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Emory Chemist Wins Japan’s Top Academic Prizes
March 28, 2008

Keiji Morokuma, emeritus professor of theoretical chemistry at Emory, will receive the highest academic awards bestowed by Japan, the Japan Academy recently announced. Japan's Emperor Akihito will present Morokuma with the Imperial Prize at a June 9 ceremony in Tokyo, where Morokuma also will receive the Japan Academy Prize.

“Keiji Morokuma is a world leader in the development of theoretical and computational methods for chemistry,” said David Lynn, chair of Emory’s chemistry department. “His work to understand the structure and bonding of all-carbon compounds has practical applications for the development of everything from new drugs to tennis rackets.”

A native of Japan, Morokuma joined Emory in 1993 as the William Henry Emerson Chair of Chemistry and director of the university's Cherry L. Emerson Center for Scientific Computation. He was named professor emeritus at Emory in 2006, and healso holds the title of research leader of the Fukui Institute for Fundamental Chemistry at Kyoto University.

The Japan Academy, which is associated with Japan's Ministry of Education, formed in 1879 to promote scientific excellence at home and abroad. Each year, the academy gives up to nine Japan Academy Prizes, comprised of a medal and one million yen (about $10,000), to scientists who have reached notable research landmarks.

Morokuma will be further honored with the Imperial Prize—only one is awarded annually in each of two categories: humanities and natural sciences. The prize includes a certificate and a vase, presented by the emperor as an imperial gift.

Other honors received by Morokuma over a career spanning more than four decades include the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science Award; the Bourke Lectureship from the Royal Society of Chemistry; the Chemical Society Award from the Chemical Society of Japan; and the Schrödinger Medal from the World Association of Theoretical Organic Chemists.


PTSD Recovery Linked to Genetic Predisposition
March 21, 2008

New research conducted by Emory researchers as well as colleagues from other institutions suggests genes help explain why some people can recover from a traumatic event while others suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a March Associated Press article. Though preliminary, the study provides insight into a condition expected to strike increasing numbers of military veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, one health expert said.

According to the article, the investigators found that specific variations in a stress-related gene appeared to be influenced by trauma at a young age—in this case child abuse. That interaction strongly increased the chances for adult survivors of abuse to develop signs of PTSD. Among adult survivors of severe child abuse, those with the specific gene variations scored more than twice as high (31) on a scale of post-traumatic stress, compared with those without the variations (13). The worse the abuse, the stronger the risk in people with those gene variations. The study of 900 adults is among the first to show that genes can be influenced by outside, nongenetic factors to trigger signs of PTSD. It is the largest of just two reports to show molecular evidence of a genetic influence on PTSD.

The results suggest that there are critical periods in childhood when the brain is vulnerable “to outside influences that can shape the developing stress-response system,” said study co-author Kerry Ressler, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Emory. Ressler noted that there are probably many other gene variants that contribute to risks for PTSD, and others may be more strongly linked to the disorder than the ones the researchers focused on. Still, he and outside experts said the study is important and that similar advances could lead to tests that will help identify who is most at risk. Treatments including psychotherapy and psychiatric drugs could be targeted to those people, Ressler said.

About a quarter of a million Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives after being victimized or witnessing violence or other traumatic events. Rates are much higher in war veterans and people living in high-crime areas. Symptoms can develop long after the event and usually include recurrent terrifying recollections of the trauma. Sufferers often have debilitating anxiety, irritability, insomnia and other signs of stress.


Chemist Receives Sloan Foundation Fellowship
March 14, 2008

Justin Gallivan, an assistant professor of chemistry, has been awarded a Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. He is among 118 young scientists, mathematicians, and economists selected as 2008 Sloan Fellows, representing faculty from 64 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada who show outstanding promise of making fundamental contributions to new knowledge.

Gallivan’s research focuses on how natural systems do chemistry, and “how we can learn from it and develop the systems to do things nature hasn’t thought of yet,” he said. Research projects in his lab, he added, are “united by the idea that we can ‘borrow from biology’ to solve problems in chemistry and materials science. As such, we develop genetic tools that allow us to reprogram bacteria to make new molecules and perform other complex tasks.”

With the support of the fellowship, his lab plans to develop new ways to discover bacteria that make molecules efficiently. For example, it recently developed a way to make cells “run” when a certain molecule is present. If more of the molecule is present, the cells run farther. The idea is to program these cells to make new molecules by using a technique called directed evolution.

In directed evolution experiments, Gallivan and his team make random changes to proteins in the cells and look for the cells that most efficiently produce the target molecules. In the past, measuring how well a cell produced a molecule often required expensive equipment. Gallivan’s new method can determine how well a cell performs chemistry by simply using a ruler to measure how far it moves. “This new method avoids expensive equipment and materials and allows us to look at millions of cells at a time to determine which ones are the best at making new molecules,” he said. Such basic research could lead to more efficient and greener methods of making new chemicals, including pharmaceuticals.

The Sloan Research Fellowships have been awarded since 1955, initially in just physics, chemistry, and mathematics. Since then, thirty-five Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in their fields, and fourteen have received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics.


Emory Graduate School and Libraries Launch Electronic Theses, Dissertations Program
March 7, 2008

Beginning next fall, all Emory University graduate students will submit their doctoral dissertations and masters theses in electronic form for the university’s Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD, etd.library.emory.edu/) database. ETD is an online, searchable repository of Emory graduates’ research. Undergraduates completing honors theses will contribute to the online repository beginning in 2009.

