Houghton skips to Green Leaf Four, Tozzer earns Leaf One

first_imgOn the heels of the Harvard College Library Green Team’s announced target of Green Leaf One certification for all libraries by January 1, two more units have met or surpassed the goal.  Harvard’s Office of Sustainability (OFS) recently recognized Tozzer Library for achieving Green Leaf One and Houghton Library for achieving Green Leaf Four, becoming just the seventh workspace University-wide, and the second library workspace, along with HCL Operations, to reach the Green Office Program’s highest level.Though completing all four levels at once was challenging, Houghton came to the process with two advantages. First, many of the steps outlined in the program, such as adjusting thermostats, installing occupancy sensors and using compact-fluorescent bulbs, had been initiated centrally by HCL Operations. In addition, the library had already met some of the criteria, thanks to the work of the Houghton “Greening” the Library Task Force, created as part of Houghton’s three-year strategic plan.Formed in the spring of 2009, as the HCL Green Team was convening, the Houghton task force was charged with identifying and recommending actions to help the library go green, including seeking Green Office certification. Other steps included increasing signage to keep staff and patrons informed about recycling, holding green orientation sessions for staff, pursuing projects to reduce energy consumption, like installing additional occupancy sensors, and reducing waste through the use of double-sided printing and redesigning library stationery.“When we started to work on Green Office certification, a good part of our homework had already been done,” said Staff Assistant Monique Duhaime, who led the process and serves as Houghton’s representative on the HCL Green Team. “It was still an intensive process to look at every single certification requirement, but once we got people’s attention, I think staff got excited. Going forward, it’s important we stay active and keep looking for ways to improve.”At Tozzer, Acquisitions Assistant Sarah Kasten echoed Duhaime, and credited the library’s environmentally-conscious staff with making the process easy.“We already had people who were focused on steps like printing on both sides of paper, or reusing office supplies,” she said. “I think the real value of the Green Office Program is that it provides some recognition of what we are already doing, which is a morale booster.”In addition to HCL Operations, Houghton, and Tozzer, the Harvard Map Collection recently received Leaf One certification.  Although not an HCL unit, the Harvard University Archives resides in Pusey and is a member of the HCL Green Team. They recently reached Leaf Two. Work is also under way on Green Office certification for units in Widener and Lamont libraries.last_img read more

