Spring/Summer 2007

• Citizenship and community I am pleased to say that camaraderie is common here, from the large number of faculty and administrators who serve as freshman advisors to the willingness of several star players to “take one for the team”. Specifically, I recall when one of our electrical engineering faculty members stepped up to teach a course at the last minute when another colleague could not. Likewise, I know several faculty members who routinely teach classes in other departments or, when needed, outside their own areas of research expertise. It is also increasingly routine for applied physicists to mentor electrical engineering or physics junior faculty or computer scientists to extend expertise and guidance to bioengineers.

Valuing Values


he winner of any prize, whether it’s an Oscar or a Nobel, inevitably thanks “all those who made it possible.” While it may sound like a platitude, there is often a deep truth behind such a statement. The award winner is thanking an institution and its members for providing a supportive and positive environment in which to work— and for instilling and practicing the kind of values like innovation and creativity that allowed a dream to become real.

Shared purpose
As I have discussed in past newsletters, we have long nurtured an open and inclusive philosophy. Office doors remain open. Formal academic departments do not exist. Faculty members collaborate across disciplinary boundaries. As we move toward our new vision for the School, it is even more important to have a shared sense of purpose, values, and culture. This, in fact, was a significant item of discussion at a recent faculty retreat and at my first Dean’s Advisory Group meeting. Everyone agreed that we need to decide what our values should be; better integrate such principles into teaching, research, and service activities; and, more broadly, weave them into our culture by offering appropriate resources and rewards. While we have done much to foster HSEAS’ unique culture, we are committed to enhancing several key attributes in the coming years.

• An attitude of “can do”/”saying no to no.” The power and applicability of the trial and error and problem-solving approach that is a hallmark of successful engineering and applied science research and design is nearly universal. For example, for their senior projects, undergrads report on all the roadblocks they faced, such as when a particular design didn’t work or when unexpected results changed the direction of their research. But I would like such an attitude to permeate all aspects of the School so that everyone thinks and acts like engineers and applied scientists in terms of their approach to problem solving, whether they are trying to resolve a scheduling problem for a student or helping ensure that faculty members get their grants in on time. After all, anybody must get a feel for our culture of a place right when they call the academic office, visit our website, or walk through any office door. • Entrepreneurial Our new school seal (p. 20) honors engineer, entrepreneur, and donor Gordon McKay, who combined a technological breakthrough with his entrepreneurial spirit (p. 6). In an effort to retool a shoe sewing machine, McKay ushered in an entirely new way of doing business and was able to adapt his machinery and sales model numerous times as the country changed. I am pleased to say that today, more and more of our faculty, students, and alumni take inquisitiveness and innovation as something of a personal credo, whether it is finding new ways to treat disease (p. 5) or applying mathematics to finance.

• Collaborative/synergistic/interdisciplinary Working across fields has long been a trait at DEAS—and will continue to be one at HSEAS. Over the past few months, researchers have taken inspiration from biology to build bug-like robots (p. 10) and applied lessons from natural systems to computational ones (p. 14). Likewise, the CitySense project (p. 5), which brought together computer scientists, a technology company, and a city, is an example of what’s possible through partnerships that extend beyond campus. We will continue to integrate engineering and applied sciences at every level, especially in emerging areas such as systems biology and biologically-inspired engineering. Moreover, we can serve as an institutional model by seamlessly blending engineering with applied sciences.

Dean’s Message

Stepping up
In my mind, finding new ways to institutionalize our values is perhaps the most important issue we face. This means, for example, providing the right incentive structure to further promote a spirit of citizenship among the faculty; offering new rewards and giving more recognition for dedicated and innovative teaching; and small grants to support collaborative research, industry internships, or even exchange programs. While incentives are necessary, success ultimately comes down to something far less tangible. Our goal is to make HSEAS the kind of place where people share common values while also feeling that they are valued. At the same time, we want to support a dynamic culture that celebrates both individual creativity and recognizes the importance of the collective good or institutional priorities. If we are successful, when one person makes a grand discovery in research, secures a grant, or pulls off a last minute miracle, everyone will feel like they are succeeding and are part of a valuable endeavor. Whether or not we win future Oscars (we do have some alumni who work in the movie biz) or Nobel Prizes, we want to create a stage big enough for everyone to take a bow. J

Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti Dean, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Life On & Around Oxford Street
It’s Official: The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (HSEAS)
In February, the Harvard Corporation and Board of Overseers officially ratified the Faculty of Arts and Sciences vote on the creation of Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In the words of H. Gunther Rudenberg, S.B. Physics ’44 and Ph.D. ’50, “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!” The change in status grants the School administrative and operational independence and a reporting and oversight relationship with the University’s central administration that is similar to that of other Harvard Schools. In addition, HSEAS is now allowed to display its own seal (p. 20). The new school will maintain academic linkages to FAS. The DEAS traditions of teaching non-concentrators, supporting joint faculty appointments (a third of the faculty members now have joint appointments, with particularly strong linkages to Physics and Earth & Planetary Sciences), and sustaining cross-disciplinary research collaborations will continue. Undergraduates in engineering and applied sciences will continue to be admitted by and enrolled in Harvard College. Likewise, graduate students will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Engineering and applied sciences faculty will continue to teach courses for the broader undergraduate population. New linkages and collaborations are expected with FAS-Biology, Chemistry, and parts of the social sciences and humanities as well as with certain professional schools. On non-academic administrative issues, however, HSEAS expects to enhance its historical autonomy (in finance, research administration, and other operational issues) and is working with FAS and the Central Administration to manage this transition process. The transition reflects the increased presence and importance of the role engineering and applied sciences have played and will continue to play at Harvard. A launch event and symposia for HSEAS, “Engineering a Renaissance: A Celebration of the Past, Present, and Future,” will be held on September 20, 2007.

Links and nodes

Harvard Commits $50 Million for Synergy
The Harvard Corporation has authorized the establishment of a new, University-wide standing committee on science and engineering to guide the University into a new era of collaborative, cross-disciplinary science initiatives. The Corporation also created a $50 million fund to provide initial support for the committee’s work, pending the committee’s submission of a budget. Dubbed Harvard University Science and Engineering Committee (HUSEC), the committee will be chaired by the Provost and made up of 15 to 18 members in total, including Harvard faculty scientists and engineers, relevant Deans (Deans of the Medical School, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the School of Public Health), and leaders from the Harvard-affiliated hospitals. HUSEC will advise the University’s senior leadership on, among other things, the creation and funding of new cross-School departments and committees and the allocation of resources for new interdisciplinary science ventures, including faculty slots, resources for students and education, and physical space and equipment.

The change from “Division” to “School” shows up in everything from websites to parking passes.

The University will commit $50M to promote synergy in science and engineering.

The Institute for Innovative Computing made its formal debut on March 21, 2007.

The IIC Introduces Itself
The Institute for Innovative Computing (IIC) stepped into the digital limelight at an inaugural celebration held on March 21. The IIC is a new interdisciplinary research and development center at Harvard, fitting snuggly inside 60 Oxford Street and dedicated to innovative computing tools to accelerate discovery across all scientific disciplines. For more information, see http://iic.Harvard.edu/.

$2M from DARPA will fund a center on nano and micro-electro-mechanical systems.

Undergrads can now pursue computer science and applied mathematics as secondary fields.

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DARPA Gives $2 Million for NEMS/MEMS Center
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded a new multiinstitution research initiative in nanoand micro-electro-mechanical systems (known as NEMS/MEMS), in affiliation with HSEAS. The three-year program has over $2 million in total funding from DARPA and industry partners. Led by Ken Crozier, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, the Harvard Center for Microfluidic and Plasmonic Systems (MIPS) will carry out fundamental research into surface plasmon (SP) nanostructure design, fabrication, imaging, and integration with microfluidic systems. The Center will also bring together experts from a variety of areas, including microfluidics and nanofabrication,

biosensors, plasmon devices, optoelectronics, bottom-up nanofabrication, and plasmonic fluorescent sensors. Other participating academic/research institutions include the Harvard Medical School, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. Industrial partners include U.S. Genomics, RSoft Design Group, LumArray, and Luminus Devices.

