Archive for the ‘Great reads’ Category

Verghese to receive Heinz Award

February 28th, 2014

verghese-150-13ABRAHAM VERGHESE, professor of medicine and best-selling author of the novel Cutting for Stone, has been selected to receive the $250,000 Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities.

“Dr. Verghese’s widely acclaimed writings touch the heart and inform the soul, giving people of all walks of life a true understanding of what it is to heal the whole person — not just physically, but emotionally,” TERESA HEINZ, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, said in a news release announcing the annual Heinz Awards in five different categories: arts and humanities; the environment; the human condition; public policy and technology; and the economy and employment.

Verghese is vice chair for the theory and practice of medicine. He is a strong advocate for the value of bedside manner and the physical exam — skills he sees as waning in an era of increasingly sophisticated medical technology.

“As a teacher and a caregiver, Dr. Verghese has shown how the best physicians are those who understand that healing is about more than medicine,” said LLOYD MINOR, dean of the medical school. “As a writer, he has shared this message broadly, reminding us all of the enduring power of the human touch.”

Cutting for Stone was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years. Verghese’s first book, My Own Country, a memoir about AIDS in rural Tennessee, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has been published extensively in the medical literature. His writing also has appeared in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, among other magazines.

“In my work as a writer, I have always tried to convey the notion that medicine is a uniquely human, person-to-person endeavor,” Verghese said. “In my view, it is a ministry with a calling.”

The Heinz Awards are given in memory of U.S. Sen. JOHN HEINZ, a Pennsylvania Republican who died in 1991.

The 19th annual awards will be presented April 3 during a private ceremony at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.


Willinsky honored for developing Open Access platform

February 14th, 2014

John Willinsky

JOHN WILLINSKY had just finished collaborating with a local newspaper on a big project when he made a discovery that would shape his academic career: He was surprised to find out that he couldn’t re-publish his own research online with the package of articles on education.

“That was a turning point,” Willinsky, a professor in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, said of that moment. “I realized something was wrong with this picture.”

Willinsky saw how the legal barriers against sharing published research findings and the high cost of academic journals were keeping the public from having access to important work. That epiphany led Willinsky to look into the idea of sharing scholarly research for free. There was no formal Open Access movement at the time (since then, one has blossomed), so he began exploring options to promote his “free to read” idea.

Willinsky founded the Public Knowledge Project and developed Open Journal Systems (OJS), a free, open source platform that allows journals to be more easily and affordably published online. Since then, more than 1.5 million articles have been published in journals using the OJS platform.

For this work, SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, has given Willinsky its semi-annual Innovator Award.

“We’re proud to honor his rich contributions to changing the face of scholarly communication,” said Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, in a news release posted last month. “John is a rare combination of visionary and pragmatic. He understood the benefit of Open Access long before most people, and was also able to build infrastructure that has been absolute crucial to the successful advancement of Open Access journal publishing.”

Willinsky joined the faculty at Stanford in 2008, and his efforts soon led to the Graduate School of Education (GSE) being at the forefront of the Open Access movement: It established, at his behest, one of the first open archives, enabling faculty to provide free copies of their peer-reviewed journal articles to the public. Last year, students at the GSE voted to follow the same policy and also put their work on the archive.

On sabbatical this quarter, Willinsky is writing a book about the history of intellectual property. He also is the author of The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship (MIT Press, 2006), Technologies of Knowing (Beacon, 2000) and Learning to Divide the World: Education at the Empire’s End (Minnesota, 2008), among other titles.

Willinsky has framed his commitment to Open Access as an issue of social justice. For him, Open Access is a way to positively impact the inequity in education that he had observed throughout his career. “It’s so basic in terms of a human right,” said Willinsky of access to knowledge. “The value of learning is in the sharing.”

This item was adapted from an article by freelance writer Caralee Adams for SPARC and a news release that the group issued.

Give her a hand

February 13th, 2014

Hand-photo LYDIA-MARIE JOUBERT, an electon microscopist and senior scientist at Stanford’s Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, won the People’s Choice Award in the illustration category of the 2013 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Her illustration — a hand covered with Pseudomonas bacteria — is titled Human Hand Controlling Bacterial Biofilms. It began as a photograph, as the journal Science explains in its latest issue: “While attending a conference at Gregynog Hall in Wales, Joubert photographed a 1.5-meter-high human hand that reaches out of the soil in the hall’s gardens, sculpted by British artist FRANCIS HEWLETT. Then she overlaid micrographs of cultured biofilms, which had been stained with molecular probes to indicate the health of the cells. Those colored green are resistant to antimicrobial treatment — only a rare few are red, indicating that they have been vanquished.” Covering the hand are Pseudomonas bacteria. This item was posted on the Medical School’s news website.