The graduate school and the libraries teamed up two years ago to begin developing ETD. Creating such university-wide repositories of student research is a national trend that has been gaining momentum among top research universities for the last decade, according to Lisa A. Tedesco, dean of the graduate school.

“Theses and dissertations are among the most important intellectual works of the university. Sharing them can raise the profile of the university in the United States and abroad,” Tedesco said. “Putting our scholarship online is a strategic way to maximize and extend Emory’s reputation for producing leading-edge research.”

The Emory campus benefits from ETD in numerous other ways, as well. In the past, students and their advisers often waited months after graduation for theses and dissertations to reach library shelves and the Proquest repository. With ETD, many students will find their work online just a few weeks after they leave the Emory campus as graduates, and they’ll be able to more easily include audio, video, computer animation, data sets, and other materials with their submissions.

From the graduate school’s perspective, processing theses and dissertations will become more efficient since the new submission system provides automated management tools for academic tracking. And in the libraries, ETD will free shelf space for storing other materials that are not available digitally, says Rick Luce, vice provost and director of libraries.

“The ETD will be the University’s copy of record of student research, and will be carefully preserved by the libraries,” Luce said. “This will make theses and dissertations more easily accessible, allowing researchers broader and more timely access to Emory scholarship.”


Emory Loses Two Distinguished Faculty Members
February 26, 2008

Melvin Gutterman, a law professor whose legal scholarship spanned more than four decades died on January 28. He was 70. His career ranged from serving as the chief of staff of then Governor Jimmy Carter’s Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals to developing innovative courses using the latest technology.

“As I travel around the country visiting with our alumni and friends, rarely do I go anywhere without Professor Gutterman’s name being mentioned in the most affectionate way,” said Emory Law Dean David Partlett. “We are deeply saddened to lose one of our colleagues and friends. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest teachers at Emory Law.”

His dedication to teaching was widely appreciated by his students. He was a two-time recipient of Emory Law’s Most Outstanding Professor Award, chosen by the graduating class each year, and in 1995 he received the Ben F. Johnson Excellence in Teaching Award, a tribute for his contribution to teaching and overall service.

Among the highlights of his distinguished career were his sabbatical to France and his trip to Germany. In 1985, he and his family spent a semester in Paris. The visit was coordinated by the Department of the French Minister of Justice. Professor Gutterman and his wife, Judy, were permitted to visit prisons in France and participate in workshops for law professors and practitioners interested in a comparative view of criminal justice.  He continued his studies of comparative law during the Halle Institute’s Scholars Tour to Germany, where he participated in workshops with prison administrators and lectured to German law students on the American prison system.

In the late 1990s, Professor Gutterman developed an interdisciplinary course on “Criminal Justice and Film” that combined his commitment to legal scholarship and his love of film. Realizing that legal theory failed to recognize the images of law depicted in movies as a legitimate and important subject for academic review, he urged the introduction of a course that would give a new perspective.

George Benston, John H. Harland Professor of Finance, accounting and economics and an impassioned advocate for corporate integrity, died in Singapore on February 13 of Guillan-Barré syndrome, which he contracted in Southeast Asia. He was 76.

Benston joined the Goizueta Business School twenty years ago at a time when the school was just beginning to come into prominence. In addition to his professorship, he taught in the college as an economics professor and was a devoted patron of the arts. His wife, Alice, is a professor in Emory’s Theater Studies Department.

 “I consider him one of the founders of the [business school],” said Associate Professor of Finance Jim Rosenfeld, who was Benston’s longtime colleague and tennis partner. “Goizueta was a sleepy-eyed business school with a strong regional reputation, but George helped to transform it into what it is now.”

 Benn Konsynski, Craft Professor of Decision and Information Analysis, described Benston as a “Renaissance man” who engaged himself in many aspects of academia. Benston and his wife were a “perfect academic couple,” jointly pursuing artistic and intellectual endeavors such as sponsoring National Public Radio programming, Konsynski said. He added that Benston was a man of high academic standards who offered critique without being harsh and who served with integrity without being smug.

Prior to his appointment to Goizueta in 1987, Benston taught at the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago. He was also a John M. Olin distinguished visiting fellow at Oxford University, honorary visiting professor at City University in London, and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics.

In a letter to the Emory community, Lawrence Benveniste, dean of the Goizueta Business School, wrote that “I knew George personally for nearly twenty-five years. He was never short of energy or provocative ideas. He was a man with high values, and an advocate for academic integrity.”

Letter to the Editor
February 13, 2008

I very much enjoyed reading Abrams and Garibaldi's take on playing the lottery, particularly timely since my 401K is suffering from our almost-recession. The reason, however, that I won't be buying a lottery ticket is less about rationality and more about politics. I believe the need for our public school systems to use lottery monies essentially amounts to a tax on the poor; the working poor are paying for the HOPE scholarship and other important education initiatives that the wealthiest members of our country support the least.

Maeve Howett
Clinical Assistant Professor
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing


Eleanor C. Main
February 12, 2008
Eleanor C. Main, an associate professor and chair of the educational studies department, and a highly regarded and respected member of the Emory faculty, has passed away after a short illness.

A memorial service will be held this Friday, February 15, at 3:00 p.m. in Cannon Chapel.

Main joined Emory in 1969 and served as the chair of the Department of Political Science, Acting Dean of Emory College, and Interim Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She also worked on numerous committees related to education for the state of Georgia and was a member of the Evaluation Review Panel of the Professional Standards Commission, and chair of the Governor’s Committee on Merit Pay for Teachers. Main also was a founding board member of the state Department of Juvenile Justice and also served on the Professional Standards Commission. Emory recognized Main for her numerous accomplishments by awarding her its highest accolade, the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award.

