July 18, 2007: Notebook
Two senior scholars of modern Islamic law will begin teaching at Princeton in the fall, as the Near Eastern studies department — perhaps best known for professors who focus on pre-modern subjects — is growing and expanding its exploration of the contemporary Middle East.
Muhammad Qasim Zaman, a scholar of modern Islamic movements and Islamic law, was hired at Princeton from Brown University in 2006 as the Robert H. Niehaus ’77 Professor of Eastern Studies and Religion, but spent the last academic year on leave. This year, the department hired Bernard Haykel, who specializes in Islamic law and political and social history, from New York University.
The department is broadening its reach in other ways, as well. Miriam Kunkler, a specialist in modern Iran who is completing her dissertation at Columbia University, will come to Princeton in the fall as a junior faculty member, according to Sükrü Hanioglu, chairman of the NES department. A new postdoctoral program, intended to attract bright young scholars who will teach one class per year while they conduct research, also begins in September, with two participants. And the number of faculty members from other departments — including the Woodrow Wilson School, politics, and history — who are associated with NES has doubled to eight within a year. “We are trying to establish bridges with other departments and programs,” Hanioglu explained.
Princeton’s Near Eastern studies department is one of the nation’s oldest, and according to one recent ranking, it houses the most productive faculty in the field. Interest in the department among undergraduates has grown considerably in recent years, though Near Eastern studies remains a small department. Undergraduate majors peaked at 10 in the Class of 2006. Five concentrators graduated this June, along with a record-tying 10 certificate students.
While that still pales in comparison to large departments like history, politics, and economics, it is a marked increase from 2000, when Near Eastern studies graduated just one concentrator and one student in its interdepartmental certificate program. Arabic classes have shown the most dramatic growth, drawing more than 130 students last fall compared with fewer than 30 in the fall of 2000, and Persian has become more popular as well.
Veteran professor Michael Cook noted that the reasons behind the increase in student interest are “not entirely pleasant” — curiosity about Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism are among the driving forces. But newspaper headlines cannot explain all of the interest, says Hanioglu. His 500-level Ottoman diplomacy seminar attracted 16 students in the spring — a three-fold jump over recent years — though it touches only tangentially on the modern Middle East. “I’m not saying that Sept. 11, the discussions of political Islam, and the war in Iraq don’t play any role,” Hanioglu said, “but I think there must also be other reasons behind this increase.” A strong faculty, with expertise ranging from the medieval world to the modern, has been part of the department’s draw, he said.
Near Eastern studies concentrator Emma Harper ’08 said some students may be drawn to courses in the department because they are relevant to current events, but those who pursue the major or the certificate program “realize how amazing the resources are and how amazing the professors are.” Harper spent the summer after her sophomore year studying in Ankara, Turkey, where she was immersed in both Turkish language and culture. She lived with a host family, and the Near Eastern studies department paid her tuition.
The latest hires are likely to draw still more students. Both Zaman and Haykel are known as leaders in their areas of expertise. Each was among the 16 professors selected as Carnegie Scholars in 2005 and awarded up to $100,000 to pursue a two-year research project on Islam. (Two other Princeton professors, Amaney Jamal of the politics department and Lawrence Rosen of the anthropology department, also were named Carnegie Scholars.)
Zaman’s research interests include religious authority in classical, medieval, and modern Islam; the history of Islamic law; institutions and traditions of learning in Islam; Islamic political thought; and contemporary religious and political movements in the Muslim world. He is the author of The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change, and is co-editor of Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education. His latest project, a book tentatively titled Internal Criticism and Religious Authority in Modern Islam, explores key debates among Muslims over social and political reform and religious authority.
Haykel, a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs on NPR and in The New York Times, is studying the Salafi movement, also known as the Wahhabiyya, in Saudi Arabia from the 1960s through today. (Osama bin Laden is a member of a radical fringe of the Salafi movement.) Haykel explores why the Salafis have become one of the most influential intellectual and political groups of the last half-century, and why Salafi thinking is appealing to Muslims around the world. He is the author of Revival and Reform in Islam: The Legacy of Muhammad al-Shawkani.
The Near Eastern studies department this year has re-evaluated its curriculum and is taking new approaches to its thematic courses, using a broad interpretation of the Middle East to include classes on the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Afghanistan. The department tried to “think in market terms,” said Cook, condensing or eliminating some courses while adding or retitling others.
