Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Eye of the Zebra (fish)

WHO BLINKED FIRST? Lateral view of a 40-hour-old zebrafish retina with the cells expressing the neurogenic gene, atoh7, highlighted with the green fluorescent protein (GFP). This image is a projection of 60 1 µm z-slices captured on the Nikon A1+ laser scanning confocal microscope in the Cerveny Lab.

Reed made a big splash at the annual Murdock College Science Research Conference in Vancouver, WA, this month. Prof. Kara Cerveny [biology 2012-] and three students, Alison Bryant ’15, Will Horner ’15, and McKenzie Givens ’17 presented the results of their summer research. We’re proud to announce that Will earned the John Van Zytveld Award In The Life Sciences for his explanation of how retinoic acid influences retinal growth and neurogenesis in the zebrafish retina, the topic of his summer research and thesis work in Prof. Cerveny’s lab.

Congrats, Prof. Corpus!

Prof. Jennifer Henderlong Corpus [psych] was named Oregon Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Prof. Jennifer Henderlong Corpus [psychology 2001-] was named 2014 Oregon Professor of the Year last week by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in recognition of her innovative approach to teaching and learning and her ability to challenge students beyond the classroom.

“Each of our awardees, state and national, brings extraordinary leadership not just to their classrooms, but to their departments, colleges and universities, and their respective professional fields,” said Anthony S. Bryk, president of CFAT. “We honor them for upholding and guiding the aspirations of their students, advancing knowledge, and elevating and dignifying the profession of teaching. In recognizing their commitment and excellence, their contributions and their demonstrated passion, we support the centrality of teaching on campus and recognize its importance to the future of our country.”

Judges selected the national and state winners based on four criteria: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community, and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former students.

Software Studio Says “Hello, World!”

Reed flexes its codeslinging muscle with new Software Design Studio. (To get technical for a moment, this particular combination is known as an "interpreter directive" in UNIX systems, and confers special powers upon its user.)

Codeslingers, limber up your fingers! Reed is getting ready to launch the new Software Design Studio (SDS) in January.

Bunkered in the basement of Prexy, the SDS will offer hands-on instruction and thoughtful mentorship to help Reed students explore the art and craft of coding.

Many students learn how to write code during their coursework in physics or mathematics, but the SDS is designed to bolster programming skills with practical experience directed by a technologist in residence. It is also aimed at students majoring in disciplines such as classics, music, art, or political science, who have never written a line of code, but are intrigued by the intellectual challenge.

In the Presence of a Poet

Prof. Lisa Steinman cofounded the literary magazine Hubbub.

While growing up in rural New England, “the world I explored was in books,” says poet Lisa Steinman, Reed’s Kenan Professor of English & Humanities [1976–], who remembers as early as nursery school “looking at a page one day, and it just made sense.”

Now she writes poems “to make sense of myself and the world,” she says. “I also love playing with the sounds of words, and I’d like to think I give other people the pleasure I’ve gotten from poetry.”

Prof. Steinman will do just that when she reads from her latest poetry collection (her ninth book), Absence & Presence (University of Tampa Press, 2013) at 6 p.m. on November 14, 2014 at Portland’s Glyph Café & Art Space.

Freshman, Undefeated, Wins Fencing Tourney

Ryan Kwok ’18 is victorious at the 17th Douglas Williams Fencing Tournament.

Bio major Ryan Kwok ’18 emerged victorious from the 17th annual Douglas Williams Fencing Tournament last Saturday after winning all of his six bouts. Ryan was awarded a gold pendant, shaped like a fencing foil, amidst applause from his fellow sword-fighters.

The tournament took place in the sports center, where professors, students, and parents visiting for Parent & Family Weekend gathered to cheer as the deft exchanges between the combatants resounded in steely echoes across the auditorium. The contestants displayed excellent sportsmanship by exchanging hearty handshakes and high-fives between each bout.

Reedie fights Ebola in Liberia

UNICEF honcho Sheldon Yett '86 leads fight against Ebola in Liberia. UNICEF

Sheldon Yett ’86 got two hours of sleep last night and now, as ambulances scream by his office window in Monrovia, he’s worried about the three emergency responders he just sent out into remote northeast Liberia, to distribute medical and infection control supplies to a village. “Do they have enough chlorine?” he wonders, “Enough rehydration supplies?”

