Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

Brevia

January-February 2005

Biomedical Pioneers

George Q. Daley
Justin Ide / Harvard News Office
Xiaoliang Sunney Xie
Courtesy Xiaoliang Sunney Xie

The National Institutes of Health inaugurated its "Director's Pioneer Awards"—five-year, $500,000 unrestricted grants for research costs in support of highly innovative ideas in biomedical science. Two of the nine recipients announced on September 30, from an initial pool of 1,000 candidates, are Harvard scholars. George Q. Daley, associate professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology, uses stem-cell techniques to work on blood development, (see "Stem-cell Science," July-August, page 36). Professor of chemistry Xiaoliang Sunney Xie studies life processes at the level of single, biologically active molecules.

 

College Choices

Those beauty-contest rankings of colleges, like the annual U.S. News & World Report compendium, rely heavily on data such as admissions rates and yields. But those figures are susceptible to gaming by admissions officers who can boost their numbers—for example, by attracting less-qualified applicants whom they are less likely to "lose" to competing schools. A better method, suggest Larsen professor of public policy and management Christopher Avery, professor of economics Caroline M. Hoxby, and two colleagues from other institutions, is to examine students' actual decisions when they are admitted to more than one selective institution. The authors' National Bureau of Economic Research working paper confirmed the leading national appeal of Harvard, followed by Yale, among their recent sample of 3,240 high-achieving students.

 

Service and Scholarship

Continuing a practice begun when Jeremy R. Knowles and Robert C. Clark completed their terms as deans and resumed their professorial duties in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Law School, respectively, two other emeritus deans have been named University Distinguished Service Professors: Joseph S. Nye Jr., of the Kennedy School of Government, who is also Sultan of Oman professor of international relations; and Peter G. Rowe, leader of the Graduate School of Design for 12 years, who is also Garbe professor of architecture and urban design.

 

On Display

At a time of renewed focus on tenuring women in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (see "Tenure and Gender"), a portrait of Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, first president of Radcliffe College (from 1894 to 1900) was formally installed in the Faculty Room at University Hall on October 7. The 1894 portrait, painted by Sarah Wyman Whitman, joins those of two other pioneering women in Harvard's annals: historian Helen Maud Cam and astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (see "Portrait of a Pioneer," March-April 2002, page 67). Dean of Radcliffe Institute Drew Gilpin Faust said Agassiz represented not just female achievement, but Radcliffe, "and shows its history is now part of Harvard's."

Nota Bene

Personnel person. Massachusetts Hall has a sixth vice president: Marilyn Hausammann, the University's first vice president for human resources. She joins Harvard from Boston Consulting Group, where she was global director of human resources from 2001 until coming to campus in late October.

 

Life-sciences studies. At its October meeting, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to create new Ph.D. programs in two new disciplines spanning biology, chemistry, medicine, and the physical and computational sciences. The systems-biology degree, focusing on the integrated study of complex molecular systems and processes, requires extensive quantitative and computational skills (see "Biomedical Momentum," November-December 2003, page 54). The second initiative, in chemical biology, involves several medical school and Arts and Sciences departments and focuses particularly on biologically active small molecules.

 

More Mexico Ph.D.'s. Under a partnership between the University and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT, National Council of Science and Technology), announced in October, 20 to 25 doctoral students from Mexico will be supported each year, beginning this fall, in pursuing graduate study at Harvard. Funds for the fellowship program—the largest at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences when it is in full operation—will come from Harvard, CONACYT, and Fundacion Mexico en Harvard, an alumni philanthropy.

 

Francis M. BenesRonald A. DePinho
Harvard Medical SchoolHarvard Medical School
Howard K. KohDyann F. Wirth
Harvard School of Public HealthHarvard School of Public Health

Medical merit. Four of 65 newly elected members of the Institute of Medicine (part of the National Academies) are affiliated with Harvard: professor of psychiatry Francine M. Benes, a neuroscientist who directs the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center at Mc Lean Hospital; professor of medicine Ronald A. DePinho, a geneticist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; professor of health policy and management Howard K. Koh; and professor of immunology and infectious diseases Dyann F. Wirth, who works on malaria. Koh and Wirth are School of Public Health faculty members.

