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Qais Akbar Omar (GRS’16), a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program, has published a much-praised memoir, A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story. He recalls how the violence and tumult of civil war jolted his family, who, despite losing relatives, their home, and possessions, continued to nurture his wish to attend a university.

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Faculty Accolades

January 2012

Professor of Astronomy Tom Bania was mentioned in a recent SETI Institute press release on the discovery of new planets. He and recently deceased colleague Bob Rood were mentioned for previous work they did to propose frequency ranges in which to search for habitable planets elsewhere in the universe. Read an article on the subject.

Assistant Professor of Astronomy Elizabeth Blanton co-authored an article in the August 20, 2011, issue of The Astrophysical Journal analyzing the “sloshing back and forth” of hot gases in the Abell 2052 galaxy cluster, located about 480 million light years from Earth. Read the full article.

Professor of Computer Science Mark Crovella has been elevated to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow. Mark was cited for his contributions to the measurement and analysis of networks and distributed systems.

Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Institute for Astrophysical Research Alan Marscher will speak at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, February 16-20. The title of his talk will be: “Gamma Ray Blazars: Jets from Super Massive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei.”

Associate Professor of History Jonathan Zatlin has won the 2010 Hans Rosenberg Article Prize for his article “Integrating without Unifying: The East German Collapse and German Unity,” Central European History 43:3 (September 2010): 484–507.The Conference Group for Central European History awards this prize biannually for the best English-language article or essay on central European history written by permanent residents of North America.

The book Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History by Thomas Barfield, director of the Institute of Culture, Religion & World Affairs, has been gaining broad notice recently. Read about it in a recent New York Timesarticle.

Assistant Professor of History Arianne Chernock’s book, Men and the Making of Modern British Feminism, is the winner of the 2011 John Ben Snow Prize of the North American Conference on British Studies.Awarded annually for the best book by a North American scholar in any field of British Studies dealing with the period from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century, the prize committee praised Chernock for presenting “a new vision of the Enlightenment adoption of the philosophies of toleration and equality that finally brings the debate on women’s status among eighteenth-century intellectuals out of the shadows.”

NBC’s Today Show asked actress, comedian, writer and producer Mindy Kaling, best known as Kelly Kapoor on “The Office,” and former President of the United States Bill Clinton recently what are their top 10 books for a holiday gift list. Clinton picked CAS Professor of International Relations David Fromkin‘s “The Way of the World: From the Dawn of Civilizations to the Eve of the Twenty-First Century” as one of his top 10.

On December 1, the Field Museum named Professor of Biology Les Kaufman the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Parker/Gentry Award, which has been given annually since 1996 to the individual, team, or organization whose work has made an impact on conservation and serves as a model for others.A professor of biology in the Boston University Marine Program and a senior marine scientist at Conservation International, Kaufman is an evolutionary ecologist who studies the creation, collapse, and conservation of aquatic diversity. His more than 30 years of work in conservation biology spans the globe, from the African Great Lakes and New England to the South Pacific.

Professor of Mathematics & Statistics Eric Kolaczyk has become an elected member of the International Statistical Institute (ISI). The ISI is one of the oldest international scientific organizations.

Professor of Geography & Environment Alan Strahler was awarded the USGS Pecora Award, the highest honor awarded in the remote sensing community. Strahler was recognized for his contributions to remote-sensing science, leadership, and education, which have improved the fundamental understanding of the remote-sensing process and its applications for observing land surface properties. Read more

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Evimaria Terzi and Professor of Computer Science Azer Bestavros are recipients of a Google Research Award to study a new class of centrality measures that are better suited for a number of problems involving the use and mining of data characterizing flow and access networks.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has offered Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Humanities James Winn a fellowship to undertake his project titled “The Arts During the Life of Queen Anne, 1660s–1710s.”

Assistant professors Jonathan Appavoo and Evimaria Terzi (Computer Science) and Mark Kramer (Mathematics & Statistics) are three of six junior faculty members at Boston University to be named as Junior Fellows of the Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering (HIC).The HIC Junior Fellows Program aims to recognize outstanding early-career computational researchers at Boston University, and to connect them with one another and with the institute community at large.

Gene Andrew Jarrett, associate professor and chair of English, just published Representing the Race: A New Political History of African American Literature, with New York University Press.

Associate Professor of History Jim Johnson has won the American Historical Association’s George L. Mosse Award for his 2011 book Venice Incognito.The award honors the year’s “outstanding major work of extraordinary scholarly distinction, creativity, and originality in the intellectual and cultural history of Europe since the Renaissance.” For more information and a list of previous winners, click here.

Carrie Preston, assistant professor of English, just published Modernism’s Mythic Pose: Gender, Genre, Solo Performance, in Oxford University Press’s Modernist Literatures and Cultures Series.

