The passionate players graciously performed two incredible songs from their highly anticipated album, “Poison” and “Alone Together”, before serving up a swoon-worthy version of “Northern Town”. Fruition possesses a magical way of melting fan’s hearts with sweet woes of true romance and lingering loneliness from stories of a decade on the road together. Jay Cobb Anderson (guitar, vocals, harmonica) directed the show into the newer, guitar-heavy tune, “Dirty Thieves”, before Kellen Asebroek (vocals, rhythm guitar, piano) served up the sweet and melodic plea, “Eraser”.Already feeling spoiled, the Austin audience was blown away with what came next—a supercharged version of the tour’s namesake “Fire” sandwiched inside a cover of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”. Yes, this happened, and it was glorious. The set turned next to Labor of Love’s “I Don’t Mind” followed by Asebroek’s tender love song, “The Meaning.”Fruition knew that Austin needed just a little more, though, as the five members quickly returned and left an everlasting impression with the old-time favorite, “Mountain Annie.” The band ended the night with bluesy ballad “I Should Be (On Top Of The World)” followed by a well-rounded “Fallin’ On My Face,” leaving the crowd in an enamored state of fond affection.Fruition – 2/1/-19 – Full Show Audio[Audio: microfishie]For a full list of Fruition’s upcoming tour dates, head to the band’s website. Fruition is a full-fledged force fused together by the powerful mixture of musical prowess, passionate performance, and an authentic aesthetic that captivates any listener who passes in range of their sound waves. Their sound dabbles in various genres, from Americana to folk to soul to blues to rock and roll. Fruition’s balance between their precise, yet raw string playing, as well as soft and soulful harmonies, is without equal, only created when this quintet brings their singular sound to fruition.With musicians from around the country, Fruition was bred in Portland, OR, and gained notoriety from busking on the streets of the rainy rose city. The five-piece has seen an immense amount of progress over the years, with extensive tours, releases, and recognition on a national level. The Portland jamgrass rockers released their latest EP, Fire, last August, and played the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in support of Railroad Earth.Following a heater of a set in Houston, TX on Thursday night, Austin was buzzing with anticipation for Fruition’s February 1st performance at Antone’s Nightclub. Established by Clifford Antone in 1975, the iconic venue is dubbed Austin’s “Home of the Blues.” Known for its intimate vibes and immaculate sound, all in attendance knew they were in for a special treat Friday night treat.Daniel Rodriguez of Elephant Revival kicked off the night, giving fans a taste of his soothing upcoming solo EP, Your Heart, The Stars, The Milky Way, due out on February 15th. Rodriguez will celebrate his forthcoming EP with a special album release party at Boulder, CO’s Fox Theatre on February 13th. For the last four songs of his set, Rodriguez was joined by Fruition’s Tyler Thompson (drums) and Jeff Leonard (bass). It was clear the crowded club was ready for the main act, and soon enough, the five members stepped onto the venue’s small but powerful stage.Fruition opened the night with “Stuck On You” off 2018’s Watching It All Fall Apart, which was notably produced by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Modest Mouse). The insatiable bass line and upbeat lyrics speaking to lost love, made it the perfect selection to get the night rolling. “Turn To Dust”, an extremely palpable tune from the same album, caused the groove to take full effect. “Lay Down Blues” gave a sweet reminder to the audience that the “night time is the right time,” as the crowd completely let go of inhibitions and danced right into fan-favorite “Just One Of Them Nights.”Fruition seems to keep finding a way to dig deeper into their unique and intoxicating music. It is truly the perfect balance of gritty rock and quintessential love songs, featuring the most heavenly of harmonies. Of course, the band cannot deliver this sound without their incredibly talented and hard-working sound engineer, Terry “TLP” Lapointe.Mimi Naja, the band’s do-it-all player (mandolin, vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, bongos), whisked the room away with her divine, yet sultry tunes “Beside You” and “Santa Fe”. Next up came “I’ll Never Sing Your Name Again”, a funky fresh sing-a-long that Fruition is so damn good at delivering. Labor of Love’s “The Way That I Do,” pleased locals with a delightful sit in from Austin’s own Alan Eckert (The Deer).