Tomorrow morning, Sheldon will leave the Liberian capital in a helicopter, bound for another remote village, to discuss crisis health care with community leaders. Meanwhile, visitors flow into Liberia—Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Dr. Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health; and Borge Brende, the foreign minister of Norway. Visitors to Sheldon’s office must stop by a bucket filled with a chlorine solution to wash their hands and have their temperature checked as a guard stands watching. The electricity and the internet flickers, and in a brief moment of respite, Sheldon stares blankly into the Skype camera on his computer, rubbing his temples. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” he says.

Shades of White: Elegant, Geometrical, and Chilling

Prof. Ondrizek's "Shades of White" is a sobering meditation on social injustice. Courtesy of Geraldine Ondrizek

Prof. Geraldine Ondrizek’s thought-provoking exhibition, Shades of White, is as beautiful to look at as it is unsettling to think about. Dramatically installed in the Artist Project Space of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (University of Oregon), the show exudes minimalist cool: 24 steel boxes suspended from the ceiling by metal wires, each box backed with silk panels in muted hues. With its armada of suave, industrial rectangles seemingly floating midair, it looks like a long-lost Donald Judd installation that somehow wound up in a zero gravity chamber. But there is far more at play here than elegant geometry for its own sake; Prof. Ondrizek has created a sobering meditation on a social injustice perpetrated not only in Nazi Germany, but also in the United States.

Reed Runners Attack Klickitat

Reed student runners

The scrappy Reed running squad after vanquishing the Klickitat Trail. Bonus points to anyone who can explain the mysterious K on the hillside behind them.

A scrappy band of Reed runners ventured into the Columbia Gorge last weekend for the Klickitat Trail Half-Marathon and 5K Run.

The course was spectacular—and brutal, winding along the sinuous Klickitat River, whose jagged basalt made short work of aching calves and noble intentions.

Freshman Natalie Hawkins ’18 took first place in the women's 5K and chemistry major Anton Zaytsev ’18 nabbed second place in the men's 5K.

Physics major Trevor Soucy ’18 led the Reed pack in the Half-Marathon, coming in fourth overall with an impressive 1:32:12, followed by history major John Young ’15 at 1:36:05, Chinese major Aaron Finsrud ’15 at 1:39:28, and physics major Jack Flowers ’15 at 1:46:44.

Cracking Eggs with Physics Majors

Physics 101 students investigate conservation of energy by catapulting eggs across the Great Lawn. Photo by Tom Humphrey

Making my way to the library the other day I came upon an intriguing sight: a dozen students in Physics 101 firing eggs across the Great Lawn with a makeshift slingshot.

The students were applying the principle of conservation of energy to a devilish problem—determining the minimum angle of trajectory required to be sure that an egg will actually smash when it hits the ground.

At first glance, the experimental apparatus—some sturdy forearms and a length of surgical tubing—seemed rather primitive. But in physics, as elsewhere, appearances are often deceptive. It turns out that only four measurements are required for this investigation. First, the angle at which the egg is fired into the air. Second, the distance between the launch site and the landing site. Third, the mass of the egg. Fourth, the height of the grass. Armed with these numbers, the students can calculate the force with which the egg strikes the dirt.

Coho caught spawning in Crystal Springs

Reed Canyon fish ladder Photos by Zac Perry

Coho spawning in Crystal Springs Creek, downstream from campus, were caught on video for the first time in decades, according to Zac Perry, Reed’s canyon restoration specialist. Although there have been sightings of native salmon and steelhead in the Reed canyon, the fish have not been spied in flagrante delicto until now.

This is a timely occurrence, as Portland is marking the completion of the Westmoreland Park Ecosystem Restoration project on Saturday. The project, which began in May 2012, is a joint effort to remove barriers to fish passage—and it is succeeding in leaps and bounds!

The restoration of Reed canyon is a reflection of the commitment and personnel that the college has made to protect and improve the functions of the last open waterway in the city of Portland, which is now seeing regular visits by both endangered and protected native species seeking refuge in our beautiful headwater forest.

An Evening with Deresiewicz

Author Bill Deresiewicz spoke at Reed about higher ed, the Ivy League, and the purpose of a liberal arts education. Mary Ann Halpin Photography

I had dinner with William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, (along with a group of students) before his lecture at Reed last week and we had a lovely conversation. Nice guy, very smart, heart in the right place. Based upon his lecture and his article in the New Republic, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League—The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies,” I have three bones to pick.



First, his lumping together Reed with Sewanee, Mt. Holyoke, Kenyon and Wesleyan is, without putting too fine a point on it, not very helpful. I think it shows a profound misunderstanding of Reed. When I mentioned this possibility to him, he didn’t seem especially interested. If one is thinking about models for how a truly serious and student-oriented undergraduate program ought to look, you’d think a serious engagement with Reed might be useful—perhaps even essential.



