Archive for August, 2010

ASSU asks campus to support Pakistan relief fund

August 31st, 2010

assu_logo_small revASSU President ANGELINA CARDONA, ASSU Vice President KELSEI WHARTON and ASFANDYAR MIR, director of flood relief effort, have emailed members of the campus community, asking everyone to support a Pakistan flood relief effort. We share their message below:

Dear Stanford,

As many of you have heard, Pakistan was hit by torrential flooding a few weeks ago. The flooding has continued ever since, and it has devastated the life and livelihood of 20 million people, according to an estimate of the UN. Stories, visuals and reports coming out of the flood hit zone are heart wrenching, but even they do not do a very good job portraying the enormity of the unfolding tragedy. The scale and sheer size of the disaster is overwhelmingly huge, with aid workers describing the flood’s impact as worse than the 2004 South East Asian Tsunami and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake combined.

This is an opportunity for us to come together. We are launching the ‘Pakistan Flood Relief Effort’ campaign to rally support and raise funds for this mammoth catastrophe. We have partnered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and all funds raised will go to this organization to aid Pakistan flood victims.

The campaign is online and you can start contributing now. We are asking students to donate just $5. We will be matching the first $500 of funds raised from our executive salary. Students, members of the faculty, employees, alumni and friends of the Stanford community, please support the flood-affected people of Pakistan. Visit the relief effort website.

Our university has always shown extraordinary commitment to humanitarian issues. This once again is one such humanitarian disaster, albeit more devastating than any other in recent history. It calls for action, and we can help the 20 million affected in Pakistan.


Angelina Cardona, Kelsei Wharton and Asfandyar Mir
ASSU President, Vice President, Director Flood Relief Effort

Nick Melosh and Zhi-Xun Shen awarded $1.8 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

August 30th, 2010

Zhi-Xun Shen ( Image courtesy Peter Ginter/SLAC)

It has been quite a month for Stanford’s NICK MELOSH and ZHI-XUN SHEN. Melosh, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and Shen, the Paul Pigott Professor in Physical Sciences and chief scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, are part of a team that has discovered PETE, a solar energy conversion process that shows promise in significantly reducing the cost of solar energy production.

Nick Melosh

Nick Melosh (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

On Aug. 1 their research was featured in Nature Materials and since then has garnered attention from scientific colleagues, media and venture capitalists.

This week Shen and Melosh received word from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation that they have been granted $1.8 million to support the development of PETE, which stands for “photon enhanced thermionic emission.”

“We are delighted that the Moore Foundation is providing generous support for a high-risk project,” Melosh and Shen wrote in an email. “The PETE concept originates from an unexpected observation of electron emission in fundamental research at Stanford and SLAC.”

The team also has support from the Global Climate and Energy Project.

“With the Moore support, we should be able to bring this ‘out of the box’ concept of solar energy harvesting to a point that we can benchmark it against the standard solar energy technologies,” Shen added.

iTunes U reaches milestone with 300 million downloads

August 26th, 2010

Apple’s iTunes U program has reached a milestone: more than 300 million downloads. An educational branch of the iTunes music store, iTunes U hosts content from more than 800 universities worldwide.

Stanford was the first university to offer free academic content to the public via the iTunes Store when the project launched in October 2005. As of Aug. 22, Stanford’s site had more than 22.8 million downloads.

According to BRENT IZUTSU, senior program manager for Stanford on iTunes U and YouTube, Stanford has more than 3,200 files available and maintains about 1 million downloads monthly. The most popular program on Stanford’s iTunes U site is a course in iPhone application programming. Other popular downloads include a course on the exploits of Hannibal, The Future of the Internet, Programming Methodology and Structure of English Words. The weekly Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminars are also consistently popular tracks.

Over the past several months, Stanford joined a handful of other schools piloting a new iTunes U system. The university launched the third version of its iTunes U site over the weekend. The site has been rebuilt from the ground up and now features improved search capabilities, social media integration, community ratings and comments, a contributor-centric organization structure and fresh graphics.

iTunes U offers a method for universities to post a variety of audio and video content, from course lectures to sporting events. Much of the content is publicly available for free. According to Apple, iTunes U has more than 350,000 audio and video files available at present.

—Sam Julian

A tour guide, a National Geographic and a used bookstore

August 25th, 2010

Student tour guide and Symbolic Systems major DAN SCHWARTZ recently posted the following on the tour guide chat list. We thought the rest of the campus community would appreciate it, as well:

MemChuphoto“I was in a hole-in-the-wall used bookstore in Seattle on a family trip last week, and I picked up an archived National Geographic from 1929. Considering it was more than 80 years old, most of it was black and white. I flipped to the 10 ‘featured color pictures’ in the center, and lo and behold, I came across an old picture of Memorial Church!

