Cynthia 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.”
Rubbernecking members of Harvard’s Finals Club watch the parade from their perch. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer A Hasty affair An onlooker tries for the perfect Snapchat. Photo by Shraddha Gupta Daniel Hughes ’18 and Kerry Washington attempted to eat a barrel of popcorn, a favorite food of Olivia Pope, the character played by Washington on the hit show “Scandal.” Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer The Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year parade kicks off. Photo by Shraddha Gupta The parade draws a big crowd on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer No stranger to “Scandal,” Woman of the Year Kerry Washington beholds the spectacle. Photo by Shraddha Gupta Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ 66th Woman of the Year brought a touch of scandal to Harvard Square on Thursday. Kerry Washington, known to many as Olivia Pope from Shonda Rhimes’ hit TV show “Scandal,” came to campus for a day of celebration and to receive the Pudding Pot, Hasty’s highest honor.Washington, who arrived in a spirited mood from the L.A. set of “Scandal,” first embarked on a tour of the historic Hasty Pudding Clubhouse, led by group historians Dan Milaschewski ’17 and Betty Lema ’17. Emerging from an initiation ceremony in the basement, she said, “I actually feel closer to all of you.”Next came a stop to sign the guest book, and then she was given her medal and ceremonial scarf.“This is beautiful,” Washington said.“Do you promise to wear it every day?” a Hasty Pudding member joked.Raising her hands in the air, Washington exclaimed, “Best day ever!”For millions of Americans, watching “Scandal” on Thursday nights is like gathering around an electronic campfire. At Harvard, the Black Students Association hosts screenings at different locations around campus.Washington, whose performance in the show has made her a star, took some time during her visit to talk about her work, saying she was initially hesitant about getting into television.“It was a little bit of a leap into the unknown,” she said. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life to pursue that character [Olivia Pope], then to get it was such a gift.”Per tradition, Hasty Pudding members dressed in drag paraded Washington down Massachusetts Ave. On either side of the car, fans yelled “Kerry!” in hopes of getting a wave. One spectator remarked, “I think we really connected,” after a return wave from Washington.,Among the crowd was a group of friends whose bond developed when they started live-Tweeting one another five years ago during “Scandal” watch nights. They finally connected in person after all choosing Boston colleges, and reunited again for the parade.After the parade comes the roast, where Washington revised her “best day ever” to “best worst day ever.” The guest of honor was subjected to a number of harsh challenges to earn her Pudding Pot, smashing everything from a piñata to a series of balloons emblazoned with her face.“That’s, like, against my Neutrogena contract!” Washington joked in response.When presented with a laptop, Washington turned to the audience in shock. “Someone needs that!” she said. After Hasty members assured her it was already broken, she reluctantly agreed to the task.In her acceptance speech, Washington offered some words of advice. “Don’t stop stepping into other people’s shoes,” she said, perhaps a reference to the elaborate costumes of her Hasty hosts. “Repeat after me,” she implored the crowd, “I will never forget how lucky I am to be here.” And just as no one says no to Olivia Pope, the crowd obliged.
Disease 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 :
Associated Press TEAM LEADERS: Garrison Brooks has averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds to lead the charge for the Tar Heels. Complementing Brooks is Cole Anthony, who is accounting for 12.2 points per game. The Demon Deacons are led by Olivier Sarr, who is averaging 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds.SPARKING THE OFFENSE: Anthony has had his hand in 45 percent of all North Carolina field goals over the last five games. The freshman guard has 36 field goals and 25 assists in those games.SCORING THRESHOLDS: North Carolina is 0-10 when its offense scores 65 points or fewer. Wake Forest is a perfect 6-0 when it holds opponents to 64 or fewer points.UNBEATEN WHEN: Wake Forest is a perfect 6-0 when it holds an opponent to 64 points or fewer. The Demon Deacons are 7-15 when opponents score more than 64.DID YOU KNOW: Wake Forest has attempted the sixth-most free throws in all of Division I. The Demon Deacons have averaged 24.4 free throws per game and 29 per game over their last five games. March 2, 2020 UNC looks for home win vs Wake Forest Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditWake Forest (13-15, 6-12) vs. North Carolina (12-17, 5-13)Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Tuesday, 7 p.m. ESTBOTTOM LINE: North Carolina looks for its fifth straight win over Wake Forest at Dean E. Smith Center. The last victory for the Demon Deacons at North Carolina was an 82-69 win on Jan. 20, 2010. ___For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25___This was generated by Automated Insights, http://www.automatedinsights.com/ap, using data from STATS LLC, https://www.stats.com