Second, I think he largely misses the point of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the others. Not that they need my defense, but his criticism seems at once true and irrelevant. I doubt that many people really believe those institutions exist to provide great undergraduate teaching. Rather, they exist primarily to create knowledge—e.g., Nobel Prize winners and their equivalents in other fields—and, as such, they play a crucial and essential role in society. As an institutional matter, that role is deeply incompatible with terrific undergraduate teaching (if nothing else, we at Reed work much too hard on our teaching to win Nobel prizes), but so what? If you’re an undergraduate at, say, Harvard, the benefits that you will reap in terms of prestige, contacts with other enormously talented people, occasional opportunities to rub elbows with and perhaps learn some things from one or two world-class scholars—these are hardly trivial. And if that’s what an undergraduate wants, who’s to argue? It wouldn’t be my choice, but Reed isn’t for everybody. 



Stockroom Czar Goes out with a Bang

Stockroom manager Randie Dalziel demonstrated some of his favorite reactions at Randiefest 2014. Mat Olson ’15

After 27 years at Reed, chemistry lab and stockroom manager Randie Dalziel is retiring. To mark the historic occasion, the chemistry department organized Randiefest 2k14, which gave him a chance to showcase some of his favorite chemical reactions—in other words, to make things go “boom.”

Randie awed the crowd in Vollum lecture hall by wielding a fiery wand (a wooden stick dipped in flaming liquid oxygen), a glow-in-the-dark fountain (a round flask filled with luminol, the luminescent chemical used at crime scenes), and finished up with a spectacular demonstration of a thermite reaction, which produced an incandescent blaze of fiery sparks on the steps of Vollum.

“One time I did this on black top,” Randie said. “After the reaction there was this strange smoke, and we found out that the thermite burned through to the black top and melted it.”

Shades of White

Prof. Geraldine Ondrizek's installation Shades of White Courtesy of Geraldine Ondrizek

The discredited science of eugenics served as inspiration for Shades of White, an installation by Prof. Geraldine Ondrizek [art 1994–] created for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon. Prof. Ondrizek spent years researching the work of Alexandra Minna Stern, a medical historian at the University of Michigan and the author of Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America. 

Ondrizek’s investigation led to a visual reinterpretation of the “Gates Skin Color Charts” created by R. Ruggles Gates and used by eugenicists in the mid-20th century to assign an individual's racial category. Hand-dyed silk, displayed in 18-gauge steel boxes, approximates variations of skin pigmentation. “Her appropriation of this eugenic device to facilitate a discussion of human dignity is poignant and timely,” notes June Black, the museum’s associate curator.

Reed Threepeats as Portland Bike Commute Challenge Winner

 BTA  organizers Josh Shalek and Claire Michie

Reed’s co-organizers Josh Shalek and Claire Michie Kevin Myers

When it comes to bike commuting in Portland, Reed College and Wieden & Kennedy are the Montagues and Capulets, Red Sox and Yankees, Liverpool and Manchester United, or the Sharks and the Jets. Okay, you get the idea, we’re rivals. Over the past several years, the two organizations have finished at the top of the Portland Bike Commute Challenge leader board for large organizations. And this year, Reed logged more miles during the month of September than did our crosstown competitors.

The winner earns bragging rights for bike commuting supremacy in one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Thanks to a side bet by Reed’s co-organizers, Josh Shalek and Claire Michie, a worn pair of Reedie bike shorts will be framed, possibly spritzed with Old Spice, and hung in the hallways of one of the country’s most prestigious and successful ad firms.

The award celebration was held at Portland City Hall the evening of October 9. Reed was awarded a one-by-one-inch 2014 plaque to mount on the trophy it earned in 2010. This marks the third time (2010, 2011, and 2014) that Reed has taken the top prize—officially making it a bike-commuting dynasty!

Reed Launches Lab of Linguistics [LoL]

Linguistics Professor Sameer Khan demonstrates acoustical software at the Lab of Linguistics open house.

Prof. Sameer Khan [linguistics 2012–] demonstrates acoustical software at Reed's new Lab of Linguistics.

Say the following sentence out loud: “The cops caught the robber as he was sleeping on a small cot.”

Was there any difference in the way you pronounced the words caught and cot?

In some parts of the United States, such as New York City, speakers tend to distinguish the two. But in Boston and on the West Coast, speakers tend to pronounce them the same—a trend known to linguists as the low-back merger. Over centuries, the merger or migration of sounds can radically transform a language, as in the case of the Great Vowel Shift that rewired English in the Middle Ages.

