Vo l u m e V • I s s u e 2 • F a l l 2 0 0 6

Such events marked the first stages of a transformation of science from solely a pure pursuit, seeking truth about the natural world, to one with practical application. It’s hard to imagine a world where technology was simple or nonexistent— save on the factory floor—and professional education was limited to law and medicine. Yet, as happened over 150 years ago, engineering today is undergoing another major transformation. Now, the field can be considered as much a liberal art, in the way it interacts with other disciplines, as a distinct profession. Moreover, science and technology are no longer niche activities, but part of our everyday lives. is creating another branch on the tree of mentorship. At her Harvard talk I saw dozens of kids spilling over the seats, all eager to hear and meet someone who had broken free of earth’s gravity. Maybe that meeting will inspire some of them to become space travelers. And who knows, they might even email Stephanie while aboard a future mission to Mars.


completIng the cIrcle
I said to the FAS faculty in May that as Harvard is a place of tradition, the transformation in engineering and applied sciences is not a departure from history—in some sense, the wheel is coming a full circle. The Lawrence School will be reborn in a new form appropriate for the 21st century: rooted in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, nimble and interdisciplinary, connected to the professional schools, and directed towards discovery, innovation, and impact on society. In a letter accompanying Lawrence’s gift to form the Scientific School, he said, “I wish to see all these branches of science prosecuted with vigor, and moving forward in perfect harmony at Cambridge.” The present moment—a time of great excitement and potential for engineering and applied sciences at Harvard—is also the best time for us to remember such intentions and to give thanks to those who helped get us here. Going forward, acting upon such wisdom, and continuing to mentor those who will come after will allow us to leave a legacy we can all take pride in. InMay,theUniversityannouncedaproposal to transform DEAS into a school within the FacultyofArtsandSciences.Assomeofyou mayknow,whileImadeanannouncement ofmyintentiontostepdownasdeanonJune 30;Ihavesinceagreedtostayontoguidethe transition. J

Full CirCle
This September I had the pleasure of welcoming NASA astronaut and alumnus Stephanie Wilson ’88 back to Harvard. Stephanie has come a long way— from a kid dreaming about touching the stars while looking up at the night sky in Pittsfield to a traveler actually sailing among them. She often cites her family, mentors, and the prior generation of astronauts as her inspiration. In many ways, her journey and return parallels where we find ourselves today at DEAS.

InspIratIon as a constant
Perhaps no one at DEAS has witnessed the changes in engineering over the past few decades better than John Hutchinson, who appropriately holds a professorship named for Abbott and James (Abbott’s son) Lawrence. Since his arrival as a graduate student in the 1960’s, John has upheld Harvard’s grand tradition in the theoretical and applied sciences, putting his mark on a wide range of modern problems and people in the area of fracture mechanics (see a profile on page 14). He credits as his mentor Bernard Budiansky, whose work at Harvard strongly influenced structural engineering, materials technology, and even seismology and biomechanics. John has in turn passed his wisdom and enthusiasm on to his students. DEAS faculty member Zhigang Suo, who explores the mechanics of small structures, was once a graduate student under his guidance. Stephanie Wilson also cited John as one of her key advisors when she was a student, and she has stayed in touch since graduation (even emailing him from orbit). By touring the country, she

Back to the future
In this issue of the newsletter we revisit our institutional and intellectual progenitor, the Lawrence Scientific School, formed in 1847 (page 6). During that time, mechanical, agriculture, and industrial engineering were considered trades or labor rather than academic fields. Benefactor and textile magnet Abbott Lawrence, however, realized the importance of creating an institution that would offer advanced training to students in science and engineering. In fact, as Harvard was establishing the School the entire scientific landscape in the country had begun to change radically. The Smithsonian was formed in 1846; two years later the American Academy for the Advancement of Science was established—as was its magazine we now know as Science.