Stanford student journalists win James Robinson awards

February 10th, 2014
Kurt Chirbas

Kurt Chirbas

KURT CHIRBAS, a Stanford senior and a staff writer for the Stanford Daily, has received first prize for the 2013 James Robinson Award for Student Journalists. WINSTON SHI, a sophomore, received second prize.

The award was established in honor of the late JAMES ROBINSON, an award-winning journalist who served as editor of Stanford Report.

Chirbas, an English and economics major, has written for the Daily since the fall of his freshman year in 2010.

“In fact,” he wrote in an email after being notified that he’d won the James Robinson Award, “I was assigned my first Daily story before my first day of Stanford class!”

Since then, Chirbas has had stints as news desk editor and managing editor for the Daily and last summer worked for the Sacramento Bee‘s feature and metro desks.

His submission for the James Robinson Award competition was a two-part series of articles on student representation and participation on university committees.

“I was really just inspired by a rhetorical question that Vice Provost of Student Affairs GREG BOARDMAN had asked during an interview for an earlier story: ‘Is student representation on university committees effective?’ Interested in finding out the answer myself, I tried interviewing as many people involved in the committee system as possible: students, administrators, ASSU officials, etc. I learned how it is important for writing to be clear and concise, but also not to flatten or remove complexities.”

Chirbas’ entry was praised for its enterprising reporting and exhaustive research.

“Kurt’s stories were enlightening, even for those of us who have a vague idea of how students participate on university committees,” said ELAINE RAY, director of campus communications, who was one of the award judges. “After exploring the committee structure, he delved deeply into how effectively students were engaged with the work of the committees and how they were communicating that engagement back to their peers. It is clear from his writing that Kurt embarked on the project with no preconceived notions, just a deep intellectual curiosity.”

Anatomy of a strength coach

Winston Shi

Winston Shi

Shi, who has not yet declared a major, also has worked for the Daily since his freshman year, serving as an editorial board member, a columnist and a senior staff writer. Currently, he is managing editor of the Opinions section of the Daily. For the James Robinson Award he wrote a three-part series on SHANNON TURLEY, the Cardinal football team’s strength coach.

“Writing, and journalism in particular, brings a certain sense of perspective – you get to see firsthand things you don’t normally get to see. Being at the intersection of so many different paths and characters, all the while telling a fun story – that’s the best part of journalism,” Shi wrote.

Robinson, a graduate of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, joined the Stanford News Service in 1998 following a distinguished career in daily journalism that included reporting jobs at The Republican (Springfield, Mass.), Hartford Courant, Houston Chronicle and Agence France-Presse.

Under Robinson’s editorship, Stanford Report won a Gold Medal for Excellence from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in 2002. Robinson, a native of Newton, Mass., died in January 2004 of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He and his family established the award prior to his death.

“James Robinson was an uncommonly gifted writer and a sage observer of the human condition. He used language instrumentally, employing the fewest possible words to convey the greatest possible meaning.  Winston writes much the same way  — and with similar results, ” said COIT BLACKER, a professor in International Studies and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute. Blacker also is Shi’s academic adviser.  ”I think James would be delighted with Winston’s selection for any number of reasons, but mostly because he would detect in him a kindred spirit.”

In addition to Ray, 2013 award committee included LISA LAPIN, associate vice president for public affairs and director of university communications; BRAD HAYWARD, senior director, strategic communications; and LISA TREI, associate director of communications in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Chirbas received a $3,000 prize. Shi received an award of $2,000.


Looking back on ’85 Super Bowl evokes time when Stanford played host

January 30th, 2014

Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium. Miami Dolphins vs. San Francisco 49ers. Field play. (Photo by Chuck Painter for Stanford News Service)

 In January 1985, the Bay Area hosted its first and only Super Bowl – at Stanford Stadium.

Led by JOE MONTANA, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Miami Dolphins, 38-16. That is the game story, but how exactly did the NFL’s biggest game wind up on the Farm?

According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, DONALD KENNEDY, university president at the time, was asked in 1982 to consider the stadium for a Super Bowl site by QUENTIN KOPP, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Kopp wanted to bring the NFL’s premier event to the Bay Area, and in doing his homework found that Stanford Stadium – not Candlestick Park nor the Oakland Coliseum – was the only Bay Area venue that met the NFL criteria for hosting a Super Bowl.

Stanford Stadium originally opened in 1921 as a football and track venue, an earthen horseshoe with wooden bleacher seating and flooring set on a steel frame. Its original seating capacity was 60,000, which grew to 89,000 by 1927 as a nearly enclosed bowl. Though it’s hard today to imagine a Super Bowl crowd sitting on wooden bleachers, back then it was a large enough facility to host the sprawling event.

