Indian College found?

Indian College found?

first_imgOn one of the last of days of digging in Harvard Yard this fall, archaeologists believe they finally found evidence linked to one of the University’s earliest buildings, the Indian College that stood on the site from 1655 to 1698.Archaeologists working in a chest-deep hole near Matthews Hall uncovered a narrow strip of dark earth in a lighter, orange-brown layer that marks natural soil. They believe that the dark earth is the bottom of an architectural trench most likely dug for the Indian College, built to house Native American students as part of the University’s original mandate to educate the youth of both European settlers and Native people. The find may fulfill the overarching goal of a series of digs in the Yard over the last four years.The digs have been conducted as part of a class, the “Archaeology of Harvard Yard,” offered every other autumn and led by William L. Fash, Howells Director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and Bowditch Professor of Central American and Mexican Archaeology and Ethnology.“We found what we were hoping we might find,” Fash said. “We believe it might be an original wall location for the Indian College.”The dark strip of earth is not much to look at, but to the trained eye it appears to be the remnants of a wall trench whose building materials — in this case stone ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­—­ were taken and used elsewhere. Though most of the original architectural materials are gone, archaeologists and students did find numerous pieces of stone, brick, and roof tile that they believe were either remnants from the original wall or debris used to fill in the trench once the original stones were gone.Finding the Indian College foundation may be the crowning achievement of years of work in the area, but it’s not the only significant discovery to emerge from the Yard’s soil. Earlier this semester, students displayed other treasures they found that help to illuminate early life at Harvard, including a slate pencil found by Winthrop House junior Daniel Balmori, who came across the pencil’s two halves on separate days of digging.The pencil, a slim two-inch-long piece of what may be compressed clay, would have been used on a personal slate that served as a scratch pad, for writing and erasing and writing again.The pencil was one of thousands of artifacts dug out of the ground by the 27 students in this fall’s class, which continued excavations begun in a summer class. Dating from the 1600s to the present, the artifacts include a piece of print type — the letter “o” —  that is likely from North America’s first printing press, which was housed in the Indian College. Other items include an intact musket ball that was never been fired, bits of brick, iron nails, many pieces of pottery of different sizes and color, glass, pipe stems, and oyster shells.Hope Mayo, the Philip Hofer Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts at the Houghton Library, plans to further investigate the print type, one of several pieces uncovered in the digs over the years, to see if she can match it to a book in the Houghton’s collection.The site was cordoned off from the rest of the Yard by an orange plastic construction fence for much of the semester. With the advent of cold weather, it has now been filled in.Though the digging has halted, the student work continues. In final projects for this semester and in laboratory work in an associated class next spring, students will clean, catalog, and analyze their finds, writing reports on their activities.After that, Fash said, those interested in learning more about Harvard’s early history will have to contain their enthusiasm until digging resumes when the class is next offered in the fall of 2011.“We’re just going to have to be patient, and it will build up a lot of excitement the next time we have the class,” Fash said.An exhibit at the Peabody Museum, “Digging Veritas: The Archaeology and History of the Indian College and Student Life at Colonial Harvard,” will remain on view through January 2011.last_img read more

Harvard voted league favorite

Harvard voted league favorite

first_imgPRINCETON, N.J. – Harvard was voted as the league favorite in the Ivy League preseason media poll, released today (Aug. 10) as part of the league’s annual football media day.Harvard received 10 of the 17 first-place votes and finished with 128 points. Penn received six first-place votes and 124 points while Brown was third in the voting with 95 points. Yale also received a first-place vote in rounding out the upper division selections in fourth place with 83 points. Those four teams were picked in the same order for the second straight season.Ten Harvard players were named preseason All-Ivy League by Phil Steele’s Football Preview, while captain and free safety Collin Zych has garnered preseason All-America honors from every publication.For the full story.last_img read more

MessageMe test on Oct. 7

MessageMe test on Oct. 7

first_imgOn Thursday (Oct. 7) the Harvard MessageMe emergency notification system will be tested. All MessageMe registered subscribers will receive a test message between noon and 1 p.m. The test message will be delivered as a text message, email, and/or voice mail message depending upon the delivery method selected by each subscriber.  No action will be required as a result of this test. Any and all emergency test messages can and should be deleted.For more information, to sign-up up for service or update your information, visit the MessageMe website.last_img read more