Both the computer science and mathematical sciences programs will require students to complete four half-courses. Although a joint thesis is not required, the expectation is for students to readily combine their interests among areas, just as graduate students and faculty do. “We expect both programs to be very popular, especially for economics and biology concentrators,” said Marie Dahleh, Assistant Dean for Academic Programs. “They will provide another way for students to become exposed to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of engineering and applied sciences.” J

Links and nodes

Secondary Fields in CS and AM Debut
Harvard undergraduates now have an opportunity to pursue computer science and mathematical sciences (including applied math) as secondary fields, or minors. The new options are among the 28 available to students as a result of the ongoing Harvard College Curricular Review.

“Continued rapid growth in key areas of engineering and life sciences, in particular, is not only vital for the competitive position of the University … but also in maximizing the return on our investment in buildings and infrastructure.”
— JEREMY KNOWLES, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Random Bits
photo by Carl Psykle

Fishing Expedition
Love it or hate it, you can likely find “it” in Wikipedia. Consider the entry on “squirrel fishing,” an unusual sport thought to have been partially popularized (if not invented) by two engineering graduate students, Nikolas Gloy and Yasuhiro Endo, at Harvard in the late 1990s. According to the encyclopedic site: “Squirrel fishing is the sporting practice of ‘catching’ squirrels and attempting to lift them into the air using a peanut tied to a string or fishing line, and optionally some kind of fishing pole. The practice of squirrel fishing has since taken root on college campuses and parks all around the United States.”

both a technological and humanities perspective—encompasses several academic areas,” reported the Crimson. “He plans to take classes in psychology, economics, computer science, and media studies, cross-enrolling at MIT for the media studies courses. Decker’s interest in the area stemmed in part from a sophomore tutorial paper exploring the psychological basis for why video games are enjoyable.”J
A special undergraduate concentration will explore why videos games, like the classic Donkey Kong, Jr., are so addicting.

Gaming the System
The Crimson reported on a new Harvard major in “Mario Kart”—a tongue-in-cheek reference to the popular Nintendo racing game. Pedagogic purists can rest easy; the emerging field of interactive media offers the serious scholar more than endless button bashing.
The odd sport of squirrel fishing (not phishing) may owe its origins to CS students at Harvard. And worry not, the feisty critters are not harmed.

Ben S. Decker ’08 created a concentration in “‘ludology’—the study of video games from

HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007 I 

A Roundup of Discoveries & Innovations

Recent findings

(above) Bioengineers David Edwards and Ling Wong helped to devise a novel spray-drying method for preserving and delivering tuberculosis vaccine. (right) Applied physicist Lene Hau was in the spotlight again for exchanging light and matter (Justin Ide/Harvard News Office © 2007 President & Fellows of Harvard College).

Light to Matter (and Back)
In tiny supercooled clouds, Lene Vestergaard Hau, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, and her team exchanged light and matter. “We demonstrate that we can stop a light pulse in a supercooled sodium cloud, store the data contained within it, and totally extinguish it, only to reincarnate the pulse in another cloud two-tenths of a millimeter away,” says Hau. The period of time when the light pulse becomes matter and the matter pulse is isolated in space between the condensate clouds could offer scientists and engineers a tantalizing new window for controlling and manipulating optical information. Researchers cannot now readily control optical information during its journey, except to amplify the signal to avoid fading. The new work by Hau and her colleagues marks the first successful manipulation of coherent optical information. “This work could provide a missing link in the control of optical information,” Hau says. “This novel form of quantum 
I HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007

control could also have applications in the developing fields of quantum information processing and quantum cryptography.” Hau’s co-authors included Naomi S. Ginsberg and Sean R. Garner. The research was supported by the Air Force Office of Sponsored Research, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

of the Harvard School of Public Health and Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Professor of Public Health—was sponsored in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The work appeared in the February 13 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Unlike traditional freezing techniques, spray drying is lower cost, easily scalable for manufacturing, and ideal for use in aerosol (needle-free) formulations, such as inhalation,” says Wong. “Its greater stability at room temperature and viability ultimately could provide a more practical approach for creating and delivering a vaccine throughout the world.”

Spray-Dry Technique for TB Vaccine
Bioengineers and public health researchers have developed a novel spraydrying method for preserving and delivering the most common tuberculosis (TB) vaccine. The low-cost technique offers several potential advantages over conventional freezing procedures, such as greater stability at room temperature and use in needle-free delivery. The research team—led by Yun-Ling Wong, a graduate researcher in bioengineering; David Edwards, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering; and Barry R. Bloom, Dean

Sculpting Skins
Applied scientists demonstrated a new method for developing wrinkled hard skins on the surface areas of polymers using a focused ion beam. By controlling the direction and intensity of the ion beam, the researchers literally sculpted patterns on flat areas of polydimethylsiloxane, a silicon-based organic polymer (more commonly known as the primary

(left) Applied scientists used a focused ion beam to create wrinkled skins on a polymer surface; the technique has applications for microfluidics and biosensors.

Recent findings

(left and above) Computer scientist Matt Welsh, with the assistance of BBN Technologies and the city of Cambridge, will create the world’s first city-wide network of wireless sensors. Called CitySense, the network will aid in monitoring everything from the weather to traffic patterns.

ingredient in Silly Putty). The technique has potential use in biological sensors and microfluidic devices and may offer new ways to build custom-made cell templates for tissue engineering. The work is a collaboration among researchers at HSEAS and Seoul National University. The HSEAS group consisted of John W. Hutchinson, Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Engineering; Myoung-Woon Moon, Postdoctoral Fellow; and Ashkan Vaziri, Lecturer on Engineering and Research Associate in Applied Mechanics. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the researchers also filed for a U.S. patent covering the discovery. “This technique is a one-step process for creating wrinkled skins,” explains Vaziri. “The method is more robust compared with traditional techniques. The patterns can be generated along desired paths by simply controlling the relative movement of the ion beam and polymeric substrate. It’s almost like using an airbrush on fabric. At a smaller scale,

the desired morphology of wrinkles can be achieved by controlling the ion beam intensity.” Such patterns can be used in the construction of microfluidic devices for particle separation and mixture and also have potential use in designing biosensors. The researchers have also started a close collaboration with scientists at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, aimed at exploring the behavior of living cells on these patterned substrates. Such research may lead to the development of an effective and robust method for building custom templates for engineering and growing tissues.

“Wireless sensor networks have the potential to revolutionize the real-time monitoring of the environment, civil structures, roadways, and animal habitats,” says Matt Welsh, Assistant Professor of Computer Science. “This will be one of the largest projects of its kind, and the entire 100-sensor infrastructure will eventually be open to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.” Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the project is open source, meaning it could eventually be accessible to researchers worldwide for everything from gathering meteorological data to monitoring traffic conditions and noise pollution. Called CitySense, the wireless sensor network developed by computer scientists at Harvard and Cambridge technology solutions firm BBN Technologies will focus initially on monitoring air pollution and weather conditions, collecting data on a scale never before attempted. For more information, see www.citysense.net. J

Sensor Network Lights Up Cambridge
Harvard University, BBN Technologies, and the City of Cambridge have begun a four-year project to install 100 wireless sensors atop streetlights in Cambridge, creating the world’s first city-wide network of wireless sensors.

HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007 I 

Patent Pending
The Founding of Practical Science at Harvard Part 2: Gordon McKay


Gordon McKay—an engineer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist— helped to revitalize engineering and applied sciences at Harvard by providing one of the single largest gifts in the University’s history.