Kennedy had reservations but he did not want to say no to Bay Area fans. Neither did the City of Palo Alto.

In the weeks leading up to the game, the Monitor described most Palo Alto passers-by as “slightly underwhelmed” at the prospect of the game in their own backyard.

“The people in town are enthusiastic about the 49ers, but there’s an equal amount of trepidation,” said LARRY KLEIN, Palo Alto’s mayor at the time, who compared Stanford hosting the Super Bowl to having a party at the house next door without being invited.

“When you dump 100,000 wild people into a town of 50,000,” a local bookseller told the Monitor, “there’s a crunch. I’m going into hiding.”

On campus, the university reaped some benefits, making $2.3 million worth of improvements to the 60-year-old stadium with the help of private donations and NFL contributions. Apple Computer supplied 86,000 souvenir pillows to cushion the stadium’s splintery benches.

But putting Stanford in the media spotlight had some concerned.

“I’m afraid there’ll be a lot of complaints about the stadium,” said an alumna. “I’ve been going there for 20 years, so I know what it’s like. I have to lean forward with someone’s knees in my back to watch the game. I’m worried about the glitzy-type people who fly in for the Super Bowl and then say, what a rotten place.”

As for students, they were described as evenly divided. “Half the students are going skiing, while the other half are going to hobnob with the tailgaters,” one student said.

Some students attempted to rent out their rooms for the weekend until the administration expressly banned it. Others were appalled at the game’s commercialism. “I find it rather inappropriate,” said an electrical engineering doctoral student. “Having a major media event at a university seems beyond the bounds of why the university is here.”

Faculty members seemed subdued, the Monitor reported, but this game offered a local connection to the 49ers. The late ELIE ABEL, then chairman of the Department of Communication, said, “Most faculty people have more than a passing interest in the game and its outcome. We’re thought of as elitists, but we share a common allegiance to the 49ers.”

Ah, the 49ers – the second Bay Area-hosted Super Bowl will be played in 2016 at the team’s new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

How much did the tickets cost for Stanford’s Super Bowl in ’85? About $60 – compare that to an average ticket price of $2,862 for Sunday’s MetLife Stadium matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, according to the New York Post.

Kennedy told the Monitor reporter about being deluged with ticket requests. Referencing Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Stanford two years earlier, he told his colleagues, “I am now in a position to inform you that members of this academic community clearly have more interest in a professional football contest than in lunching with a reigning monarch.”


Carter, Reardon elected to National Academy of Education

January 24th, 2014
Sean Reardon and Prudence Carter

Sean Reardon and Prudence Carter

PRUDENCE CARTER AND SEAN REARDON, sociologists in the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), have been elected to membership in the National Academy of Education (NAEd). They were cited for their outstanding scholarship on the effects of race and class on education and the barriers they impose to social mobility and achieving equity.

The NAEd works to advance education research and to promote its use in developing education policy and practice. The group has produced reports on such pressing national education issues as student achievement assessments and teacher education. In addition, it offers professional development fellowship programs that support the preparation of the next generation of scholars.

Stanford and New York University were the only institutions to have two faculty members among this year’s group of 14 newly elected scholars, according to a recent statement from the academy. Stanford has more NAEd members — 21 of 184 — than any other university.

Carter, professor of education and faculty director of the GSE’s John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, examines academic and mobility differences attributable to race, ethnicity, class and gender, and she consults with educators about measures to address disparities. She is the author of the award-winning Keepin’ It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White (Oxford 2005) and more recently Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. and South African Schools (Oxford 2012. She also co-edited and contributed to Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give All Children an Even Chance (Oxford 2013). Reardon, professor of education and a member of Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, develops complex data sets so that he can investigate the causes, patterns, trends and consequences of social and educational inequality. In particular, he studies issues of residential and school segregation and of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in academic achievement and educational success.

One of Reardon’s recent studies showed that the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier. It also revealed that the income achievement gap is now nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap, while 50 years ago it was the reverse: the black-white gap was one-and-a-half to two times as large as the income gap.

Read the full story on the GSE website.

Undergraduate trio makes ‘30 Under 30’ list for energy innovation

January 17th, 2014
Daniel Maren, Darren Hau, and Andrew Ponec.  (Photo by Linda Cicero/Stanford News)

Daniel Maren, Darren Hau and Andrew Ponec (Photo: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News)

The editors of Forbes magazine have included three Stanford engineering undergraduates in its annual “30 Under 30″ list in the “Energy and Industry” subcategory for developing a device that can significantly improve the efficiency and reliability of large-scale photovoltaic installations.

DARREN HAU, ’15 (electrical engineering), DANIEL MAREN, ’16 (computer science), and ANDREW PONEC, ’15 (materials science and engineering), all 20 years old, have founded a company, called Dragonfly Systems, and are working to commercialize the product.

