Fall/Winter 2007

Transcript from Sept. 20, 2007


Moving Forward
Thanks to the support of countless individuals, the celebration and launch of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences—nearly 160 years in the making—went off without a hitch. In the days following the event, the entire planning team told me how much they would miss the weekly meetings, the frantic phone calls, the countless emails, and the early mornings and late nights. It’s like the strange regret students have when they bind their theses or the silent sadness a researcher experiences when a paper goes to press or a patent finally gets filed. In the spaces between big events or projects we are faced with the inevitable question: Now what? As a newly christened School we face that same question. As an answer, I am presenting an abbreviated version of the dinner speech I gave on the evening of the launch. The wheel has indeed come full circle; the trick now is to keep it—and us—moving forward.

tion. Now engineers and applied scientists often are leaders and shapers of societies. et me tell you, today has proven to me The present age also underscores the beyond any possible doubt that you engineer’s role in the advancement of are never too old to be excited by the first knowledge, which stands to benefit global day of school. It’s a unique kind of energy, eco-human welfare in isn’t it? If we could bottle it we’d solve our ...in challenge lies opportunity. SEAS fundamental and often unpredictable ways. energy crisis and many of the world’s other intends to lead the way as a model of At the same time, solving complex real-world problems, too. engineering research and education problems is a direct serBut I imagine we are vice to society and will all feeling some varia- for the 21st century and the way an always be central to the tion of the same mix of engineering school should connect to engineering enterprise; emotions that students technologies developed of all ages feel across and serve the wider world. by engineers have concampuses everywhere tributed immeasurably to human well-beeach September. We feel pride in our past ing, although humanity still is faced with accomplishments that helped bring us to enormous challenges. this moment, and we feel gratitude to those The hyperspecialization of fields, which who helped us achieve them. helps us add to, and sort through, the Of course, we feel excitement for all the abundance of knowledge, also demands promising possibilities that lie ahead, and that we go beyond a stovepiped world. We we feel trepidation about both our ability must collaborate, integrate, and synthesize to meet the tests we know are coming and to solve problems that transcend narrow to ready ourselves for the unknown—those knowledge domains. inevitable pop quizzes. This changing context in turn demands We feel a sense of belonging—to an instituthat we prepare our students for this tion and tradition that is much bigger than shift—from professionals to leaders, from we are and that compels us to expect more providers of service to creators of value, of ourselves. Veritas unites and elevates us. from expert guides and master builders Engineering joins the other great schools to explorers, discoverers, synthesizers, and of Harvard in the pursuit of truth, defined innovators. here by what works—what can be designed But as they say, in challenge lies opportunifrom the truth of science and crafted within ty. SEAS intends to lead the way as a model the truth of culture, laws, and marketplace of engineering research and education for to serve the true needs of society. the 21st century and the way an engineerWe feel humility at the realization that the ing school should connect to and serve the institution is counting on us to carry it on, wider world. to reinvent it and continually bestow it As we do all this, one of our great challengwith meaning in the midst of change. The es is that neither the education of students creation of the Lawrence Scientific School nor the advancement of research nor the at Harvard in 1847 at the early stages of application of knowledge through entrethe Industrial Age marked and catalyzed preneurial endeavors can possibly be done a change in the perception of an engineer: in isolation. We each have a role to play, from tinkerer to educated professional. and to play together. J With the development since of fields, standards, societies, awards, and much else, the professionalization of engineering was well accomplished and the professional engineer gained status as a provider of excellent technical service. In 2007, we find ourselves in the midst of another marked shift with the advent of the Digital Age and a knowledge revoluFor complete transcripts from the launch, see: www.seas.harvard.edu/highlights/celebration.html

Dean’s Message

Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti Dean, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Professor of Physics

Life On & Around Oxford Street
Celebrating past, present, and future
On September 20, Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences hosted “Engineering a Renaissance: A Celebration of the Past, Present, and Future and the Launch of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.” Over 600 students, staff, alumni, and faculty gathered on the Pierce Hall lawn to usher in the first new school at Harvard in seven decades. In addition to lunch under the big top (the huge white tent seated more than 500 guests), attendees heard remarks from two past presidents of the Harvard Board of Overseers—Thomas E. Everhart ’53, former president of the California Institute of Technology and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, Emeritus, and Susan Graham ’64, Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley—as well as Dean Venky and President and Lincoln Professor Drew Faust. After two banners with the new SEAS seal were unfurled, Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, conveyed a blessing upon the school. The launch was followed by symposia held in Sanders Theatre. Charles Vest, former President of MIT and President of the National Academy of Engineering; H. Vincent Poor, Dean, Princeton School of Engineering and Applied Science; and Subra Suresh, Dean of the School of Engineering, MIT, all offered a mix of practical advice for managing the newly christened school as well as a broader perspective on the state of engineering and applied sciences across the globe. Harvey Fineberg ’67, ’71, ’72, ’74, ’80, President of the Institute of Medicine and former Harvard Provost; Paul M. Horn, Senior Vice President and Director of Research, IBM; and John Holdren, Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the John F Kennedy School of Gov’t; Professor of Environmental Science and Public Policy, tackled the “big three” topics: using advances in engineering to make a meaningful impact on medicine, business, and energy and the environment. At the evening gala dinner, where much of the talk was “where did you get that handsome SEAS tie” (ties along with custom-made scarves were later given to many of the guests), a video, “Engineering a Renaissance,” which traces the history of engineering and highlights those instrumental in the creation of the SEAS, made its debut. In the video, Steve Hyman summed things up beautifully: “Having an engineering school is absolutely critical to any vision for a successful Harvard in the 21st century.”
Dean Venky, whom President Faust called a “rock star”, takes in some applause. (Photo by Tom Fitzsimmons.)

Links and nodes

Former Associate Dean for Computer Science and Engineering, Michael D. Smith, acclimates to his new University Hall environs and role as Dean of FAS. (Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard News Office.)

Engineering is everywhere at Harvard
In keeping with SEAS’s mission to be a “connector and integrator,” faculty and administrators with roots in engineering and applied sciences have played an increasingly strong role in filling highly visible and influential positions throughout the University. One, Michael Smith, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and former Associate Dean at SEAS, has settled into his new role as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In a Boston Globe article, Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Sciences, was quoted as saying, “Faust’s choice is a sign that Harvard is willing to take engineering and computer science as seriously as more esoteric subjects.” Despite his new office in the white marble-clad University Hall, Smith has remained close to SEAS; he still parks his car in the Pierce lot each morning. Succeeding Smith, Greg Morrisett, Allen B. Cutting Professor of Computer Science, was appointed as Associate Dean for Computer Science and Engineering in July. Barbara Grosz, Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences, also settled into a new
The beautiful beams and skylights of the Gordon McKay Library were uncovered during the renovation.

Sandia National Laboratories has entered into a relationship with universities, including Harvard, and industries around the country to establish the National Institute for Nano-Engineering (NINE).

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role as the Interim Dean of the Radcliffe Institute. The fit was a natural one; Grosz has long been connected with Radcliffe, serving as its first dean of science. Former Radcliffe Dean and now Harvard President Faust commented, “Barbara has played a critical role in almost every aspect of the evolution of the Radcliffe Institute. She has been enormously effective as the architect of the science programs, building a highly successful model for science fellowships that incorporates laboratory research, fosters engagement with the broader scientific communities at Harvard and in Boston, and encompasses a wide range of scientific fields.” Finally, kudos to NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson ’88 (S.B., Engineering Sciences) who was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers.

NINE for Nano
Harvard is among the participants of the National Institute for Nano-Engineering (NINE), a partnership among industry, the federal government, and U.S. universities, spearheaded by Sandia National Laboratories. The partnership is driven by concerns over the health of America’s science and engineering education and innovation engine, as highlighted in the 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm from the National Academies. In addition to Harvard, the initial NINE members include Intel Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., IBM, Lockheed Martin Corp., Corning Inc., Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Proctor and Gamble, University of Wisconsin, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of California at Davis, University of Florida, Yale University, University

of Texas at Austin, University of Illinois, Rice, Notre Dame, University of New Mexico, and Harvey Mudd College.

