November Green Tip: Think before you print

first_imgBefore you click “print” consider this: Harvard purchases more than 2,000 tons of paper every year. Add that up and you get a pile of paper 13,333 feet tall, just 1,000 feet shy of the tallest peak in the Rockies.  A University-wide reduction of 10% in paper consumption would save enough to power 62 homes for an entire year.November’s Green Tip of the Month from the Harvard Office for Sustainability (OFS) focuses on tips and tricks the Harvard community can use to reduce paper use, cut waste, and save money.In addition to setting printer defaults to print double-sided, OFS encourages offices at Harvard to benchmark paper usage and set a goal to reduce it by 10% by tracking the paper count option on office printers and copiers. By tracking usage and implementing strategies to print less, in just over one year the Alumni Affairs and Development team reduced their copy and printer paper usage by 26%.Other strategies to cut paper use and conserving resources include reducing margins, printing on recycled-content paper (one ream of 100% recycled paper saves about 5.4 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions and 21.3 gallons of waste water), and outfitting office printers with a “print double sided” decal.Offices and departments at Harvard can take part in the Green Office program to learn more waste reduction strategies and earn recognition for being green.last_img read more

Harvard Overseer to perform at Nobel ceremony

first_imgHarvard Board of Overseers member and virtuoso violinist Lynn Chang ’75 was selected by the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee to perform at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10.“This is an important and exciting moment in our history,” said Chang, who is professor of violin at Boston Conservatory. “Music is a universal language that has no political agenda. Yet music can change hearts and open minds.”last_img

North Korea: Country behind a curtain

first_imgAs the world watches the succession process unfold in North Korea, countries such as China, Japan, and Russia, whose interests diverge on many important global fronts, are unified in hoping the process goes smoothly for the perennially troubled, nuclear-armed nation.“Everyone wants stability,” said Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies Director Andrew Gordon, summing up views from the neighboring states.Harvard authorities on China and Russia said during a panel discussion Monday that although those nations’ relations with North Korea are better than the West’s are, even Beijing and Moscow are left confused when trying to figure out North Korea.And when Russians — who know something about running a country that keeps outsiders guessing — describe a country as opaque, you know that clues are hard to come by, said Mark Kramer, program director of the Project on Cold War Studies at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.The situation isn’t much better in China, which is North Korea’s major — and perhaps only — ally, according to Anthony Saich, the Daewoo Professor of International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.“Most Chinese officials are just as baffled as we are by North Korea,” Saich said.Saich, Kramer, and Gordon, together with Carter Eckert, the Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, aired their views on events in North Korea since the death of leader Kim Jong-il in December and the succession of his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as “supreme leader.”The program, “Succession in North Korea: Perspectives from Harvard,” filled the Center for Government and International Studies’ Tsai Auditorium. It featured Eckert, Kramer, and Saich, and was moderated by Gordon. Korea Institute Director Sun Joo Kim introduced the event, which was sponsored by seven Harvard organizations, including the Ash Center, the Asia Center, the Davis Center, the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Kim Koo Forum on U.S.-Korea Relations at the Korea Institute, the Reischauer Institute, and the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.China wants a stable North Korea because it may have more at stake than other nations with respect to that nation’s future. Bound to North Korea by treaties and trade, China could face major problems if destabilization leads to war, Saich said. Japan, meanwhile, sees itself as a likely target if destabilization occurred and led to a desperate search for a common enemy to unify the people behind a North Korean leader, Gordon said. Stability is critical because the north has nuclear weapons, the further development of which those nations would like to see limited.While instability and war represent the darkest outcomes for a botched succession process, modernization and economic reform are possible positive outcomes, panelists said. China, which provides a large percentage of the country’s power and food, is hopeful that the north will undergo a Chinese-style economic awakening, Saich said. Russia is also hoping to see economic reforms, Kramer said.All that is in the hands of the new regime, which Eckert said may have been better prepared for succession than some give it credit for. One fear voiced about the accession of Kim Jong-un to power is that he has not had a lot of time to consolidate his own clout, unlike his father, who was groomed as a successor to the nation’s founder, Kim Il-sung, for 20 years.Though the process would have been invisible to outsiders, Eckert said that Kim Jong-il’s 2007 stroke may have sounded a warning that put preparations for succession in motion, meaning that Kim Jong-un may have a stronger grasp on power than it might appear.“The rapidity with which the North Korean state has embraced Kim Jong-un suggests plans have been in place for some time,” Eckert said.Eckert, who said the succession process seems to be proceeding well so far, also said that North Korea’s elite, who are taken care of by the regime, have a lot to lose if the government destabilizes.Though it has communist roots and has been run as a dictatorship, North Korea may be best understood if thought of as a monarchy, Eckert said. A member of the Kim family has ruled the nation since its founding in 1948. In monarchical succession, if the bloodlines are right, it doesn’t matter how old the new ruler is or what he looks like. If the ruler is considered too young, a regent can be appointed to help run things. In North Korea’s case, Kim Jong-un, who is not yet 30, has a prominent uncle to help him.Eckert warned, however, that North Korea remains such a closed country that all prognostications need to be taken with a large grain of salt.“There’s a good need for some modesty and humility about what we can say,” Eckert said.last_img read more