Members of the University community have joined in efforts seeking the release of Middle East Studies scholar Haleh Esfandiari, imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage and endangering Iran’s national security. Esfandiari taught Persian language and literature as a lecturer at Princeton from 1980 to 1994.
Esfandiari is director of the Middle East Program at the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Born in Iran, she has lived in the United States for more than 25 years. She traveled to Iran in December to visit her 93-year-old mother; while on her way to the airport to return to America, she was robbed of her passports at knifepoint. She subsequently underwent a series of interrogations that centered on her work at the Wilson Center, according to a statement by the center, and she was jailed at Evin Prison on May 8.
President Tilghman wrote a letter May 21 to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressing her “profound concern” over the confinement of Esfandiari, who she said “earned the gratitude of a generation of students in whom she instilled love of the Persian language and of Iranian culture.”
The following week, 36 former students of Esfandiari at Princeton sent a letter to Ahmadinejad and to Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seeking her release and stating that “her entire career as a scholar and a teacher has been spent building bridges of understanding between Americans and Iranians.”
President Bush called for the immediate release of Esfandiari and three other American citizens detained in Iran, and U.S. scholars announced boycotts of the country. More information can be found on the Web at freehaleh.org.
First Lt. D. Alexander Wilson ’03 was seriously injured by the explosion of an IED (improvised explosive device) while he was riding in a Humvee in Iraq May 31. Alexander, an ecology and evolutionary biology major, joined the Army and left for Iraq in the fall of 2006, where he served as a platoon leader. Wilson suffered leg injuries and was being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, according to Army spokesman Paul Prince. Gabrielle Vazquez ’04, a friend of the Wilson family, said an e-mail address, FriendsofAlexWilson@gmail.com, has been created for those seeking more information or who wish to offer support to Wilson.
Six alumni have been named to the University’s Board of Trustees. They are:
KATHRYN HALL ’80 of San Francisco, co-chairwoman, co-chief executive officer, and chief investment officer at Offit Hall Capital Management LLC. She is a director of the Princeton University Investment Co. (Princo) and previously served as a University trustee from 2002 to 2006.
JANET L. HOLMGREN *74 of Oakland, Calif., president of Mills College. After working as a faculty member and administrator at other institutions, Holmgren returned to Princeton in 1988 to serve as associate provost and vice provost. She has been president of Mills since 1991.
FRANKLIN MOSS ’71 of Weston, Mass., director of the Media Lab and the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an Annual Giving volunteer and has served on advisory boards for Princeton’s computer science department and engineering school.
SONIA SOTOMAYOR ’76 of New York City, a U.S. Circuit Court judge. She was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University in 2001 for her “wisdom and judgment that cross cultural boundaries.”
WILLIAM WALTON III ’74 of Jacksonville, Fla., managing member and co-founder of Rockpoint Group LLC, a global real estate investment-management firm. Walton is a director of Princo and the president of the Princeton University Rowing Association.
JIM WILLIAMSON ’07 of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., who was president of his class from his sophomore through his senior years and chairman of the University Honor Committee last year. Williams, a young alumni trustee, will be working at McKinsey & Co. in Philadelphia.
Hall was elected to a 10-year term as a charter trustee, while the other five new trustees will serve four-year terms on the 40-member board.
One of the hallmarks of a Princeton education continues to be, as President Tilghman said in her Commencement address last month, “the most rigorous test of all”: the writing of a thesis or completion of a major independent research project. PAW asked four members of the Class of 2007 to describe their thesis projects and one of this year’s Ph.D. recipients to discuss his dissertation.
Here are their responses:
Zach Berta, astrophysics
Summary: Galaxies in space occasionally are clustered together by the force of gravity. Weighing up to one quadrillion times the mass of our Sun, these galaxy clusters are the biggest “things” in the universe. For my thesis, using two-dimensional images of the sky from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, I developed a new way to map out their three-dimensional locations in space from their apparent size and the brightness and color of their member galaxies — just as, for example, you might tell the distance to an oncoming car by the look of its headlights or the sound of its engine. Some of the clusters found with this new method never have been seen before.
Adviser: Professor David Spergel ’82
Reason for selecting the topic: My adviser is one of the best teachers I’ve ever met, the project was really interesting, and it gave me the chance to travel to South Africa for a month to do research with some collaborators there.