Load remaining images British funk-rock quartet The New Mastersounds were back at Brooklyn Bowl for a relaxed, but groovy afternoon performance at the New York City venue on Saturday. The band’s weekend stint at the Brooklyn concert venue/bowling alley acted as the final dates on their spring run of North American shows in celebration of their 20th anniversary this year. After getting their New York fans warmed up with a show at “The Bowl” on Friday night, the band was back in action early with a 2 p.m. performance in front of mostly young families as the group eased a mix of adults and kids into what was a perfect spring afternoon in the city on Saturday.Related: The New Mastersounds Announce Three-Night Colorado Run With Ghost-NoteThe 90-minute afternoon set didn’t quite have the musical ferocity for which the band can be known to reach at times. The show was still just as entertaining and full of surprises however as guitarist Eddie Roberts, drummer Simon Allen, bassist Pete Shand, and pianist Joe Tatton treated fans to sit-ins from horn players in addition to singer and recent collaborator, Lamar Williams Jr. Williams, son of former Allman Brothers Band bassist Lamar Williams, joined the band towards the latter end of their afternoon set, where he added some smooth vocals to the mostly-instrumental group in performing the recently-released “Let’s Go Back” and “Trouble”. The addition to Williams added some extra energy as they charged towards the end of their set, which had already been filed with a mix of fantastic back-and-forth lead work from all four members.Scroll down to check out the gallery of photos from Saturday’s afternoon performance below, courtesy of Tom Coyote.The band will continue their 2019 campaign with a brief run of shows in California, Virginia, and Pennsylvania throughout the first half of July. They’ll then return to the U.S. again come fall for another run of shows set to begin on September 27th in Atlanta and continue until October 17th in Chicago. Fans can head to the band’s website for tickets.The New Mastersounds | Brooklyn Bowl | Brooklyn, NY | 5/18/2019 | Photos: Tom Coyote
Birth weights in the United States are on the decline, a study has found. The report, released Thursday, found a small but significant decrease in average birth weights from 1990 to 2005, for reasons that scientists say are unclear…“We were startled by the findings,” said senior author Dr. Emily Oken, assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School. “We tried really hard to explain it away, but we were unable to…”Read more here (Los Angeles Times)
Fasting helps cause an enzyme with several important roles in energy metabolism to turn off the body’s generation of fats and cholesterol, Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have found. The findings could lead to new approaches to treating elevated cholesterol and lipid levels.The researchers’ report, published today in Genes & Development, describes how SIRT1, one of a group of enzymes called sirtuins, suppresses the activity of a family of proteins called SREBPs, which control the body’s synthesis and handling of fats and cholesterol.The study’s lead author is Amy Walker, PhD, of MGH’s Cancer Center, and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. The senior author is Anders Näär, PhD, assistant cell biologist at the MGH Center for Cancer Research, and an associate professor of cell biology at the Harvard Medical School.“This study is significant because it explains the signals that tellthe body to burn fat in response to fasting or dieting,” says David A. Sinclair, PhD, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) who helped discover the genes that code for sirtuins but was not involved with this MGH-led study. “This improved understanding could help treat and prevent metabolic diseases such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.”Under normal conditions, the body produces appropriate levels of fats and cholesterol, both of which are essential to life. A high-fat diet can cause abnormal elevations in fat and cholesterol levels in the blood, which may lead to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other serious disorders. If the body is deprived of food for a short time, it shuts down the production and storage of fat and cholesterol and shifts to using stored fats as the primary source of energy.Explains Walker, “SIRT1 had previously been shown to act as an energy sensor, promoting the use of stored fat in response to fooddeprivation. However, its function in shutting down fat and cholesterol synthesis was unknown. These findings point to SIRT1 as a master regulator of physiologic energy stability that controls the synthesis and storage of fat, as well as its usage as fuel.”Fasting can turn off the activity of SREBP proteins, and the research team investigated whether direct suppression of SREBPs by SIRT1 was responsible for the metabolic shift.A series of experiments in worms, fruit flies and mice showed that the versions of SIRT1 present in those animals suppressed SREBP activity and the associated synthesis and storage of fats. The experiments also showed in mouse and human cells that SIRT1 acts on SREBP by removing a protective molecule, marking the protein for degradation, and that inhibiting SIRT1 activity caused levels of SREBP to rise. Treating genetically obese mice fed a high-fat diet with an agent that increases sirtuin activity suppressed the expression of SREBP-regulated fat synthesis genes and reduced the amount of fat stored in the animals livers.Sirtuins have also been associated with the increased longevity in response to reduced calorie intake observed in several species of animals. Drugs that stimulate sirtuin activity are currently being investigated for treating diabetes and related conditions.