In a note to Emory staff and Faculty, Provost Earl Lewis wrote that “Like all of us who were so profoundly touched by Eleanor Main there is a vacant place in my heart that only time will heal and memories will fill. As we slowly move to that point in time I am reminded that Eleanor exemplified the very best that this institution has to offer: an unflinching love and commitment to the place, its people and values; a belief that the future, with hard work and bold action, would be better than the past; and a caring, yet, honest, realism. . . . Because of her Emory is better and because of her we are better, too.”

Main earned her B.A. at Hunter College of the City University of New York, and her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her teaching an research interests included American politics and policy, as well as state, local, and urban politics and policy. Her published work covered urban education, health policy, housing policy, gender and politics, and Georgia politics.


Better Childhood Nutrition Increases Productivity
February 7, 2008
Feeding very young children a high-energy, high-protein supplement leads to increased economic productivity in adulthood, especially for men, according to a study by Emory public health researcher Reynaldo Martorell and a team of economists.

The study, published in the February 2, 2008, issue of The Lancet, is the first to show that improving nutrition in early childhood leads to significantly higher incomes in adulthood. 

Boys who received the supplement, known as atole, in the first two years of life earned on average 46 percent higher wages as adults, while boys who received atole in their first three years earned 37 percent higher wages on average. Those who first received the supplement after age three did not gain any economic benefits as adults.
The research was conducted in Guatemala by Martorell and colleagues at Emory, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama, the University of Pennsylvania, and Middlebury College. The study was funded by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health.

“The study confirms that the first two years of life are the window of opportunity when nutrition programs have an enormous impact on a child’s development, with lifelong benefits,” says Martorell, Woodruff Professor and chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.

From 1969 to1977, four rural communities in Guatemala participated in a food supplementation study in which children received one of two supplements fortified equally with micronutrients. The first, atole, was high in protein and energy; the second contained no protein and was low in energy. The atole improved child growth but only in the first three years of life.

During 2002 to 2004, researchers returned to Guatemala to interview individuals who had participated in the nutrition supplement program as children. They collected information about all income-generating activities, including type of work; hours, days, and months worked; and fringe benefits received.

“This research demonstrates that improving early childhood nutrition in developing countries is not only crucial for the physical growth of children, but is also a wise, long-term economic investment,” says Martorell, who also was one of the researchers who conducted the original study in Guatemala.

“Just as we need to invest in infrastructure, we need to invest in children,” says Martorell. “Improving maternal nutrition during pregnancy, promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first four to six months, and improving what children are fed from six to twenty-four months to complement breast milk, along with preventive care and adequate sanitation are key public health interventions to ensure a healthy start in life.”

Candler faculty member receives Templeton Award
January 25, 2008
Jacob Wright, assistant professor of Hebrew Bible at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, is a winner of the 2008 John Templeton Award for Theological Promise. The recognition comes for his book Rebuilding Identity: The Nehemiah Memoir and its Earliest Readers, published by De Gruyter in 2004. 

Wright’s book outlines the reciprocal relationship between writing and identity construction in the biblical book of Ezra-Nehemiah. Nehemiah specifically portrays how the inhabitants of Judah, in the process of rebuilding their society after destruction, adapted ancient traditions and conventions to a new political environment. Many of the ideals of Ezra-Nehemiah, such as intensive study of scripture, public and private prayer, and the importance of communal consensus, have made a deep impact on both Jewish and Christian thought and life. 

“What makes the award particularly gratifying is that it brings attention to this fascinating biblical book and its importance for contemporary projects of identity construction,” says Wright. 

The Templeton Award for Theological Promise is the largest prize specifically designated for junior scholars of religion. Sir John Mark Templeton, a billionaire philanthropist and promoter of the interplay between religion and science, is the founder of the award that is granted to scholars in a variety of fields from all over the globe. The prize money is $10,000, plus another $10,000 available as a stipend for lectures the recipients are invited to hold at universities, colleges, seminaries, and other institutions of research and higher learning, within two years after the presentation of the award. 

Wright taught for several years at the University of Heidelberg before coming to Candler, where he offers courses on biblical interpretation, the history and archaeology of ancient Israel, and Northwest Semitic languages. In addition to responsibilities in the archaeological excavations at Ramat Rachel (located outside Jerusalem), he is currently writing articles and a book that examine the role war and the military played in ancient Israelite society.


Grady crisis piques national interest
January 17, 2008
The crisis at Grady Hospital has gotten significant national media attention. On January 8, for example a front-page story in New York Times detailed the plight of the hospital. Emory has deep-rooted professional and financial ties to Grady, which serves as a training ground for many Emory medical school students. In response to the feature, the Times ran a letter to the editor submitted by Emory professor of medicine Edward S. Mocarski, Jr. who was highly critical of deep social divides he says are one of the main reasons for Grady’s problems:           

“Many readers will perceive that this tragedy will be solved by transferring it from public to nonprofit hands, and this reasoning has dominated the local news,” Mocarski wrote. “Make no mistake, however; this is a mean-spirited process to eliminate taxpayer-financed health care that is linked to regional attitudes about illegal immigrants, never mind the age-old attitudes toward the destitute and poor, whether black or white… we have an unfortunate situation in a city that has resources but neither the will nor the empathy to accept social responsibility for the people on whose shoulders it sits. This is really a consistent pattern of an Atlanta and north Georgia fiasco, whether traffic, water, development, urban planning or, now, health care delivery.”

(To see the complete letter, visit www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/opinion/l14hospital.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=mocarski&oref=slogin.)