Toughest obstacle: It took me a while to overcome my shyness — asking questions when I didn’t understand, speaking up when I disagreed with something, talking to other scientists about our research.
Plans after graduation: After turning my thesis into a publishable paper over the summer, I’m heading to Barcelona for more astrophysics research and eventually to the Center for Astro-physics at Harvard to start working toward my Ph.D.
Max Jan, molecular biology
Summary: Our bodies don’t age like cars, passively breaking down as parts wear out. Instead, aging may be traced to just a handful of important genes that can shorten or lengthen life span. These genes — and thus the aging process as a whole — are influenced by how much we eat, by insulin levels, and by health-protective agents such as resveratrol, a compound celebrated for its abundance in red wine. For my senior thesis, under the supervision of Dr. Coleen Murphy, I used cutting-edge genomics techniques to identify novel longevity genes that are elicited by these stimuli in our model organism, the small roundworm C. elegans. As these mechanisms are remarkably similar in C. elegans and more complex animals, this field of research holds exciting prospects for understanding the human body’s defenses against cancer, degeneration of the brain, and other unsolved age-related diseases.
Adviser: Assistant professor Coleen Murphy
Reason for selecting the topic: The Murphy Lab asks how and why we age. These are questions fundamental to what life and humanity are all about that science may illuminate within our lifetime. Also, Dr. Murphy is a dynamic personality, a great leader, and attentive mentor, and she gave me the opportunity to work independently on a project that reported directly to her. I truly enjoyed the creative license to design experiments and interpret results.
Toughest obstacle: Early and repeated failure. My project depended upon an extremely powerful technology called the DNA microarray. For every imaginable reason, I could not get this difficult and elaborate technique to work. It took a full year to troubleshoot this problem; every meaningful result that I reported in my thesis has come in the past seven months.
Plans after graduation: I will hang out with my family in June, backpack through North Africa and the Middle East in July, and experience the great American road trip from New Jersey to San Francisco in August. In the fall I will become a Stanford Graduate Fellow at the Stanford Medical School’s Cancer Biology Program.
Julia Harman Cain, comparative literature
Summary: My first project was a joint senior thesis in comparative literature and the Program in Theater & Dance. I co-authored (with Joshua Williams ’07) and directed an original play, Four Rooms Waking, which premiered in January at the Matthews Acting Studio. Spanning 20 years and several countries, the play captured one day in the lives of four sets of characters, raising questions about race, disability, religion, sexuality, and gender — and examining the role of private people in public wars. For the analytical aspect of the project, I wrote about fractured narrative in contemporary theater and its reflection of post-structural philosophy, particularly the work of French theorist Jacques Derrida. My second project, for the Creative Writing Program, was a collection of poems called “Assumed Intimacy,” which explored how closeness is created and maintained between two people — husband and wife, brother and sister, and sometimes artist and subject.
Advisers: Theater and dance lecturers Robert Sandberg and Timothy Vasen, comparative literature professor Sandra Bermann, creative writing assistant professor Tracy K. Smith.
Reason for selecting the topics: Annie Preis ’07 and I stumbled over the idea for the theater project while we were watching a performance of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at McCarter Theatre. We both were interested in questions of colonialism, liberation, and social justice — and we wondered if we could address such questions in the context of a play. After a lot of debate about how to focus the project, we chose to center the play on the Algerian war for independence. We felt that that particular moment in history sparked many of the questions that we hoped to address.
Toughest obstacle: I have directed on the Princeton campus several times before, and I have always started rehearsals with a fairly clear idea of how the show eventually would look. But with Four Rooms, we continued to adjust the script and tweak the blocking until the last possible minute. For example, the four plotlines interweave throughout the play and the action jumps from Algeria to America, from Cuba to Easter Island — and as my adviser realized in the final week before opening night, the audience needed something to watch between, as well as during, the myriad scenes. So Josh and I conceptualized short pieces for the actors to perform as the sets moved behind them, only days before opening night. It was definitely a challenge constantly to reconceive and rewrite large portions of the show (both throughout the rehearsal process and in the final week), but ultimately I think that that state of constant revision is one of the most fascinating elements of a creative thesis.
Plans after graduation: Each summer, I teach in the drama and writing departments of the Charles River Creative Arts Program in Dover, Mass. For next year, I have a directing/producing internship at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C., working as the assistant to the artistic director.