Art and catastrophe

first_imgAt the reception, Vlad Vepryev, a Ukraine-born graduate student in government at the Harvard Extension School, peered intently at the photographs. He was 12 when Chernobyl went up in radioactive smoke. A few days later, the political elite of his town, which was  more than 100 miles  from the unreported disaster, watched the May Day parade on a hot spring day. In a parody of radiation protection, they were dressed in winter clothes and wearing outsized sunglasses — not yet ready to share the secret with the public at large.And D’Avignon’s  photo show? “It’s a clear picture of regular life,” said Vepryev , “regular life in the Ukrainian countryside without any chance of going back.”The photo exhibit is on display at the Knafel Building’s Fischer Commons through Aug. 12. Twenty-five years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster, that single word still packs enormous power. Chernobyl is now a deserted city in northern Ukraine, but for some people it is also a nine-letter argument for eliminating nuclear power.Tuesday of this week (April 26) marked the quarter-century anniversary of the accident, which released 400 times the radiation as the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima.Smoke-borne radiation from an explosion and fire at Reactor No. 4 contaminated 2,600 square kilometers, and penetrated parts of Belarus, Russia, and Europe. Nearby, 350,000 people were evacuated, including 50,000 from Prypiat, a workers’ city a few kilometers away. To this day, it is a spooky ghost town, whose abandoned ferris wheel has become an iconic image of sudden disaster.Stress likely took a greater toll following the accident than radiation did, said Harvard Kennedy School Associate Professor Matthew Bunn, an expert on nuclear energy, proliferation, theft, and terrorism. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerThe Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University commemorated Chernobyl with a one-day workshop April 26. Scholars discussed the disaster’s ecological consequences, its psychological toll, and its meaning for the future of nuclear power internationally.Historian Paul Josephson of Colby College remarked on the world’s still incomplete understanding of the health effects of ionizing radiation, but estimated that the accident will spawn 50,000 extra cancer deaths. Meanwhile, he said, the natural environment — trees, wildlife, and cropland — is recovering with surprising rapidity.Independent researcher Tammy Lynch, a fellow at the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy at Boston University, looked at Chernobyl’s impact on local life and politics. The real story of Chernobyl is personal and not scientific, she said, and 2.4 million residents of the former Soviet Union have the status of being “Chernobyl-affected.”Stress likely took a greater toll following the accident than radiation did, said Harvard Kennedy School Associate Professor Matthew Bunn, an expert on nuclear energy, proliferation, theft, and terrorism.But he said the still-unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan — though now the only other Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale — has so far released only 10 percent of Chernobyl’s radiation, and most of it to the sea.The pictures capture what was left behind in the hurried (though delayed) evacuation of Prypiat: a jar on a kitchen windowsill, cloudy with age; a pot hung to dry on a fence post; shoes scattered on a kindergarten floor; a dusty chair on an apartment balcony.“Chernobyl was really a very different story,” mostly because of the Soviet Union’s clumsy attempts to conceal the accident, Bunn told National Public Radio in an April 27 interview.  But the accident focused the world anew on safety at nuclear power plants, which today are “dramatically safer” than 25 years ago.After the workshop concluded, art was a means of reflection too. About 20 visitors attended an opening reception for “The Day the Ferris Wheel Stood Still,” an exhibit of Chernobyl photos on display at the Knafel Building’s Fischer Commons through Aug. 12.The photos — haunting and hopeful all at the same time — were culled from thousands taken by onetime National Geographic photographer Tania D’Avignon. Born in the Ukraine, she has made eight visits to post-accident Chernobyl since 1988.“What we see here is social history,” said Lubomyr Hajda, associate director of Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute, the exhibit sponsor. “It’s not simply the story of an event in physics.”And true enough, the photos tell the human side of the story. One called “Death Bridge” was taken from a span overlooking the reactor. Just after the accident, children lined the railing there to watch. None of them, D’Avignon said, survived.Other photos, “faces from the zone,” are frank close-ups of big, grizzled men in high fur hats, some of them the “accident liquidators” who survived to be photographed.The pictures capture what was left behind in the hurried (though delayed) evacuation of Prypiat: a jar on a kitchen windowsill, cloudy with age; a pot hung to dry on a fence post; shoes scattered on a kindergarten floor; a dusty chair on an apartment balcony. Next to it, a sapling juts high out of the flagstones.“It’s fantastic that nature is coming back,” said D’Avignon, “but the reason it’s coming back is sad.” Animals, trees, and grasses that have not thrived for a long time are reviving within the 30-kilometer exclusion zone, she said, “only because this is a condemned area.”Nature reasserting itself brings a kind of beauty. In one photo a fallen fence lies in a fan of boards. House shutters are weathered to a mosaic of cracked paint.There is hope within catastrophe and ruin, too. Some of D’Avignon’s subjects are the visitors to the cemeteries within the exclusion zones, when once a year — on the Sunday following Easter — former residents are invited back to pay respects to the dead. In one picture, two old women in black headscarves picnic on the cemetery grass, laying out a meal of pickled eggs, brown bread, and vodka.Other photos depict the scattering of elderly Ukrainian samosely, or “self settlers,” who have moved back into the rural environs of Chernobyl to farm in the peace of a deserted area. In one photo, a cheerful burly man in a cap strides along a dirt path, followed by pecking chickens. “They are so happy to be there,” she said of the elderly pioneers. “They eat everything.”D’Avignon moved to the United States with her parents at age 7 and in 1964 started revisiting her homeland as a recent art school graduate. In 1986, she started eight years as a contract photographer with National Geographic.During her first visit to the disaster area, in 1988, D’Avignon was struck by the silence. “There were no sounds. There were no birds singing,” she said of her springtime visit. “There was nothing. It was just the wind.”Shoes scattered on a kindergarten floor are among the images captured by onetime National Geographic photographer Tania D’Avignon.last_img read more

