Thomas Paine rallied for revolution nearly 250 years ago, condemning elites and promoting popular consensus just as the more privileged sought to squash common sense with elite knowledge in isolation. Advocates for both extremes have endured, working against the pluralism required for a functional democracy. Technology has only exacerbated these threats, Rosenfeld says, with the deregulation of television and radio and the rise of the internet creating infinite sources of information, much of it biased or just plain wrong: “There is no longer a real marketplace of ideas, because it’s impossible to get a handle on what all the ideas out there are, and truth rarely prevails on its own.” Back to what Rosenfeld calls “the $64,000 question”: Are we in a post-truth world? “There are signs we are living in an unprecedented moment of untruth, but we are not in a full-blown crisis—yet,” she says. “Many institutions are working well to push back—the court system, key

Sophia Rosenfeld, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History

journalistic outlets, universities. There is a lot to be worried about, but the forces of post-truth haven’t necessarily prevailed.” Rosenfeld hopes her book will show readers how populists and experts have been fighting over truth for generations, how the current political climate epitomizes that fight, and how truth and democracy might still enjoy a bright future together. “Looking at the present in a historical framework demonstrates that we can make collective choices about what happens next,” she says. “In the end, truth, like democracy, isn’t something that simply exists in the world. It is something we must all continue to consciously and collectively forge.” 



IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I READ Ian Fleishman, Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, looks at wounding to study narrative. BY


Should art hurt? Modernist writers believed “that an artwork is meant to injure,” says Ian Fleishman, Assistant Professor and Graduate Chair in Germanic Languages and Literatures. Beginning with Charles Baudelaire in 1857 and continuing through Georges Bataille and Jean Genet, who both wrote during the World Wars, Fleishman demonstrates that, for modernism, “the measure of how successful a book is is how much it hurts. And that is meant in a very literal way.” Fleishman examines representations of sex and violence—two universal constants—to trace the evolution of narrative from modernism to postmodernism. His first book, An Aesthetics of Injury: The Narrative Wound from Baudelaire to Tarantino, received the Northeast Modern Language Association Book Award. “For me it’s an epistemological question—how do we perceive the world at this point in time?—and an aesthetic question—what do we think an artwork should do?” says Fleishman, who is also an affiliated faculty member in Cinema Studies and part of the Comparative Literature and Theory graduate group. Modernists like Franz Kafka believed that what grounds a meaningful work of art is violence, he says: “It’s hard to watch. It’s going to hurt. And that’s how you’re meant to know that it’s a legitimate piece of literature or film or art.” In Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony,” a verdict is actually inscribed into the back of a condemned man. “We’re used to looking at injury as this thing that transcends the text,” says Fleishman. “But then the model Kafka gives for a wound is itself a text. So it becomes really difficult to tell whether the wound is representing text or text is representing the wound.”

In more recent decades, arguably postmodernist authors and filmmakers like Elfriede Jelinek and Michael Haneke began to question what Fleishman calls “the reality fetish” of their modernist predecessors. But even in a postmodern world, “where everything has become unreal, where everything takes place in a completely mediated landscape,” as if seen through a filter, the wound remains “a privileged signifier.” Director Quentin Tarantino embodies this ambivalence. The emotional core of Django Unchained is a scene where a slave is brutally torn apart by dogs, but the movie ends with what Fleishman calls “a very Tarantino shootout. Fireworks are going off and the whole house blows up and everyone gets killed. Violence in Tarantino is meant to be a sign of deeper meaning and at the same time just gratuitous fun.” Fleishman is also looking at how storytelling fragments itself or gets interrupted. Kafka’s comma splices cut up sentences but at the same time bring together disconnected phrases. Film cuts similarly break up a single shot but form a montage that tells a story. “Technical attention to how a work is put together is going to show us what this idea of wounding means at different points,” says Fleishman. “That’s what makes literary or film criticism relevant, is that it can say, This is what I can tell you about politics or history through a careful reading of form.” Fleishman started the project with the idea that a good book or film should cause some sort of feeling—in this case, pain. He became a bit jaded. “You’re not making things any more real by taking recourse to explicit images of broken bodies. If anything, that’s where the audience says, Ah, this is pure representation, and very self-conscious at that.”

An Aesthetics of Injury: The Narrative Wound from Baudelaire to Tarantino By Ian Fleishman Assistant Professor and Graduate Chair in Germanic Languages and Literatures

You can read to be moved by something, he says, and then you should take account of what the things that moved you or manipulated you were. Is it art because it made you cry, or does it just have a really soppy soundtrack? “Our celebration of suffering goes way back, at least to the Romantic period. But there’s a real danger to this aesthetic model,” Fleishman says. “Kafka tells us that ‘We ought to read the kind of books that bite and stab’ and that ‘it’s good for the conscience to suffer gaping wounds as it thus becomes more sensitive to every bite.’ But I think if my book shows anything, it shows that it’s actually quite the opposite. That these things become dead metaphors over time. That doesn’t mean I have anything against very violent films or books. Just that they work differently over time.”  9



THE “OFF” BUTTON THAT LETS PLANTS MAKE FLOWERS Research led Doris Wagner, Robert I. Williams Term Professor of Biology, identified a gene that, when stifled, generates blooms. BY

Courtesy of Doris Wagner


While most animals are born with all the organs they’ll ever have, plants generate new organs, including flowers, leaves, and branches, throughout their lifespan. A new study of flower formation by Doris Wagner and her lab shows how one molecular pathway is stifled in order for blooms to arise—a key step in plant reproduction. “Identity is not just what you are; it’s what you aren’t,” says Wagner, Robert I. Williams Term Professor of Biology. “There are so many alternative fates that any cell or tissue type could have in an organism that aren’t realized, and that they’re not realized is part of that identity.” In animals, it’s been known that pathways governing stem cells must be repressed in order to give rise to organs. The new findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, represent the first time that the same phenomenon has been demonstrated in plants. Wagner’s lab has long focused on flower formation, given its central role in both reproduction and agricultural yield. Recently, they’ve turned attention to a group of enzymes known as auxin response factors (ARFs), which regulate the transcription of DNA into RNA and respond to auxin, a plant hormone that governs a wide range of aspects of plant development. One ARF is MONOPTEROS (MP), known to activate genes that promote flower formation. Guided by research from other groups, Wagner’s team studied two other ARFs that had been found to repress developmental pathways in plants, ETT and ARF4. They noticed that these genes were expressed in the primordial “founder” cells of the plant—those that give rise to flowers—suggesting the ARFs may play a role in flower formation. When Wagner and colleagues created a mutant plant that lacked normal levels of MP, ETT, and 10

A 10-day-old Arabidops seedling displayed no defect in forming new organs (main image), unless it lacked key genes. In that case, a small stubby plant (inset) that cannot form new organs is the result. ARF4, they wound up with very odd, tri-

angle-shaped plants that failed to develop any flowers, leaves, or branches.

“We got this very severe phenotype where the plants don’t make any lateral organs from the embryo,” says Wagner, who coauthored the paper with colleagues from Penn, Norwich Research Park; and Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional. “You have this very large meristem, the pocket where stem cells are harbored. Clearly stem-cell fate, or pluripotency, needs to be shut off in order for organogenesis to occur.” The team also observed that levels of SHOOT MERISTEMLESS (STM), a gene involved in maintaining a pool of stem cells, which can give rise to a variety of cell types, was highest in the triple mutant. To test whether STM blocked organ development, the researchers artificially enhanced levels of STM. The resulting plants made even more flower-less “pin” stems; in contrast, blocking STM allowed flowers to form.

Further probing revealed that MP acted indirectly to repress STM, working through an intermediary gene, FIL. ETT and ARF4, meanwhile, acted directly to repress STM and give rise to flowers. ARF4, ETT, and FIL, the researchers found, were each able shut off STM by recruiting enzymes that compress chromatin— tightly packed DNA—to the gene, preventing it from being expressed. Wagner and her team are still uncovering the details of this process and considering its implications. She notes that STM is involved in influencing the shape of leaves, which are simpler in form when STM is shut off. This species-specific characteristic is used for plant classification, gives rise to a plethora of different ornamental plant forms, and underscores the centrality of the STM “off button,” a ripe topic for further research. The study was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (Grant 1557529). 



TRACKING THE EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE HOME Professor of Economics Jeremy Greenwood’s new book takes a macroeconomics view of changes in family life. BY


“The cool thing about economics,” says Jeremy Greenwood, “is that you can take higher-level math and relate it to everyday life. While mathematics may be fun, it is essential for research in modern economics.” That interconnection is the focus of Professor of Economics Greenwood’s latest book, Evolving Households: The Imprint of Technology on Life. The book develops economic models for analyzing long-term changes in American family life and cultural practices as a result of advances in technology.

Greenwood argues that the women’s movement followed, not preceded, the entry of women into the workplace. “Women were already starting to work in white collar jobs but felt they were discriminated against, and so they clamored for better treatment,” he says. The book tracks technologies such as contraception and medical advances with other long-term trends like the decline in marriage, the drop in fertility rates, the prevalence of premarital sex, increases in longevity and healthcare expenditures, and more years spent in retirement.

While it’s understood that technology has changed business dramatically over time, Greenwood, a macroeconomist, argues that it has had a huge impact on the household, too. One of the most profound social changes he traces over the past 100 years is the surge in the number of married women in America who work outside the home—going from essentially zero at the turn of the 20th century to the majority of married women today. The book shows how this change stems in part from the development of labor-saving household appliances, freeing women to pursue other activities.

Technology continues to evolve with implications for how we live and will live in the future, and artificial intelligence, robotic devices, and driverless vehicles are just a few of the innovations that are having an impact. Will automation eliminate most jobs? Greenwood thinks a more likely scenario is that other forms of employment will materialize. He points to the way ATMs displaced many bank tellers, but that banks then expanded their business model to include a wide range of financial products and services, so the number of employees hasn’t declined.

For example, in 1900, 98 percent of households relied on scrub boards for washing clothing, and water had to be hauled to wood- or coal-burning stoves to heat, making the chore of doing laundry a grueling, hours-long endeavor. The introduction of washing machines drastically reduced the amount of time spent on the task.

Evolving Households is geared toward researchers and advanced students of economics, particularly those studying family economics. Greenwood says economists need a solid grounding in higher-level mathematics, including calculus and probability theory, to understand long-term trends, estimate costs and benefits, and formulate predictions.

“On the other side, in the labor market, machines displaced the need for physical labor,” says Greenwood. “That allowed jobs to shift more toward what people call ‘soft jobs’ or a movement away from ‘brawn to brain’—these are jobs that women have a comparative advantage in.

Evolving Households: The Imprint of Technology on Life By Jeremy Greenwood Professor of Economics

“Economics, increasingly, is a hard science,” he says. 




MIRROR, NOT MONOLITH: STUDYING THE CLASSICS TODAY By Sheila Murnaghan Alfred Reginald Allen Memorial Professor of Greek in the Department of Classical Studies




hen Penn students studied classics 100, or even 50, years ago, they focused on learning the ancient languages Latin and Greek, often building on their high school Latin. The texts they read in those languages were seen as giving access to a unique historical high point, a time of unrivalled achievement when the political systems, philosophical ideas, and literary and artistic forms that shaped modern America were first invented. Those of us who teach classics today are still eager to give students the direct experience of ancient texts that comes from learning Greek and Latin and to share our appreciation of the impressive achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans. But that vision of a superior, originary time has given way to a more complicated picture. We now acknowledge how much mythology, poetry, art, and architecture the Greeks inherited from the cultures of the Ancient Near East. We are less willing to put classical societies on a pedestal, facing up to their many troubling features: militarism, imperialism, slavery, and misogyny. We recognize the historical zigs and zags that make it hard to claim that modern cultures really descend directly from classical antiquity. When, for example, the American founding fathers turned to the ancient world for models, they were trying to reestablish a connection that had been broken for many centuries rather than smoothly continuing a tradition. Not only are contemporary students less likely to learn Latin before they come to Penn, they are also less and less exclusively people of European descent who might see themselves as direct heirs of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Our students often want to learn about the classical past, whether in a single course or a major, by reading Greek and Roman

texts in English translation, and we now see producing those translations as a central part of our job. We aim to present the classical world not as a purer, better ideal, but as a distant mirror that reveals contrasts as well as continuities with contemporary experience. Today’s dilemmas come into sharper focus when we consider the markedly different ways in which the Greeks and Romans conceived of such fundamental matters as race, religion, and sexuality. And we are not talking about a single monolithic culture. With its long time span, broad geographical range, multiple diverse societies, and many historical developments, the classical world offers many varied case studies for thinking through our own questions about migration, cultural contact, treatment of refugees, reintegration of veterans, and the effects of inequality. When I teach a course on Periclean Athens, a period often assumed to typify ancient Greece, I make sure students understand that the system of democracy that developed there was one peculiar and contested form of government, not necessarily shared by other Greek cities or approved by all Athenians. I ask them to consider how much Athenian democracy resembled the contemporary American version, getting them to identify similarities and differences before deciding which features of the Athenian model they would or wouldn’t want to adopt: direct decision-making by the whole citizen body? Appointment to offices by lot? No participation by women? I also try to counter a monolithic view of the classical world by highlighting the fact that most of our evidence comes from writings by elite men. The realization that we are only hearing one side of the story is essential for deciding what we can learn from antiquity’s misogynistic rhetoric and unequal gender relations (and here

the mirror is not always as distant as we might like). But we can also work to find women’s voices even in male-authored texts. Ancient epics build on and reflect a tradition of women’s laments; Euripides’ tragic heroine Medea may be stereotypically devious, jealous, and destructive, but she also gets to say how hard it is to be wife in a patriarchal household. The muted and marginalized voices of antiquity can also be brought out through the study of reception: the long history of post-classical retellings of classical works. In a course on the afterlife of Homer’s Odyssey, I showcase contemporary women writers like Katha Pollitt, Louise Glück, and Margaret Atwood who have read between the lines of the Odyssey, developing hints that its heroine Penelope may not welcome her role as patient, faithful wife. In a similar course on the Iliad, we read Alice Oswald’s Memorial, a selective rewriting of the Iliad in which the special deeds of the main heroes fall away and equal attention is given to every one of the warriors who die in the poem. Students in that course also visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art to grapple with Cy Twombly’s installation “Fifty Days at Iliam,” in which Homer’s epic is translated into ten canvases covered with vivid abstract shapes and scrawled letters. Teaching how classical works have been reinterpreted over the centuries is a way of presenting them not as a set of treasures whose value is already self-evident, but as a rich cultural repository about which our students can decide for themselves how and why it should be valued.  Sheila Murnaghan is the Alfred Reginald Allen Memorial Professor of Greek and President of the Society for Classical Studies. She is a 2019 recipient of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, the highest teaching award at the University. 13





Arts & Sciences researchers see collaboration as key to recharging the planet’s battery. BY E RIC A B ROCK M E I E R A N D S U SA N A H L BO R N IL LU STRATION S BY SA M FA LCON E R


on-renewable fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas supplied 81 percent of the world’s energy in 2017. This level has remained stable for more than 30 years, even as the scientific community has developed an overwhelming consensus that human activity—including the harvesting and use of these fuels—is having a negative impact on the global environment.