Jacob Dorler, architecture
Summary: The implications of a deflating city in New Jersey are drawn upon to offer up a practical solution in an age where outsourcing and job loss have left many cities losing populations and resources. Trenton, N.J., once the poster-child of the American manufacturing city, stands as a paradox with its swaths of abandonment in the most densely populated state. The ailing industrial corridor would be purged of its polluted soil using emerging agricultural techniques and replanted with gardens, orchards, and recreational fields for the citizens of Trenton, who don’t even have a large-scale grocery store in their city. Additionally, an inner-city transportation program would link the city together by converting abandoned rail lines into a tram system.
Advisers: Assistant professor Sarah Whiting; (second reader) Dean Stanley Allen *88
Reason for selecting the topic: For this new century, outdated paradigms and images of how a city should look and function must be cast aside. New approaches that interweave the greener comforts of suburban life with the social and economic dynamism of the city must learn to reuse what past generations have left behind in order to create a sustainable future.
Toughest obstacle: To write an inspiring, almost utopian, thesis while including all of the sociological, economic, ecological, historical, and architectural facts that supported the dream but weren’t always the most exciting or beneficial in making the content of my thesis really jump out at the reader.
Plans after graduation: After a whirlwind networking vacation all over Europe, I will be working in Newark, N.J., where two fellow graduates and I are beginning our own design firm, Agitecture, LLC. We also will be teaching about architecture for an after-school program in association with the Barat Foundation in Newark.
Bruce Gilley, Ph.D., politics
Summary: My dissertation is an empirical study of why states are, or are not, legitimate in the minds of their citizens. This is one of the oldest questions in political science, but it has come back into focus with recent state-building and democracy-building efforts around the world. The dissertation measures and explains legitimacy and then shows how it is generated in particular conditions, with a case study of Uganda, and why it matters so much for politics and international relations.
Advisers: Professors Lynn White, Stephen Macedo *87, and Paul Sigmund (emeritus)
Reason for selecting the topic: Legitimacy is seen as mushy or naïve or both in contemporary political science, where self-interested rational-actor models dominate. I find those approaches to politics unsatisfactory and unable to explain most of what we see in politics, so I asked whether legitimacy could be studied empirically and shown to be important.
Toughest obstacle: Finding advisers who would support the project. Even though I had a contract to publish it with Columbia University Press, I found it hard to get support, especially from younger faculty more schooled in trendy rationality models of politics. Lynn was a supporter all along. I found Steve and Paul very late in the game. Paul is one of the last generation of political scientists who does both empirical and normative work, and I am hoping he will not be the last. Steve is a philosopher who is really engaged with the empirical side. So I found my dream team at last, but not without great difficulty.
Plans after receiving degree: I am now assistant professor of political studies at Queen’s University in Canada.
Princeton ROTC cadets stand for review with their horses in this 1955 photo taken inside the armory, which housed the University’s military training programs for nearly 80 years. The building is to be torn down this summer to make way for a new chemistry building, expected to open in the fall of 2010. Current members of the Tiger Battalion lowered the colors for the last time in an April 27 ceremony outside the armory. The ROTC program, which started in 1919 as a field artillery unit and trained more than 10,000 Princeton officers in its first half-century, has moved to new quarters at 294 Alexander Road.
Designing a plane to fly 10 times the speed of sound
To Ted Conbeer ’08, the task assigned to his engineering class seemed “a little like science fiction.” The project? To design a hypersonic aircraft that could carry 10 passengers and two crew members from Tokyo to New York in less than three hours and for less than $100,000 a ticket.
Conbeer’s assignment was part of a junior-level design course, “Aircraft Design,” required of all mechanical and aerospace engineering students. Luigi Martinelli, an associate professor who normally teaches the class, said the course is a culmination of students’ coursework in the department and an introduction to real-life problem solving.
“It’s the first time they are making connections between mathematics, physics, and application computing,” Martinelli said. “They’re bringing everything together, and they have to start integrating all their knowledge.”
In the past, the students in the class have focused on more conventional vehicles, such as seaplanes or business jets. But during the spring semester, the juniors and seniors applied their engineering know-how to designing a hypersonic airplane capable of flying more than 10 times the speed of sound. Leading the class this year was Kevin Bowcutt, chief scientist of hypersonics and a senior technical fellow at Boeing.
