Archive for June, 2013

White House recognizes Butte, Endy as open science Champions of Change

June 28th, 2013

Two Stanford faculty members have been named Champions of Change by the White House for “promoting and using open scientific data and publications to accelerate progress and improve our world.”

Atul Butte

ATUL BUTTE, chief of systems medicine and associate professor of pediatrics and of genetics, and DREW ENDY, assistant professor of bioengineering, were among the 13 entrepreneurs, academics and researchers honored June 20 at the White House. They were chosen for making an impact across disciplines – from archaeology and the humanities to astronomy and biomedical research – and for helping make “open” the default in scientific research.

“We in Stanford Medicine are honored that Atul Butte and Drew Endy have been recognized among President Obama’s Champions of Change,” said LLOYD MINOR, dean of the School of Medicine. “Professors Butte and Endy are driving scientific progress not just through their innovative ideas but through their innovative approaches to sharing these ideas broadly.”

Butte’s lab builds and uses computational tools that convert more than 400 trillion points of molecular, clinical and epidemiological data into diagnostics, therapeutics and new insights into disease. He has created new diagnostics and drugs for diabetes and cancers, and stewarded the public release of immunology data from the National Institutes of Health.

Drew Endy

Endy is a leader in the field of synthetic biology. He is also co-founder and president of, a charity advancing biotechnology. The organization has underwritten an open technical-standards-setting process for synthetic biology, and recently developed a legal contract for making genetic materials free to share and use. His group encourages researchers to work together in growing a public domain “operating system” for engineering biology.

The Champions of Change program was created as part of PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’s Winning the Future initiative, which highlights individuals, businesses and organizations whose accomplishments positively impact communities.

This post was originally published in Inside Stanford Medicine.

‘Philosophy Talk’ wins gold

June 27th, 2013

"Philosophy Talk" co-hosts John Perry and Ken Taylor

Philosophy Talk, the radio show hosted by two Stanford professors, was a Gold Radio winner in the Social Issues category at this year’s New York Festivals International Radio Programs and Promotions Competition.

Hosted by philosophy Professor KEN TAYLOR and Professor Emeritus JOHN PERRY, the program has been on the air for 10 years. Nationally syndicated, Philosophy Talk airs on more than 100 public radio stations around the country. Each segment features a guest, and episodes have covered topics ranging from Aristotle and gay rights to bioethics and the value of studying Proust.

The New York Festivals’ World’s Best Radio Programs honors radio programming and promotions in all lengths and formats from radio stations, networks and independent producers around the globe.

'Philosophy Talk' producer Ben Manilla accepts a Gold Radio award from the New York Festivals International Radio Competition. (Photo: ©Roxxe Ireland; Marc Bryan-Brown)

BEN MANILLA, who has been producing the show since it launched, attended the awards gala on June 17 in New York City and said it was “an honor to accept the Gold on behalf of Stanford University, Ken and John, and the rest of the team.”
All entries were judged online by the New York Festivals Radio Programs and Promotions Awards Grand Jury, which comprised an international group of radio experts. Entries were judged on a variety of criteria, from social significance to production values.

Entries were submitted from more than 35 countries.

Perry said the award was particularly satisfying “because we have succeeded in the face of great skepticism. Contrary to the expectations of many, it turns out people do enjoy listening to philosophy. Stations carry the program. And we even win prizes.”

Taylor said, “After 10 years of doing this, it’s certainly rewarding to have some validation. But really, we’re just warming up.”

Beyond the radio broadcast, Taylor noted that the program is developing new ways to foster interaction with the audience, including the online Community of Thinkers, which is scheduled to launch July 1. The forum will offer fans a number of ways to interact with each other, guest bloggers and the show personnel.

“A year from now,” added Taylor, “we hope people think of Philosophy Talk as not just the most intellectually stimulating radio show around but as a multi-platform cornucopia of thought.”

—CORRIE GOLDMAN, the Humanities at Stanford

The sun will come out . . .

June 26th, 2013

Although we have had a few unseasonably wet and cloudy days this week, these photos, taken by University Photographer Linda Cicero, remind us that we’ve also enjoyed some beautiful June days and that the sun will come out again.

Stacey Bent honored with Cox Medal for fostering undergraduate research

June 25th, 2013

Stacey Bent (Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service)

During the Commencement award ceremonies of the School of Engineering, STACEY BENT, a professor of chemical engineering, received the 2013 Allan V. Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence Fostering Undergraduate Research.

JAMES PLUMMER, dean of the School of Engineering, presented the Cox Medal to Bent.

The Cox Medal is awarded annually to a faculty member who has established a record of excellence directing undergraduate research over a number of years. It may also go to a faculty member who has done an especially outstanding job with just one or two undergraduates whose work is unusually superior.

For more than a decade, Bent has welcomed two undergraduates each year into her lab. Her mentorship of those students exemplified the ideals of undergraduate research. As one former student, now a professor himself, expressed it, “She expects and motivates hard work, responsibility, ethical and intellectual purity of experimental work, and independent thinking – but does not impose an ‘iron fist,’ nor does she intimidate her students. Rather, Professor Bent offers guidance, assistance and a new perspective when it’s needed.”

