Boston University

Research/
Learning

So this is the section where A LOT of things happened at BU over the past year. In fact, so much research and learning occur here every day that we could devote an entire publication just to that. (Actually, we do.)

But it’s imperative that the Annual Report recount some of the incredible work that happened here this year. Not to do so would be to give you an incomplete picture of the University.

A Commitment to Computational Research

“Supporting great research universities is an act of faith and a resilient commitment to contribute positively to the well-being of societies,” says Bahaa Hariri, an alumnus of the School of Management and a Trustee since 2004.

The son of assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik B. Hariri (Hon.’86), who was a BU Trustee from 1990 to 2003, Hariri (SMG’90) this year pledged $15 million for an institute that will support teams of University and outside experts pursuing what the institute’s director calls important, transformative interdisciplinary research.

The Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering will not only propel discovery and innovation through the use of state-of-the-art computational approaches, but will also catalyze advances in the science of computing inspired by challenges from a multitude of disciplines, says Founding Director Azer Bestavros, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of computer science. The institute’s affiliated faculty will collaborate on research and educational initiatives targeting four broad application-based “clusters”: biology and medicine; physical science and engineering; social and management sciences; and the arts, communication, and education.

“They say that when you get dazed, that’s a minor concussion. I used to get those all the time.”

Micky Ward, retired professional boxer

The Next Generation of Cancer Research

The story of BU’s cross-campus medical collaboration began in fall 2008, when the Center for Nanoscience & Nanobiotechnology, the Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research, the BU Cancer Center, and the School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine saw an opportunity for the University and began pursuing a new program in nanomedicine. At the heart of the mission: launching a training center to help grow the next generation of cancer research.

Funding requests led to initial seed projects, which led to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) application. The result? This year the University was awarded a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. The grant, distributed under the umbrella of the NIH, will allow graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at BU to train in research labs focused on developing diagnostic and therapeutic tools for various types of cancer, from purification of micro RNAs—molecules that play an important role in gene regulation—to the development of noninvasive imaging and detection of cancer cells. The center will be called the Boston University Center for Cross-Disciplinary Training in Nanotechnology for Cancer.

Other research you need to know about:

  • In what’s thought to be a first-of-its-kind study, BU School of Medicine researchers have found that female soldiers may be no more vulnerable than men to the stresses of war. Study lead author Dawne Vogt, a School of Medicine associate professor of psychiatry and a researcher at the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the VA Boston Healthcare System, says, “there’s kind of this consistent finding that women are worse off” than men. Yet her study found no such disparity in trauma from combat.
  • Swathi Kiran, a College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College associate professor of speech, language & hearing sciences, is one of the few researchers in the country confronting what she calls a pervasive problem: since most speech therapists are not bilingual, they may be reluctant or unable to treat bilingual patients because they do not know the patient’s primary language. With funding from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Kiran has launched a study giving bilingual aphasic patients 10 weeks of free speech therapy in their weaker language.
  • During the Big Dig highway/tunnel project, construction crews excavated a site called Mill Pond, which by 1828 had been filled in when the city needed more space to expand. Big Dig workers found a sealed, wood-lined privy (the under portion of an outhouse) filled with items like hairbrushes, medicines, and vaginal syringes. At first, little was known about the artifacts or the people they once belonged to. But eventually, researchers determined that the site was once a house of prostitution. Mary Beaudry, a College of Arts & Sciences professor and a team of archaeology students from BU have been studying the artifacts to find out what they reveal about how the residents of one Boston brothel lived.

That’s only a few of the stories about some of the innovative and noteworthy investigations that happened here last year—a very, very small drop in the bucket for a major research university like BU. To learn much more about how BU is quite literally changing the world, we encourage you to explore Research and BU Today on a regular basis.

Meet BU’s New Provost

Jean Morrison, former executive vice provost for academic affairs and graduate programs at the University of Southern California, is the new University provost and chief academic officer.

Rethinking the Roots of Addiction

So is alcoholism a disease of the head or the body? If it’s the latter, can you manage it in much the same way as something like diabetes or epilepsy? The idea is gaining more and more traction in the medical world. And this year BU was one of 10 institutions around the country to introduce an accredited residency program in addiction medicine.