The art of architecture

The art of architecture

first_img Science Center Former GSD Dean Josep Lluis Sert designed the Science Center, seen here, against a pink sky. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer Gilded buildings Massachusetts Hall Among Harvard’s roughly 660 buildings, Massachusetts Hall is the oldest. Early Georgian in style, its simple construction, symmetry, and modest accents — like its belt course, a row of raised bricks that run along the façade — make it an architectural favorite of many critics. Harkness Commons Famed architect Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school, designed the Harvard Graduate Center, now known as Harkness Commons, a cluster of buildings that became the first modernist structure on campus. Sever Hall Completed in 1880, Sever Hall is the product of the noted architect and Harvard alumnus Henry Hobson Richardson. Using his bold, Romanesque style, Richardson crafted Sever of red brick, but also incorporated lush ornamentation into his design. Harvard is muted red bricks and mortar. That’s its public image. But look around, and you’ll quickly see many campus buildings made of wood, granite, marble, concrete, steel, and glass.While the brick buildings of the Yard and the Neo-Georgian river Houses depict the expected image of ivy classicism, the University actually has a sweeping range of building styles that, taken together, amount to an informal history of American architecture. A walker can sample almost 300 years of innovative designs in an easy stroll.Harvard’s eclectic architectural mix helps to explain its values, its academic priorities, its responses to new teaching methods, its desire for stronger collaboration, its embrace of the urban environment, and its ongoing flexibility. Starting in 1636, Harvard officials decided structure by structure what to construct. But somewhere along the way, the built environment began to have a reverse effect, influencing how faculty, students, and staff behaved and interacted in daily life. The resulting campus developed what could be called “the Harvard look.”center_img University Hall University Hall was designed by acclaimed architect and Harvard graduate Charles Bulfinch in 1813. “There is a quality of intimacy and adaptability about the Harvard campus that clearly distinguishes it from other universities,” said Andrea Leers, former director of the Master in Urban Design degree programs and adjunct professor of architecture and urban design at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD).Leers, who has worked on Harvard projects that included expanding the Science Center and the New College Theatre, said, “The different styles of architecture within the continuity of the Harvard campus fabric speak of the directness, richness, and diversity of the intellectual life of the campus … The flexibility of attitudes about the architecture of Harvard reflects its fundamental spirit of openness and inquiry.”“Buildings in any academic institution both represent and enable its aspirations and activities,” said GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi.  “Many of the buildings at Harvard are distinctive pieces of architecture. They represent the University as a world-class institution, but in an understated manner.”Harvard has no glassy campus pond or placid central green, like many universities do. The Yard, which is the closest thing to a traditional campus green, is dotted with buildings. The tight-knit closeness of the University’s structures, the breadth of their styles, the pocket greenery, and the bustling, untamed public square at Harvard’s core make it an unusual campus, one where faculty and students have to interact regularly.In recent decades, buildings are even being designed so their interiors spur academic interaction. The GSD’s Gund Hall, designed by Australian architect and GSD graduate John Andrews and finished in 1972, shows how the University’s pedagogy is enhanced by a building’s design, said Mostafavi, who is also the School’s Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design.“The hall’s open floor plan provides an extraordinary opportunity for cross-fertilization and collaboration between different disciplines,” he said, “and promotes an unusual degree of interaction, which would be harder to attain within separate enclosed spaces or rooms.”In the northwest corner of campus, construction continues on a new Harvard Law School (HLS) building that will contain multifunctional cluster classrooms with swiveling chairs that will allow for small group chats, or class discussions, or lectures, depending on what’s needed for the teaching at hand.Lately, Harvard also is promoting outdoor interactivity. Last year, a clever campaign energized the Yard. The campaign invited passersby to stop and sit in brightly colored chairs, to have a snack, or to sample the arts.“I believe people respond to the built environment both in terms of the physical design and in relation to how a space is programmed, and the resources afforded to it,’’ said Tanya Iatridis, director of the University Planning Office.  “Harvard Yard, the iconic heart of the campus, for all its virtues, does not maximize its potential as simply a place to walk through without stopping.”“Inviting, gathering, and encouraging people to linger by introducing chairs, food kiosks, and arts performances in the Yard, as was carried out through the Common Spaces initiative, transformed daily interactions on the campus,” she said.Over time, the college that was founded on the edge of the American wilderness has adapted to suit its growth and new academic needs. Early on, the campus was a contained group of buildings in a garden setting. Think Massachusetts Hall, which was completed in 1721.In the early 1800s, University Hall broke from tradition when it was built of white granite on a site across from Massachusetts Hall. The new building material was a dramatic departure from the customary brick, and the building’s central location helped to shape future development of the Yard.As the 20th century dawned, Harvard extended its physical reach to the Charles River, where the first undergraduate Houses opened an era of iconic views and public engagement.In the 