In the Arboretum, another world

first_imgDriving through city streets to Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain is not a ride meant for an out-of-towner. Snaking my way out of congested Harvard Square, I pass over the detour-ridden BU Bridge and finally onto the Arborway, where other motorists nearly squeeze me out on the narrow turns.But when I finally park the car and step into the lush forest in the city, I can’t help but be transformed. It is the same aaah moment you experience when you pass through the gritty underbelly at Fenway into the gorgeous lush green of the ball field on the other side. You just can’t help but smile.The Arboretum is so serene and languid it seems imaginary. On a warm summer day, dogs and runners and bicyclists all share the nearly silent space under the shade of giant and rare trees of odd shapes and sizes. On Conifer Path, raspberries grow under a Ponderosa pine. The tree’s five arms jut out from its central trunk, looking oddly like the spokes on the wheels of the bicycles that pass by. The crimson-colored trunk of a Japanese red pine is conspicuous in the depth of its color yet at home among other rare conifers on Bussey Hill.In 1872, Benjamin Bussey bequeathed the land to Harvard College “for the creation of an institution for instruction in farming, horticulture, botany, and related fields.” His philosophy continues to this day. Signs along pathways read “Experiment in progress” and “What’s going on?” instructing visitors who might be curious about why branches of bushes are wrapped in plastic bags, or why they shouldn’t step on newly planted moss.If you listen carefully, you can hear the cars buzzing along the Arborway, but mostly you hear the birds, the wind, and the soft laughter of the other visitors, transformed by the beauty of the Arboretum and our shared good fortune of experiencing an aaah moment in the middle of a crowded city. Branching out: A spoke-like tree. Afternoon delight White oaks jut out from this diaphanous field. Behind the locked gate: Majestic plants await behind the Hunnewell Building’s spiraled gate. Dewy: Blossoms stretch for the honeyed light at the Arnold Arboretum. Moss and stones in Arnold Arboretum. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer This Japanese Red Pine frays and splinters in the sun. Juicy: A raspberry plant bears fruit. Lover’s lane: A couple meanders through the Arboretum.last_img read more

The grad students’ guru

first_imgCynthia Verba may be the premier authority on French Enlightenment composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. But the work she is best known for makes no mention of music theory or Gallic philosophy.The title, like its author, brings to mind a more genteel time in academe: “Scholarly Pursuits.” It’s Verba’s calling card, a dissertation on the dissertation  — and everything else that graduate students encounter on the road to becoming professors.“My family teases me because this gets more hits than my first book on Rameau,” Verba said, holding up a bound copy of her volume published by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), where she is director of fellowships.In more than three decades at Harvard, Verba has become a professional guru for graduate students trying to get ever-more-competitive fellowships and tenure-track jobs. She’s also a scholar in her own right, which allows her a special kinship with the students who show up to her Holyoke Center office looking to improve drafts of their application essays.“I don’t see music scholarship as an escape from my everyday world, nor do I see my everyday world as an answer to the loneliness of writing,” she said.Verba has developed a reputation as a sharp editor and a dispenser of tough love. One Harvard student created a Facebook group devoted to the advising experience: “Cynthia Verba Still Makes Me Cry — But Sometimes They’re Tears of Joy!!”“She is not there to make you feel great about your draft,” said Kirstin Scott, a second-year student in the interdisciplinary health policy doctoral program. “She’s there to help ensure you walk out with a strong essay or a plan for how to improve it.”With Verba’s help, Scott secured federal funding from both the National Science Foundation and the Jacob K. Javits Fellowships Program (though she ultimately had to decline the latter). Scott has become an acolyte, recommending Verba to incoming Ph.D. students every chance she gets. “I feel incredibly indebted to her,” Scott said.Verba’s Harvard connection dates back more than 50 years ago, when she met her husband, then “a very sophisticated Harvard sophomore,” while working as a camp counselor. (The dashing sophomore, Sidney Verba, went on to become a respected political scientist and director of the Harvard Library, and now holds the title of Carl H. Pforzheimer University Research Professor Emeritus.)Verba earned a master’s degree at Stanford and a doctorate in musicology at the University of Chicago while raising the couple’s three daughters. The family settled at Harvard for her husband’s appointment, and in 1978 she took a job advising graduate students at Harvard’s Office of Career Services. At the time, Harvard had no professional counseling for Ph.D. candidates.“This was a brand new field,” Verba said. Doctoral students “were surrounded by scholars, and yet no one thought to tell them how to become a scholar.”She found she was making up ways to help as she went along. “My husband says an idea doesn’t exist until you can write it down,” she said. So she did, drafting “Scholarly Pursuits” in the early 1980s and helping to professionalize a new administrative field in higher education.She transitioned into her current position at GSAS in 1986. Until three years ago, she also taught music history at Harvard Extension School.At the start, Verba made two promises to herself: that she would continue to pursue her scholarly passion — her work on Rameau — and that any advice she gave her student advisees she would follow herself.She kept her word. Her first book, “Music and the French Enlightenment: Reconstruction of a Dialogue, 1750-1764,” was published by Oxford Clarendon Press in 1993, and “Dramatic Expression in Rameau’s Tragédie Lyrique: Between Tradition and Enlightenment” is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.“It’s my goal to help students, but it’s also in my own interest to be practicing what I preach,” she said. “I do not find it easy to go to publishers and say, ‘You’ll love my book,’ [or] to contact French scholars and say, ‘Would you be willing to read a draft?’ So I know when I tell students to do it, I’m giving them a challenge.”Despite its obstacles, the life of a scholar is rich with rewards, Verba said. She relishes the chance to see graduate students thrive in their disciplines.“I think they’re all crazy,” she said, stopping abruptly to clarify. “Crazy like an artist, because of their deep commitment. I have that feeling about my life, and I like to see it in theirs.”last_img read more

