Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Reed Declares New Majors

Decisions, decisions. Reed has added a new comp lit major, plus two new concentrations: math-computer science and math-statistics.

The perennial sophomore’s dilemma—What should I major in?—just got harder.

In November, the faculty voted to broaden Reed’s curriculum by approving a new major in comparative literature, and two new concentrations in the mathematics department: mathematics-computer science and mathematics-statistics. All three tracks will be in place by fall 2015. (And it looks like a standalone dance major is also on the way.)

The mathematics-computer science concentration may seem like the most radical addition. After all, are computers really compatible with Reed’s emphasis on the humanities? The answer is a resounding yes. Reed has pioneered the use of computing in the liberal arts and sciences amid growing recognition that computer science constitutes a distinct intellectual discipline, bristling with unsolved problems, theoretical debates, and recursive paradoxes.

Film Focuses on Enigmatic Psychologist

Psychologist, veteran, holocaust survivor, and jazz fanatic Frank Wesley '50 is the subject of new documentary by David Bee.

Like a jazz movement, the new documentary Frank’s Song, by Portland filmmaker David Bee, is at times languid, at others staccato, and sometimes a little drawn out.

Truth is, it’s a tall order for any film to capture the protean life of Frank Wesley ’50, who survived the holocaust, worked in the shipyards, became an influential psychologist and author of many books, and still, at the age of 95, cuts a distinctive figure in the Hawthorne district of southeast Portland.

Frank also is obsessed with jazz. The grizzled, diminutive, always-smiling nonagenarian is often caught on camera sitting in a chair, clutching and absentmindedly repositioning his brass wind instrument, much like a father with an infant. That is, when he’s not blowing into his sax with everything he’s got. “Jazz doesn’t let me die,” he says in his accented, soprano English.

Jump for Joy! Reed Wins $800K Grant for Dance

With a leap and a bound, the swift Reed students fly through the new Steiner Dance Studio. Leah Nash

Reed has won an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen its dance program with more classes, more workshops, and—pending approval from the faculty—a freestanding dance major.

“I am thrilled by what the Mellon Foundation's support will mean for dance at Reed,” says Prof. Carla Mann ’81 [dance 1995–].

The grant will allow the college to expand faculty positions in the dance department from 2 to 2.5, enabling professors to teach 12–13 courses a year. It also sets the stage for us to offer a dance major—something Reed dancers have long hoped for. Reed will launch a search for a new tenure-track professor to begin in the fall of 2015. After that, the dance department, including Prof. Mann and Prof. Minh Tran, will devise and propose a major. If the faculty approves, Reed would be the only college in Portland that offers a dance major (although Lewis & Clark and Portland State University both offer a dance minor).

Reed Prof Lends Voice to Torture Debate

Reed Prof. Darius Rejali [political science 1989–] is internationally recognized as an expert on the subject of torture.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the use of “enhanced interrogation” by the CIA has sparked a national debate on the role of torture—a debate in which the voice of Prof. Darius Rejali has grown increasingly prominent.

Prof. Rejali is the author of the influential book Torture and Democracy, and is one of the world’s leading scholars on torture.

Last week, Rejali, Prof. Paul Gronke, and Peter Miller ’06 wrote an article for the Washington Post contending that U.S. opinion is still strongly opposed to the use of torture. "No, Americans aren't 'fine with torture.' They strongly reject it."

Econ Department Hails “Senior” Student

Reed economics student

Prof. Noelwah Netusil and long-running economics student Lys Carney.

The Reed economics department threw a party on Friday for lifelong student Lys Carney, a retired businessman who has audited a jaw-dropping total of 19 econ classes—the most in the department’s history.

Lys was already retired in 2005 when he took his first class at Reed, ECON 348, Economics in the Public Sector, with Prof. Noelwah Netusil. “I decided to study what I should have known all the time when I was in business,” he said. “I had a lot of experience, but I never knew the theory.”

He then proceeded to audit one class each semester for the next 10 years for a grand total of 19 (plus one class in the history of science with Prof. Ralph Drayton ’87.)

How to Conquer the Number Plane

An ascending 1-stair packing polynomial, which assigns an integer to each co-ordinate in the sector of the plane that has been cordoned off by the hobgoblin's velvet cord (in this example, the hobgoblin chose the sector bounded by a line with slope 8/5).

Imagine dashing into a vast, Borgesian concert hall just before the curtain rises. There’s an infinite number of guests and an infinite number of seats, neatly arranged in rows and columns. Unfortunately, a mischievous hobgoblin has roped off a section of the auditorium with a velvet cord, putting some seats out of commission. How do you, Guest N, figure out where to sit?

Okay, it’s a far-fetched scenario, but math major Maddie Brandt ’15 is the first person in history to solve it in her paper “Quadratic Packing Polynomials On Sectors Of R2,” which she will present at a national conference in January.

The problem of assigning guests to seats is directly related to the problem of mapping the non-negative integers (those friendly, deceptively familiar objects such as 0,1,2,3, and their ilk) onto the co-ordinate plane (defined by pairs of integers such (0,0), (0,1), (0,2), etc.—think of the game of battleships). How do you map the integers to the co-ordinate pairs in such a way that you count all the pairs one after another, without skipping any?

Eye of the Zebra (fish)

DON'T BLINK. 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, Washington, 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.

Students in Prof. Cerveny’s lab explore fundamental questions such as how a single cell becomes a complex organism, how undifferentiated cells choose their fate, and why some tissues regenerate after injury-- all through studying zebrafish eye and brain development.

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!

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