liFe on & around oxFord Street

harvard proposes deas to Become harvard school of engIneerIng and applIed scIences
In May, Harvard University announced a proposal to transform its Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences (DEAS) into the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). As part of this transition, and to be in the vanguard of research and teaching in engineering and applied science, the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences would recruit dozens of new faculty in the coming years; DEAS currently has approximately 70 faculty members, but full development of a world-class school is expected to require a critical mass of some 100 faculty members. Part of this proposed expansion is already in the FAS’s growth plans, and further joint appointments with other Harvard schools are anticipated. There are no plans to divide the school into academic departments despite this faculty expansion. The renaming, which will likely be presented for formal approval at the end the first term, would have the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences function as a “school within a school.” It would maintain close academic connections with other parts of FAS and educate undergraduates within Harvard College, as it does today. The elevation of DEAS to a school will raise the prominence of the program, both within the University and nationally. More information will be forthcoming on our Website and in the Spring 2006 newsletter.

disciplines to transforming the teaching of science by implementing “hands-on learning as a cornerstone in undergraduate science and engineering education.” Highlights include an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the undergraduate curriculum; enhancing interdisciplinary training for graduate students; continued investment in facilities and infrastructure; increasing diversity at all levels; promoting collaborative research; and building Allston with many key science programs, including regenerative medicine, systems biology, chemical and physical biology, microbial sciences, and biologically inspired engineering. The full report is available here www.news.harvard.edu/ gazette/2006/07.20/14-sciencereport.html

even as the campus expands to allston, engineering will remain a core part of cambridge.

stephanIe WIlson ’88 goes Boldly Into space
On July 4 at 2:38 p.m., Engineering Sciences concentrator Stephanie Wilson ’88 took one giant step—into orbit. Wilson, the second African-American female in space, was a crew member of NASA Space Shuttle mission STS-121. The team tested new safety equipment and procedures for the shuttle program and, after docking with the International Space Station, delivered supplies and performed some “home improvements.” Wilson and fellow astronaut Lisa Nowak also found time to send a shout out to any future space aces watching from below. Their homemade placard reading “Robo Chicks”—the nickname fellow astronauts bestowed on the duo because of their operation of the robotic arm—found its way onto NASA’s video feed to Earth. The shuttle returned to Earth with what NASA officials called “a picture-perfect landing” on the morning of July 17. In honor of her alma mater, Wilson took a Harvard Engineering and Applied Sciences banner into space and exercised to tunes courtesy of DEAS Research Program Manager Lenny Solomon. His band plays a number that Wilson hopes will one day be more than a refrain. It’s called: “Let’s Go to Mars.”

hands-on learning will be a key part of harvard’s undergraduate educational planning.

stephanie Wilson ‘88 (second row, first on left) poses with her fellow astronauts.

fred kavli’s foundation will support bionano science and technology at harvard. (photo by mark Brande)

the road ahead: unIversIty scIence and engIneerIng plannIng takes root
In July, a committee of two dozen leading scientists from across Harvard University produced a preliminary set of proposals for “enhancing science and engineering at Harvard,” ranging from continuing to invest in traditional core

the new bioengineering labs in pierce hall are open for business.

2 I DEAS – Fall 2006


kavlI InstItute for BIonano scIence and technology estaBlIshed
The Kavli Foundation and Harvard University have agreed to establish the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology (KIBST). The $7.5 million endowment from the Foundation will help to enhance the University’s research efforts at the interfaces of biology, engineering, and nanoscale science. George Whitesides, Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, and David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, will serve as the founding directors for the KIBST. The institute, which is expected to reside in either the future Laboratory for Integrated Sciences and Engineering or Northwest buildings, will complement Harvard’s existing centers dedicated to small-scale science. Look for additional details at www.kavli.harvard.edu.

huce names felloW
The Harvard University Center for the Environment named its inaugural 2006 Environmental Fellows this past May; two of the fellows will work with Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty. Peter Huybers, an expert in ice ages and global climate change, will work with Eli Tziperman, Pamela and Vasco McCoy, Jr., Professor of Oceanography and Applied Physics. Alex Johnson will use his experimental and theoretical skills to design, build, and test a new generation of fuel cells that might be used to power portable electronics or cars. He will work with Assistant Professor of Materials Science Shriram Ramanathan.

