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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

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Arrested

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York The elected Superintendent of Highways for the Town of Smithtown was arrested Wednesday for allegedly covering up that a paving project he ordered had violated New York State regulations, authorities said.Glenn Jorgensen pleaded not guilty at Suffolk County court to felony charges of tampering with public records, falsisying business records and offering a false instrument for filing as well as a misdemeanor count of official misconduct.Prosecutors said the 63-year-old St. James man allegedly ordered road construction reports be altered to conceal his approval of paving of at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures in November, then directed a highway foreman to alter the records to misrepresent the weather conditions during the repaving work. The contractor was identified as Selden-based Suffolk Asphalt Corporation.“State Department of Transportation construction standards dictate asphalt must not be applied to a road surface in freezing temperatures, and in fact, the town’s own engineer has said repaving in freezing weather would result in the asphalt falling apart,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.  “The repaving of a residential street doesn’t happen that often and when it does, residents are paying for a job done correctly, not a faulty repaving that will soon need pothole repair work.”Jorgensen allegedly stole the work order for the improper repaving and took the official documents home, where investigators found the records in his bedroom, under his bed, in his house on Hope Place, authorities said.Jorgensen’s Hauppauge-based attorney, Anthony La Pinta, maintained his client’s innocence.Jorgensen, who worked for the Smithtown highway department for 37 years, was elected in 2009 to lead a staff of 140 employees tasked with snow removal as well as paving, drainage and other maintenance of more than 450 miles of roads and curbs in the town. The department has a $30 million annual budget. He was re-elected two years ago.last_img read more

Artificial intelligence gears up to fight a future coronavirus

first_imgDisease outbreaks like the coronavirus often unfold too quickly for scientists to find a cure. But in the future, artificial intelligence could help researchers do a better job.While it’s probably too late for the fledgling technology to play a major role in the current epidemic, there’s hope for the next outbreaks. AI is good at combing through mounds of data to find connections that make it easier to determine what kinds of treatments could work or which experiments to pursue next.The question is what Big Data will come up with when it only gets meager scraps of information on a newly emerged illness like Covid-19, which first emerged late last year in China and has sickened more than 75,000 people in about two months.The fact that researchers managed to produce the gene sequencing of the new virus within weeks of the first reported cases is promising, since it shows there’s far more immediate data available now when outbreaks happen.Andrew Hopkins, chief executive officer of Oxford, England-based startup Exscientia Ltd. is among those working to help train artificial intelligence for drug discovery. He figures new treatments could go from conception to clinical testing in as little as 18 to 24 months within the next decade, thanks to AI.Exscientia designed a new compound for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder that’s ready to be tested in the lab after less than a year in the initial research phase. That’s about five times faster than average, according to the company.Cambridge-based Healx has a similar approach, but it uses machine learning to find new uses for existing drugs. Both companies feed their algorithms with information — gleaned from sources such as journals, biomedical databases and clinical trials — to help suggest new treatments for diseases.Human SupervisionThe two companies each use a team of human researchers to work alongside the AI to help guide the process. In Exscientia’s approach, dubbed the Centaur Chemist, drug designers help teach the algorithms strategies for searching for compounds. Healx puts the AI’s predictions to researchers who analyze the results and decide what to pursue.Neil Thompson, Healx’s chief science officer, said the technique could be deployed against an outbreak like the coronavirus as long as it had enough data on the new disease. Healx isn’t working on tackling the coronavirus or tweaking its technology for outbreaks, but it wouldn’t be a stretch.“We’re quite close,” Thompson said in an interview. “We wouldn’t need to change much about the AI algorithms we use. We look at matching drug properties to disease features.”One catch for all these technologies is clinical testing. Even drugs already safe for use to cure one ailment should be tested again before they’re prescribed for another. The process of showing they are safe and effective on a large number of people can take years before going to regulators for review.To be effective, AI-based drug developers would have to plan ahead of time, picking out a virus genome likely to cause problems in the future and targeting it when there are few incentives to do so.Read more about how drugmakers are hunting for ways to halt the coronavirus.Another obstacle is finding qualified staff.“It’s hard to find people who can operate at the intersection of AI and biology, and it’s difficult for big companies to make quick decisions on technology like this,” said Irina Haivas, a partner at venture capital firm Atomico and former surgeon who sits on the board of Healx. “It’s not enough to be an AI engineer, you have to understand and get into the applications of biology.”Topics :last_img read more