Anita Hill looks back, and ahead

first_imgShe was at Harvard to discuss the themes in her new book, but audience members couldn’t resist the chance to engage with the author about her time at the center of a national political firestorm.Several thanked her for her efforts. One said she “spoke truth to power.”When asked whether she would consider a position on the U.S. Supreme Court, instead of sidestepping the question, Anita Hill offered a refreshingly candid response. “Wouldn’t that be awkward,” she told the full house at the Radcliffe Gymnasium on Nov. 17, later adding, “It would be hard for me to give up the opportunity to do the work I am doing now.”During the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, Hill, a young law professor at the time, accused Thomas of sexual harassment. He eventually was confirmed to the office. But her testimony sparked a national dialogue, created a “new awareness of gender discrimination in the workplace,” and brought the topic “sensationally into the open,” said Nancy Cott, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library.Now a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University, Hill said her current work has been largely shaped by what followed her earlier experience. In the years after the hearings, she received thousands of letters from people detailing their own experiences with discrimination or harassment. Those stories in large part encouraged her to redirect her approach to civil rights work “through the lens of people who had experienced profound inequality.”Her new book, “Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home,” does just that, probing the importance of the concept of home as a central element for the search for gender and racial equality through personal stories and anecdotes. In the work, she traces a 100-year search for the American Dream, beginning with her own family (her great-grandparents and her maternal grandfather were born into slavery), and ending with the subprime mortgage meltdown.A dominant notion of freedom for African-American women in the late 19th century was embodied in their desire to have a physical home beyond the shadows of slavery — to move, Hill said, “from being property to owning property.”That desire was later transferred to the developing urban areas of the 1930s, as African-American men and women pursued jobs, greater equality, and freedom within city limits. Later, the search for equality involved an attempt to move to the suburbs in the 1950s, and transitions into larger homes in the 1980s and beyond.But along the way, policies and perceptions have hampered the search for true equality in the home, said Hill. Even as women were breaking the bonds of slavery, they were still unable to own property in their name. After migrating to cities, African Americans lived in cramped spaces referred to by author Isabel Wilkerson as “virtual slave cabins stacked on top of one another,” and many worked in service jobs in the upscale homes of whites. In the 1950s, most suburbs, said Hill, were racially restricted, in large part owing to government policies.Popular culture of the 1980s began to symbolize equality through television shows like the sitcom ‘The Jeffersons,’ ” said Hill. But instead of offering a notion of equality as represented by a move toward community, a struggle to understand each others’ differences, and a final coming together — like the story told in Lorraine Hansberry’s famous play “A Raisin in the Sun,” about a black family’s experience in a subdivision of Chicago — “equality for the Jeffersons was achieving opulence. It was sort of setting yourself apart from others.”Today, Hill argued, equality in the home requires a close examination of the decisions that need to be made to ensure people can enjoy a dwelling where they can “safely view the world … and enjoy all the opportunities that society has to offer,” including access to good schools, healthy food, and safe streets.It also requires the type of public engagement that followed the explosive 1991 hearing.“What moved things, what changed harassment in the workplace, was the public engagement with it and the public reaction,” Hill said. “If we begin to start to engage with some of these issues around home … then I believe we could start to change.”Hill’s presentation was the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s 2011–2012 Maurine and Robert Rothschild Lecture.last_img read more

