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News from the Reed College public affairs office

What is Reed’s “Return on Investment?”

Ken Koe ’45 won a full scholarship at Reed and pursued a stellar career in biochemistry, culminating in the discovery of sertraline--better known as Zoloft.

He was a quiet, scrawny kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Grew up during the Depression. Bounced around the Pacific Northwest while his parents hunted for work before settling in Portland. Washed shirts in the family’s Chinatown laundry.

Money was tight; he sometimes went hungry. Walking to Lincoln High School, past the knots of hollow-eyed men who thronged the streets of downtown Portland, Ken Koe ’45 knew that for a guy like him, college was not a luxury. It was an escape hatch.

The night before his high school graduation, he heard the sound of the escape hatch opening—Reed College had granted him a full scholarship.

So in the fall of 1942, he became a day-dodger at Reed, embarking, as he would later say, on an “exhilarating intellectual journey.” He read Homer in Literature 11 and took freshman chemistry from Prof. Arthur Scott [chemistry 1923-79]. After class, he hopped on the Eastmoreland trolley back to Chinatown, waiting tables and washing dishes at Hung Far Low. Somehow he managed to graduate in just three years, writing his thesis with Prof. Fred Ayres [chemistry 1940-70].

En Garde! Math-Econ Major Nabs Fencing Title

Math-econ major Ian Morrison ’17 won the Douglas Williams Tournament. Photo by Jordan Yu ’16

Math-Econ major Ian Morrison ’17 parried his way to victory last week when he won the 18th annual Douglas Williams Fencing Tournament.

The contest featured incisive attacks and lightning ripostes from all the participants, but once the masks were lifted, their steely competition turned to cheerful camaraderie. Fencing coach Miwa Nishi ’92 says her favorite part of the tournament is the way that every student improves from the first to the last bout.

The tournament was started by the late Douglas Williams ’63, who learned to fence at Reed and later said that it taught him to value a balance of mental and physical excellence. He began the tournament to promote interest in the sport and to give back to Reed. It includes a purse of $8,000 that supports financial aid. (Any Reed student can compete, but only students who receive financial aid are eligible for the prize money.)

Reed Dancers Score Major Achievement

The Reed College faculty unanimously approved a new major in dance at its November meeting, expanding the fields of study where students can pursue their passions.

“Dance is central to the liberal arts experience,” says Prof. Carla Mann ’81 [dance 1995–]. “It sparks innovation across disciplines through the way it teaches students to interrogate historical, aesthetic, and social issues; to engage kinesthetically with space, time, and movement; to approach solving problems with creativity and rigor; and to pursue productively both individual and collaborative endeavors.”

In January, Reed won an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen its dance program with more classes, more workshops, and now a major. Reed is the only college in Portland that offers a dance major.

Researchers clear the air on power plant emissions

The Reed team compared SOA emissions (crosses) with terpene emissions (shaded areas) to gain a better understanding of the impact of power plants on air quality,

Government regulators are not measuring the full effect of power plants on air quality, according to a team of Reed researchers, because they fail to account for the interaction of power-plant emissions with natural emissions from a surprising source—trees.

In some cases, the impact of these so-called “secondary organic aerosols” is almost twice as strong as the pollution that is currently measured at the smokestack, calling into question the adequacy of conventional methods for measuring air quality.

The study by Prof. Julie Fry [chemistry and environmental studies], Prof. Chrs Koski [political science and environmental studies], Kristin Bott [Instructional Technology Services], Marisa Hazell ’15, and Raphaela Hsu-Flanders ’16, published in the June 2015 issue of Environmental Science & Policy, shows that the impact of trees on air pollution is much more complicated than you might think.

Monkey Bar Quadrocycle Materializes on Quad

The Monkey Bar Quadrocycle utilizes a distinctive forearm-driven propulsion unit.

Strolling across the Quad in the past couple of days, you might notice a bizarre contraption rolling by, propelled by a clutch of giggling students. The Monkey Bar Quadrocycle is the latest engineering marvel to emerge from the shadowy student group DxOxTxUx (Defenders of the Universe).

The Quadrocycle consists of a platform suspended on four bicycle wheels with a barrel-like cylinder perched on top that users spin with their hands. The cylinder is connected to a long bicycle chain that drives the vehicle’s rear axle, moving it backwards or forwards.

The principal players in the construction of the Quadrocycle were Evan Peairs ’16, Toria Ellis ’19, and Caroline Padula ’19. “It’s a logical extension of one of our earlier projects, the giant hamster wheel in the SU,” says Evan. “Now that there’d been one you power with your feet, the next thing to do was to make a hand-powered one.”

Reed Wins Bike Challenge—Again

Captains Claire "Chainstomper" Michie and Josh "Shazam" Shalek led the Reed cycling crew to its third straight victory in the Bike Commute Challenge.