“….I think the caption is especially interesting (keep in mind that Hoover had just been elected President in ′29, and this is shortly after the WWI era):

” ‘President Hoover’s Alma Mater, at Palo Alto, is justly proud of Stanford Memorial Chapel. The mosaics depicting the Sermon on the Mount are the work of Salvati of Venice. This is the fourth set. The first was destroyed by the earthquake and fire, the second was lost in a Venetian factory bombed by an Austrian airship, and the third went to the bottom of the Atlantic when a submarine sank the vessel that carried it.’

“Just trying to add a little ‘color’ to your MemChu talk.”

Thanks to C. JOHN FRIESMAN, director of visitor relations, for sharing this nifty story.

Rapper-poet DANIEL LEE returns to Stanford to clear his name

August 24th, 2010

Daniel Lee, photographed by JoonAng Daily

Daniel Lee, photographed by the JoongAng Daily

DANIEL LEE, better known as the rapper-poet “Tablo” of the Asian hip-hop group Epik High, was on campus last week with a crew from the public broadcasting corporation MBC in Seoul, South Korea. The visit is part of Lee’s continuing effort to prove that he attended the university and to clear his name.

Lee, who graduated from Stanford in 2002 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, has been the subject of Internet rumors among so-called netizens who accuse him of lying about his Stanford degree. (Stanford magazine wrote about Lee and his soaring career in the July/August 2009 issue.)

The rumors continue despite the efforts of TOM BLACK, university registrar, and TOBIAS WOLFF, the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in English and Lee’s former teacher. Both Black and Wolff released letters in early June verifying that Lee was, indeed, a Stanford graduate.

Black expressed his frustration with the rumors and the volume of email his office received from Korean netizens in an interview with the English-language JoongAng Daily in June.

“My document has a legal bearing here in the United States,” Black was quoted as saying. “I could go to jail if I were to falsify the document. The ignorant mob, I’ll call them, is just spewing poison for no reason.”
Despite those assurances – and threatened legal action by Lee – the netizens persist. In fact, officials throughout campus continue to be contacted by members of Korean Web forums asking questions about Lee, his credentials and his citizenship, among other subjects.

Black was among those interviewed by the MBC broadcasters on Thursday and had the opportunity to talk further with Lee, 29, who says the controversy has been exhausting and discouraging for him and his family.

“I think Daniel is doing very well,” said Black. “He feels very reassured. He saw how we received him – as did the film crew – and he found friends that knew him even while walking around.”

During the conversation, Black said he discovered that Lee worked at the CoHo during his time at Stanford, making sandwiches and handling the cash register. “His poster is still on the wall in Tresidder of the time when he was performing in a play on campus,” said Black.

“I had an intimate exchange with Daniel about Korean society and his music,” Black said. “I asked him if he had any controversial lyrics, perhaps themes of reform. He said yes. He said he was speaking, through his music, of that which he had learned at Stanford. For example, he said that sexism is so ingrained in his society that they aren’t even aware of it. Thus, he was touching some raw nerves. No wonder he has detractors!”

The continuing controversy and the prevalence of cyber hate campaigns have been big news in Seoul.

Wrote the chief editorial writer at JoongAng Daily, “Tablo’s travails are a story of the Internet in Korea, and how a country that likes to call itself the most wired place on earth has created, with fiber-optic cables, networks and rampant animosity, an out-of-control character assassination machine.”

Now showing at Stanford Hospital: movies, news, sunsets

August 23rd, 2010

says-system-thumbPatients and visitors at Stanford Hospital will notice something new on the patient room walls. Televisions in patient rooms have been a fixture for decades. But few hospitals now have what Stanford offers its patients on new 26-inch high-definition monitors. The Stanford At Your Service (SAYS) system will offer the latest movies and entertainment selections and specialty channels such as ESPN and the Food Network. It also has Internet connection options, customized and updated health information, and a new patient favorite: the Window channel, which displays videos of a dreamy beach sunset on the Sea of Cortez or a Costa Rican rainforest. The $1.5 million project, which aims to make patient stays more comfortable, was partially funded by donors.

Read the full announcement on the Stanford Hospital and Clinics news website.

Sierra magazine recognizes Stanford’s sustainability efforts

August 18th, 2010

Sierramagazine has published its “Cool Schools” survey, which purports to rank the sustainability efforts of colleges and universities. Stanford ranked fifth this year, behind Green Mountain College, Dickinson College, Evergreen College and the University of Washington.