Before takeoff

first_imgThe return of the American robin to back yards across the country is a lovely sign of coming spring. But the little songbird with the orange-red breast and bright blue eggs has some not-so-lovely relatives: the crocodile and the alligator.The connection was made during a riveting lecture, “What Art Thou, Little Bird? Developmental Mechanisms for the Origin and Evolution of Birds” by Arkhat Abzhanov, associate professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, on Jan. 31 at the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s Geological Lecture Hall.The talk, introduced by Jane Pickering, executive director of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, kicked off the five-part series “Evolution Matters,” made possible by a gift from Drs. Herman and Joan Suit.Abzhanov is an expert in cranio-facial evolutionary development, and a pioneer in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (“evo-devo”). He’s been interested in birds since childhood, and Nature named his work on beak development one of the top evolutionary discoveries of the last decade. Abzhanov began his talk by pointing out that humans have long observed and portrayed birds in everything from prehistoric cave paintings to religions, fairy tales, and computer games.But what makes a bird?The taxonomic group Archosauria, Abzhanov explained, includes dinosaurs, crocodiles, and birds.Abzhanov said birds’ feathers evolved from scales, and their wings evolved from the five-fingered hands and agile wrists of early reptiles. Birds’ beaks are used variously — to catch fish, shrimp, and bugs; to crack open nuts; to make nests — with shapes and sizes that depend on the bird, and its evolution.Beaks, along with wings and the ability to fly, Abzhanov said, make birds extremely successful and diverse. There are 29 orders and 10,000 species, making it the largest group of land vertebrates.In Abzhanov’s research, after identifying the molecules that control the shape the beak takes (long and good for drinking nectar, for example, or short and strong and good for cracking nuts), using the chicken embryo, he successfully made molecular changes that forced the expression of particular genes. Through that manipulation, Abzhanov was able to make a chicken’s beak grow much bigger.“When and how the molecules are used determine the bird,” he explained.Abzhanov showed a slide with an image of an alligator embryo, which looked strikingly similar to the image of a chicken embryo next to it.And while it’s been 75 million years since birds lost their teeth, to this day mutant chickens will grow teeth — teeth that bear a close resemblance to their ancient and remarkably close relative, the alligator.“I think [birds] developed gradually, step by step and piecemeal,”Abzhanov said.Abzhanov noted that fossils tell of some birdlike dinosaurs with plumage that didn’t fly; the Tyrannosaurus rex, he said, probably had big fluffy feathers as a juvenile. And as the audience gasped, chuckled, and murmured over the idea, the lecture ended.“Evolution Matters” continues at the Harvard Museum of Natural History at 6 p.m. Feb. 12 with “Looking for Signs of Evolution: Bees, Butterflies, and Bacteria.”last_img read more