The price of solar remains a significant barrier to widespread use. Although the price of solar panels has dropped dramatically over the past several years, the other elements that contribute to the total cost of a solar installation – wiring, labor, maintenance, etc. – have grown from 30 percent to 70 percent. The greatest opportunity to make solar cost effective, the students say, is to tackle this area, termed “balance of systems” costs.

Dragonfly’s device connects directly to the back of a solar panel and can manipulate the panel’s voltage so that it never exceeds a predetermined limit. This allows limiting the voltage to near the maximum power point, called the Vmpp, as opposed to the worst-case open-circuit voltage, or Voc. By guaranteeing that the Dragonfly-augmented solar panel will never exceed a specified limit, the installation can accommodate 30 percent more panels per string.

The three students have taken a leave of absence from Stanford and are grateful for the university’s support in helping them get their device off the ground. The basic idea came to them when they were classmates in an introductory seminar, a course called Green Electronics, that was taught by BILL DALLY, a professor (research) in the School of Engineering, who remains an adviser.

Their independent research project was funded by an Undergraduate Advising and Research small grant, and they later won a TomKat Innovation Transfer award. They said that TomKat’s executive director of innovation transfer, BRIAN BARTHOLOMEUSZ, has been helpful with connecting them to various individuals in the solar industry.

Earlier this month, Forbes published its 2014 “30 Under 30” list of standouts in 15 fields such as finance, law, media and education, including several other Stanford students and alums.

From ‘Stanford’ magazine: These are a few of my favorite things

January 16th, 2014

JACK TAKAHASHI brought his parents’ LP collection to his room in the Eucalypto dorm. His roommate, JOSHUA DESON, has a shelf full of perfumes, from which he chooses a scent to fit his mood for the day. 

In Larkin, KEEP NATHANSON has a piece of memorabilia from the Wheel of Fortune game show, and CLEO CHUNG keeps a bouquet of plastic sunflowers to cheer her up.

In his dorm kitchen in Cardenal, THOMAS BLACKWOOD makes late-night comfort food on a comal, a special type of cast-iron griddle that his grandmother sent him to college with.

Ujamaa resident MUSILA MUNUVE has a Kenyan flag and a map of pre-colonial Africa to remind him of home. ADORIE HOWARD, also a resident of “Uj,” has her guitar, handmade cards, a stuffed animal and some favorite photographs.

NATALIE MARQUES keeps a collage that her mother made for her that contains the words “Good Enough,” a reminder intended to temper the freshman’s perfectionist tendencies.

The eight frosh and their favorite things are featured in an online story written by DANIA MARINSHAW on the Stanford magazine website. All photos by TAMER SHABANI

Student-designed brace gets children with clubfoot on their feet

January 14th, 2014

Stanford students have designed a brace that literally gets young children on their feet. The miraclefeet brace is a lightweight, child- and parent-friendly device created to treat children afflicted with clubfoot.

The brace came out of the Stanford class “Design for Extreme Affordability” at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, better known as the Members of the class were teamed up with nonprofit partners and asked to create a product that would address a real-world need.

Clubfoot is a congenital deformity in which one or both of a child’s feet look like they have been rotated internally at the ankle. The traditional treatment for clubfoot requires years of orthopedic braces and shoes costing hundreds of dollars. In contrast, the price tag for the miraclefeet brace is less than $20.

“Their colorful, injection molded brace locks the patient’s feet into a therapeutic position while the light plastic frame makes it possible for kids to stand and play on their own. People watching the kids bound around in their braces might even think that the device was a new toy,” writes JOSEPH FLAHERTY in a recent article in Wired magazine

The video below features JEFF YANG, a graduate student in materials science and engineering, and IAN CONNOLLY, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, in Brazil as they demonstrate their design in action.





Xiaolin Zheng hailed as a ‘leading global thinker’

January 9th, 2014
Xiaolin Zheng

Xiaolin Zheng

XIAOLIN ZHENG, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has been named one of the world’s 100 leading global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine.

“Xiaolin Zheng has developed what sounds like a toy but is really a groundbreaking engineering feat: the ‘solar sticker,’” the magazine’s citation reads. “It’s a small cell that allows solar power to be generated on virtually any surface. The cell is flexible, about one square centimeter, and one-tenth as thick as plastic wrap, and when attached to an adhesive it functions like a sticker. Critically, it converts the same amount of energy as its rigid, heavier counterparts, but because it bends, it can stick to anything from cell phones to helmets to skylights to clothing. And it’s cheaper to make.”

According to the magazine, Zheng was inspired in part, by her young daughter’s love for stickers.

Read the full citation on the Foreign Policy website.