The publication singled out in particular the university’s Global Climate and Energy Project. On a 10-point scale, the publication gave Stanford a 5.1 for energy supply, 7 for efficiency, 5.5 for food, 9 for academics, 9 for transportation, 10 for waste, 8 for purchasing, 9 for administration, 10 for other initiatives and 10 for investment. The publication’s website includes Stanford’s entire response.

The survey has come in for plenty of criticism. A Chronicle of Higher Education blog on Aug. 17 notes that many colleges and universities fluctuated greatly in their rankings, apparently as a result of changes in Sierra’s methodology. As an example, Stanford went from 26th to fifth.

Stanford is among a group of 30 colleges and universities that recently signed a letter asking sustainability surveys to follow a set of principles to bring transparency, fairness and consistency to the many green surveys now being created.

U.S. News & World Report publishes its annual ranking

August 17th, 2010

Lisa Lapin

Lisa Lapin

U.S. News & World Report published its annual ranking of colleges and universities today. Nothing much has changed. Stanford, which has ranked between first and sixth since the ranking debuted in the 1980s, ranks fifth this year, tied with Penn. The top four are Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia.

Last year, Stanford tied for fourth with Caltech, MIT and Penn. In fact, Stanford had tied for fourth since 2007.

This year, the publication credited Stanford with excelling in several areas, including the first-year experience, senior capstone projects, study abroad programs, writing in the disciplines, economic diversity, a commitment to undergraduates, seeking diversity and being a good value. The publication also surveyed high school counselors about their opinions of colleges and universities. In that part of the survey, Stanford ranked first, tied with Harvard, MIT, Princeton and Yale.

At the same time, Jiaotong University’s Centre for World-Class Universities in Shanghai has published its ranking of the best universities worldwide. In that survey, Harvard is first, UC Berkeley second and Stanford third.

Stanford has a practice of not publicizing rankings—regardless of publication or organization, said LISA LAPIN, assistant vice president for university communications. That was true even when U.S. News ranked the university first. This year will be no different.

“Universities change slowly,” said Lapin. “Clearly, attributes do not change much on an annual basis, even though the rankings are published frequently. We encourage prospective students to evaluate campus attributes themselves and determine whether a university is the best fit for them, rather than rely solely upon publication rankings. We don’t need to give rankings further publicity.”

Lapin says Stanford also is aware that ranking methodology varies widely from publication to publication. The U.S. News methodology purports to factor in everything from graduation rates to alumni giving to financial resources. Former President Gerhard Casper in particular was an outspoken critic of U.S. News & World Report and of the general concept of ranking colleges and universities as one might rank consumer goods.

Nevertheless, Stanford commits considerable time to answering the 600-question U.S. News survey, especially through the offices of University Communications, Institutional Research and Undergraduate Admission.

“Stanford answers U.S. News and just about every survey that we are sent because we want to be of service to prospective students and their families—that is, to provide data that, when evaluated carefully, may help them make informed choices,” Lapin said. “U.S. News and many other publications offer some selected statistics—class size, student-faculty ratio—that can be useful. Then prospective students can determine what is most important to them.”

Stanford’s billionaire alums

August 16th, 2010

Yahoo's Jerry Yang

Stanford boasts Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and a generally impressive array of scholars, students, athletes, artists and public servants. Now it can add the number of billionaire alumni to its list of bragging rights. According to Forbes, Stanford has 28 billionaire graduates. That’s fewer than Harvard, which is said to have 62, and more than Columbia, which the publication says has 20. Stanford’s billionaire alums include Yahoo’s JERRY YANG, Google guys LARRY PAGE and SERGEY BRIN, Nike’s PHILIP KNIGHT, Sun cofounder VINOD KHOSLA and Gap Chairman ROBERT FISHER.

The list includes the usual suspects: Penn (4th), Yale (5th), University of Chicago (6th) and MIT (7th). NYU and Northwestern tied for 8th place, while Princeton, Cornell, Cal and USC all tied for 10th.

Sang-Hun Choe named Korean Studies Program’s Koret Fellow

August 12th, 2010

choePulitzer Prize-winning journalist SANG-HUN CHOE is the 2010-2011 Koret Fellow of the Korean Studies Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. Choe has written extensively on U.S.-Korea relations for the international news media, including 11 years with the Associated Press and more than five years with the International Herald Tribune,where he currently serves as a correspondent. He and three Associated Press colleagues won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for investigative research, for their reporting on the 1950 killing of Korean War refugees by U.S. soldiers near the village of No Gun Ri. Choe has won journalistic awards in South Korea and is the recipient of international awards for his coverage of the 2007 protest by pro-democracy monks and the devastating 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

The Koret Fellowship, generously funded by the Koret Foundation of San Francisco, was established in 2008 to bring leading professionals in Asia and the United States to Stanford to study U.S.-Korea relations. Choe is the program’s third Koret Fellow.