“Our society has been dependent on fossil fuels for a long time, and there’s a lot of innovation necessary before society can fully transition to energy sources that are renewable and less harmful to life on earth,” says Karen Goldberg, Vagelos Professor in Energy Research in the Department of Chemistry. “The energy situation is one of the most serious issues facing us today. But it is vital that the solutions that we go after are economically viable and can work on an industrial scale. And along with the science, we are going to need policy changes to help us make the transition successful.” Energy has been a focus for faculty and students throughout Penn Arts & Sciences and the rest of the university, as they put Penn’s practical approach and collaborative ethos into action with research and education. One example is the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), in which undergraduate students earn dual degrees in science and engineering, conducting research and receiving close mentorship. “The students come to Penn wanting to make a difference,” says Andrew Rappe, Blanchard Professor of Chemistry and Faculty Co-Director of VIPER. “They

A NEW HOME realize this is going to continue to be a challenge for a long time and that it’s a challenge that needs them.” Another response to the challenge is the creation of the Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology, supported by a gift from P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99, and Diana T. Vagelos, PAR’90. As the hub for energy research at Penn, the Institute pulls together investigators to facilitate communication and cooperation, provides seed funds for new collaborative research projects, and is building connections to industry to put findings into action. “Today we’re faced with the specter of climate change fundamentally altering not just local weather or coastlines or even economies, but the planet’s ability to sustain life,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean of Penn Arts & Sciences and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “We have made addressing this threat a top priority of the School, and with the Vagelos Institute we are putting the pieces in place to make a tangible impact on this complex set of challenges.” The catalyst for the Institute is Goldberg, who was recruited after an international search to be its inaugural director. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and her groundbreaking work to develop new systems that can efficiently produce chemicals and fuels from materials like natural gas and carbon dioxide earned her the American Chemical Society’s Award for Organometallic Chemistry. (cont’d on p. 16)

FOR E NERGY S CI E NCE AND TE CH NO LOGY Energy research at Penn got a boost from a recent gift from P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99, and Diana T. Vagelos, PAR’90 (p. 22), to be used for a new, state-of-the-art science center to house researchers focused on energy science and technology. “The Vageloses are putting Penn’s energy research effort into superdrive with their very generous gift for a new building,” says Karen Goldberg, Vagelos Professor in Energy Research in the Department of Chemistry and Vagelos Institute Director. “Energy research is highly interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from all the major areas of chemistry—biological, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry, as well as engineering and other sciences,” says David Christianson, Roy and Diana Vagelos Professor in Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Chair of the Department of Chemistry. “The enduring legacy of this gift will fuel decades of discovery in the molecular sciences at Penn.”


More than that, as the former director of a National Science Foundation Phase II Center for Chemical Innovation, the Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis (CENTC), Goldberg has 10 years of experience in mobilizing collaboration among investigators and taking a big science approach to solving energy problems. When Goldberg came to Penn she began holding weekly meetings with about 30 researchers from Penn Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Her goal was to get the investigators in the same room to talk about their research, trends, and opportunities to collaborate. “Hearing about what other people are working on is important because it sensitizes you to the challenges in a variety of fields around energy,” says Eric Schelter, Professor of Chemistry. “We can then think about how our group can bring our capabilities to bear on these challenging problems.” At these meetings, scientists and engineers worked together to identify an initial set of priority research areas they saw as having a big potential impact and in which the expertise at Penn could best be combined in synergistic collaborations. These include the ability to store energy; efficient light-driven chemistry, materials, and devices; low-energy methods to change materials like nitrogen and carbon dioxide to useful chemicals and fuels; and optimal use of natural gas. The research priorities will continue to evolve through the exchange and cross-fertilization that the Vagelos Institute fosters. Teams of researchers also formed to create proposals for the first Vagelos Institute seed grants. “You can apply for an outside grant together, but it’s hard to be successful with no history of collaboration,” says Goldberg. “This is allowing people to get together, start a project, and then as a team apply for federal money with good evidence of the potential of the project.” The first set of projects ranges from finding ways to recycle carbon dioxide to make fuels and useful chemicals, to using light to catalyze energy transformations, to creating completely new materials that could allow sodium-ion batteries to replace batteries made with the much rarer lithium. 16

“We’re seeing faculty who haven’t been involved in specific fields of research who are getting the opportunity to try new things,” says Nadine Gruhn, Vagelos Institute Managing Director and another CENTC veteran. In one project, researchers are combining different methods of catalysis to see if they can get the best of both types, with computational scientists also adding their expertise. The Institute complements other energyrelated initiatives at Penn, including the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy and the Penn Program for Environmental Humanities, which seeks a deeper understanding of how humans interact with the natural world. They also interact with the Penn Center for Innovation, and Goldberg cites the University’s connections to industry as another strength in their mission: “That has to be a piece of the puzzle. You have to be thinking about solutions that are going to work on a huge industrial scale, and it’s good to know early on if a strategy is going to be able to translate.”


Not only is the Vagelos Institute at the fore in bringing top researchers together for collaborative energy research and solutions, it is also training the next generation of energy leaders through graduate and postdoctoral fellowships. The fellows are included in the regular Institute meetings and are involved in all stages of the discussion and research. The researchers brought together by the Vagelos Institute have expertise in a range of disciplines, including chemical and biomolecular engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, and earth and environmental science. A critical mass of participating faculty are from the Department of Chemistry, with specialties across biological, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. “Everyone has a different perspective, a different approach to science, even people who are in the same field,” says Goldberg. “There’s no one way and no one answer, but the solutions will start from here.”



From human-made photosynthesis to transforming “waste” products into useful materials to developing better plastics, here are some of the perspectives that chemists in Penn Arts & Sciences bring to bear as we find our way to sustainable solutions.


Vagelos Professor in Energy Research

Brooke Sietinsons


Vagelos Professor in Energy Research Methane gas (CH 4 ) and methanol (CH 3OH) are differentiated by just one oxygen atom, but to make the first into the second requires a billion-dollar facility and temperatures between 400 and 600 degrees Fahrenheit. “All you’ve done is insert an oxygen. But the commercial process to do that takes the methane, breaks every one of the C-H bonds to make carbon monoxide, and then puts three of the C-H bonds back again,” says Karen Goldberg, Vagelos Professor in Energy Research. “This process was developed in the early 20th century. It was fantastic for its time, but overall, it’s very energy intensive and fundamentally inefficient. Today, we know a lot more about how to promote the transformation of different types of bonds. For example, we now know how to use a metal to selectively cleave one C-H bond and leave the other C-H bonds

untouched. So we’re working hard to figure out how we can insert an oxygen atom selectively and make methanol by a more direct and efficient process.” Goldberg’s research focuses on the development of new catalytic systems to efficiently produce chemicals and fuels from a range of available feedstocks, such as natural gas and carbon dioxide. By developing a detailed understanding of fundamental reactions, her lab seeks to develop new environmentally responsible and economically viable methods. “What kept me going on to graduate school after college was the idea that you could go to work every day and learn something new,” says Goldberg, who is the Director of the Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology. “And not only that, you could learn things that nobody else yet knew.”

Nanomaterials research has enabled the creation of innovative products ranging from mechanical lubricants to superlight carbon bicycle frames. But while materials made at the nanoscale are by definition small, the challenges surrounding the design and creation of these strong, resilient, and energy-efficient materials are anything but miniscule. Researchers in the lab of Thomas Mallouk, the second Vagelos Professor in Energy Research, work on nanoscale chemistry and assembly techniques that can be used to make nanomaterials with unique properties that can carry out specific tasks. While Mallouk started his career studying how chemical bonds form, he quickly found his niche in the research community by combining ideas from the molecular world with solid-state physics and engineering. Mallouk and his group tackle a broad range of topics in materials science by incorporating techniques from synthetic chemistry. “A lot of our work is discovery-based,” Mallouk says of his group. “We think about how we can use what we




understand well in order to solve other people’s problems.” His team has worked across a range of applications, from conductive materials that are only a few atoms thick to systems that can mimic the light-capturing abilities of photosynthesis. The group’s work has led them toward even more diverse applications, including nanoscale electronics and new methods for making catalysts. He also has experience working with fuel cells, chemically powered micro robots, and materials that convert chemical energy into mechanical energy. His group was part of a project with civil engineering researchers that used nanomaterials to clean up toxic substances in ground water.


Brush Family Professor of Chemistry Methane makes up more than 80 percent of all natural gas resources. But while methane is energy-rich, incredibly abundant, and convenient to extract from rock and oil reservoirs, it is a difficult molecule to store, transport, and use as a chemical

reagent. This natural resource is approximately 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Due to its strong carbon-hydrogen bonds, working with methane also requires extreme conditions, such as very high temperatures or pressures, so nearly 15 percent of the total methane extracted worldwide is simply burned away in massive flare stacks that can be as large as an entire city. Daniel J. Mindiola, Brush Family Professor of Chemistry, and his research group are currently working on how to use methane to create more value-added carbon-based materials that are easier to work with and store than methane gas. They want to use methane as a building block for making more complex chemicals that have more value in industry, such as plastics, polymers, solvents, detergents, adhesives, and other household products. “There’s a lot of energy stored in those bonds,” he says. “Rather than burning the methane, let’s think of something more environmentally friendly to do with this vast resource and where we can still retain that chemical energy.” His group uses fundamental molecular-level chemistry to study specific reactions involving the conversion of methane so they can better understand the mechanisms and pathways involved in the transformations of this molecule. One of their goals is to identify reaction pathways involving methane transformations that can be carried out under mild conditions while using catalysts that

are abundant, cheap, and sustainable. “If you know how the system works, you can improve it. If you know what the bottleneck of that reaction is, or what is slowing down that reaction, you can look at conditions that can improve the reaction’s efficiency,” says Mindiola.


chemical solution started to glow. His group is now studying the chemical structure of this and related cerium systems to understand how they capture light energy. “What happens with this cerium complex is very different from anywhere else on the periodic table. This element has a huge potential to drive a lot of interesting energy-related chemistry,” Schelter says. His goal is to develop cerium-containing catalysts that can efficiently absorb light and activate small molecules, such as components of natural gas, into more complex carbon molecules. “If you want to really transform chemical fuels, you have to do that chemistry with elements that are abundant, like cerium,” he says.

Professor of Chemistry Chemists rely on rare metals like platinum, ruthenium, and iridium to drive certain chemical reactions, but extracting these difficult-to-find metals requires a substantial amount of time and energy. One example is neodymium, a metal that is used to make the permanent magnets for wind turbines. When neodymium is mined, the extracts contain high amounts of a second metal known as cerium, which is considered a “waste” product of neodymium mining. Researchers in the lab of Eric Schelter, Professor of Chemistry, are taking advantage of this “waste” element’s unique ability to both absorb and emit light. This work started when one of Schelter’s students was making a complex containing cerium in the lab and was surprised when the


Associate Professor of Chemistry Even if carbon generation were to end entirely, there would still be a significant amount of carbon that would need to be captured; if all plastic production were halted, there would still be an enormous amount of polymer waste that would need to be cleaned up. Advances in fundamental chemistry are



crucial for developing new technologies that can solve these problems. Research done in the lab of Zahra Fakhraai, Associate Professor of Chemistry, is focused on creating sustainable and innovative materials through fundamental materials science research. She works on two different energy-related problems. One of her projects includes the use of optics to figure out how light can be manipulated at incredibly small scales in order to harvest and transfer light energy. She also does fundamental research on how polymers behave on the nanoscale, which will allow materials scientists to create plastic products that are more durable and reusable and that enables polymers to be recycled more efficiently. While Fakhraai works on the fundamental aspects of materials science, she also enjoys working on problems with semi-immediate applications that help motivate the questions that her group will address. “What’s lagging behind in solving these environmental problems are materials and chemistries that could mitigate the effects of climate change and plastic pollution,” says Fakhraai. “The technologies here are very limited, and we need research at the basic level to understand how you would do these things.”


between theory and experiment has enabled rapid progress within the alternative energy area,” says Rappe.


