Archive for August, 2011

Washington Monthly ranking system offers something a tad different

August 31st, 2011

cover of Washington MonthlyThe magazine Washington Monthly has released its ranking of national universities—and Stanford has placed fourth.

Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a big deal—especially since Cal ranked third (!)—but there may be something to the way Washington Monthly scrutinizes colleges and universities that is worth noting.

In its rankings, Washington Monthly assesses schools based on “their contribution to the public good,” specifically through three categories: social mobility, research and service.

According to the magazine, social mobility refers to a university’s recruitment and graduation statistics of low-income students; research refers to research spending and the number of bachelor’s degree recipients who receive PhDs; and service refers to how much a school encourages its students to give back to the community. Each category is weighted equally and added together for a score out of 100.

The University of California-San Diego earned a perfect score, followed by UCLA with 99 and Cal with 98. Stanford earned a score of 93. Among the categories, Stanford ranked high in research, which measures the production of cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs.

The magazine explains its perspective on its website:

“Unlike U.S. News & World Report and similar guides, this one asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country. Are they educating low-income students, or just catering to the affluent? Are they improving the quality of their teaching, or ducking accountability for it? Are they trying to become more productive—and if so, why is average tuition rising faster than health care costs? Every year we lavish billions of tax dollars and other public benefits on institutions of higher learning. This guide asks: Are we getting the most for our money?”

Visit Washington Monthly.

Stanford Report open rates suggest electronic email is now a daily routine

August 30th, 2011
trail photograph

A story about the new Matadero Trail was the most popular article in Stanford Report from January to July 2011.

Nearly two years after converting to an electronic email format, Stanford Report appears to have become a daily routine for many faculty and staff. That’s among the conclusions of a recently completed report of open rates and click-throughs from January to July 2010 and 2011 for Stanford’s daily news source, produced by University Communications.

Among the findings:

  • The overall average daily open rate has increased 16.5 percent to 6,489. (Tracking figures follow only those readers who open Stanford Report with images—a number believed to be smaller than the actual opens.)
  • Daily readership varies very little from month to month, despite fluctuations in the academic calendar. Average daily open rates were the highest in May, which saw an 18.4 percent increase from 2010 to 6,602, and lowest in July, which saw a 12.3 percent increase to 6,239.
  • June had the largest average daily open rate jump, with 18.7 percent compared to 2010.
  • The most popular Stanford Report was on Wednesday, May 25, when articles were featured about Frost Amphitheater (a Stanford alumni magazine story), creation of a $20 million endowment for bioengineering projects (a School of Medicine story) and the provost’s planned presentation of the 2012 budget to the Faculty  Senate.
  • Tuesday’s edition is generally the most popular Stanford Report of the week, followed by the Monday email. In fact, five of the 10 most popular Stanford Reports were published on Tuesdays.
  • The most popular article from January to July appeared on Friday, May 20, and was about the opening of Stanford’s new Matadero Trail. The second most popular article appeared on Wednesday, Feb. 16, and was about campus commuters being encouraged to tweak their p.m. driving habits.
  • The most popular Dish item appeared on Jan. 7 and was about quarterback Andrew Luck’s decision to forgo the NFL draft. The second most popular was on April 21 and was about President Obama’s helicopter landing on Sand Hill Road.
  • When it comes to ads, the results show faculty and staff readers like food. Advertisements for the $5.95, all-you-care-to-eat faculty/staff meal plan were the most popular, followed by ads for The Market, Russo Café, the Axe and Palm and other eateries overseen by Stanford Dining.

Visit the Stanford Report website.

Two faculty, two alums named to ‘Innovators Under 35′ list

August 25th, 2011

Fan Yang

MIT’s Technology Review has named two Stanford professors and two alums to its 2011 list of “35 Innovators Under 35.”

The faculty winners are FAN YANG, assistant professor of bioengineering and orthopedic surgery, and JENNIFER DIONNE, assistant professor of materials science and engineering. PIYA SORCAR, who holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the Stanford School of Education, and PIETER ABBEEL, who holds a doctoral degree in computer science from Stanford, were the alumni winners. (Editor’s note: After this item was published, a reader alerted us that Abbeel, who is on the faculty at Berkeley, has a Stanford connection.)

The winners join the ranks of Google founders LARRY PAGE and SERGEY BRIN and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.

Yang studies how the body repairs blood vessels damaged by heart attacks, strokes and diabetic ulcers. She has developed a biodegradable polymer that binds to DNA to form nanoparticles that can then penetrate stem cells in order to release their cellular instructions. The polymer eventually degrades naturally, producing a safer outcome than current viral techniques.

