April 23, 2003: Notebook
Blowing in the wind
Air pollution has been blamed for global warming for many years, but it also appears to be a factor in cooling temperatures and reducing rainfall in some regions of the world, according to Lynn Russell, an assistant professor of chemical engineering.
Focusing on the U.S. East Coast and Japan, Russell tracks weather patterns and collects pollutants through filters mounted on airplanes and ships. Identifying the particles in the samples, she and her graduate students can figure out from where they came. They found that samples from Japan included effluents from Chinese factories, Gobi Desert dust, and particles that originated in India, a range in area they hadnt expected. This made the project more complicated than we had imagined, she says.
These particles, Russell says, reflect sunlight and keep it from reaching the ground, leading to a white house effect, similar to the cooling effect of white paint on a car or a house on a hot day. With the cooling you do not get as much evaporation, so you do not get as much rain, says Russell, who came to Princeton in 1997.
Her research on the role of pollution particles on the East Coast earned her a $450,000 grant from the James McDonnell  Foundation last year. Russells work also led to her being named one of 100 innovative technologists and scientists under the age of 35 by the M.I.T. Technology Review and as a New Voice in Chemistry by the American Chemical Societys Chemical and Engineering News.
Russell teaches on the role of pollution particles in the atmosphere, as well as Mathematical Methods in Engineering Analysis. She is developing a course on aerosols, health, and health policy.
New admission dean named
Wellesleys Janet Lavin Rapelye to replace Hargadon in July
Photo: Janet Lavin Rapelye is Princetons new dean of admission. (frank wojciechowski)
April is the time Princeton says Yes! to applicants, but one special acceptance letter went out in March to the universitys choice for dean of admission: Janet Lavin Rapelye.
Rapelye, whose name rhymes with happily, has been dean of admission at Wellesley College, outside Boston, for 12 years; she succeeds Fred Hargadon, who retires in June and who has headed Princetons admission office for 15 years.
In announcing the appointment, President Tilghman said, Our goal was to appoint a dean who, in the tradition of Fred Hargadon, will provide stellar leadership for Princetons admission process, especially as we increase the size of our undergraduate student body; who will sustain and enhance Princetons reputation for excellence, both in and outside the classroom; who will help us reach out broadly to exceptional students from a wide range of backgrounds and interest; and who will make important contributions to the national discussion of admission issues.
A 1981 alumna of Williams College, Rapelye taught high school English for a year after she graduated and then entered the admissions field as assistant director of admission at Williams. In 1985 she went to Stanford University, where she earned a masters degree in education and worked as a counselor in Stanfords admission office. From there she went to Bowdoin College, in Maine, as associate director of admission from 1986 to 1991. She then was named dean of admission at Wellesley, an all-womens college that is one of the Seven Sisters.
Hired by Princeton at a crucial juncture in admissions, when the Supreme Court was preparing to rule on affirmative action, and when the university was planning to admit an additional 125 students per year, Rapelye must go from reading 3,500 applications a year at Wellesley to reading 15,000 at Princeton, something that doesnt seem to daunt her. I think it will be quite a step up, she said.
Also added to her plate will be the issue of athletics. Wellesley is a Division III school with 12 sports, while Princeton, a Division I school, has 38 varsity teams. On top of that, Rapelye must keep in mind the potential effect on admission of the Ivy League presidents new seven-week rule, which mandates time off from organized training for student-athletes.
One of the things that attracted Rapelye to Princeton was the universitys financial aid program. The funding Princeton has for its financial aid program is absolutely the best, she said. I knew that if there were any place that would be supportive of admissions in the long term it would be Princeton, which was something I was looking for. Other attractions, she said, were the chance to work with a first-class faculty at one of the premier universities in the world, and to work for President Tilghman and Nancy Malkiel, dean of the college. That was something that appealed to me when I met them, she said.
Despite obvious differences between Wellesley and Princeton size, gender, athletics there are similarities. Both institutions have long histories, both work to shake off images of country-club schools, and both value the intellectual life of their undergraduates. One of the things Ive really loved about the work that Ive done has been looking for intellectual curiosity and academic excellence, said Rapelye, and that is something that is valued at Princeton. The kind of academic work that students do in terms of their junior and senior year focus is really unparalleled. I found that so appealing that I know I could certainly talk about it to high school students and guidance counselors and parents and the public.