1950s, Harvard broke from its classical look. Famed architect Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school, designed the Harvard Graduate Center, now known as Harkness Commons, a cluster of buildings that became the first modernist structure on campus.In 1963, Le Corbusier, another famed architect, added the shock of the modern to Quincy Street, where his Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts opened in counterpoint to the grand, brick Fogg Museum next door. By 1965, the glass and concrete face of GSD Dean Josep Lluis Sert’s 10-story Holyoke Center rose over Harvard Square.A decade ago, Harvard embraced a new ethic of environmental sustainability. Often, the result of that shift has meant refurbishing rather than building. Think the Landmark Center in Boston, a portion of an old Sears Building that the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) converted to modern green standards.Architectural shifts over timeAmong Harvard’s roughly 660 buildings, Massachusetts Hall is the oldest. Early Georgian in style, its simple construction, symmetry, and modest accents — like its belt course, a row of raised bricks that run along the façade — make it an architectural favorite of many critics.“Never was there a better example of how a simply conceived, plainspoken building of hardly any pretension can achieve a distinction that time and again eludes more elaborately contrived efforts,” wrote Douglass Shand-Tucci, a historian of American art and architecture, in his book “The Campus Guide: Harvard University.”Massachusetts Hall has been a residence, classroom space, a barracks during the American Revolution, the home of an informal observatory, and the precursor to the modern laboratory (the “Apparatus Chamber” that included equipment acquired by Benjamin Franklin). Today it contains the offices of Harvard’s president and top administrators, with a dormitory for freshmen on its top floor.“This is very unusual cross programming,” said Mostafavi of the hall’s dual function as office and residence. “Because it’s a House, it’s not really a building that represents power. The fact that the president is in a relatively modest building says something about the priorities and the values of the University.”Nearby, Tercentenary Theatre, Harvard’s outdoor arena in the Old Yard that is used for social gatherings and senior send-offs, is bounded by four examples of building diversity: Memorial Church, Sever Hall, University Hall, and the colossal Widener Library.Completed in 1880, Sever Hall is the product of the noted architect and Harvard alumnus Henry Hobson Richardson. Using his bold, Romanesque style, Richardson crafted Sever of red brick, but also incorporated lush ornamentation into his design.“Look at how deep the walls are, the decorations around the windows, and the specially shaped brick, and the building’s texture and shadows, its dramatic roof,” said Alex Krieger, professor in practice of urban design, while touring the Yard. “There’s an incredibly voluptuous quality to it.”Sever faces iconic University Hall, designed by acclaimed architect and Harvard graduate Charles Bulfinch in 1813. His use of white marble in a Colonial Revival and Federal style set it apart. Its placement “established the scale of the Yard and gave it visual coherence,” wrote Bainbridge Bunting in the book “Harvard: An Architectural History,” co-authored with Margaret Henderson Floyd. Instead of facing out toward the adjacent street, “the college now began to develop a spacious academic precinct facing inward, with Bulfinch’s building at its core.”The edges of the Old Yard allow for glimpses of the modern era. Through the centuries, campus planners chose not to fully enclose the Yard like the cloistered designs of their predecessors in England, the universities at Oxford and Cambridge. Instead, the planners left gaps, allowing those passing through to see what Krieger called “a promise of something else.”“You are always walking in a diagonal, you are always seeing the next space beyond,” said Krieger. “Over the tops of these old and venerable buildings, you see the peak of the Science Center or Memorial Hall. It is a wonderful urban design idea. It gives you a sense of what lies beyond.” Carpenter Center In 1963, Le Corbusier, another famed architect, added the shock of the modern to Quincy Street, where his Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts opened in counterpoint to the grand, brick Fogg Museum next door. Holyoke Center Inside and outside Sert’s Holyoke Center, shops and restaurants contribute to a lively streetscape. “What is very special about the Harvard campus for me,” Krieger added, “is that while it has a large, handsome, cherished, and intact historic core — which embodies the ‘Harvard brand,’ it also exhibits the confidence of each generation of its builders, building what seemed appropriate and emblematic for them.”Wedding the old and newBeyond the Yard is a stew of styles and designs, everything from the concrete and glass of the Science Center to the adjacent ornate brick and slate of the High Victorian Gothic Memorial Hall. On the HLS campus, Richardson’s Romanesque Austin Hall sits next to the small Greek Revival Gannett House. At Harvard Divinity School, the Collegiate Gothic-style Andover Hall is across the street from Sert’s Center for the Study of World Religions, designed as a modest residential space with an open courtyard.Increasingly, the University’s construction projects are merging the old and the new.  The renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums is an example of that important nexus. Italian architectural luminary Renzo Piano’s design will unite the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Arthur M. Sackler museums in one building. The project will preserve the skeleton of the original 1927 Fogg Museum structure and its beloved interior Calderwood Courtyard. But the new addition will be modern, with a largely wooden exterior.Additional gallery space, classrooms, a lecture hall, and expanded study areas and conservation laboratories in a new glass structure on the roof will increase access to the collections, enhance curatorial collaboration, and broaden the museums’ role in the undergraduate curriculum.  