Emory faculty have spoken out, as a group, on the issue as well. In November, 215 of them, joined by twenty-seven faculty from Morehouse College (which also sends medical students to Grady) issued an open letter in which they expressed their concern for their patients at the hospital, should the facility close due to its dire financial shortfall (see www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2007/octnov/whatsnew.html#grady.)

In late November, Grady’s board of trustees voted unanimously to hand over management of the public hospital to a nonprofit governing board, in exchange for an infusion of about $200 million, and possibly another $100 million down the road. Details are still being worked out, and an announcement is expected within a few days.
 

Historians protest plans to include oral history in IRB oversight
January 7, 2008
Historians are protesting plans to specify that oral history is eligible for expedited reviews by institutional review boards, because doing so would establish the principle that IRBs have oversight of such scholarship. The development was reported in the January 3 issue of Inside Higher Education.

The American Historical Association (AHA), along with a number of individual historians, have weighed in with the Office for Human Research Protections, the Department of Health and Human Services agency that oversees IRBs, arguing that the proposal to cover oral history would hinder many scholars’ work while not offering any important protections to those who give oral history interviews.

According to the article, the AHA cited a “long and unhappy experience” with IRBs, and called for oral history to be exempt from their oversight. They also requested that some readings of current law already exempt oral history, but the language being proposed could have the impact of making such interpretations impossible.

IRBs are institutionally based boards required by federal law to review experiments with human subjects, thereby ensuring that risks are minimized and that participants are fully aware of any risks that do exist. Researchers often gripe about IRB-related delays to research, but there is widespread consensus that they protect people who need protecting, particularly in medical research, which often involve experimental treatments.

The article went on to say that criticism of IRBs among social scientists has been particularly intense, with scholars saying that boards dominated by biomedical scientists don’t understand the risks and rewards of the research projects they are reviewing in other fields. The historians’ criticism fits into this line of attack. The letter from the AHA noted instances in which scholars who proposed oral history interviews were told that they would be approved only if the subjects were anonymous—even though the very reason for the interviews was that the subjects were particular people whose individual stories merited attention. “IRBs are applying rigid research criteria that are fundamentally at odds with oral history practices,” said the AHA’s letter. An official of the Office for Human Research Protections said that many individual historians had written in as well. It is not known when the office will issue a response to the historians who have requested a change.

To see the entire story, visit insidehighered.com/news/2008/01/03/history.

To read the AE coverage of IRB issues, visitwww.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2006/sept/lead.html

and www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2002/aprmay/humsubj.html.


Alice Walker to place archive at Emory
December 21, 2007
Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winner and internationally known Georgia-born novelist and poet, will place her archive with Emory University, Provost Earl Lewis has announced.

“The acquisition of the Alice Walker Archive is a major addition to Emory’s collection,” said Lewis. “Scholars and students from around the world will find in these papers Alice Walker: her commitment to social activism, literary genesis, personal growth and development, spirituality and self. We are delighted that she has entrusted us to share this aspect of her with the world.”

Walker has written most frequently about the struggle for survival among Southern blacks, particularly black women. She also has given literary voice to the struggle for human rights, environmental issues, social movements and spirituality, as well as the quest for inner and world peace. Often considered controversial for her portrayals of racial, gender and sexual issues, Walker is widely recognized for her thoughtful weaving of realism with love for humanity and human potential. 

“I chose Emory to receive my archive because I myself feel at ease and comfortable at Emory,” said Walker. “I can imagine in years to come that my papers, my journals and letters will find themselves always in the company of people who care about many of the things I do: culture, community, spirituality, scholarship and the blessings of ancestors who want each of us to find joy and happiness in this life by doing the very best we can to be worthy of it.”

Walker, who has visited Emory almost every other year since 1998 for readings or to interact with colleagues, said that when she first began considering where to place her archive, Emory was not on her list. “However, having visited several libraries at different universities, I realized the importance to me of a lively, diverse, committed-to-human-growth atmosphere, that when I visited Emory, I found.”  

The completeness of Walker's archive makes it truly exceptional, says Rudolph Byrd, professor of American studies and a founding member of the Alice Walker Literary Society, an international organization of Walker scholars and enthusiasts. “The archive contains journals that she has been keeping since she was fourteen or fifteen years old,” said Byrd, who also is a friend and colleague of Walker’s. “There also are drafts of many of her early works of fiction, as well as the back and forth between Alice and the editors for each book. Her papers give you a sense of the process for creating fiction, and for creating poetry."

Emory tops list of green-friendly campuses
December 14, 2007
According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (December 14), despite the absence of financial incentives from state government and local utilities, as some other colleges and universities have, Emory has surpassed all others in its total square footage of “green” building space, certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system. Whereas LEED projects in other states can garner millions of dollars in support from utilities or state funds, Emory has gone it alone, according to the article. “If we can do it here at Emory, you can do it anywhere,” said Ciannat M. Howett, director of sustainability at Emory.

The Chronicle went on to say that one of Emory’s first steps was to install monitors to track utility consumption for individual buildings and then start billing its business school, medical school, and other schools for their own energy. “They have a huge incentive to get everyone in the school to reduce usage because then those dollars can go to their core mission, rather than energy,” Howett said.

Yet such efforts will only move Emory a small way toward eliminating its emissions. “In a large residential institution, it may be impossible for anyone to get to neutral,” Howett added. After cutting its own energy use as much as possible, Emory would still have to purchase “offsets”: supporting activities elsewhere on the planet that counterbalance Emory’s remaining climate impact by reducing greenhouse gases still further.