Links and nodes

Gordon McKay Library sees the light
The light streaming in through the Gordon McKay Library’s skylights (covered over in the 1970s) tells only half the story. Glancing down from the beautifully restored support girders, visitors are greeted with a granite-topped circulation area, soft yellow bamboo floors, new shelving units, and retro-modern chairs and tables. The hallway leading to the library also underwent a dramatic makeover during the past year. In addition to new faculty offices and a conference room, a student lounge with cozy couches and chairs is now tucked into a sweeping corner. J

Upon being asked about the potential for engineering and applied sciences to make an impact, Harvard University President Drew Faust remarked, “To study technology in an environment where you reach beyond the simple implications or complicated implications of the technology itself into the even more complex social, political, and ethical questions is, I think, essential to our advance as a human race and to our advance as learners, and retrievers, and disseminators of information.”

Random Bits
Sticky situations
Our grads do it all, from circuit to dessert design. Joanne Chang ’91 (Applied Mathematics), owner of Flour Bakery, bested celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a sticky bun throw-down. For those who are not Food Network junkies, a “throw-down” is a head-to-head cooking challenge centered around a single item. With about 90 hungry Harvard students bussed in for the taping, the judges included Dan Andelman of Boston’s “Phantom Gourmet” and Larry Kessel, Executive Chef for Residential Dining, Harvard University Dining Services. If you want to make some sticky goodness of your own, Chang’s famous (and amazing) recipe is available at the Food Network site: www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_37125,00.html

(above and left) Joanna Chang ’91 once a financial analyst, traded her life in the financial district for one in the kitchen. (below) While today’s Engineering Society has its roots in the 19th century, activities (such as building robots) have kept up with the times.

Good society
The original Harvard Engineering Society debuted in 1893 and lasted until 1967. Taken from the Crimson archives: “About sixty men interested in the new engineering society met last night in L.S.S.1. Professor Hollis presided. It is not intended to displace the Electric Club, but hopes to encourage it and to be the cause of the growth of other clubs in different departments of engineering. The new society is to be more general and is intended: 1. To promote general knowledge and discussion of engineering subjects, and 2. To promote intercourse and acquaintance between members of the society and professional men.” The society was reinvigorated in 2004 and is now called the Harvard College Engineering Society.J

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A Roundup of Discoveries & Innovations

Recent findings

(above left, top and middle right) Researchers grew cardiac cells on a thin plastic sheet. When stimulated the engineered material can be made to grip, walk, and even swim. (bottom right) Tribler, a peer to peer system, may be ideal for e-commerce.

Muscular thin films grip, pump, walk, and swim
Achieving an innovative marriage of living cells and a synthetic substrate, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Kevin “Kit” Parker and postdoctoral scholar Adam W. Feinberg have found that a rubberlike elastic film coated with a single layer of cardiac muscle cells can semiautonomously engage in lifelike gripping, pumping, walking, and swimming. The tissue engineering feat was reported in the September 7 issue of the journal Science. The researchers reported that the exact movement undertaken by these hybrid muscular thin films (MTFs) can be tailored by controlling muscle alignment relative to the shape of the flexible film. Some MTFs even contract spontaneously, an intrinsic property of cardiac muscle that allows the devices to move around without user intervention. The thin films can be sliced into any shape with an ordinary scalpel, hinting at the way these biohybrid materials may one day be used in the operating room. Both the shape of the MTF and the orientation of the sarcomeres (the basic contractile units of muscle tissue) on the film affect the type of action per-

formed. For example, rectangular MTFs with sarcomeres arrayed lengthwise roll up into tubes upon muscular contraction, resulting in a pumping action. A narrower, stiffer rectangular film contracts in a pinching motion, while a triangular MTF engages in a kind of walking. Parker and Feinberg’s coauthors on the Science paper are Alex Feigel, Sergey S. Shevkoplyas, and George M. Whitesides of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Sean Sheehy of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Biomolecular Motors Program, the Air Force Office of Sponsored Research, the Harvard Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, and the U.S. Army Research Office.

lies on file uploads and downloads as a form of currency. Peer-to-peer systems like Tribler allow individual users to share and download content in a manner akin to a digital swap meet. With a decentralized structure, such systems are incredibly robust and fast and can scale smoothly, since the software adjusts to the number and behavior of individual users. But there’s one very human problem: People don’t always play fair (taking more content than they give) or act ethically (giving away or downloading, for example, copyrighted materials). Thus a few big players centrally control most file-sharing sites and e-commerce platforms, limiting the variety of content and narrowing the means of distribution and form of payment. As a way to break the monopoly, Parkes and his team incorporated simple rules into the Tribler software to best harness the power of peer-to-peer while minimizing the problems. The more a user uploads content (i.e., earns) and the higher the quality of those contributions, the more a user is able to download later (i.e., spend) and the faster the download speed. Thus the ebb and flow of bandwidth becomes a form of global currency.

Researchers aim to make bandwidth a global currency
Instead of the usual cash or credit, imagine paying for your next purchase with a pocketful of bandwidth. David Parkes, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences, and colleagues have modified a peer-to-peer video-sharing application called Tribler to explore a model for electronic commerce that re-

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Recent findings

(above right) Graduate student Alexander Wissner-Gross holds some “warm ice” (photo by Stephanie Mitchell/ Harvard News Office); (bottom right) Rob Wood’s robotic fly takes a short flight; (far right) Howard Stone and colleagues’ work on controlling liquid shape was cover-worthy.

To keep an eye on the virtual economy, the researchers envision creating a “Web of trust,” a network among users to evaluate the trustworthiness of fellow file swappers—all aimed at preventing content theft, counterfeiting, and cyber attacks. To learn more and to download the software: http://tv.seas.harvard.edu

another group created nanoscale ice at room temperature, and showed that this could act like unwanted ‘glue’ in extremely small devices of the future. But the new theoretical result is the first to suggest a practical application for nano-ice.”

peared in Metro UK, one of the highestcirculation papers in Britain, and on the front page of the Washington Post Website. To see the first flight: www.technologyreview.com/player/ 07/07/19Ross/1.aspx

Applied physicists create “warm ice”
Alexander Wissner-Gross, a doctoral student, and Efthimios Kaxiras, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, have developed a technique of using nanoscale “warm ice” to make diamondtoughened medical implants more biocompatible. The New Scientist reported the discovery in its September 4 issue: “The researchers arrived at their result by using a computer simulation based on ‘molecular dynamics.’ In particular, they simulated the motion of water atoms sitting on top of a sodium-diamond surface at different temperatures over long time periods. The calculations show that the ice layer can remain frozen at elevated temperatures thanks to dipole interactions between the water molecules and the film surface. “In 2001 researchers produced tiny tubes of ice inside carbon nanotubes; last year

Robotic fly takes off
We reported on Assistant Professor of Engineering Robert J. Wood’s creation of a life-sized robotic fly in the last issue; over the summer the 60-gram bug really took off. Technology Review reported, “Other researchers have built robots that mimic insects, but this is the first twowinged robot built on such a small scale that can take off using the same motions as a real fly. The dynamics of such flight are very complicated and have been studied for years by researchers such as Ron Fearing, Wood’s former Ph.D. advisor at the University of California, Berkeley. Fearing, who is building his own robotic insects, says that he was very impressed with the fact that Wood’s insect can fly: ‘It is certainly a major breakthrough.’ But Fearing says that it is the first of many challenges in building a practical fly.” The broader-based media took to the story as well. A picture of the critter ap-

Fluid experts control liquid shape
Howard Stone, Vicky Joseph Professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics, and his collaborators’ ability to control liquid shape on surfaces made the cover of the August edition of Nature Materials. The microfluidics mavens discussed wetting on topographically patterned but chemically homogeneous surfaces to demonstrate how to select shapes during the imbibition of the texture— the absorption of fluid by a solid or colloid that results in swelling. They obtained different shapes of the spreading of droplets, including octagons, squares, hexagons, and circles, depending on the topographic features and the liquid through its equilibrium contact angle. Applications could include the design of “self-cleaning” surfaces and hydrophilic spots to automate the deposition of probes on DNA chips. More broadly, Stone hopes to create a designer’s toolbox for researchers in wetting. J

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Harvard Innovations Revealed

High-quality and high-resolution cameras, day/night cameras used for security and surveillance, and high-sensitivity detectors and imagers for biotechnology applications could all benefit from black silicon (pictured above).