Professor of African American Studies John Thornton gave the O. Meredith Wilson Annual Lecture at the University of Utah on October 28.This lecture, which has been given since 1977, is a major event in the University of Utah’s annual schedule, previously given by some of the most famous contemporary historians. These have included Carlo Ginzburg, Gary Nash, Natalie Zemon Davis, Hayden White, Jonathan Spence, John Brewer, Bernard Baylin, G. R. Elton, Emmanuel Le Roi Ladurie, among others. Professor Thornton was the first person whose special field is African History to give the lecture.

Professor of English Bonnie Costello wrote a recent piece in Arts & Opinion about her experiences visiting Malaysia.She is the author of many books and articles on modern poetry, most recently Planets on Tables: Poetry, Still Life, and the Turning World (Cornell University Press 2008). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and currently a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers at the New York Public Library, where she is working on the book Private Faces in Public Places: Modern Poetry and the First Person Plural.

What is the relative importance of the delivery of subsidized agricultural inputs by decentralized local governments in the Green Revolution of West Bengal? This is the central question in a recent paper by Professor of Economics Dilip Mookherjee and colleague Pranab Bardhan, published in the October 2011 issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.The paper is titled “Subsidized Farm Input Programs and Agricultural Performance: A Farm-Level Analysis of West Bengal’s Green Revolution 1982-95.”Dr. Mookherjee and Dr. Bardhan examine “the role of delivery of subsidized seeds and fertilizers in the form of agricultural mini-kits by local governments in three successive farm panels in West Bengal spanning 1982-95. These programs significantly raised farm value added per acre, accounting for almost two thirds of the observed growth. The estimates are robust to possible endogeneity of program placement, controls for farm and year effects, other programs of agricultural development, local weather, and price shocks. The effects of the kits delivery program overshadowed the effects of other rural development programs, including the tenancy registration program Operation Barga.”Professor Mookherjee’s interests include development, inequality, and contract theory.

Boston University Associate Professor of International Relations Kevin P. Gallagher has been awarded a two-year grant from the Ford Foundation for a project titled “Policy Space to Manage Global Capital Flows: Enabling Stability, Growth, and Development.”Gallagher will conduct policy-oriented research to examine the extent to which developing nations have the proper toolkit to manage short-term capital flows in order to prevent and mitigate financial crises. In addition to the academic research, which will also support some graduate students, Gallagher will hold a number of policy workshops with academics, policy makers, and members of civil society to disseminate and feed into the project’s findings.

Professor of History, Philosophy, and Political Science James Schmidt has been selected as a Bogliasco Fellow and will be in residence at the Liguria Study Center for the Arts & Humanities this coming February. Read More.Further information on the Center can be found here: He will be using his residency to make the final revisions on a book, tentatively titled The Question of Enlightenment, which traces the history of debates about the nature, purpose, and implications of the Enlightenment between 1784 (the date of Immanuel Kant’s famous response to the question “What is enlightenment?”) and 1984 (the date of influential reflections on Kant’s answer by Jürgen Habermas and Michel Foucault).This book offers the first comprehensive account of the wide-ranging series of controversies that, originating with an attempt to clarify the meaning of the term “enlightenment” (Aufklärung), evolved into a quarrel about the nature of the practices that constitute “true enlightenment,” and culminated in disputes over the legacy of the historical period that has come to be known as “the Enlightenment.” It traces the differing ways in which attempts to answer the seemingly innocuous question “What is enlightenment?” have forced a remarkably diverse group of thinkers to wrestle with the conflicting claims of faith and knowledge, to question whether the progress of the arts and sciences undermines the moral foundations on which society rests, and to explore the complex relationship between reason and domination. As a result, the question “What is enlightenment?” casts light not only on the diverse ways in which one significant historical period has been interpreted, but also offers a framework for understanding the ideals, aspirations, and anxieties that have shaped the modern world.

Chair of Political Science Graham Wilson has accepted an invitation to serve on the Warwick Commission on Elected Mayors & City Leadership, a group of experts organized by the University of Warwick to advise UK leadership on a possible transition to elected mayors.The Localism Bill (2010-11) is currently nearing the end of its passage through Parliament. It makes provision for the creation of directly elected mayors in England’s largest cities.

Assistant Professor of Political Science Dino Christenson has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to study “The Evolution & Influence of Interest Group Networks before the Supreme Court.”The project is co-investigated with Prof. Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier (OSU).Winning in front of the courts, the legislative arena, or the executive branch is not a solitary act. While interest groups use a variety of techniques to exert influence, coalition strategies are dominant. However, many questions remain about such coalitions. This investigation brings a new theoretical perspective to the study of coalitions by applying network theory and methods. Such a perspective provides a lens where the attributes of individuals are less important than the relationships and ties among actors in the network.This project readdresses three classic questions of interest group behavior: how have interest group coalition strategies changed over time; which factors most determine whether interest groups work together; and do particular interest groups wield more power before the Court? Utilizing a network measure of interest group coalitions based on cosigner status to United States Supreme Court amicus curiae, or friend of the court briefs, the central players and overall characteristics of this dynamic network from 1930 to present-day are illuminated. In addition, the analyses suggest which attributes bring interest groups to work together and how power in the network influences judicial decision making and litigation success.