Blanchard Professor of Chemistry Materials scientists and engineers want to design materials that harness, convert, and use energy more efficiently and can also be easily reused. However, there are an infinite number of chemical combinations and a finite amount of resources available to try out new combinations. By using an approach known as computational materials design, researchers can specify what they need a material to do and can use a model that allows them to identify and design new materials more efficiently. Andrew M. Rappe, Blanchard Professor of Chemistry, and his group use computational approaches to study systems in materials science, condensed-matter physics, and physical chemistry. His research provides a glimpse into what solids are doing at the atomic level and allows researchers to predict how new materials will work even if they’ve never been made before. Rappe and his group work alongside engineers and experimental chemists to help validate their predictions while also helping their colleagues understand the results they find. “This loop

Rappe is also the Co-Director of the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), which offers undergraduate students dual degrees in science and engineering and provides opportunities for research and mentorship.


Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Elliman Faculty Fellow Photosynthesis is an essential and fundamental chemical process used by plants to convert sunlight into energy. The very first step of photosynthesis, which involves capturing solar energy, is extremely efficient: For every photon of light a plant absorbs, it captures the light’s energy and converts nearly all of it into a charge-separated state that drives photosynthesis. But while scientists have studied photosynthesis for many years, there are still uncertainties about how this process works and how it became so energy-efficient.

Jessica M. Anna, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Elliman Faculty Fellow, is interested in understanding energy and electron transfer processes using systems that are relevant to solar energy conversion. Her group studies both artificial light-harvesting systems and photosynthetic complexes that are harvested from plants. What Anna finds intriguing is that whether her group is studying a molecule with only 18 atoms or a complex photosynthesis structure that contains hundreds of molecules of chlorophyll, they all capture light energy with incredible efficiency. “We’re really trying to understand the molecular-level parameters that lead to this energy-level landscape,” says Anna. Anna’s group specializes in using multi-dimensional spectroscopy to capture detailed glimpses into the dynamics and structure of light-harvesting complexes. She is now using her custom spectrometer to bring together both visible light and infrared techniques in order to more closely study systems that are relevant for solar energy conversion. For Anna, a fundamental approach to chemistry research is crucial for progress in the area of alternative energy. “Once you understand these reactions at a fundamental level, you can start to engineer these principles into light-harvesting materials and design materials which are inspired by systems in biology,” she says.



Professor of Chemistry Organic chemicals, or chemical compounds that contain carbon, include a broad range of materials such as pharmaceuticals, fragrances, food additives, cosmetics, and agricultural chemicals.

However, the process of manufacturing many of these organic chemicals on an industrial scale uses a substantial amount of energy. Chemists want to create these chemicals more sustainably, but in order to do so need to have a solid understanding of the mechanisms involved with each step in their synthesis. Marisa Kozlowski, Professor of Chemistry, is focused on developing new, highly efficient methods for creating complex organic chemicals. Her group is looking for ways to convert biomass, or waste materials from plants, and small hydrocarbons, such as carbon dioxide, into chemicals that can be used in industrial-scale synthesis. Kozlowski’s group is

focused on reactions that use oxygen and common metals, such as iron and nickel, instead of relying on conventional approaches that require rare, expensive, or toxic metals. Kozlowski’s group uses a systematic approach to decide what reactions they want to study by looking at what areas are missing or have inefficient reactions. Her group has made some surprising discoveries that demonstrate an unexpected level of control for certain reactions. “We discovered a process where we could do this reaction with extraordinarily high efficiency that we didn’t understand until recently. Thanks to that finding, the field is limitless.”  21


A New Home for Energy Research P

enn Arts & Sciences received the largest gift in the School’s history: $50 million from P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99, and Diana T. Vagelos, PAR’90, for a new energy science and technology center. In support of the Power of Penn Arts & Sciences Campaign, the gift benefits faculty, students, and research in pursuit of sustainability.

The new building, a facility of Penn Arts & Sciences and Penn Engineering, will be named in honor of Roy and Diana Vagelos and located at 32nd and Walnut Streets. It will provide state-of-the-art research space and homes for the Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology, a collaborative research institute, and the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), an undergraduate dual degree program run jointly by Arts & Sciences and Engineering. Creating a sustainable planet is a key priority of the Power of Penn Arts & Sciences Campaign. Across the School and the University, researchers have sprung



into action, working collaboratively and thinking about creative solutions. The creation of a new building seizes this growing momentum and will act as an incubator for scientists and engineers to engage in cross-disciplinary work and train postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates as future leaders in the field.

This facility will truly foster collaboration and ensure that Penn is positioned to make the impacts in energy research that Roy and Diana envision. “At this critical moment for energy research, I am delighted by the generous gift from Roy and Diana,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “The new building is a vital part of efforts to create a sustainable


planet and facilitate the forward-thinking, collaborative solutions the problem demands. As a home to the Vagelos Institute and VIPER, this facility will be an invaluable resource for today’s top scientists and a fertile training ground for the leaders of tomorrow.” Karen Goldberg, Vagelos Professor in Energy Research in the Department of Chemistry and Vagelos Institute Director, says, “The building will provide stateof-the-art laboratory space but equally important, it will be a gathering place that allows scientists now spread across campus to interact in new ways and develop new ideas. Students will learn to apply the tools and methods of other disciplines to push their science ahead even faster. This facility will truly foster collaboration and ensure that Penn is positioned to make the impacts in energy research that Roy and Diana envision.” “The recent gift from Roy and Diana is simply transformative,” adds David Christianson, Roy and Diana Vagelos Professor

in Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Chair of the Department of Chemistry. “This gift will allow us to accelerate the discovery of fundamental new processes and materials in the chemistry of energy transduction and storage and enable collaborations with Penn Engineering as we discover and develop eco-friendly sources of energy and materials for real-life use.” “Energy research has been important to me and to Diana for years,” says Vagelos. “We’ve seen students and faculty doing extraordinary work, and our hope is that this new building will provide the home and resources that this effort needs to create solutions.” P. Roy Vagelos, a chemistry major who graduated from Penn in 1950 before going on to receive a medical degree from Columbia University, is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Merck & Co. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Vagelos served as Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1995 to 1999,

Diana T. Vagelos, PAR’90, and P. Roy Vagelos, C’50, PAR’90, HON’99

and he is a former member of the Penn Arts & Sciences’ Board of Overseers and the founding Chair of the Committee for Undergraduate Financial Aid. Diana T. Vagelos is a former overseer of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Vageloses’ longtime support of Penn Arts & Sciences includes the Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology, the Vagelos Professorships in Energy Research, VIPER, and several other science-related programs, undergraduate scholarships, and endowed professorships. 




With the help of her students, Karen Detlefsen, Professor of Philosophy, is working with Philadelphia schoolchildren and teachers to get kids thinking about philosophy.


d e z i S t n i P

PHILOSOPHERS ilosophy, is opening Karen Detlefsen, Professor of Ph a community young minds in the Philadelphi thinking. to a new kind of philosophical raphy by Eric Sucar By Michele Berger  |  Photog




n the Mindfulness Room at Benjamin B. Comegys School in southwest Philadelphia, nine fifth-graders sit around a large rectangular table made from four smaller tables pushed together. The staccato chatter and constant movement evoke a feeling of organized chaos, with students bobbing up and down, and at least one sitting at his chair’s front edge, coat and backpack firmly in place on his body.

notice they have different skin colors. Eleven-year-old Kynai raises her hand. “They’re looking out for each other,” she says. “They’re always together, no matter what happened.”

When the bell rings and the classroom door closes, the noise mostly wanes and Karen Detlefsen, Professor of Philosophy, stands in front of the group to introduce the day’s teaching team—two College undergrads and a student from Haverford College—then hands over the reins to Ethan Nelson, a soft-spoken senior who starts discussing beauty. Detlefsen moves to the back of the room.

Before Nelson moves on, he asks the students to put up a hand if they’ve heard someone say something negative about another person’s skin color. Five hands shoot up and several students talk at once. “I felt disappointed,” Kynai says. “I felt mad,” says a boy named Hamzah. “There are a lot of people who do it.”

After a short video about first cousins named Lisa and Lida, Nelson asks the students how the girls act before they


Nelson counters: How does their grandma make them feel when she learns they’re upset about their appearance? “That no matter how different they are, they’re still family,” Kynai answers.

It’s almost hard to believe it’s the same group from a few minutes prior, such is the transformation from verging on boredom to energetic participation. And though it’s not easy to get 10- and 11-yearolds to discuss race, particularly with


adults they don’t know well, Detleftsen and the three undergraduates have done just that. During a dozen sessions, they’ve also fostered conversations about friendship and logic, about jumping to conclusions and moral dilemmas—all under the auspices of Detlefsen’s Making a Difference in Diverse Communities grant, which supports multidisciplinary projects led by faculty teams working with students to address societal challenges locally, nationally, and internationally. The project also includes helping Philadelphia high school literature teachers incorporate philosophy into their curricula, running after-school philosophy clubs at Penn Alexander School and Carver Science and Engineering, incorporating ethics and the philosophy of science into the ninth-grade curriculum at Science Leadership Academy, and soon, launching a handful of Ethics Bowl teams.

The thread throughout? Make philosophy more accessible to young minds across the city.

Laying the groundwork Detlefsen herself studies 17th- and 18th-century philosophy. She’s always been interested in taking a slightly different approach to what she calls “core topics” of the field, like looking at 17th century female philosophers who were sidelined by the politics of their time. “I want to enable the philosophical voices of many people—including children,” says Detlefsen. “We have to broaden our concept of what it means to do philosophy and why we currently think about philosophy the way we do.” In the fall of 2009, Detlefsen taught an undergraduate course about the social-political context of education.

I want to enable the philosophical voices of many people—including children. We have to broaden our concept of what it means to do philosophy and why we currently think about philosophy the way we do.

The dialogue that semester crystallized for her the connection that students tend to make between philosophy and social justice, but she still felt the course lacked something. “We got into great conversations,” she says, “but I also thought their experience of the theory would’ve been greatly enhanced had there been some sort of practical component to it.” She began dreaming up a philosophy of education Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course through Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships. “It’s easy for people to think of philosophy as incredibly abstract, disengaged from everyday life,” she says. “I didn’t know what it would look like to bring this general, nebulous idea down to the ground.” A friend of hers happened to be a mentor at Philadelphia Futures, a college-readiness program geared toward high school students likely to be first in their families to attend college. She and Rob Willison, now a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, then a Penn doctoral student, convinced the head of Philadelphia Futures’ academic programming to let them run a philosophy club there. The students’ engagement and deep philosophizing intrigued Detlefsen and Willison. “The more we interacted, 27

the more we realized it’s a common impulse among young people to think philosophically,” she says. “They were asking questions like ‘How far would go you go to help a friend before you couldn’t go further, and why couldn’t you go beyond that? If you’re forever fake with someone, if you take on an identity not your own, can your relationship count as a friendship?’ It quickly became clear that these kids are already thinking about philosophical questions.”

A boy named Wallace That realization helped the pair shape the ABCS course Detlefsen had wanted to build, and they ran it the following spring. Beyond the classroom instruction teaching Penn students about the philosophy of education, they set up a weekly version of their Philadelphia Futures philosophy club. Saturday mornings at 10:30, Penn undergrads would teach high school students based on what they’d learned that week, then they’d eat lunch as a group. One of the students, William, always brought his younger brother, a middle schooler named Wallace, and though Wallace began each session alongside his brother, he would eventually peel off and sit with other groups. “Wallace blossoming like that made me think this could work with younger students,” Detlefsen says. “I started to develop ideas about how to work philosophy into middle school.” Since then, Detlefsen has taught Comegys eighth-graders twice and seventh-graders once. This is the first time she’s working with students as young as fifth grade. “It’s easy to extend and adapt college level down to high school, even to seventh or eighth grade, but once you get down to fifth grade it gets trickier,” she says. Exposing younger minds to philosophy means helping them first understand the idea of a philosophical question and then how to ask one. But it also requires being age-appropriate. “The aim is to get down to kindergarten eventually,” she adds. For Kynai and the other fifth-graders at Comegys, the Penn undergrads built the curriculum and weekly lesson plans with 28

guidance from Detlefsen and Charlette Walker, a Tilden Middle School teacher. Dustin Webster, a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education, helped with pedagogical techniques, and Michael Vazquez, a doctoral student in the Department of Philosophy, researched strategies for teaching philosophy to pre-college learners.

The students were asking questions like ‘How far would you go to help a friend before you couldn’t go further, and why couldn’t you go beyond that?’ It quickly became clear that these kids are already thinking about philosophical questions. Their goals were threefold: get the students excited about philosophical questions, help them understand that some questions are hard to fully answer, and encourage them to change their minds when faced with reasons for doing so, Detlefsen explains. “We did a good job with the first two. Most of our classes got the students really excited about the topics we discussed,” she says. “On the third goal, some students tended to dig in their heels even when sticking to their original position became problematic. This left me thinking that so much of the work with students this age is not just about the ideas, but about social dynamics and individual personalities.” It also showed Detlefsen that the second part of her Making a Difference project, the seminar for Philly high school teachers, could open the philosophy door for their students in unexpected ways.