e say it … SEAS strives to find more ways to get research off the journal page and onto the global stage. We do it … in large part, by commercializing science and technology. It sounds easy—like the flicking of a switch—but the commercialization of science is a science in itself, as well as an art form.
At Harvard the process of commercialization applies whether faculty or students intend to ready a product for the marketplace, share a process or device with the potential to advance fields from physics to genetics, or promote an “open source” technology for improving the health of the population or protecting the planet. Commercializing an idea or innovation may mean starting a new for- or not-for-profit company, partnering with industry and government leaders, or licensing innovations for profit and/or the public good. Increasingly, SEAS is partnering with the University’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) to navigate the complexities of intellectual property management, sponsored research, and
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Two Case Studies In The Commercialization And Power Of Silicon: Sionyx And Sienergy
The “black silicon company”—presented in understated, lowercase type, the tagline for the startup SiOnyx hints at a nefarious firm you might see portrayed in a conspiracy thriller. However, the angelic subhead, “Harnessing the power of light,” rapidly dispels such a notion. Started to commercialize black silicon, a synthetic material able to efficiently absorb light, SiOnyx is at the first stage of moving from a Eureka! moment in the lab to a brand name in the marketplace. Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Physics, and his students discovered the “blackening” process serendipitously in the lab eight years ago. The team subjected ordinary silicon, a material commonly used in everything from computer chips to solar cells, to a series of very short, very intense laser pulses while inside a halogen gas-filled chamber. In

business development. In 2005, the University appointed Isaac T. Kohlberg as Senior Associate Provost and Chief Technology Development Officer to reinvigorate the OTD. As quoted in the Boston Globe, Kohlberg is not shy about his expectations: “‘I want people to say five years from now, even three years from now, that Harvard has the most effective technology-transfer program in the country.’” In the following pages we shed some light on the sometimes arcane commercialization process by presenting a case study of a startup in its early stages; highlighting the kinds of innovations available for future development and licensing; and reporting on two novel models for licensing technologies.

“I’m excited to see the results of my research begin to be commercially developed.”
the presence of the laser light, the gas reacts with the silicon surface, etching away some of it and leaving a pattern of conical spikes behind. While normal silicon absorbs a small amount of visible light (40 percent is reflected), light hitting the surface of the black silicon flits between the spikes. As a result, only 2 to 4 percent of light is reflected; the rest remains trapped. Subsequent research revealed that, when subjected to a magnetic field, the material also emits electrons. It didn’t take an engineer or venture capitalist to see the value in a material that absorbed light (think of storing energy) and emitted electronics (think of any modern communication device, from cell phones to GPS systems). Moreover, because the spiked silicon surfaces absorb nearly all light at wavelengths ranging from the ultraviolet to the infrared, the material has potential use in improving the performance of existing silicon devices. High-quality and high-resolution cameras, day/night cameras used for security and surveillance, and high-sensitivity detectors and imagers for biotechnology applications could all benefit from the novel material. “I’m excited to see the results of my research begin to be commercially developed,” said Mazur. “SiOnyx is poised to take black silicon to the next level.”
Scale of a black silicon chip shown by comparison with a quarter.


One great appeal of solid oxide fuel cells is that they generate electricity with very little pollution. In this process, oxygen atoms are reduced on the porous cathode surface by electrons. The oxide ions diffuse through the electrolyte to the fuel rich and porous anode, where they react with the fuel (hydrogen) and give off electrons to an external circuit and produce a harmless byproduct, namely water

A solid start
Shriram Ramanathan, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, made the move from a corporate to an academic campus with ease. Prior to joining Harvard in 2006, he worked at Components Research, Intel in Oregon in the areas of wafer bonding and non-invasive microscopy of buried interfaces. He clearly took some business sense with him, as SiEnergy, a spin-off co-founded by Ramanathan that aims to commercialize solid oxide fuel technology, received $500,000 in funding from Allied Minds in October. While solid oxide fuel cells are prized for their efficiency in converting chemical into electrical energy, they must operate at extremely high temperatures (around 800-1000 degrees Celsius) for desirable power density. Moreover, high temperature means a slow start-up time and the use of exotic (that is, expensive) materials to bear the heat. SiEnergy lowers the (temperature) bar, cutting the operational temperature significantly while still retaining efficient power density. To do so, Ramanathan is investigating proven and robust microscale fabrication methods. The “cool” invention can deliver a wide range of power in an environmentally friendly manner, is highly scaleable, and has potential use as a power source in areas

such as transportation (from forklifts to scooters), telecom, and portable electronics (especially for backup energy). With his team, including Alex Johnson, a Fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment, Ramanathan has been developing initial proof-ofconcept prototypes. OTD entered the picture in 2007 soon after he disclosed the new invention. This led to inking a deal with Applied Minds, which has provided seed funding to develop this innovation further.

Striving for commercialization
As with most research breakthroughs, the process of going commercial is not like the overnight success stories attached to many a famed IPO or insanely popular product. Technology, especially a lab-based innovation like black silicon, takes time—often decades—to weave its way into a manufacturing process or to reach store shelves. In short, patience is as important as patents.

The “cool” invention can deliver a widerange of power in an environmentally friendly manner, is highly scaleable, and has potential use as a power source in areas such as transportation, telecom, and portable electronics.
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“Even when doing applied research, I’ve always appreciated how long it might take to understand the potential value of any breakthrough, let alone commercialize it,” says Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering Federico Capasso, who has high expectations for his co-invention of the plasmonic laser antenna (see sidebar below). “Moreover, research in the basic sciences, which may not initially seem to have any immediate application, could one day lead to a device that will end up in everyone’s home many decades later. There’s no magic ball that let’s you see what research— even if application-directed—will end up translating well.” Further, university culture is not always open to commercializing research, and sometimes the right-place/right-time

elements are not in an inventor’s favor. In a Crimson article, Mazur recalled the initial resistance he ran into when he attempted to file the original patent for the process of creating black silicon soon after its discovery. Although it’s not much solace, several decades earlier Harvard, by downsizing its computer research efforts, missed out on licensing core memory, invented by computer pioneer An Wang ’48 (Ph.D., Applied Physics) before he started Wang Industries. Dean Venky, who arrived at Harvard in 1998, says he has seen a gradual culture change at Harvard with regard to commercializing science and technology. “It is now recognized that in a world where technology is playing an ever greater role, commercialization provides a powerful way for universities like Harvard to achieve their educational and research mission,” he says.

Back on the ground floor, Mazur, although pleased with where SiOnyx is headed today, said that the patenting, licensing, and startup process, even during a time when the University and administrators are providing increased support to innovators, is complicated and demands a lot of hard work. There is some light at the end of the tunnel for Harvard innovators. The reorganized OTD is seeking to make the commercialization process much easier, guiding students and faculty through all the hoops and being there when things go awry. Judging from OTD’s initial success (see “Model licensing” sidebar), this approach appears to be gaining traction. In the coming years, a “SiOnyx Inside” logo might not be that far-fetched. J


Technologies Available For Partnership With Industry
SEAS and OTD are seeking industrial partners to commercialize a number of emerging technologies developed by SEAS researchers. A few examples follow below.

Instrument for rapid, realtime measurement of thermal properties of materials
Inventor: Joost Vlassak, Gordon McKay Professor of Materials Engineering Technology: An instrument that relies on a novel microscale sensor design and achieves an ultra-fast, high-precision measurement of thermal properties of materials using only thin films of the materials Potential: This is of particular use for companies that are synthesizing new materials or new alloys or for anyone involved in thin film deposition

Slowing and trapping light in photonic crystals
Inventor: Frank Vollmer, Junior Fellow at the Rowland Institute Technology: A novel technique for slowing down light in a small optical chip to enhance the interaction of light and molecules; the device is smaller than traditional optical devices, delivers ultra-high-sensitive detection and measurement, and is compatible with other micro- and nanotechnologies Potential: The technology can be used for optical sensing and chemical and biological detection as well as the fabrication of exceptionally small lasers for applications in displays and telecommunications, quantum optical devices, and barcoding

Optical antenna
Inventors: Kenneth Crozier, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering Technology: The plasmonic laser antenna technology has demonstrated high-intensity radiation (~1 GW/cm2) and spot sizes dramatically smaller than conventional optics would allow Potential: The optical antenna can be readily adapted to a wide range of wavelengths, from the visible to the far-infrared, and has been implemented as a relatively simple modification to off-the-shelf semiconductor laser diodes, enabling advances in optical storage, near-field optical microscopy, and maskless lithography