Led by a flying wedge of pedaling professors and mud-splattered staff, Reed College dominated its division in the Portland Bike Commute Challenge, taking first place for the third year in a row.

Reed clocked in with a participation rate of 10.2% in September, thanks to 81 riders who together logged 8,265 miles. An impressive 23 of those riders pedalled their way to campus every single workday.

Organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the annual challenge determines which workplace can log the most commuting trips made by bicycle during the month of September. (Student trips don’t count, unfortunately.)

The category Reed participates in is the “Non-Profit or Business with 500+ employees” and the college's perennial rivals for the winner’s crown are the admen and adwomen at Wieden+Kennedy.

Alumni volunteer coordinator Todd Hesse logged the most miles— a whopping 280. Another strong rider was Prof. Wally Englert [classics]. “One of the things I love best about Portland is how many people bike and how much has been done to make biking in the city as easy and attractive as possible,” he says.

The Reed squad was organized by captains Claire Michie, associate director of donor relations in college relations, and Josh Shalek, systems specialist in the admission office.

Reed Runners Swarm Marathon

THINKING ON THEIR FEET. Reed runners take Portland Marathon by storm. Photo by Maddy Wagar ’16

As many as 50 Reed students, alumni, professors, and allied life forms turned out for the Portland Marathon and Half Marathon yesterday, proving once again that Reedies think on their feet.

Biochem major Trevor Soucy ’18 led the Half-Marathon team (“The Running Jokes”) and placed fourth among male contestants with the blazing time of 1:23:37. Other top Reed runners in the Half included Chinese major Aaron Finsrud ’16 at 1:27:12, poli sci major Megan Keating ’17 at 1:42:15 and Prof. Michael Pitts [psych] at 1:44:03.

"To be honest, coming into the finish line I was a bit surprised by myself, but also very proud," said Trevor, who sliced almost 5 minutes from his time last year. "I knew I had done more training than last year, but I did not expect such a big improvement. It can be hard to balance life as an academic and life as an athlete, but performances like this make all the extra time spent logging miles truly worth it!"

Prof. Peter Rock Works Backwards to Cast "Spells"

Prof. Peter Rock won a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation to work on Spells. Norah Hoover

The fragmentary novel Spells has its genesis when Prof. Peter Rock [creative writing 2001-] was  working as a security guard in an art museum, amusing himself by making up stories for pieces in the galleries.

“I entertained myself by trying to make up a story for each photograph, painting and object in the museum,” he explained when he spoke on campus September 25. “However, we guards weren't allowed to write on the job. Bending this rule, I carried a scrap of paper and a little pencil and then, in the minute or so when I was going down the stairway to the next floor, I'd furtively scribble a few words, to remind me of the stories I'd made up in my head. When I got to the break room in the basement, I'd write down as much as I could, in the half hour, and then begin again. Later, I'd go home and work some more on it all."

The Spells project came from a desire to get back to that sense of play in writing, Rock says, “it allowed me to expand what I thought was possible in terms of storytelling.”

Night Owl, Psych Major Nab Thief in Broad Daylight

REUNITED. Hugh Porter, vice president of college relations, is reunited with his trusty steed thanks to two alert Reed students. Photo by Vikram Chan-Herur ’17

Poli sci major Nicole Thompson ’16 and psych major Sidney Buttrill ’16 foiled a bike thief in the very act of velo-appropriation today, leading to the arrest of the suspect and the recovery of the bicycle.

Thompson was hurrying past the bike stands behind Eliot Hall on her way to the Public Policy Workshop just before 10 a.m. when she happened across an individual with a pair of “huge bolt cutters” cutting through a cable lock “like it was string,” she said. 

Trained in bystander intervention as a Night Owl, she confronted the would-be thief. “He mumbled an excuse about it being his dad’s,” she says, hopped on the bike, and attempted to pedal away. At this point, Buttrill, who was also passing by, sprang into action and held onto the bike’s rear basket, while Thompson alerted Community Safety to the theft in progress. The suspect then abandoned the bike and fled by foot across the Blue Bridge.

Reed and the Rankings Racket

WAVY LINES. Dubious data, errant arrows.

Fall has arrived, and all that comes with it—shorter days, longer nights, pumpkin-spice product placement, and of course, the autumnal deluge of college rankings.

As I’ve written before, the business of ranking colleges has long been fraught with arbitrary definitions, incomplete data, misleading comparisons, and outright manipulation. Some 91% of college admission directors suspect that cheating is rampant. And only 2% of them think rankings are “very effective” at helping prospective students find a good fit.