Partnering with teachers In College Hall on a Monday evening in January, seven teachers—some current, some retired, all invested in learning about philosophy—gather to finish talking about French philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir. After 30 minutes,


they move onto the social construction of race and then to the individual versus the collective.

the teachers will collaborate to find ways to enhance their curricula with philosophical insights.

If Detlefsen just barely skims the surface with the Comegys students, here she delves deep; it’s not for the uninitiated or uninterested.

In the spring of 2018, Detlefsen had run a traditional TIP seminar, a more formal semester-long course that covered a wide range of subjects and grades. “Partnering with teachers, whether through the traditional TIP seminar or the seminar focused on one subject area and student age group, is a great way of bringing philosophy into subjects already being taught, as opposed to offering philosophy as a self-standing subject,” she says. “Philosophy is in everything, woven into the ways in which we think.”

Detlefsen is in her element, drawing what can only be described as flowcharts on a chalkboard at the front of the almost-windowless room. The teachers, who come from Masterman and Carver and other area schools, are engaged from the moment the discussion begins. It’s intimate and relaxed and intense at once. “The idea is to have a small, focused seminar for high school literature teachers,” Detlefsen says. “This is a new, experimental model run under the auspices of the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (TIP), one of our Penn partners.” She and the teachers devised the program together based on the novels the instructors were already teaching. Beyond the three sessions they’ve already had, at least one more, maybe two, are scheduled between now and mid-March. “New topics keep creeping up, and so we add more material,” she says. “Because we’re all really enjoying the conversation, we all want to come back.” In April, after all the philosophical discussions,

“How to live” Watching the teachers in College Hall and the fifth-graders at Comegys, it’s clear Detlefsen has tapped into something. Even the quiet elementary students participate—and what they say is often profound. That day at Comegys, Jiyoon Kang, C'19, leads the closing exercise. She asks the students to write on the outside of a cup what they think people see when they meet them for the first time. On a separate card, they write what they believe

is their most valuable quality. Then they put the card in the cup to demonstrate the idea that it’s easy to evaluate someone based on what’s outwardly visible, but that true value lies within. Hamzah, the student who earlier had said he often hears people judge others based on skin color, wrote his name on the card. “My name describes my character, steadfast and strong,” he says. Detlefsen prods him further. “Were you born that way, or do you work to live up to that?” “I work to live up to it,” he says, a fifthgrader offering insight about himself that some adults likely couldn’t make. Such conversations inspire Detlefsen to keep moving forward with this work. “For me, this is really a project of social justice, educational justice. I’m always amazed by how effectively teachers manage to motivate and connect with their students despite the sometimesinordinate amount of time needed to help students pass a standardized test. I’m inspired by these teachers, and it has encouraged me with this project. Young people love talking through philosophical topics,” she says. “It exercises their minds, but it also gives them ways of figuring out how to live.” 

ON  THE JOB The Penn Arts & Sciences at Work series follows the life experiences and unique career paths of College alumni.


Brooke Sietinsons



is a photoblog project that tells the story of the extended Penn Arts & Sciences community. First-hand accounts capture the diverse paths of our alumni, focusing on their daily work life.

Whether it’s Trang Do, C’06, whose on-camera work as a general assignment reporter on CBS-3 has allowed her to connect with the community at large; Michael Winik, C’05, W’05 and Rebecca Beyer Winik, C’05, who bring freshly harvested farming goods to shoppers; or Adriana López Vermut, C’00, who uses cooking to connect her family and customers with her Venezuelan heritage, Arts & Sciences alums are carving out niches for themselves as entrepreneurs, business leaders, and creative forces. Below, they communicate their career journeys in their own words.

Visit the Penn Arts & Sciences at Work website to explore other alumni journeys. WWW.SAS.UPENN.EDU/AT-WORK


MICHAEL: The whole goal of what we’re trying to do is to bring local amazing small family farms directly to customers who can’t get to the farmers market, or they can’t get to farms directly. We’re trying to be that bridge and get stuff literally the day it’s harvested to our customers as often as possible. We had the benefit of doing a lot of traveling around the world, seeing how people actually eat, and what their relationship with food is in different places. In the south of France people go grocery shopping once or twice a day. It’s the same in Vietnam. It’s the same in Thailand. And here we’re buying stuff that is filled with chemicals and can sit on a shelf for months and months and months. When you taste something that was picked that day or was caught that day out 31

of the ocean—those are the kind of experiences that we had that really shape the career trajectory. Especially if you’re trying to take an entrepreneurial path, everyone has this dream or this vision of, I’m going to start a company and it’s just going to be wonderful, sort of like all sunshine and rainbows. When you actually run a business there are things that happen at all hours of the night and the day that put you back in that moment where you’re cramming for that test that you’re worried you’ll fail. You’re going to have those moments in your career, whatever it is, where you’re really stressed out. And having the experience and the knowledge that you build at school to be able to drive through that is something that’s really important.

REBECCA: I did a lot of really cool things in the architecture world and then in 2013 we both had come to a point in our respective jobs where we said we wanted to be doing something a little bit different. My role at Our Harvest is very multifaceted. Even though it’s a food company there are so many different aspects to what we do on a daily basis that are relatable to what we’ve done during our whole education. I think “going outside of your comfort zone” can sound a little clichéd, but it’s something that’s a critical aspect of learning. You don’t learn unless you do some practicing in something that you don’t already know how to do. For instance, when the company started, Mike was driving the truck to deliver food in the beginning, because that’s what you do when you want to make your company successful. You do every job that is possible. You mop the floors. You do whatever it takes to get yourself up and running. 32


I think I always knew that I was going to go into the consumer and food businesses broadly, and having grown up the son of an entrepreneur, I knew I wanted to build something. We have 1,000 total employees and I’m running a business across multiple regions, so it’s hand-to-hand combat all day long. In 2013, we had Hurricane Sandy come through our Freeport facility. We had millions of dollars’ worth of inventory on the floor ready to go to ship to our customers. And then six feet of saltwater came into our plant. I saw our chocolate floating in the parking lot. The facility was dark. The machines were inoperable. What happened then, though, was one of the coolest things ever. I called my head of facilities. I called the president of the group. I called my head of production and my head of sales. I said, “Here’s the game plan. One person is going to be on point

on the equipment. One person is going to be on point on inventory. One is going to be on point on calling the customers, and the other is going to be on point for facility cleanup.” So we put our heads down, and in 19 days, we were able to take a facility that had no inventory, no operating equipment, no nothing, and get it fully live. Now, that company is about 10 times the size that it was when that issue happened. And I think that part of the reason is because we learned what it means to go through the craziest and worst situation, and we’ve come out the other side a better, stronger team. Life’s a marathon, not a sprint. When you’re sitting in college and you hear about these great stories, about these people building these awesome companies, you think it happens overnight. It doesn’t. It happens piece by piece, day by day.

Brooke Sietinsons



Alex Schein

Alex Schein



General Assignment Reporter, CBS-3 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Acting Intake Branch Chief and Equal Opportunity Specialist, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Boston, Massachusetts


My parents being immigrants, they raised me to work hard. I started at age 12 and I’ve been working ever since. I’ve always known I wanted to become a journalist, and I never had these delusions it was going to be a glamorous thing. I knew it would be hard work. When I got the job at CBS-3, it was a very proud moment for me and for my family. I shared the video of when I did a reveal to my family and that really resonated with people, because my family is a big, loud Vietnamese family, and they were freaking out. Being a broadcaster in my hometown … not many people get to do that. And just recently I had another really proud moment when I anchored for the first time in Philly. When you do a story that really connects with a lot of people, it always feels good. Now, in the age of social media, when people connect with a story, you can see it immediately, and that’s a good feeling—especially if your subject feels like you told their story in a meaningful way.


I took a class with Mary Summers [Lecturer, Political Science and Senior Fellow, Fox Leadership Program] my senior year. It was an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) class and I worked in West Philadelphia with an organization that was called National Student Partnerships at the time. It was an all-purpose social service provider. So it wasn’t that we had any particular issue area expertise. It was, “I’m bright and I know how to use the internet, and I have spare time. Come in and we’ll solve your problem together however we can, or figure out who can solve it for you.” Up until that point, I had been a very hardline, bootstraps libertarian. I thought, “Your problems are your own fault. You must be able to figure this out, and if you can’t figure it out, that’s your own issue.” Doing that work out there and meeting the people that I met, it became painfully apparent that, in the vast majority of cases, it’s a matter of education and resource access. In government, nobody wants to be wrong and misstep. But there are so many opportunities, especially in the kind of civil rights work that we do, where we can really reach out much further than we think we can. We just have to be willing to do the outreach, or make the claim, or work with people to figure out how it is that we can advance equity while preserving business interests. You have to go out and have the conversation in order to figure a potential path. 33

JOSHUA BENNETT, C’10 Loraine Terrell



Founder, Pica Arepa Kitchen San Francisco, California

The people in my family, they weren’t professional writers, they weren’t academics, they were working people. My parents both worked for the post office, and so my sense of what work should be always was very physical. My father carried a bag of mail from a truck to a conveyor belt for 10 hours a day, every day, for 40 years. When he would drop me at school he would say, “I go to that job so you can have choices.”


When my daughter was born, my dad asked me what I was planning to do to stay connected to my heritage. I knew I did not want to go back to venture capital or technology investing. It was not my passion. At the time, he had three restaurants in Venezuela. He said, “Why don’t we consider opening a restaurant here? A Venezuelan restaurant?” It’s been beautiful, to me, because it is reflective of my heritage. It has impacted my children’s understanding, as well, and they feel very connected. When you cook it’s a very easy way of explaining heritage. My daughter absolutely loves to cook. In third grade, she had to do a book project, and she created a cookbook called The Simple Art of Cooking. It was about a kid teaching a kid how to cook. In her introduction she said that she loves cooking because her mom and her grandpa started a restaurant and that she knows what she knows because she has worked at the restaurant. Then she calls out some recipes that she says, “They’re impossible to explain because they can only be learned when you work in a family that cooks together, and if you want to taste it, just go to the restaurant; don’t try to make it. My mom makes the best.” 34

Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing, Dartmouth College Harvard Society of Fellows Hanover, New Hampshire Cambridge, Massachusetts

I didn’t know what a professor was when I was 17. Cornel West was the first professor I ever knew of. I was like, “Oh okay, you can do this for a living? There is such a thing as African American studies? What is that?” You can study Black literature, Black culture, you can make a living from that, you can make a life from that, something I had never really fathomed before. What’s exciting to me now is that I get the chance to play with new ideas, to learn from my students, to be in community with them, to hear from them about how campus maybe needs to change or what can be better, and to learn about myself as an educator in this different environment. 

Alex Schein





Be sure to visit OMNIA online for exclusive multimedia content that covers all aspects of Penn Arts & Sciences research, including faculty, students, alumni, and events. Below is just a small sampling of recent highlights.

Eric Sucar

OMNIA PODCAST: PHILOSOPHY OF RACE (AUDIO) Quayshawn Spencer, Robert S. Blank Presidential Associate Professor of Philosophy, explores the question, “What kind of thing is race?” in his classes and research. His expertise in both biology and philosophy informs his examination.

Alex Schein

A SUMMER STUDYING THE MIND AND BRAIN (VIDEO) MindCORE's intensive summer fellowship program lets Penn undergrads work with researchers.

Alexander Derrick

PENN ARTS & SCIENCES PATHWAYS: INDIA ALLEN, C’21 (VIDEO) In our new Pathways series, College sophomore India Allen talks about how an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course inspired her decision to major in Health and Societies.

Subscribe to the OMNIA Podcast series on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts, to automatically receive downloads of our most recent episodes, as well as previous audio features from Penn Arts & Sciences. In addition, the Penn Arts & Sciences Vimeo channel houses dozens of videos featuring faculty, students, and alumni.






(L–R): Masao Sako, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair of Physics and Astronomy, and Mark Trodden, Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Professor of Physics and Department Chair of Physics and Astronomy




or most of us, it can be difficult to understand what is going on at the cutting edge of scholarship. OMNIA 101 offers readers a peek into what faculty do every day in their classrooms, and how they bring their expertise to the next generation.

As images of a black hole appear for the first time, topics like dark matter and dark energy are garnering more and more interest. Mark Trodden, Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Professor of Physics, and Masao Sako, Undergraduate Chair and Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, both explore the universe—but they do so from different, complementary approaches. Trodden, a theoretical physicist, constructs mathematical models in an effort to explain the cosmic data that observational astronomers like Sako obtain using telescopes and other tools. Here, they discuss the research that continues to fascinate them.

What are dark energy and dark matter? Trodden: Just as planets rotate around the sun, stars rotate around the center of the galaxy in a way that depends on how much matter near the galaxy’s core is pulling them toward it. But the rate at which stars rotate is very different from what we might expect if the only matter in existence was the stuff we see glowing in a galaxy. Where is the rest of the mass that’s causing this behavior? We can’t see it, so we call it dark matter. Dark energy is an even deeper problem. The universe is expanding, meaning faraway galaxies are moving away from us. But we know gravity is an attractive force. If you jump up off the surface of the Earth, you are attracted back to it. So you would expect that things that are moving away from us would be slowing down, because they’re attracted


to everything else in the universe. A remarkable discovery from 1998 shows that this is not happening. Distant objects are actually speeding up in moving away from us, which is contrary to everything we understand about gravity and matter. Something mysterious is making this happen. We call it dark energy. Sako: We know very little about the physical nature of dark matter and dark energy. With dark matter particularly, it’s almost embarrassing for observers like me that after decades of taking data and trying to detect it, we still have no idea what it is. We do know that dark matter makes up 85 percent of all the matter we know and see. And matter—both dark and normal—makes up only about 27 percent of all of the combined matter and energy in the universe. The rest is dark energy.

