Archive for October, 2012

Provost John Etchemendy and Dean Phil Pizzo help police educate students about the importance of bike helmets

October 31st, 2012
Etchemendy and Pizzo

Provost John Etchemendy and Medical School Dean Philip Pizzo play good-cop, good-cop with helmetless rider Gregory Manker, a sophomore. The Stanford police were running an information campaign on the corner of Lomita Drive and Santa Teresa Street with the able help of the administrators. (Photo by Linda Cicero)

Every time a new hour approaches, hell on wheels rolls across the Stanford campus – a wave of student cyclists, in a rush and inevitably without helmets. The rush is something of a tolerated tradition. The “helmetlessness” isn’t.

“Our students have some of the best brains in the country,” said PROVOST JOHN ETCHEMENDY. “It would be a shame if they were to hurt that by falling off their bikes.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 30, Etchemendy, an avid cyclist himself, was standing at the corner of Santa Teresa Street and Lomita Drive with members of the Department of Public Safety and flagging down bareheaded bikers. One deputy passed out Halloween candy. Another, coupons for steeply discounted bicycle helmets.

“The problem is, there’s no law mandating helmet use over the age of 18,” said Deputy Harris Kuhn. “But we continue to have a few grinding, horrible crashes every academic year where helmets would help.”

Passing out the coupons, which allow students to purchase helmets that normally cost more than $40 for $10.64, has become something of a passion for public safety officers, as well as administrators. Even PHIL PIZZO, dean of the School of Medicine, made an impromptu appearance with the provost.

At least in the short term, the coupons seemed to have an effect on people, including first-year graduate student Alexander Hsu. Did he have a helmet now? No. Would he get one? “I might,” he said, “if they’re $10.”

—Max McClure

Libraries’ acquisition adds to holdings on Bay Area art scene

October 30th, 2012
Artwork copyright Vito Acconci. Image copyright Stanford University Libraries.

House of Cars by Vito Acconci, 1983. Photo by John Grau. Artwork copyright Vito Acconci. Image copyright Stanford University Libraries.

The 1970s launched a new era for artists, musicians and writers, as they began to envision an alternative to the commercial gallery system. Not-for-profit exhibition spaces popped up in major cities, run by fellow artists and featuring works that were experimental, sometimes groundbreaking.

One of the organizations at the forefront of this change was San Francisco’s New Langton Arts, whose archive has just arrived at the Stanford University Libraries. The archive offers thousands of photos, audio recordings, videos and other materials that document the growth of the city’s experimental art scene. Founded in 1975, New Langton featured performance art, video screenings and installations, literary readings, lectures and new and electronic music performances in its programming.

The archive strengthens the libraries’ holdings relating to Bay Area cultural life and finds a natural home alongside the papers of La Mamelle/Art Com, Canyon Cinema, the artist LYNN HERSHMAN LEESON and the writer STEWART BRAND, among others.

The collection is rich with exhibition photos featuring work by premier national and international artists, such as OLAFFUR ELIASSON, VITO ACCONCI, TONY LABAT and ADRIAN PIPER.  Hundreds of audiotapes preserve musical compositions and recitals by JON APPLETON, DAVID BEHRMAN, PETER GARLAND and other experimental music luminaries.  Additional audiotapes, videotapes and photographs document literary performances by KATHY ACKER, ROBERT GRENIER, DAVID BROMIGE and many other poets, authors and literary theorists.  The archive also includes three decades of New Langton’s organizational history.

Stanford art and art history Professor PAUL DEMARINIS, a former member of New Langton’s curatorial board and its board of directors during its early years, performed and exhibited under its auspices at the beginning of his career.  “New Langton Arts presented work by established artists working outside their expected fields, emerging artists who have since become famous, as well as a host of artists who made major contributions to the cultural development of the Bay Area at a time when it was emerging as a major economic center,” he said.  “Its maturation and ultimate demise closely track the rise and fall of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the San Francisco dot-com real estate market.”

He predicted that “the Langton archives will serve future scholars who seek to piece together a picture of the artistic scene in the United States at a time of intense change.”

The New Langton archives will be available after the documents have been processed through the libraries’ Department of Special Collections.



Stanford’s Gordon Brown wins 2012 Ian Campbell Medal

October 29th, 2012

Gordon Brown Photo Credit: Linda Cicero

Stanford’s GORDON BROWN, a professor of geological and environmental sciences, has won the 2012 Ian Campbell Medal for Superlative Service to the Geosciences.

