Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Spanish Major Wins Poetry Prize

Tara Borgilt ’17 won the 2016 Mary Barnard Poetry Prize for her poem, "Separation."

Congratulations to Tara Borgilt ’16, who won the 2016 Mary Barnard Academy of American Poets Prize contest with her poem, “Separation.” (Hear Tara read the poem by clicking the Soundcloud link below.)

This year’s contest was robust, with 36 poems submitted. Entries were judged by Elyse Fenton ’03, author of the award-winning book of poetry, Clamor

Tara is a Spanish major from Ashland, Oregon, and has been writing since she was little. “I was an obsessive journaler,” she says. 

Three Profs Granted Tenure

Prof. Sarah Schaack [biology] specializes in mobile DNA.

Congratulations to three members of the Reed faculty who were granted tenure this year:

Prof. Morgan Luker [music]

Prof. Luker joined the music department in 2010 as Reed’s first ethnomusicologist. His research focuses on the cultural politics of Latin American music, with special emphasis on contemporary tango music in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “We often think that aesthetics are just aesthetics, or that a musical style is just a musical style, but music in fact carries a tremendous range of meanings and functions, serving as both a symbol and generator of other forces in social life and history,” he says.

Class of ’14 and ’15: Where Are They Now?

What do you do with a degree from Reed?

Scattered to the wind, the Reed classes of ’14 and ’15 are beginning to take root in their careers, according to a “first destination” survey conducted by the Center for Life Beyond Reed.

Six months after commencement, 90% of the grads of both 2014 and 2015 reported having found successful first destinations: 65% held full-time jobs; 9% held part-time jobs; and 11% were in grad school. The remaining 10% were looking for work.

On Top of the World: Students Climb Mount Hood

SUMMIT FEVER. Reed students brandish axes after climbing to the peak of Mount Hood, which boasts an elevation of 11,245 feet. (3.4 x 10^5 cm for you metric fans.)

An intrepid band of Reed students pulled off an epic feat last weekend, trekking for six hours through snow, ice, steam, and rock to reach the windswept summit of Mount Hood.

Environmental studies major Raphaela Hsu-Flanders ’16, political science major Sydney Scarlata ’16, physics major Evan Peairs ’16, and biology major Guananí Gomez-Van Cortright ’18 climbed Oregon’s tallest peak with Reed climbing instructor Rodney Sofich.

The began their trip at the flagpole at Timberline Lodge at 1 a.m., equipped with boots, ice axes, crampons, helmets, day packs, water, chewy bars, and sunglasses, except for Evan, who wore a pair of welding goggles (he’s a physics major—what did you expect?)

Art Major Nabs Udall Scholarship

Studio art major Leila Pyle ’17 was recognized for her commitment to the environment, leadership potential, public service, and academic achievement.

Studio art major Leila Pyle ’17 has won a prestigious scholarship from the Udall Foundation recognizing her commitment to the environment, leadership potential, record of public service, and academic achievement.

The foundation’s announcement describes Leila as:

… passionate about environmental education and action through art. Both in her own work and in teaching others, she tries to communicate how the materials we use and the stories we tell through art can be used to generate a positive cultural relationship with the natural world. Leila also loves working with children and is an active Girl Scout leader. She attended the 2016 World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Helen Storrow Seminar as a representative of the United States. She gathers wonder from gardening, singing, hiking, and climbing trees.

Math Major Wins Award to Fight HIV in Ethiopia

Meaza Abate ’17 won a Davis Projects for Peace Award to promote better understanding of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia.

More than 750,000 people in Ethiopia live with HIV, which causes an average of 25,000 deaths every year and has orphaned more than half a million children. If you ask Meaza Abate ’17, however, the biggest failure is not the prevalence of HIV, but rather the nation's failure to integrate these individuals into society.

“People with the virus are stigmatized, and the intransigent cultural norms have made it difficult to access information,” she says. “Ethiopia’s conservative cultural norms and strong religious beliefs create barriers to the fight against HIV/AIDS, because they limit sex education in schools and disallow open discussion.”

Meaza has won a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace award to do something about that problem. This summer, she plans to arm youths with knowledge about HIV by training like-minded high school students, creating a network of youth leaders, and developing a platform for them to execute change.

Physics Major Invents New Musical Instrument

Evan Peairs ’16 invented a musical instrument for his physics thesis by borrowing ideas from aerospace and structural engineering. Photo by Chris Lydgate

Physics major Evan Peairs ’16 has built a new kind of bell for his senior thesis using an innovative design that is capable, in theory, of generating musical tones never previously achieved by a percussive instrument.