“Sirtuin activators could strengthen SIRT1 functions that may be suppressed in individuals with cardiometabolic disorders,” explains Naar. “Our results suggest these agents may be able to ‘trick’ the body into responding as though it was experiencing fasting, with beneficial metabolic consequences, but that hypothesis needs to be tested in future studies.”The study was supported by the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging at HMS and grants from the National Institutes of Health. Additional co-authors of the Genes & Development article are Fajun Yang, Karen Jiang, Jun-Yuan Ji, Toshi Shioda, Peter Mulligan, Hani Najafi-Shoushtari, Josh Black, Jitendra Thakur, Johnathan R Whetstine, Raul Mostoslavsky and Nicholas Dyson, MGH Cancer Center; Jennifer Watts, Washington State University; Aparna Purushotham and Xiaoling Li, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; Olivier Boss, Michael Hirsch, Scott Ribich, Jesse Smith, Kristine Israelian and Christoph Westphal, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals; Joseph Rodgers and Pere Puigserver, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Sarah Elson and Lisa Kadyk, Exelixis, Inc., and Anne Hart, Brown University.
As Harvard celebrates its 375th anniversary, the Gazette is examining key moments and developments over the University’s broad and compelling history.Next time your Global Positioning System (GPS) helps you get from point A to B without pulling out a map, thank Norman Ramsey.A professor emeritus of physics who recently died at 96, Ramsey’s work lay the foundation for the development of the atomic clock, a device that allows scientists to measure time more precisely than ever, and which is a critical component in global positioning systems (GPS).Just as a grandfather clock counts the oscillations of a pendulum to keep time, atomic clocks use the movement of atoms — which oscillate at precise frequencies — to measure time. Using the devices, a second is no longer measured as a fraction of the time it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun, but as the time it take a cesium-133 atom to oscillate 9,192,631,770 times.The advantage of such clocks is in their previously unheard of accuracy. Since every cesium-133 atom oscillates at the same frequency, clocks can be built that neither lose nor gain a second in millions of years. Such precision is critical in a number of scientific fields. Atomic clocks are used to track satellites in deep space, to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity, by astronomers seeking to use multiple radio telescopes to capture images of objects light-years away, and by geologists, who use GPS to track the movement of earthquake fault lines.Despite the apparent ubiquity, however, Ramsey’s work wasn’t initially directed toward hyperprecise measurement of time, but at probing the internal structure of molecules and atoms.When he arrived at Harvard in the late 1940s, Ramsey established a lab aimed at using magnetic resonance — a technique that involved passing a stream of molecules and atoms through rapidly alternating magnetic fields — to study their structure.Inspired by his difficulty in obtaining uniform magnetic fields, however, Ramsey began searching for ways to refine the technique. What he eventually discovered was that separating the magnetic fields, and exposing the molecules and atoms to the fields briefly as they entered and exited a chamber, vastly improved the resolution. Though Ramsey dubbed his discovery the “separated oscillatory fields method,” it has since become known as the Ramsey method, and today is still in use in labs throughout the world.Ramsey’s discovery promised new insight into the structure of the physical world, but other researchers also saw it as a possible key to creating an atomic clock.“The possibility of making an atomic clock had been suggested years earlier, but no one paid much attention to the idea,” said Daniel Kleppner, Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who worked with Ramsey as a student. “When Norman invented the separated oscillatory fields method, people immediately realized this method could make atomic clocks practical.”But while others devoted their attention to using the Ramsey method to develop an atomic clock, Ramsey, with help from Kleppner, turned his attention in another direction: using a maser, or microwave laser, as the basis for an atomic clock. The work led to the invention of the hydrogen maser, a device still used in a host of technological applications, including GPS timing systems and radio astronomy.