In one type of offset, the Chronicle explained, a company plants trees in tropical countries, and the trees then absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. But accounting for such trees and ensuring that they live for the specified number of years are difficult auditing tasks, and critics say there are few guarantees that the money an institution spends will actually end up reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For that reason, Emory is taking the same approach as many other universities and colleges—treating offsets warily and looking for local opportunities. Georgia has no certified offsets yet, so Emory might have to create its own, Howett said.

Click here to see the complete Chronicle article.

More and more colleges “measuring up”
November 9, 2007
More colleges are testing students and sharing the data with (other institutions), according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The reason is the so-called Spellings Report, named for Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary for Education, which was delivered by her Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Spellings had hoped the report would spur U.S. colleges to reorient their mission to provide the highest possible quality of education to the most students possible at the lowest cost. A year after the report’s completion, there’s evidence that some of the key aspects of that vision are being realized, according to the article.

“Something is changing out there,” Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, told the Chronicle, adding that after initial criticisms of the Spellings commission and the sometimes caustic tone of its yearlong deliberations, many college leaders are recognizing common ground.           

Some of the key developments that appear to stem from, or be encouraged by, the Spellings commission include:

  • Hundreds of U.S. colleges are using standardized student-achievement tests, allowing comparisons between institutions, while investigating options for creating more such tests.
  • Several major college groups are set to outline in coming weeks projects in which their members will post to their Web sites specific performance-related data to allow direct comparisons between institutions.
  • Congress, with broad bipartisan backing, this month approved the largest increase in federal student aid since the GI Bill in 1944.

“We're under way,” Spellings said in an earlier Chronicle interview. “Are we done? Heck no. We haven't even started.”

For the complete article, see http://chronicle.com/weekly/v54/i05/05a00101.htm

To read the Academic Exchange article on the growing culture of assessment and accountability at Emory and in higher education, see http://www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2007/octnov/lead.html


Ashrawi blames Israel for success of Hamas and Hezbollah
November 2, 2007
Speaking last Monday at Emory, Palestinian Authority lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, who represents the PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad’s Third-Wave party, defended both Hamas and Hezbollah, which the United States views as terrorist organizations. “The Second Lebanon War proved Israel could not defeat a nation fighting for freedom,” Ashrawi said, according to news reports. Later, the Christian lawmaker blamed Hamas’s January 2006 election victory on Israel, saying the occupation bred extremism. Ashrawi also discussed the plight of the Palestinian people, saying they had plunged into a deep depression with unemployment and poverty at record levels, and that peace was the only answer. Palestinians are experiencing one of the most difficult phases in our history she said.

“Violence and the extreme ideology of Israel feed violence and extremism on the other side. And that’s what led to the election of Hamas. Now we see not just a political and economic battle but a battle over the soul of Palestine,” she told an audience of about 200. “We find ourselves in the grip of . . . the deconstruction of Palestine.” Ashrawi added that nearly 75 percent of Gazans were dependent on welfare and that the Gaza Strip’s unemployment rate had skyrocketed to 50 percent, and that conditions there had worsened since Hamas seized power in June. Ashrawi’s lecture was part of a series of speeches on the Emory campus focusing on peace-building in wartorn regions. She also praised former President Jimmy Carter as a “prophet” and a “man of conscience and one of a dwindling number of people who still believed peace was possible in the Middle East.” Peace talks, she argued, must be moved forward rather than waiting for the violence to subside.


Despite conventional wisdom, the elderly sleep pretty well
October 25, 2007
Contrary to their expectations, researchers have found that healthy, older people are no drowsier during the day because of sleep loss than their younger counterparts, nor did aging affect the time it took for people to start dreaming after they fell asleep. It turns out that sleep does not change much from age sixty on, and poor sleep is not caused by aging itself, but mostly because of illnesses or the medications, according to an article in the October 23 New York Times summarizing some current sleep research.

Most changes occur between the ages twenty and sixty. Healthy young adults sleep 95 percent of the night, said Donald Bliwise, professor of neurology at Emory’s School of Medicine. “They fall asleep and don't wake up until the alarm goes off,” he said. “By age sixty, healthy people are asleep 85 percent of the night.” Their sleep is disrupted by brief wakeful moments typically lasting about three to ten seconds. “There is some aspect of sleep that isn’t going to be as good as when you were twenty,” Bliwise said. But he added, “When that crosses the threshold and becomes a significant complaint is difficult to say.” The real sleep problems, Bliwise and others say, arise when people have any of a number of conditions that make them wake up in the night, like sleep apnea, chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, or urinary problems.

The research also shows that even though sleep changed during adulthood, many of the changes were subtle. Middle-aged and older people, for example, did not have more difficulty falling asleep. The only change in sleep latency, as it is called, emerged when the investigators compared latency at the two extremes, in twenty- and eighty-year-olds. The eighty-year-olds took an average of ten more minutes to fall asleep.


Congressional hearing on women in the sciences
October 19, 2007
Witnesses at a Congressional hearing on Wednesday discussed how the federal government can enhance the recruitment and retention of female faculty members in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and combated the underrepresentation of women through targeted grants and incentives, according to an article in Inside Higher Education. The creation of a new quasi-governmental agency that would expand the enforcement of Title IX, the landmark 1972 gender equity law, was suggested as one remedy.

“The original intent of Title IX was to ensure equal educational opportunity for both sexes. Yet, relatively little has been done outside of the arena of athletics to make that mandate meaningful,” said Gretchen Ritter, director of the Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami and chair of the National Academies Committee that recently issued a report, “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, added that “I know a lot about Title IX but more because of sports programs than educational programs, and that’s something that Congress can easily fix. We need an organization like the [National Collegiate Athletic Association] that holds us accountable.”