Senior named Global Health Fellow

first_imgHarvard College senior Mary Davies ’13 has been named a Global Health Fellow with Medical Missionaries. Davies, a social science and global health policy concentrator, will defer attending medical school for one year to work at St. Joseph’s Clinic in Thomassique, Haiti. At the clinic, Davies and the other fellows will assist staff, oversee community health programs such as a school lunch program and a water purification program, and help visiting teams of doctors, nurses, and dentists.Davies has held leadership positions in several community development projects in Cambridge. She has also tutored middle-school students, served as a peer counselor through the Cambridge After School Program, and volunteered as an HIV/AIDS educator in Tanzania, where she studied gender issues in Tanzania and in South Africa. She intends to pursue a joint M.D.-M.P.H. program following her fellowship.last_img read more

New coating creates ‘superglass’

first_imgA new transparent, bioinspired coating makes ordinary glass tough, self-cleaning and incredibly slippery, a team from Harvard University reported online July 31 in Nature Communications.The new coating could be used to create durable, scratch-resistant lenses for eyeglasses, self-cleaning windows, improved solar panels and new medical diagnostic devices, said principal investigator Joanna Aizenberg, who is the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and professor of chemistry and chemical biology.The new coating builds on an award-winning technology that Aizenberg and her team pioneered called Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS)—the slipperiest synthetic surface known. The new coating is equally slippery, but more durable and fully transparent. Together these advances solve longstanding challenges in creating commercially useful materials that repel almost everything.The tiny, tightly packed cells of the honeycomb structure, shown here in this electron micrograph, make the SLIPS coating highly durable.SLIPS was inspired by the slick strategy of the carnivorous pitcher plant, which lures insects onto the ultraslippery surface of its leaves, where they slide to their doom. SLIPS’ thin layer of liquid lubricant allows liquids to flow easily over the surface, much as a thin layer of water on an ice rink helps an ice skater glide. (See video.) Unlike earlier water-repelling materials, SLIPS repels oil and sticky liquids like honey, and it resists ice formation and bacterial biofilms as well.Aizenberg and her colleagues sought to develop a coating that accomplishes this, but extends those capabilities further. The new SLIPS design surpasses existing coatings, which can be quite robust but not slippery or transparent, or, alternatively, transparent but not mechanically stable or repellent enough, Aizenberg said.“The SLIPS-like coating is mechanically stable and has a long-lasting performance as a slippery surface because it’s composed of a sturdy honeycomb-like structure that holds lubricant in tiny, container-like pits,” said lead author Nicolas Vogel, a postdoctoral fellow in applied physics at SEAS.To create this coating, the researchers corral a collection of tiny spherical particles of polystyrene, the main ingredient of Styrofoam, on a flat glass surface like a collection of Ping-Pong balls. They pour liquid glass on them until the balls are more than half buried in glass. After the glass solidifies, they burn away the beads, leaving a network of craters that resembles a honeycomb. They then coat that honeycomb with the same liquid lubricant used in SLIPS.Applying the SLIPS-like coating to glass slides confers unmatched mechanical robustness. Slides treated this way withstood damage and remained slippery after various treatments that can scratch and compromise ordinary glass surfaces and other popular liquid-repellent materials, including touching, peeling off a piece of tape, and wiping with a tissue.These glass slides with the SLIPS coating also repelled a variety of liquids, just as SLIPS does, including water, octane, wine, olive oil and ketchup. And, like SLIPS, the coating reduced the adhesion of ice to a glass slide by 99 percent. Keeping materials frost-free is important because adhered ice can take down power lines, decrease the energy efficiency of cooling systems, delay airplanes, and lead buildings to collapse.By adjusting the width of the honeycomb cells to make them much smaller in diameter than the wavelength of visible light, the researchers made the coating completely transparent.The researchers were also able to apply the SLIPS-like coating to glass slides in a pattern that confines liquid to specific areas—an ability that’s important for various lab-on-a-chip applications and medical diagnostics.“We set ourselves a challenging goal: to design a versatile coating that’s as good as SLIPS but much easier to apply, transparent, and much tougher—and that is what we managed,” Aizenberg said.The team is now honing its method to better coat curved pieces of glass as well as clear plastics such as Plexiglas, and to adapt the method for the rigors of manufacturing.“Joanna’s new SLIPS coating reveals the power of following nature’s lead in developing new technologies,” said Donald E. Ingber, founding director of the Wyss Institute, Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS, and Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. “We are excited about the range of applications that could use this innovative coating.”This work was funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Wyss Institute. Nicolas Vogel received funding from the Leopoldina Fellowship program. In addition to Vogel and Aizenberg, the research team included: Rebecca A. Belisle, a former Wyss research assistant who is now a graduate student in materials science and engineering at Stanford University; Benjamin Hatton, formerly a research appointee at SEAS and a technology development fellow at the Wyss Institute who is now an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Toronto; and Tak-Sing Wong, a former postdoctoral research fellow at the Wyss Institute who is now an assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering at Penn State University.last_img read more