Following the story

first_imgWhen a large truck rumbled past her Cambridge hotel this week, Melissa Block’s heart jumped. The sound reminded the journalist of her trip to China for a series of feature stories prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.“It still comes back,” Block told a group of students gathered at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on Monday. The host of National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” was preparing for an interview when a massive earthquake struck Sichuan Province. The disaster left 70,000 people dead and millions homeless.Her reporting from China was perhaps the hardest assignment of her career, Block told the Harvard undergrads during lunch, and later a crowd that jammed the Radcliffe Gymnasium to hear her speak. She described following a couple as they searched frantically for their young son in the rubble of their collapsed apartment building. An excerpt from her final report — with her voice wavering and almost breaking — reverberated in the gym’s vaulted hall, and included the cries of the husband and wife who learned their son was dead.“I have never narrated a story that way before or since,” said Block ’83, who was on campus for a day of discussions sponsored by Radcliffe. But while many commended her work, she said, some listeners complained that the piece “exploited this family’s excruciating grief.”The radio host defended the work as part of NPR’s broader mission to vividly capture the human experience. The family, she said, included her in their heartbreaking search. They “seemed to want their story told, and I hope that by telling it we might help people half a planet away to understand on a visceral level what had happened to so many thousands of families in China.”“That intimate exercise in storytelling,” the ability to capture a listener’s attention and connect him or her to a time, a place, or a person, is what Block called “our true North.” With a news cycle in “overdrive,” that steady formula, she said, will help radio shows like hers survive and thrive.“That is what we should strive for,” she said.To emphasize the point, she played clips from several “All Things Considered” stories for the crowd at the gymnasium — the words of an aspiring female teenage boxer, the sounds of a struggling shark being wrestled aboard a boat, and her own voice softly repeating the phrase “oh my goodness” as buildings in China crumbled around her. The packed hall hushed.Changes in technology mean the traditional radio format has to change too, said Block, as “many more information sources [are] vying for our listeners’ attention.”One idea in the works at NPR, she said, is a stream individual users can customize. But while such a move would give listeners the ability to pick and chose the stories they want, it would also mean they would miss “the stories they don’t know they want,” she said.“These are the kinds of really big questions that NPR is grappling with.”A French history and literature concentrator, Block’s career path took a serendipitous turn after college. After considering law school, she thought about working for a magazine or for a book publisher, but on something of a whim opted instead to apply at NPR. She was hired in 1985 to set up interviews for Noah Adams, then the host of “All Things Considered.” Since then Block has been a reporter, producer, director, and editor. She has hosted the show since 2003.The organization appreciated hard work and was open to teaching anything to anyone who was willing to learn, Block said, recalling her earliest days at NPR. Adams was a priceless mentor, she said, and the women who worked there became her inspirations.“From the beginning, women’s voices have defined the sound of NPR,” she said. On-air regulars such as Cokie Roberts, Nina Totenberg, Susan Stamberg, and Linda Wertheimer paved the way for a new wave of journalists, she said, including today’s crop of “fearless women foreign reporters.”During her afternoon session with students at Harvard, Block said she tries to explain the more complicated stories “in a way my parents would understand.” She balked at the notion of increasingly shortened attention spans in the age of the Twitter, smartphones, and Facebook. The show’s longer-form, narrative stories that can run as long as 22 minutes get “the most passionate response” from the audience of anything NPR does, she said.Block said her adrenaline-fueled days always yield rewards, like the time she spoke with renowned choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones about one of his favorite songs. The interview “unfolded in this miraculous way … I felt my jaw just dropping,” she recalled. But just as often, said Block, it’s her unknown subjects who offer up moments of “radio gold.”“You could talk to them about their pumpkin patch, or their violin-making business every week, because they have incredible things to say.”Block is quick to credit the liberal arts education she received at Harvard with helping her develop her “expansive view of the world.” Studying things like French and history, and even playing the viola with Harvard’s Bach Society Orchestra, “all comes to bear, doing what I do,” she said in an interview with the Gazette earlier in the day. “All of those things” shaped her, she said.Block’s advice to aspiring journalists is simple. Be hungry for information, play an instrument, learn a language, and above all, listen.“Listen more.” Practice the “pure art of listening, being quiet,” she said. “ And go into radio.”last_img read more