The exquisite McKay tomb, located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, features Italian marble and custom stained glass windows. By the terms of McKay’s estate, Harvard is responsible for its upkeep.

asing back into his office chair, Ed Kozlowski recalls learning that he was responsible for the care and upkeep of a mausoleum. The eyes of the normally unflappable HSEAS Dean for Administration seem to look inward, as if probing for the exact, frozen moment and his attendant feelings. “My first reaction was, ‘We have a mausoleum?’” he says, rolling around his tongue as to taste again the bitter tannins of disbelief. The structure, which belonged to Harvard donor, industrialist, and entrepreneur Gordon McKay, is located in Pittsfield—a town Kozlowski, who had just moved from California, had never heard of. A more nagging, practical question soon surfaced: “What exactly do I need to do with it?” The answer would involve interpreting a century-old will, visiting a cemetery, and learning the art and engineering of historic preservation. Before he added the unusual task to his to-do list (renovate nano lab; hire new administrative staff; visit and assess grave), yet another question presented itself. As a riff on the 
I HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007


classic conundrum: Who is buried in McKay’s tomb?

An engineer turned entrepreneur
Gordon McKay, son of a cotton manufacturer, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a small town in the Berkshires, in 1821, and died in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1903. Appropriately, McKay (who would become known for revolutionizing the shoe industry) picked himself up by his own bootstraps. When he was 12, his father died suddenly and young McKay went almost straight to work, learning civil engineering by apprenticing in a machine shop. Around 1844 McKay built his own shop in Pittsfield, employed over 100 men. The business later became known as McKay and Hoadley; his partner was J. C. Hoadley, who would become known for creating portable steam engines. In 1852, the duo moved to the mill town of Lawrence, Massachusetts, where McKay eventually became the treasurer of the Lawrence Machine Shop.

The company, named after the town honoring the industrious Lawrence brothers, indirectly linked McKay to Abbott Lawrence of the Lawrence School, which had been founded five years earlier. A 1856 catalog for McKay’s shop boasted patents for a variety of gears, pulleys, hangers, pedestals, and practical tables. The next transition for the shop to the United Shoe Machinery Company would also involve patents— but it was McKay’s entrepreneurial, not simply engineering, know-how that would make him famous and fabulously wealthy. That same year, Lyman Reed Blake built an ingenious, yet not entirely practical, sewing machine that could sew the uppers of shoes to the soles. The painstaking and slow process had previously been done by hand. After hearing of the device, McKay bought the technology with cash and a share of the future profits. Blake received an initial patent in 1858 that he then sold to McKay; the two men worked together to further improve the device. As a result McKay secured a crucial patent to the improved,

McKay asked for a fee (a royalty) on each pair of shoes made and sold using his machine. He pocketed more and more profit with each sale (up to $500,000 a year at the peak in 1876, the equivalent of an astounding $10 million in today’s currency).
An illustration from a patent for an improved sewing machine filed by Gordon McKay and Lyman R. Blake. An example of a chainstitch, like the one McKay and Blake’s revolutionary sewing machine could produce, that united the upper, insole and outsole of a shoe or boot. The new seal for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences features a chainstitch in honor of McKay.


Brockton, Massachusetts benefited enormously from the arrival of the McKay Sewing Machine. By 1929, the town became known as “shoe city,” employing over 30,000 workers involved in the manufacturer of footwear.

ready-for-sale version of the sewing machine in 1862. Blake, perhaps more of a tinkerer than a grand thinker, would end up working for McKay for the next 12 years, installing the machines.

Royalties per foot
McKay polished up his sewing machine as the American Civil War was entering its second bloody year. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, McKay sensed opportunity: All foot soldiers rely on one eponymous item of clothing—a good pair of boots. McKay created a new company to manufacture his shoe-sewing machines with hopes of meeting the Union troops’ growing needs. That seemed pragmatic and potentially profitable, at least for the war’s duration. To secure his future, McKay took a more radical step by engineering a brilliant business strategy that would do more than outlive the war—it would help change the way people thought about technology. It was a product as much as a process and could be sold like, well, a pair of shoes.

Rather than selling the capital-intensive machines to manufacturers, McKay leased them to an initial 60 firms. He asked for a fee (a royalty) on each pair of shoes made and sold using his machine. Although now a commonplace strategy in merchandizing everything from chain restaurants to software, the idea of securing a royalty on future sales, especially for a technological process, was novel at the time. Moreover, the low start-up costs encouraged even wary manufacturers to buy his new sewing machines. As the machines became market-tested and met with approval by the initial group of manufacturers, more companies began using them to make shoes. With every pair of shoes made and sold, McKay pocketed more and more profit (up to $500,000 a year at the peak in 1876, the equivalent of an astounding $10 million in today’s currency). With continued improvements and tweaks in his device, in the coming decades McKay gained royalties on 177 million pairs of shoes. By 1895, 120 million pairs of

shoes a year, the equivalent of half of U.S. production, were created with the McKay machine and technology. To achieve such astounding sales, McKay implemented another strategy that had little to do with technical prowess. In order to ward off competition, McKay in 1878 formed a consortium called the McKay Sewing Association, essentially creating a monopoly that required commissions to be paid on all shoes made in the United States using his methods. In 1882, perhaps weary on his feet, McKay sold the association and related patents to Stanley Manufacturing. Appropriately, Stanley would use the McKay name, utilizing another modern business practice (brand recognition) to sell an invention that would soon make shoe leather less necessary. Even with a trusted name in place, their McKay Steam Engine automobile did not win the day.

Endings and new beginnings
McKay’s involvement with Harvard, as in the case of fellow benefactor

HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007 I 7

Abbott Lawrence, began with a friendship. Like Lawrence, McKay was not a graduate of Harvard nor even of high school but was a self-taught engineer and self-made businessman. The entrepreneur became close friends with Harvard geology professor Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, who later became dean of the Lawrence School in 1891. In 1893, Mc-Kay placed an initial $4 million in trust for Harvard. Once again, as in the case of Abbott Lawrence, who gave a gift shortly after the Corporation and Overseers decided to create a new scientific school without secure funding or a full plan in hand, the timing of McKay’s gift was perfect. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, MIT and Harvard nearly waltzed down the aisle (or, more precisely, across the Charles River)—not once, but several times. (See p. 9 for a timeline.) Talk of a potential merger between the two institutions began as early as 1863, when Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrew suggested what he thought of as a more perfect union between the fledging upstart and the well-established University at Cambridge, as Harvard was often referred to in official documents. MIT’s founder William Barton Rogers, however, convinced him otherwise. The proposal of a “merger” began anew in the latter decades of the 19th century as the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard began to fade, partly due to the rise of similar institutions at Yale and, of course, the launch of Boston Tech (as MIT was known at the time), located then in Boston’s Back Bay. As student enrollments in engineering and applied sciences declined, an independent Harvard school became increasingly incongruous and an intellectual eyesore for Harvard President Charles W. Eliot, who served from 1869 to 1909. Eliot, a master administrator who moved Harvard from a small college with loosely affiliated schools to a national university, initially floated the idea of a merger with MIT in 1870 and then again in 1897. Neither offer was well-received, in particular by alumni of both institutions, and were tabled.

During the late 19th century and at the turn of the 20th, MIT and Harvard nearly waltzed down the aisle not once, but several times.
In 1903, when the McKay gift intended for the Lawrence School was first announced, the prospect of integrating the institutions, or at the very least implementing a formal collaboration, heated up once more. With the promise of secure funding in place, the boards of Harvard and MIT fully approved two potential merger plans in the next ten years (1904–5 and 1913–4), despite vocal opposition by many alumni and faculty. In both cases, while the “to merge or not to merge” battle was fought in the quads, the issue was ultimately settled by the courts. In the first case, the courts would not allow MIT to sell its Back Bay lands. Administrators intended to use the proceeds of this sale to build a new campus on Harvard property. Eliot took the ruling as an opportunity to abolish his albatross, the Lawrence Scientific School. In the second case, the court ruled that the plan by Harvard and MIT’s boards to divide the McKay endowment between the two institutions and unite the Harvard and MIT facilities “violated the intention of the gift.” (See sidebar for a summary of the terms.) Moreover, Harvard had to maintain an engineering school to secure the money (the full principal of $16 million would not arrive until 1949 due to life trusts). Thus, the two institutions would not be joined and, by the smack of a gavel outside the ivied halls, engineering and applied sciences would remain a part of Harvard.