As for Dionne, whose research focuses on solar technology, the magazine notes: “Other solar researchers have tried to do what Dionne is doing—’upconversion’—by combining two dyes that interact with each other to convert two low-energy photons into one high-energy photon. But Dionne is taking a new approach that could improve upconversion efficiencies by as much as 50 percent. She added metal nanoparticles to an existing combination of upconversion dyes; the particles shine more light on the dyes and get more converted light out of them.”

Piya Sorcar

Sorcar, the CEO and founder of TEACHAIDS, has developed interactive software to teach children about the disease in culturally sensitive and age-appropriate ways. According to the article, Sorcar’s software has been approved by states in India where other sex education programs are banned. Botswana has approved it for every school in that nation. Sorcar hopes to distribute it to countries around the world within five years.

Abbeel has figured out a way to get robots to infer the “intent” of the instructions they get. “For example,” the article said, “Abbeel taught one robot how to fold laundry by giving it some general rules about how fabric behaves, and then showed it around 100 images of clothing so it could analyze how that particular clothing was likely to move as it was handled. After that, the robot could fold towels and sweaters without further instruction.”

— By Andrew Myers and Elaine Ray

Doctoral candidate leads excavation of German POW camp in Canada

August 23rd, 2011

ADRIAN MYERS,  a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology, is leading an archaeological excavation at the site of the Whitewater POW Camp in Riding Mountain National Park, in Manitoba, Canada.

Between October 1943 and October 1945, the camp held 450 German Afrika Korps soldiers captured in Egypt. As part of the Whitewater Project, a team  of volunteers from Canada and the U.S. has uncovered numerous artifacts brought to the camp by the German soldiers.

Check out this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report in which Myers talks about the project:

Jacob Boehm safe in Malaysia

August 22nd, 2011

Jacob Boehm

Malaysia’s Taman Negara may be an ideal place to commune with nature and escape from our hyper-connected world. But the expansive rainforest proved no match for the social media community that rallied Friday  to track down Stanford senior JACOB BOEHM.

The 22-year-old North Carolina native began his summer in Japan with the  Stanford Chamber Chorale, then he struck out on his own, traveling through Thailand and Malaysia,  posting photos and updates on Google+ and calling home regularly.

But after several days passed with no postings, no calls and no activity on his ATM card, Boehm’s parents started to worry. On Friday morning, his mother sent out an email to his friends, which went viral across Stanford’s campus and across the world. Meanwhile,  Facebook groups  devoted to finding him were set up;  tweets and blog posts also were used spread the word.

By early Saturday morning word came that Boehm had been found.

On Saturday morning one of the Facebook pages had this update from Boehm’s father, Bruce Boehm: “Early this morning we got a note from the US Consul in [Kuala Lumpur]  saying that a person on his staff had actually talked to Jacob using some sort of  two-way radio that works in Taman Negara national park.”

According to a story in the New York Times, Boehm’s mother, Nancy Luberoff, said in a statement: “We are so grateful for this spontaneous community and outpouring of support,” she said. “I hope it becomes a model for others.”



SLAC’s Stefan Mannsfield wins Spicer award

August 18th, 2011

STEFAN MANNSFELD, a staff scientist at SLAC, has been named the winner of the 2011 William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award.

The award honors a young researcher whose work has benefitted from – or is beneficial to – either the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource or the worldwide synchrotron community. It is open to senior graduate students and those who are seven or fewer years into their professional scientific careers.

“I am very surprised and deeply honored to receive this award,” Mannsfeld said. “I had such a big smile on my face when I came home that my wife knew right away that something good had happened.”

Mannsfeld has worked at Stanford and SLAC since receiving his doctorate in physics in 2005 from Germany’s Technical University in Dresden. Initially a postdoctoral fellow in Stanford’s Chemical Engineering Department with ZHENAN BAO, associate professor of chemical engineering, Mannsfeld quickly impressed his professor and colleagues with his physics insights and creative experimental skills. Those skills  have led to a series of important insights into the properties of thin-film organic electronic materials.

“He came up with many innovative ideas that took my group to several new directions,” said Bao, “He is the kind of person who will come up with good ideas regardless of the subject he works on and carry those projects from concept to completion.  Dr. Mannsfeld is the most creative and solid young scientist I have encountered in the past 10 years.”

Read the full announcement on the SLAC Today website.

Gibbons to be honored with IEEE Founders Medal; Paulraj to receive Alexander Graham Bell Medal

August 17th, 2011

Gibbons, right, with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at the dedication of the Gates Computer Science Building in 1996. Photo: L. A. Cicero

JAMES F. GIBBONS, a professor emeritus of electrical engineering and former dean of the Stanford School of Engineering, will be honored with the 2011 IEEE Founders Medal for commitment to innovation and fostering relationships between academia and industry. Gibbons built Stanford’s first solid-state semiconductor processing laboratory in 1957 and was instrumental in creating Stanford’s Center for Integrated Systems in 1980, uniting hardware and software in very-large-scale-integration (VLSI) chips.