Harvard’s hand in shaping education

first_imgHONG KONG — On the first day of a weeklong visit to Asia, Harvard President Drew Faust on Monday called knowledge “the most important currency of the 21st century,” highlighting faculty research, student engagement, and online learning as central to Harvard’s global strategy.Faust met with alumni and business leaders in Hong Kong to discuss Harvard’s online learning initiative, HarvardX, and the edX platform developed in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.“This is a moment of transformation for education, and we want to be able to lead in a way that allows us to enhance our outreach to the world, even as it helps us understand new ways to teach our students on campus,” said Faust.Of more than 700,000 enrollments through edX, about 60 percent come from outside the United States.“The hunger for knowledge is so strong around the world,” said Faust.  “I feel [HarvardX] is a magnificent opportunity, but it is also a big responsibility for us to set a standard for online learning that upholds the most important aspects of higher education and its values, and allows Harvard to play a leadership role in shaping how education changes in the years to come.”Professor Robert Lue, the HarvardX faculty director, presented the latest thinking on HarvardX and its global presence. He told 30 attendees that 102 Harvard faculty members had demonstrated an interest in developing programs as part of HarvardX, noting that the initiative would allow Harvard to expand its reach and impact globally.Lue said the flexibility of online learning and the edX platform would create opportunities to go beyond MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and develop smaller modules that would encourage collaboration and target particular audiences.“Already, public health faculty who developed the first HarvardX courses are discussing taking one of the modules and tailoring it specifically to bring it to families in Boston, with the possibility of a focus on one key issue, such as childhood obesity,” said Lue. “That was not in the original plan for the course, but we see tremendous potential in the ability to adapt content from its original form.“This is an example of the content bringing people together rather than keeping them apart,” he said.The discussion was moderated by Victor Fung, group chairman of the Li & Fung Group, who has a doctorate in business economics from Harvard and was a professor at Harvard Business School (HBS) in the early 1970s.During her first visit to Hong Kong, President Drew Faust hosted a lunch for leaders from six local institutions of higher education. Faust (left) spoke with Tony F. Chan, president of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, about the trends in education.Fung said that bringing together online education and traditional, place-based education — whether on campus or in communities — could herald new opportunities and engagement throughout the world.“When you can use the Web to form communities of interest at the local level that can enhance experiences on the Web, you begin to realize that the ‘bricks and clicks’ potential is tremendous,” said Fung.During her first visit to Hong Kong, Faust also hosted a lunch for leaders from six local institutions of higher education, who discussed trends in education.The local leaders told Faust that the continued evolution of Hong Kong’s economy from manufacturing-based to knowledge-based was creating a need for new thinking in higher education, including curriculum reform shifting from three-year to four-year undergraduate degrees, along with a greater emphasis on international issues, service-oriented learning, and the liberal arts.Faust also visited the Harvard Business School’s Asia-Pacific Research Center, the first overseas HBS research center, located in Hong Kong’s Central neighborhood.  The center has contributed to more than 150 research projects and 175 cases since it was founded in 1999, and it encourages engagement with local experts and institutions to support faculty research.Michael Shih-Ta Chen, the center’s executive director, said HBS Dean Nitin Nohria’s emphasis on internationalization had brought even greater focus on Asia, with 370 students coming to the continent as part of the new FIELD global immersion initiative introduced by Nohria to expand students’ exposure to global business.President Drew Faust’s visit to Asia continues throughout the week, including meetings with local alumni groups, and travel to South Korea.last_img read more

Your mail just got a little bit greener

first_imgThe recent conversion of a Harvard Mail Services truck to a hybrid electric vehicle has dramatically reduced fuel consumption. As a result, the eight-month pilot program has cut the vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 22 percent. Now, in addition to delivering thousands of pieces of mail across the University, the van is also delivering a win for the environment.In June 2013, Harvard Fleet Management joined with Boston-based XL Hybrids to retrofit the Mail Services Chevrolet Express van with an innovative, hybrid electric powertrain. The new technology increases efficiency and reduces fuel usage without sacrificing performance.“We chose to pilot the use of this hybrid technology so that we can do our part to support Harvard’s commitment to sustainability, including the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across campus,” said David Harris Jr., director of Harvard Transit and Fleet Services. “Instead of buying a brand-new hybrid vehicle we were able to save money and increase the fuel efficiency of our existing fleet, resulting in an immediate return on investment.”To convert the Mail Service van, XL Hybrids added an electric motor with a lithium ion battery pack and cutting-edge control software that increases fuel efficiency by charging the battery when drivers brake and releases energy to the motor when drivers accelerate. A review of the van’s on-road operational data showed a nearly 22 percent fuel and greenhouse gas emissions reduction over conventional cargo vans, yielding an annual CO2 reduction of over one metric ton per vehicle. Read Full Storylast_img read more