Deep devotion, explored

first_img <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60jmpX08Mpc” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/60jmpX08Mpc/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a> Removed from the frenzy of move-in day, and the buzz of Freshman Convocation — a relatively new, but increasingly popular part of the undergraduate experience — is the longstanding Harvard Divinity School (HDS) convocation service.The ceremony seems an appropriate tradition for Harvard, founded in 1636 at the edge of a New England wilderness to educate Puritan ministers. (HDS was established in 1816 as the first nonsectarian theological institution in the United States.)On Thursday afternoon the solemn tradition unfolded for the 198th time. Under a white tent behind Andover Hall, members of the School gathered to welcome a new academic year and to explore a sometimes overlooked yet vital part of the HDS experience: devotion.Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies Stephanie Paulsell delivered the ceremony’s keynote address, “Devotion in the Study of Religion.” She joked with the crowd that while some would immediately connect with her topic, others would likely complain, “devotion is not what I signed up for when I decided to come to Harvard.”But Paulsell offered her listeners a nuanced approach to the subject, by way of two vastly different texts: The Bible’s “Song of Songs,” and an excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse.”Many consider the biblical poem — a dialogue between two lovers seeking to express in words their devotion to each other — “an oddity,” said Paulsell. But for her, the work, an excerpt from which was read early in the service, “is a fathomless pool of meaning.”“The unknowableness, born of devotion, seems at the heart of what this poem is trying to say. … [And] that unknowable more, that is at the heart of romantic love, is also at the heart of the study of religion,” she added.The best scholarship, ministry, and art are “marked by the unknowable more,” said Paulsell, a desire to delve the “limits of our knowing.”HDS Convocation August 29, 2013 The Harvard Divinity School Convocation featured a welcome from Dean David N. Hempton and an address by Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies Stephanie Paulsell.Woolf (1882-1941) deftly tapped those depths of devotion. The writer’s life, said Paulsell, was committed to exploring the “infinite possibilities furled in human beings and in human experience.”In Woolf’s modernist and most autobiographical novel “To the Lighthouse,” the artist Lily Briscoe struggles to capture the image of a woman on canvas. “Fifty pairs of eyes were not enough to get round that one woman with,” read Paulsell from Woolf’s narrative.“The unknowable more is Woolf’s great subject,” Paulsell added, “and her central artistic preoccupation. She sought new literary forms, which reflected what she called ‘the populist, undifferentiated chaos of life.’”A common feeling in “Songs,” Woolf’s novels, and “hopefully your work and mine,” Paulsell told her listeners, is a devotion that cherishes and responds to the “unknowable more” of human experience with a sense of creativity, new perspectives, and new light.Dean David N. Hempton opened the service with his trademark wit. “Welcome everyone on this beautiful, beautiful Irish day; soft rain, gray skies, the coolest day since July 20. This is perfection.”With is closing remarks he thanked Paulsell for her inspiring address, for “the breadth of its embrace and the depth of its moral vision, as we have to face both our histories and our own times.”last_img read more

A century of changes in public health

first_img Read Full Story Harvard School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk discussed changes in the field of public health since the School’s founding a century ago in a December 3, 2013 article for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s NewPublicHealth blog. The article is one of several on the blog focusing on HSPH’s Centennial.“The 100 years that have passed since the School of Public Health was founded are not just any 100 years—they’re the 100 years with the most intense transformations in health in human history,” Frenk told NewPublicHealth. “We have seen a more than doubling of life expectancy since the school was founded. Around 1900, the global average for life expectancy was 30 years. At the end of the century, the global average was about 65 years. It more than doubled in the 20th century, and that increase has continued with some setbacks, most notably the AIDS epidemic in [Sub-]Saharan Africa. And we have had a qualitative shift not just in the level of mortality, but in the causes of death. So we went from a preponderance of acute infections to now a predominance of mostly chronic non-communicable diseases, and that’s an incredible transition.”last_img read more