The instrument—which is related to a musical family known as the bell plate—consists of a slab of aluminum carved in an otherworldly shape that resembles a mutant unicorn. When you strike it with your finger, however, it rings with the sweet, reverent chime of a church bell.

Using the acoustical wizardry he developed for his thesis, Evan is now designing bell plates that sound like a gong, a xylophone, and a woodblock. “And I’m working on one that sounds like a trumpet,” he adds, showing a visitor around a laboratory in the Physics Building that bristles with lasers, mirrors, wires, pipes, and imposing electronic gadgetry.

Reedies win Fulbrights

Russian major Isabel Meigs ’16 won a Fulbright award to teach English in Ukraine. During her time at Reed, she edited the Quest, lived in the Russian House, and taught a Paideia course in the ancient art of psysanky.

Congratulations to our talented Reed students and alumni who just won Fulbright awards to study overseas. They are going to embark on some fascinating journeys!

Russian major Isabel Meigs ’16 has been chosen to serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ukraine. Isabel edited the Quest, wrote for The Grail, is a house advisor in the Russian House, spent a semester abroad studying in Russia, and has taught Paideia courses in pysanky, the ancient art of Ukrainian egg-dyeing.

Recent grad Annelyse Gelman ’13 won a Fulbright award to create “poetry films” in Germany. Annelyse wrote her thesis on improvisation and comedy with Prof. Allen Neuringer [psych] and recently published a book of poems, Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone.

Econ Students Win Ginormous Boardgame Tourney

Triumphant Reed students brandish gamepieces after taking first place in the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate Ginormous Blokus Tournament.

An undefeated Reed team took first place in the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate Ginormous Blokus Tournament on Saturday.

The tournament, now in its sixth year, is inspired by the boardgame Blokus, in which players systematically set down blocky geometric tiles on a square grid in an effort to claim territory and prevent their opponents from doing the same. But there’s a twist: the tournament is played on a gargantuan outdoor grid measuring some 400 square feet in area.

The Reed team was drawn from students taking Economics 315, Game Theory, with Prof. Jon Rork. “I like to use Blokus in my class to teach students how to think about strategy in a non-mathematical way,” says Prof. Rork. “When we get to the math, students find it more intuitive.”

Math Prof Wins Fellowship to Study ?-Loop Spaces

Professor Angélica Osorno [math] has won a Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The fellowship aims to give junior faculty the resources needed to aid their scholarly research and academic growth by offering support for twelve months of research and writing.

Prof. Osorno’s area of research is algebraic topology—the study of space and the properties of spaces that are preserved under continuous deformations. In particular, she will study how to construct infinite loop spaces (spaces of great importance in algebraic topology) from specific categorical inputs.

Prof. Osorno earned her PhD in math from MIT and taught at MIT and the University of Chicago before coming to Reed in 2013.

Chem Prof Wins Grant to Investigate Sinister Pathogen

Pathogenic E. coli is a leading cause of diarrhea, which killed 1.5 million children in 2009 alone.

Professor Kelly Chacón [chemistry 2015–] has won a grant of $53,500 from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust to study pathogenic bacterial metal detox via x-ray absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy.

She plans to use a combination of state-of-the-art spectroscopy and biochemical methods to understand how pathogenic E. coli thwart excess copper levels. Prof. Chacón hopes that understanding this mechanism will allow scientists to develop alternatives to traditional antibiotics to which pathogenic bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant.

She views the project as an ideal field of study for undergraduate chemistry students. The grant will allow Prof. Chacón to select several students to travel to a national laboratory with her and provide them with an invaluable learning experience.

Econ Prof Unlocks Puzzles of Human Behavior

Can drought affect domestic violence?

Is sex like driving?

Does foreign aid actually benefit its intended recipients?

These are the kinds of questions that Prof. Nick Wilson ’99 and his students wrestle with every day. And if this doesn’t exactly square up with your ideas about what economists are supposed to do, it’s time you took a fresh look at the discipline.

“If you were an alien observing Earth over thousands of years, what you’d notice is that until about 1820, the entire planet—every nation, every region—was basically poor,” Prof. Wilson says. “And then you see a striking divergence, where some countries get really rich, but others stay poor. I think understanding that phenomenon is the most important thing I can do.”