A new twist in malaria drug resistance

first_img Read Full Story Drug resistance is a major public health challenge for malaria treatment and eradication. In new research, Dyann Wirth and colleagues have found new ways that the parasite that causes malaria—Plasmodium falciparum—is able to develop resistance to the antimalarial drug halofuginone over time.It’s been known that P. falciparum develops resistance to antimalarial drugs through genetic mechanisms. Your new research uncovered a new model of how the malaria parasite can also develop resistance through non-genetic means. How did you and your colleagues discover this?Jonathan Herman, an M.D./Ph.D. student in my lab, became interested in understanding the process by which an organism goes from being sensitive to a drug to being resistant. In the past we’d looked at the endpoint—the point at which the organism had already become resistant—but we never followed the organism’s path over time, over generations, to see how resistance developed. Using DNA sequencing, Jon characterized the features of a malaria parasite population over several generations. He essentially ‘followed’ evolution in the test tube.Jon discovered that the mutation that occurs in the malaria parasite—which confers drug resistance—actually wasn’t the first thing that happened. In fact, the first adaption in the parasite was a change in the concentration of an amino acid called proline, which occurred at a much earlier stage in the parasite’s evolutionary process. The parasite floods itself with this amino acid as a way of neutralizing the effect of the drug, in this case, halofuginone.last_img read more

An inspiration to students

first_imgAs a black kid growing up in the South Bronx, Nuha Saho ’18 said he had no role models in science. “This shook my confidence and made me doubt my place as a scientist,” he said.In paying tribute to Professor of Astronomy Alyssa A. Goodman, the Harvard Foundation’s 2015 Scientist of the Year, Saho, now a student at Harvard, said he couldn’t help but be inspired by her.“This year we honor you for helping us realize that science can be incredibly cool, fun, and more importantly, can make a huge difference,” said Saho, one of the co-coordinators of a science conference that began with a March 27 luncheon in tribute to Goodman.“We honor you … because we believe that you have instilled the belief in your students that they can achieve anything possible,” said Saho.Co-coordinator Jasmine Chia ’18 noted that Goodman was “the second female full professor in the astronomy department [at Harvard] and the third full professor in the department’s entire history.”“Professor Goodman’s success is the story of a girl who wanted to be Jacques Cousteau but grew up and took her passion for exploring into an even greater frontier: space,” Chia said. “I’d just like to personally express my incredible respect for a woman who has taken on the incredible mission of mapping out the darkness of space and exploring the realm of the universe beyond our world, and more importantly, showing us that the world of science is accessible to all who are willing to put in the hard work and passion. There are no limits.”Goodman’s research and teaching interests span astronomy, data visualization, and online systems for research and education. In her astronomical pursuits, she and her research group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) study the dense gas between the stars. They are particularly interested in how interstellar gas arranges itself into new stars.Goodman co-founded the Initiative in Innovative Computing at Harvard and served as its director from 2005 to 2008. The initiative created a University-wide interdisciplinary center. More recently, Goodman organized a diverse group of researchers, librarians, and software developers into an ongoing effort known as Seamless Astronomy, which aims to develop, refine, and share tools that accelerate the pace of scientific research, especially in astronomy.The Scientist of the Year Award honors the recipient for her or his scientific achievements, and for promoting initiatives that serve to increase diversity in all areas of science, engineering, and mathematics.Goodman said she was lucky because, “My parents never thought it was weird to be a woman in science, so I never make a big deal of it.” In accepting the award, she gave “most of the credit” to them as they sat in the audience. And, she added with a chuckle, “to my sister, who said ‘Do I really have to listen to all those people say nice things about you?’”last_img read more