Professor of Computer Science Mark Crovella has received a $391,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The new grant will support research on “Understanding Communication Strategies for Ad hoc Networks.”According to the project abstract:”Ad-hoc networks hold great promise, but there is a vast array of competing proposals for organizing such networks. Unfortunately it is unclear, in general, how to choose among the various proposed designs in any given deployment. In response, this project is asking a fundamental question: how should a collection of nodes decide what basic architecture to adopt in organizing into a network? […]The result of the project will be more robust and broadly effective methods for creating ad hoc networks in new environments. Such environments can include battlefields as well as post-disaster deployments, where networks must be created quickly under unanticipated conditions.”

The National Institute of Mental Health recently gave a grant to Professor of Psychology Howard Eichenbaum (PI), Professor of Psychology Chantal Stern, and others for their project titled “Prefrontal and Medial-Temporal Interactions in Memory.”From the abstract:A fundamental challenge in neuroscience is understanding of how brain areas operate together as a system to support high-level cognitive functions. In particular, one system of great importance to the understanding of mental disorders involves the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal lobe, each of which contribute to high level functions in memory and cognition. In recent years, there has been significant progress in revealing the individual functions of areas within the each of these areas, and some successes in showing that these areas work together. However, there is a paucity of knowledge about the mechanisms by which the two areas interact in the service of memory and cognition.Here we bring together a group of investigators who have led research on the prefrontal cortex, medial temporal lobe, or both, using diverse approaches and different species. Our aim is to integrate our strengths towards revealing the mechanisms of that interaction, and in so doing, pioneer a true systems level understanding of memory and cognition. In addition, it has become increasingly clear that aspects of mental disorders reflect a breakdown of network functions of this brain system. Correspondingly, our characterization of interactions between the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobe is fundamental to understanding the origins of mental disorders and to developing therapies that influence information processing in this system.

The National Science Foundation has funded Professor of Chemistry Sean Elliott and his research group for four years and nearly $700,000 to provide a new detailed understanding of how thioredoxins are used in nature to maintain redox homeostasis.

Associate Professor of International Relations Kevin P. Gallagher has been named co-editor of the Review of International Political Economy (RIPE) as of October 1.RIPE is a leading international journal dedicated to the systematic exploration of the international political economy from a plurality of perspectives.

Nancy Kopell, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, has been elected as an Honorary Member of the London Mathematical Society (LMS).The society generally elects only one honorary member from outside the UK each year. Founded in 1865, the LMS is the largest mathematical society in the UK. The list of honorary members includes luminaries such as Henri Poincaré, Albert Einstein (1924), and Peter Lax (1997) — probably the most famous living applied mathematician.

Professor Emeritus of Astronomy Kenneth Janes was featured in a WHDH-TV video about the satellite that recently fell to Earth. Watch the video.

Al Gore used an image by Professor of Geography And Environment Ranga Myneni and his team about the drought of the Amazon in his new Climate Reality video released September 14. The video has been watched by over 8 million people. View the video; the image and the quote shows up about 35 minutes in.

As part of the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, Professor of English Robert Pinsky spoke at the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, along with former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.Professor Pinsky read three poems and then, as part of the ceremony, read the names of the forty passengers and crew who took the plane back from the terrorists.On November 8, at a ceremony in Los Angeles, Professor Pinsky will receive a Lifetime Achievment Award from the PEN American Center.

Associate Professor of Sociology Laurel Smith-Doerr has been awarded National Science Foundation funding for two collaborative grants.Smith-Doerr is the lead PI for the following grant: “The Social Organization of Collaboration in the Chemical Sciences” ($589,586) with researchers at the University of Arizona. This research grant follows a collaborative workshop grant: “A Workshop on Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Innovative Science and Engineering Fields” ($57,354) with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

University Professor Rosanna Warren of the departments of English and Romance Studies published a new book of poems in March, Ghost in a Red Hat, from W. W. Norton. In June, she won the Sara Teasdale Prize for Poetry.A poem of hers, “The Latch,” was included in this year’s Best American Poets, edited by David Lehman and Kevin Young (Scribners 2011).

Assistant Professor of Astronomy Andrew West received a three-year NSF award in the amount of $429,710 for a project entitled, “Using White Dwarf-M Dwarf Pairs to Probe the Magnetic Activity and Angular Momentum Evolution of Low-Mass Stars.” His results could yield new insight into the evolution of the Milky Way, put important constraints on models of magnetic field generation in M dwarfs, and inform the timescales and conditions for habitability of planets orbiting M dwarfs.

Associate Professor of History Jonathan Zatlin is this year’s winner of the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in German and European Studies in the field of Economics.The prize is offered by the DAAD, which is the German national agency for the support of international academic cooperation, and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.