A Bag of Rice for Idomeni

More than 10,000 refugees are stranded outside the village of Idomeni in northern Greece.

I felt a tug on my sleeve. Looking down, there was a boy of about twelve who stared pleadingly while pointing to his bare and mud-soaked feet. Behind him were another half dozen, with more coming. They were but a few among the thousands of refugees camped on this vast plain that had become a bog following days of rain.

The few score residents of the border village of Idomeni in northern Greece were nonplussed by the worldwide attention their community had drawn since a dozen countries in Eastern Europe closed their borders to the masses fleeing the turmoil in Syria and beyond. That controversial action stranded approximately 50,000 homeless refugees, who entered Greece in the hope of moving on to Western Europe, and now have nowhere to go.

The Greek government had allowed their entry, which it could do little to prevent, mostly by small boats from Turkey to the Aegean islands, with the expectation that the refugees would quickly move onward. From there they have made their way to the frontier with Macedonia hoping to reach Germany or its neighbors.

Reed Announces President’s Summer Fellows

Physics major Kaustuv Datta ’17 and six other Reed students won grants of $5,000 each to pursue projects over the summer.

Reed is proud to announce the latest winners of the President’s Summer Fellowship: seven outstanding projects that combine intellectual pursuit, imagination, adventure, personal transformation, and service to the greater good.

Inaugurated by President John R. Kroger, with generous support from trustee Dan Greenberg ’62 and his wife, Susan Steinhauser, the fellowship attracts scores of creative proposals every year. The winners will be awarded $5,000 each to pursue their projects during summer 2016. Here they describe their projects in their own words.

Zebrafish and “Driver” Genes: Biologists Nab Grants

Prof. Kara Cerveny

Prof. Kara Cerveny [bio] won an $80K grant to study neurogenesis in zebrafish.

Three Reed biology professors have won significant grants this spring, continuing a remarkable string of success for the biology department.

Prof. Kara Cerveny won an $80,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to investigate neurogenesis—the process by which neurons are generated—in zebrafish. This is part of a collaborative grant with two other principal investigators at Whitworth University and Lewis & Clark College; the total amount awarded to all three institutions is $240,000. The Collaborative Research Alliance Pilot Initiative will establish a virtual "Center for Excellence" in the Pacific Northwest. The overall goal of this project is to study the mechanisms underlying cell specification behavior during neurogenesis in developing embryos.

Prof. Suzy Renn won a $57,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to organize the BRAIN STEM workshop which brought together professors and students from colleges around the nation to discuss the role of undergraduate research and education toward the national BRAIN Initiative.

Planting a Legacy, Dave Nielsen Retires

BRANCHING OUT. Groundskeeper Dave Nielsen is retiring after serving Reed for 24 years.

You know Dave Nielsen. You’ve seen him pruning the roses outside Sullivan, pushing a wheelbarrow across the Quad, or riding a lawnmower on the Great Lawn with a bandana over his face. Dave retired last week, having worked at Reed for more than 24 years.

Dave’s first day on the job was December 10, 1991. Before Reed, he had worked at the Gresham parks department, plus done stints as Safeway checker and McDonald’s cook.

Since then, Dave has left an indelible mark on campus. One example is the profusion of rose bushes outside Sullivan. He calls that area “My Mom’s Garden,” because it’s thanks to his mother’s emphasis on education that Reed has the flowers. Several years ago, Dave and his two daughters, who were aged around ten and twelve at the time, were shopping at the Lloyd Center mall when the signs scattered around caught his eye. The mall was holding a promotion: spend $75, bring in your receipt, get a free rose bush.

Tech firms come to Reed for skull sessions

Chemistry major Luke Kanies ’96 founded IT giant Puppet Labs, which employs more than 300 people in downtown Portland.

The room is a hubbub of debate about broken code, JSON arrays, and the finer points of system architecture. But we are not in a conference room of a tech startup. We are gathered in a Reed classroom for an innovative event organized by the Center for Life Beyond Reed.

Its name? MindStorm.

Huddled at a whiteboard typically devoted to Milton and Hobbes, a group of students led by former math major Chris Fesler ’96 discussed the minutiae of designing service discovery protocols with all the earnestness of Odysseus begging Achilles to return to the siege of Troy. In lay terms, a service discovery protocol tells individual copies, or instances, of programs how to find and communicate with each other—so that if, for example, one instance of a security program fails, another can quickly armor up to continue its defense. Or so that, in the case of Fesler’s financial clearing company, Apex Clearing, a member of al Qaeda can’t sell shares on the New York Stock Exchange when one of Apex’s trade screening systems goes down.

