Archive for September, 2012

Electrical engineering graduate student wins Marconi Young Scholar Award

September 28th, 2012

The Marconi Society, which is devoted to encouraging scientific contributions in the field of communications and the Internet, has recognized graduate student AAKANKSHA CHOWDHERY with one of three 2012 Paul Baran Marconi Young Scholar Awards. The awards are given to young researchers (no older than 27 at the time of the award—the same age as Marconi when he completed the first radio transmission) who are on track to become leading innovators contributing to the advancement of science and humanity.

Aakanksha Chowdery

Aakanksha Chowdhery

Chowdhery is the first woman to receive the award since it was created in 2008.

According to the Marconi Society’s press release, “Chowdhery’s research in the field of Dynamic Spectrum Management (DSM) for next-generation copper-access networks focuses on improving data rates and stability in digital subscriber lines (DSLs) suffering from intermittent noise effects. Her DSM research promises successful co-existence and deployment of next-generation copper networks that can deliver data-rates up to Gbps with legacy networks.”

Chowdhery is “a superstar on the rise,” according to JOHN CIOFFI, the Hitachi America Professor in the School of Engineering, Emeritus. Cioffi, who is quoted in the society’s online story, is Chowdhery’s advisor and the 2006 Marconi Prize Winner for his invention of the DSL modem.

“Aakanksha solved several difficult mathematical problems instrumental to the practical deployment of the upcoming multi-100Mbps DSL services, preserving the large theoretical gains in numerous practical unbundled deployment scenarios,” he said. “She has found ways to take traditional theories and find the appropriate combinations of well-defined problems that characterize an actual situation via various optimization principles.”

Chowdhery completed her MS in electrical engineering at Stanford and is on track to receive her PhD in December.

This marks the fifth year that Young Scholar Awards have been granted by the Marconi Society. The society looks for those who not only have shown extraordinary early promise but have made an impact through published research.

The Young Scholar Awards include a financial stipend and an invitation and travel funds to attend the annual Marconi Award Dinner.

Read more about the award and about Chowdhery’s research.

Lucy Shapiro wins the 2012 Horwitz Prize

September 27th, 2012
Lucy Shapiro

Lucy Shapiro has won the 2012 Horwitz Prize.

LUCY SHAPIRO is one of three recipients of the 2012 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, awarded by Columbia University. Shapiro, a professor of developmental biology at the School of Medicine, and her colleagues Richard Losick of Harvard and Joe Lutkenhaus of the University of Kansas Medical School, were recognized for their work on the three-dimensional organization of bacteria cells. Established in 1967, the Horwitz Prize is Columbia University’s top honor for achievement in biological and biochemistry research.

“It is a great honor to receive the Louisa Gross Horwitz Award,” said Shapiro, who is the Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Chair in Cancer Research in the Department of Developmental biology and the director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine. “The work recognized by this award is the culmination of the shared intellectual input and vision of a large group of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the passion and joy of scientific discovery.

“Particularly important has been the establishment and flowering of an interdisciplinary lab at Stanford in collaboration with Harley McAdams, a physicist who is a professor in the Department of Developmental Biology where we run an integrated lab with physicists and engineers working side by side with molecular geneticists and cell biologists,” she said.

McAdams and Shapiro’s relationship goes beyond the lab; they also are married!

Read more about Shapiro’s work and about the Horwitz Prize.

Stephen Quake receives 2013 Nakasone Award

September 26th, 2012
Stephen Quake

Stephen Quake

STEPHEN QUAKE, professor of bioengineering and of applied physics and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has received the 2013 Nakasone Award from the Human Frontier Science Program Organization for “prolific inventions that have advanced biological measurement techniques.”

Quake has introduced large-scale quantitative approaches in many areas of biology that were previously impossible to address. His innovations include a rapid DNA sequencer, a non-invasive prenatal test for Down syndrome and the biological equivalent of the integrated circuit.

He is the holder of more than 80 patents, has founded at least four companies based on his conceptions and has invented technologies that have transformed science and medicine in fields ranging from genomic sequencing and microfluidics to infectious disease and medical diagnostics.

Read more about Quake’s inventions and the Nakasone Award.