 

Business doctors. Harvard Business School announced receipt of a $25-million gift in support of its doctoral programs from Hansjoerg Wyss, M.B.A. '65, a medical-device entrepreneur. The funds will support fellowships and stipends, research, course development, and training in teaching skills. Sherman Hall, home to the doctoral program offices, will be rededicated as Wyss House.

 

Computing doctors. Two of the four new National Centers for Biomedical Computing, funded by the National Institutes of Health, have been awarded to Harvard Medical School faculty members. Each of the $20-million programs is intended to develop part of an emerging universal computing infrastructure for biomedical research. Henderson associate professor of pediatrics and health sciences and technology Isaac Kohane, of Children's Hospital, oversees the Informatics for Integrating Biology and Bedsite project. It is intended to help physicians translate clinical and genomic research into therapies for diabetes, asthma, and other diseases. Professor of radiology Ron Kikinis, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, is establishing the National Alliance for Medical Imaging and Computing Center, which aims to process imaging data to facilitate disease characterization, detection, and treatment.

Linda B. Buck
Kris Snibbe / Harvard News Office
Frank Wilczek
Courtesy Frank Wilczek

Near-Nobels. The 2004 Nobel laureates include four scholars with past Harvard affiliations. Linda B. Buck, co winner of the prize in physiology or medicine, was from 1991 to 2002 in the neurobiology department at Harvard Medical School, most recently as professor, before moving to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The physics honorands are David J. Gross, Jf '69 (of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but listed as "address unknown" in the 2000 alumni directory); H. David Politzer, Ph.D. '74, Jf '77, of Cal Tech; and MIT's Frank Wilczek, who was a visiting professor in the 1987-1988 academic year.

 

Miscellany. A new paradigm? The twentieth-anniversary conference of the Humanities Center at Harvard (see "Harvard by the Numbers") was "underwritten" by the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Time Warner Inc....

Vamsi Mootha
Stephanie Mitchell / Harvard News Office

This year's MacArthur Foundation fellows, who receive $500,000 unrestricted grants, include genomics researcher Vamsi Mootha, M.D. '98, who specializes in studying mitochondrial proteins. He became assistant professor of systems biology and of medicine last October 1....

The Radcliffe Institute has a new curator for the books and printed materials at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. Marylène Altieri formerly worked at Gutman Library, at the Graduate School of Education, just across the street....

Matthew Meselson
Stephanie Mitchell / Harvard News Office

Cabot professor of the natural sciences Matthew Meselson won the 2004 Lasker Award for a lifetime of achievements ranging from basic findings about DNA to his work on both biological and chemical weapons....

Howell E. Jackson
Courtesy Howell E. Jackson

The newly created Reid professorship of law, focused on accounting, statistics, and related subjects, suggests the Law School's expanding interest in quantitative and analytical methods. The first holder of the chair, endowed in part by James S. Reid Jr. '48, J.D. '51, is Howell E. Jackson—appropriately, J.D.-M.B.A. '82 and simultaneously the school's vice dean for administration and budget....

Isaac T. Kohlberg will become associate provost and chief technology development officer, effective May 1; the new position highlights a more concerted effort to accelerate technology transfer and licensing of discoveries made at Harvard....

President Bush conferred a 2004 National Humanities Medal on Kenan professor of government Harvey C. Mansfield at the White House on November 15....

As Hilles Library is downsized, unique titles in its collection will be retained, and duplicates in demand elsewhere will be distributed to other Harvard libraries, leaving a core collection of 28,000 volumes in the Quad facility; the remaining 158,000 volumes are being given to Sun Yat-Sen University Library in Guangzhou, China.