What makes each of your approaches to the study of these phenomena unique? Sako: An observational astronomer like me “observes” the sky, using telescopes to take pictures. We use cameras rather than our eyes and analyze the images with computers. I sometimes take trips to observatories in other states or countries to acquire data. I study type Ia supernovae. A supernova is a huge explosion that happens when a star dies, or multiple stars die. We’re trying to measure the distances to thousands of supernovae we’ve identified, literally in centimeters. Doing so tells us the expansion history of the universe between now and every supernova that we have measured, which gives us a good idea of the expansion history between now and the


farthest supernova that we’ve found, and tells us how much dark matter and dark energy exist.

If I were to roll steel bearings along a table, you would just watch them roll in straight lines. If they did not, you might suspect that something else was going on, like maybe I’ve got a magnet under the table. That’s the kind of thing we’re doing with dark matter.

Trodden: Masao and his colleagues have made great strides in revealing dark matter’s behavior and the existence of dark energy. Theorists like me are struggling to explain these phenomena and interpret them in terms of our theories of fundamental physics. To most people, my work looks like mathematics, using pen and paper, and a computer to some extent. A lot of my day is also spent socially, standing at blackboards with my postdocs, colleagues, graduate students, and sometimes undergraduates, trying to hammer out new ideas.

How do we detect and study things that are invisible? Sako: There’s been a lot of effort to capture dark matter particles, but so far, that has failed. We can still study dark matter by looking at the normal particles that surround

it—looking at the motion of the stars in a galaxy and measuring how much dark matter there is inside that radius where the star is circling. We can do the same thing with galaxies and a cluster of galaxies, measuring the velocities of the galaxies around it. The supernovae we’re studying are all roughly the same luminosity; they emit the same number of watts of energy per second. We can measure the distances to those explosions by measuring how bright they appear to us, and so if we do that at many different distances, it gives us a way to map out the expansion history of the universe between now and then. Trodden: You’re inferring the existence of something from the behavior of other things. If I were to roll steel bearings along a table, I would release them at one end and you would just watch them roll in straight lines, as you would expect. If they did not roll in straight lines, you might suspect

An image of a “blank” sky taken with the Dark Energy Camera of an area that corresponds to one-fifth of the full moon. Courtesy of Masao Sako



that something else was going on, like maybe I’ve got a magnet under the table. That’s the kind of thing we’re doing with dark matter. Light travels at a finite speed, so the farther away supernovae are, the longer it’s taken light to get to us, and therefore their speed gives you information about something that happened earlier in the universe.

There has been an influx of new data from projects like the Dark Energy Survey. How has this influenced your work? Sako: The next five years is going to be all about the analysis of this wonderful dataset, hoping that something will pop up that will tell us more about dark 40

matter and dark energy. There’s also a new experiment called LSST, or Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which is a much bigger version of the Dark Energy Survey. Over the next 10 years, it will give us a more detailed map of the universe and tell us where dark matter exists. Trodden: I’m hopeful that the kinds of observations that Masao and his colleagues are doing will give us a handle on the question of whether Einstein’s description of gravity is slightly modified. That’s a radical idea and is something many theorists here at Penn have played a central role in exploring, both connecting it to data and exploring its deep mathematical implications and whether it makes sense as a theoretical proposal. The answer to that would blow open theoretical physics.

How do you teach the next generation of physicists and astronomers to carry on research on dark matter and dark energy? Trodden: It’s one thing to tell students, “Scientists know about this or that.” It’s another thing to be at a university like Penn, where there’s a huge amount of cutting-edge research going on, and say, “This work’s being done here by my colleagues and me.” I’ve taken things into classrooms—and Masao has, too—that were not known when I taught the class the year before, and that’s a great way to get people interested. Sako: I try to train my students so that they’re not so fixed on any particular idea. I teach them the evidence and what it could mean without giving them my


biases. I don’t want my students to share those, because if we all did that, we would just channel into a corner. I want to make sure that students have an open mind and trust data rather than what other people think.

Will we ever fully understand these phenomena? Sako: Dark energy, I think, is too complicated. I’m not expecting to understand what dark energy is in my lifetime, but I’m hoping that before I die, I will know what dark matter is. Trodden: We have had a lot of very clever theoretical ideas of what dark matter should be, but no compelling, fantastic, theoretical ideas have been right so far, so I don’t know that’s we’ll figure it out theoretically. I agree that there is a higher probability for us to understand dark matter than dark energy.

I try to train my students so that they’re not so fixed on any particular idea. I teach them the evidence and what it could mean without giving them my biases.

Why should dark matter and dark energy matter to any of us? Trodden: We didn’t go to the moon with the vague hope that there would be gold there; we went because we thought it would be fascinating. It’s intellectual exploration. We want to know what the world is made of and how it works. We’re lucky that science fiction and popular science representations have painted the work that we do in such a flattering way. We are very happy to have that level of interest from people outside of science. Sako: I don’t think anyone should particularly care about dark matter and dark energy, but basic science should not be about your immediate needs. You need to push boundaries and try to understand everything around you in every way possible. If we stop doing that, we’re not going to make advances in technology or in humanity. 

Hear more on the topics of dark matter and dark energy from Physics and Astronomy's Mark Trodden and Masao Sako in our "OMNIA 101: Exploring the Unseen" podcast.




China's China's Economy by SACHA ADORNO



Hanming Fang, Class of 1965 Term Professor of Economics, and his collaborators have created VoxChina.org, a space for discussing China’s economy. “The Chinese economy is the second largest in the world. But how much do we know about it? Outside of China, very little. And what is known is often biased and partisan,” argues Hanming Fang. “The best debate at any level should be based on facts, but much of today’s media and policy dialogue is clouded by special interests or particular viewpoints,” says Fang, Class of 1965 Term Professor of Economics. “There is an empty space in discussions about China.” Vexed by the gap, Fang, an applied microeconomist whose research focuses on labor, public finance, and health care issues both in the U.S. and China, has always believed that this space must be filled by unbiased professional academic economists, who can contribute fact-based research to public discourse. Toying with the notion of a webbased economics platform turned into actual planning in 2016.

A New Platform To fill the void, a few years ago he and two other economists—Jian Wang from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Wei Xiong of Princeton University—created VoxChina.org, a website where experts can share such scholarship with the world. “More and more, I was noticing high-quality academic papers on many aspects of the Chinese economy,” explains Fang, who at the time was the Acting Director of the National Bureau of Economic

Research (NBER) Chinese Economy Working Group and organizer of two NBER conferences a year about the Chinese economy. “It was a missed opportunity that this research was only available to professional economists. I decided it was really time to start pushing the material outside of academic circles.” And, providentially, at the time, he and Xiong both felt like they were at the right point in their careers “to provide some pure public good,” Fang remembers about starting the volunteer-run, public-facing site. Fang, Wang, and Xiong, who serve as the site’s Executive Committee, set the tone, mission, and submission guidelines for VoxChina. They hired a web designer and convened volunteer advisory and editorial boards of the most active economists researching the country. “We put in a lot of thought to ensure VoxChina is independent and transparent. First, we registered it as a nonprofit site with a .org web domain. Second, we required all authors disclose their affiliations and any potential conflict of interest,” Fang emphasizes. “Only if we’re transparent can readers evaluate any potential bias in the authors’ viewpoints.” In June 2017, VoxChina launched with a mission “to be the bridge on economic issues between China and the rest of the world.” Modeled after VoxEu.org, the policy portal run by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a think tank that presents complex economic issues in an accurate and

understandable manner, VoxChina features rigorous research-based policy analysis at no charge to readers. Contributors are leading economists. They write short summaries of their current research, says Fang, “in a way that is digestible for policymakers, industry and lay people, journalists, and other professional economists who don’t always have a lot of time to read long technical papers.”

The best debate at any level should be based on facts, but much of today’s media and policy dialogue is clouded by special interests or particular viewpoints. There is an empty space in discussions about China. Submissions, all vetted by the Executive Committee, come to VoxChina in three ways: the Executive Committee identifies papers and invites authors to write summaries; economists submit summaries directly; or authors send full papers and VoxChina asks for summaries. The site’s daily operations are managed by two paid editorial staff, whose positions are currently funded by Shenzhen Finance Institute out of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, one of VoxChina’s founding sponsors. 43


Economics from All Angles Since it went live, VoxChina has published at least one article a week on subjects ranging from credit to trade, bike sharing to aging, and income inequality to China’s stock market.

To illustrate the tone and type of the site’s content, Fang points to “The U.S.China Trade War is Based on Misleading Statistics,” a Hanming Fang, Class of 1965 Term Professor of Economics piece published in July 2018. The authors, three Deutsche Bank economists, argue that when quantifying the U.S.-China trade bal- the revenue is Apple’s and benefits the U.S., these sales are not counted as U.S. exports. ance, policymakers ignore a big piece of the Supported by their own thorough research, trade puzzle, namely the in-country sales of the authors suggest any evaluation of the goods produced in China by U.S. companies trade impact on the two nations should with subsidiaries there. consider activities of U.S. companies, like Apple, with localized production and distribution in China.

We put in a lot of thought to ensure VoxChina is independent and transparent. Only if we’re transparent can readers evaluate any potential bias in the authors’ viewpoints. 44

Engaging and Expanding Alex Schein

While the editorial team embraces subject matter diversity and distinct points of view—commentary is also welcome for publication— one consistent expectation is that the style be accessible. “The content may be specialized, but the writing is targeted for a general audience,” Fang says, adding that crafting these summaries often stretches the writing chops of contributors. “Many of our authors tell us they feel their pieces are better because they’re forced to write in a language that isn’t as technical as they’re used to.”

They use iPhones as an example. In 2016, 310 million iPhones operated in China, and Apple generated $48 billion in revenue in the country. But these sales aren’t included in the bilateral trade calculations and debate because they’re not produced in the U.S. Rather they’re made in China by Apple’s Chinese subsidiaries. So even if

Although trade discussions like this may be important for global relations and policy, housing-related stories are the most popular among VoxChina readers. “Every other investment in China is dwarfed by the return from investing in housing, so people are closely following the Chinese housing market,” says Fang. “I get calls from investors who are reading our articles about the market and asking when more will be published.”

Over two years, VoxChina has built a steady readership. At this time, the site tracks basic analytics, including number of views and reader geography—50 percent of readers are in China, followed by 25 percent in the U.S., and the rest of the world makes up the balance. “Each piece averages roughly 4,800 unique views, which come from site subscribers and our posts to VoxChina social media, including WeChat in China, Twitter, and Facebook,” says Fang. “We’re getting out there—when I talk to people in the field about the website, I'm hearing more frequently ‘Oh, I’ve heard of the site,’ or ‘I’ve seen it.’ Earlier on, it was, ‘Never heard of it.’” As awareness grows, so too does the Executive Committee’s plan for the future. This year, the founders aim to start VoxChina webinars, enabling curious readers to dig deeper into issues and research. “The articles are great but a bit passive. They don’t offer a lot of opportunity for questions,” explains Fang. “We’re exploring adding web-based seminars that people can join to hear author presentations and ask questions in real time.” Down the road, he envisions taking the conversation offline to in-person forums, gathering economists, journalists, and policymakers to explore different angles of urgent or timely issues.

By the Numbers numbers


Tracking the Needle Fang says it’s too soon to know how VoxChina is contributing to global discussions and policy related to China. For now, he enjoys the entrepreneurial aspect of running a public website and likes getting positive feedback from readers, including his own Penn students. “I recently taught a new course titled China: Institutions and Economy with Professor Yue Hou from the Department of Political Science. It was the first time Penn offered a course on the Chinese economy, and it was full, which indicates to me a strong interest in the topic,” Fang says. “We invited students, who were mostly seniors, to read VoxChina summaries of our assigned readings. Since then, a few of these graduates have emailed me to tell me what they learned in these readings has been very useful in their new jobs.”













And as a reader of every VoxChina article himself, Fang is also benefitting from the site: “I get to enjoy a broader body of research than I would when limited to sitting on review panels or organizing and attending conferences,” he says. This added exposure to China’s economy is what Fang hoped for when VoxChina was but a glimmer of an idea in the back of his mind. “What we’re doing with the site is a small effort to bring more facts into dialogues about China,” he says. “Some facts are not well known and others are, but nonetheless all are very important in order to build a constructive relationship between China and the rest of the world.” 




FROM 2004 TO 2014, CHINA'S GDP GREW 7.4%, VERSUS 2.4% FOR THE U.S.