Wednesday’s hearing of the House of Representatives Science Subcommittee on Research and Science Education focused on the end of the pipeline, so to speak—the representation of women within the faculty ranks. According to 2003 National Science Foundation data, women hold about 28 percent of all full-time science and engineering faculty positions—representing 18 percent of full professors, 31 percent of associate professors and 40 percent of assistant professors. Despite growth in the PhD pool, faculty appointments, particularly at the senior levels, are still lagging: While women now constitute more than 50 percent of PhD students in the life sciences, for instance, and, in 2003, made up 42 percent of the entire pool of life science PhD recipients within the six preceding years, they represented just 34 percent of assistant professor appointments.

Other strategies described at the hearing include offering childcare grants for professional conferences, offering flexible tenure timelines for faculty with young children, addressing salary equity issues, reading letters of recommendation with an attention to possible gender bias, providing extensive postdoctoral fellowship support to attract a broader applicant pool, and broadening faculty searches beyond highly specialized areas that may only have a couple graduates a year.

For the complete article: http://insidehighered.com/news/2007/10/18/womensci

To read the AE coverage of women in the sciences at Emory:
http://www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2005/sept/lead.html


Primate expert fires back against criticism
October 11, 2007
A recent,11,000-plus word article in The New Yorker (July 30) written by Ian Parker, asserted that bonobos are not nearly as nice and sexual as researchers say they are, but are aggressive, killer apes, like their chimpanzee cousins. Their reputation for peacefulness and promiscuity, is ill-earned. Parker had traveled to the Congo to see bonobos in their habitat.

But Emory researcher Frans de Waal, a bonobo expert who is quoted extensively in the article, objected to Parker’s “revisionist” conclusions. In a rebuttal (Skeptic, August 8), he wrote that “the most striking cases of bonobo aggression that he reported have been known for decades, and actually didn’t come from the natural habitat, even less from first-hand observation by our brave explorer. A typical description was given by Jeroen Stevens, a Flemish biologist, of a gang of five bonobos assaulting a single victim at Apenheul Zoo, in the Netherlands. “They were gnawing on his toes. I’d already seen bonobos with digits missing, but I’d thought they would have been bitten off like a dog would bite. But they really chew. There was flesh between their teeth.”

de Waal also said that Parker’s assertion that bonobo sexual tendencies (which include homosexuality) have been grossly exaggerated, is also off the mark: “since most observations of bonobo sex come from zoos,” he wrote, “they can be safely ignored, we were told [by Parker], on the assumption that captivity distorts behavior. The problem is, of course, the incongruity of considering zoo observations valid in relation to aggression, yet worthless in relation to sex. One either accepts both or rejects both. He continued: “as for sex,” de Waal wrote, “I perceive the shyness of many scientists as a problem. It leads them to either ignore sexual behavior or call it something else. They will say that bonobos are “very affectionate,” when the apes in fact engage in behavior that, if shown in the human public sphere, would get you quickly arrested.


Eroded autonomy or renewed accountability? Choice words from the national debate on student learning outcomes assessment
October 3, 2007

Nothing in the accreditation process concretely measures student learning, instructional quality, or academic standards. Nothing measures whether students have made intellectual progress since high school or have attained a level of basic knowledge and competence that would be expected of college graduates. If the accrediting process were applied to automobile inspection, cars would “pass” as long as they had tires, doors, and an engine—without anyone ever turning the key to see if the car actually operated.
—Why Accreditation Doesn’t Work and What Policymakers Can Do About It: A Policy Paper from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 2007

Outcomes-assessment practices in higher education are grotesque, unintentional parodies of both social science and “accountability.” . . . Outcomes assessment inevitably will result in superficial competence, and students will be temporarily happier because art will suddenly be “clarified” for them. But the price will be terrible: lots of Thomas Kinkade and Frank Frazetta wannabes, but no aspiring Jasper Johnses or Helen Frankenthalers.
—Laurie Fendrich, professor of fine arts, Hofstra University, “A Pedagogical Straitjacket,” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 8, 2007

The growing public demand for increased accountability, quality and transparency coupled with the changing structure and globalization of higher education requires a transformation of accreditation. . . . Higher education institutions should measure student learning using quality-assessment data from instruments such as, for example, the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which measures the growth of student learning taking place in colleges, and the Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress, which is designed to assess general education outcomes for undergraduates in order to improve the quality of instruction and learning.
—A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education, a Report of the Commission Appointed by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, 2006

The suggestions for federal action [on accreditation] . . . if enacted, would seriously erode the successful self-regulatory enterprise of the past hundred years. Institutional autonomy, academic freedom, and peer review—hallmarks of our enterprise—would be sacrificed in the name of accountability. The prized diversity of higher education would fall victim to a federal vision  of accountability so rigid and bureaucratic that it leaves no room for the driving force of institutional mission that is essential to producing this diversity.
—Judith S. Eaton, “Assault on Accreditation: Who Defines and Judges Academic Quality?”, Liberal Education, Spring 2007

“It’s all about engaging faculty in deciding on the instrument, making sure that the test covers some of the student learning outcomes they think are important, and then looking at scores to see what they say about whether students know those things or not, and using that information to improve teaching and student services.”
—Trudy W. Banta, senior advisor to the chancellor for academic planning and evaluation at Indian University-Purdue University Indianapolis, quoted in “Campus Accountability Proposals Evolve,” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 26, 2007


Simulation reveals how body repairs balance after injury
September 27, 2007
When the brain’s neural pathways are impaired through injury, age or illness, muscles are deprived of the detailed sensory information they need to perform the constant yet delicate balancing act required for normal movement and standing.