named professorships. The McKay name also graces the library as well as one of the primary research facilities, the Gordon McKay Laboratory for Applied Sciences. On more hallowed ground, Kozlowski says the intricate renovation of Gordon McKay’s mausoleum should be completed this summer. The hexagonal mausoleum, which holds six family members, features stained glass windows designed by Mary E. Tillinghast, one of the foremost stained-glass artists of the time. Protected by massive sliding brass doors, the interior boasts rare, custom-cut Italian marble and mosaic pictures celebrating McKay’s legacy of invention and industry. Kozlowski, who retired in April, was fond of telling staff and administrators, “You can always take pride in knowing that you were all part of something historic that happened at Harvard.” And what once struck him as one of the oddest parts of his job, preserving the past, will likely be one of the things he most remembers. “It is a small price to pay for a thing of beauty,” he says. “I certainly feel honored that we can do this for our benefactor—and it is done with thanks and admiration.” J


The terms of McKay’s will
In 1893, McKay placed an initial $4 million in trust for Harvard University. Following his death in 1903, the full plans of his will were revealed. Although he gave money to several causes, including a portion to train “colored youth,” the greater part of his estate (totaling about $25 million) was left to Harvard. His will reads, in part: “The net income of the Endowment shall be used to promote applied science: First. By maintaining professorships, workshops, laboratories, and collections for any or all of those scientific subjects, which have, or may here after have, applications to man … and Second … By aiding meritorious and needy students in pursuing those subjects. I direct that the salaries attached to the professorships maintained from the Endowment be kept liberal, generation after generation, according to the standards of each successive generation, to the end that these professorships may always be attractive to able men and that their effect may be to raise, in some judicious measure, the general scale of compensation for the teachers of the universities …”

The upkeep of a legacy
Today, the McKay money (as of FY 2006 the greater part of the School’s $865 million endowment) supports over 40 

I HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007


Timeline of the Harvard-MIT (near) mergers

D 1903 McKay gift announced

The McKay gift is first announced. McKay, who passed away the same year the gift was officially announced, had become close friends with Harvard geologist Nathaniel Southgate Shaler. Shaler served as the Dean of the Lawrence School and was credited with an attempt to revive engineering and applied sciences at Harvard but is more well known for being the architect behind Harvard’s Graduate School of Applied Science (forerunner of the current Graduate School of Arts and Sciences).

A petition edited by and MIT alum; not everyone opposed the merger. Courtesy of MIT Libraries.

D 1904-5 Possible merger with MIT

Harvard President Charles Eliot and MIT President Henry Smith Pritchett conceive the idea of a possible merger between the two institutions. Under the terms of the proposed plan, MIT would have retained its name and charter but would have become, in effect, the engineering school of Harvard University, replacing Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School and absorbing its faculty. After it was revealed that Pritchett had approached Eliot about a possible merger, many MIT alumni rebelled, writing petitions and rapidly raising money to ensure independence.

the Lawrence Scientific School was dissolved and the undergraduate and graduate programs separated; the graduate engineering program was incorporated into the newly formed Graduate School of Applied Science.

D 1917 Scheme of cooperation annulled

D 1913-4 Alliance with MIT approved

D 1905 Merger scuttled

The proposed Harvard-MIT merger is scuttled. Despite the strong disapproval of alumni, the majority of trustees from Harvard and MIT agreed with the proposal to merge. MIT, however, was unable to raise sufficient money to relocate and rebuild its campus on Harvardowned land located on Soldiers Field. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that MIT was not allowed to sell its property in Back Bay because such a sale violated the terms of the original acquisition.

D 1906 Lawrence School abolished

The Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard is abolished. Before the first payment from the McKay bequest arrived,

An intended alliance (not a full merger) of faculty, teaching, and research in engineering and applied sciences between MIT and Harvard is approved and announced. The plan, which called for the McKay endowment to be divided between the two institutions, was outlined in Science Magazine: “In future Harvard agrees to carry out all its work in engineering and mining in the buildings of Technology under the executive control of the president of Technology, and, what is of the first importance, to commit all instruction and the laying down of all courses to the faculty of Technology, after that faculty has been enlarged and strengthened by the addition to its existing members of men of eminence from Harvard’s Graduate School of Applied Science.” MIT President Maclaurin, noted for approving the beaver as MIT’s mascot, said, “Under the scheme of cooperation here proposed, it would be possible to maintain a much stronger school of applied science than either institution alone could furnish and it would be possible to keep that school practically unrivaled in America—and indeed, in the world.”

The proposed “scheme of cooperation” is annulled by the Massachusetts courts. The full bench of the Supreme Judicial Court decided: “Harvard University cannot share the Gordon McKay bequest with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology” because it violated the intention of the gift, which was meant solely for Harvard. “We cannot assent to the assertion of the counsel that ‘the school of applied science on the Charles River embankment is a Harvard School, a department of Harvard university’ … the income must be administered according to the will of McKay.”

D 1918 Engineering School established

The Harvard Engineering School is established. The immediate cause for Harvard’s creation of the School stemmed from the court’s 1917 decision. Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell, who was a great-grandchild of John Lowell (Harvard 1760) and, on his mother’s side, the grandchild of Abbott Lawrence (of the Lawrence School), wrote in his Annual Report for 1918–19: “[In 1917] negotiations looking to cooperation were proceeding with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was found, however, impossible to reach any agreement mutually satisfactory on the basis of a separate Harvard Faculty, and therefore our School of Engineering has been opened without any connection of this kind.” J

HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007 I 

Faculty News
Electrical engineer Rob Wood has the whole robot in his hand. The Crimson suggested that his microfliers, small insect-like creatures, were “not your grandma’s robot.”

Nota Bene
Good Advice … In the OC Register, columnist Gary Collins referenced Dean Venky in a piece about engineering at the University of California, Irvine. His advice: “UCI should follow the cue of U.C. Santa Barbara, whose engineering program soared under Dean Venkatesh Narayanamurti, a quiet visionary who called attention to the school, not to himself.” Cityscapes … The CitySense project (see page 5) received nationwide attention from the Harvard Gazette, the Crimson, the Boston Globe, Computerworld, and the Washington Post. Matt Welsh, one of the leads on the project, was quoted in the Post as saying that although the initiative is based in Cambridge, CitySense
The New York Times covered computer scientist Lenore Blum’s talk at HSEAS.

will allow people from all other parts of the world to conduct research: ““Think of it like a virus infecting all the nodes. Every node can talk to its neighbor and pass along the data, and eventually you get your program up and running on all of them.” Blum Blooms … The New York Times covered a HSEAS-hosted talk given by Lenore Blum, a computer science faculty member at Carnegie Mellon. The article, like the lecture, focused on ways to bring more women into the field of computer science. The Times also consulted HSEAS faculty member Barbara Grosz: “At one time, said Barbara Grosz, a computer scientist and dean of sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard, students entered college with little idea of what computer science involved, ‘so they would try it and find out how much fun and how interesting it was, women included.’ Now, though, she said in an e-mail message, “they get the wrong idea in high school and we never see them to correct the misperception.’” 1,000+ and Counting … iMechanica <http://imechanica.org>, an open-source community blog/commons hosted on a server at HSEAS, is home to a growing group of mechanicians (folks interested in mechanics/applied mechanics). Zhigang Suo, Allen E. and Marilyn M. Puckett Professor of Mechanics and Materials, serves as one of the site’s

primary content architects. Suo recently reported that the site gained its 1,000th member and encourages any interested alumni to join in. Sound Waves … Patrick Wolfe was interviewed as a subject matter expert on sound for a piece celebrating the 125th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s birth. The Public Radio Exchange, a nonprofit service for distribution, peer review, and licensing of radio pieces, has the interview online <www.prx.org>. Q&A ... The Boston Globe asked applied physicist Lene Vestergaard Hau to shed some light on what she calls a “new territory, a new regime of nature.” Reporter Harvey Blume said he “couldn’t resist blurting out the suspicion I’d harbored since reading about her work: ‘You’re

going to win a Nobel Prize if you’re not careful.’” Top 10 … MIT’s Technology Review chose the optical antenna, designed by the Federico Capasso and Ken Crozier groups, as one of its Top 10 Emerging Technologies for 2007. “Capasso and Crozier’s optical antennas could have far-reaching and unpredictable implications, from superdense optical storage to superhighresolution optical microscopes. Enabling engineers to simply and cheaply break the diffraction limit has made the many applications that rely on light shine that much brighter.” Power Spray … Scientific American explored the implications of the spray-dry technique David Edwards and colleagues developed for the TB vaccine (see page

Faculty member Zhigang Suo helped to create a virtual home, iMechanica, for mechanical engineers across the globe.