Student residential staffers welcome dorm mates to the “punny” Farm

September 25th, 2012
Roble Hall resident assistants

Roble Hall student staff promote the Roble Rangers dorm theme. (photo by Linda Cicero)

Each year, Stanford’s undergraduate residence halls adopt themes that serve to welcome new and returning students to their campus homes through humor.

Themes, which are most often puns, lend themselves to clever T-shirt designs and entertaining interior dorm decorating.

The themes, created by student residential staff members before the arrival of residents, can be both familiar and obscure. Many allude to popular culture, television shows or movies.

For instance, ARROYO’s “Atroyo” theme harkens to the movie Troy and is, in the words of one student staff member, “mostly about Brad Pitt.”

But BURBANK’s “Burbanksy” theme may be a tad more obscure. It alludes to the work of English graffiti artist Banksy.

Student residential staff in FLORENCE MOORE HALL opted for multiple themes.

On Move-In Day, the west side of the dorm adopted the theme “NickeFlodeon.” T-shirts featured the distinctive orange Nickelodeon logo. The east side student staff members chose East Flomography and designed font-themed T-shirts that were “Typed with Flove.”

To complicate matters, individual houses within FloMo also adopted distinctive themes, including PALOMA’s “Palomulberry Street,” which evokes Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book.

Among the more entertaining themes this year is TWAIN’s “Public Twainsportation.” The dorm’s T-shirt features symbols of a metro system, and each hall has a train-related sub-theme, ranging from the Hogwarts Express to Soul Twain.

Other freshman and transfer dorm themes include:

KIMBALL: KimBatman
SOTO: Sotohana
SERRA: Pirates of the Serrabbean
DONNER: Alice in Donnerland
LARKIN: Sherlarkin Holmes
JUNIPERO: J-Roald Dahl
OKADA: Okadavengers
TRANCOS: Trancolympics
CEDRO: Cedrocket Power
ROBLE: Roble Rangers

The Stanford Oval was the place to watch the Endeavour fly over last week!

September 24th, 2012

Spectators at the Oval were treated to a great view of the shuttle Endeavour on its way to a flyover of Moffett Field; its final destination, Los Angeles. (Photos by Kate Chesley)


Two Stanford-led research teams receive Collaborative Innovation Awards

September 21st, 2012

Axel Brunger

Two teams of scientists led by Stanford professors have received Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Collaborative Innovation Awards to carry out potentially transformative research over the next four years.

One of the teams is led by AXEL BRUNGER, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology and of neurology and neurological sciences. His team received a $6 million award to develop new methods of sample delivery, data collection and analysis to study structures of nanometer- or micron-scaled crystals of biological molecules using the Linac Coherent Light Source at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Brunger’s collaborators include WILLIAM WEIS, a professor of structural biology and of molecular and cellular physiology and of photon science at Stanford, as well as scientists at UC-Berkeley, UCLA and the California Institute of Technology.

Liqun Luo

Also receiving a $6 million award is a group led by LIQUN LUO, a professor of biology. Luo’s team plans to develop a suite of tools for mapping neuronal connections in the complete mouse brain. They will then use those tools to study the organization of neural circuits and how they are affected by specific neurotransmitters, to ultimately better understand how sensory perception works.

Luo collaborates on this project with KARL DEISSEROTH, a professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, as well as an HHMI Early Career Scientist winner. Collaborators also include scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences and Hebrew University.



Are you prepared for the next quake?

September 20th, 2012

If a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Palo Alto area, would you know what to do? On Saturday, Sept. 22, members of the Stanford community are invited to join a simulated earthquake exercise dubbed Quakeville.

The event takes place at Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, at 2 p.m. and is sponsored by Palo Alto Emergency Services Volunteers in partnership with the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services, Avenidas and the American Red Cross.

For more information see the flier or visit the Palo Alto Neighborhoods website.

Stanford listed among Working Mother’s top companies

September 19th, 2012

Stanford Public Safety Officer Israel Magallon and his family at the Rainbow School childcare center on campus.

Working Mother has named Stanford one of the nation’s 100 Best Companies. The magazine singled out the university for its commitment to innovative policies that support employees as they balance the demands of work and family life. Only three educational institutions made the grade this year. The others are Yale and Cornell.