With an eye towards building robots that can balance like humans, researchers at Emory and Georgia Tech have created a computer simulation that sheds new light on how the nervous system reinvents its communication with muscles after sensory loss. The findings could someday be used to better diagnose and rehabilitate patients with balance problems (through normal aging or diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s) by retraining their muscles and improving overall balance. The research will be published in the October issue of Nature Neuroscience and was funded by the Whitaker Foundation.

“The ultimate goal of rehabilitation is for the patient to find the best way to adapt to their particular deficit. This system may help predict what the optimum combination of muscle and nerve activity looks like for each patient, helping patients and doctors set realistic goals and speeding recovery,” said Lena Ting, lead researcher on the project and an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory.

The Georgia Tech and Emory team hypothesized that the nervous system relies more heavily on the relationship between the body’s center of gravity and its environment to control balance. To test their theory, the researchers created a computer simulation that could accurately simulate standing balance and muscle reaction to balance disturbance by focusing on the relation of the subject’s center of gravity to the ground.

They determined that subjects who had impaired sensory information were slowly using new sensory pathways to track the motion of the body’s center of gravity, compensating for the loss of information from the damaged sensory pathways. In effect, the subjects’ muscles were using different neural information to perform the same balance tasks, resulting in muscle activity patterns that looked “abnormal,” but that were actually similar to the predicted optimum.

“This finding will change the way we approach rehabilitation,” Ting said. “We can’t expect patients to mimic normal balance performance when they’re using a different set of sensory information. Instead, our system identifies the best performance possible given a patient’s level and type of sensory impairment.”


Major events in October: Life of the Mind Inaugural Lecture, Emory Women's Symposium
September 20, 2007
Early October brings two major intellectual events to Emory's intellectual community. On Wednesday, October 3, the new Life of the Mind Lecture Series launches with Frans de Waal, C. H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior and Director, Living Links Center, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, speaking on “Our Inner Ape: What Primate Behavior Teaches Us About Human Nature.” This new lecture series was created by the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Council in response to faculty and student’s desire for more interdisciplinary communication at Emory. Framed in a way that non-specialists can understand, the lectures are designed to appeal to a broad audience of faculty, staff and students as well as the wider community. The free lectures, held at noon in the Woodruff Library as part of “Wonderful Wednesdays,” will include ample time for discussion. Organizers hope that the lectures will spark connections, such as collaborations between professors and students or among faculty from different departments.

The rest of the fall series features

Nov. 7
David Lynn
Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry and Biology
“On the Origins of Evolution”

Dec. 5
Eddy Von Mueller
Lecturer in Film Studies
"The Empty Set: Labor, Technology and the Transmogrification of 21st Century Cinema"

On Thursday, October 4, and Friday, October 5, the symposium "Women at Emory: Past, Present, and Future," sponsored by the President's Commission on the Status of Women, The Center for Women, the Women's Studies Program, and the Office of the Provost, will feature keynote speaker Nancy Cantor, chancellor and president of Syracuse University, as well as readings, panel discussions, and presentations by leaders and scholars among the community of women at Emory. Break-out sessions will feature three tracks: Women in the Professions, Women's Health, and Women in culture and society.

The symposium begins on October 4 at 3:00 p.m. in the Jones Room of the Woodruff Library and resumes on October 5 at 8:00 a.m. in the third floor ballroom of Cox Hall. No registration is necessary. For a full schedule and more details visit www.pcsw.emory.edu.


Poet Kevin Young wins Quill Book Award
September 14, 2007
Kevin Young, Atticus Haygood Professor of English, was selected as the Quill Book Award for poetry for his collection, For the Confederate Dead, (Alfred A. Knopf). The award will be presented at the annual ceremony on October 22 in New York City.

“The Quill Awards acknowledge the power and importance of the written word, and we are proud to bring added awareness to this year’s recipients, representing a range of accomplished and beloved authors,” said John Wallace, president of NBC Universal Television Stations, one of the award’s sponsors.

The awards were established to celebrate excellence in writing and publishing; recognize and praise the creators of important books and great literature; interest more consumers in acquiring books and reading; and act as a bellwether for literacy initiatives.

Kevin Young is the author of five poetry collections, and editor of four others. His most recent volume, For the Confederate Dead, has been featured in The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, and on National Public Radio. Young’s first book, Most Way Home, was selected for the National Poetry Series by Lucille Clifton, and itlater won the Zacharis First Book Prize from Ploughshares. Young’s second book, To Repel Ghosts, a “double album” based on the work of the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, was a finalist for the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets and was reissued in a “remix” version in 2005. Young's third poetry collection, Jelly Roll, won the Paterson Poetry Prize and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His previous collection, Black Maria, a film noir in verse, was been recently staged by the Providence Black Repertory Theater.

Other 2007 Quill Award winners include Diane Setterfield, debut author of the year (The Thirteenth Tale); Cormac McCarthy, general fiction (The Road); and Al Gore, for the second year in a row for  history/current events/politics. (The Assault on Reason). Recipient also include Amy Sedaris, Nora Roberts, and Walter Isaacson.


Response to “Science in the Seams”
September 12, 2007
Dear Editor,

I enjoyed reading "Science in the Seams" very much and found much of it quite exciting.