10 I HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007

New Arrivals

Faculty News

(above) Electrical engineer and audiophile Patrick Wolfe mused about sound waves for a radio piece about composer Igor Stravinsky. (left) Tech Review chose the optical antenna, designed by Federico Capasso and Ken Crozier groups, as one of its Top 10 Emerging Technologies for 2007.

Colleen Hansel
Assistant Professor of Environmental Microbiology on the Gordon McKay Endowment BACKGROUND: Ph.D. from Stanford University, Soil and Environmental Biogeochemistry M.S. from the University of Idaho, Soil Chemistry B.S. from California State University-Sacramento, Geology AREAS OF FOCUS: Microbially mediated processes governing the redox cycling of metals www.seas.Harvard.edu/envmicro

4): “A new powdered form of tuberculosis (TB) vaccine may help save some of the nearly two million lives lost to the disease annually.” Personal Genome … The March/April edition of Harvard Magazine explored the work of Jene Golovchenko and Daniel Branton and their Nanopore Group. “If all goes according to plan—admittedly a big if, when treading terrain this new—the project could yield within a few months’ time a way to map a complete human genome in less than 24 hours, for a price in the hundreds or thousands, rather than millions, of dollars. The research has immediate implications for preventing and curing disease.” Robot Redefined … A February 5 article in the Crimson, “Not Your Grandma’s Robot,” zoomed in on Rob Wood’s tiny insect-inspired robots. “What’s most impressive is the range of expertise he brings to the creation of these microcreatures—he uses structural design, fluid mechanics, automatic controls, microfabrication, and more,” McKay Professor of Engineering Robert D. Howe writes in an e-mail. “By drawing on all these disciplines, he can create sophisticated devices with astonishing performance.” Crimson Power ... The Winter 2007 issue of 02138 featured two engineering alum. The Vanity Fair-like publication called Clay Mitchell ‘99 “the rock star of agriculture.” David Gilmour (A.B. ‘80, S.M. ‘82, M.B.A. ‘84) and his wife Anula Jayasuriya (A.B. ‘80, M.D. ‘89, Ph.D. ‘91, M.B.A. ‘93) were part of the “Power Couples” cover feature. Drawing Together ... The Winter ‘07 issue of the Radcliffe Quarterly showcases how science and engineering faculty connect with the rest of the campus—and the world. Yard Work … The Fall/Winter issue of The Yard, a new FAS publication, highlighted science and engineering at Harvard, including a Q&A with Dean Venky and a lead story about the nanotechnology frontier. J Radhika Nagpal, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, was awarded a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the most prestigious award in support of the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization. Salil Vadhan, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Computer Science, was bestowed a Guggenheim Fellowship and was awarded the Miller Visiting Professorship at U.C. Berkeley, where he will pursue research from January to May 2008. Debra Auguste, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, and Shriram Ramanathan, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, were both named Office of Naval Research Young Investigators. Robert Wood, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering; Gu-Yeon Wei, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering; and David Brooks, Associate Professor of Computer Science, are among 24 rising stars in university microsystems research to receive $150,000 Young Faculty Awards from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Maurice Smith, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, has been awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship. Selection procedures for the Fellowships are designed to identify those who show the most outstanding promise of making fundamental contributions to new knowledge. The article, “Effect of Forecast-Based Pricing on Irrigated Agriculture: A Simulation,” by Peter Rogers, Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Engineering, and his former student Casey Brown Ph.D. ’05, was named by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management for their Best Policy-Oriented Paper Award for 2006.

The Vanity Fair of veritas, 02138 Magazine, featured alumni Clay Mitchell ‘99 and David Gilmour (A.B. ‘80, S.M. ‘82, M.B.A. ‘84).

Promotions and Appointments
Salil P. Vadhan ’95 (A.B. in Mathematics Computer Science), Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Computer Science, received tenure. Vadhan’s research areas include computational complexity, cryptography, and randomness in computation. Joost Vlassak, Associate Professor of Materials Engineering, received tenure. Vlassak is known for developing new experimental techniques for studying the mechanical behavior of thin films, which have use in integrated circuits and micromachined devices.

HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007 I 11

Student News

Students, faculty, and staff alike often do a double-take when they encounter the annual barrage of “colorful” posters advertising lab open houses.

like a start-up or an established brand? A student should pick a lab with care, but learning how to be successful once in the lab is just as, if not more, critical. Two new HSEAS faculty members, fresh from setting up their own labs, agree. “Your area of expertise as well as the group dynamic need to be in sync,” says Debra Auguste, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering. “I think students tend to ask a lot more questions than I did when I was pursuing my Ph.D. They have a lot more choices, especially because of the interdisciplinary work at Harvard.” Auguste—who, before coming to Harvard, spent a year working with MIT’s Robert Langer, one of the “rock stars” of chemical biology—suggests students also ask where they want to end up and, deep down, figure out what motivates them. “I try to attract students who have a strong desire to make a difference in the clinical setting,” she says. For Shriram Ramanathan, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, researching the researchers bears the most fruit. “Talk to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows already in the group to get an idea of the nature of the projects,” he suggests. Ramanathan, who previously worked at the chip maker Intel, also emphasizes figuring out the potential applications a lab is looking to create (more akin to corporate culture) or how the research fits in a broader context (more akin to the traditional academic mission). Reading the lab’s bevy of research papers, something he did before deciding to take his faculty appointment at HSEAS, he says, doesn’t hurt either. This being academia, careful study pays off. After all, a lab will soon become like a second, if not a primary, home for graduate students for years to come. Upton Sinclair’s novel about an idealistic doctor turned research scientist, Arrowsmith, takes that statement to its extreme: “Pickerbaugh apparently believed that this research would take six weeks; Martin had hoped to do it in two years; and with the present interruptions it would require two hundred.” J

Lab Cultures

candidates wanting to learn about and potentially join a particular research team. “Only a few areas like applied physics ‘recruit’ in this way,” cautions Susan M. Wieczorek, Graduate Program Administrator. She says most Ph.D. students arrive at Harvard with a faculty member or lab already in mind. Nevertheless, the posters are worth pausing for, since some truth lies hidden inside the humor. Whether advertised or not, every lab has its own culture (in and outside the Petri dishes) and character (and cast of characters). “A student needs to find out, for example, what a lab’s communications style is. Is it verbal, written, one-onone discussions, or group meetings?” Wieczorek says. Likewise, is the lab open to all kinds of research projects or dedicated to a few ongoing studies? Is the PI hands-on or hands-off? Is the lab


eeing the tabloid-like concoction of Eric Mazur’s head atop Austin Powers’s body slows the pace of most people strolling through Pierce. “Finding Singles? Make love happen. Guarantee Xie” brings their heels to a downright halt. Then there’s the catch: “Come and see our lasers!” “Meet the millions of molecules looking for love.” So much for a simple date at the drive-in. The Mazur and Xie (X. Sunney Xie of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology) groups were two among several labs using ad- and movie-inspired posters to draw in new and unattached graduate students. In what’s become an annual late-fall tradition, labs with open spots hold info sessions for Ph.D.

