Archive for March, 2011

Anirudh Rao’s first-hand account of the quake in Japan

March 14th, 2011

dish_Tokyo_233Doctoral student ANIRUDH RAO is back on the Farm safe and sound following a harrowing trip to Japan. Rao, who is working on his PhD in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was in Tokyo last week for a conference on urban earthquake engineering. He was on his way home and had just cleared security at Narita International Airport when what he called a “megaquake” hit Japan, followed by a tsunami.

In an email he sent to colleagues on Friday, Rao wrote:

“After a few seconds of confusion somebody shouted “Earthquake” and I looked around for an exit – the nearest one was 100 ft away. Meanwhile, my legs turned to jelly. Stuff started falling off desks and a couple of windows at the adjoining terminal fell off. We ran out of the building holding the plastic trays from security over our heads. The epicenter was 400 km from Tokyo, but the motion was really violent, the airport building shook for at least a couple of minutes and everyone was scared. 

I went in to get my stuff after the shaking stopped (I had [left]my passport and all documents, laptop etc. inside the building), but after 20 minutes the aftershocks started arriving. The largest aftershock was M7.1 and everyone rushed out again. Then all flights got cancelled and the airport was evacuated.

Structural engineers arrived at the airport in an hour, and after about 90 minutes of inspection started letting a few people in to use the restrooms. Then it started raining outside and the authorities finally let everyone come back inside the airport. Everyone is sleeping in the airport today at least it seems. They are distributing food, water and sleeping bags now. All transportation in and out of the airport (and I think all of Tokyo) is shut down. Internet access is flaky at best and news relating to the quake has been limited in reaching us stranded at the airport. “

Rao noted that there were regular updates. For the first three hours those messages were in Japanese, but after that they were translated into English.

He sent the News Service a few updates and photos he took with his cell phone.  And on Sunday afternoon he wrote to say that he had made it back to Stanford Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, Stanford continues to monitor events related to the earthquake and tsunami, as well as damage to nuclear power plants.

JOHN PEARSON, director of Bechtel International Center sent an email on Friday to all international students and post-docs from Japan expressing concern for those who might have loved ones affected by this tragedy:

“We are very saddened to hear the news of the major earthquake in your country. We hope that you have been able to make contact with your family and that they are safe. 
 If you feel there is anything at all that Bechtel, or other campus offices, can help you with, please do not hesitate to let us know. 

To find out about community members who may be affected by the disaster, or if you have been affected, contact Pearson or SHALINI BHUTANI, student services officer at Bechtel International Center.

Hadly awarded a Leopold Leadership Fellowship

March 11th, 2011

LIZ HADLY, professor of biology, is one of 20 environmental researchers from across North America to be awarded Leopold Leadership Fellowships for 2011. Hadly’s research focuses on the evolution and ecology of mammals and their response to climate change over time.

Based at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, the Leopold Leadership Program was founded in 1998 to help academic scientists make their knowledge accessible to decision makers. Each year the program selects up to 20 mid-career environmental researchers as fellows. They receive intensive leadership and communications training to help them engage effectively with policymakers, journalists, business leaders and communities confronting complex decisions about sustainability and the environment.

“Academic scientists work hard to understand environmental problems and to develop potential solutions, but to actually solve problems requires communication and a two-way flow of information between scientists and decision makers,” said PAMELA MATSON, dean of Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences and scientific director of the program. “The Leopold Leadership Program trains academics to close the gap between knowledge and action,” Matson added.

Women’s Tennis’ winning streak

March 10th, 2011

Back Row: Associate Head Coach Frankie Brennan, Volunteer Assistant Coach Frankie Brennan, Kristie Ahn, Elizabeth Ecker, Stacey Tan, Hilary Barte, Natalie Dillon, Head Coach Lele Forood. Front Row: Carolyn McVeigh, Jennifer Yen, Veronica Li, Amelia Herring, Mallory Burdette, Nicole Gibbs.

Back Row: Associate Head Coach Frankie Brennan, Volunteer Assistant Coach Frankie Brennan, Kristie Ahn, Elizabeth Ecker, Stacey Tan, Hilary Barte, Natalie Dillon, Head Coach Lele Forood. Front Row: Carolyn McVeigh, Jennifer Yen, Veronica Li, Amelia Herring, Mallory Burdette, Nicole Gibbs.