The Working Mother website notes that Stanford has seven childcare centers that stay open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and care for about 1,000 children from 6 weeks old to 8 years old. It also notes that faculty members have the benefit of backup childcare at home or at area centers up to 10 times per year. Then there is the annual childcare subsidy worth up to $5,000 for income-eligible faculty and staff, or up to $20,000 for junior faculty members. It also mentions the Staff Training Assistance Program (STAP); the Staff Tuition Reimbursement Program (STRP), for employees in degree programs; and the Tuition Grant Program (TGP), for the college students of eligible employees.

“Our efforts to support families continues to be a central focus for the university,” said PHYLLIS STEWART PIRES, Stanford’s director of work-life strategy. “By providing work-life options for our faculty, staff and students, we achieve greater engagement, productivity and passion for the important work done here. As a working mother myself, I appreciate the tangible as well as emotional value of Stanford’s work-life programs for my family.”

Read more about this recognition in the University Human Resources Newsroom.

Hey! What about Stanford’s graduate students?

September 18th, 2012
Law School graduates

Law School graduates at Commencement

Oh sure. The freshman undergraduates get all the attention—what with all that singing, dancing and yelling on opening day.

But don’t graduate students actually outnumber undergraduates at Stanford? What about them?

KEN HSU, assistant vice provost and director of the Graduate Life Office; ANDY HERNANDEZ, assistant dean of graduate life; and JOHN PEARSON, assistant vice provost and director of the Bechtel International Center, recently outlined graduate student numbers for colleagues in Student Affairs.

Here are some of the statistics for new graduate students:

  • Stanford anticipated welcoming 2,623 graduate students this fall. Since 2007, the number of new graduate students has increased 8.7 percent. This year, some students have been delayed by visa challenges, meaning the final number will likely increase.
  • Some 35 percent of the new graduate students will study in the School of Engineering.
  • Incoming graduate students at Stanford range in age from 18 to 62. The average age for students pursuing master’s degrees is 25.5, for doctoral students is 24.7 and for professional degree students is 25.8.
  • Men constitute 61 percent of new graduate students.
  • There are about 920 international students among Stanford graduate students from about 75 different countries. There are 21 countries represented by just one graduate student.
  • China, India, South Korea, Canada and Singapore are among the top countries of origin for Stanford graduate students.
  • In autumn 2012, there will be 240 families living in Escondido Village (EV), 100 of which are new.
  • In EV, there will be 266 children under the age of 5 and 18 teenagers. There will be more than 230 spouses and partners of graduate students living there.

This year marks the sixth anniversary of the New Graduate Student Orientation, coordinated by grad students FATIMA HUSSAIN, civil and environmental engineering; CATHY JAN, electrical engineering; and KAREN POWROZNIK, sociology. Events began Sunday, Sept. 16.

Stanford and Columbia’s Teachers College receive $2.5 million to motivate students to pursue science

September 17th, 2012

Carol Dweck

The STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – have an enrollment problem. Sixty percent of students who enter college with the goal of majoring in a STEM subject end up graduating in a non-STEM field, and many students – particularly those from minority and low-income backgrounds – never even consider science an option.

Stanford University psychology Professor CAROL DWECK and XIAODONG LIN, associate professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, will soon be researching ways to change this mindset. Through a five-year, $2.5 million project funded by the National Science Foundation’s Large Empirical Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) Program, the researchers will test the impact of classroom-based motivational instruction programs on students’ performance in STEM courses.

“Many students believe that only geniuses can do STEM work and that geniuses do not need to work very hard,” said Lin. “The flip side of these attitudes is often the view that if you are not intelligent, no amount of effort will help.”

To drive home that struggling in science class isn’t cause for despair, the researchers will examine two curricula: a neurocognitive approach that teaches students that their minds and brains can literally change and grow through hard work; and a social-historical approach that acquaints students with the stories of famous scientists who had to struggle to achieve their breakthroughs.

The study will be conducted at 13 schools in the New York City area – most of them low-performing or based in low-income communities – in grades 4 and 9. Some 1,400 students will participate over the five years.

Lin, the project’s principal investigator, is an expert on technology’s influence on student cognition, and primarily studies how different types of social cultural knowledge influence students’ motivation to learn STEM subjects and to solve complex problems.

Co-principal investigator Dweck’s work spans developmental and social psychology, and examines the mindsets students use to guide their learning. The author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck recently was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

— By Max McClure