Working in three teams of about 10 students each, Bowcutt’s class designed three types of hypersonic airplanes: a one-stage cruiser, which would stay within the atmosphere and be propelled by its own power; a two-stage cruiser, which would also stay within the atmosphere but be propelled by a separate, larger aircraft; and an exo-atmospheric cruiser, which would be self-propelled and enter suborbital flight during its voyage.
The teams generated 3-D computer models of their designs, and the winner was picked by a panel of judges that included a NASA researcher, a professor in the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and a colleague of Bowcutt’s at Boeing. “It was a very broad and extensive look at all the different aspects you are required to look at for the design of hypersonic vehicles,” said David Glass, a senior research engineer at NASA. “They did a good job.”
Bowcutt said the students developed a novel way of designing the passenger cabin and fuel storage of the plane so that the vehicle’s center of gravity would remain fixed during flight. The group working on the exo-atmospheric cruiser also came up with a new wing design that integrated the plane’s propulsion system and allowed for a varying wing area.
“Anything I learn here, any good ideas, I can bring them back to Boeing,” Bowcutt said. “We will look for opportunities to leverage this.” He said he has encouraged his students to submit their design to a competition organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Having Bowcutt as a teacher had its perks, students said.
Alex Van Hoek ’08 said the class offered him the chance to work with people in the industry who could give him guidance and feedback. Caroline Teichner ’07 also enjoyed the connection with the aeronautics industry: “It was the only class that made me feel like I was doing something that might relate to the real world.”
Bowcutt hopes his time at Princeton will inspire future engineers to continue the hypersonic aircraft-design work on which he has focused for 25 years.
Although he estimates that hypersonic flight is 10 to 20 years away, he hopes to see it become a reality. “This is my dream — I want to do this,” he said.
By Bianca Bosker ’08
Princeton is losing some major campus figures this summer, including history professor Robert Darnton, while former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist ’74 is among those joining the faculty in the fall.
Darnton, a faculty member since 1968, became director of the Harvard University Library July 1. Other tenured faculty departing the Univer-sity include Carol Armstrong, professor of art and archaeology and women and gender, who is moving to Yale; Ihor Lemischka, molecular biology, to Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Josiah Ober, classics, to Stanford; David Srolovitz, mechanical and aerospace engineering, to Yeshiva College; M. Christine Stansell ’71, history, to the University of Chicago; Bruce Western, sociology, to Harvard; and Wayne Wolf, electrical engineering, to the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Frist, appointed for 2007–08 as the Frederick H. Schultz Class of 1951 Professor of International Economic Policy, will teach a fall graduate course in the Woodrow Wilson School on health policy and an undergraduate course on a similar subject in the spring.
Seven tenured professors whose appointments were approved by University trustees in June are among those who will arrive in the fall. Joining the economics department, which graduated more seniors last month than any other department, are professors B. Douglas Bernheim, from Stanford; Pinelopi L. Goldberg, from Yale; and David S. Lee *99, from Berkeley.
V. Kofi Agawu, a music professor at Princeton from 1998 to 2006, will return to the University after a year at Harvard. Also among those appointed in June are religion professor Judith Weisenfeld *92, from Vassar; Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs, from Boston University; and associate professor Yueh-Lin Loo *01, chemical engineering, from the University of Texas.
After Reunions, five dormitories in Butler College were scheduled to meet the wrecking ball, making way for new buildings that will house students starting in the fall of 2009. Before the demolition began, the University shared a proposal to ensure that the gifts that funded construction of what was once dubbed the “New New Quad” would not be forgotten.
University officials met with representatives from the Classes of 1940, 1941, 1942, and 1922 and relatives of the late Donold Lourie ’22 and George Love ’22 in early May to present plans for several memorials, according to H. Kirk Unruh ’70, the University’s recording secretary.
In the University’s proposal, each of the four classes would be recognized with a garden-like area and a corresponding plaque in an outdoor amphitheater surrounded on three sides by buildings in the new Butler complex. The class time capsules, which were removed in June, would be buried at the amphitheater. Butler College also would include a “large writ” memorial inscription linking the gifts of all four classes, Unruh said, and all existing plaques from the dormitories would be reinstalled on an interior wall in Butler’s new central dining area.