ing. The heavy gray entry doors feature porthole windows hinting at the possible new worlds lying at the interface of engineering and biology—and suggesting that everyone keep their heads above water. Close to Pierce, new construction continues in earnest. The pearly white LISE building, an above-ground cube that seems to float in midair, will partially open in the fall/winter semester, offering a big welcome for small-scale researchers. Further down on Oxford Street, a network of I-beams has revealed the L-shape of the massive Northwest building, an open, interdisciplinary research facility. At 60 Oxford, new bioengineering labs and dedicated space for the Initiative for Innovative Computing now occupy the fourth floor. J

‘constructIve’ research contInues
The ground floor of Pierce Hall now has a cool and clear (thanks to the glass walls) new edition: a dedicated undergraduate teaching lab for bioengineer-

“Just because a person is studying engineering does not exclude them from pursuing a side interest in Japanese history or nordic folklore. the first academic paper I ever presented discussed possible inspirations for several songs from J.r.r. tolkien’s The lord of the rings trilogy at a folklore and mythology symposium, an experience I could not have had at almost any other school, especially as an engineer.”

—BEllE KovEn ’06, EngInEErIng SCIEnCES

random bitS

Candy-coated Engineering
DEAS Research Associate Dan Blair appeared on New England Cable News to explain what happens when Mentos, those tiny candy mints, meet Diet Coke. The visual result of this unusual combo—a spectacular fountain of carbonated sugar water catapulting into the sky—has become a phenomenon on the Web. Although perhaps lacking in any true application, the simple event may inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers or confection makers. If you want to see more, visit Youtube. com and search for Mentos.

Yo! I graduated; serving up the World Cup; summer in the city
At graduation last June, many of the freshly minted PhDs in engineering and applied science showed off some tricks with their red and black DEASlogo yo-yos, a popular giveaway. The new social space/café in Maxwell Dworkin has become the in place for faculty and student meetings and, briefly, served as the de facto World Cup HQ for the north end of campus. The “other” World Cup—for robotic soccer—received a plug from the Car-

two classics were re-engineered this past summer: the soda fountain and the yo-yo.

toon Network–inspired Website called Toonami Digital Arsenal. Tom, the computer-animated host (he’s an android), introduced a segment featuring undergraduates from the Harvard College Engineering Society battling it out in Atlanta. The relentless summer heat in Boston meant that iced coffee slightly edged out iPods and laptops as the most popular sidearm on campus. Sources expect digital media devices to once again gain the upper hand in the fall/winter. J

DEAS – Fall 2006 I 3


a roundup oF diSCoverieS & innovationS

an illustration of a fleet of aquatic robots (below), which are designed to make detailed and efficient observations of the ocean. the numerical modeling for the project was performed in part by pierre lermusiaux and his colleagues at harvard.

faculty members federico capasso and ken crozier and graduate students ertugrul cubukcu and eric kort demonstrate a plasmonic laser antenna; the device could lead to higher-density optical storage.

neW laser could lead to hIgher-densIty optIcal storage
Research groups led by Federico Capasso and Ken Crozier have demonstrated a new photonic device with a wide range of potential commercial applications, including dramatically higher-capacity optical data storage. Termed a plasmonic laser antenna, the design consists of a metallic nanostructure, known as an optical antenna, integrated onto the facet of a commercial semiconductor laser. “The device could be integrated into optical data storage platforms and used to write bits far smaller than what’s now possible with conventional methods. This could lead to vastly increased storage capacities for computers and video players,” says Crozier. The new device integrates an optical antenna and a laser into a single unit, consists of fewer components, has a smaller footprint (takes up less space), and benefits from an improved signal-to-noise ratio relative to previous approaches. With further development, the inventors expect its wide adoption and use in academic and research settings as well as in the high-tech commercial sector.

“Eventually, we envision the laser integrated into new probes for biology, like optical tweezers, which can manipulate objects as small as a single atom,” says Crozier. “It could also be used for integrated-circuit fabrication or to test impurities during the fabrication process itself. One day, consumers might be able to back up three terabytes of data on one disk or receive 1000 movies on a single disk in the mail from Netflix.” The findings were published in the August 28 edition of Applied Physics Letters. The researchers have also filed for a provisional U.S. patent covering this new class of photonic devices. Crozier and Capasso’s co-authors are graduate students Ertugrul Cubukcu and Eric A. Kort. All are members of Harvard’s Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The research was supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.