Leftovers Get a Do-Over

With more than 30,000 students, 4,000 faculty, and 5,000 staff, Boston University produces a ton of trash—11,000 tons a year to be exact. The good news is that not all of that waste heads to a landfill. For the past three years, Dining Services employees have composted food scraps at campus dining halls.

BU + Global Higher Education

President Robert A. Brown articulates his four-pronged global vision for the University in this May 2011 essay.

Untwinkling the Stars

As a star’s light travels through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere, the light gets bent in ways that make the star appear to twinkle. This refraction also blurs any photos an astronomer tries to take of the star from a ground-based telescope. Bifano’s mirrors compensate for that refraction, effectively “untwinkling” the stars so they can be clearly photographed, making them easier for scientists to study.

Enabling Nanoparticles to Kill from the Inside Out

In the fight against cancer, chemotherapy is like birdshot, says Tyrone Porter: it attacks the tumor, but also assaults many other things, causing side effects like hair loss, nausea, and vomiting.

See What It Takes to Interpret Hedda Gabler for a Deaf Audience

Theatrical American Sign Language interpreters must be perceptive, flexible, and—quite possibly—have a touch of multiple personality disorder. Emily Hayes and Drew Pidkameny, for example, ASL interpreters for a performance of the College of Fine Arts production of Hedda Gabler at the BU Theatre, must fluidly morph into several characters—five women for Hayes and three men for Pidkameny—while providing an accurate and artful interpretation for deaf audience members.

Boxer Pledges Brain to BU

The former boxing champion, who still calls Lowell home, is teaming up with BU’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) by pledging his brain and spinal column after death and participating in a long-term behavioral and cognitive study while he is alive. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative brain disease that eats away at memory and impulse control, spurs depression, and eventually leads to dementia. The disease is believed to be caused by repetitive brain trauma.

Meet Queen Njinga, a Powerful African Ruler

Linda Heywood tells a story of how her elderly grandmother in Grenada, who raised the year-old baby after her mother died, would often repeat an inscrutable word that sounded like “boh-wah.” It wasn’t until many decades later, at a London archive dense with forgotten records, that Heywood held in her hands a faded document attesting to her Barbadian grandfather’s service in Her Majesty’s Navy in the Boer War. It turned out that her grandmother’s half-delirious chant resulted from her exhausting, but ultimately successful, bid to get the colonial government of Barbados to pay her the benefits due her husband, Joseph A. Maxwell, who died six months after his return from the front.

Baby Teeth Key to Regrowth

Mey Alhabib, a postdoctoral student and endodontic resident at BU’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, and her research supervisor, George Huang, the Herbert Schilder Chair in Endodontics and director of the school’s postdoctoral program in endodontics, have begun regenerating two major human tooth components—dental pulp and dentin—using fresh stem cells from baby teeth, which are often tossed after being placed under kids’ pillows, as well as from third molars, or wisdom teeth.

Can Antiseizure Drugs Really Help Curb Cravings for Alcohol?

Lisa speaks softly as she sips spring water in a cafeteria at the BU Medical Campus. “My 5 o’clock drink got earlier and earlier, until I was filling a glass at 3:30.” Then one afternoon in the shadow of lunchtime, Lisa’s daughter asked her to babysit her children at their home just a few doors away. She knew right away that she had to say no. She was drunk.

Two Exhibits Celebrate Caversham Press

In 1985, when the Caversham Press was founded by master printer Malcolm Christian in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, apartheid was still very much a part of the country’s fabric. But from its early days as a single studio print shop, Caversham Press invited not only established artists to work there, but also little-known artists, white and black.

A Boston Brothel Reveals Its Secrets

Boston’s infamous Big Dig construction project, which rerouted the city’s Central Artery, unearthed a trove of archaeological treasures in a 19th-century brothel’s outhouse. Buried there were items of importance to the women who made their living outside the margins of polite society: hairbrushes, medicines, and vaginal syringes used for self-medicating and cleaning.

More Than Bread Alone

“What I didn’t understand is that being homeless is a very isolating experience,” says Peter Resnik (LAW’70). “As hard as the nights are, being cold, sleeping in an alley or a shelter, the days are difficult because they’re meaningless. They’re empty. They’re boring.” Resnik’s solution? Start a book club for the homeless.