As dean, Gibbons assimilated the Department of Computer Science into the School of Engineering. His scientific contributions include pioneering research on ion implantation and rapid thermal processing for semiconductor chips, foundational technologies of today’s semiconductor industry.

Arogyaswami Paulraj

The IEEE also announced that AROGYASWAMI J. PAULRAJ, research professor of electrical engineering, emeritus, will be honored with the 2011 Alexander Graham Bell Medal. The medal, sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, recognizes Paulraj, an engineer who developed multiple input-multiple output (MIMO) antenna technology, for pioneering contributions in the application of multiantenna technology to wireless communication systems. 

MIMO was developed at Stanford and patented in 1994, and became a key enabler of the “Mobile Internet,” revolutionizing mobile wireless communications with high-speed access to multimedia services, higher data rates and wider coverage areas. MIMO uses multiple antennas to transmit and receive data allowing parallel data streams on the same channel.

IEEE is an international professional organization dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. Gibbons and Paulraj will be honored during a ceremony in San Francisco Aug. 20.

— Andrew Myers

Tara VanDerveer’s Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech

August 16th, 2011

Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer gives her acceptance speech during the induction ceremony for the Naismith Hall of Fame last weeekend.

Quoting writer Malcolm Gladwell and thanking those who inspired her throughout her career, Cardinal Women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer accepts the induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame Friday, Aug. 12.

“I’m the oldest of five active children, VanDerveer said. “My parents were thinking basketball right from the get-go.

My parents supported my love of basketball even though at the time there were no teams for girls or scholarships,”  she said, adding that as a  young girl she and her father would  analyze Celtic games.

“He would  be amazed by this evening because he once told me, ‘ Tara, come in and do your homework. Do your algebra;  basketball will never take you anywhere.’  I knew that algebra would never take me anywhere,” VanDerveer said.

Click the photo to watch her full speech.

Robert Dutton recognized for advancing chip technology

August 15th, 2011

At its annual TECHON conference in September, the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) will name Stanford’s ROBERT DUTTON, professor of electrical engineering, as a winner of its Aristotle Award for world-class research in areas vital to the semiconductor industry. In particular, the Aristotle Award recognizes Dutton for outstanding teaching and a deep commitment to the educational experience of his students.

With SRC support, Dutton pioneered the development of a suite of technology computer-aided design (TCAD) tools for simulation and modeling of integrated circuit fabrication processes. The impact of Stanford’s TCAD research ranges from fundamental electron and atomic-scale process physics at the device- and process-levels to circuit-level “golden standard” simulations that validate compact device models.


— Andrew Myers

Stanford Football hosts Open House Aug. 21; scrimmage moved to Steuber Rugby Stadium

August 11th, 2011

Stanford football fans will have an opportunity to preview the Stanford football program on Sunday, Aug. 21, at an Open House event at Stanford Stadium and Steuber Rugby Stadium. The Open House will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Fans will have an opportunity to attend an open practice, participate in football skill stations and a mini fan fest, preview seat locations for season tickets and obtain player autographs.

Starting at 10 a.m., fans of Stanford football will be able to preview seat locations and purchase season tickets or mini plans—the only way to guarantee admission for marquee matchups against Oregon, California or Notre Dame. Ticket sales representatives will be on hand to assist with ticket related inquiries and purchasing. More information regarding tickets is available at

Fans can check out the 2011 squad at an open practice at Steuber Rugby Stadium from 10 a.m. to noon. Please respect the wishes of the coaching staff as no cameras, video, or cell phone use will be allowed.

Skills stations and a mini Fan Fest will start at 12:30 p.m. at Stanford Stadium. Coaches will lead skills stations for kids 8th grade and younger allowing them to showcase their skills and learn the game on the field. Photos may be taken with the 2011 Orange Bowl trophy and information about the upcoming sports season will be available.

The event will conclude with an autograph session with the 2011 squad from 1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Stanford Stadium. In order to expedite the process and accommodate as many fans as possible, autographs are limited to one item per person. Players will be grouped by jersey numbers with numbers 2-30 signing on the East concourse, 31-60 on the East sideline and 61-99 on the West sideline. 2011 football posters will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Access to Stanford Stadium is through Gate 1 only, which is located on the south side of the stadium adjacent to the Sunken Diamond parking lot. Due to other athletic events taking place (Field Hockey exhibition vs. Pacific at 12:00 p.m. and Women’s Soccer vs. Pacific at 1 p.m.), all lots surrounding Stanford Stadium will be open for free parking.

For Open House details and schedule updates, visit the Open House website.