The award is given by the American Geosciences Institute.

Brown, the Dorrell William Kirby Professor of Earth Sciences and professor of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, was honored for pioneering the use of synchrotron radiation in Earth sciences. He was also recognized for his contributions as an educator, administrator and public servant.

The medal has sentimental significance to Brown. The inaugural awardee – the late RICHARD JAHNS, who served as dean of the School of Earth Sciences – recruited Brown to campus in 1973. It was good timing, Brown said, because Stanford and SLAC had just opened the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Project (SSRP), which was the first user-facility synchrotron in the world. It gave him the opportunity to pioneer innovative techniques of using the extremely intense X-rays produced by the machine. SSRP is  now the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource.

Brown used the X-rays produced by the SSRP to study extremely small quantities of elements, and in doing so pioneered techniques for probing Earth materials – soils, atmosphere, water, etc. – for various contaminants.


A very small amount of arsenic or mercury can have a big impact on human health, Brown said, and by using synchrotron radiation techniques, he could measure these in the parts-per-billion range, and even distinguish whether the element was present in a toxic form. His cutting-edge research of geochemical reactions at mineral-water interfaces has helped to focus future studies on the societal repercussions that human activities such as mining have on the global ecosystem.

Brown will receive his award at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 5.


Costumes galore at the Theater and Performance Studies inventory sale

October 26th, 2012
Costume shoppers

Jacqui Worden and Bita Nouriani were among the shoppers at the costume shop sale.

Need a helmet to be a Roman centurion this Halloween? Maybe a robe to dress as Sir Thomas Aquinas? How about a World War II military jacket and hat to go as Gen. George Patton?

If so, the place for you is the costume sale at the Stanford Theater and Performance Studies Costume Shop. We’re talking a massive array of unusual, reasonably priced costumes, sure to ignite the imagination of even the most puzzled of prospective Halloween celebrants.

The sale is a popular event that is held as often as inventory allows, generally every year or two. Items are all expertly created by costume makers for Stanford performances and range from boas to knickers to top hats to shoes. Proceeds fund training for costume shop employees, according to Costume Shop Supervisor CAROLYN VEGA, who wore bunny ears for the occasion.

Among the shoppers was TOM FREELAND, a lecturer at the Center for Teaching and Learning, who was helping a faculty member dress for an upcoming lecture on the Black Death. A floppy grey top hat will help the faculty member play the part of a physician from the Middle Ages.

Shopper at costume sale

Benjamin Bullock found the perfect Dickens-era ensemble.

JACQUI WORDEN and BITA NOURIANI stopped by from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences after seeing the event listed in the Stanford Report.

With twin 3-year-old granddaughters, Worden says she “likes messing around and dressing up for them.” A lovely pair of white elbow-length gloves attracted her attention as appropriate for a future tea party. Nouriani found fabric that will be used during play times for her daughter.

BENJAMIN BULLOCK, an administrative assistant at the Cancer Center, was looking for an ensemble for the next Dickens celebration. He found a green costume perfect for the time period.

Sophomore JAMES SPICER, a member of the Stanford Band, was trying on a brown wig and grey leather coat with fur collar trim with future performances in mind.

“People who come to this sale typically don’t know what they want to be,” says Vega. “But the prices are so good that they tend to figure it out on the fly.”

Vega says the sale will continue through today behind Memorial Auditorium. Bring cash. No credit cards are accepted.

— By Kate Chesley

Office of Sustainability seeks building heroes

October 25th, 2012

The OFFICE OF SUSTAINABILITY is seeking Stanford “building heroes” to participate in the Building Level Sustainability Program.

FAHMIDA AHMED, who heads the Office of Sustainability, estimates that individual actions at Stanford have saved up to 20 percent on electricity bills in some campus buildings. Occupants of 25 buildings have already participated in the program, and Ahmed is looking to add another 25 buildings this year.

What can individuals do? Among the recommended conservation measures are buying “smart” power strips with the help of rebates, installing appliance timers, using compact fluorescent light bulbs and disconnecting unneeded overhead lights.

The savings can be substantial and can make schools eligible for savings through improved Energy Conservation Incentive Program performance. To sweeten the deal, the first 10 buildings that sign up will be entered into a raffle for a building-wide party.