(Adaptive Sampling and Prediction), the friendly prowlers worked together without the aid of humans to make detailed and efficient observations of the ocean. Pierre Lermusiaux, Patrick Haley, Wayne Leslie, and Oleg Logutov at Harvard (all part of Gordon McKay Professor of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Allan R. Robinson’s, group), as well as other collaborators, are performing part of the numerical ocean modeling. Thanks in part to the Crimson Grid (see right), the oceanographic modelers collect and evaluate all the ocean measurements to predict future ocean conditions. Lermusiaux explains that one of the most innovative aspects of the project is the ability for researchers to access and share real-time data via a Web portal. “We run ocean models for a large-scale region of 150 by 230 kilometers and a nested small region of 50 by 70 kilometers,” he says. “The models for the two regions run in parallel on the grid and communicate via message passing.” The two lead PIs for the larger project, Naomi Ehrich Leonard of Princeton University and Steven Ramp of the Naval Postgraduate School, say the study may have broad implications, leading

undersea roBots help monItor the ocean
Monterey Bay, California was invaded by an entire fleet of undersea robots in August. Part of a multi-university, DOD/ ONR-sponsored project called ASAP

4 I DEAS – Fall 2006


through deas It (pictured left are Joy sircar and aaron culich), the harvard research community now has access to a Blue gene system from IBm, a supercomputer optimized for bandwidth, scalability, and the ability to handle large amounts of data while consuming a fraction of the power and floor space required by today’s fastest systems.

maurice smith (above, using a robot-controlled joystick that measures motion of the hand while applying predictable force patterns) and garrett stanley (right), both exploit engineering methods to better understand how we learn to move and see. the colorful block diagram (to the left of stanley) shows the evolution of a spatial receptive field of an lgn X cell over several seconds of exposure to a visual stimulus.

to the development of robot fleets that forecast ocean conditions and better protect endangered marine animals, track oil spills, and guide military operations at sea. The mathematical system that allows the undersea robots to navigate might one day power other robotic teams that could explore not just oceans, but deserts, rainforests, and even other planets.

while applying unusual but predictable force patterns. Graduate student Nicholas Lesica, Associate Professor of Bioengineering Garrett Stanley, and their colleagues have further investigated ways in which neurons in the early visual pathway of the brain may encode visual information to respond dynamically to common visual scenes, such as a tiger’s tail emerging from tall grass. The team showed that in addition to encoding the details of the visual scene, the neurons often operate in a mode that serves to detect change or movement (such as that waving tail), which they hypothesize could be used to direct the animal’s attention to a particular area of the natural visual landscape. Both papers appread in PLoS Biology.

BIoengIneers proBe the BraIn
All that hand and arm waving by babies, starting at around three months old, turns out to have a purpose other than simply getting a toy or attention. The infant’s brain may be systematically figuring out how to refine motor control. Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Maurice Smith and his co-authors discovered that two distinct learning processes, occuring simultaneously throughout motor learning but with different time courses, may be responsible for short-term motor skill acquisition. To understand how the brain might learn to control an arm, Smith and his team had participants use a manipulandum—a robot-controlled joystick that measures motion of the hand

ing systems and makes them available when and where they are needed. In the past year, the grid has grown, silently humming along, with 21 faculty groups and 59 participating students now on board. “The early use and success of the Crimson Grid among interdisciplinary and collaborative researchers suggests new possibilities for the Harvard campus technology environments,” says Sircar. More recently, DEAS helped to usher in a new era of high-performance computing at Harvard with the acquisition of the largest Blue Gene computing system (from IBM) in academia. Blue Gene boasts 4096 processors and can calculate an astounding 11 teraflops, making it among the top 50 most powerful supercomputers in the world. The machine will be a boon to investigators across Harvard, from fields spanning environmental to genetic modeling, whose research requires intense computational resources. J

the grId gets In gear; access granted to IBm’s Blue gene
Starting in 2004, Joy Sircar, Director of Information Technology at Harvard’s DEAS, began to lay the groundwork for a campus-wide grid computing infrastructure, dubbed the Crimson Grid. Grid computing taps data and computing resources from different comput-

DEAS – Fall 2006 I 5


hard handS & hard materialS

The founding of practical science at Harvard Part 1: Abbott Lawrence
abbott lawrence (right), upon providing the funds to establish what would be known as the lawrence scientific school at harvard offered a pragmatic explanation for why he believed training in advanced science and engineering was necessary, writing: “hard hands are ready to work upon our hard materials; and where shall sagacious heads be taught to direct those hands?” he also financed the school’s original building (opposite page), which once stood where the harvard science center stands today.

the original seal created for the harvard engineering school, designed in 1936. the “ragged cross” references the lawrence family’s coat of arms.