Project planners carefully positioned the new addition to the roof so the façade of the building, as viewed from the Yard, will look largely unchanged.“It will be a very handsome and clear presentation of how you can add to an old, venerable building,” said Krieger.Next door, the Carpenter Center, a sweeping circle and square of concrete bisected by a prominent ramp, raised eyebrows and ire when it was built in the 1960s. It is the only building in the nation by Le Corbusier, the working name of revered architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret. While some early critics balked at the placement of such a modern work between the stately Faculty Club and the Fogg, over time the structure has taken on an almost mythic status.Part of the center’s allure, said Elizabeth Padjen, a GSD graduate, is in its ability to act as a counterpoint. “The Carpenter Center introduced a generation to new ideas about modernity and the modern era as a whole,” said Padjen, editor of the quarterly publication of the Boston Society of Architects. “Many people on campus at that time had never seen anything like it. It still serves as a reminder that universities have a special, somewhat complicated responsibility to the culture at large, an obligation to nurture innovation even while they are increasing our understanding of the past.”The man responsible for bringing in Le Corbusier left his own strong modernist mark on Harvard. Using concrete as an expressive material, Sert furthered modernism. The Science Center and Peabody Terrace are his creations, as is the Holyoke Center. Some critics dislike the scale, the contrasts, and the coolness of Sert’s work, but others note that the buildings neatly fill out Sert’s larger vision.“It’s important to note that the Sert buildings were conceived as pieces in the larger master plan that he had developed for the campus,” said Hashim Sarkis, GSD Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies.Sert envisioned a campus where educational buildings could become an integral part of the urban environment. The Holyoke Center was developed with that in mind. It is recessed from the street, allowing Harvard Square to have more open space, a feature that was repeated on the other side of the building. The interior ground-floor passageway, a favorite motif for Sert, acts as an urban thoroughfare. Inside and outside the center, shops and restaurants contribute to a lively streetscape.Harvard’s recent architectural past involves other projects lauded by some and criticized by others. Peabody Terrace, the 1960s graduate housing complex along the Charles River, was a University attempt to meld with the community. But some neighbors condemned the project for its scale. Similarly, detractors complained that the contemporary, boxlike dorm across the river at Harvard Business School (HBS) is too big and doesn’t fit their vision of Harvard. Over the years, the University has worked to involve the community in the design process.Time has a way of softening such strong opinions. As decades pass, the styles that seemed overly aggressive or even distasteful in their day can come to be appreciated.In a 1904 letter, author and emeritus Professor Charles Eliot Norton bitterly complained to Harvard’s Board of Overseers about “a long series of failures in the buildings of the University.”“There is, perhaps, not a single University building of the last fifty years, from the Museum of Comparative Zoology to the Memorial Hall … that is likely to be held in admiration one or two generations hence,” Norton wrote.Going green, and collaboratingIn the new millennium, the University is greening the Crimson campus, with additions ranging from a building heated by underground wells, to wind turbines on rooftops, to solar panels attached to dormitories.Rising along Massachusetts Avenue is the University’s newest building, which will serve as a Law School student center, classrooms, and clinical space. Project planners expect to win LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the building also incorporates some design elements familiar to the HLS campus, including a color similar to that of Langdell Hall and prominent arches reminiscent of Austin Hall. With its green-building efficiencies, inventive classroom concepts, and a design that is modern but includes influences from the past, the building suggests an important future architectural direction for Harvard.There have been architectural shifts beyond the main campus as well.  In 1999 the Harvard School of Public Health wanted to expand in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston, but space was lacking. So when some opened in the nearby Landmark Center, a large art deco building built in 1929, the School took over more than 40,000 square feet of office space, and turned it into the University’s first sustainable building effort.A third repurposed site signals a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach. At HBS, in a building that was once the home of public broadcaster WGBH, plans are under way for a new type of laboratory. The Harvard Innovation Lab will serve as a University-wide resource for students and faculty eager to tap into Harvard’s entrepreneurial spirit.“We are trying to achieve a new model of collaboration for Harvard. Here, students and faculty from all across the University can meet others who share an innovative streak, who are interested in getting projects off the ground,” said Sharon Black, HBS director of planning.The lab will include a mix of innovation-oriented and social enterprise projects, as well as services geared toward small businesses and entrepreneurs in the surrounding community.“The future intellectual direction of Harvard will be linked to its physical planning and architectural path,” Mostafavi said.“When there is more and more discussion around collaboration and transdisciplinary practices, the question is: What kind of space do you need for that work?” he added. “New kinds of research means new kinds of juxtapositions, and will require certain negotiations between schools. It will be important to explore how buildings and architecture can help set the stage for these future collaborations.”last_img read more

