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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: April 2009

BILL KEYLOR, chair of the Department of International Relations, presented a paper at “Cooperative Security in East and Southeast Asia: Learning from History to Meet Future Challenges,” an international conference in Beijing, China, April 17–18. His presentation was titled “The United Nations: The Successes and Failures of Cooperative Security since 1945.” The conference was organized by the Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security and the China Foreign Affairs University.


MICHAEL POLLASTRI, professor of chemistry, has received $2.7 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a sleeping sickness drug. Sleeping sickness affects nearly 500,000 people annually in sub-Saharan Africa, leading to approximately 60,000 deaths. Transmitted by the bite of an inflected tsetse fly, sleeping sickness is fatal if untreated. There is an urgent need to “translate” laboratory research in this area into clinical trials that could lead to effective drugs. Professor Pollastri and his collaborator Dr. Robert Campbell at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole are investigating new compounds as promising therapeutics for sleeping sickness and other neglected diseases. Their goal in this five-year effort is to develop compounds that display a high level of inhibition of two enzymes that are required by the parasites. Guided by previous results from drug discovery programs that have targeted the human version of these enzymes, the investigators will develop new compounds that target these parasitic enzymes to confirm that their inhibition by small molecule drugs leads to parasite death and to produce new drugs for advancement into clinical studies these diseases.


BILL SKOCPOL, professor of physics, recently was selected by the American Physical Society as one of its outstanding referees for the Physical Review and Physical Review Letters journals. Initiated in 2008, the Outstanding Referee Program expresses appreciation for the essential work that anonymous peer reviewers do for their journals. Each year, the society selects a very small percentage of its 42,000 referees for the outstanding referee designation.


JIM STONE, professor of physics and director of graduate studies in physics, has been selected as a Jefferson Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State for 2009–10. The Jefferson Science Fellowship Program is based on the premise that science and technology make fundamental contributions to the security, economic, health, and cultural foundations of modern societies, and are integral to the development and implementation of foreign policy. The program was established to create opportunities for substantial engagement of tenured scientists and engineers from U.S. academic institutions in the work of the department. Fellows serve one-year assignments working full-time in the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development, and then remain available as consultants after returning to their academic careers. Physics Professor Michael El-Batanouny is on leave this year in the same program.


TOM TULLIUS, professor of chemistry, and graduate student Steve Parker, along with collaborators at the National Institutes of Health, have developed a method for uncovering functional areas of the human genome by studying DNA’s three-dimensional structure—a topographical approach that extends the more familiar analysis of the sequence of the four-letter alphabet of the DNA bases and will better explain the biology of the genome. Their study was reported in the March 12, 2009, online edition of Science. The researchers focused on examining the non-coding regions of the genome for areas that are likely to play a key role in human biological function.