A red lion in midroar. A keep of a castle. Three tightly bound bunches of … asparagus? The images on the seals of some of Harvard’s professional schools seem ripe material for a Da Vinci Code sequel. The “veritas” of the matter reveals a simpler explanation: the symbols refer to the coat of arms of a given school’s founder, a tradition borrowed from Oxford.

ingly, Lawrence decided on a similar approach for his ambitions at Harvard. He provided more than his money and name to the Scientific School—he devised a complete road map. The original idea for a Harvard school dedicated to advanced education in the practical sciences did not, however, come from Lawrence. Scholar Mary Ann James provides an excellent overview of the early history of the Scientific School and rightly suggests that the date of its founding (1846/7) did not represent its birth but its middle years. Harvard Professor and well-known mathematician Benjamin Peirce had sketched out a plan for advanced scientific education as early as the 1830s. Peirce envisioned a “professional program in civil engineering, drawn along the rigorous lines of the Ecole Polytechnique [in France], offering a thorough mathematical education and a solid grounding in theory ….” His bold proposal involved a realignment of the existing Harvard science faculty to sup-


he seldom seen (and likely never officially used) seal of the Harvard Engineering School (1917/18–1946) is no exception. The “ragged cross” (see Figure above) honors Abbott Lawrence, for whom the Scientific School, the predecessor of the many iterations of Harvard’s programs in engineering and applied sciences, was named. Deciphering the signs might not require a fullblown quest, but it does invite inquiry: Who was Lawrence? What were his motives? What role did he play in founding the school? Abbott Lawrence (1792–1855) was a self-made industrialist and politician—not the sort of person likely to have mounted the family coat of arms above the mantle. The intricate seal of

the city that still bears his name, Lawrence, Massachusetts, sums up his character and accomplishments far better than any ancient heirloom. The town’s circular icon shows a shield depicting a river, textile mills, and church, all lit by a rising sun; on either side, two proud workers stand, and above, a bee quietly hovers. A. Patricia Jaysane, Executive Director of the Lawrence History Center, explains: “The name of the town honors not just Abbott Lawrence but his two brothers, Samuel and Amos, as well.” All three, along with Harvard graduate Charles Storrow, were involved in the creation of Lawrence, the “immigrant city,” one of the first and most thoroughly planned industrial sites in America. Not surpris-

6 I DEAS – Fall 2006

lawrence saw advanced scientific training as necessary for his own business and the country’s industrial sector to thrive.
the seal of the town of lawrence, massachusetts (above), named after abbott lawrence and his brothers, conveys a “sunny” and optimistic view of the american Industrial revolution.

the lawrence scientific school was established during the brief presidency of edward everett (1846-1849). prior to his role as president everett served as a professor of greek literature and an overseer of the university.

the design of the original building (no longer extant) that housed faculty and students from the lawrence school echoes pierce hall (built at the turn of the 20th century).

port a distinct program that would parallel the well-established professional schools, such as law and medicine. Because of tradition and politics (many in academe viewed engineering and other practical sciences as “dirty” trades), it took nearly 20 years and two Harvard presidents (John Quincy and Edward Everett) before the Harvard Corporation adopted a proposal for the formation of an advanced Scientific School. The first public announcement of the School appeared in the second edition of the 1846–47 Harvard University Catalogue. Because the endeavor was new, lacked a clear source of funding, and had no dedicated physical facilities, the catalog devoted a scant two pages to the nascent institution. But something monumental happened soon after the ink dried. Lawrence donated $50,000, an unprecedented sum at the time, to fund the institution. He might have missed the birth by a few decades, but he didn’t hesitate to offer a means to raise the child.