$5.6 TRILLION (7.5% growth)

$5.5 TRILLION (3.3% growth)

IN 2019, CHINA IS FORECASTED TO SURPASS THE U.S. IN TOTAL RETAIL SALES. Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, World Bank, National Bureau of Statistics of China, eMarketer


Lost World, Lost Lives Hundreds of books looted by the Nazis during World War II provide a window into history and individuals we may otherwise have never known. BY MICHELE BERGER PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC SUCAR




idden in the stacks at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies sit hundreds of books once looted by the Nazis, then sent to the U.S. after World War II. Though it’s unclear exactly how many the University has—accounts range from 1,000 to more than 5,000—what’s pointedly clear is how much we can learn from these tattered, beautiful tomes. And not just about the volumes themselves, but about their former owners, where those people lived, what they experienced. The books, perhaps the only physical remains of a town or a family, have traveled thousands of miles to end up in Philadelphia. “They are these material remnants of a robust and meaningful life that was destroyed,” says Kathy Peiss, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of History. “It’s wonderful that they were preserved, but what they represent is this lost world, lost lives, and the displacement of a culture.”

Stamps like the above indicate that a book had been stolen by the Nazis. Penn holds between 1,000 and 5,000 of these once-looted volumes.

Such artifacts have been part of Peiss’ world for a dozen years. More recently, archivist Bruce Nielsen has been trying to locate as many of the books as possible within Penn’s collection, and in the process, he’s attempting to honor the book owners themselves.

“It’s common or easy to talk about Holocaust victims who have no names. We don’t have a story about them; they’re just this number,” says Nielsen, the Judaic public services librarian and archivist at the Katz Center library. “But here we actually have real names. We have stamps. And for many of them, we also have stories.”

The Journey to Penn During World War II, the Nazis stole millions of books at the behest of Hitler advisor Alfred Rosenberg. When Allied Forces arrived in Germany in 1945, American soldiers discovered some 2.5 million volumes scattered around a town called Hungen. The army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives unit—popularly called the Monuments Men—then unearthed large collections in Frankfurt and elsewhere across Germany, eventually bringing them to a warehouse called the Offenbach Archival Depot. Those that could be returned were, but that still left half a million orphaned books. “The question of what would happen to the books became a big political controversy,” Peiss explains. “Not all were Judaica or owned by Jews, but the vast majority were. A number of Jewish organizations 47

In April of 1945, after the war ended, American troops discovered scores of books and other objects hidden across Germany, like the loot in this church in Ellingen, just south of Nuremberg.

in the U.S., Great Britain, and what was then Palestine were trying to get the U.S. government to release these books to a Jewish organization. Eventually they were given to a group called the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction.” By now it was 1949. After sorting and storage at Offenbach, about 40 percent— approximately 160,000 books—came to the U.S., 40 percent went to newly formed Israel, and beyond a small number that remained in Germany, the rest landed in Africa and Latin America. The books housed today at the Katz Center library originally went to a Philadelphia institute called the Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning. The Dropsie College merged with Penn in 1993 and today is the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. “The books came to Dropsie around 1951,” Nielsen says. “When they actually arrived and what was done when they immediately arrived, I have no record. The only records we have are the work that I’ve done collecting titles and call numbers.” 48

Needles in a Haystack I want to find a way of honoring their memories. I just feel like when I have a name or names, I want to do what I can to lift those names up.

Nielsen keeps his list of titles and call numbers in a spreadsheet he physically carries through the shelves. He’s one of just four people who cares for the Katz Center collection, so the lack of solid records severely impedes much forward progress. Despite that, Nielsen’s located nearly 900 books. “I go looking up and down the stacks,” he says. “If we see certain stamps or bookplates, we know it’s a book that had been looted.” One imprint signifies that an item traveled through Offenbach. Other marks are more chilling, like an eagle gripping a swastika. Nielsen also looks for a Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR) bookplate. “If you look in our electronic catalogue, there are only about 150 entries for JCR books,” Peiss says. “Bruce has found many, many more. They weren’t

National Archive



catalogued well, and in some cases, they didn’t have the bookplates they were supposed to have.” Beyond that, a November 1981 arson fire at Dropsie, coupled with duplicates getting thrown away, may have depleted parts of the collection. Though seeking out these books has been akin to finding a needle in a haystack, for Nielsen, each has the potential to unearth a treasure trove about the people who studied from and owned these texts.

Mordehai ben Rabbi Josef Kerimer That’s what moves Nielsen the most, and it’s easy to understand why. JCR handled tens of thousands of books after World War II, creating a list of names and number of books processed per person. Nielsen had used this as his guide, seeking out titles that also displayed the Offenbach stamp. It was a logical first step—until he realized he’d encountered mostly books in German. The few in Hebrew had stamps from individual rabbis, and no mention of the depot. “I kept thinking, where did all the Hebrew books go?” he explains. “I thought maybe the people at Offenbach couldn’t read Hebrew and so they gave the books to the rabbis. Boy, was I wrong.” Changing his tack, Nielsen started locating hundreds more books, nearly all in Hebrew and Yiddish and many from a single Lithuanian town. “I kept coming up with the same rabbi’s name,” he says. “I went to the Offenbach lists and there he was. This guy

was a big shot in Lithuania, and the list said they’d processed 162 books. I can identify 108 of them. It’s unbelievable that we could’ve ended up with almost 70 percent of one person’s library.” The man’s name was Mordehai ben Rabbi Josef Kerimer. His Lithuanian town still exists, and thanks to survivor accounts, Nielsen knows what happened to him. Early in the war, the Nazis took over Kerimer’s town and forced the Jews there to dig a long trench in front of a building called the Ninth Fort. In one of the Nazis’ so-called “Great Actions,” nearly 10,000 were marched to the fort and killed, their bodies falling into the trench. “He was among them,” Nielsen says. “We know exactly when he died.”

The Future of the Books To ensure that accounts like this one are preserved, Peiss and Nielsen are considering options such as a virtual catalogue. “When these books came to the U.S. and went to different institutions, for the most part, they were folded into general collections,” Peiss says. “At a minimum, having a way to identify them as a collection of looted books that has historical meaning would be an important step for Penn to take.”

She also mentions there’s currently a worldwide movement to restitute books, particularly those from eastern Europe, which were handled less carefully than those from western Europe. “It’s really important to try to do right by the people whose lives were uprooted and whose collections were taken in this way,” Peiss says. Without question, Nielsen feels the same. He gets visibly upset talking about the books and though he doesn’t say so, it’s clear he feels uncertainty, even helplessness, at trying to figure how best to memorialize these individuals. “I just feel like when I have a name or names, I want to do what I can to lift those names up,” he says. Books are meant to tell stories. Yet these items offer more, a glimpse into a different time in history and into the lives of people who we may have otherwise never known. 

(L–R): Kathy Peiss, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of History; a book from the collection; Bruce Nielsen, the Judaic public services librarian and archivist at the Katz Center library 49



Global Leadership Fox Leadership International celebrates five years of shaping the next generation of global problem-solvers. By Ava R. DiFabritiis Photos courtesy of Joe Tierney


nergy development, extreme poverty, environmental protection: Major global problems like these may seem insurmountable given their complexity and scale. Can any one person truly effect change?

“‘Light a single candle rather than curse the darkness’ is the right response. But we want you to learn how to build the electric company,” says John DiIulio, Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society and Founding Director of Fox Leadership International (FLI). In the five years since its inception, FLI has prepared hundreds of students for roles as effective leaders who work to advance human well-being. FLI programming builds aptitude for global leadership and problem-solving 50

through classroom training and on-the-ground experience, including international fellowships and cultural immersion trips. The program originated as an offshoot of Penn Arts & Sciences’ hub of leadership education, the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program. In 2014, a gift from namesake benefactors Robert A. Fox, C’52, and Penny Grossman Fox, Ed’53 enabled Fox Leadership to expand its reach beyond U.S. borders. In the tradition of its forerunner, FLI aspires to help students discover their passions and harness them to address the world’s challenges. “Fox Leadership International expands the reach and influence of leadership education. Our students receive globally minded training and, through a combination of classroom learning and fellowships, have

the opportunity to effect real change,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. While FLI programming encompasses a broad range of countries, China is the focal point. This emphasis not only capitalizes on Penn’s growing engagement with China, but enables students to study one of the world’s most influential nations. DiIulio views China as a “pedagogical goldmine” for teaching students how to contribute and serve in any environment, given its massive population and rapid pace of development. “Here was an opportunity to use our leadership and problem-solving approach in a completely different context with a completely different political, economic, and social

system,” he says. “Yet so many of their problems—environmental, eldercare, traffic congestion, on and on and on—are not radically different from problems you find everywhere else.” Through the efforts of over 50 staff, faculty, and affiliates from Penn and beyond, FLI has become a powerhouse of global civic impact. More than 100 Penn students and alumni have traveled to 15 countries through FLI fellowships. The annual Global Leadership and Problem-Solving summer program for Chinese college students has doubled in size and become a model for U.S.–China cultural exchange. And to kick off FLI’s fifth year, the team developed its first degree-granting program, an International Master of Public Administration


<  Global

Leadership and Problem-Solving summer program students visit the Supreme Court in 2017.

(L–R): Ambassador Zhang Qiyue, Consul General of China in New York, and John DiIulio, Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society and Director of the Fox Leadership Program, at a breakfast for Global Leadership and Problem Solving summer program students in July 2016.

(I-MPA) that was launched in fall 2018 in partnership with the College of Liberal & Professional Studies.

around the world and demonstrates how local context influences decision-making and solutions.”

Designed for students with proficiency in Mandarin, the one-year I-MPA program imparts the skills needed to work collaboratively across borders and sectors. Students are challenged to become “ethical, effective, and entrepreneurial leaders,” says FLI Executive Director and I-MPA Instructor Joe Tierney.

The inaugural cohort of 13 students will be followed by one nearly four times the size in fall 2019. Together, the cohort moves through courses in contemporary Sino-American relations, public administration issues, and leadership ethics. The program culminates in two capstone projects: a group exercise in confronting global challenges, and an independent biographical analysis of a public leader.

“In the I-MPA, globally minded students will find the tools they need to build high-impact careers in public service, NGOs, and commerce,” says Nora Lewis, Vice Dean for Professional and Liberal Education. “The program’s comparative approach exposes students to the shared challenges facing public-sector leaders

Infused into the curriculum is FLI’s signature “principled but pragmatic” brand of global leadership. I-MPA instructors emphasize that global problem-solving is “not just about good intentions” and well-crafted policy, says DiIulio.

“Intellectual strength as a pure good is wonderful,” he says. “But being able to think about, in practical terms, how to translate ideas into action— that’s a different art and science.” “It’s all about implementation,” says Tierney. “A great idea poorly implemented is often worse than an average idea well implemented. The implementation makes the policy better or worse.” The I-MPA curriculum takes a case-based approach to illustrate implementation techniques. Students analyze and solve issues unfolding in real time, from malaria control in Africa to food security in Bangladesh. The deepest dive of the program’s case studies is the eldercare crisis in China.

Chao Guo, Associate Faculty Director of FLI and Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management at the School of Social Policy & Practice, lectures at an eldercare workshop in Nanjing, China, in June 2018. Back on campus, Guo serves as faculty director of the newly launched I-MPA program.




20 T

he Robert A. Fox Leadership Program, the sister program to FLI, celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2019. Founded through a gift from Robert A. Fox, C’52, and Penny Grossman Fox, Ed’53, the program has sought to empower undergraduates to become civic leaders through service and research opportunities, service-learning courses, and mentorship. Fox Fellowships, the centerpiece of the program, have been awarded to over 1,100 students and alumni over the past two decades. Guiding the future of Fox is John Lapinski, Robert A. Fox Professor of Political Science, who succeeded John DiIulio as the Faculty Director of the Fox Leadership Program in 2018.

As China’s elderly population swells—at the current rate, it will equal the entire U.S. population by 2050— the nation faces a critical shortage of nurses and institutional care options. Attitudes on eldercare are influenced by filial piety, the Confucian virtue of respect for one’s parents that is central to Chinese culture. The inverted-pyramid family structure that proliferated under the one-child policy places great responsibility on the shoulders of only children.

aid their inquiry, the cohort taps into the expertise housed in FLI’s Joint Project on Eldercare in China (J-PEC). This research and service partnership with Chinese universities and corporations aims to enrich understanding and promote public awareness of China’s eldercare challenges. J-PEC affiliates, which include Penn School of Nursing Science faculty, investigate topics like healthcare services, development of the geriatric workforce, and population characteristics.

The FLI team has witnessed the resonance of this issue through interactions with students, many of whom have shared concerns about supporting their families. “There is a Confucian saying: ‘Wherever you go, go with all your heart.’ We followed Confucius and chose an issue close to people’s hearts,” DiIulio says.

The eldercare case study spans a diverse array of fields, including cultural anthropology, sociology, economics, nursing, and social work. This is emblematic of FLI’s interdisciplinary nature.

The I-MPA’s group capstone asks students to collectively design a plan to address China’s eldercare needs. To

To teach students how to weigh competing viewpoints and make decisions, FLI integrates knowledge from fields like behavioral economics, positive psychology, and game theory. This multifaceted approach

prepares students to lead in complex environments. “We preach boundary-spanning leadership, which means across sectors— government, for profit, and nonprofit—and across international boundaries,” DiIulio says. Whether through international fellowships, interdisciplinary research projects, or academic programs, the FLI team hopes to give students confidence in their leadership ability. Tierney regularly shares his mantra with students: “I have to help you identify, develop, and apply your unique skills.” Equipped with leadership principles and comparative perspective, FLI’s students are poised to join the next generation of global changemakers. “We want them to believe that there is capacity, even for a single individual, to make a difference,” DiIulio says. “And not just a small difference.” 

The inaugural cohort of I-MPA students with FLI faculty and staff.