SEAS’s Debra Auguste wins prestigious NSF CAREER Award

SEAS’s Debra Auguste wins prestigious NSF CAREER Award

first_imgDebra Auguste, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has won a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).The award honors Auguste as one of the most promising up-and-coming researchers in her field and provides an annual grant of $100,000 to support up to five years of laboratory research and educational outreach.Auguste’s project, titled “Molecular Diversity in Drug Delivery Design: An Integrated Approach to Research and Education,” will investigate ways of building drug delivery vehicles that complement the heterogeneous display of molecules on cell membranes. Her work targets inflamed endothelial cells, which often present in cancer and cardiovascular diseases.Auguste will also develop six educational modules to share concepts in bioengineering with students at local high schools. The students will learn how the assembly of lipids, DNA, and cells are coordinated to produce specific functions.Research in Auguste’s group is primarily focused on developing new biomimetic materials for drug delivery and tissue engineering.A chemical engineer by training, Auguste holds a bachelor’s degree from MIT and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in 2006, she was a postdoctoral associate at MIT.last_img read more

The battle for medicine’s soul

The battle for medicine’s soul

first_imgGood medicine requires high-quality care and top-notch research. But it also requires a willingness to adapt, said Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who is also a staff writer for The New Yorker and a best-selling author.He spoke to a packed house at Sanders Theatre on Wednesday about “The Battle for the Soul of Medicine.” Sponsored by the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement (HILR), which is part of the Harvard Division of Continuing Education, Gawande delivered the Robert C. Cobb Memorial Lecture of 2011.Gawande, whose latest book is “The Checklist Manifesto,” suggested that the challenge of making health care both effective and affordable may be traced back to the discovery of a miracle drug: penicillin. “We were fooled by penicillin,” Gawande said. “It was so simple: just an injection. We came to expect that sort of miracle from medicine.”In modern medicine, Gawande said, there are 13,600 diagnoses, or ways in which the human body can fail, and no patient comes in with just one diagnosis at a time. Now more than 6,000 drugs can be prescribed, and 4,000 medical and surgical procedures can be performed. Because of that, medicine can make people’s lives significantly better. Yet many Americans still struggle to pay for health care.“Health care costs are destroying American prosperity,” said Gawande, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Harvard School of Public Health and associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. “But the field of medicine is incredibly complex. How do we, in the field, deal with that complexity? It’s man’s most ambitious endeavor. Is it any surprise that we’re finding it hard?”Indeed, Gawande said, the traditional solo physician “simply can’t do it alone anymore. We can’t remember it all. Modern medicine requires teams of people. The modern health care system needs to develop new skills.”Among those skills, Gawande said, is the ability to recognize success and failure, the capacity to devise solutions for the challenges discovered, and the means to implement solutions. One example of devising solutions is the focus of Gawande’s book “The Checklist Manifesto.”As medicine has improved, Gawande explained, the need for surgical care “has exploded. The World Health Organization asked us to find a way to reduce surgery deaths worldwide. We found that other groups had training and technology — which medicine certainly has — but in addition, these other fields had checklists.”Gawande pointed out that in other fields, such as air travel, checklists are built into the daily routine of the staff, from the top down. “The checklists start at the top of the totem pole. It’s seen as integral to the team’s success.” After developing a two-minute, 19-item checklist for the medical field and testing it in eight cities, including London and Seattle, Gawande’s team found that “complications from surgeries fell in every location by an average of 47 percent.”Despite this success, Gawande found that the checklist is not always popular in the medical field. Therefore, it’s the challenge of implementing the solution — not discovering the solution itself — that can prove the most challenging in some areas.“There are deeper issues,” he said. “There is resistance. When you could hold it all in your head, you needed autonomy and independence.” When working with today’s teams of specialists in the operating room, however — what Gawande called “pit crews for patients” — the skill set shifts dramatically.“With teams as large as 15 people for one procedure, you need humility. You need discipline. You need teamwork. In that environment, everyone, no matter how low on the totem pole, can help you achieve your goals.”“This is the battle for our generation, for the soul of American medicine, and even for the American dream,” Gawande said.Still, when asked by a student what advice he had for people entering today’s medical field and facing this enormous challenge, Gawande said he felt lucky.“Right now, everything is open to interpretation and innovation. There is some glimmer of the enormous amount of invention going on in America. There are entrepreneurial minds trying to help us focus on results. For those who like the possibility of being able to lead, to make care better in your part of the world, the field is wide open.”The sponsoring HILR is a membership organization, now celebrating its 35th anniversary year. “HILR offers retired leaders of government, industry, academia, and the professions a curriculum that reflects the liberal arts tradition of the University,” said Leonie Gordon, assistant dean and director of HILR.last_img read more