To preserve the gifts of Lourie and Love, two lifelong friends who served as Princeton trustees, the University has proposed naming a walk in their honor. The pathway would start at Wilcox Hall and lead to the fields south of Bloomberg Hall. Unruh said that path would be appropriate because it leads to the P-rade’s terminus, a symbol of camaraderie, and points toward Nassau Hall, where the trustees meet.
Several alumni have helped to draft inscriptions for the commemorative plaques, including Robert Goheen ’40 *48, who is a member of one of the donor classes and was University president when the dormitories opened in 1964. The inscriptions will aim to “tell the story” of each class, Unruh said, covering themes such as friendship and service in World War II. Classes also will have an opportunity to pay tribute to deceased class members with inscribed stones at the University Chapel.
Brian McDonald ’83, the University’s vice president for development, said that most of the alumni representatives “enthusiastically supported” the proposal in May, and the University hopes to have formal plans in place by the fall.
A nighttime view of 1940 and 1941 halls, two of the five dormitories in Butler College that were scheduled to be torn down this summer to make way for new residence halls. Before the last students moved out of the dorms, PAW asked Hyunseok Shim ’08, a photographer for The Daily Princetonian, to record the “New New Quad” in a series of images. To view an online slide show of his photos, including the dorms’ distinctive “waffle ceilings,”click here. Said Shim, who lived in 1942 Hall last year: “Personally, I’m glad that the Butler quad is going down.”
For most of his career, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Szymon Suckewer has built high-powered devices that stretch the limits of laser technology. When he began collaborating with an eye surgeon and several faculty colleagues to explore applications in laser eye surgery seven years ago, the relatively low-power lasers used in the field seemed almost trivial by comparison. But what began as a hobby has produced exciting results, including an “elegant, simple” technique for reshaping the cornea that Suckewer says could dramatically improve corrective eye surgery.
Laser eye surgery generally involves cutting and peeling back a small flap in the surface of the cornea and reshaping the cornea’s middle layers by removing thin layers of tissue with brief laser pulses lasting just 10- to 20-billionths of a second. Suckewer’s alternative bypasses the first step — cutting the flap — and reshapes the cornea below the surface using a femtosecond laser, which uses pulses 100,000 times shorter than those used in ordinary LASIK surgery. The process emits less heat, and because there is no cutting on the surface of the cornea, it could reduce a patient’s recovery time, according to Suckewer. “It’s like going from a very dull knife to a very fine scalpel,” he says.
Cornea reshaping is one of several ophthalmic applications of the femtosecond laser that Suckewer has explored with collaborators Dr. Peter Hersh ’78 and Peter Frederikse of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Princeton engineering professors Richard Register and Alexander Smits. The group also has obtained a provisional patent for its method to correct lenses in the eyes of patients who suffer from presbyopia, a deterioration of near vision that is linked to aging. The technique involves removing crystalline tissue from the eye lens with the femtosecond laser and replacing that tissue by injecting a polymer into the lens through a channel created by the laser.
Suckewer and his team are working to translate the concepts demonstrated in the lab into medical applications. While laser eye surgery is relatively safe, he says, there is a market for incremental improvements. One popular example is “blade-free” cornea reshaping, which uses a femtosecond laser to cut the corneal flap and a nanosecond laser to reshape the cornea.
Even on an optimistic timeline, Suckewer says that clinical applications of the work he and his colleagues have done are about three years away. The techniques, which Suckewer and his team have tested in animal eyes, need to be calibrated with computer algorithms that direct lasers to precisely reshape tissue. After that would come clinical trials on animals and, eventually, humans. Suckewer, who wears glasses to correct his far-sighted vision, plans undergo the technique when the animal trials are complete. “It is the principle,” he says. “If you believe your system is working, you should try it on yourself first.”
University trustee James S. McDonnell III ’58 and his brother John F. McDonnell ’60 *62, along with the JSM Charitable Trust, have donated $30 million to establish a new center within the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, the University announced June 8. The McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience will investigate how the brain acquires, modifies, and stores information during cognitive processes.
In a news release, President Tilghman called neuroscience “one of the most exciting areas of scientific inquiry in the 21st century.” The Princeton Neuroscience Institute, created in 2005, includes faculty from molecular biology, psychology, physics, and several other departments. Beginning in 2009, the University plans to build a new complex south of Icahn Laboratory that will be home to both the institute and the psychology department.
The McDonnells previously endowed McDonnell Hall and six professorships to honor their late father, aerospace pioneer James S. McDonnell ’21.