Pathways is a new video series from Penn Arts & Sciences that highlights the academic journeys of students in the College of Arts & Sciences and the transformational moments that sometimes shape their intellectual experiences. The first two students featured, Colin Lodewick, C’19, and India Allen, C’21, describe how their paths took a turn soon after arriving at Penn. Allen originally planned to follow a pre-med curriculum, but during her first year, she was inspired by an Academically Based Community Service course called Healthy Schools, taught by Mary Summers, a lecturer in Political Science and Senior Fellow in the Fox Leadership Program. The class, which included service-learning projects in West Philadelphia schools, as well as analysis of health and educational inequalities, pointed Allen toward a major in Health and Societies. Through her placement at Benjamin B. Comegys Elementary School, she also discovered a love for working with kids and decided to do an urban education minor. With a growing proficiency in French, which she has studied for more than five years, Allen volunteers as a tutor with the African Community Learning Program, a nonprofit organization that offers support to people of African backgrounds in West Philadelphia. Alexander Derrick

Colin Lodewick, C’19

A first-year course also proved transformative for Lodewick. In his case it was an introductory creative writing class with Julia Bloch, director of Penn’s Creative Writing Program, who praised one of his early written assignments and is now his advisor. Lodewick had arrived at Penn intending to study environmental science but slowly realized he wasn’t passionate about it. Instead, he found himself increasingly drawn to literature courses, including a semester-long course on the works of John Milton with Melissa Sanchez, Associate Professor of English. “I think people don’t see English study as a way of solving problems, but in a lot of ways it is,” Lodewick says. “Or, it's not necessarily about solving problems but identifying problems, and identifying arguments and contradictions and nuances, and understanding them.” He will graduate this spring. 

COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS Lorena Levano, a graduate student in the College of Liberal & Professional Studies, uses collective social behavior to address sexual harassment and online grooming. Just as sexual harassment isn’t limited geographically, or to a specific behavior, it also isn’t limited to a given age group, says Lorena Levano, a graduate student in the College of Liberal & Professional Studies in the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program. “When it comes to harassment, we usually think about the workplace and public transportation—and we usually think about adults. But this is a problem that affects kids, too.” Levano’s paper, “Using a Social Norms Framework to Study Latino Youth Beliefs about Sexual Harassment in High Schools,” which was accepted into the 2019 World Anti-Bullying Forum, seeks to address harassment from a unique angle.

“It’s not as simple as bad kids behaving badly. Many times they are pushed by the expectations of others,” she says. Brooke Sietinsons

A new video series puts the spotlight on undergraduates.

“I feel that if I’m making the world a better place—even if it’s just for one person—then that’s my definition of success,” Allen says.

Lorena Levano, LPS'19

Levano was voted as the Audience Choice winner at the 2019 Grad Ben Talks— an event where Arts & Sciences graduate students present research in TED Talk-fashion. She is conducting her research in Rhode Island schools in partnership with Young Voices, a statewide organization that empowers youth to become confident civic leaders and advocates in their communities. In addition to research on sexual harassment, Levano is hard at work on a sister project titled “Understanding the Role of Trust in Online Grooming.” The project saw Levano travelling to the Second Latin-American Workshop on Experimental and Behavioural Social Sciences at the University of Santiago in Chile this past December to present on her research. Levano says, “Due to the rise of internet use among young people, there are a lot of unusual risks and new forms of violence, like online grooming.” Levano, who plans to return to her job at the Ministry of Education in Peru when she completes her degree, hopes to apply her research to affect policy by building a theoretical framework to better explain the role of trust in the effectiveness of the influence strategies used in online grooming. To view Levano's award-winning 2019 Grad Ben Talks presentation, visit omnia.sas.upenn.edu/story/ collective-consciousness 




DOCUMENTING REFUGEES A film by Sonari Chidi, C’20, challenges the depiction of refugees and immigrants in the media. Sonari Chidi, C’20, saw the media’s depiction of refugees as incomplete. “What was missing were the voices of the refugees themselves,” he says. “I wanted to get their perspective.”

Chidi began Shattering Refuge on the 2017 Penn-in-Kenya trip to the Kakuma Refugee Camp, led by Peter Decherney, Professor of English and Director of Cinema and Media Studies. Chidi interviewed refugee filmmakers trained by the nonprofit FilmAid International.

Chidi, a double-major in cinema and media studies and Africana studies, has been accepted to the Penn Law Class of 2022 through the B.A./J.D. sub-matriculation program. He has also pursued research as a CAMRA Fellow and a Fox Research and Service Fellow. Shattering Refuge won the Rough Cut Film Festival’s Social Justice Award, and Chidi plans to make it available online. “I want to get it out there to have as many 54

College sophomore Claire Sliney is working to end the social stigma around menstruation in developing countries. It never occurred to Claire Sliney, C'21, that a labor of love begun in her highschool years would lead her to the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

Claire Sliney, C'21, and the film’s director, Rayka Zehtabchi

Sliney is a co-executive producer on the documentary Period. End of Sentence, which describes a collaborative effort she co-founded to address the social stigma around menstruation in developing countries. The film snagged the 2019 Oscar for Best Documentary—Short Subject. It all started at the Oakwood School in North Hollywood, California. Sliney and fellow members of the Girls Learn International Club took a field trip to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, where they learned that women in many countries not only face social ostracism during menstruation, but also that many girls stop attending school because of it. After learning of an India-based activist named Arunachalam Muruganantham, who had created a machine to make affordable menstrual pads from locally sourced, biodegradable materials, the young women decided to take action. With teachers and parents, the club

members launched The Pad Project to raise funds for more machines, connect women and girls in need with local activists, and help normalize conversations about menstruation. To spread the word, the students worked with Los Angeles-based producer Rayka Zehtabchi and Action India to create the documentary. “This world stage is the most perfect platform for us to be able to spread the word about the stigma surrounding periods and to ultimately dispel that stigma,” Sliney said in a televised interview after the Academy Awards ceremony. The Philosophy, Politics and Economics major remains focused on her studies and committed to The Pad Project. “I have dedicated so much of my life to this for so many years,” Sliney says. “It is my heart and soul.” 

WHO LIVES IN A HYDROTHERMAL VENT UNDER THE SEA? Preethi Kumaran, C’21, spent her summer growing-deep sea microorganisms that might be new to the world of science. Thanks to the Penn Undergraduate Climate Action Grant, Preethi Kumaran, C'21, was able to spend her summer studying hydrothermal vent microbes from the bottom of the ocean. Working in the lab of Ileana Pérez-Rodríguez, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science and Elliman Faculty Fellow, Kumaran learned how to sustain and cultivate test tubes of anaerobic microorganisms that were obtained during some of Courtesy of Preethi Kumaran

“The power of film is not only to be able to see a glimpse into other people’s lives and experiences that are not like our own, but to understand how their experiences are really a reflection of us,” he says. “Although we have external differences, there are some fundamental similarities and dreams and hopes and desires and human rights that we all share.”


Courtesy of Penn Today

The result, his 23-minute documentary Shattering Refuge, weaves together interviews with asylum seekers and other refugees, journalists, professors, and immigrants. Its screening at Perry World House in February was attended by more than 150 people. It was followed by a panel discussion with faculty and visiting fellows including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and a Perry World House Visiting Global Distinguished Leader-in-Residence.

people as possible see it, to hopefully learn something new and have their perspectives challenged.” 

Preethi Kumaran, C’21



the professor’s deep sea dives. Due to the extreme conditions (of pressure, temperature, and chemical environments) the organisms are acclimated to living in, growing and studying them in a lab setting is a difficult task, resulting in very few of them having ever been identified. The purpose of these attempts is to add to the existing knowledge base of known microorganisms, and occasionally to find further applications for them. “We were trying to see if we could isolate microorganisms that we already have in the database or try to find something new,” says Kumaran. “It’s a really big world out there and there’s not a big chance that everyone has samples from the exact same spot, so there’s a likelihood of finding something new every time.”

The competitive awards fund meaningful postgraduation projects. Four seniors in the College of Arts & Sciences were recipients of the 2019 President’s Engagement Prize and President’s Innovation Prize. Awarded annually, the prizes empower Penn students to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world. Each prizewinning project will receive $100,000, as well as a $50,000 living stipend per team member. Eric Sucar

Under mentorship from Pérez-Rodríguez, she spent months playing with temperature, types of growth media, and other conditions, all the while forming unexpected precision skills in preventing these organisms from contacting oxygen, and building an army of these test tubes over the course of the summer. The other half of her time was spent in the lab basement, learning microscopy skills by analyzing microorganism growth and type. After countless trials, one test tube finally had sustained growth. With renewed excitement the sample DNA was sent off to be sequenced, the results of which suggest a “potentially novel deep-branching bacterial species,” says Pérez-Rodríguez. The lab is currently trying to recreate the results to better understand them.  


PROJECT GIVES STUDENTS A PLACE TO BE POSITIVE Elana Burack, C’19, has created an “Affirmation Tree” for the community. Affirmations—statements that reflect on personal values­—sustained Elana Burack, C’19, through her middle school years. As a senior at Penn, she wanted to make affirmations a public project in a community where students may, for example, flunk a math test and need an outlet to healthily remind themselves they’re also excellent siblings, friends, or caretakers.

Eric Sucar

Burack created the “Affirmation Tree,” a sculpture that travels campus, collecting affirmations written by members of the University community. The project is funded by The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation and Penn Wellness. Burack created the tree with sculptor Julia Magidson, a student in the College of Liberal & Professional Studies.

Elana Burack, C'19

“One of the reasons I wanted to do it is Penn is just a very intense, fast-paced, and sometimes competitive environment, and I think we rarely pause and say something positive to ourselves,” says Burack, a religious studies major. “I wanted to give people a space to do that.” 

Summer Kollie, C’19, Princess Aghayere, C’19, and Oladunni Alomaja, EAS’19

Engagement Prize winners include Princess Aghayere, C’19, Summer Kollie, C’19, and Oladunni Alomaja, EAS’19, who received the award for Rebound Liberia, an organization that will use basketball as a tool to bridge the literacy gap between men and women and as a mechanism for youth to cope with the trauma and stress of daily life in post-conflict Liberia. Brendan Taliaferro, C’19, received an Engagement Prize for his project, Host Homes for LGBTQ Youth in Philadelphia. Host Homes addresses the dire need for safe and stable emergency housing for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. Katherine Sizov, C’19, and Malika Shukurova, EAS’19, were awarded a President’s Innovation Prize for Strella Biotechnology, a startup that is developing a bio-sensor that can predict the maturity of virtually any fresh fruit. “I am immensely proud of our students’ commitment to meaningful work that extends beyond the classroom and the campus,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann. “I congratulate all of this year’s Prize recipients, and I wish them the very best as they move forward with their projects.”  55



SHOOTING FOR THE MOON In her Language and the Brain course, Kathryn Schuler, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, asked 30 undergrads to think big about big problemsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and their solutions didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t disappoint. By Michele Berger

Photography by Alex Schein

Kathryn Schuler (right), Assistant Professor of Linguistics, used a Google X model to encourage students to use unconstrained ideas to solve grand problems. 56



o most people, using complete and understandable sentences comes reflexively. But someone with a language disorder called Broca’s aphasia often has trouble producing fluent, grammatically correct speech, forgetting a noun or even speaking words out of order. Sarah Nam, C’20, Rose Rasty, C’22, and Dori Domi, C’21, had an idea: What if they built an app that could help someone with the disorder communicate more easily? The person could speak a sentence into the phone, and following a series of questions, the app would offer alternative framing structures—all in the person’s own voice. “We thought that could help re-train [the brain] after an injury,” says Nam, from West Chester, Pennsylvania. The app never came to life, but really, it was never intended to. It was one of eight linguistics moonshot projects created by undergraduates in Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics Kathryn Schuler’s fall 2018 Language and the Brain course. Each session covered a different topic—sign language, bilingualism, evolution—to give the students a baseline, and throughout the semester, they also worked on passion projects, following a Google X model to allow for unconstrained thinking about grand problems. Schuler got the idea after a conversation with Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of History Bruce Lenthall, Executive Director, and Advisor on Educational Initiatives to the Vice Provost, at the Center for Teaching and Learning. “I was concerned that students with very diverse interests would be taking the class and that they might feel disappointed with just a single lecture on what they were curious about,” she explains. “That’s how the moonshot project was born, to allow students to explore their interests.” Quickly, ideas began to take shape. There was Nam’s acquired disorders group and one on language and music.

Members of Team PAH proposed an online American Sign Language video-lecture database focused on common middle- and high-school subjects.

