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Boston University Arts & Sciences

CAS Newsletter: April 2009
Faculty Mentoring and Networking
Are Key to Success, Panel Advises

Faculty mentoring and networking are fundamental to career success, experts emphasized at a recent symposium hosted by Boston University Women in Science and Engineering (BU WISE) and the Boston University Women’s Studies Program.

Learn More Earth Day Every Day

Earth Day celebrations were held around the world on April 22 to raise awareness of the threats to Earth’s environment. But Earth Day is every day for dedicated CAS researchers, as they seek answers to one of humankind’s most pressing challenges—climate change. Their work, which covers a broad range of disciplines, suggests some novel solutions to environmental challenges. Learn about the work of four CAS professors: Ethan Baxter, Earth Sciences; Wally Fulweiler, Earth Sciences; Mark Friedl, Geography and Environment; and Kevin Van Anglen, English.

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Mock Trial Team Garners National Honor

BU’s Mock Trial Team, a student organization coached by the CAS Pre-Law Advising Office, won an honorable mention at the American Mock Trial Association National Championship Tournament.

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Alumni Relations Launches Successful Webinar Series

The Arts & Sciences Alumni Relations Office launched a new alumni Webinar series earlier this month, with 45 alumni from 17 states and five foreign countries participating. The guest speaker was Professor Adil Najam, director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with other scholars and Al Gore. He discussed “Future Trends in Climate, Development, and Security.”

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Forms for website story ideas and calendar items now available

Do you have a story idea or a calendar listing for the CAS website? The website now includes forms to request both.

Send a story idea:

Submit a calendar listing:

New procedure for broadcast emails

Many CAS departments and programs have been requesting broadcast e-mails from the CAS dean’s account. BU’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) handles all broadcast e-mails.
Click here for an overview of the procedure.


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.

In the News
Highlights of national news coverage received by CAS faculty


What’s In Store at Tax-Day Tea Parties

“The Boston Tea Party has been inextricably linked ever since to the phrase ‘no taxation without representation.’ Two hundred and thirty-six years later, the event and the phrase apparently still resonate with Americans, many of whom are expressing concerns that their government has acted well beyond the scope of its responsibilities enumerated in the Constitution. To wit, billions of taxpayer dollars doled out to prop up struggling banks and car makers, a $787 billion stimulus package viewed by many as little more than ‘pork-barrel’ spending for politicians’ pet projects, and a 2009 budget that calls for a $1.75 trillion deficit. Boston University history professor Brendan McConville said the Tax Day Tea Party protestors are ‘tapping into a deep vein of American political and cultural consciousness.’ Just as their historical forefathers protested more than two centuries ago against taxes levied by a government they viewed as unresponsive to their needs, so are these contemporary revolutionaries taking action against what they perceive as ‘taxation without representation,’ said McConville. Both movements are steeped in anti-tax, anti-big-government and libertarian ideologies, and they each represent protests against ‘taxation that’s arbitrary and seemingly imposed by a distant power,’ he said.”


A Warning from the Bond Market

“Bonds' forecasts haven't always seemed to come true. Many corporate bond indexes showed spreads widening significantly during the 1998 Russian debt crisis, and yet the economy soldiered on. Such false signals may not be due to corporate bonds themselves, however, but the way corporate bond indexes are constructed. The bonds in them tend to have much shorter times before they will mature than the 10-year Treasurys their yields are usually compared with—which makes for a faulty comparison. To compensate for that, economists Simon Gilchrist and Vladimir Yankov at Boston University, and Egon Zakrajsek at the Federal Reserve constructed credit spreads over the 1990–2008 period from monthly price data on the corporate debt of about 900 U.S. nonfinancial companies . . . . With the massive widening in corporate bond spreads last fall, the economists' model predicts industrial production will fall another 17% by the end of the year, and the economy will lose another 7.8 million jobs on top of the 5.1 million it has shed since the recession began.”