One gets the impression, especially from Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry David Lynn's comments, that what is typically referred to as "basic science" is passe. Yet consider the basic science that gave us "quantum dots" and "nanoscience." These scientific breakthroughs have made huge and quite unexpected impacts in medicine, especially here at Emory. Dobbs Professor of Chemistry Lanny Liebeskind marvels at the capabilities of modern computers and mentions their fantastic speed and storage. The science that led to these great leaps in computational power are the "passe" ones of the twentieth century. Nanoscience, quantum computing, coherent control may take us to the next great breakthrough in computer power.

The prestigious journal Science featured on the cover of the 10 August 2007 issue the title "Attosecond Spectroscopy." This is another emerging and very exciting field in basic science. The issue contains articles and commentary on the fantastic potential of this new tool to look at biological processes in incredible detail. Undoubtedly new discoveries of how complex systems work will result from this new tool from basic science.

My point is the complex sciences, of which medicine and biology are examples, have always been advanced by the basic sciences. There is no reason to think this will not continue. And I'm confident that all the faculty quoted in "Science in the Seams" would agree with this and would support continued and perhaps even growing support of both the basic and complex sciences at Emory.

Joel M. Bowman
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor
Department of Chemistry


Jews and Christians: Divided by a Common Book, Sept 16, 3:00, Carlos Museum
September 11, 2007
On Sunday, September 16, the Carlos Museum presents "Jews and Christians: Divided by a Common Book." This panel discussion features thirty-minute papers by each of these renowned scholars followed by discussion. A coffee and dessert break follows the second paper. “From the Bible to the Mishnah: the Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism,” Shaye Cohen, Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University; “Swallowing Jonah: Christianity's Borrowed Identity and the Prophet Who Wouldn't,” Wayne Meeks, Woolsey Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Yale University. This event will take place at 3:00pm in the Michael C. Carlos Museum Reception Hall. It is free. For more information, please contact the Carlos Museum at 727-4282 or carlos@emory.e
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New Nanoparticle Could Provide Simple Early Diagnosis of Many Diseases
August 28, 2007
Most people think of hydrogen peroxide as a topical germ killer, but the chemical is gaining steam in the medical community as an early indicator of disease in the body.

Emory and Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are the first to create a nanoparticle capable of detecting and imaging trace amounts of hydrogen peroxide in animals. The nanoparticles, thought to be completely nontoxic, could some day be used as a simple, all-purpose diagnostic tool to detect the earliest stages of any disease that involves chronic inflammation—everything from cancer and Alzheimer's to heart disease and arthritis. 

The research, lead by Niren Murthy at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Dr. Robert Taylor in the Division of Cardiology at the Emory School of Medicine, is published online and will appear in the October issue of Nature Materials. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Hydrogen peroxide is thought to be over-produced by cells at the early stages of most diseases. Because there were previously no imaging techniques available to capture this process in the body, the details of how the hydrogen peroxide is produced and its role in a developing disease must still be determined. The Georgia Tech and Emory nanoparticles may be the key to better understanding the role of hydrogen peroxide in the progression of many diseases and later play an important diagnostic role.

“These nanoparticles are incredibly sensitive so you can detect [very small] concentrations of hydrogen peroxide,” says Murthy. “That's important because researchers aren’t yet certain what amounts of hydrogen peroxide are present in various diseases.”

The ultimate goal is to use nanoparticles as a simple, all-purpose diagnostic tool for most diseases. In the future, the nanoparticle would be injected into a certain area of the body (the heart, for instance). If the nanoparticles encountered hydrogen peroxide, they would emit light. Should a doctor see a significant amount of light activity in the area, they might be able to discern early signs of disease in that area of the body.

Enrollment Surge for Women in Sciences
August 17, 2007
As concern has grown about declining enrollments of men generally in higher education, engineering colleges and technology institutes have the opposite problem: not enough women. But more than two years after Larry Summers thrust the controversy over women in the sciences into the spotlight, a number of technologically oriented colleges have posted significant gains in women’s enrollment that admissions officers are attributing in part to beefed-up outreach efforts, according to the August 7 issue of Inside Higher Education.

Administrators are also finding that many women matriculating at technology-oriented colleges are angling towards specific majors in the life sciences, biomedical engineering, and environmental engineering. The trends suggest that new ways of targeting specific groups of students can lead to real results in the ultimate makeup of a freshman class. And once that class reaches campus, evidence suggests, the women do just as well—or even better—than­­ their male counterparts, in both performance and retention. The upward trend has shown itself not only at elite institutions such as the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (where women made up forty-four percent of the undergraduate population in the last academic year), but at their lower- and middle-tier counterparts as well, such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy NY, which has seen a fifty-four percent increase in female enrollment over the past five years; their incoming class will be thirty-one percent female.

Part of the solution, according to admissions officers, has been marketing. Last year at Michigan Technological University—where twenty-four percent of its 6,544 undergraduate and graduate students are women—officials placed female students on the cover of the viewbook and arranged for enrolled women to make calls to prospective students who might be worried about the institution’s gender breakdown. Enrollment for last fall jumped from nineteen to twenty-six percent women, said John B. Lehman, Michigan Tech’s assistant vice president for enrollment services. “I think that that air of authenticity appealed to a lot of the women who were shopping around for a degree,” he said.

Overall, the trends at these various colleges tend to include a recent dip in female enrollment, followed by a big boost; increases in the number of applications; and references to national outreach and education efforts. Not only are individual colleges making inroads with their female applicant pool, but programs across the country are taking aim at girls—possibly in the wake of the Summers fiasco—and extolling the advantages of studying science and engineering fields.

Visit the Academic Exchange coverage of issues around women in the sciences.