The last time the Cardinal Women’s Tennis team lost a match on its home court, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and Ricky Martin were at the top of the music charts, and Bill Clinton was in the White House. It was Feb. 27, 1999, when Cal pulled a 5-4 upset. As of March 7 of this year, the team was recognized as enjoying the longest active home winning streak of any intercollegiate sport in NCAA Division I athletics with a 173-match winning streak overall in contests played at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium. That’s 141 victories in a row during regular-season play, combined with a 32-0 record in NCAA Tournament matches played at home.

Read the full announcement – and find out what else was happening in 1999 – on the Athletics website.

Bebbo and Kito are at it again

March 9th, 2011

whatonearthOnce again, research out of Stanford was the subject Neil Wagner’s comic strip/blog “What on Earth?” which is featured on National Public Radio’s “Science Friday” website. Wagner’s post includes a link to a Stanford News article by Science Writer LOUIS BERGERON about a study co-authored by Stanford researcher MARK Z. JACOBSON and UC-Davis researcher MARK A. DELUCCHI. The study found that converting the world’s energy supplies to clean and sustainable sources can be done with today’s technology at costs roughly comparable to conventional energy. Wagner’s cartoon characters,  Bebbo, a polar bear, and Kito, a puffin, weighed in on Stanford research on heat waves last summer.

NASA takes top honors in Blood Center’s ‘Donor Cup’

March 8th, 2011
Teri Castrejon of NASA-Ames accepts the 2010 Donor Cup for its employee blood drives for the Stanford Blood Center.

Stanford Blood Center's Donor Recruiter Clayton Toller hands Teri Castrejon of NASA-Ames the 2010 Donor Cup for NASA's employee blood drives for the Stanford Blood Center.

NASA took top honors in the 2010 “Donor Cup” — a friendly competition sponsored by the Stanford Blood Center in which local tech organizations rolled up their sleeves to out-give their competitors. Rounding out the top five were SLAC, NVIDIA, Cisco and Brocade.

Donor Cup blood drives, hosted by 27 different tech-based organizations in the Bay Area throughout last year, were ranked and evaluated in several categories, including most units collected, highest percentage of first-time donors and percentage of participation. CLAYTON TOLLER, a donor recruiter for the Blood Center with a penchant for sports statistics, used NASCAR-style ranking to determine the winners of the competition.

“To even be eligible to compete in Donor Cup, companies had to host at least four blood drives in 2010,” Toller said. “That alone makes each of the 27 participants already a big contributor to the local blood supply.”

The full announcement is available on the School of Medicine’s website.

–Brooke Wilson

On a clear day . . .

March 7th, 2011


Over the past two years, the Graduate School of Business has periodically hired SkyHawk photography to record the progress of construction of the Knight Management Center. On Feb. 6, SkyHawk was engaged to fly over the nearly completed 12.5-acre site. “It was unusually clear and they took the opportunity to show the entire Stanford setting, including San Francisco Bay and the Diablo Range,” says Cathy Castillo, of the business school’s office of Marketing and Communications. The result is this stunning photograph.

Cardinal football channels Dr. Seuss

March 4th, 2011

Junior Michael Thomas helps celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday. Click photo for other pictures.

Stanford football players, staff and alumni celebrated the birthday of Dr. Seuss on Wednesday with students at three local elementary and middle schools as part of the Read Across America program. Read Across America Day, the National Education Association’s national reading celebration, takes place each year on or near March 2, the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote under the name of Dr. Seuss. The event is designed to celebrate the popular author and to highlight the importance of reading in America’s elementary and middle schools. For a full list of participants and a gallery of photos, visit

Obama awards Rampersad a National Humanities Medal

March 3rd, 2011

Click the photo to view a video of the White House ceremony.

ARNOLD RAMPERSAD, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, has been awarded a National Humanities Medal. The medals were presented by President Obama Wednesday during a White House ceremony. Rampersad, whose award-winning books have profiled W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson and Ralph Ellison, was cited for his work as a biographer and literary critic. The other humanities medalists for 2010 were authors Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth and WENDELL E. BERRY, a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford; historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood; literary scholars Daniel Aaron and Roberto González Echevarría; cultural historian Jacques Barzun; and legal historian and higher education policy expert Stanley Nider Katz. The full announcement is available on the National Endowment for the Humanities website.