“He was interested in making a better clock, and the key idea for it was the hydrogen maser,” Kleppner said. “It’s fair to say that the separated oscillatory fields method opened the way to the creation of atomic clocks, but he wanted to create a still-better clock than could be made with the beams method, and that work led to the hydrogen maser.”Though the design of the device has been refined over the years, Ramsey’s essential creation remains unchanged, Kleppner said. Many time labs actually use both types of timepieces. Cesium-133 beam clocks are extremely accurate over the long term, and hydrogen masers, which are accurate in shorter-term, measure time more precisely than ever.The impact of Ramsey’s work is ultimately incalculable, Kleppner said.“His work was the beginning, and the atomic clock has turned out to be transformative on society,” he said. “The GPS system has transformed the world so many ways that people don’t realize. It’s used to transmit information over the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet. It keeps trucks moving across the country in the right way. It’s used in the airline industry. Without it, life would be very different.”Incredibly, though, Ramsey’s separated oscillatory fields method work didn’t just lead to atomic clocks. The method is also one of the key discoveries that led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a medical diagnostic tool, Kleppner said.“I know he took great pleasure in the fact that his early work contributed to the development of MRI,” he said. “He was focused on what seemed like basic problems, but he was confident that the research was worthwhile, and that turned out to be the case.”
Harvard President Drew Faust and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined leaders of local nonprofits, elected officials, and Allston residents at the Honan-Allston Branch Library March 2 to celebrate the nine local nonprofit organizations receiving $100,000 in Harvard-Allston Partnership Fund (HAPF) grants this winter.The event marked the fourth installment of the HAPF, a $500,000 five-year program created in 2008 by Harvard University and the city of Boston in collaboration with the Allston community to support neighborhood improvement projects, cultural enrichment, and educational programming through annual grants of $100,000. Over the past four years, HAPF has infused $400,000 into 19 nonprofits, helping to maintain and expand critical community programming.The library’s community room was filled with people who work together in many ways to improve the Allston-Brighton community, including Rep. Kevin Honan and city councillors Mark Ciommo, Felix Arroyo, and John Connolly.Christine Heenan, vice president of Harvard Public Affairs & Communications, welcomed the audience, acknowledged the important work of the nonprofits represented, and introduced Boston’s mayor as “a good neighbor and great civic leader” who encourages citizens to get to know their neighbors and join with one another in order to reach new heights together.Menino noted the importance of the partnership and its impact on Allston-Brighton residents and local nonprofits during hard economic times.“I want to say to President Faust and this community, ‘Thank you for your partnership,’ ” Menino said. “Nine local organizations are receiving a total of $100,000 to continue their missions. They’re bringing vital services to our families and our seniors and are making a difference in people’s lives,” he added.This winter’s grants will help local nonprofits provide free educational enrichment for Allston-Brighton children and families, job skills training for the disabled, summer camps for youth, volunteer opportunities for Charles River maintenance, and other community support programs such as the Family Nurturing Center, which is using its grant to form its first Chinese Families Playgroup at the Honan-Allston Library. Even the event’s host, the Honan-Allston Library, received a grant for a new teenage center with computers, couches, and chairs through the efforts of the Friends of the Honan-Allston Library.Faust said that the library was a fitting place for the celebration, not only because of its HAPF grant, but also because of the way libraries bring community together — a goal of all the organizations represented in the room.“Supporting the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund is an important part of our ongoing partnership with the Allston-Brighton community,” said Faust, “but it’s really you — the organizations here — that leverage that contribution to create thoughtful and meaningful programs that can have an enormous impact on the community.”While the presence of Menino and Faust, along with elected officials and nonprofit leaders, clearly energized the room, it was the Gardner Pilot Academy’s (GPA) physical education instructor Donnell Stoute, better known as “Mr. D,” and his two young counterparts who stole the show.Stoute said he sees firsthand the impact these funds have on youngsters in after-school and summer programs. Aaliyana Abraham and Andre Robinson, two fourth-grade students who have attended after-school and summer programs at the GPA for four years, spoke about what the programming means to them.