Another group wanted to better understand the relationship between internal and external speech. And then there was Matthias Volker’s team, which focused on sign language. “We were thinking really big at first; we wanted to revamp the deaf education system. But as three hearing college students, we knew we weren’t the right people to do that,” says Volker, C’21, from Washington, D.C. Feedback from Jami Fisher, who runs Penn’s American Sign Language (ASL) program, helped the group find a new direction. “We were encouraged to reframe what we were thinking about, from change to support. Instead of reinventing the wheel, she suggested we look at the existing resources out there and how we could be a system of support.” Heeding that advice, the team, which also included Ari Trueswell, C’18, and Carmen Lugo, LPS, ’19, turned its moonshot into an online ASL video-lecture database focused on common middle- and highschool subjects like chemistry, history, and biology. “It reinforces what they’re learning in the classroom but also reinforces their language skills,” Volker says. It’s the first time Schuler has taught the class, and she was impressed by the students’ dedication and ingenuity. Each week, they posted write-ups on a class blog and provided peer feedback. They pitched their ideas in front of the class and changed course based on recommendations from content experts and their

classmates. They dreamed up outsidethe-box ideas and weren’t afraid to look foolish. “The point of the moonshot program at Google X is to allow innovation to happen in a way that’s not constrained,” Schuler says. “The real innovation usually comes when it’s a crazy idea. To have an outlet to pursue a few of those is useful.” Of course, this was a college course with a grade endpoint, not a real-world product susceptible to business critiques and economic whims. But the underlying notion remains true: Offering the 30 students a chance to think big about big problems led to imaginative and clever solutions. “There was a lot of freedom,” Nam says. “We were encouraged to think for ourselves and think with each other. It wasn’t just a professor feeding us information. It really changed the way I approach my learning in general.” Nam says she and her classmates don’t currently have plans to take the app further than the template they created for Schuler. Neither does the sign language team. And though Schuler admits it would be “super cool” if any of them decided to continue work on the projects, her goal was, of course, to offer a positive learning experience. “This is a useful avenue for students because it helps lessen that fear of failure,” she says. “If an idea is not great, it’s not great. But maybe it’ll be cool—and maybe it will help you become a little more unconstrained in your thoughts.”  57


FOOD FOR THOUGHT In the mood for tacos? Hillary Reinsberg, C’11, has a recommendation. By Lauren Rebecca Thacker Photography by Brooke Sietinsons

illary Reinsberg loves maps. When she mentioned this in an interview with the founders of The Infatuation, a restaurant recommendation and review site, they knew she was the right person to bring on as their first employee. That’s because the site is meant for people interested in city spaces as they’re influenced by and respond to food culture. You can understand a neighborhood from studying a map of its streets, but you can also visit its long-standing pasta spot or new Japanese izakaya to learn something of its culture, history, and growth. Reinsberg, C’11, now Editor-in-Chief of the 70-person, worldwide company, says, “it’s not just about creating guides for how to eat, it’s about understanding cities and the people in them on an almost academic level.” Reinsberg’s fondest memories of her undergraduate days are shaped by the spaces on Penn’s campus and the energy she felt there. “Walking down Locust Walk and hanging out at the Kelly Writers House meant so much to me,” she says, “and it was never boring. Penn is a good place for high-energy people. There’s a very real-world sense of ‘let’s make this happen.’” That drive led Reinsberg, an urban studies major and creative writing minor, to accept a position that began the day after graduation. She covered women and politics, which led to an opportunity at BuzzFeed. When she started at The Infatuation in 2014, she had the chance to help build the brand from the ground up. Now, the company’s acquisition of Zagat is a chance for Reinsberg to be part of something at once fresh and iconic. Established in 1979 as collection of diner-driven restaurant reviews, Zagat grew into a recognizable brand whose books were in households across the U.S. “The Infatuation does things differently than Zagat,” Reinsberg explains, “but we share a spirit of considering the needs of the everyday city dweller.” Here, Reinsberg talks about her path from The Daily Pennsylvanian to The Infatuation and her favorite food cities. 58


Q: How do urban studies and creative writing complement one another? I loved my classes. Classes at the Kelly Writers House were really inspiring and I took English courses in which I studied poetry and great novels. It was the type of writing I knew I wouldn’t pursue, but I found it to be one of my most educationally formative experiences. Urban studies is all about going out into the streets and understanding and unpacking what’s there. That’s definitely the way my mind works and I was drawn to it. Urban studies has a very journalistic spirit. What I do now combines what I studied so well. I love figuring out what makes each city tick, and helping create great writing to help people navigate those cities. Q: What kind of writing did you do at Penn? I discovered 34th Street, the culture magazine of The Daily Pennsylvanian, the summer before my freshman year and read the entire archive. I grew up reading New York Magazine, and 34th Street felt like Penn’s version—smart and funny, written for students. I showed up on the first day, saying, “Can I write something?” During my time there, we started a blog called Under the Button and I was the first editor. It’s still around, though it has evolved into a very funny satire site. At the time, though, it was a news and culture blog. At my commencement, Amy Gutmann



Hillary Reinsberg, C’11

mentioned Under the Button as a news source for students. That moment felt like, “We did it!” Q: How did you go from blogging about student news to being Editor-inChief of a food-focused publication? It can be hard to be really honest with yourself about exactly what you want to do. When you’re starting out, I think you need to be willing to do anything and try everything. I wrote about so many things and I’m grateful for that experience, but I was afraid to focus on anything too specific early in my career. Gaining the confidence to know what you’re good at is an important lesson. I learned that I didn’t love being in breaking news, but at the same time, food writing was never my immediate goal. What I realized is that I love building and growing publications. I’ve always enjoyed scrappy environments and have had an entrepreneurial spirit. Even at Penn, I loved

building Under the Button from scratch. In the four years I’ve been at The Infatuation, my job has changed and grown. We have a culture of experimentation and creativity, of trying things and seeing what sticks. As an editor, one of my favorite parts of my job is working with photographers and marketers and engineers and graphic designers and communications people. And a lot of what I do now is work on growing our existing markets and launching new ones. I was in London a lot over the last two years, building an audience and working with writers, and we recently launched in Philadelphia, which was exciting and long overdue. Q: What are the challenges of working in a quickly growing company? When we’re expanding into a new city, it takes time to find the right people to come on board. We look for people who don’t have relationships with the restaurant industry but are great

writers who want to explore their cities and who can be excited about launching something. We want writers who can write in our irreverent, entertaining style, but also bring their own voices and ideas to the table. With Zagat, we’re working on reinventing and rebuilding the product. The process is just beginning, but it is one of the most exciting things that I’ve been a part of. Q: Where should adventurous diners go for an exciting meal? I may be biased, but New York City is still the best city for a night out. Just make sure to get out of Midtown. Los Angeles and London are both incredible places to eat right now. In decades past, these two cities didn’t have the best reputations as restaurant cities, but that couldn’t be less true now. In L.A., Korean and Mexican food should be on your agenda. In London, make sure to try some Indian and Turkish restaurants.  59



EARLY AND OFTEN Warren Lichtenstein, C’87, has established two challenge funds to encourage alumni to make giving a life-long habit. By Lauren Rebecca Thacker

Warren Lichtenstein, C’87 60



onventional wisdom holds that it takes time and effort to form a habit. Warren Lichtenstein, C’87, is in the habit of giving, and he’s established two challenge funds to help others grow their own philanthropic tendencies and support Penn Arts & Sciences. “The joy of giving, he says, “can easily become a lifelong practice.” Lichtenstein’s challenge funds bolster two types of gifts: scholarship gifts from young alumni and recurring gifts to the Arts & Sciences Annual Fund. The Warren Lichtenstein Young Alumni Scholarship Challenge Fund provides a full match for gifts of $75,000 for endowed financial support from alumni who completed their undergraduate degree within the past 10 years. “I believe that through early involvement in philanthropy, young people will make giving a part of their lives as they grow and gain success,” he explains. “Giving is especially meaningful when you see the funds help other students realize their dreams of a college education.” Each scholarship created by the initial gift and matching funds will support a student in the College of Arts & Sciences every year.

The second fund is available to donors who make a five-year commitment to the Arts & Sciences Annual Fund. New or existing donors who pledge $1,500 every year will see that amount matched by the Warren Lichtenstein Arts & Sciences Challenge Fund. The match will raise donors’ yearly impact to $2,500, qualifying them for inclusion in the Benjamin Franklin Society (BFS). BFS honors Penn’s most generous supporters of unrestricted annual giving funds across the University. It’s important for Lichtenstein that the challenge funds provide direct support to Arts & Sciences because he’s a proponent of the broad education the School provides. “I’ve always believed that a liberal arts education gives you the ability to explore many subjects, rather than becoming highly specialized at a young age,” he says. “Having a breadth of knowledge in different subjects was instrumental to my development and provided a solid foundation as I started out in my career.” “We are grateful for Warren’s gift, which not only supports financial aid and other priority areas but also inspires the engagement of other alumni and friends,” says Steven J. Fluharty, Dean of Penn Arts

Lisa Hershman, C’01, and Joshua Hershman, C’99, and a member of the Arts & Sciences Ambassador Council, participated in the Warren Lichtenstein Arts & Sciences Challenge Fund because they believe that giving directly to the School is the best way to support the liberal arts education they so deeply value. “It's important to us that the College remain a place where students and faculty freely explore critical perspectives,” Lisa explains. Joshua agrees, adding, “Regular giving to the Arts & Sciences Annual Fund provides the School with the reliability to meet ongoing commitments and flexibility to transform challenges into opportunities.”

& Sciences and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. “His generosity will impact many initiatives and will particularly help us meet the increasing needs of students for whom a Penn education would not be possible without scholarship aid.” Lichtenstein earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1987 and is Founder and Executive Chairman of Steel Partners Holdings L.P., a global diversified holding company that engages in multiple businesses. He also serves as Executive Chairman of Steel Connect, Ltd. and Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. He has supported various initiatives at the University, including The Penn Fund and undergraduate scholarships, for more than 15 years. Looking back on his time as a student in the College, Lichtenstein says that lessons continue to resonate. “There was a sociology professor who challenged us to look deeper at personal relationships and human behavior,” he remembers. “That really stuck with me. It’s more important than ever to examine our own behavior and to value interaction and participation when developing meaningful relationships.” 

To learn more about the Warren Lichtenstein Young Alumni Scholarship Challenge Fund and Warren Lichtenstein Arts & Sciences Challenge Fund, please contact Laura Weber, Assistant Vice Dean of Advancement, at lweber@sas.upenn.edu.





The award-winning poet has been a professor at Penn since 2003. BY


Charles Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature

=================================================== Charles Bernstein is many things: an inventive poet, a writer of libretti, a translator, a collaborator, an archivist, and, since 2003, a distinguished member of Penn’s faculty. Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature, will retire from the Department of English at the end of the spring 2019 semester. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Near/Miss, which earned him the 2019 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, awarded by Yale University. Bernstein’s most recent collection of essays is Pitch of Poetry. Along with Bruce Andrews, Bernstein co-edited L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, an influential journal 62

of radical poetics that ran from 1978 to 1981. He is editor of the Electronic Poetry Center and, with Al Filreis, Kelly Family Professor in English, co-directs PennSound, an extensive archive of poetry recordings. Bernstein was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006. Other awards and honors include the Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry, the Münster Prize for International Poetry, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.



“My Luck” and “What Makes a Poem a Poem?” appear in Near/Miss. “My Luck” is a translation of the 12th-century Hebrew poem “Misfortune,” by Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra. “What Makes a Poem a Poem?” is the transcript from Bernstein’s 2004 performance at Penn Arts & Sciences’ 60-Second Lecture Series. To listen to the PennSound archives, visit writing.upenn.edu/pennsound.





Discover the stories behind the Professor of Biology’s favorite items. BY


4 1




TOOLS Repairing American pocket watches and adapting them for modern use is a hobby of mine. It takes some patience. This set of watchmaking tools is vintage and the pocket watch was produced by the Illinois Watch Company in 1921. MICROWELL PLATES These are some petri dishes and microwell plates containing experimental populations of yeast. My research 64

group has focused on experimental studies of microbes, where scientists can observe evolution happening in real time, as a simple setting for understanding general principles of evolution at the molecular scale. GEOMETRY TOYS The people in my research group span a range of intellectual backgrounds, including physics, biology, and computer science, but we’re united by the use of mathematics to study evolutionary processes.

The group has acquired geometry toys over the years and we play with them daily. GUNDAM FIGURES I first started collecting Gundam figures when I visited Japan for the Society of Mathematical Biology annual meeting. The Gundam anime series is a fun combination of hightech sci-fi and high-drama storytelling. Some of these figures came from capsule vending machines, and others required careful assembly and detailed painting.

FOSSILS These are fossilized Orthoceras—predatory squids that lived 450 million years ago, related to the modern-day Nautilus. I found this collection at the Academy of Natural Sciences when I first moved to Philadelphia. My own research in evolution has little to do with fossils or dinosaurs, but fossils are still tons of fun to have around.

PalDat.org (SEM image) and Asja Radja (simulation)



Pollen grains Galium wirtgenii (top) and Gomphrena globose, shown as scanning electron microscopy images alongside the simulation of the physical model. By developing the first theoretical physicsbased framework for how pollen patterns form, researchers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy have enabled scientists to study a large class of biological materials, including the cell walls of plants and the scales of butterfly wings. Graduate student Asja Radja was the first author of the study, working with fellow graduate student Eric M. Horsley. Former postdoc Maxim O. Lavrentovich and Alison Sweeney, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, were co-lead authors of the study. 65

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University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania School of Arts & Sciences 3600 Market Street, Suite 300 Philadelphia, PA 19104-3284 COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES GRADUATE DIVISION COLLEGE OF LIBERAL & PROFESSIONAL STUDIES Stay in touch with Penn Alumni. Join QuakerNet, your key to connect: quakernet.alumni.upenn.edu



Your gift to the Arts & Sciences Annual Fund empowers intellectual inquiry across Penn. Everyone can be a part of the Power of Penn Arts & Sciences fundraising campaign with a gift to the Annual Fund. WWW.SAS.UPENN.EDU/GIFTS/ANNUAL POWER.SAS.UPENN.EDU

Profile for Penn Arts & Sciences

OMNIA Magazine: Spring/Summer 2019