In search of nature’s camouflage

first_imgScientists at Harvard University and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) hope that gaining a new understanding of a natural photonic device that enables a small sea animal to change its colors dynamically will inspire development of improved camouflage for soldiers on battlefields.The cuttlefish, known as the “chameleon of the sea,” can rapidly alter both the color and pattern of its skin, helping it blend in with its surroundings and avoid predators. In a paper to be published tomorrow in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the Harvard-MBL team reports new details on the sophisticated biomolecular nanophotonic system underlying the cuttlefish’s color-changing ways.“Nature solved the riddle of adaptive camouflage a long time ago,” said Kevin Kit Parker, Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. “Now, the challenge is to reverse-engineer this system in a cost-efficient, synthetic system that is amenable to mass manufacturing.”In addition to textiles for military camouflage, the findings could also have applications in materials for paints, cosmetics, and consumer electronics.The cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) is a cephalopod, like squid and octopuses. Neurally controlled, pigmented organs called chromatophores allow it to change its appearance in response to visual cues, but scientists have had an incomplete understanding of the biological, chemical, and optical functions that make this adaptive coloration possible.To regulate its color, the cuttlefish relies on a vertically arranged assembly of three optical components: the leucophore, a near-perfect light scatterer that reflects it uniformly over the entire visible spectrum; the iridophore, a reflector containing a stack of thin films; and the chromatophore. This layering enables the skin of the animal to selectively absorb or reflect light of different colors, said coauthor Leila F. Deravi, a research associate in bioengineering at SEAS.“Chromatophores were previously considered to be pigmentary organs that acted simply as selective color filters,” Deravi said. “But our results suggest that they play a more complex role; they contain luminescent protein nanostructures that enable the cuttlefish to make quick and elaborate changes in its skin pigmentation.”When the cuttlefish actuates its coloration system, each chromatophore expands. The surface area can change as much as 500 percent. The Harvard-MBL team showed that within the chromatophore, tethered pigment granules regulate light through absorbance, reflection, and fluorescence, in effect functioning as nanoscale photonic elements, even as the chromatophore changes in size.“The cuttlefish uses an ingenious approach to materials composition and structure, one that we have never employed in our engineered displays,” said coauthor Evelyn Hu, Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and of Electrical Engineering at SEAS. “It is extremely challenging for us to replicate the mechanisms that the cuttlefish uses. For example, we cannot yet engineer materials that have the elasticity to expand 500 percent in surface area. And were we able to do that, the richness of color of the expanded and unexpanded material would be dramatically different. Think of stretching and shrinking a balloon. The cuttlefish may have found a way to compensate for this change in richness of color by being an ‘active’ light emitter (fluorescent), not simply modulating light through passive reflection.”The team also included Roger Hanlon and his colleagues at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Hanlon’s lab has examined adaptive coloration in the cuttlefish and other invertebrates for many years.“Cuttlefish skin is unique for its dynamic patterning and speed of change,” Hanlon said. “Deciphering the relative roles of pigments and reflectors in soft, flexible skin is a key step to translating the principles of actuation to materials science and engineering. This collaborative project expanded our breadth of inquiry and uncovered several useful surprises, such as the tether system that connects the individual pigment granules.”Parker is an Army reservist who completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan, so using the cuttlefish to find a biologically inspired design for new types of military camouflage carries special meaning for him. Poor camouflage patterns can cost lives on the battlefield.“Throughout history, people have dreamed of having an ‘invisible suit,’” Parker said. “Nature solved that problem, and now it’s up to us to replicate this genius, so, like the cuttlefish, we can avoid our predators.”In addition to Parker, Hu, Hanlon, and Deravi, the co-authors of the “Interface” paper are Andrew P. Magyar, a former postdoctoral student in Hu’s group; Sean P. Sheehy, a graduate student in Parker’s group; and George R.R. Bell, Lydia M. Mäthger, Stephen L. Senft, Trevor J. Wardill, and Alan M. Kuzirian, who work with Hanlon in the Program in Sensory Physiology and Behavior at the MBL.The work was supported in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center at Harvard, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the NSF-supported Harvard Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.last_img read more