“We get to enjoy ourselves, do our homework, and be who we want to be,” said Abraham. Robinson followed with a heart-felt tribute to Stoute and physical fitness.Directors of the GPA after-school program, summer programs, and adult education program said HAPF funds have enabled the GPA to continue providing programs for 130 children and increase the number of parents they serve through adult education classes. “Harvard has been a tremendous community partner through many programs,” said Lauren Fogarty, director of extended learning at the GPA. In addition to the HAPF grants GPA has received (a total of $75,000 over three years), Fogarty noted that the Harvard Achievement Support Initiative (HASI), Harvard Business School mentors, the Harvard Allston Ed Portal, and Harvard Bridge programs all have connections with the GPA.The nine HAPF grant recipients include the Family Nurturing Center of Massachusetts, the Friends of the Honan-Allston Library, the Gardner Pilot Academy, the Oak Square YMCA, The Fishing Academy, The Literacy Connection, a ministry of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, the Vocational Advancement Center (VAC), and the West End House Camp. Each was selected by a seven-person mayor-appointed advisory committee made up of Allston-Brighton community members. The committee carefully scrutinized a pool of applications to identify programs and services that would directly benefit the community. Organizations received grants ranging from $4,000 to almost $25,000.The $4,850 awarded to the Family Nurturing Center of Massachusetts will allow the nonprofit to provide services to a new population at the library, but Valerie Bean, development officer at the center, saw the broader impact of the day.“That $100,000 may not seem like a lot, but the impact is huge,” she said. “It’s a lot to the Chinese parent who meets another Chinese parent at one of our playgroups and makes a connection that lasts a lifetime; it’s a lot for a child that goes to camp who otherwise couldn’t afford to go; it’s a lot for the children and families who learn at the Gardner Pilot Academy,” Bean said.“The effects of the HAP Fund have been rippling out now for four years to 19 organizations and hundreds of people that have been served. We all are truly grateful for this support,” she added.
Seven years ago, the PBS series Frontline World profiled American philanthropist Trevor Field, who was trying to assist with water scarcity in rural South Africa. Field and his collaborators introduced a new type of pump: one operated by a playground roundabout that stored clean water in a large tank covered in billboards to pay for its maintenance. As a result of the new “play pump,” children had a new place to play and the whole village gained access to clean water on demand.Woodward Yang, Gordon McKay Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, played the Frontline video clip at a Design Solutions Workshop hosted by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) on May 3.“How many of you think that was a good design?” he asked his audience at the end of the clip.Almost every hand in the room shot up.Yang then played a second video. The Frontline producers had returned to South Africa five years later and found numerous problems with the play pumps: The tanks were no longer holding water; older women were unable to operate the equipment; there was no money for maintenance; and children were fighting in the playground.“How many of you still think it was a good design?” Yang asked.The videos set a tone of both ambition and humility for the workshop, which emphasized comprehensive planning, cultural awareness, and a holistic approach to design in developing solutions to global problems. Equally useful to students of government, environmental science, and business, the five-hour event wove together lessons in teamwork, public speaking, observation, human dynamics, and critical thinking — and included a good dose of fun.The event was aimed at helping participants develop a structured process for directing creativity toward a carefully formulated problem. Through lively design activities, 50 participants learned how to “empathize, synthesize, ideate, prototype, and test,” step by step.A structured process helps designers to avoid the pitfalls and mistaken assumptions that can doom a project, said Jackie Stenson ’08, a preceptor in technology entrepreneurship and innovation at SEAS who led the hands-on portion of the workshop. (Stenson is also a co-founder of Essmart Global, one of the finalists in this year’s President’s Challenge.)