RIP Father Palladino, Master of Letter Forms

MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD. Father Robert Palladino taught calligraphy at Reed from 1969 to 1984.

Father Robert Palladino, a vital force in Reed's calligraphy tradition, and mentor to many scholars of the letter—including a penniless dropout named Steve Jobs—died quietly at home in Welches, Oregon, on Friday, according to his son, Eric. He was 83 years old.

A former Trappist monk, Father Palladino taught calligraphy at Reed from 1969 to 1984, where he guided students on an intellectual voyage through the the art and history of the letters of the alphabet with brush, pen, quill, and ink.

“Whenever you write, write something worth reading,” he told his students.

Reed to Launch Computer Science Program

BRING IN 'DA FUNCTION. Prof. Jim Fix will lead Reed's new initiative in computer science.

Reed’s digital footprint will grow by an order of magnitude next year with the launch of a fully fledged computer science program.

With $5 million in fundraising for endowments nearly complete, the college will hire two new tenure-track professors, offer deeper and more advanced coursework to a wider range of students, and establish a major in computer science.

Combined with other recent initiatives—such as computational biology and the Software Design Studio—Reed aims to build an outstanding program that provides students from all kinds of backgrounds an unparalleled opportunity to master this dynamic field.

Physics grads prove Einstein was right

The collision of two black holes at near-light speed sent a gravitational wave pulsing through the fabric of space-time. Physical Review Letters

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, two black holes fell into each other's gravitational field and began to spin around each other at insanely high speed, ultimately smashing together in a spectacular collision that sent a pulse of energy rippling through the fabric of space-time. 

This cosmic event was detected on September 14, 2015, by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)—a massive scientific achievement by thousands of scientists who worked on the project over multiple decades. Physics grads Larry Price ’01, Paul T. Baker ’06Grant Meadors ’08, and Meg Millhouse ’12 were on the team behind the historic breakthrough, which marked the first time that gravitational waves have been detected and the first time that two black holes were seen to collide. (Until now, in fact, the evidence for the existence of black holes was somewhat theoretical.) 

Grant Meadors ’08

How did it feel to be part of this discovery? "Wonderful!" Grant told us. "How often can one help open a view to a new side of the universe?"

Grant began his work on gravitational wave astronomy at Reed, where Prof. David Griffiths and Prof. Johnny Powell agreed to him take Physics 200 his freshman year. "That fall I saw posters for the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates," Grant says. "One was at LIGO Hanford. Dick Gustafson, a scientist there, knew of Reed and invited me to come work with him in the summer of 2005. That is how it all began!"

During his time at Reed, Grant ran the nuclear reactor, won a Goldwater Scholarship, and wrote his thesis, Re-searching galactic structure with Reed's radio telescope, with Prof. Bob Reynolds [physics]. 

After graduation, he studied physics at the University of Michigan and spent two years at the Hanford Observatory as a LIGO fellow, participating in the "quantum squeezer" experiment. After earning his PhD, he joined the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Germany, to resume his search for gravitational waves.

Paul T. Baker

The authors of the groundbreaking paper included several other Reedies:

Paul T. Baker ’06
 graduated in physics, writing his thesis on electrodynamics and weak-field Kerr geometry with Prof. Joel Franklin ’97. After Reed, he earned a PhD from Montana State University and is currently a visiting assistant professor at SUNY in Geneseo, NY, where he specializes in gravitational wave data analysis and bayesian statistics.


Meg Millhouse ’12 wrote her Reed thesis on neutrino oscillation tomography with Prof. David Latimer. (Her preface begins with a memorable quote from renowned physicist Wolfgang Pauli: “I have done something very bad today by proposing a particle that cannot be detected; it is something no theorist should ever do.") She later published her thesis in the American Journal of Physics. She is currently pursuing a PhD in physics at the Extreme Gravity Institute at Montana State University.

Dr. Larry Price ’01

Larry Price ’01 wrote his thesis on Bargmann-Wigner formalism with Prof. Nick Wheeler ’55. After Reed, he earned a PhD from the University of Florida and spent six years working as a postdoc at the LIGO laboratory in Pasadena, where he developed software to optimize astronomical observations and authored well over a scholarly papers on the subject of gravitational waves. He is currently a data scientist at digital advertising firm OpenX.

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