Time is a precious commodity for professors, but over and over again, students emphasized that Bent made time to talk with them, to get to know them and to teach them.

Current students highlighted the formative nature of conversations with Bent.

One of them wrote: “The environment that Professor Bent fosters in her group emphasizes equality and creativity. She places equal weight on the ideas of postdocs, graduate students and undergraduates. This gives undergraduates both the incentive and the confidence to take a more active role in determining the direction of their projects.”

Alumni emphasized the ways that Bent’s mentorship has allowed them to succeed after Stanford. She has supported students through doctoral programs in chemical engineering, and also when they seek to apply their knowledge in industry.

The nomination letters use words such as “unique,” “amazing,” “friendly,” “impressive,” “extraordinary,” “wonderful,” “exemplary,” “supportive” and “uncanny.” Bent has played a pivotal role in encouraging and enabling undergraduate research at Stanford, and has acted as a true mentor to student after student.

The medal was established in memory of the late Allan Cox, a former professor of geophysics and dean of the School of Earth Sciences, who was a strong supporter of faculty-student research.

Former Stanford football player stops runaway bus

June 24th, 2013

Apparently, Newark Mayor CORY BOOKER is not the only Stanford alum and former football player given to heroic acts.

FRANK PRIMUS, who graduated from Stanford in 1999 and is currently a surgical resident at the University of California-San Francisco, “cooly and decisively” stopped a city bus Thursday, June 20, according to the SF Weekly. When the driver of the bus Primus was riding in became incapacitated, the bus hit and began dragging a passenger car and was headed into four lanes of traffic. Primus got out of his seat and put the bus brakes on.

A KTVU report does not mention Primus’ Stanford affiliation, but it does include an on-air interview with him.

“At the time you don’t think about it; you just do it. I’m glad I did something,” said Primus, who also was featured on ABC7 and in the Huffington Post.




Grant to foster deeper connection between Stanford art students and art museum

June 21st, 2013

Cantor Arts Center

A $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will strengthen collaboration between the Department of Art and Art History and the Cantor Arts Center.

Over the next three-and-a-half years, the grant will support new initiatives within the art history graduate program that use the museum’s collections in coursework and research and provide curatorial training for students.

“In the history of art, there is a sense that the museum of objects is separate from what is going on in the academy, where you are taught from reproductions,” said Professor NANCY TROY, chair of the Department of Art and Art History. Every art history student has a story about seeing a work of art for the first time after only studying it on a screen or from a textbook. Who isn’t surprised at the diminutive size of the Mona Lisa?

The Mellon Foundation grant will bring together scholarship and works of art to facilitate graduate training in an object-based environment, where students study and experience the thrill of handling physical objects instead of learning purely from projected images.

Jump-starting collaboration

This separation of the museum and the academy is echoed geographically on the Stanford campus in the distance between the Cantor and the Cummings Art Building, which is home to the Department of Art and Art History as well as the Art and Architecture Library.

This distance will be compressed with construction of the McMurtry Building and the The Anderson Collection now underway in the campus’ developing arts district.

“The Cantor has to rethink itself and reposition the role that it will play as an anchor for the arts on campus,” said CONNIE WOLF, director of the Cantor. “The art and art history building is going to be side-by-side with the museum for the first time, but having buildings next door to each other isn’t enough. The Mellon grant is really allowing us to start creating these meaningful connections and to launch them in a very significant way.”

The Mellon grant will be able to jump start collaboration between the two institutions by funding a series of six new programs that will strengthen students’ familiarity with objects. New seminars will focus on the history of collecting and display, museum conservation and the study of objects in Cantor’s extensive collections. One two-quarter “seminar-plus” course on curatorial strategies will culminate in a class-curated exhibition. Another will focus on reinstalling the Asian art galleries, tackling Asian art’s complexity and diversity while exploring fresh angles on the problems of categorization and representation. Finally, five curatorial research assistantships at Cantor will enable students to curate their own exhibitions, working directly with Cantor’s collections and pursuing their specific research interests.

Wolf hopes the new courses and the research assistantships become an integral part of the art history program: “I want to make this so important and essential to our education process and the role of the museum that at the end of this period it is embedded in the DNA of who we are.”

Read more on the Stanford Arts website.

 —KATHARINE SCHWAB, Stanford Arts Institute


New directors at FSI research centers

June 20th, 2013

Amy Zegart (Photo: Rod Searcey)

The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies has named new directors to two of its research centers

AMY ZEGART – one of the country’s leading experts on national security, intelligence and foreign policy – will be the next co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). KENNETH SCHEVE, a professor of political science and expert on the politics of economic policymaking, will take the helm of the Europe Center.

Zegart, a CISAC faculty member and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, plans to expand the center’s focus on cybersecurity, drones and governance challenges while building on its distinguished reputation in nuclear security.

“The international threat environment is changing faster and in more profound ways than anyone could have imagined 10 or 20 years ago,” said Zegart, who also is a professor, by courtesy, of political economy at the Graduate School of Business, where she co-teaches a course on managing political risk with former Secretary of State CONDOLEEZZA RICE.