“It’s easy to, for example, skip ‘empathize’ and go straight into ‘design,’ which is what a lot of people do,” she said. “They define a problem without really understanding what the user needs are.”Participants included undergraduates from a wide range of concentrations, graduate students and M.B.A. candidates, University employees, venture capitalists, engineers, and even local real estate professionals. It was an appropriately multitalented group, said Yang, because generating a viable solution to any problem requires a deep level of understanding in three areas: technical issues, business issues, and user issues.“It’s very difficult for one person to have all that expertise,” he said.To emphasize the value of teamwork, Stenson and Yang engaged the participants in a creative activity in groups of four or five and tasked each group with designing a product that would improve the experience of attending a party — a trivial scenario, but still challenging for a short workshop.The exercise forced the participants to engage with each step of the design process. Each group spent time observing social interactions, brainstorming, developing a product, and then soliciting feedback. By the end of the workshop, each team had not just a solid idea for a product, but also a carefully crafted pitch.Around the room, students were beginning to relate the experience to their own interests and ambitions.Burhan Saif Addin, a visiting graduate student from Saudi Arabia, was looking forward to applying design principles to his research in applied physics, which involves developing new materials for solar cells.“There are more than a billion people who do not have access to electricity in the world, and if we had inexpensive solar cells, we could bring them to the modern world,” he said. “They would have electricity and access to computing and health services and communication.”The problem, he said, is clear, but the solution requires both technical knowledge and an awareness of the context in which it would operate.“What would be the best design for a solar cell model?” he asked. “You couldn’t just use the same design that you have on rooftops. It wouldn’t be the best design for rural areas. Would you put it on a plastic substrate or an aluminum substrate? How can you optimize its angle toward the sun?”The socioeconomic challenges are as complex as the technical ones.“It’s important that we train students to advance science in their narrow area, but it’s also important for them to understand how to look at problems broadly, how to work with other people, and how to actually solve problems that are pressing in the world,” said Fawwaz Habbal, executive dean for education and research at SEAS.Zamyla Chan ’14 saw the workshop as a bridge between her interests in environmental engineering and entrepreneurship.“Especially with environmental products, I find that when people try to show a new, innovative product that’s supposed to be supergreen, sometimes it doesn’t take off because people say, ‘It’s too new, I don’t know how to use it, and it’s inconvenient,’” Chan said.By learning more about the design process, Chan added, she hoped “to get a sense of how one might be able to develop a product that is sustainable as well as marketable — something that would actually catch on.”An engineering sciences concentrator, Chan participates in Engineers Without Borders, an organization whose members learn to balance the capabilities of engineering with the needs of a given community.The phrase “engineers without borders” might also fittingly describe the type of students SEAS hopes to produce by expanding the role of interdisciplinary design activities in the curriculum.“This type of design thinking is extremely important for all Harvard students,” said Yang. “We are fortunate to have brilliant people working in so many different fields, and it’s important that we continue to find ways to bring them together and provide them with a practical framework for solving problems for the world.”
Xiao-Li Meng, Ph.D. ’90, the Whipple V.N. Jones Professor of Statistics and chair of the Department of Statistics, has been named dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at Harvard University, effective Aug. 15.Meng succeeds Allan M. Brandt, the Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine and professor of the history of science, as permanent dean. Brandt stepped down in February to begin treatment for an illness. Richard J. Tarrant, Pope Professor of the Latin Language and Literature, served as interim dean of GSAS following Brandt’s departure.As Statistics Department chair since 2004, Meng has overseen a dramatic expansion of the department, as the number of undergraduate concentrators has grown from a single digit to more than 70, and the department’s core undergraduate courses have surged in popularity. He also has worked closely with alumni and alumnae to raise funds to establish the first endowed biennial distinguished teaching lecture series, junior faculty/teaching fellow awards (David Pickard Memorial Fund), and graduate student research awards (Art Dempster Fund) in statistics.Meng has been a leader in encouraging connections between disciplines at a time when the importance of statistical analysis has been broadly recognized, and as breakthroughs in fields ranging from genetics to astronomy have demanded more-sophisticated data crunching. He and his colleagues have conducted projects with faculty and students in biology, medicine, chemistry, engineering, economic and health policy — and even history and language, making statistics one of Harvard’s most interdisciplinary departments.