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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 Accolates: October 2011

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.

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.

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 Professor 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?
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 the 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.

Al Gore used an image by Professor of Geography & 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 into the video.

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 contributes 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.

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

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.

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.