Provost shares his freshman exchanges with parents

March 2nd, 2011
Provost John Etchemendy speaking at Parents' Weekend

Provost John Etchemendy speaking at Parents' Weekend

During each New Student Orientation for the past 10 years, PROVOST JOHN ETCHEMENDY has given freshmen a three-part assignment to complete by the end of the quarter—often much to their surprise.

As part of the assignment, he asks them, first, to get to know a faculty member really well; second, to ask a question in class that scares them; and, third, to explain a concept to a fellow student who is confused. Over 10 years, the assignment has been given to more than 16,000 freshmen. At the end of fall quarter, he emails the freshmen and asks for a report. Hundreds respond, and the provost emails them back in kind.

And, at every Parents’ Weekend, Etchemendy shares a sampling of the responses with parents during his welcome address.

Etchemendy explained to parents during this year’s Parents’ Weekend: “The assignment is designed to get them to fully embrace the intellectual culture of Stanford. … It is a privilege to share these exchanges with them, to hear about their hopes, fears, successes and, yes, even the things they perceive as failures.”

Over the years, Etchemendy has received a wide variety of responses, including requests for dating advice. And some intrepid freshman always asks what a provost does, anyway.

Etchemendy described to parents one of his favorite responses from this year:

“One student said how happy he is that he came, but admitted that he had never heard of Stanford before someone suggested he apply. He wrote: ‘I didn’t know that Stanford existed. I always thought it was a T-shirt manufacturer.’”

Throughout the years, a few themes consistently arise. “Freshmen are invariably amazed to learn that faculty members are, as they put it, actually human,” he said.

“Here’s a typical response about getting to know a faculty member: ‘I never had the chance before to get to know a teacher outside of the school environment. I never really talked about my teachers’ personal lives. And it was a big eye-opener to realize that, yes, professors with PhDs and amazing resumes are normal people, too.’”

He continued, “This year, I read a lot of amazing stories about the discussions students have with faculty over dinners sponsored by residence halls. One described, quote, ‘some truly wonderful conversations ranging from life in the Midwest to … risqué chemistry jokes.’ Well, our faculty may be normal, but I can’t vouch for their sense of humor.”

Etchemendy also read from “one of the most thoughtful responses I’ve received” this year:

“Here is a small part of what that student wrote: ‘Fall quarter was beautiful but also a struggle for me. I felt overwhelmed one day, only to wake up the next feeling I wasn’t taking full advantage of everything Stanford and the amazing people here have to offer. …

“‘In short, I wanted it all. But that just isn’t feasible. As I pondered my fall quarter experience … I realized the root of all the sadness I had experienced during that time. No matter where I was or who I was with, I always felt I was missing out on something. I couldn’t be happy because the grass always looked greener over there, but once I got “there” I would see another place with possibly even greener grass.

“‘I now know that I need to be happy with my choices and not constantly second-guess myself. I must learn to be contented with a decision after I come to it. All of this blabber I wrote is trying to express these last two sentences.’”

Etchemendy uses the exchanges as a way to give parents a window into their children’s experiences and to offer them advice about how to help their kids succeed at Stanford.

“During the next several days, I hope you will avoid asking your sons or daughters about their grades and, instead, ask the same questions I did. Have they gotten to know their teachers? Do they study with other students, and have they learned from one another? Have they participated in class and asked questions that scare them? And, finally, are they having any fun?”

See the photo slideshow for more coverage of Parents’ Weekend.

Women’s basketball wins 11th straight Pac-10 title; 60th consecutive win at Maples

March 1st, 2011

dish_women_PlayersJEANETTE POHLEN scored 20 points and KAYLA PEDERSEN had 13 points and 10 rebounds as Stanford clinched its 11th straight Pac-10 championship with a 99-60 victory over Oregon on Saturday.

“It’s not easy to stay healthy, to compete. If it was easy, more people would do it,” Coach TARA VANDERVEER said of her program’s incredible run.

The Cardinal dominated in every phase to set a new home record with its 60th consecutive win at Maples Pavilion. The team hasn’t lost at home in more than four seasons.

Stanford also got a boost with the return of NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE, reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year, who had 4 points and 4 rebounds in only 12 minutes after missing the last two games with a sprained right ankle.

“It’s debatable who’s the best team in the country,” Oregon coach Paul Westhead said. “[Stanford] would certainly get my vote.”

Read the full story on the Stanford Athletics website.