“I am delighted to welcome Xiao-Li Meng as the new dean of the Graduate School,” said Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). “His passion for teaching and learning, his interdisciplinary application of the tools of statistical analysis to topics as varied as climate change, medicine, and astrophysics, and his innovative, entrepreneurial approach as a scholar and an educator — all of this gives him a uniquely creative vision for what graduate education ought to accomplish today and in the future. I expect that he will lead our graduate programs with the same dynamic curiosity that defined his tenure as Statistics chair, and that he’ll continue building on the excellent work of his predecessors, particularly Allan Brandt.”“In his scholarship, his pedagogy, and his mentorship of graduate students and undergraduates alike, Xiao-Li Meng is a true innovator,” said President Drew Faust. “He has brought a remarkable energy and enthusiasm to his role as a leader in an increasingly critical field, one that helps shape new knowledge across Harvard’s diverse intellectual landscape. He will make an outstanding steward for our Graduate School and advocate for its students.”“Harvard has been a dream school for generations of students around the world. GSAS made my dream come true by providing me with full financial support when I was literally a village boy on the other side of the globe,” said Meng. “I am therefore deeply grateful to Dean Smith for providing me with this tremendous opportunity to work directly with him and the many other Harvard leaders, especially President Faust and Provost [Alan] Garber, and with our incomparable faculty, dedicated staff, exceptional students, and accomplished alumni to continue and enhance the Harvard legacy, including making the possibility of the Harvard dream realizable by many diverse students from every corner of the globe.”“I also look forward to continuing Allan Brandt’s legacy, of which I am a direct beneficiary,” said Meng, who recently returned to campus after co-teaching a study-abroad course in Shanghai this summer.“Like Allan, Xiao-Li recognizes and celebrates the ways in which graduate and undergraduate education work in tandem, with graduate students and undergraduates directly benefiting each other,” Smith said. “This is best exemplified in the Gen Ed course he developed with his graduate students.”The course Meng just co-taught in Shanghai was a summer-school variation of the Gen Ed course EMR 16, “Real-Life Statistics: Your Chance for Happiness (or Misery),” a course designed by him and a dozen graduate students (known as the “happy team”), partially via the Graduate Seminars in General Education program that Brandt established. The pioneering project of directly involving graduate students in designing undergraduate courses, and hence providing them with hands-on pedagogical training — together with Meng’s other innovations such as a yearlong required course on teaching and communication skills for all first-year Ph.D. students (STAT 303, “The Art and Practice of Teaching Statistics”) — contributed substantially to his department’s winning, in 2008, a $25,000 GSAS Dean’s Prize for Innovations in Graduate Education at Harvard.Meng is one of Harvard’s leading voices on pedagogical innovation, working to make the Department of Statistics a laboratory for educational experiments whose common theme involves the vital connections and mutually rewarding pathways between research and teaching. Ph.D. students in statistics have been among the winners of the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching in each year since the award was created in 2007.As part of his efforts to promote exceptional teaching and learning on campus, Meng has also served on the FAS Committee on Pedagogical Improvement (2004-10) and the FAS Task Force on Teaching and Career Development (2006-07). He is a recipient of numerous research and teaching awards, including the 2001 COPSS (Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies) Award for being “the outstanding statistician under the age of forty” and the 1997-1998 University of Chicago Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.Born in Shanghai, Meng received a B.S. in mathematics (1982) and a diploma in graduate study of mathematical statistics (1986), both from Fudan University in Shanghai. He received his Ph.D. in statistics from Harvard in 1990. From 1991 to 2001, when he came to Harvard, Meng was assistant, associate, and then full professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Chicago. He remains affiliated with the University of Chicago as a faculty member of its Center for Health Statistics.