hard hands & hard materIals
Lawrence achieved his fame and fortune without a Harvard—or, in fact, any— degree. He had, however, been actively following and, in small ways, funding academic scientific work at Harvard through his relationship with naturalist Louis Agassiz. More important, Lawrence and Harvard’s then-president, Edward Everett, were lifelong friends. Although his personal ties likely contributed to his decision to fund a new school at Harvard, his true motivation did not lie hidden: He saw advanced scientific training as necessary for his own business and the country’s industrial sector to thrive. In a June 7, 1847, letter to Samuel A. Eliot, Treasurer of Harvard College, Lawrence laid out a detailed plan for a school “for the purpose of teaching the practical sciences” and committed to fund the effort with additional money (on which he made good with a later gift of an additional $50,000 to support a new building). He opened

with a direct challenge to educational and government institutions as well as to fellow industrialists to solve what he viewed as a dire problem: But where can we send those who intend to devote themselves to the practical applications of science? How [sic] educate our engineers, our miners, machinists, and mechanics? Our country abounds in men of action. Hard hands are ready to work upon our hard materials; and where shall sagacious heads be taught to direct those hands? Quite simply, as a businessman, he could not find the type of individuals he needed for his mills and envisioned a system that, like medicine, law, or divinity, could produce a stream of practical scientists, all similarly trained. He wrote: “It seems to me that we have been somewhat neglectful in the cultivation and encouragement of the scientific portion of our national economy.” In much the same way that the founders of Harvard worried about the moral state of the country without a well-read and well-

DEAS – Fall 2006 I 7


educated clergy to guide it, Lawrence worried about the country’s economic state without well-trained scientists and engineers to fuel its growth.

let theory Be proved By practIcal results
Although the original catalog text never concretely specified the type of students the new school sought to train or what they expected them to do with their education, Lawrence did: We need then, a school not for boys, but for young men whose early education is completed, either in college or elsewhere, and now intend to enter upon an active life as engineers or chemists, or in general, as men of science, applying their attainments to practical purposes where they may learn what has been done at other times and in other countries, and may acquire habits of investigation and reflection, with an aptitude for observing and describing. The school for “boys” referenced traditional classical education wherein, as at Harvard, science was taught alongside Greek literature and language and religion. Lawrence, however, does not dismiss the importance of the liberal arts but instead makes an insightful suggestion about its proper role in the education of a practical scientist. Learning from the past and from the world at large would serve as a way to ensure that future engineers would not repeat mistakes and would broaden their understanding beyond provincial models. (We, in fact, espouse similar principles today at DEAS.) Despite never being taught by a professor himself, Lawrence also recommended a new breed of instructor critical for making the new entity a success. He praised Harvard for appointing European-educated Eben Norton Horsford as the Rumford Chair of the Application of Science to the Useful Arts. Horsford was best known for formulating and patenting the first calcium phosphate baking powder. Lawrence expected that the school’s faculty should “number among its teachers men who have practiced and are practicing the arts they are called to teach. Let theory be proved by practical results.” In other words, just as

Learning from the past and from the world at large would serve as a way to ensure that future engineers would not repeat mistakes and would broaden their understanding beyond provincial models.
Harvard used lawyers and physicians to teach in its schools of law and medicine, the same should be the case with practical scientists. The letter that accompanied Lawrence’s gift was not an afterthought, but a manifesto; he even made arrangements for versions of the letter to appear in leading national science journals such as the American Journal of Science (the predecessor to Science Magazine). Most surprising, Lawrence, although an outsider, exerted great influence over a traditional, close-minded, and inwardly focused institution. In fact, the Corporation explicitly agreed in writing to the terms in Lawrence’s letter: “Your example shall be followed …” Even Treasurer Eliot might not have realized how deep a change (and division) introducing a school for practical sciences at Harvard would bring, despite saying, “The knowledge acquired will be found to be applicable, not only in the ways and on the subjects which are now known to be open to its use, but in a multitude of directions … to which its importance cannot be at presence appreciated, nor even foreseen.”