Update on the latest in sports:

first_imgUpdate on the latest in sports: Golf returns to TV with charity skins matchUNDATED (AP) — Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson headline a $3 million charity match on May 17 that marks the return of televised golf. They will be partners against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a skins match called “TaylorMade Driving Relief.” All the money goes to COVID-19 relief.McIlroy and Johnson will be playing for the American Nurses Foundation, while the Oklahoma State alumni team will be playing for the CDC Foundation.The match will be played at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida. It will be the club’s first event to be shown on TV.VIRUS OUTBREAK-REAL HEROES PROJECT Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditNFL-OBIT-SHULAWinningest NFL coach Don Shula dead at 90MIAMI (AP) — Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula has died at his home in South Florida. He was 90. May 4, 2020 BOSTON (AP) — New Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo said on Monday that he is fully healthy and he will be ready for the season — if there is one.Verdugo has used the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic to rehab a stress fracture in his spine he already had when Boston acquired him from the Dodgers in the deal that sent Mookie Betts to Los Angeles on the eve of spring training. At the time, the Red Sox said he was not expected to break camp with the rest of the ballclub; Verdugo had said he may be ready “slightly after” opening day.Verdugo said he remained active at home after the Red Sox complex in Fort Myers, Florida, was shut down. But things have been easier since he was allowed to return to the ballpark last week, and he is now working out four days a week. Because of social distancing mandates, the only other player he has seen there is pitcher Chris Sale.COLLEGE BASKETBALL-LOUISVILLENCAA accuses Louisville basketball of recruiting violations The Miami Dolphins say Shula died Monday morning.He won the most games of any NFL coach and led the Dolphins to the only perfect season in league history.Shula surpassed George Halas’ league-record 324 victories in 1993. He retired following the 1995 season with 347 wins, 173 losses and six ties, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.Shula became the only coach to guide an NFL team through a perfect season when the 1972 Dolphins went 17-0. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says that if there were a Mount Rushmore for the NFL, Don Shula would be chiseled into the granite. NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole aren’t the only major leaguers with a big financial incentive to get back on the field.While they head a starry quartet that would take in more than $200,000 per game, 65 players would earn at least $100,000 each time their team wins or loses.That’s according to an Associated Press analysis of their contracts.Most rookies and those making the minimum would get nearly $3,500 each from a major league payroll of about $24 million per game. Clubs would benefit, too, with huge revenue streams flowing from regional sports networks and national broadcast contracts.GOLF-SEMINOLE MATCHcenter_img In other NFL moves:— The Dallas Cowboys have made room for new backup quarterback Andy Dalton by waiving the player who sat behind Dak Prescott for most of the past three seasons. Cooper Rush saw mop-up duty in five games. Prescott hasn’t missed a game in his four seasons. Dalton, a former Cincinnati starter, is guaranteed at least $3 million in his one-year contract.— Former third-round pick Nazair Jones was one of four players waived by the Seattle Seahawks as the team reached its 90-man roster limit. Jones, running back Adam Choice, defensive tackle Shakir Soto and linebacker Pita Taumoepenu were all released Monday. Jones was the only one to have played in a game for Seattle.MLB-RED SOX-VERDUGORed Sox OF Verdugo says he’ll be ready for start of season Sports greats celebrate health care workersUNDATED (AP) — New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky and U.S. women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd are among the athletes who are participating in a project which will recognize and celebrate health care workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.“The Real Heroes Project” is a collaborative initiative among 15 leagues, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer.Participating athletes will share a personal thank you message on social media utilizing #TheRealHeroes from today. Athletes will cover their name on their jerseys or uniforms and replace it with the name of the health care worker they are honoring.Public service announcements will debut on Wednesday across league and team platforms. Other leagues also are participating.,Tampa Bay Lightning advance to face Dallas Stars in Stanley Cup finals, beating New York Islanders 2-1 in OT in Game 6 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA that accuses its men’s basketball program of committing a Level I violation with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits and several Level II violations that accuse former Cardinals coach Rick Pitino of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.The notice is the completion of a nearly two-year NCAA investigation.Louisville acknowledged its involvement in federal corruption investigation of college basketball related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II, which led to the ousters of Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich in October 2017.VIRUS OUTBREAK-BASEBALL SALARIESAP Exclusive: Trout, Cole top 65 to earn $100,000 per game NFL-BEARS-GINNBears sign Ted Ginn Jr. to one-year dealLAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears have signed wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to a one-year contract.A 13-year veteran who has played in Super Bowls with San Francisco and Carolina, Ginn caught 30 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns with New Orleans last season. He has 409 receptions for 5,702 yards and 33 touchdowns for Miami, San Francisco, Arizona, Carolina and New Orleans.Ginn has returned 257 punts for 2,600 yards with four touchdowns and 307 kickoffs for 6,899 yards and three TDs. He is one of 10 players to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. In 2009 he became the first to run back two for 100 yards in the same game. Associated Press last_img read more