Engineering graduate William Marks departs Harvard with a hat trick of achievements: a Fulbright Scholarship, which will send him trekking across northern India this fall; a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which will pay for his doctoral studies at Cambridge University in England; and an offer of admission to Harvard Business School’s 2+2 M.B.A. program.Three very different prospects await him, but concerns about culture shock haven’t crossed his mind. His undergraduate biomedical research has already taken him to at least six countries — including Norway, the United Arab Emirates, and China — and he’s fluent in Mandarin and Spanish.“I believe the best way to get to know someone is to have a conversation in their own language,” he says. “At some point, Arabic would be a good pick-up, and I guess while I’m in India I’ll try to learn Hindi. That’ll take care of another sizeable chunk of the world population.”He’s not joking. Marks’ drive to connect and to build community is matched only by his urge to improve the quality of medical care for people around the world.“When he knows what he wants to accomplish, he doesn’t let anything stand in his way,” says Marks’ former adviser, Sujata Bhatia, assistant director for undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “He is sincerely motivated to make a positive difference using the tools of biomedical engineering, both at Harvard and worldwide.”“When I go to a hospital or see a doctor,” Marks says, “the first thing I do is look around: What kind of cool ‘toys’ and gadgets do they have around the office? What do they do? How do they work?”In India, he will visit city hospitals and rural clinics to learn about the nation’s health care system and try to identify opportunities for improvement. One effective device, he explains, can amplify the knowledge and efforts of individual clinicians and improve the quality of care for perhaps millions of patients. And Marks has a particular aptitude for innovative design, rooted in technical knowledge, as well as the problem-solving mentality of an Eagle Scout.“Sometimes it’s those kinds of solutions that you would normally not envisage being possible, useful, or practical that end up working really well,” says Marks, who admits having used dental floss to add the finishing touches to a blood filtration system he designed in his senior year at Harvard.It’s an attitude he attributes to Maurice Smith, associate professor of bioengineering, who taught Marks as a freshman in ES 53, “Quantitative Physiology as a Basis for Bioengineering.”“If, at the beginning of my career, there was one professor who made a difference, it was Maurice,” Marks says. “He’s responsible for giving me the bug for engineering. He just approached things in such a different way from everyone else. It was exciting. His methodology was to look at a problem and see what you had and where you could go from there — not looking at what everyone else had done and trying to figure out what came next.“But he also just taught me to persevere in problem-solving. Even if a problem makes no sense whatsoever, you can still find a way to get at it. That’s a skill that’s served me well in many different facets of life.”A native of Hollywood, Fla., Marks attended boarding school in New Jersey and spent several summers in China. He ran out of math classes in high school and applied to colleges as a junior.For a young man who ultimately would devote his spare time to leading prospective students on official tours of SEAS, Marks had a fairly unusual approach to college visits. He’d stand on a street corner interviewing students as they walked by: “What do you like about this place? What don’t you like? Where would you have gone if you didn’t come here?”Finally, though, Marks’ decision came from the gut. Paused outside Holworthy Hall one October day, he watched the students lounging in the Yard. “They just looked really happy,” he recalls, “and for whatever reason I decided that Harvard felt right.”When he arrived on campus that fall, he says, he “just sort of fell into the place.”His résumé reflects it. Marks became president of the Harvard College Engineering Society, statistician for the Harvard football team, finance director for the Harvard College Entrepreneurship Forum, “re-founding” member of the Harvard Shooting Club— founded in 1883, the team was disbanded in 2003 and restarted in 2009 — and a three-time winner of the Harvard College Innovation (I3) Challenge. He also served as chairman of the Fellow Selection Committee at the Institute of Politics, reviewing applications from world leaders to spend a semester at Harvard.“When you’re interviewing people who you see on TV on a regular basis, it’s pretty cool,” Marks says with a shrug.Understated but intensely driven, Marks contributed at Harvard to many design projects, including a deep-sea turbine to generate electricity for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; a moon-landing robot for a NASA competition; a biocompatible, injectable gel that solidifies as it warms to body temperature; and a software program called Shoesy, which analyzed biomechanical data to identify the best-fitting pair of shoes.“William has an incredible ability to quickly learn new things, process information, and apply what he has learned,” remarks his adviser, Bhatia. “He’s exceptionally good at thinking on his feet.”Marks graduated in May 2013 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering sciences (and a secondary field in computer science). He now has the opportunity, if he chooses, to pursue a Ph.D. in medical materials at Cambridge and an M.B.A. here at Harvard.
Read Full Story EdX, the not-for-profit online learning initiative founded by Harvard and MIT, today announced its partnership with Google to jointly develop the edX open source learning platform, Open edX, and expand the availability of the platform and its learning tools to individuals and institutions around the world.In collaboration with Google, edX will build out and operate MOOC.org, a new site for non-xConsortium universities, institutions, businesses, governments and teachers to build and host their courses for a global audience. This site will be powered by the jointly developed Open edX platform.