Prof. Kara Becker [linguistics 2010–], an expert on accents and dialects, demonstrated the low-back merger and other sociolinguistic phenomena this week at an open house for Reed’s brand new Lab of Linguistics (LoL), which offers students better tools to study spoken language and gain insight into culture, society, and the structure of the human mind.

Reed Runners Demolish Portland Marathon

Philosophy major Ki Choi ’17 ponders time, space, and motion at the 2014 Portland Marathon. Mike Teskey

Approximately 45 students, staff, alumni, parents, and related life-forms ran in the Portland Marathon and Half-Marathon on Sunday in a vivid (and sweaty) demonstration of the versatility of a Reed education.

The first Reed runner to cross the Marathon finish line was physics major Will Holdhusen ’16 who posted a blazing 3:11:10, followed closely by history major John Young ’15 at 3:14:19 and psych major Corinna Jackson ’15 at 3:27:39.

Neighbors Visit Reed, Live to Tell the Tale

Portland neighbors, Reed students, and local nonprofits converge on Quad for Community Day Photo by Leah Nash

A performer sticking his head in balloons he’d inflated with a leaf blower. Children riding a tiny truck down a plastic slide. Cider. Bees. Bluegrass. A peek inside a nuclear reactor. These were just some of the attractions that drew multitudes of Portland neighbors to Reed on Saturday to celebrate the bond between town and gown.

The festivities kicked off with the Reed College 5K Run, which drew 276 participants and raised more than $9,000 for local Portland schools, including Duniway, Grout, Llewellyn, Lewis, and Woodstock Elementary schools. The overall winner was Christopher Clancy, who finished in 16:36, followed by physics major Jack Flowers ’15 who came in second in 17:15. Prof. Kyle Ormsby [math 2014-] came in fourth and Prof. Alison Crocker [physics 2014-] came in first among women runners and sixth overall. Trevor Soucy ’18, Ben Black ’18, Ki Choi ’17, Bookstore Manager Ueli Stadler, Hayden Kinney ’17, and Ross Petersen ’15 all finished in the top 25, several minutes ahead of President John Kroger and Reed magazine editor Chris Lydgate ’90, who ran while brandishing a ukulele. Afterwards, runners and their families tucked into a pancake feast in commons.

Reed Mourns Prof. Maggie Geselbracht

Prof. Maggie Geselbracht [chemistry 1993-2014]

We are deeply saddened to share news of the death of Prof. Maggie Geselbracht, who passed away last evening, after having struggled for many years with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and more recently with Epstein-Barr virus-driven large B-cell lymphoma. 

Maggie was the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry, and she had taught at Reed since 1993. An inspiring teacher and mentor, she touched many Reed students' lives through her general and inorganic chemistry courses, as well as through her research. Maggie's energy and enthusiasm for life and for learning were evident in all her work. She will be deeply missed by her many students, her colleagues, her friends across the Reed community, and a national network of like-minded chemists. Maggie is survived by her husband, Tom, and two sons, Zach and Kieran.

We extend our deepest condolences to Maggie’s family and friends.

Guesswork and the Rankings Game

Meaningless arrows, dubious data.

U.S. News & World Report released the 30th annual edition of its influential “best colleges” rankings yesterday. You’ll find the usual suspects at the top of the list. Reed came in at the weirdly low Number 77.

To me, however, the biggest surprise was St. John’s College.

St. John’s, if you’re not familiar with it, is a wonderful college in Annapolis, Maryland. Founded in 1696, it boasts an incredible 8-1 student-faculty ratio and a “Great Books” curriculum that makes me drool.

Inside Steam Tunnels, Students Make their Mark

Students explore Reed's labyrinthine steam tunnels during O-week. Gary Granger

More than 100 incoming students descended into Reed’s labyrinth of underground steam tunnels last week on a series of expeditions led by Gary Granger, director of community safety.

The tunnels are among the oldest structures on campus and were originally constructed to house the pipes that convey steam from the Physical Plant to heat Reed's first buildings, including Eliot Hall and the Old Dorm Block. They are sometimes muddy, sometimes dusty, often difficult to navigate, and always mysterious.

Over the years, intrepid Reedies have found ways to lull the sentries, bypass the locks, and explore the subterranean passageways, leaving behind surreal artwork, mordant graffiti ("Simeon Reed's Country Club"), and the occasional garden gnome.

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