Socially acceptable: NCAA rules changes give coaches new way to connect to recruits

first_img Published on January 30, 2013 at 12:31 am Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbb College coaches love the new recruiting rule. High school coaches don’t.In June, the NCAA approved a rule that permits Division-I men’s basketball coaches to send unlimited text messages and make unlimited phone calls to recruits who have finished their sophomore year of high school. The rule also allows college coaches to send private messages to their prospects via Facebook and Twitter. Any public messages about a team’s recruiting efforts are still prohibited.“I think it’s been a great change in the fact that it allows us as coaches and also the prospects to further develop a relationship,” said Matthew Graves, associate head coach at Butler. “It’s been a big positive, especially being able to text a recruit after he’s had a big game. It’s more of an immediate response.”Previously, the NCAA limited the coaches’ ability to contact players to just one phone call per month. The NCAA approved the deregulation as part of a new recruiting model intended to help develop stronger relationships between coaches and recruits while limiting the influence of third parties. On Aug. 1, a similar rule will be applied to NCAA football recruiters.Six months after the rule was put into effect in basketball, coaches at the college level are pleased with the outcome of the rule and how the recruiting process has evolved.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBefore the NCAA altered the rules, recruiters’ options were limited to sending emails, a hand-written note or relaying a message through a high school or AAU coach, Graves said. Now, recruiters can receive feedback from a player much more quickly after a notable performance by either the recruit or the college team.Some recruiters use direct messages on Twitter to interact with players, but Graves and Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins said they use Twitter to follow recruits and keep themselves informed of the recruiting spectrum.Twitter is also useful to build hype around a program, Hopkins said. He pointed to how Kentucky head coach John Calipari has tweeted about his interactions with celebrities such as Jay-Z and Charlie Sheen, tweets that could catch the eyes of a potential Wildcat.But for one-on-one communication, Graves and Hopkins don’t use Twitter or Facebook. They instead use phone calls and text messaging, two methods that Syracuse commit Ron Patterson said he preferred to be contacted by during his recruiting period.Hopkins said face-to-face exchanges are optimal, but being able to respond to texts at his convenience makes texting a valuable tool as well. The ability to text more than one recruit at a time is another perk of texting for Hopkins. Even 68-year-old Jim Boeheim texts, Hopkins said.“I’m telling you, it’s about texting. It’s awesome,” Hopkins said. “It’s a form of communication where they know you’re still actively recruiting them.”Hopkins doesn’t like to be an “overbearing” recruiter, which he thinks can be a positive and negative mentality. When building a relationship with a recruit, he said, it’s important to gauge just how frequently the recruiter should speak with the player.Graves said text messages have become so popular among recruiters because of the very prospects with which they interact.“Let’s face it, that’s the way kids like to communicate, via text, and they can do it on their own time,” Graves said. “And you’re not being overly intrusive and it’s just been a great way to open up another way to communicate.”The best recruiters, Graves said, will find the best ways to recruit, whether they use hand-written notes or adapt to new technology to communicate. A younger coach doesn’t necessarily have an edge over an older coach, said Jon Boon, the head coach at Bishop Kearney High School in Rochester, N.Y.Boeheim still lands good recruits, Boon said, and so does Duke’s 65-year-old head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Age isn’t a big factor in how recruiting is communicated, Boon said.“To be honest with you, it doesn’t really change a whole lot because they don’t contact the high school coaches very much anyway,” said Boon. “… They have too much direct contact, in my opinion.”Boon said recruiting violations and ongoing investigations across the country are the results of players and recruiters directly communicating with each other. Nobody is required to inform a high school coach when recruiters contact his players, he said.Since June, the NCAA has investigated UCLA – owner of the No. 2 recruiting class in the country – Central Florida, Tennessee and Saint Mary’s for potential violations.Cheaters will cheat, Boon said, regardless of how the process works. But violators now have an easier path to do so, since they aren’t required to communicate through anybody else.Boon said a third person needs to oversee the recruiter-recruit interaction. The procedure would improve for everyone, he said, if it returned to the way it used to operate, when recruiters contacted recruits through the high school.“I don’t know if there’s a right answer to the whole situation,” Boon said. “I just think there’s too much direct contact with the kids.”Recently, there was a football player at Bishop Kearney, Boon recalled, who was overwhelmed by the 30-40 phone calls he received each night from college coaches who were permitted to contact him directly – there was a brief period where the rule fluctuated.“He hastily made a decision to go to a school and by his own account, he made the wrong decision. And he had no one to kind of help him,” Boon said. “But the way the system is set up, it’s not done that way.”He has issues with the new rules, but Boon admitted he would recruit the same way if he were in that position.Carl Arrigale, the head basketball coach at Neumann-Goretti High School in Philadelphia, has an issue with college coaches texting players during school hours, distracting them from their classes. It takes away from the recruits’ high school experience, he believes.Still, he recognizes the complexity of the situation.“To be honest with you, I’m saying there should be restrictions on what you can do, (but) who’s going to know? It’s such a hard thing to monitor,” Arrigale said. “I mean, coaches get fired when they don’t have winning seasons anymore, so you almost can’t blame them for wanting an advantage. They need players to survive. It’s a catch-22.”Graves agreed the system isn’t fair, but believes it’s because of a “staff-to-staff issue,” not an issue with the rules. When Butler’s coaches recruit, Graves said, they keep the high school coaches as involved and informed as possible because they feel it’s the proper way to communicate.Regardless of whether the NCAA’s rules are flawed, Graves said it’s imperative that recruiters obey them and uphold the standards of the NCAA as they compete against each other for the next generation of student-athletes.“I think it’s our job as coaches to be responsible,” Graves said. “To utilize it in a way that will help enhance the process and getting to know not only the recruit, but their whole situation.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more