Mission Controlled

Jenny Gruber (ENG’99) is in charge of the team that’s responsible for a spacecraft’s trajectory on launch, in orbit as it attempts to rendezvous with other spacecraft, and on re-entry. As a student at BU, Gruber landed a co-op assignment at NASA. The experience helped her qualify for a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where she earned a PhD in engineering. She returned to NASA after graduate school and now works full time at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Getting the Dirt Out

Scientists have been turning coal into synthetic fuel for nearly a century, and synfuel, as the product is known, is produced commercially all over the world. But Avi Goldberg (CGS’96, CAS’98), the cofounder of GreatPoint Energy, has figured out a way to improve the process: use a secret catalyst to optimize the conversion and allow it to turn coal, coke, and other carbon-based fuel into pipeline-quality natural gas.

Conducting Electricity

This past year Steven Mercurio (CFA’80) helped Sting reinvent his catalogue of hits for a major orchestra. The resulting concert, called Symphonicity, took Mercurio, Sting, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London to venues around the United States and Europe.

Making a Case for Classical Music

As the chief classical music critic for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini (CFA’82) is one of the most influential classical music critics in the world.

Boston Red Sox, Behind the Lens

Tag along with Michael Ivins (COM’01) who, as manager of photography for the Boston Red Sox, shoots home and away games, player portraits, magazine photo shoots, charity events, and the day-to-day bustle of Fenway Park.

BU and the Peace Corps

Since 1961, more than 1,200 BU alums have served in the Peace Corps, which turned 50 this year. That puts BU 17th among all-time sources of Peace Corps volunteers.

Material Girl

Watch as teacher and artist Jodi Colella (CAS’81) uses fibers and other materials to create unique works of art.

Bikes Not Bombs

David Branigan (CAS’02) helps run a nonprofit called Bikes Not Bombs, which ships donated bicycles to bike stores, youth training centers, and orphaned children in developing countries.

Telling America’s Untold Story

For half of her adult life, Isabel Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and a College of Communication professor of journalism, has been working to bring the story of America’s black migrants to life. The result, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction, is The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.

Judith Chaffee Metcalf Award Winner

CFA Associate Professor Judith Chaffee was this year’s winner of the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching, BU’s highest teaching award.

The 19th-Century Serial Killer

College of Communication Professor Douglas Starr sheds light on the pioneers of forensic science in his book The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science.

BU’s New Ambassador to the Arts

Listening is something that comes naturally to the new dean of BU’s College of Fine Arts. “As a musician, my first tool is my hearing, my ears,” says Benjamín Juárez. “I have to be very aware of the different voices within the College of Fine Arts and the University at large, and all the stakeholders and shareholders.” Learn more about this interesting conductor, scholar, and professor.

CSI: BU Edition

The School of Medicine’s Forensic Anthropology Program prepares students for academic and law enforcement jobs scouring fire, crash, and crime scenes for remains, then identifying them.

Singing the Praises of Ann Howard Jones

Like most professional musicians, College of Fine Arts (CFA) Professor Ann Howard Jones loves Symphony Hall in Boston. “It’s a classic shoebox shape with a very high, unimpeded ceiling,” she says. “There’s nothing in the way, and the surfaces are all receptive and reflective.” Learn more about Jones’s love affair with conducting, her work with CFA choral students, and how a return to Symphony Hall marked the spiritual end of her battle with cancer.

Lost Language

College of Arts & Sciences Associate Professor of Anthropology Fallou Ngom is a leading expert in a written derivative of Arabic script called Ajami. Although long ignored by colonial powers and the West, Ajami is found in villages all over Senegal, Guinea, and Niger, where it remains a leading written language of commerce, legal documents, journals, and even poetry. This past year, Ngom won a Guggenheim grant, which will help him nurture other Ajami scholars, as well as continue his work in his home country of Senegal.

Are Americans God’s Chosen People?

In a live chat moderated by Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, Professors Andrew Bacevich (who describes himself as a Catholic conservative) and Stephen Prothero (who dubs his religious outlook “confused”) pondered the role of religious impulses in American foreign policy.

LGBT Voices

“It Gets Better” at BU. In this series of powerful videos, students, faculty, and staff from BU’s LGBT community share their stories of living openly gay and getting to a point where life gets better.

