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Boston University Arts & Sciences

CAS News
BU Researcher Plays Key Role in Discovery of New Type of Neutrino Oscillation

Professor of Physics Edward Kearns was part of a team of researchers that discovered an indication of a new type of neutrino transformation or oscillation from a muon neutrino to an electron neutrino. The international T2K collaboration, which is based in Japan, announced the discovery on June 15.

Evidence of this new type of neutrino oscillation may lead the way to new studies of a matter/anti-matter asymmetry called charge-parity (CP) violation. CP violation in the early universe may be the reason that the observable universe today is dominated by matter and no significant anti-matter.

Edge of Solar System Filled with Magnetic Bubbles

Assistant Professor of Astronomy Merav Opher was recently featured in a NASA teleconference on the latest findings about the edge of the solar system. A new computer model of the solar system based on data gathered by the Voyager space probes indicates that the edge of the solar system (the heliosheath) is not smooth, but filled with a turbulent sea of magnetic bubbles. Opher joined some of the country’s top astronomers to discuss the Voyager data.

Opher’s research has focused on how plasma and magnetic effects reveal themselves in astrophysical and space physics environments and, in particular, how stars interact with the surrounding media, how the solar system interacts with the local interstellar medium, and the interaction of extra-solar planets with their host stars. Opher notes that the Voyager data led to the discovery of how interstellar magnetic fields play a major role in shaping the heliosphere, producing asymmetries that are measurable. “We are arriving at the notion that the magnetic field outside our home, Earth, is strong and important enough to influence and shape its structure.”

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CAS Professor Co-Directs "Costs of War" Study

Nearly 10 years after the declaration of the War on Terror, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have killed at least 225,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians. The wars will cost Americans between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans, according to a new report by the Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies and co-directed by Boston University political science Professor Neta Crawford. If the wars continue, they are on track to require at least another $450 billion in Pentagon spending by 2020.

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Students Continue Linguistic Fieldwork in Cameroon

Last August, four BU graduate and undergraduate students traveled to Cameroon with a native speaker of Medumba, who is also a PhD student in French Literature at the University, to study the under-documented language. The group collected more than 80 hours of audio data from a wide range of native speakers, seeking answers to a number of linguistic questions. This summer, BU is yet again extending its reach in Cameroon by sending three more students to continue linguistic fieldwork for Medumba.

Medumba is a language rich in complex tones and changing grammar, but lacks extensive documentation. Though the language was partially described 40 years ago by young linguists, the fresh crop of CAS and GRS scholars represent a new hope for this endangered language. Cathy O’Connor, Director of the Program in Applied Linguistics at the Graduate School, writes that there is a “critical need to document endangered and under-described languages around the world, 95 percent of which will be extinct within the next 100 years.”

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Astronomy Professor Wins Grant to Establish New Network of Sky Observatories

Professor of Astronomy Michael Mendillo’s proposal titled “Instrumentation for a North-South America Network of Magnetically Conjugate All-Sky-Imagers for Ionospheric Space Weather Understanding” was selected for a major award ($500,000) from the Department of Defense’s DURIP (Defense University Research Instrumentation Program). This grant will create state-of-the-art optical systems that obtain horizon-to-horizon images of emissions from Earth’s ionosphere that show where irregularities occur that lead to radio transmission errors, such as from GPS satellites.

The final network of nine all-sky-imagers will be the first such hemisphere-to-hemisphere chain of all-sky-imaging observatories to study atmospheric effects associated with the auroral activity at high latitudes to equatorial plasma instabilities at the equator. The DURIP instrument design and fabrication manager is Jeffrey Baumgardner, the science lead is Dr. Carlos Martinis, and the grant Principal Investigator is Professor Mendillo. Student participation is anticipated at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Artemis Project Brings Girls into Computer Science, Technology

Starting this summer, Boston University will implement an intensive summer learning program in computer science for girls in the Boston area to foster a network of women in computer science and technology fields. The Artemis Project was established at Brown University in the mid-1990s and is being expanded to reach girls in the Boston area.

Twenty girls entering their first or second year of high school will attend the five-week, free-of-charge program at BU. Artemis will be staffed by five female undergraduate coordinators studying computer science or engineering at the University, and they will work under Cynthia Brossman, director of BU’s Learning Resource Network. The Artemis program received funding in part by the National Science Foundation, Microsoft, and Google.

Syria at the Crossroads: CAS’s Norton Sees Tragic Ending Ahead

On June 20, in the face of deepening internal strife and mounting international pressure, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria took to the television airwaves and spoke to his restive nation for the first time in two months, pledging change. But critics say the speech lacked specifics, at best offering vague deadlines for reforms.

“I really think the regime has outlived its legitimacy by a significant margin,” says Middle East expert Augustus Richard Norton, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of international relations and anthropology and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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CAS Provides Climate Change Primer to Eighth Graders

Sean Mackay was itching to show off the big find from an expedition to Antarctica last fall. Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, this modern day Shackleton pulled a frosty tube from a nearby freezer, unscrewed the top, and removed a plastic bag protecting sediment-embedded ice. This was no ordinary ice, but rather a chunk from an ice core dating back millions of years that Mackay had helped extract from the depths of the South Pole during the trip.