During her time at Wellesley, Rapelye saw an increase of 34 percent in applications. Im not sure that it is absolutely necessary to do that at Princeton, she said, but thats what Wellesley needed. She also saw an increase in the diversity of its student body, which is now 40 percent minority and 6 percent international.
Wellesley College President Diana Chapman Walsh said of Rapelye, Janet has been a brilliant dean at Wellesley, as well as a great friend to us all. Well miss everything about her.
Rapelye said that she wasnt expecting to rush in and make a lot of changes. Id really like to come in and get the lay of the land. To learn what is really good here. You dont process 15,000 applications without doing a lot of things right. But change is likely to happen. I have learned there is not just one way to do admissions. There are many ways, and I have learned each time to adjust to a new system and then to bring the best practices with me.
One change Rapelye might implement is increased faculty involvement in admissions. At Wellesley, some faculty members review applications, which she found enormously helpful, Rapelye said. At Princeton, whether it means involving faculty members in the actual reading, because it is an enormous commitment for the faculty, or whether it is spending more time with them in finding out what their interests and desires and their experiences in the classroom with the students are, I will want to find the right mix.
As dean, Rapelye will seek the right mix of students and certainly will admit academic standouts, athletes, and students accomplished in the arts. I think its important to look for students talents, whether its theater or art or music or sports. Whether theyve been involved in a political campaign. Whether theyve had a job, she said. Students who bring specific talents add not only to the curricular life but also to the extracurricular life.
I feel the same way about athletics as I do about the arts, she said. There are certain talents and skills you cant create in college; students need to come with it. If there are varsity sports at the Division I level, they need to be supported.
And what about legacies? I feel strongly that at private institutions such as Princeton, paying attention to family ties at the institution is a worthy consideration in the admission process, said Rapelye. However, I think each student needs to earn a place in the class. Not every qualified legacy will get in, just as not every qualified student will get in. Thats where the very hard decisions will come. But it does mean that they will get every consideration in the process.
The search process began last October, when President Tilghman appointed a 14-member committee headed by Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel. The committee included six faculty members, three students, and four administrators. Three finalists emerged in the process, and they were interviewed by five members of the Board of Trustees. Rapelyes appointment was made by the board upon the recommendation of President Tilghman.
A backlog of visa applications from foreign students and technical problems with the new database the U.S. government set up to track them after September 11 is hurting academic work at universities, including Princeton, according to testimony from President Tilghman and others at a March 26 hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives science committee.
Tilghman told the committee that visa delays are interrupting students research programs and teaching responsibilities, and that four engineering graduate students from Princeton who traveled abroad during winter break had difficulty reentering the country. Only one a Chinese student studying physics had returned, while the other three a Malaysian electrical engineering student, a Chinese mechanical engineering student, and a Chinese civil engineering student still awaited visas, she said.
Such situations are prompting some of Princetons international students, who account for nearly 9 percent of undergraduates and about 40 percent of graduate students, to forgo trips to their home countries during the summer.
The Web-based Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which replaced an outdated paper tracking system, also is creating problems by losing information and delaying the processing of simple forms, Tilghman said at the hearing.
Graduate school dean William Russel said the federal government should reinstate a preapproval system, which would allow international students to undergo security screening before they leave the U.S. I think preapproved visas make a lot of sense and would make the process more efficient, Russel said.
Tilghman told the committee that the more difficult we make it for highly desirable students and scholars to obtain American visas, the greater the likelihood that the best and brightest students and scholars throughout the world will elect to study and work in other countries.
The U.S.-led war in Iraq sparked the creation of a new undergraduate peace group that sponsored a weeks worth of antiwar activity following spring break.
Princeton Students United for Peace (P.S.U.P.) staged die-ins, where students lay near Frist Campus Center on white sheets smeared with red paint. The group also sponsored a poetry reading and stretched white sheets out on the ground, where passersby wrote their thoughts about the war.
P.S.U.P. members said they wanted to create a public forum where students could try to find common ground. Ive seen spontaneous conversations erupting between people who did not know each other . . . this area has become a place for real debate, said Jennifer Brea 05, who helped start P.S.U.P.
The Princeton Committee Against Terrorism, which supports American war efforts, took a low-key approach by passing out leaflets and staging a one-hour rally March 29 to support American troops. Theres a war on, we dont want to be rah-rahing too much. Its serious business, and we want to take it seriously, said Carlos Ramos-Mrosovsky 04, a spokesman for the group.
The P.C.A.T. rally drew about 50 students and served as a counterprotest to the Princeton Peace Networks weekly Palmer Square protest.