12 I HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007

Inside and out
Over the past year administrators, faculty, and students have found new ways to promote a stronger sense of community at HSEAS through internal and external activities. The Academic Office debuted the Sophomore Forum for the 2006–07 academic year. Its goal is to start a conversation between students and people in the engineering profession. To date, events have included faculty talks, industry talks, lab tours, and group activities. A group of Harvard students have began a chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). The new chapter is part of a nationwide network, EWB-USA, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities worldwide to improve their quality of life. The partnership involves the implementation of sustainable engineering projects (from improving water quality to building educational facilities and creating local green businesses) while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students. Even prospective students are able to get an insider’s look at the renaissance engineering community in action through web chats, open houses, public lectures, and alumni interviews. J

Student News

An increasing number of incoming Harvard College students have expressed interest in engineering and computer science.

Interest in Engineering Is Up
f the statistics hold true, members of the Class of 2011 have taken engineering and applied sciences to heart. There was a healthy 18 percent increase in the numbers indicating an interest in engineering and applied sciences among early admits to the College (the last such group, since the early admissions process will cease). In addition, the percentage of regular admission students (winnowed down


from nearly 23,000 applicants) interested in the field rose from 8.4 percent to 9.5 percent. There was also a rise in the percentage of those interested in mathematics (7.0 percent to 8.6 percent) and computer science (1.6 percent to 1.7 percent), fields closely allied to engineering. The Harvard Admissions Office suggested that the upward trend was “perhaps due in part to the recent announcement of Harvard’s new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.” And to that we say, welcome one and all! J

Student Awards
On behalf of the New York City Post of the Society of American Military Engineers, Harvard College senior Jarred D. Brown ‘07 was awarded the 2006 Colonel and Mrs. S. S. Dennis III Scholarship. “I enjoy the full range of mechanical engineering,” says Brown, a 2007 candidate for the S.B. degree in Engineering Sciences (honors mechanical and materials sciences track). “For my senior design project, I am working with heart catheters to make them more moveable and controllable so as to aid heart surgery and specifically trying to integrate a component that would allow the catheters to have a much sharper curvature.” Kyle Lawton ’09 won the second annual HSEAS essay competition that asks students to discuss engineering in a liberal arts setting. Lawton wrote: “Engineers are problem solvers and a problem cannot be solved if you do not fully understand the context in which the question is asked.” Jessica Shang ’08 and Anjuli P. Kannan ’09 tied for second place. 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, eighty-eight teams of students competed for bragging rights and prizes. The Harvard team received an honorable mention for their efforts. Warsaw University grabbed first place, and a team from nearby neighbor MIT placed fourth. The Harvard College Research Program’s newsletter featured an essay by Engineering Sciences concentrator Amy Xu about her investigations into using stent implantations to restore normal blood flow to narrowed arteries. Silas Alben, an NSF postdoctoral fellow, and Howard Stone, Vicky Joseph Professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics, co-supervised the research, which grew out of the course ES 123—a course for which Xu served as a TA. “It has been extremely exciting to work with Harvard faculty on a project that I find very relevant and fascinating, and the experience has inspired me to continue studying cardiovascular diseases in my future career as a physician scientist,” Xu wrote. Nan Sun, a graduate student in the Donhee Ham lab, was the 2007 recipient of the Analog Devices Outstanding Student Designer Award. J

HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007 I 1

In Profile
Balancing risk with reward, computer scientist Radhika Nagpal has found success. (Justin Ide/Harvard News Office, © 2006 President and Fellows of Harvard College.)

Radhika Nagpal
Adapting to Risk


he black lettering on the bright yellow tape strung on Radhika Nagpal’s office door reads: “ABSTRACTION BARRIER—DO NOT CROSS”. With the door slightly ajar, the petite computer scientist looks quite real and friendly, sitting upright on a small blue couch that matches the color of her jeans. While even the most risk-adverse would realize it is safe to cross the threshold, the like-minded souls who get the joke are particularly welcome. (For the rest of us, it’s a core concept from CS 51.)

just as nerdy here as they are at MIT,” she says. The image of computer science as a haven for nerds drives away some people, especially women, but Nagpal has dedicated herself to reprogramming the word. As a confident, self-proclaimed nerd herself, she’s a compelling counterexample to the stereotype. “When I think of ‘nerdy,’ I think of people who can get so excited about the intellectual part of research separate from what meaning it has for society,” she explains. For Nagpal, being “nerdy” means having the courage to take huge risks. She cites the famed essay “Technology and Courage” by Sun Microsystems’ Ivan Sutherland in support. Nagpal uses the “Nerd Pride” message as a small way to celebrate and encourage intellectual daredevils, a phrase that also suits her.

formed Systems Biology Department at the Medical School before settling in as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at HSEAS, has been doubly rewarded for exploring uncharted areas. She was selected as a 2005 Microsoft Fellow and won a prestigious NSF CAREER Award (see page 11) in 2007; both grants are designed specifically to support rising stars in academia. Currently, she investigates ways to engineer self-organizing, self-repairing distributing computing systems. Such techniques could be used in everything from fault-tolerant and efficient wireless networks to “smart” houses that efficiently regulate energy consumption. For inspiration, Nagpal looks to nature: multi-cellular organisms and social insect colonies. She wants to find ways to capture, analyze, and convert principles, such as how cells coordinate to form organisms, into algorithms. “The goal is to take inspiration from biology to build new things like reconfigurable robots that can adapt to their environment,” she explains.

“I made these buttons with the Harvard seal and ‘Nerd Pride’ on them,” says Nagpal as she spreads out her stash like Halloween candy. She gives the buttons to her students, explaining that it was originally an “MIT thing”—referencing the institution where she pursued her undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science. “Happily, people are

Uncharted waters
“I like to work in areas people haven’t thought about for a long time or bring an idea to the table that is by its very nature, different,” she explains. Nagpal, who first spent a year at the newly

1 I HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007

“The exploration of stuff that is abstract is where you first look when you have something practical in mind.”
To illustrate, she shows a video of a self-balancing table one of her graduate students, Chih-han Yu, built. Fitted with four spindly, multi-jointed robotic “legs,” the table can balance a glass of water like a contortion artist walking a tightrope on a windy day. Each “leg” is actually composed of several identical modules; each module coordinates with its neighbors and reacts to local sensing feedback. Although the modules use simple rules, the overall effect seems more complex, as the intelligent table can adapt to changes in motion and surfaces without spilling a drop, even plopping itself down on a couch. “Originally I had no idea if we’d come up with anything that could be generalized,” Nagpal says. “The exercise began with the idea of creating a self-balancing chain” and then evolved into the table concept as a graduate student seized on an untested opportunity. More broadly, Nagpal envisions creating multi-agent systems that always converge toward the right answer and constantly adapt to reduce error. “You do not have to worry about every possible fault or need to write a ‘what happens if’ scenario with a self-maintaining and self-repairing algorithm,” Nagpal says. Understanding how self-maintenance emerges in artificial systems like the table has, in turn, led her to reconsider biological systems. Together with graduate student Ankit Patel and collaborators at the Harvard Medical School, she has explored how single cell behavior can lead to system-level robustness in epithelia (skin cells) in a Nature paper published last summer. Just as one can model simple rules for the table’s “legs,” one can model rules that describe interactions between a cell and its neighbor. While the engineered rules led to a level table, Nagpal and Patel discovered that the cell divisions rules lead the tissue towards a fitted cell shape distribution. They were able to predict, with surprising accuracy, how an epithelial tissue would maintain a specific distribution of polygonal cell shapes, across diverse organisms. The question that remains open is whether this collective shape regulation plays a role in tissue development or disease; but for Nagpal, converging toward an answer may be just as important than pinning down the “right” answer.