To help heroes be—well—heroic, the Office of Sustainability offers a class called “Sustainable Office Spaces.” All participants earn a Sustainable Stanford certificate and qualify for a Healthy Living BeWell Berry. In addition, student interns trained by the Office of Sustainability are available to help implement conservation steps.

To become a hero or learn more about the program, contact JIFFY VERMYLEN in the Office of Sustainability or visit the website.

Olukotun to share $1.3 million “Big Data” grant from NSF

October 24th, 2012


Oyekunle Olukotun

OYEKUNLE “KUNLE” OLUKOTUN, a professor of electrical engineering and of computer science at Stanford’s School of Engineering, will share a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to address challenges in human genetics and metagenomics – a field that studies DNA samples of diverse cultures found in the environment.

Olukotun received the grant with SRINIVAS ALURU, of Iowa State University, and WU-CHUN FENG, of Virginia Tech.

The grant is part of the NSF’s new Big Data fundamental research effort, which aims to develop new tools and methods to extract and use knowledge from large data sets to accelerate science and engineering innovation. With support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NSF recently announced nearly $15 million in awards.

“To get the most value from the massive biological data sets we are now able to collect, we need better ways of managing and analyzing the information they contain,” FRANCIS S. COLLINS, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a recent press release. “The new awards that NIH is funding will help address these technological challenges – and ultimately help accelerate research to improve health ­– by developing methods for extracting important, biomedically relevant information from large amounts of complex data.”

Stanford faculty headline Bay Area Science Festival events

October 23rd, 2012

The Bay Area Science Festival hits full stride this week, and Stanford faculty members will play key roles in several events.

Up first, on Oct. 27, Stanford chemistry Professor RICHARD ZARE and author HAROLD MCGEE (On Food & Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen) will make a case that understanding the science of cooking intensifies the joy of cooking. From boiling water to baking a soufflé, they say, scientific insights can inform and enhance most every kitchen experience. The free talk will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Braun Auditorium in the Mudd Chemistry Building.

Marine scientist Stephen Palumbi will be among five researchers featured as Science Superheroes at the Bay Area Science Festival.

Next, on Oct. 30, Stanford math Professor BRIAN CONRAD will describe how the mathematics of symmetry provides answers to natural questions that arise in topics as diverse as the Rubik’s Cube, the art of M.C. ESCHER, and the security of financial transactions on the Internet. Mathematical ideas will be developed from scratch, and illustrated with pictures and numerical examples. The free talk will take place at 7:30 pm in Cubberley Auditorium.

Finally, on Nov. 2, Stanford Professor STEPHEN PALUMBI will be part of the TED-style event, “Science Superheroes,” that will showcase five local scientists who are changing the way we understand the world. Palumbi researches evolution and marine biology at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, and has lectured extensively on human-induced evolutionary change, has used genetic detective work to identify whales for sale in retail markets, and is working on new methods to help design marine parks for conservation. Palumbi’s other passion is microdocumentaries. His Short Attention Span Science Theater site received a million hits last year. And his band Sustainable Soul has several songs out, including “Crab Love” and “The Last Fish Left.”

The panel is full of scientists who use skills worthy of superheroes. The other speakers include JOSEPH DERISI, an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UC San Francisco; ALISON GOPNIK, a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley; JJ MIRANDA, who studies genetics, virology and immunology at the Gladstone Institute; and CHRISTOPHER P. MCKAY, a planetary scientist with the Space Science Division of NASA Ames Research Center. The talk will take place at the Tech Museum in San Jose and costs $10.



Today is the last day to register to vote in California

October 22nd, 2012

Students register to vote in Arrillaga Dining Hall as part of the national nonpartisan UVote campaign. Photo by Joy Leighton, communications director, Haas Center for Public Service

Even before this year’s freshmen arrived in September, Student Affairs units were working to get the students engaged in the Nov. 6 election. As part of UVote, a nationwide nonpartisan voter registration effort, there were voter registration tables near freshman dorms during New Student Orientation and later near upperclass residences when those students moved in. And the efforts have continued. To date they have registered 787 students.

“Res Ed is proud to be a part of the voter registration process,” said DEBORAH GOLDER, associate vice provost for student affairs and dean of residential education. “The notion of engaged citizenship is a core value of our efforts in dorm communities. It makes sense that we advocate for engaged citizenship in local and national communities as well.”