First comprehensive atlas of human gene activity released

First comprehensive atlas of human gene activity released

first_imgA large international consortium of researchers has produced the first comprehensive, detailed map of the way genes work across the major cells and tissues of the human body. The findings describe the complex networks that govern gene activity, and the new information could play a crucial role in identifying the genes involved with disease.“Now, for the first time, we are able to pinpoint the regions of the genome that can be active in a disease and in normal activity, whether it’s in a brain cell, the skin, in blood stem cells or in hair follicles,” said Winston Hide, associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and one of the core authors of the main paper in Nature. “This is a major advance that will greatly increase our ability to understand the causes of disease across the body.”The research is outlined in a series of papers published March 27, 2014, two in the journal Nature and 16 in other scholarly journals. The work is the result of years of concerted effort among 250 experts from more than 20 countries as part of FANTOM 5 (Functional Annotation of the Mammalian Genome). The FANTOM project, led by the Japanese institution RIKEN, is aimed at building a complete library of human genes.Researchers studied human and mouse cells using a new technology called Cap Analysis of Gene Expression (CAGE), developed at RIKEN, to discover how 95% of all human genes are switched on and off. Read Full Storylast_img read more

Renewing urban renewal

Renewing urban renewal

first_imgEager to jump-start local businesses and provide badly needed jobs amid the deep recession that hit in 2008, big-city mayors and real estate agents alike latched onto a shiny new mantra they hoped would fill their surplus of empty office buildings and vacant lots: innovation districts.Once-thriving manufacturing hubs such as Pittsburgh and Detroit have been working to move beyond heavy industry to become like Cambridge and Boston, metropolitan regions rich in academic research and banking institutions. More than a dozen U.S. cities have designated sections of their downtowns as micro business empowerment zones targeting the innovation economy.By transforming underutilized industrial areas or waterfront land, as Boston’s Innovation District did, local government officials are betting that a strategic mix of universities, established companies, and startups in growing sectors like technology and health sciences will attract a critical mass of entrepreneurs, which in turn will stimulate retail and service industries, spur development of housing, and ultimately drive up property values. Part of the lure of such areas is cheap office space and reduced regulatory red tape.According to a new analysis by the Brookings Institution, the rise of innovation districts across the country represents “a radical departure” from traditional economic development schemes that pushed revitalization through construction of sports stadiums, retail outlets, and housing. With careful planning and design that promotes innovation, creativity, and network-building by emphasizing density, proximity, pedestrian-friendly streets, and public gathering spaces, these districts are transforming the physical and economic landscapes of cities while addressing today’s top economic challenges: sluggish growth, national austerity, rising social inequality, sprawl, and environmental degradation, the study finds.But while many districts show great promise, Harvard economic and planning experts say it’s too soon to be certain that these experiments can help remake moribund inner cities into 21st-century global powerhouses.“There’s an overwhelming error of urban policy over the past 75 years which has been to follow a Potemkin village strategy of urban revitalization that acts as if what you need to do to get a city going again is to build more stuff,” said Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston and of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard Kennedy School. He was discussing the failed, traditional ways cities have tried to encourage economic growth.“Innovation districts are … a hypothesis; they’re not a proven strategy at this point in time. I think they’re as sensible a hypothesis as any one out there, but they’re merely a hypothesis,” he said.Whether the layout and design of these districts truly fosters innovation, or simply reflects the aesthetic and lifestyle preferences of a young innovation workforce, is similarly unclear, and constitutes rich territory that researchers have only begun to study.“I think we’re still operating more on intuition about what sorts of physical layouts promote innovation as much as evidence-based foundations,” said Jerold Kayden, Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the Graduate School of Design. “I think we all believe it. There are strands of evidence that support it. I just think we need to do more to really demonstrate that this is true and to indicate what are the best ways of laying out these districts beyond just calling one an innovation district and getting a lot of innovators to show up.”Building and touting amenities such as bike- and ride-sharing programs, green spaces, and trendy coffee shops and restaurants is a stark departure from bygone days when people moved to wherever their job was located.“Today, the thought is that people move to or live where there is a good quality of life. And if you provide a good quality of life that appeals to them, then that’s where they’ll be, and that’s where the employers can find these types of employees,” said Kayden. “If you have Google by itself in the middle of a desert, people aren’t going to go there.”The report identifies three district models: those based around a major institutional “anchor,” as in Kendall Square; “reimagined” warehouse or industrial urban areas such as Brooklyn’s Navy Yard; and “urbanized science parks” like North Carolina’s Research Triangle. The report offers some initial guidance to city leaders on how best to recognize and broaden the growth of their innovation districts.Although city and state governments have played and continue to play important roles in assisting district growth, Glaeser said it’s critical they do not lose sight of their mission.“To me, the basics of good government don’t really change, and government’s job is not fundamentally to be either an entrepreneur or a venture capitalist. Government’s business is to deliver basic quality of life, try and right some of the inequities of the world, promote decent schools, and provide functional spaces. To the extent to which an innovation district can complement that, it’s great. To the extent to which it’s a distraction from those things, it’s bad,” he said.“I think, fundamentally, the energy for entrepreneurship always has to come from the private sector,” said Glaeser.Unfortunately, not every city and town with vacant buildings and a dearth of jobs can put up some banners, invite some companies to town, and expect to replicate what’s going on in Boston or in California’s Silicon Valley.“It’s very hard to imagine how you can have anything that can be plausibly called an innovation district if 10 percent of your adults have college degrees,” said Glaeser. “It’s all about having smart people who are connected by urban density and who learn from each other and work with each other.”The success of innovation districts has raised some equity issues. “One of the outstanding questions is, how does the city guarantee that people from less well-off neighborhoods” be included so “that the benefits of these areas extend to everybody?” said Kayden. He notes that some analysts, including Glaeser, have advocated for locating smaller innovation districts in still-distressed areas like Boston’s Dudley Square to create jobs for people untouched by the boom in South Boston or Cambridge.While Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have long embraced their roles as academic anchors in their respective districts, Harvard has historically proceeded more cautiously, a position that has been changing “dramatically,” said Glaeser.“If you go back and read Derek Bok’s book [‘Universities in the Marketplace’] on the University, Derek’s view was that engagement with this sort of entrepreneurship was deeply polluting for the idea of the University. He’s not entirely wrong; there are costs of having guys think that their job in life is to start a company and become vastly wealthy, as opposed to their job in life is to write books and inform the world,” he said.“There’s a certain part of me that believes in Derek’s vision. That being said, I think the world has changed in such a way that that vision is just very difficult to sustain.”last_img read more