Nonetheless, collegebound high-school seniors are hungry for something, anything, to guide them on their momentous decision. And for millions of readers, articles on rankings remain irresistible clickbait. Thus the ranking systems and rating schemes keep sprouting like dandelions—this year even the federal government has gotten into the act with a College Scorecard website.

Bike Co-op Named for Mark Angeles ’15

Chemistry major Mark Angeles ’15 cut a distinctive figure on campus. He was killed in a traffic collision 9 days after graduation.

The Reed Bike Co-op was officially renamed today to honor avid cyclist and beloved classmate Mark Angeles ’15, who was struck down in a traffic collision just nine days after he graduated.

Several hundred people gathered in the Quad to witness the moving ceremony and listen to friends, classmates, professors, and staff share their memories of Mark.

“I’m never going to have another friend like Mark,” said Maren Fichter ’15, sounding a theme that reverberated through the occasion.

Students Drub Alumni in Ultimate Match

LEAP OF FAITH. Xander Harris ’16 seizes the day as Reed students triumph over alumni in epic Ultimate match. Photo by Jordan Yu ’16

The Berserk—Reed’s men’s ultimate team—narrowly defeated an all-star alumni team 9–8 on the sports field near Sullivan Hall, Saturday, September 5. The victors gave an impressive demonstration of speed, endurance, and determination that left the alumni panting.

The game was held to honor the wedding of two Reed ultimate coaches: Shane Rubenfeld ’06, who has coached the Berserk since 2011 and played ultimate all four of his years at Reed, and Whitney Mount, who coached the Reed women’s team last year. Alumni ultimate players converged on Portland to celebrate the occasion and decided to seize the opportunity to play a game against the students.

The alumni team was the odds-on favorite—last time they faced the students, they racked up a score of 17-8. But Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, was not on their side in this contest. While the alumni demonstrated superior skill and cunning, the students had the hustle and energy to run down the disc.

Tango from the Inside Out

Max Boddy ’16 got the chance to study with some of the world's foremost tango masters at Reed's annual summer workshop, Tango for Musicians.

I dashed along SE 28th Avenue with my case on my back and my phone in hand, checking the time anxiously to see how much time I had before rehearsal. It was brutally hot for a June day in Oregon, but my sweat wasn’t due to the heat alone. I was three days into an intense, weeklong “tango bootcamp” with some of the world’s leading tango musicians. Incredibly, I was supposed to be performing with them on stage in two days. And now my violin was acting up. How did I get here, anyway?

Last year, Astillero, a contemporary tango group from Buenos Aires, visited Reed, and I had the opportunity to accompany them in Reed’s orchestra. Playing their original compositions with them was exhilarating, and I wanted to play and understand that kind of music better, so I applied for a Rothchild summer stipend to study at Reed’s summer workshop, Tango for Musicians at Reed College. But first, as was emphasized in our workshops, it is important to play and understand the classic tangos before venturing out into the new territory of tango today, so I had to learn some fundamentals—fast.

At the front counter, I explained my situation to a young luthier as I got out my violin and handed it over for inspection. It was a little hard to believe that I was about to perform tango music on the same stage as Ida Kavafian and Chamber Music Northwest. I’d often imagined something like this—I just didn’t think the opportunity would come this soon!

Study Dashes Bucket of Cold Water on Psychologists

Reed psych major Melissa Lewis ’13 was one of the authors of a groundbreaking study on reproducibility published in the journal Science.

A massive study by 270 researchers, including three Reed psychologists, underscores one of the key challenges facing scientists today: Just how far can you trust scientific research published in professional, peer-reviewed journals?

According to this project, you should take it with a chunk of salt.

The study, published today in Science, set out to examine a core principle of scientific research: the property of reproducibility. Two different researchers should be able to run the same experiment independently and get the same results, whether the field is astrophysics or cell biology. These results form the basis for theories about how the world works, be it the formation of stars or the causes of schizophrenia. Of course, different scientists may offer competing explanations for a particular result—but the result itself is supposed to be reliable.

Class of ’19: Accomplished, Diverse, and 426 Strong

Reed students

THE GANG'S ALL HERE. With 426 members, the class of ’19 is among the strongest and most diverse in Reed's history. Photo by Leah Nash

The competition to join Reed College—often described as one of the most intellectual colleges in the country—is getting stronger than ever.

Reed welcomed 426 new students to campus at its convocation ceremony on Wednesday, painstakingly selected from a record 5,392 applicants. The number of applicants is up 86 percent over two years, and 36 percent over last year. With the increase in applications, Reed’s acceptance rate fell from 39 percent last year to 35 percent, making it the most selective college in the Pacific Northwest.

The incoming class had an average combined total SAT score of 2070 and an average high school GPA of 3.95, with 88 percent ranked in the top 25 percent of their high school class. Twenty-two incoming students were either valedictorians or salutatorians.