“It’s the oldest ice in the world and inside this ice is the oldest atmosphere in the world,” Mackay (GRS’13) told his spellbound audience, a group of eighth-graders from Brookline’s William H. Lincoln School.

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Probing the Bangladeshi Diaspora

As a Bangladeshi born in the United States to a family that divided its time between the eastern world and the West, Nazli Kibria has long been privy to Americans’ perceptions of her native country. Most of these perceptions, though not necessarily malicious, are wildly off the mark, she says.

In her new book, Muslims in Motion, Kibria, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of sociology, examines the Bangladeshi diaspora, telling the stories of challenges faced by Bangladeshis in the United States, Great Britain, the Gulf states of the Middle East, and Malaysia.

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Aboard a sunset cruise, BU alumni and friends learned the inner workings of the Boston Harbor at BU's inaugural Alumni College experience, Sustainability in the City. Led by faculty from the Geography & Environment and Biology Departments, as well as throughout BU, some 70 participants came to campus for the weekend, exploring living sustainably and how it affects all aspects of life, with classes, a luncheon at the Aquarium and an eco-friendly bike tour.
Faculty Meetings and Deadlines

Dean's Summer Casuals
Faculty are invited to come catch up with their colleagues.
4–5 p.m., CAS 106

Nomination Deadline for United Methodist Church Scholar/Teacher of the Year Submit all required materials to Michael Mercurio (mwm2@bu.edu) no later than noon. For more information, visit bu.edu/provost/awards/united/.

New Chairs/Directors Orientation
Location and time TBD


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's New Directions Fellowships
Nominations due this date in the Dean's office.

New Directions Fellowships assist faculty members in the humanities, broadly understood to include the arts, history, languages, area studies, and zones of such fields as anthropology and geography that bridge the humanities and social sciences, who seek to acquire systematic training outside their own areas of special interest. The program is intended to enable strong scholars in the humanities to work on problems that interest them most, at an appropriately advanced level of sophistication. In addition to facilitating the work of individual faculty members, these awards should benefit humanistic scholarship more generally by encouraging the highest standards in cross-disciplinary research.

For details, visit here

Chairs' Calendar


In an online editorial about citizenship and naturalization with regards to the recent Flores-Villar v. the United States case, Dean of Arts & Sciences Virginia Sapiro and Kris Collins, a professor in the School of Law, received a nod from the New York Times with a link to the amicus brief the two joined on the subject. Read the Sunday editorial and click “outmoded principles” to see the brief.

On June 10, the ABC show 20/20 focused on research into Williams syndrome—a genetic syndrome that is characterized by extreme sociability, strong interest in music, but also problems in everyday social competence. The program featured research from the Psychology Department’s Developmental Science Program, and included interviews with Helen Tager-Flusberg, director of the program.

Computer science Assistant Professor Evimaria Terzi received a $10,000 gift from Yahoo! Labs to support her current research project titled “Finding the role of peer and authority pressure in information propagation.” Terzi’s project aims to develop computational methods for quantifying the effect of different socially significant factors on the propagation of trends, ideas, and memes in information networks.

Student Accolades

PhD student Jan Marie Andersen was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Nordic Research Opportunity Grant to conduct research at the Centre for Star and Planet Formation (StarPlan) in Copenhagen, Denmark. The center is a new multidisciplinary research institute dedicated to the study of extra-solar planets. Andersen will spend one year at StarPlan, researching the observational signatures of magnetic activity in stars and how they can mimic exoplanet signatures. Her research will help determine the effects of stellar activity on exoplanet searches and limits of detectability of planets around various types of stars.

GRS student Wei Guo was recently awarded a Howard Hughes International Student Research Fellowship. Guo, a graduate student in the Department of Cognitive & Neural Systems, will receive a $30,000 stipend, plus an additional research allowance for the 2011–2012 academic year. Sixty schools were invited to nominate students this year and only about forty students were selected for the competitive fellowship.

Michael Wells, a sophomore at BU Academy, placed second in the U.S. among Division 2 students in the 2011 Physics Bowl Annual Competition for high-school students, an annual event sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers. In Fall 2009, as part of his preparation for this competition, Michael enrolled in PY 251, the freshman physics majors course taught by Professor Claudio Rebbi. Michael credits the “clarity of the teaching in [Rebbi’s] course” as one of the ingredients for his Physics Bowl success. Michael plans to continue studying physics as well as computer science as he enters his junior year at the Academy.

Keep Us in the Loop

Let us know about news or upcoming events. Please send news items to cascom@bu.edu, or call Patrick Farrell at 617-358-1185. Announcements about upcoming events can also be submitted online. Events geared toward students should be submitted to the Student Programs Office.

For all matters regarding your alumni, please contact Associate Director of Alumni Relations Kirsten Lundeen at 617-358-5525 or Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Lauren Hall at 617-353-1060.

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