Droplets in droplets
Inventor: David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics Technology: The formation of double emulsions, droplets of one liquid within another droplet Potential: The relative droplet sizes can be carefully and uniformly controlled and are compatible with a wide variety of chemistries, allowing diverse applications in the personal care, food, and pharmaceutical industries J

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Model Licensing
Novel technologies often require equally novel licensing agreements. A nonprofit bioengineering startup found a way to extend a helping hand to those in need, and a nanotechnology pioneer covered new ground in an unprecedented licensing agreement for fabrication methods. Under the terms of the agreement, Harvard has granted a royalty-free license to MEND for its work relating to drugs and vaccines geared toward developing countries. MEND is also pursuing commercial markets in the developed world for the sole purpose of supporting its charitable mission. Nano-Terra focuses on developing and commercializing industrial applications of these technologies with corporate and government partners. Harvard will receive royalties from products developed from the licensed technologies and will receive a small equity stake in Nano-Terra. The license granted Nano-Terra provides exclusive commercialization rights to these technologies in areas outside the biomedical field such as electronics, aerospace, energy, industrial products, military uses, environmental testing, and consumer goods. The intellectual property, involving molecular selfassembly, rapid prototyping, electrical/ optical systems, soft lithography, and microfluidics, has a potentially wide range of applications in a number of important industries. The company has already entered into codevelopment agreements with 3M; Merck KGaA, a major Asian electronics manufacturer; and the Department of Defense. Nano-Terra expects that these agreements will result in products being brought to market or into active use within the next 18 to 36 months. J


Helping hand
In June, Medicine in Need (MEND), founded at SEAS by David Edwards, Professor of the Practice of Bioengineering, and students, entered into a licensing agreement to bring innovative vaccine and drug products to people in developing countries. Efforts will focus initially on tuberculosis and are expected to expand rapidly to other infectious diseases. MEND, a nonprofit drug delivery technology platform corporation, combines proprietary compound formulations with low-cost, high-throughput spray-drying technologies to turn existing, proven injectable drugs and vaccines into dry powders, enabling effective, safe treatment delivery via pulmonary, oral, and injectable routes.

MEND will pay Harvard a royalty on these revenues, and under an innovative gift-back mechanism, Harvard will donate most of these payments back to MEND to support MEND’s nonprofit effort to develop advanced treatments and preventative therapies for diseases of poverty.

Small science comes up big
OTD licensed a broad portfolio of issued and pending patents covering nanoand microscale molecular fabrication methods developed by Professor George Whitesides, Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, and his laboratory to Nano-Terra, Inc., a newly formed, privately held company. The transaction represents one of the largest technology transfer arrangements in Harvard’s history.

Protecting public interest in technology licensing
conflicts of interest. A summary of the nine points is as follows: • Universities should reserve the right to practice licensed inventions, and to allow other nonprofit and governmental organizations to do so. In March of 2007 Harvard University joined with a number of the nation’s other leading universities and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to develop a set of shared guidelines intended to protect the public interest when universities grant licenses for the rights to their latest scientific advances to private parties. The white paper-titled “In the Public Interest: Nine Points to Consider in Licensing University Technology” aims to encourage technology transfer agreements to facilitate broad development and dissemination of universitygenerated technologies. The white paper emphasizes avoiding excessive litigation, minding export controls, and managing • Exclusive licenses should be structured in a manner that encourages technology development and use. • Strive to minimize the licensing of “future improvements.” • Universities should anticipate and help to manage technology transfer related conflicts of interest. • Ensure broad access to research tools. • Enforcement action should be carefully considered. • Be mindful of export regulations. • Be mindful of the implications of working with patent aggregators. • Consider including provisions that address unmet needs, such as those of neglected patient populations or geographic areas, giving particular attention to improved therapeutics, diagnostics and agricultural technologies for the developing world. J

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Faculty News
(above) David Weitz’s “fluid factories” wowed the Wired editors From creative teaching to global-minded research, SEAS faculty caught the eye of major media in 2007.

Nota Bene
Good fun ... Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics L. Mahadevan received an Ig Nobel award for the study of wrinkle patterns on sheets, saying, “There’s no reason good science can’t be fun.” The Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded each October for “10 achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Superheroes … The October 1 issue of Newsweek featured bioengineering Professor David Edwards and graduate student Ling Wong among the superheroes fighting global disease. In addition, Edwards penned an editorial for the journal Nature, “Paris gets a new cultural crucible,” about the creation of Le Laboratoire in Paris, which “will present
L. Mahadevan, who won a famed Ig Noble Prize for studying wrinkle patterns, believes that good science can be fun.

to the public art and design works-inprogress resulting from seasonal experiments. Leading international artists and scientists will explore, for example, the experience of cell division through visual art, making plants smarter using fluid mechanics, personalizing urban homes through biometric testing, or designing a synthetic world where avatars evolve through the uploading of personal biometric data.” His new book, Artscience: Creativity in the Post-Google Generation, is due from Harvard University Press in January 2008. Head start … Bioengineer and Army Reservist Kit Parker provided firsthand knowledge and technical expertise about head trauma injuries on the battlefield for an article in Technology Review: “‘The big question for scientists like me is how the shock wave is propagated into the skull … We don’t know that; we don’t know what the nature of these injuries are—if nerves are being compressed, sheared, the extent of vascular injury, and what is going on in the microcellular environment.’” Virtual hours … Inside Higher Ed reported on instructor David Malan ’07 (Ph.D., Computer Science) and his use of virtual office hours in Computer Science 50: “After connecting, students find themselves in a program resembling a traditional chat room, but with a window that can show what the instructor is seeing on his or her own computer. To demonstrate program-

ming concepts or debug an assignment, a teaching fellow even has the option to take control of a student’s computer and operate it remotely, much like an IT specialist at a corporate help desk.” Plumbing research … Wired Science blogged about David Weitz’s advances in microfluidics: “David Weitz of the department of physics at Harvard University showed that he and his team can make microfluidic devices that do all sorts of tricks. They can sort tiny drops of liquid, split them apart, combine them, and even make remarkably identical drops inside of drops. One of his students even founded a startup company, RainDance Technologies, to commercialize chips as research tools.”
Computer scientist Barbara Grosz, now Interim Dean at the Radcliffe Institute, has continued to work to remove barriers for women faculty.

Next generation ... Science magazine highlighted Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Debra Auguste’s decision to move to Harvard. She said in the article, “They’re investing a lot in each and every one of us.” Pumped up … The New Scientist, BBC Radio, National Geographic, Ars Technica, Chemistry World, and other members of the media were all pumped up about Kit Parker’s research on muscle-powered thin films (see p. 4). Digg it … The aim of computer scientist David Parkes and colleagues. to make Internet bandwidth a currency (see pp. 4–5) caught the attention of New Scientist and the BBC. The research also was dug by Digg.com, a site which allows users to vote on what they consider the most interesting content. For two days, a short blurb about the efforts of Parkes made it to the site’s front page for millions of visitors to see. Doing the math ... Nature Boston profiled newly appointed Interim Dean at Radcliffe Barbara Grosz: “Harvard computer scientist Barbara Grosz was told as a child that girls couldn’t do math. She has proven that wrong and worked to remove barriers for women faculty.” Best and brightest ... Computer scientist Radhika Nagpal received airtime in a Microsoft Research video about their New Faculty Fellowship program.

10 I SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007

New Arrivals

David Turnbull, whose last appointment was Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, died on April 28. His seminal work included theoretical and experimental studies of nucleation of crystals, the glass transition and the amorphous state, crystal growth, and atomic diffusion. The Materials Research Society (MRS), which has awarded a lectureship prize in his name since 1992, summed up Turnbull’s contributions in this way: “David Turnbull was a towering figure in materials science. He distinguished himself in many areas of materials research, including kinetics to crystal nucleation and growth, diffusion in metals, and glass formation. Among his numerous honors and awards were the MRS von Hippel award in 1979 and the Japan Prize in 1986 … his legacy lives on in all his published work as well as through his students, associates, and colleagues, and through the tremendous volume of work within materials science.”

Faculty News

Joanna Aizenberg
Gordon McKay Professor of Materials Science; Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology BACKGROUND: Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel M.S. and B.S. from Moscow State University AREAS OF FOCUS: Biomineralization; biomimetics; self-assembly; crystal engineering; surface chemistry; nanofabrication; biomaterials; biomechanics and biooptics www.seas.harvard.edu/aizenberg_lab/

(above) The New York Times said Eric Mazur is “as experimental in his classroom as he is in his research laboratory.” (below) While money doesn’t grow out of Ethernet wires, David Parkes and colleagues are looking for a better and safer means for e-commerce.