In profile

Collective courage
As with much of her work, Nagpal claims “the exploration of stuff that is abstract is where you first look when you have something practical in mind.” She admits that diving in blind—“not knowing what an approach can be used for or what problem it can solve”—isn’t easy, not for students concerned about finishing their thesis and launching their careers nor for faculty, like her, working toward tenure and competing for results-based grants. To make risk-taking safer and more appealing for future computer scientists, Nagpal suggests, as with a robust system, seeking out additional support. “Senior faculty can become ideal advisers,” she says. She cautions that it is also critical, especially for students, to find peers who can offer useful criticism and direction; even daredevils need a reality check now and again and a reminder that it is alright to take things slowly. “The skill to think of a problem systematically and take an incremental approach to a subject is essential. If they can grasp that, no matter how long they have on a project, they can make tangible progress,” she points out. Moreover, taking encouragement from small victories enables faculty and students alike to gain the confidence to take bigger risks. The true value of nerd power is finding the strength to combat the uneasy feeling of not knowing what is at the end of the tunnel, or in Nagpal’s case, beyond the abstraction barrier. “We often don’t know where we are going,” says Nagpal. “We need to have the courage to just see how far we can think.” J
The “balancing table” built in Nagpal’s lab, an example of a multi-agent system that converges towards the right answer (or in this case, staying upright). “The table idea is actually just one possible way to think about this concept,” explains Nagpal. “Another is a bridge, or a programmable assembly surface on which you could move objects. Just think of a surface made up of several of these ‘table-like’ panels connected in an array. In that way our original idea for a self-balancing chain has evolved not into just a table, but into a more general ‘self-adaptive structures’ concept.”

HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007 I 1


Marisa Williamson, Nick Shearer, Nathalie Galindo, and Joshua Lachter (left to right) respond to questions from the audience after the presentation “Channels: a customized music system to optimize your mind and body”.

Well translated ideas
Pleasurable Pressure How to integrate comfortable and welcoming physical surfaces in therapy and hospital beds and use them to treat those who suffer from chronic pain. The team proposed combining microneedle technology developed by Georgia Tech’s Mark Prausnitz, with designs by Florence Doleac, famed for her reinterpretations of everyday objects.

All the World’s a Stage … For Ideas
n the near pitch-black American Repertory Theater (ART), a long white silk cloth, tucked into the rafters like a recoiling worm, remains starkly visible. The empty stage below has been temporarily corralled by a group of Harvard undergraduates in Engineering Sciences 147: “Idea Translation: Effecting Change Through the Arts and Sciences.” An audience of classmates, faculty, and parents install themselves in the choice seats toward the front. Few realize that later that evening, as part of the ART’s production of Wings of Desire, aerialist Nan Smith will spin and twirl like and angel. David Edwards and Paul Bottino served as the creators and directors of this preshow, a series of project presentations from students in their experimental course. Open to all concentrators, the class serves as one element of their larger plan to foster a “Translation Lab” designed to teach the art (hence the theatrical setting) and engineering behind idea generation. Sean Buffington, Associate Provost for Arts and Culture and Director of Cultural Programs, who introduced the event, described the concept as “an insurgent or guerilla space for unpredictable energy that can emerge as a condition for art, an end product, or a technology.”
1 I HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007


Some of the team projects, which incorporated experts and expertise throughout the globe, includede everything from using microneedle techniques to alleviate pain to manipulating tiny colored beads of water to create displays (see side bar). Edwards and Bottino concede that the projects are not ready for venture capitalists to ogle anytime soon, but their goal is for students to get a sense of the initial steps involved in entrepreneurship, and to get them inspired to take the next step—if not with these projects, with whatever they do in the future. Finding inspiration from a good role model may also prove an unexpected benefit. A Crimson article about the class quoted an e-mail from Sandra L. di Capua ’07 saying of serial entrepreneur Edwards, “Harvard needs more professors like him … professors that inspire us to be creative and to delve into spheres that may seem daunting and foreign to us.” With support from HSEAS, the Provost’s Office, and the Office of the Arts, Edwards and Bottino have taken their own first step toward creating a space supportive enough to encourage the timid to be bold and expansive enough to give the visionaries enough room to fly. J

Social Affects Using three-dimensional and multidirectional aural cues, for example, to combat depression or promote urban safety. The students found inspiration in the latest advances in audio engineering and haptics (the science of applying tactile sensation and control to interaction with computer applications) and from artist Fabrice Hyber, who says his work explores “the enormous reservoir of the possible.” Microbiocide Adherence Using a next-generation topical gel to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and putting more “power” in the hands of women in the developing world. The students took inspiration from Edwards’s own work in South Africa in using nanoparticle inhalation techniques to combat TB and drew on techniques from social marketing. Microfluidic Displays Using tiny controlled volumes of colored liquids as if they were pixels and embedding them into everyday objects, from surfaces to tables. Dreaming big, the students took a forward-looking approach to the microfluidics work done by faculty such as Howard Stone, George Whitesides, and David Weitz.

Crossing the Pond
ver 150 Harvard students participated in Entrepreneurship Week USA, sponsored by TECH. Events included a student entrepreneurship roundtable; a matchmaking meeting for Web idea generators and developers; an idea pitch competition; a venture capital networking reception; an innovation tour of Boston; and workshops on negotiation and angel investing. Joining the Harvard students for many of these activities was a select group of visiting science and technology scholars from the United Kingdom. TECH received a grant, as part of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Global Scholars Program, to provide these U.K. students with innovation education and an opportunity to “understand and experience entrepreneurial culture in the United States.” J



Paul Bottino, TECH’s Executive Director with Wendy Torrance of the Kauffman Foundation and the UK Global Scholars in front of the John Harvard statue. TECH and Stanford University were the two university partners selected by the Kauffman Foundation to host the Global Scholars.

Visit www.seas.Harvard.edu/newsandevents for the latest details, dates, and times for HSEAS events. Here are some highlights from the past months and a list of future opportunities. HSEAS Celebration On September 20, 2007, Dean Venky will host “Engineering a Renaissance: A Celebration of the Past, Present, and Future” and the launch of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science. The event will include a dedication ceremony, the unveiling of a new sign for HSEAS, and a symposium with leading individuals from academia and industry to discuss the state of engineering education, research and innovation, and societal impact. Microfluidics Workshop The Industrial Partnerships Program held its annual workshop, “New Concepts in Microfluidics Workshop: Theory and Application,” on April 20. Microfluidics involves manipulating tiny volumes of liquid; researchers have learned to build and wield the ultimate version of the “magic wand” that kids use to turn soapy water into airborne three-dimensional shapes. The workshop, which attracted 150 students, researchers, and industry professionals, explored in particular the latest means to control bubbles and droplets at nanoscale level. Such techniques have yielded practical applications for mixing chemicals and materials and delivering drugs. The Harvard-based speakers included Howard Stone, Vicky Joseph Professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics and Associate Dean for Academic Programs; George Whitesides, Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor; and David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor and Professor of Physics and Applied Physics. Oxford Science HSEAS held its first Harvard-Oxford Industrial Math Workshop on January 7–10, 2007. The purpose of this workshop was to help researchers in industry solve real technical problems while developing links between them and university faculty, which could result in new research paths, collaborations, and shared experiences. The workshop, an exchange between industry and academia dedicated to the intensive study of unsolved problems derived from practice, may serve as a model for future events.

Imagine Cup and TEAMS
ver 100 students from across the country descended on Maxwell Dworkin during the early hours of a cold Saturday morning. Tucked inside the Lessin Auditorium like an audience for a sold-out rock concert, the competitors of the Microsoft-sponsored Imagine Cup, including two teams from Harvard, clicked and moused their way, shoulder to shoulder, through a series of onlinedriven programming challenges. Despite the grueling three hours of hacking, it took a scant 10 minutes for the solutions to be processed and the winners announced. A student from Pittsburgh grabbed the top spot. No final word yet on whether the two Harvard teams (Will Pahn ‘09, CS, and Derek Horton), who respectively placed 24th and 29th out of 144, will compete in the final competition, to be held in Seoul, Korea, in August.