FRANCIS A. (TONY) DAHLEN, professor of geosciences and a leading theoretical seismologist, died June 3 of cancer.
He was 64. Dahlen, a member of the faculty since 1970, conducted pioneering research on the seismic waves
generated by earthquakes to help explain the structure of the Earth’s interior. Dahlen also was praised as a teacher and administrator. He chaired the Department of Geosciences from 2001 to 2006.
The Rev. Alison Boden, dean of the chapel at the University of Chicago, will become Princeton’s DEAN OF RELIGIOUS LIFE AND THE CHAPEL Aug. 1. Boden, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, led the formation of an interreligious center during her time at Chicago and also taught courses on religion and human rights.
On May 30, the Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously ruled that COTTAGE CLUB is entitled to tax-exempt status, overturning a 2006 appellate court decision. The court said Cottage Club “satisfied all of the relevant standards in effect,” including public access, when it applied for a property tax exemption, but the application was denied in 2003. A 2004 state law prevents other eating clubs from pursuing similar exemptions, and in June, the state assembly and senate passed a bill sponsored by two Princeton-area legislators to “clarify and expand upon” the intent of the 2004 law and revoke Cottage Club’s exemption.
DAN-EL PADILLA PERALTA ’06, the 2006 Sachs Scholarship recipient who made national headlines when his status as an illegal immigrant threatened to derail his plans to study at Oxford, will return to Princeton to conduct research in the classics department for the 2007–08 academic year. Padilla Peralta, a native of the Dominican Republic who was raised in New York City, has received a one-year visa.
Renovation work at CANNON CLUB was scheduled to begin over the summer as the graduate board of Dial, Elm, and Cannon looks to reopen the club to new members in February. Warren Crane ’62, president of the grad board, said the club would be launching a five-year capital campaign to assure its financial stability. Mark Burstein, the University’s executive vice president, said the administration supports Cannon’s reopening in line with its “general goal of providing more options for undergraduates.”
This year, it was finally Jeff Mansfield ’08’s turn.
He had played hockey since he was 7 years old. He had spent two years trying out and training for the 2007 U.S. Winter Deaflympics team. In February, in Salt Lake City, in the second round of what is often called the Deaf Olympics, he finally had his chance to start as goalie.
His performance was worth the wait. He led his team to a 4–1 victory over Sweden — and eventually to a gold medal. Mansfield “was the reason that we won the gold,” head coach Jeff Sauer said.
The victory was only one of the accomplishments Mansfield achieved this year, including learning Danish as he spent the fall semester in Denmark.
Mansfield said that he was surprised by the attention the Deaflympics victory received, adding that “there was never much doubt” he would leave the competition as a champion.
“After the Olympics, so many members of the deaf community reached out to us and proclaimed us heroes,” he said in an e-mail. “It was just mind-boggling — all we did was play a child’s game.”
At Princeton, Mansfield, who is majoring in architecture, played varsity hockey as a freshman but “momentarily lost focus” as a sophomore and switched to the club team.
“It was thoroughly enjoyable,” Mansfield said of the club experience. “It made me realize that hockey is what I have the most fun doing.”
Mansfield spent last fall studying in Denmark. Despite the double challenge of adjusting to a foreign language in a hearing environment, he described his transition as “almost seamless.” He was helped in part by the widespread use of English in Scandinavia and by a roommate who was studying Danish Sign Language. Princeton also arranged for two American Sign Language interpreters to accompany him — a level of support that Mansfield said few students receive from their colleges.
By the time he left Denmark, he had picked up enough Danish to read a newspaper and to start a conversation. His biggest problem was hockey-related: In November he tore a ligament and ruptured a tendon in his ankle, so he was unable to put on skates until two weeks before the Deaflympics.
Manfield gives the impression that language barriers rarely stand in his way. At Princeton, he is the only student who communicates primarily through use of American Sign Language, and he has quickly adapted to the situation — as have his classmates and teammates.
The toughest adjustment to playing with a deaf teammate, said former club hockey captain Matty Valvano ’06, was “insecurity on the part of the rest of the squad, who may not have known the ‘proper’ way of dealing with the situation.” The team succeeded when members decided to “just play hockey,” he said.
Mansfield was unfazed by the challenge of being deaf at Princeton. “It’s nothing I haven’t done before,” he said.
By Christian R. Burset ’07