Jeremy Bloxham, Harvard College Professor and Professor of Computational Science; Division Dean for the Physical Sciences, FAS; and Mallinckrodt Professor of Geophysics, was appointed as a New Fellow of the Royal Society. Materials scientist Joanna Aizenberg was named the 2008 recipient of the Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry. The award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the field of biomimetic chemistry, was established on March 24, 2001, at a symposium held at Columbia University in honor of Ronald Breslow ’52, ’54, ’55. David A. Edwards, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering, was awarded Michigan Tech’s highest honor, the Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction. Daniel Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering, and Steven Wofsy, Abbott Lawrence Rotch Professor of Atmospheric and Environmental Science, were among the participants of the IPCC report, an assessment of climate change research, for which the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded. L. Mahadevan, Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, and Jan Skotheim received the 23rd François Naftali Frenkiel Award for Fluid Mechanics for their paper, “Soft lubrication: The elastohydrodynamics of nonconforming and conforming contacts.” This award was given in 2006 by the American Physical Society. Venkatesh Narayanamurti, John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Dean of SEAS, was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Michael Rabin, Thomas J. Watson Sr. Professor of Computer Science, was appointed as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society. James R. Rice, an expert in theoretical mechanics, was awarded the 2007 Maurice A. Biot Medal for Poromechanics. The nomination letter read in part, “Jim Rice’s contributions to the mechanics of porous materials are so extensive, fundamental, and diverse that it is difficult to summarize them succinctly, even though they constitute only a part of his contributions to the broader area of mechanics, including fracture, plasticity, computational mechanics and geomechanics, materials science, and geophysics.”

Beautiful mind ... The New York Times took a teaching lesson from applied physicist Eric Mazur in a Q&A entitled, “Using the ‘Beauties of Physics’ to Conquer Science Illiteracy”: “Mazur’s own Harvard course, Physics 1b, is the kind of science class that even a literature student might love — playful, engaging, something like a trip to a science museum. Indeed, Dr. Mazur, 52, is as experimental in his classroom as he is in his research laboratory.” Lifesavers ... Princeton Engineering School’s EQUAD News highlighted collaborative research on nanoparticle drug delivery methods with Harvard bioengineer David Edwards. Feel the Force ... In a feature story, the June 14 issue of the journal Nature unwrapped the mystery of the curious Casimir force with applied physicist Federico Capasso. J

Hanspeter Pfister
Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science; Director of Visual Computing, Initiative in Innovative Computing BACKGROUND: Ph.D. in Computer Science, State University of New York at Stony Brook M.Sc. in Computer Science, State University of New York at Stony Brook M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, Switzerland AREAS OF FOCUS: Computer graphics; machine learning; computer vision; scientific visualization; computer graphics hardware

Promotions and Appointments
Fawwaz Habbal, Executive Dean, was appointed Senior Lecturer on Applied Physics. Habbal teaches “Introduction to Nanobiotechnology: Concepts and Applications” at the Harvard Extension School and is part of the team-taught seminar, Applied Physics 289r, “Interdisciplinary Chemistry, Engineering, and Physics.” Matt Welsh was promoted to Associate Professor of Computer Science. Anthony G. Oettinger was appointed Gordon McKay Research Professor of Applied Mathematics and Research Professor of Information Resources Policy.

SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007 I 11

“I was actually “You get a feeling in your body before you hit Entering graduate just going to come school does not over to the U.S. for a ball that this is going to be a great shot... mean that Gulda a year to learn Eng- That can be the same thing with problem sets plans to give up lish and to see a golf. Not only is lot of the country,” .. You see everything: it is just there.” golf a lifelong she says. But a coach at CU Boulder took sport, but she’s found a way to relate her an interest in her game and her grades sporty side to her academic one—both (Gulda earned a 3.911 GPA in engineerare as much mental as physical. “You ing physics) and suggested nearly from get a feeling in your body before you hit the start that she consider going pro. a ball that this is going to be a great shot. Some days you can just stand there and During her first and only summer be ‘oh my gosh, this is going to go in’ … among the professionals, she did not and it will go in. It is a flow that you get. make the cut for the major LGPA tourThat can be the same thing with probnaments; she did, however, come close, lem sets. Some days you really feel this landing in the top 30 during her second is a great day of doing homework. You try. To put this in perspective, it norsee everything: it is just there.” J mally takes about five years to break

Student News


into the majors. In short, she could have made it—but chose not to. As a pro, Gulda watched girls whose entire lives sunup to sundown were spent golfing, with personal trainers, coaches, families, and partners all like a kite’s tail in tow. Moreover, she says that “until you make it to those years when you can support yourself,” life is composed of nonstop practice, play, and plane rides. “I have so many passions for other things that I want to fit in my life,” she says about her decision to leave the links for the lab. With a laugh Gulda adds that she did have the occasional dream about having her own “brand” like Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie. She adds, “I think when it starts to get dark and the weather starts to get bad and the problem sets start to take 20 to 30 hours, I will think it would be nice to be on the golf course.”

Student Awards
Graduate student Adam C. Siegel and his colleagues received honorable mention in Science’s Visualization Challenge for their entry “Tiny Metal Pathways.” The team tied a microstructure 200 micrometers wide into a beautiful knot to showcase a potential technique for blending tiny electrical circuits into fabric materials. Computer science graduate student Kelly Heffner was honored with the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates. Paul Novotny, an engineering sciences Ph.D. candidate, won a best student paper award for his paper “GPU Based Real-time Instrument Tracking with ThreeDimensional Ultrasound” at the 9th Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention (MICCAI) conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. A group of Harvard undergraduates traveled to Tokyo to compete in the Association for Computing Machinery’s 31st annual International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC) on March 12–16. From among 6,099 teams selected from 1,756 universities in 82 countries competing at 205 sites and hundreds more competing at preliminary contests worldwide, 88 teams of students competed for bragging rights and prizes. The Harvard team received an honorable mention for its efforts. J


second after her cap dusted the ground at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Swedish-born Maria Persson Gulda grabbed her clubs to join the ranks of professional golfers. Prior to her arrival at Harvard to pursue a Ph.D. in applied physics, she was on courses, not taking them. Her journey began by happenstance. Her parents, who do not play, lived a few steps from one of Sweden’s most famed greens, the Halmstad Golf Club. At 10 Gulda took up the sport—and discovered that her love of the game was equal to her talent. She then set her sights on the U.S. for college because of the increased opportunities to combine academics with athletics.

Maria Persson Gulda (above), who entered the Ph.D. program in the fall of 2007, practices her swing (below).

12 I SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007

Student News

The goal becomes giving students sufficiently interesting projects to help them decide “whether or not they are going to slog through four years of EE.”
Faculty member Todd Zickler adds some punch to ES 50: Introduction to Electrical Engineering.

Teaching on cue


he cover of the 2007–08 CUE Guide parodies the Wikipedia site, the popular yet often controversial usergenerated open source encyclopedia. As with Wikipedia, students often receive their first impressions of Harvard courses by reading what others have said about them. As with all entries, the one for Engineering Sciences 50: Introduction to Electrical Engineering, a course that Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Todd Zickler painstakingly reengineered three years ago, can be reduced to a single rating: 4.3 (that’s the mean ranking [out of 5] of the course, and among similar courses that’s quite high). But because tastes differ, the more discriminating future patron might ask a deeper question: Just what goes into a course? Judging by Zickler’s experience with the revised ES 50, the proper ingredients and careful preparation are as essential as seamless execution. For the specifics that go beyond the CUE Guide, we asked Zickler to give his own personal assessment of what’s involved in crafting a course. Use primary and secondary sources. “I think every time you have a new class there’s somewhat of a learning curve. As part of an initial planning effort, it is a combination of looking at other places, your past experience, and what’s