The prizes for Imagine Cup 2007 total more than US$170,000 across nine categories. One imagines that’s an attractive incentive. HSEAS also played host to the local 2007 TEAMS Competition (Test of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science) on March 3. Competitors came from nearby Milton Academy and Sharon High School. TEAMS is an annual national competition for high school students who have an interest in math, science, and engineering applications. Each year TEAMS brings together more than 14,000 students and 700 educators from around the country to solve realworld engineering challenges in a fun and fast-paced environment that inspires creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, and peer-to-peer cooperation. J

HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007 I 17

Alumni Notes

After spending a year working at the Harvard Alumni Affairs and Development Office Chelsey Simmons ’06 is ready to tackle another challenge at another ivy. She will attend the Stanford School of Engineering’s graduate program.

are so amazing. I know it gets said all the time, but the student body is really the best thing Harvard has to offer. It’s a group of people you can’t find anywhere else in the world, literally. Does anyone in particular stand out? I think playing poker with Rivers Cuomo, lead singer of the rock band Weezer, epitomized my Harvard experience. Where else can you take classes from O. J. Simpson’s lawyer and eat lunch in the dining hall with a rock star? So even a sun-loving Gator fan from Florida can adapt to Cambridge culture? I did feel like I fit in, and I think that’s the beauty of Harvard. I think that misconceptions about the sort of students at Harvard do exist, but the most important thing is to recognize what those misconceptions might be and then break them down entirely. Once I’m in a classroom or boardroom, I can confidently show that I mean business, and people recognize that and respect that. Was gender a nonissue, then? I think gender is an issue if you let it be. They often say that women suffer in the workplace because they’re afraid to ask for what they want and that men aren’t. I think the classroom works the same way. If you want help after class, if you have a question during lecture, if you want a position in someone’s lab, you have to go ask for it. It’s sometimes hard to be outgoing and bold, but once you get comfortable with it, everyone treats you like an engineer. I assume being treated “like an engineer” means being part of a research team? Yes. Lab research can run the gamut from very team-oriented to very individual. Depending on the setting, you could be working hand in hand with other students and faculty, or you could see faculty rarely. If you’re in their lab, you’re helping them get their own work done, so they like having you around and are always willing to help. Your success is part and parcel of theirs.

Q&A with Chelsey Simmons ‘06
Fitting In


t was no surprise that Crimson writers embraced Chelsey Simmons S.B. ’06, a confident, smart, fun-loving young woman who seasons her sentences with “y’all.” Mollie H. Chen ’05 wrote about Simmons in her sophomore year (“The Gainesville native skips down the stairs from her second-floor room in Thayer in a white tube top, low-rise black pants that are pretending to be held up by a stone-studded chain belt, and white flipflops …”) in an undercover piece meant to prove that, gasp, Harvard students also like the nightlife. A second article, written by Parag Gupta ’08 three years later, revealed how Simmons equally relishes her role as an early riser, leading a 7:00 a.m. cardiokickboxing class. Muriel Payan ‘08 covered the ES concentrator’s senior design project, a device for patients who undergo spinal fusion. Yes, that’s the same

Chelsey Simmons in all three articles. That she doesn’t fall squarely into any one category, from socialite to athlete to engineer, is fine by her. After all, she discovered that the one place she never intended to go was the perfect fit. What led you to pursue engineering? I’ve known I wanted to do engineering since I was about 10 years old and went to engineering camp. Honestly, as geeky as it may sound, I loved all of my engineering classes and took as many as possible. I was born an engineer! Was getting into Harvard a lifelong goal from birth? I didn’t really want to go to Harvard. I applied to Harvard and MIT mostly just so I could say I got in (hoping that I would). I really wanted to go to the University of Florida, in my hometown. Once I visited [Harvard], I realized that the people here

1 I HSEAS – Spring/Summer 2007

Life in a lab sounds like the way you approach teaching kickboxing. It’s so much easier to push yourself when there are other people in the room yelling at you to work harder, showing you new routines that work different muscles than you’re used to. The trick to fitting an exercise plan is to figure out what your weakness is and then figure out a way to beat it. As that classic commercial goes, you seem to do more by 9:00 a.m. than most people do all day. What’s your advice to other young women want to do or have it all? It’s impossible to do or have it all, but you can easily do or have everything you personally want. I think with lots of high schoolers these days, parents are driving a lot of school and extracurricular involvement when the student should be. When I brought home a bad grade, my parents came down on me for not

“My dream is to be dean of engineering at a research institution, with a great big loving family at home. I love teaching, and I think that as a dean I would be able to impact undergraduate curriculum as well as community teaching and outreach.”
studying hard enough. My boyfriend’s teaching high school this year; when his kids take home a bad grade, the parents call and yell at him for making the test too hard! Because my parents let me take ownership of my life, I was working toward my own goals, not someone else’s. As for your long-term goals or dreams … My dream is to be dean of engineering at a research institution, with a great big loving family at home. I love teaching, and I think that as a dean I would be able to impact undergraduate curriculum as well as community teaching and outreach. I can’t reiterate enough how important kids and family are. I think that’s another reason I want to be at an academic institution. Universities can act as extended families. [Simmons will attend Stanford this coming fall to pursue a Ph.D. in engineering; she’s already been awarded an NSF grant.] J

Alumni Notes

Recent Gifts
M.S. Lin, M.S. ’78 and Ph.D. ’82 (Applied Physics), endowed the Mou-Shiung Lin Chair in Engineering and Applied Sciences. “It is my great pleasure to donate a professorship in engineering and applied science and to congratulate you on the transition from a Division to a School,” said Lin, who lives in Hsinchu, Taiwan. “I thank Harvard for providing a rich college life for students.” Lin is also a proud parent of a current student. His daughter Erica ‘10 is a freshman at the College. Wilfred and Marion Remillard (both deceased) donated $1.6 million for graduate fellowships and support in 2007 as part of the terms of their estate. Wilfred Remillard, S.M. ’56 and Ph.D. ’60 (Applied Physics), was born in 1924. He married Marion, a longtime and fondly remembered DEAS secretary. The gift was given simply in gratitude. Called the Wilfred and Marion Remillard Fellowship Fund, the money will be used to award fellowships or other forms of financial aid to graduate students in engineering and applied sciences.

(above) Acting like a flame gets the crowd warmed up (right) Howard Stone and Daniel Rosenberg reveal the science of a familiar object.

Fueling Young Minds
The promise of unveiling the mystery of a single candle flame packed an auditorium in the Harvard Science center—twice. The filled seats were thanks primarily of eager local alumni, most with children in tow, from all parts of Harvard. The annual holiday lecture, “The Science of Candlelight,” organized by Howard Stone and Kathryn Hollar, lived up to the hype (and heat). While many of the younger kids mimicked the twists and turns of the flame, most remained engaged, eager to participate, and open to learning about science during a lecture that lasted nearly the length of a standard Harvard class. From what part of the candle burns and an on-stage simulation of kid-created molecules to the “cool” part—using various substances to change the color of the flame— the lecture shed light on how, by taking a closer look, even the most commonplace objects provide enough fuel to fascinate young minds. J

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Seal of Approval
The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences debuted its new seal on March 21, 2007. The final, provost-approved design was chosen because it suitably captured the idea of “coming full circle,” a phrase used to describe the transition of the Division to a School. The three-color seal (black, white, and crimson) is composed of three elements: The modern version of the Harvard “Veritas” chief appears at the top. Directly below the chief, the horizontal chain stitch highlights and symbolizes the work of Gordon McKay. (The McKay endowment now supports more than 40 faculty members in engineering and applied sciences.) In the main body of the seal is the coat of arms of the Lawrence family, honoring donor Abbott Lawrence, for whom the Lawrence Scientific School, the progenitor of the School/Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was named. The Lawrence arms (called the “ragged cross”) appear as originally rendered by Pierre de Chaignon la Rose for the 1936 engineering seal, which was likely never put into official, or at least widespread, use. That same year, the designer also drafted the seals for the Dental, Public Health, and Medical Schools, in honor of the tercentenary of the University. J
The group involved in the conceptual and design process of the seal wavered among high concepts, like the notion of scale (from nano to macro), to fundamental principles, such as particles and waves, to the less abstract and more quirky, including a lone bumblebee. Connected rings, networks, fractals, circuits, and crystalline structures were some of the countless other ideas that did not make final cut. Dean Venky gave particular credit to Eliza Grinnell, graphic designer and photographer, who created dozens of potential variations for the seal. A small selection of versions that did not make the cut are below.

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.
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Pierce Hall 29 Oxford Street Cambridge, MA 02138

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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