Reed biologists show how parasites drive evolution

Reed bio major Shelly Skolfield ’14 and Prof. Todd Schlenke examined swarms of fruit flies (thankfully bottled in vials) to investigate the role of parasites in evolution. The experiment—the first showing that parasitic infection increases recombination in animals—was published in the journal Science. Photo by Tom Humphrey

Parasites are the Rodney Dangerfields of the animal kingdom—they don’t get no respect.

But it turns out that parasitic infection can actually spur evolution and may even be partly responsible for the origin of sexual reproduction, according to a study published in Science by a team of researchers including Shelly Skolfield ’14, Prof. Todd Schlenke [bio 2013–], and colleagues at North Carolina State University.

The researchers found that fruit flies that survived infection by parasites hatched significantly more diverse offspring, presumably to out-evolve the parasites that are trying to exploit them.

Reed Astrophysicist is Orienteering Star

ANGULAR MOMENTUM. Prof. Alison Crocker blasts through the finish line in women's sprint final at the World Orienteering Championships in Inverness, Scotland. Ethan Childs

Prof. Alison Crocker [physics 2014–] came in 15th in the women’s sprint final at the 2015 World Orienteering Championships, the best individual result ever achieved by a US orienteer at the world level.

Prof. Crocker’s shining performance came despite an initial stumble, when she misread the map and found herself on the wrong side of a stone wall, losing roughly 20 seconds. “Not a perfect race, but I was feisty after an early mistake and that did the job!” she wrote on Facebook after the race.

Prof. Crocker came in 15th in the sprint, 45th in the long distance, and was one of three runners in the US women’s relay team, which came in 20th. The events were held July 31–August 7 in Inverness, Scotland.

Mark Angeles ’15 Memorial Fellowship Established

Mark Angeles ’15 coordinated the mentoring program at Lane Community School. Photo by Daniel Cronin

Well known and well loved during his four years at the college, Mark Angeles was killed while riding his bicycle on May 27, 2015. To honor his legacy and to celebrate his life, Mark's family and friends have established the Mark Angeles ’15 Memorial Fellowship at Reed.

While excelling in academics, en route to earning a BA in chemistry, Mark created space in his busy schedule to be a dedicated volunteer both on campus and in the Portland community. He managed the Reed Bike Co-Op and shared his time and skills with the Community Cycling Center. He taught bike safety to children, was a mentor to underprivileged youth at Lane Middle School, served as an intern for SEEDS, helped run Paideia, sang with Reed’s a cappella group, the Herodotones, and was a house adviser.

The Angeles Fellowship will support a SEEDS student intern, whose work on campus continues Mark’s legacy of volunteerism and commitment to physical engagement as a component of service. Make a gift on our website and indicate the Angeles Fellowship in your note.

Physics Prof Sets Compass for World Championship

Prof. Alison Crocker sprints through the Reed Canyon on her way to Scotland to represent the USA at the World Orienteering Championship. Tom Humphrey

Prof. Alison Crocker [physics 2014–] will represent the United States at the 2015 World Orienteering Championships, held July 31–August 7, in and about Inverness, Scotland.

Prof. Crocker is scheduled to compete in the sprint, the relay, and the long distance courses at the event. She has taken part in international orienteering since 2010, and she attributes her success to the concept of consistency. “Doing both the armchair studying of maps and the hard track or terrain intervals to have the speed. Most of all, it's getting out orienteering as much as possible, to make your brain expend minimal effort while figuring out orienteering puzzles.”

The sport of orienteering combines map reading, running, and not getting lost. Competitors have to find their way between a series of checkpoints, called controls, as quickly as possible and in the right order. Orienteers do not see the map of the course until the race starts, so there can be no advance planning of routes or control locations.

Field Trip to the Future of the Brain

Reed students infiltrate NeuroFutures 2015. From left: Jason Swinderman ’15, Rose Driscoll ’17, lab associate Greta Glover (kneeling), Mical Yohannes ’17, and James Fisher-Smith ’17. Suzy Renn

Reed biology research students took a field trip to the future this summer at the 2nd annual NeuroFutures conference sponsored by the Oregon Health & Science University Brain Institute in Portland last week.

Scientists at top institutions from around the nation presented their cutting-edge research on new technologies in brain imaging, brain mapping, and brain implants used to treat disease. One scientist presented her recent work on how to turn a gene that senses heat from a chili pepper into a remote-controlled brain “stimulation electrode.” She also talked about her work in engineering a device that could manipulate brain cells by shining a blue light down a microscopic tube implanted in a patient’s spine.

Other talks dealt with the massive effort to map the circuitry of the brain, and how the development of new automation techniques has drastically improved the rate of progress on this complex project. The presentations riveted the Reed students who attended, took notes, and asked questions.

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