out there in terms of textbooks,” says Zickler. Year-to-year courses continue evolve, especially in fields like engineering. The goal becomes giving students sufficiently interesting projects to help them decide “whether or not they are going to slog through four years of EE.” Vary the course based on the class. “Group dynamics can totally change from year to year,” says Zickler. Depending on the nature of the students enrolled in a course—especially a smaller one like ES 50—a class can be different every year. Even with the most roadtested materials, an instructor must be ready to “adapt on the fly.” Grades, especially in the hard sciences, are guideposts. Zickler views grades as indicators, especially because they are part quantitative and part qualitative assessments. Grades give students a sense of where they are relative to their peers and a way to measure progress through the semester. “I think in a lot of large engineering schools, especially public institutions, grades are used to weed people out,” he explains. “At Harvard we are trying to do the opposite. I definitely think we have to be conscious about how grades are assigned.” Academics are one part of an education. Just as faculty members balance research, teaching, and committee work, today’s students juggle their courses with everything from writing for The Crimson to playing rugby to working a job or running a startup company out of their dorm room. Given that, Zickler

is not surprised that most concentrators do not end up turning their courses into a direct career path. “Where do students end up? I don’t really have that concern” whether they end up as professional engineers, Zickler says. His goal is to encourage, even if indirectly, more American students to learn about science and engineering. CUE scores are relative. Everyone, even faculty, likes getting good marks. Zickler does use the CUE as a key reference, saying, “The way that I found it useful is when people actually write comments. I am not really sure how to read the numbers as they are highly variable.” His mixed experience with the CUE likely echoes the experiences of other faculty. “I’ve had years where I have said, ‘This is best year ever’ and my CUE scores are lower than in other years,” he points out. Teaching is a two-way street. A professor learns as the students learn—although the lessons are somewhat different. “If it wasn’t for ES 50 I’d almost forget I was an electrical engineer,” says Zickler with a wink. “The class is a way of keeping you in touch with basic fields and forces you to stay broad.” Zickler also applauds the Harvard students themselves, considering them some of the best he has ever interacted with anywhere. “Having this sort of excuse to meet interesting students and hear their stories and watch them learn and for some of them to shift their focus and become engineers— that’s probably the best part.” J

SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007 I 13

flying spores. When he speaks about his favorite subject—interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving—his sentences pop and plunge. Brenner has a habit of stopping mid-predicate to allow the next thought to hurtle into the air. “The whole game is defining what the question is,” he says. “Everybody thinks that they know what the question is. But the truth is that nobody knows what the question is!” Faculty members and students come to Brenner to collaborate on tricky problems, from understanding how biofilms evolve to unearthing the mechanics of a whale’s ultra-efficient flipper. Brenner acknowledges that sometimes he will send them away with only a question. The scenario is less bleak than it appears. Half the struggle of doing science, Brenner says, is posing a question about a topic in such a way that the answer ends up quantitatively sound while revealing a truth about the initiating physical system. A good question guides thinking and research, ensuring that the conclusion will lead to something new that can also be measured. “If you really understand something in science,” says Brenner, “you can describe it in a sentence as precise as an equation. It’s as simple as that. The difficulty lies in looking at a problem in such a way that it becomes simple. The math itself isn’t hard! Everyone thinks the problem is with math.”

In Profile
Applied mathematician Michael Brenner, who earned a Ph.D. in physics, realized his true academic calling was to solve eclectic problems.

Mathematical thinking
Downplaying the difficulty of the math might seem counterintuitive—to both those who love and those who loathe numbers. Brenner, who admits he can be an academic gadfly, has his sights on broader aims. During his tenure on the University’s General Education Committee he lobbied his fellow members to create an introductory quantitative thinking requirement. His radical goal: positioning applied mathematics as an epistemology—a way of thinking, not just as a practice. “It’s true that a lot of my colleagues are offended by the notion that applied mathematics is just a ‘user facility’ like an electron microscope,” he explains.

Michael Brenner
Questioning (mathematical) authority


esearch into the evolutionary relationship between fungi and feces takes Michael Brenner, Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, into what he dubs the “zone of repugnance.” But don’t expect to see the following problem in a standard math text: Fungi grown in animal waste must escape the waste to ensure reproductive success. Animals, which serve as carriers, eat outside a zone of repugnance around the dung. Thus, the fungi

launch their spores into the air at high velocities so they land beyond the “noeat” zone. How do evolutionary pressures affect the shape of spores so as to minimize drag, ensuring the spores are flung farther and faster? Brenner teaches undergraduates in Applied Mathematics 50 how to use unorthodox situations like the reproductive dilemma of humble fungi as material for quantitative investigation. His lectures, in fact, resemble in pace and execution the projectile motion of

14 I SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007

“The whole game is defining what the question is,” he says. “Everybody thinks that they know what the question is. But the truth is that nobody knows what the question is!”
“We all think we’re in the center of the universe. Of course I really believe applied mathematics is ‘It.’ We’re about the art of asking the question. The nice thing about Harvard is that everyone wants to know what the question is.” Brenner’s conversion to the discipline occurred as he was earning a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago. He realized that he loved solving eclectic problems, regardless of their field of origin. At the time, Brenner wasn’t even aware that had stumbled into applied mathematics—he didn’t even know that what he enjoyed had a name. favor of allowing students to learn how to state problems quantitatively. He sketches aloud the outlines of a quantitative liberal arts degree. “You ought to be able to come in, think about some aspect of the world—whatever you find interesting—and quantify it. Fifty percent of undergraduates enter Harvard interested in math or science, but we only get 10 percent as concentrators. That’s because their idea of mathematics is based on the definition of math in high school, which is only about method.” In a way, the reform proposals are his own manner of grappling with the one problem he says he cannot solve: how to teach undergraduates how to think. “How does one learn it? I don’t know. Iteration. The challenge is how to build a set of courses that will allow—” he breaks off mid-sentence. He must be narrowing in on a question: Surely if spores have found a brilliant solution for survival in the dank forest, academics can find a way to seamlessly integrate mathematics into the groves of academe. Once the problem is clearly defined, just solve for x. J

In profile

Brenner is collaborating with colleagues at Harvard Medical School to understand the way biofilms, akin to pond scum, form and grow. (Photo courtesy of Roberto Kolter.)

Solving for x The evolution of hemoglobin. In collaboration with Ron Milo, Systems Biology Fellow; Marc Kirschner, Professor of Systems Biology; and Jennifer Hou, a graduate student in the Physics Department, Brenner investigates using hemoglobin, responsible for the high oxygen saturation of blood, to understand the effect of physiological adaptations on evolutionary adaptations. How did hemoglobin come to adjust our oxygen levels in the blood during and after physical activities like climbing a mountain? Limiting the growth of biofilms. Limiting the growth of biofilms, ubiquitous microorganisms like the muck that forms on the surface of the water in an aquarium tank, is critical for industry (from aiding in oil recovery to saving ship hulls) and medicine (mitigating infection in medical implants). Working with Roberto Kolter, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Brenner wants to determine whether understanding the basic physics of the morphology of biofilms will allow researchers to better understand its evolution. Splitting a jet. Technologies from inkjet printers to microfabrication rely on the fragmentation and precise control of liquid jets into droplets. Brenner and former physics graduate student Srinivas Paruchuri have demonstrated the possibility of splitting a flowing liquid jet into two separate subfilaments by applying sufficient stress to the surface of the jet. Such a process could be used to create small polymeric fibers, something once considered a mere theoretical fantasy. Figuring out whale flippers. Humpback whales, despite their massive scale, are incredibly agile swimmers. Scientists believe there could be a relationship between their swimming skills and the bumps on their back flippers, which might affects stall delay (the sudden increase in angle of a ‘flipper’ or wing due to a change in water or air flow). Brenner is working with Silas Alben (a former postdoctoral fellow at SEAS) and Ernst van Nierop, a current SEAS graduate student, to understand the aerodynamic mechanism of the bumpy whale tale and then apply such findings to wing design in airplanes.

Quantifying the world
At SEAS, the former physicist now collaborates with researchers from across the University, working with evolutionary biologists and engineers alike. The collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of his research continually softens his partiality for his “found” field of study. In his ideal world, faculty members in applied mathematics, statistics, and economics at Harvard would work together to create a concentration for undergraduates in which disciplinary questions and problems are dropped in

Fungi spores, shown close up, turn out to be ripe material for mathematical analysis. (Inset image courtesy of Marcus Roper, Ph.D ’07 and Anne Pringle.)

SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007 I 15


(left) In a sign that video games have become universal, the hack of the John Harvard statue (dressed as Master Chief, a character from “Halo 3”, by MIT students) in September sent blogs all abuzz. (below) Ben Decker, one of the co-founders of the Harvard Interactive Media Group feels right at home in virtual settings.

pp.4–5); instructor David Malan ’07 (Ph.D., Computer Science) offers virtual office hours; and entirely virtual courses, like one taught by graduate student Rebecca Nesson at Harvard Law School, are becoming more common. Facebook, the social network site developed in a Harvard dorm room, has already defined a generation. In short, something is going on, and it merits further study.

Interactive Attraction
n late September, timed with the release of Halo 3, a widely anticipated video game, a group of MIT hackers gave the John Harvard statue a makeover. Adorned with a battle helmet and clutching a futuristic assault rifle, the bronze figure mimicked the game’s hero, even looking ready to leap from its foundation. For Ben Decker ’08, one of the founders of the Harvard Interactive Media Group and creator of a custom concentration in the area, the hack conveyed a message: Interactive media is Ivy League material. For the uninitiated, Decker offered a definition of the emerging field (via email, of course) that spanned several pages and contained footnotes.


“Interactive media devices, mobile or otherwise, are no more isolating than traditional media,” he says. “You’re not talking to the guy next to you if you’re sitting reading a book either.” That girl engrossed in her Game Boy might be networking with friends even if the Blackberry execs thumbing in a few after-work emails look more productive. In fact, life lived in the Matrix may offer more stimulus than standard options like hanging out at the mall or, for the over-21 set, cruising a club. “In many cases, we think interactive media produces a much better social environment, as you’re doing fun, epic things with the people you meet, not just awkwardly standing around drinking beer,” Decker says.

“I think you study interactive media as you study anything: with the broadest toolset possible,” writes Decker. “I think you need straight, empirical, measureand-record lab work (on, say, skin conductance in response to the presentation of ....), and I think you need deep, analytical, rambling ethnographies. You need proposed conceptual frameworks and meta-reviews.” In short, the tried and true tools of the human sciences still apply. Hitting a moving target, however, requires ever-evolving aim. “Technology’s tough because it’s always new, so I think there’s more room than in many disciplines for ‘nothing fancy, let’s just figure out what’s going on here’ kinda stuff, but there’s plenty of room for the nittygritty as well, I think.” Decker, happy to gaze into the LCD ball, says he senses trends. For example, Nintendo’s video game system, the Wii— which offers a controller that allows the user’s actions to directly influence events on-screen—is just “the tip of the iceberg.” Hardware, says Decker, will

Such epic quests led Decker to pursue an academic one. Digital interactions It boils down to “platforms which alcan be tracked, distilled, and studied. low for conversations across space and “The beauty of many interactive techtime,” he wrote. Put another way, he’s nologies, particularly video games interested in finding and virtual worlds, out “what happens “Imagine millions of people in real-time is that they present when media stops beabsolutely controling only a passive, re- environments, what an opportunity to lable, ground-up receptive experience.” study ethics and other social attributes. creations of reality,” wrote Decker in an esSuch interactions are In essence, it’s the lab conditions say. “Imagine millions not limited to pulverof people in real-time everyone dreams of.” izing pixels, Decker environments; what points out. Interacan opportunity to study ethics and othtion could be in the form of a phone er social attributes! In essence, it’s the call, or anytime an input-stimulus loop lab conditions everyone dreams of.” is occurring, from ATMs to APBs. In fact, such “conversations” go on far more than many expect in a world where everyone seems engaged in screen- or earbound isolation.
16 I SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007

Sim university
Here at SEAS, David Parkes studies how people behave in online economies (see

become even more alive and dynamic. More broadly, the convergence of entertainment media and the high-technology sector will continue. “The ‘next big thing’ in interactive media is ubiquitous computing,” he says, referring to fully immersive computing hardware that is built into everything from trashcans to billboards. “With ubiquitous computing, you stop using various forms of interactive media discretely and begin simply to exist digitally. This may seem a bit odd, but we are halfway there already as virtual goods and services are sold and people are buying virtual real estate, game characters, and so on.” Even via email, Decker exudes intellectual passion most lifelong scholars rarely achieve, as if on the cusp of a new truth. “For sure, I am constantly and viscerally amazed by technology. In particular, wireless technologies really just do it for me—controlling, with infinite precision, the sea of electrons flowing around you, flowing through you. How can you not like that?!” J


Law Professor Empowered by the Grid

Ternary plot of Bush versus Gore as run in the precincts constituting Texas Congressional District 24 in 2000


Visit www.seas.harvard.edu/newsandevents for the latest details, dates, and times for SEAS events. Here are some highlights from the past months and a list of future opportunities: The science of pizza - On December 15th, children, families, students, teachers, and the curious are invited to spend an hour exploring the science behind one of our favorite foods. Check the SEAS website for more details. In November, researcher Jonathan Schaeffer, University of Alberta, told the story of his nearly two decade personal and professional quest of programming a machine to win the World Checkers Championship. Under his tutelage, Chinook became the first program in any game to win the right to play for a human world championship. While the program lost the championship match in 1992, Chinook became the undisputed champion in 1994. By 1996, it became clear that the program was much stronger than any human, so Chinook uttered its last “King Me!” The Winston Chen lecture series continues to bring some of the brightest minds to Oxford Street. In October, L. B. Freud of Brown University presented “The Mechanics of a Molecular Bond Under Force.” Look for several industry-related events in the spring, including the Industrial Partnership Program’s annual workshop on topics in materials science and “Frontiers of Spintronics and Spin-Coherent Phenomena in Semiconductors: A Symposium in Honor of E. I. Rashba.”

few months after arriving at Harvard Law School, Assistant Professor Jim Greiner turned to computer scientists at the nearby School of Engineering and Applied Sciences for some legal power—of a sort. He sought the computational muscle of Crimson Grid, based at SEAS, and other grid systems, including the Research Computing Environment at the Harvard-MIT Data Center, to analyze and uncover the often-hidden complexity of the redistricting process in elections. Typically, after a census the boundaries of various U.S. elective districts are redrawn to ensure that equal representation is maintained relative to any changes in the population. Some creative state legislators redraw the lines in ways that disfavor racial and ethnic minorities, a tactic called gerrymandering. Greiner points out that because voting happens behind closed curtains, finding the truth between the lines— the way redistricting affects voting results—proves difficult, especially because data from standard methods like exit polls might not be available or reliable. Grid computing—relying on drips and drabs of idle cycle time from hundreds

of individual computer processors— has the oomph to crunch through decades of census and voting data and the ability to run sophisticated Bayesian algorithms. Working with Government Department Professor Kevin Quinn, Greiner has harnessed this power to compute a voter’s-eye view of an election. For example, the diagram above illustrating data from the 2000 election, provides a compelling way to look at voter behavior. The larger dots indicate more populous precincts; brighter shades indicate a greater Gore share of the two-party vote. If one drops an imaginary vertical line from the Hispanic vertex to the bisector of the triangle’s bottom leg, one sees that, generally, most non-Hispanic voters in predominantly Hispanic districts were white voters. If white voters in predominantly Hispanic precincts voted more Democratic than white voters in predominantly white precincts, aggregation bias could affect the estimates of the preferences of Hispanic voters, who turned out in low percentages. In short, Greiner and Quinn are using clever computation to reveal how individuals voted—without violating their rights or revealing their identities. Combining a knowledge of law with statistics, Greiner can then determine, for example, if a district is racially polarized along party lines. J
SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007 I 17

vinyl. I have always loved working with words, and I have long loved nonsense poems and songs. I just had to try my hand at computer-related parody. It was pretty awful stuff, but more recently I have had some sonnets and other formal poetry accepted by The Lyric, Iambs and Trochees, and Möbius, so maybe that early doggerel was good practice in the mechanics. You pursued computer science when programmers were likely singing to a small audience. Did anyone know what a programmer did in the 1970s? I was part of a teenage gang that aggressively sought out computer time. Vincent Learson of IBM had arranged for his alma mater, Boston Latin School, to have an IBM 1130 minicomputer; I learned to program in Fortran in ninth grade. I can remember touring the Aiken computer lab and being shown the Harvard IMP (Interface Message Processor) a few weeks before it was actually connected to the ARPANET. So you entered college running. By the time I arrived at Harvard as a student, I had been programming for almost four years, had learned five different programming languages, and had implemented the LISP language on the IBM 1130. In the end, I got a fine liberal arts education at Harvard as well as two
In addition to writing and coding, Steele did some doodling for the famed New Hacker’s Dictionary.