“CISAC will continue to be at the forefront of addressing these new challenges with the same secret sauce it’s had since its founding in 1983: world-class talent; a commitment to teaching the next generation; and a deep belief that bridging the natural and social sciences is vital to solving the world’s most dangerous problems,” she said.

Kenneth Scheve (Photo: Rod Searcey)

Scheve, who is writing a book on the comparative history of the rise of progressive taxation in 19th- and 20th-century Europe and other advanced economies, wants to build on the Europe Center’s strength as a magnet for faculty and researchers across Stanford who are interested in European issues.

He said two of the most important issues in international relations – failed states and the role that international institutions play in managing conflict and cooperation – can be better understood through a thorough study and examination of European history, society and current affairs.

“The European Union is the most mature and complex international institution that’s ever been developed,” Scheve said. “Seeing how it both succeeds and struggles to govern is instructive in thinking about how international institutions function in the world more generally. Governance issues within European states, in relation to the EU, and in Europe’s relationships with the rest of world are important public policy problems about which research at Stanford can play a role in informing contemporary policy debates.

ADAM GORLICK, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Vera Haugh receives Arnice Streit Award

June 19th, 2013

Vera Haugh

VERA HAUGH, an administrative services administrator in the departments of Philosophy and Religious Studies, is this year’s recipient of the Arnice P. Streit Award.

The award, which recognizes distinguished service to the School of Humanities and Sciences, was created in 1987 in honor of ARNICE P. STREIT, who established a record of excellence during her 27-year career in H&S.

Haugh is recognized for her creativity, her financial savvy and her ability to adapt to changing systems and departmental cultures. As one nominator put it, Haugh “has an uncanny knack for converting information into simple organized molecules and connecting the dots with ease.”

Haugh received particular praise for helping to build Philosophy Talk, a syndicated radio program hosted by KEN TAYLOR, professor of philosophy, and JOHN PERRY, professor emeritus of philosophy.

“She began providing administrative support when the radio program began on a shoestring and helped transition it to a professionally staffed and nationally syndicated operation,” said DAGMAR LOGIE, an administrative manager in the English Department who received the Streit Award in 1992.

Haugh came to Stanford in 1992 and first worked in the Pediatrics Department at the School of Medicine. In 1997 she moved to H&S, where she worked as a human resources officer before leaving the university in 2001. She returned to Stanford in 2003 to become a financial analyst for the Philosophy and Religious Studies departments.

The Streit award was presented at a recent luncheon presided over by H&S Dean RICHARD SALLER and ADAM DANIEL, senior associate dean of H&S.

Saller and Daniel also recognized the recipients of the Dean’s Award of Merit. They were ELYSE PIERSON, an administrative associate in the Department of Biology; KATHY MONTGOMERY, manager of the Chemistry Administrative Services Group in the Chemistry Department; COLLEEN MCCALLION, an undergraduate program adviser in the Department of Science, Technology and Society; and LAURA HUBBARD, associate director of the Center for African Studies.


Field, Zoback to advise on Gulf of Mexico recovery

June 18th, 2013

Chris Field. Credit Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Three years after the largest oil spill in U.S. history, what does the future hold for the Gulf of Mexico?

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently appointed Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow CHRIS FIELD (biology, environmental Earth system science) and geophysics Professor MARK ZOBACK to a federal advisory group that will design programs focused on human health, environmental protection and oil system safety for the Gulf and U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

Mark Zoback. Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

With 22 other experts in science, engineering and health, Field and Zoback will advise the $500 million NAS Gulf of Mexico Program, which is funded through settlements of federal criminal complaints against British Petroleum and Transocean Ltd. The advisory group will be responsible for articulating the program’s mission, goals and objectives, including preliminary thinking about metrics to measure its impacts and outlining how the program will operate.

The program was established to fund and carry out studies, projects and activities in research and development, education and training, as well as environmental monitoring.

Zoback served on the committee that investigated the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which resulted in 11 deaths, 17 injuries and widespread ecological damage.

Field is the founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and faculty director of Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. He serves as co-chair of Working Group II of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

—ROB JORDAN, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

A Stanford perspective, 50 years in the making

June 17th, 2013

LARRY HORTON, senior associate vice president for government and community relations, recently shared a video he created in 2012 for his 50th Stanford reunion. He was inspired to make the video after stumbling upon some old photographs he’d taken as a Stanford junior in 1961 from the top of Hoover Tower.

“In those days, there was no barrier above the waist, and one had wonderful, unimpeded views in all directions. I took some snapshots with a plain camera. I did not think much about the photos, and they languished for decades at the bottom of some box,” Horton recalled.

“A few years ago, I stumbled on to them. And a while later, I thought perhaps I should take similar photos from the same spots, but I did little about it. Then I discussed this in 2011 with LAURA JONES, our campus archeologist, and she said I simply had to do it, and I should do it in that year so that I would have a neat 50-year interval,” added Horton, who received the Kenneth M. Cuthbertson Award for Exceptional Contributions to Stanford University at Sunday’s Commencement.

Horton’s photos are accompanied by the Fleet Street Singers’ rendition of the Stanford Hymn.