A Cappella Rocks

A cappella-orama. Which BU a cappella group is best? It’s a delightful dilemma to try to resolve. Take a listen to BU Today’s “A Cappella Rocks” series and you’ll see what we mean.

TEDx Comes to BU

Calling all Smarty Pantses. See what the hot topics were at last winter’s TEDxBU program, where the theme was “twisted logic.”

The Redstone Film Festival

Last February at BU’s Redstone Film Festival, Salty Dogs, a poetic documentary about a day in the life of Massachusetts fishermen, took top prize. Shot by Dimitri Kouri (CGS’09, COM’11) and Zack McGeehan (COM’11), the eight-minute short was filmed in a single day, after the filmmakers persuaded a fisherman to let them spend a day aboard his boat.

Dean Elmore Takes the Plunge

Dean of Students Kenn Elmore put on his wetsuit and tuxedo, walked to the edge of the boat, and promptly jumped into the chilly Charles. Whatever for? Watch the video to find out.

Graduation a Lifelong Process, Couric Tells Class of 2011

Veteran TV broadcaster Katie Couric addressed the graduating Class of 2011 at Commencement, acknowledging that “it’s tough out there,” but told graduates to “find ways to set yourself apart.” Couric, who only three days earlier had relinquished the anchor chair at CBS Evening News, received a Doctor of Humane Letters.

Tackling Tooth Decay
South of the Border

Imagine the experience for a team of students and faculty from BU’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine who traveled to the St. Pierre dental clinic in Teacapan, Mexico. In week one, a team of seven professionals—BU dental students, faculty, and staff, as well as a Boston-area assistant and hygienist—performed 350 dental exams and fluoride treatments, 900 sealants, 241 fillings, and 31 extractions over four and a half days.

Chairwomen of the Boards

This winter the women’s ice hockey team was the first-ever Hockey East program to reach the Women’s Frozen Four championship game. And it was only the team’s sixth year as a varsity program. Not only that, the team earned a program-best 27 victories in the 2010/2011 campaign and will have four Hockey East All-Stars back on next year’s roster. What’s the key to their success? Sweat, tradition, and a little toy horse all play a role.

Twins Head to Regatta

When it comes to rowing, a team’s success depends on the ability of its members to set aside their differences so they can think and move as one. So it would seem natural that having identical twin brothers Barney and Charlie Ruprecht (both CGS’11, SHA’13) on board could make for a better boat.

From BC to BU: A New Coach for B-Ball

Less than three weeks after men’s head basketball coach Patrick Chambers left BU for Penn State, the University found a replacement in Boston College associate head coach Joe Jones, a former head coach at Columbia University.

There’s Nothing Like It

John Holland (CGS’09, COM’11) made an undeniable mark as a Terrier, breaking the BU record for minutes played, finishing second in points scored (2,212), and being named the America East Player of the Year. Here he talks about his journey as a hoops player at BU.

Pool Precision

Sculls. Eggbeaters. Lifts. Those are just some of the amazing feats of athleticism on display from the BU synchronized swimming team.

BU’s Musical Jewel

When you think of big musical instruments, the tuba comes to mind. Or the double bass. Or certain carillons around the world. But one of the biggest—so big, in fact, you can walk through it—lives right here at Boston University. Watch the video to learn more.

Cutting-Edge Technology for an Ancient Religion

Onaje Woodbine, a PhD candidate in religious studies, has developed an app for iPhones, iPods, and iPads that mimics the throwing of a divination chain used in the ancient African Yoruba religion.

Executive VP Joseph Mercurio’s Departure

The man who planned and directed the largest expansion of the Boston University campus has left the building: Joseph P. Mercurio, executive vice president, retired after 38 years at BU.

Street Medic

Jeff Stein (CAS’11) is a street medic, a member of the latest generation of a loose network of activists who first tended to marchers injured in civil rights-era actions in the 1960s and now appear at political protests and natural disasters all over the world.

BU Abroad

BU offers students the opportunity to study abroad in more than 30 cities on 6 continents. In the accompanying video, BU medical students learn about global health by running health education camps for children, working in clinics and hospitals, and living with host families in Ecuador.

U.S. News & World Report: DASH Diet Number One

Want the inside scoop on dieting? Ask BU’s Thomas Moore. The Medical Campus associate provost helped create the best diet plan going, according to U.S. News & World Report.