Resident assistants, row managers, fraternity and sorority life members, and professional staff in Residential Education all have been working to ensure the community understands the importance of voting and reminding students that every voice counts. Once the voter registration drive has concluded, resident fellows will create learning opportunities for their residents aimed at informing them of issues for this election, Golder added.

The Haas Center for Public Service has been actively involved as well.

“Voting is not only a right but also a fundamental act of public service,” said TOM SCHNAUBELT, executive director at Haas. “Many young people become involved in public service to improve education, health care or the environment. Every vote cast has the potential to amplify individual acts of service at a structural, public policy level.”

If you have not yet registered, there is still time. Faculty, staff, students and other community members can register in person, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Haas Center at 562 Salvatierra Walk, and from noon to 1 p.m. at the California Voter Registration Table in White Plaza.

Voter registration forms must be postmarked or submitted electronically no later than Monday at midnight.

To register online, visit the website of the California Secretary of State.



Provost John Etchemendy and others help count the hours to Big Game

October 18th, 2012

Provost John Etchemendy gets hints on blowing the Big Game horn from members of the Axe Committee.

The horn that sounds like a train whistle? The one that blasts every hour? That’s the sound of BIG GAME approaching.

Each year, members of the Axe Committee camp in White Plaza to oversee the annual marking of time until the football game against the University of California at Berkeley, or Cal, by blowing an ear-splitting horn every hour, night and day. It’s the 115th Big Game, so naturally, the committee counts down 115 hours.

The students create a shelter of sorts and at night sleep on the small stage area between Dinkelspiel and the U.S. Post Office. They spend daylight hours chatting, watching TV and doing chemistry homework. All in the name of Big Game tradition.

They ask faculty and staff to join in the whistle-blowing fun. All that is required is a tolerance for loud noises and the ability to make two quick pulls on a rope, followed by a longer, firmer one.

PROVOST JOHN ETCHEMENDY did the honors at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. JEFF WACHTEL, senior assistant to the president, blew the horn on Tuesday at 1 p.m. GREG BOARDMAN, vice provost of student affairs, is scheduled for Thursday at noon, followed by HARRY ELAM, vice provost for undergraduate education, on Friday at noon.

The horn is part of a week-long series of activities celebrating one of the nation’s most historic and riveting football rivalries. The Big Game is scheduled for Saturday at noon at California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. Stanford leads the all-time series 57-46-11. The winner claims the axe that signifies victory. Can’t make the game? It will be nationally telecast on Fox.

GaitiesAlso featured this week is GAIETIES, the annual student-written musical comedy designed to unite the Stanford community in opposition to Cal. This year’s production, called Full Doom on the Quad, features two lovers, one from Stanford and the other from Cal, who, according to the website, “must face challenges, rivalries and ridiculousness as they participate in one of Stanford’s beloved traditions: Full Moon on the Quad.”

Another favorite tradition involves the impaling of a stuffed bear that stands in for Oski, the Cal mascot, on top of the Claw (White Memorial Fountain) in front of the Bookstore. The fountain spurts red-colored water in response. The “bearial” was held Monday, with the Stanford Band officiating.

The week also features other athletic competitions: Big Sail, for instance, was held on Tuesday on San Francisco Bay. Big Chill, which is on Friday, pits Stanford versus Cal in ice hockey. Big Splash features the men’s water polo teams on Saturday, and Big Ride is an equestrian event that will be held at the Red Barn on Sunday.

For more information on the history and traditions of Big Game, visit the website. Go Cardinal. Beat Cal.

Nobel Week in pictures

October 17th, 2012

It begins with a phone call in the wee hours of the morning, and while the media calls eventually come in at a slower pace, the glory of a Nobel Prize lasts for generations.

This year the Scandinavians rang twice for Stanford. First, on Oct. 10, BRIAN KOBILKA, professor and chair of molecular and cellular physiology at the Stanford School of Medicine, shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry with ROBERT LEFKOWITZ, professor of biochemistry and of medicine at Duke University. The two men were selected for their work on G-protein-coupled receptors.

Then on Monday, Oct. 15, ALVIN ROTH, a Harvard economist who is transitioning to Stanford, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on market design. He shares the prize with LLOYD SHAPLEY, professor emeritus at UCLA. Roth is a pioneer in the field of game theory and experimental economics and in their application to the design of new economic institutions.

University Photographer LINDA CICERO created slideshows of Kobilka and of Roth.
Videographer STEVE FYFFE put together videos of Kobilka and Roth as well.