Alumni Notes
Guy Steele ‘75 is a Sun Fellow for Sun Microsystems Laboratories, working on the Programming Language Research project. His “claim to fame” is that he co-wrote the specification of the Java programming language.

Guy Steele ’75
Making language sing
undergraduate and graduate years shutachines are alive with the tling between Harvard and MIT, where sound of Fortran/With numhe received his Ph.D. in 1980. After a bers they’ve crunched for a thousand short stint as a professor at Carnegie hours/They add and subtract to the Mellon, he joined the famed yet ill-fated sound of Fortran/And raise fractions Thinking Machines, a to unheard of powers.” (Sung to the “I originally wanted to be a pure math- company not shy about its ambitions for AI. tune of “The Sound ematician, perhaps with a side interest He eventually settled of Music.”) down at Sun MicrosysLong before emoti- in physics, and thought of computers tems, where he helped cons, computer lan- as merely a pleasantly diverting.” make Java the current guage pioneer and lingua franca for coding. Despite his sometime amateur librettist Guy Steele programming prowess, Steele says: “At ’75 was expressing his trials and tribulaheart I’m really—well, I was about to tions in musical parodies. (Those ready say ‘a software guy,’ but the truth is that for more cringe-inducing classics only I’m a writer.” need to bring up www.poppyfields.net/ filks in their Web browser.) Steele, one of the grand masters of CS, spent his student days doing more than hacking lyrics, literally inventing entirely new programming languages (notably Scheme) for the then nascent field. A New England native, he graduated from Boston Latin before spending his
18 I SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007


You’re famous for the Great Quux (Steele’s pseudonym) poem collection. Were you an Andrew Lloyd Webber wannabe? Please! Maybe a Tim Rice wannabe; I can still remember when Jesus Christ Superstar came out and I listened to it on

very different perspectives on computer science. I think I exasperated a number of professors at both ends of Cambridge by too frequently countering opinions and assertions with, “But Prof. So-and-so [at the other school] says ...” Did you have a sense that something big was coming in computing? Apparently I overlapped with Bill Gates at Harvard but never met him. I didn’t know much about the homebrew scene in the 1970s; I was working on my graduate degree and had access to large computers. Occasionally I dreamed that I might have exclusive access to a computer that big and that fast (one megahertz! one megabyte! one megabuck). So when did it really hit home that computing was not simply for scientists? In 1987 I bought a Macintosh II and a LaserWriter, and I used them to desktoppublish the second edition of Common LISP: The Language. It was then that I really appreciated the personal computer revolution.

And you helped make programming more personal through your clear (and often humorous) writing. Is that a natural gift or did you develop that skill? Any humor I have, I got from my father, I suppose, and I should credit the jokes that Donald Knuth put in his indexes with making me feel that maybe I could get away with a little humor in technical writing, too. Writing is a skill that I have pursued quite intentionally. I have worked very hard to develop a style of technical writing that avoids ambiguity without sounding overly fussy. That has required thinking carefully about, and coming to grips with, some of the deficiencies of English. What’s your litmus test for success? As I read over what I have written I ask myself: “For every sentence, how could this be misunderstood? Can this sentence be parsed in more than one way?” I rewrite to avoid ambiguity and pay very careful attention to word placement, especially with ”only.” “I have reread, reworded, and rearranged this

paragraph about nine times, and I think it’s now ready to ship.” Such a philosophy—writing as rewriting—likely applies as much to crafting lyrics as to programming as to life. I have very broad interests. I originally wanted to be a pure mathematician, perhaps with a side interest in physics, and thought of computers as merely a pleasantly diverting (well, okay, obsessively diverting) hobby. But I did take a computer course in my first year, and when I realized I really didn’t have the right sort of imagination for higher mathematics, I was well positioned to make the switch. I did do a graduate minor in quantum mechanics and also studied circuits and hardware design at MIT; this breadth has served me well. And for you, breadth boils down to … ? I care about communicating clearly and precisely. Computer languages are especially good for precisely describing processes and relationships, but I like all languages. Square dancing and carpentry and heraldry and music and cooking have their specialized languages, and I love them all. J

Alumni Notes

Survey Says
In the spring, 22,700 Harvard alumni received a survey designed to assess their experiences at and attitude about Harvard University. Seventeen hundred of the random samples were directed to SEAS alumni. Overall, those surveyed reported strong agreement with the overall vision for the School; believe that increased faculty contact and hands-on learning are the most important aspects of a first-rate education; and would like more specific ways to engage with entrepreneurship and professional activities during their reunions. On a scale of 1, meaning very negative, to 6, meaning very positive, alumni rated their feeling towards SEAS at a healthy 4.43.
Very negative Mean 1 2 3 4 5 Very positive 6

Recent Gifts
In the late spring, SEAS received an anonymous corporate gift of $250,000 to establish the Liviu Librescu Graduate Student Research Fellowship in Engineering and Applied Sciences. The gift honors a man who contributed to the field of engineering and celebrates Professor Librescu’s commitment to the community of Virginia Tech. In response to the announcement of the transition from a Division to a School, John Fetcher SB ’34, SM ’35 made a donation. His letter announcing the gift not only congratulated Dean Venky on the success of the new school but also outlined Fetcher’s extraordinary 60-year career in environmental engineering. Recent foundational and corporate gifts of particular note included the Patterson Family Foundation, $1.5 million for the John H. Finley Jr. Professorship; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, approximately $3 million in pledge payments and support of Professor David Edwards; Microsoft, $710,000; and the Kavli Foundation continued its support of the new Kavli Institute at Harvard. The Heller Family Foundation supplemented previous gifts to Harvard with an additional $25,000 this year to support the creation of new businesses by students enrolled in David Edwards’s course on idea translation. Altran Technologies continued to support the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center (TECH).








Look for the complete survey results to go online in the coming months. J

Be part of the Renaissance...
The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences thrives because of institutional, governmental, industrial, and alumni support. Such financial generosity, intellectual guidance, and enthusiasm will enable us to continue to enhance education and research and better society. To learn more about giving opportunities, please contact Linda Fates, Director, SEAS Office of Resource Development, at ord@seas.harvard.edu.

SEAS – Fall/Winter 2007 I 19

Sign of the Times
he SEAS Celebration and Launch on September 20 was blessed by good weather and good words. You couldn’t have engineered a more beautiful day. A sun-filled blue sky. Eighty degrees. The tops of trees edged in burnt orange. As if brilliantly distilling nature’s gift into words, Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, conducted the official blessing for the School, saying: “For there to be a new school which exists in a strangely metaphysical relationship with the Faculty of Arts and Science … suggests that the age of miracles is not over … May this whole human family be much the beneficiary of all the good that will issue forth from this place.” An archive of photos, video, and audio from the event is available at: www.seas.harvard.edu/highlights/celebration.html J
1 The new SEAS seal at the center of attention. 2 Charles Vest, former President of MIT and President of the National Academy of Engineering, and Barbara Grosz, Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences and Interim Dean of the Radcliffe Institute, share a moment over lunch. 3 Former Dean of the FAS, Jeremy Knowles, makes his feelings known. 4 Peter J. Gomes ’68, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, gives his blessing. 5 President Drew Faust talks about how engineering at Harvard has been a leading force in building bridges across disciplines and to industry. 6 Left to right: Susan Graham ’64, Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and President of Harvard’s Board of Overseers (2006–2007); Drew Faust, Lincoln Professor of History and President, Harvard University; Dean Venky; Thomas E. Everhart ’53, Former President of the California Institute of Technology and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics and President of Harvard’s Board of Overseers (2004–2005). 7 H. Vincent Poor, Dean of Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, speaks at Sanders Theatre. 8 Joy Sircar (right), Associate Dean for Information Technology and CTO at SEAS, steals a bit of time from Mike Smith, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and Dean of FAS. 9 President Drew Faust and Dean Venky debut SEAS fashion.








Feedback loop
We welcome and appreciate your comments, suggestions, and corrections. Please send feedback to communications@seas.harvard.edu or call us at 617-496-3815. This newsletter is published biannually by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Communications Office.
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Managing Editor/Writer Michael Patrick Rutter Designer, Producer, Photographer Eliza Grinnell Copy Editor Darlene Bordwell, Ambient Light Proofreader James Clyde Sellman, PhD ’93 This publication, including past issues, is available on the Web at www.seas.harvard.edu
Copyright © 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College



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