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Week of 6 November 1998

Vol. II, No. 13

In the News

The future looks brighter these days for biomedical researchers thanks to the recent sizable boost in federal research funding for the National Institutes of Health, according to Dr. Deborah Cotton, clinical research director at BU Medical Center. "For many years," she says in the October 23 Boston Globe, "we've had more ideas and more investigators than could be funded." But now, she says, "I can't remember a time when people have been as optimistic about the future of biomedical research." The Globe notes that the funds may also help pay for new laboratory space under development at Boston Medical Center.

Affirmative action, particularly in college admissions, remains a perennial catalyst for debate, in part because of what University Professor Alan Wolfe calls the "fact gap" -- the tendency of facts to mutate at the dictate of principle. A recent book by William Bowen and Derek Bok seeks what they call a "firmer foundation of fact." Reviewing the book in the October 25 New York Times Book Review, Wolfe finds this foundation less than firm. Considering in the same review a collection of essays examining the gap in test scores between black and white children, Wolfe notes the varying societal explanations for this gap and observes soberingly, "Such is the disparity between the races that a frightening number of African-Americans lose a good shot at entering the middle class even before they enter kindergarten."

"This has become one of those landmark flights," says Research Professor Farouk el-Baz, director of the GRS Center for Remote Sensing. El-Baz was echoing nationwide enthusiasm for the return of John Glenn to space on October 30. "In the 1960s he uplifted the spirit of the whole nation," he says in the October 25 Boston Herald, "and he's doing it again."

"Halloween is my day," says CAS Biology Professor Thomas Kunz in a profile in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine on October 25. That's the day the noted chiropterologist (bat expert) wears his bat cape to class. Kid stuff? As a matter of fact, yes. "Seeing something new is very exciting. I tend to have a mind like a child in that sense," Kunz says. "Childlike wonder is very important for scientists. A good scientist is a creative person. You have to imagine things as an artist."

"In the end we all lose -- first our strength, then our health, then our lives." With this melancholy sentence, College of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor of Philosophy David Roochnik seems to dance on the fresh grave of Red Sox fans' hopes. But pondering the differing fortunes of Boston's team and the New York Yankees, Roochnik suggests in the October 26 Boston Globe that losing is salutary: "We've imagined victory and wondered about defeat. And so we are more reflective, better able to face up to losses inevitably heading our way."

"In the News" is compiled by the Office of Public Relations.