‘Confronting Violence’ through arts and activism

‘Confronting Violence’ through arts and activism

first_imgThe chain-mail bikini is not only impractical, it’s dangerous. Not simply because of the lack of protection it would afford Red Sonja, the sword-wielding warrior who wears it, but because of the misogyny it overtly embodies, promoting the idea that a supposedly strong woman is only as important as her sexual appeal.“Red Sonja originally wore a tunic covering her arms and body,” explained Tony Davis, proprietor of the Harvard Square comic-book store Million Year Picnic. “That devolved into the chain-mail bikini.” Indeed, the muscled heroine on display at Radcliffe’s Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery in Byerly Hall appeared barely contained by her scanty armor. Her comic book is one of 36 that can be perused in “Confronting Violence: Critical Approaches to American Comics and Video Games,” up through April 17.The one-room exhibit opened on Tuesday as a lead-in to “Confronting Violence,” a conference at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Along with the comic books (supplied by Davis, who spoke about the historical context of the popular form), the exhibit features wall texts discussing both comics and video games.Tony Davis, proprietor of the Harvard Square comic-book store Million Year Picnic, spoke at the exhibit opening of “Confronting Violence: Critical Approaches to American Comics and Video Games,” up through April 17. Photo by Kevin GradyOn one wall a video presentation features media critic Anita Sarkeesian’s “Feminist Frequency” discussions of misogyny and violence in video games. Against another, attendees are invited to play the latest version of “Tomb Raider.” In this fourth iteration of the popular video game, heroine Lara Croft (portrayed in the film version by Angelina Jolie) not only has a backstory but, after three generations of short shorts, finally gets to wear long pants.The opening remarks provided context for the exhibit, asking why comics and games matter. “Where do we develop our ideas about gender and violence?” asked Janet Rich-Edwards, planning committee chair for the conference, co-director of the science program Academic Ventures at the Radcliffe Institute, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “For many children in the United States, it may be in our comic books and in our video games.” This exhibit, she went on to explain, is intended to “provoke our thinking about gender and violence.”In the fantasy worlds of comics and games, the two are often linked. As the Sarkeesian video explains, women are often portrayed as pawns in male games, existing merely as prizes for valor or forfeits, to be stolen or killed as a punishment or spur to (male) action. Even previously strong female characters may succumb. When Wonder Woman joined the Justice Society of America in a later iteration of her comic book, said Davis, “they made her the secretary.”Among the 36 recent comic books in the exhibit, some progress can be seen. Strongly feminist and gender-neutral comics like “Lumberjanes” and “Momeye” offer fun and brightly colored alternatives to the retro Red Sonja and Vampirella. But the path isn’t exactly clear. A little more than three years ago, DC Comics launched its “new 52” series. Among these (and on display) are a revamped “Catwoman” that opens with the feline antiheroine and Batman in a sexual clinch — only somehow, Batman retains his clothes, while Catwoman is shown in various stages of undress.Referring to these illustrations — and the physically impossible poses on some of the covers — Davis mentioned the Hawkeye Initiative. That project reimagines male superheroes in outfits as flimsy as those on their female counterparts, and in the same awkward poses designed to showcase breasts and behinds. “You realize people don’t dress like that, they don’t move like that,” he said. “It’s enlightening and also very funny.”Talking about videogames, Arnold Worldwide production artist and industry veteran Giuliana Funkhouser discussed how women are beginning to change the field from the inside, as female gamers and indie developers start to make their mark. Ultimately, said Funkhouser, the rapid rise of cellphone and tablet technology “make it easier for lots of different kinds of people to get into the field.”“That’s got to help,” she said.The two-day “Confronting Violence” conference and symposium will continue the discussion of how activism and cultural change, including considerations of gender, can affect public policy and reduce violence. The program, which includes considerations of gender, begins with an artistic event and discussion that features hip-hop music on April 9 and continues with a full day of presentations and discussions on April 10, will be held at the Knafel Center, 10 Garden St., Cambridge. It is free and open to the public. Register online at www.radcliffe.harvard.edu.last_img read more