A New Vision for the Summit of the Americas

Commentary by Jeffrey Rubin, associate professor of history
(co-written by Emma Sokoloff-Rubin, associate editor, The Yale Globalist)

“There’s no better place to begin a broad conversation about economic recovery and social change than at the Summit of the Americas. President Obama and the leaders of Latin America and Canada have different backgrounds and strategies, but they bring many of the same concerns to the table. They all want educated populations, jobs that enable people to support themselves, secular governments, equality for all citizens, and societies free from violence. They also want to support what is perhaps our hemisphere’s greatest resource for the long term: the democracies that exist across North and South America today. To pull this off, they need to start looking simultaneously towards and beyond the economic crisis, within their own countries and across national boundaries. That means talking about the economic crisis and about violence, women’s rights, hunger, the environment, drug policy, trade and immigration. Rather than silencing protesters, as the London police attempted to do, the heads of state at the Summit of the Americas — many of them former union leaders and community organizers — need to speak loudly and act boldly to address their citizens’ demands.”


Run on Banks Persistent Risk Without LPB

Commentary by Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics
“Our economy has failed due to malfeasance -- financial, corporate, regulatory and political. We need a new financial system we can trust, not a new wig on our old pig. The right reform is Limited Purpose Banking (LPB), which limits banks to their legitimate purpose, namely intermediating between borrowers and lenders, and savers and investors. Under LPB, all banks—shorthand for commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, brokers and all other financial companies with limited liability—operate as mutual fund companies that sell safe as well as risky securities to the public. In so doing, banks let us take the risks we want while they never gamble. Banks simply act as middlemen. They never own financial assets, never borrow short to lend long and are never in a position to fail. . . . Our financial system needs a new engine, not an oil change. Limited-purpose banking would eliminate financial crises. It would provide maximum transparency. It would make clear that risks are born by people, not companies.”


Bob Dylan: from folk-singer to the world's greatest poet

“Just like the singer himself, the debate about whether Bob Dylan is as good as John Keats never goes away for long. It's back again now, as he is. . . . Even the critiquing of Bob Dylan has a tradition. For the British, there are several crucial players. They include Professor Christopher Ricks, now 75, whose long-contemplated book, Dylan's Visions of Sin, finally came out in 2003. Then there is Michael Gray . . . widely credited with a new kind of critical writing that takes account of the fact that while the lyrics of the songs may be poetic, and therefore inspected as poetry, they remain just one part of the genre. The point is echoed by Ricks, who now teaches at Boston University and gives talks on Dylan. He says you have to bear in mind that there are three strands—the words, the music and, like it or not, the voice. ‘For that reason the business about whether Dylan is better than Keats seems perhaps idle ... what seems certain to me is that he does stand comparison with the very greatest poets.’”

Upcoming Meetings and Events

Science and Engineering Research Symposium Awards Luncheon
Noon, One Sherborn Street, Trustee Ballroom

Ada Draper Award Presentation
2 p.m., CAS 200

Provost’s Meet and Greet Tea
4 p.m., One Sherborn Street, Trustee Ballroom

MAY 5–12
Final Exams

Council of Chairs and Directors Meeting
4 p.m., CAS 132 (Topic: Hiring Priorities)

MAY 12
Humanities Foundation Student Awards Lunch
11 a.m.–1 p.m., The Castle

MAY 25
Memorial Day (offices closed)

MAY 27
Completed spring ’09 course evaluations due to CAS Faculty Actions

Commencement Weekend
MAY 15–17

MAY 15
GRS PhD Hooding
5 p.m., GSU, Metcalf Ballroom

MAY 16
CAS Departmental Convocations and Receptions
9 a.m. (various locations)

University Commencement
1 p.m., Nickerson Field

CAS Departmental Convocations and Receptions
4 p.m. (various locations)

Dean’s Summer Casuals
4–5:30 p.m., CAS 106
Faculty working on campus during the summer are invited to the Dean’s office for no particular reason other than to raise a glass and chat with colleagues informally. No agenda.

New CAS Chairs and Directors Orientation
8 a.m.– noon. More information to come.

August 26
All CAS Chairs and Directors Orientation
8 a.m.–1:30 p.m. More information to come.

Keep Us in the Loop

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Keep Students in the Loop

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