Expanding the brain

Expanding the brain

first_imgIt’s among the cornerstones of biology: All mammals inherit two copies ― one from their mother, the other from their father — of every gene, in part to act as a backstop against genetic problems. If a gene is damaged or malfunctions, its double can pick up the slack.When it comes to inheritance, however, not all genes are created equal.Led by Catherine Dulac, the Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, a team of researchers has identified more than 40 new “imprinted” genes, in which either the maternal or paternal copy of a gene is expressed while the other is silenced. The findings, described in a recent paper in eLife, reveal how genomic imprinting can dramatically expand biological diversity, and could have important implications for understanding the brain.“We looked at a single brain area — the cerebellum — in a very rigorous way, and found 115 imprinted genes, more than 40 of which were brand-new,” Dulac said. “That is a 30 percent increase in the number of known imprinted genes in the mouse, which is significant, but the other important idea this paper explores is the notion that these imprinted genes provide a way for the diversity of the brain to flourish. In addition to the diversity in our genetic sequence, the question of who are we inheriting these genes from adds to the diversity we see across a population.”The notion of genomic imprinting emerged in the late 1980s, when researchers began manipulating mouse embryos in the moments after fertilization. When sperm and egg fuse to form a zygote, Dulac explained, each temporarily forms a separate pronucleus — one carrying genetic information from the mother, the other from the father. These later fuse to become the nucleus of the embryo.When researchers began manipulating the pronuclei by replacing the paternal version with a second maternal copy, or implanting two paternal copies, embryos failed to develop.“That was very surprising,” Dulac said. “At the time, it was believed that you simply needed two copies of each gene, but this suggested that some genes are expressed only from one of the two parental genomes, and you need both to give rise to a full-blown organism.”After first focusing on the cerebellum, Dulac’s team expanded its analysis to the entire brain.“In the second part of the paper, we looked at how these imprinted genes are distributed across the brain, and between brain and non-brain tissue. The big surprise is that we found a very large subset of imprinted genes that are only imprinted in the brain, and some only in a subset of brain regions.”The surprise came in part because scientists have long believed that if a gene is imprinted in one tissue, it is likely imprinted through most of the organism’s tissues, including through the brain.“But we don’t think that’s the case,” Dulac said. “We think there’s some very interesting regulation of imprinting from the brain to non-brain tissue, and even from one brain region to another.”While genomic imprinting is often thought to silence one copy of a gene, the study showed that many imprinted genes aren’t completely silenced, but rather show a bias toward one copy.“So there may be 70 percent expression from the maternal allele, and 30 percent from the paternal,” Dulac said. “It’s not all on or all off.”To understand whether these biases have biological significance, Dulac and colleagues targeted a gene called Bcl-X, which, in the adult cerebellum, is expressed 60 percent from the paternal genome and 40 percent from the maternal, and helps prevent cell death.“Our question is, ‘Does the brain care about that bias?’” Dulac said. “If it doesn’t we could remove either copy of the gene, and it shouldn’t matter. But if that bias ― even though it’s not particularly strong — is important, when we remove the more highly expressed copy of the gene, we should see a different phenotype emerge.“When we did this, the results were spectacular. When we removed the paternal copy, we obtained mice with brains that were 15 to 20 percent smaller than mice in which we removed the maternal copy or mice which had both copies.”Importantly, Dulac said, tests showed that, in the cortex, inhibitory neurons were more affected by the change.Many researchers believe that the ratio between excitatory and inhibitory neurons plays a key role in brain development, Dulac said, and that an imbalance between the two types could be related to a number of disorders, including autism and schizophrenia.last_img read more