all these branches of science prosecuted with vigor, and moving forward in perfect harmony at Cambridge”) would not last, however. An article dated February 15, 1887, in the Crimson explained the situation this way: During the last twenty years, while, in most colleges scientific studies were finding their place, the Lawrence Scientific School has been steadily losing ground. It has been overshadowed by its sister across the street. When the school was founded by the bequest of the Lawrences our college was narrow and saw no propriety in allowing a wide variety of study to the undergraduate … That it occupied a front rank among its fellows can be seen by referring to the earlier catalogues where the names of our leading scientists of to-day will be found registered as students. At the end of the 19th and turn of the 20th centuries, the temper of the country changed; the Gilded Age came to a close and industrialists lost some of their influence to the progressive movement. The Lawrence School became doubly constrained by the conflicting views about its role and status by then Harvard President Charles Eliot. As

perfect harmony at camBrIdge
During the first several decades of the Lawrence Scientific School, a diverse group of thinkers and professionals—astronomers, architects, naturalists, engineers, mathematicians, and even philosophers—passed through its doors. Other institutions, like the University of Washington, saw it as a model for their own schools of advanced and practical science. The harmony that Lawrence hoped for (“ … I wish to see

another industrialist and donor, gordon mckay, carried on lawrence’s tradition.

early as the 1870s, Eliot began discussing plans to “merge” Harvard with MIT. These attempts ultimately failed, but as a result the Scientific School suffered (leading to its dissolution in 1906). It would take a controversial and posthumous donation by another industrialist named Gordon McKay, who made his fortune from the manufacture and leasing of shoe machinery, to revive the practical sciences at Harvard. J

8 I DEAS – Fall 2006

fAcuLty NEwS

new arrivalS
marko loncar
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering

BACKGROUND: Diploma (1997) in Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro; MS (1998) and PhD (2003) in Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology AREAS OF FOCUS: • Nanophotonics; • quantum cascade lasers; • nanofabrication http://people.deas.harvard.edu/~loncar/

L. Mahadevan (1), Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for 2005–06. He also won Harvard’s George Ledlie Prize for his dedication to examining the physics and engineering of everyday life. The Ledlie Prize is awarded every two years to someone affiliated with the University who, “since the last awarding of said prize has … made the most valuable contribution to science, or in any way for the benefit of mankind.” Mahadevan will spend the spring term 2007 in residence at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Visiting Miller Professor in Chemical Engineering … James Rice (2), Mallinckrodt Professor of Engineering Sciences and Geophysics, was awarded a Shimizu Visiting Professor Fellowship from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He will spend the spring term 2007 in residence there … Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Maurice Smith (3) was awarded a Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Early Career Award to support research on error feedback control dysfunction as a measure of the progression of Huntington’s disease … Frans Spaepen received the Heyn Medal of the German Society for Materials Science in May 2005 … Howard Stone (4) became chair of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics … Vahid Tarokh (5) was named one of the “Top 10 Most Cited Authors in Computer Science,” a list compiled by the ISI Web of Science.






DEAS – Fall 2006 I 9

fAcuLty NEwS

nota bene
A warm glow ... IEEE Spectrum highlighted the potential applications of stopping light, a breakthrough technique first conducted by applied physicist Lene Hau and her colleagues in 2001. “Separate groups in the United States and Europe say that they have built and successfully tested more compact, rugged, and efficient means of delaying the pulses. Their work seems to clear the way for the kinds of applications foreseen by the Harvard pioneers, including not just those in optical switching and quantum communications but also others in network synchronization, radar, and even computer memory.”
computer scientist matt Welsh was nearly blown away while gathering records of seismic activity on reventador, an active volcano located in northern ecuador. (photo by rose lincoln/harvard news office)

lene hau’s technique of stopping light has become a common starting point for other investigators in applied physics. (photo by kris snibbe/harvard news office)

experiments to investigate why certain athletes fall victim to Commotio Cordis (the condition that occurs when a hit in the chest from a puck or baseball causes immediate death by heart attack). Fast track … MIT’s Technology Review reported on Harvard researchers who have shown that nanowire transistors can be at least four times speedier than conventional silicon devices. Contact … The April 12 Boston Globe reported on a new telescope that will scan the universe for signs of life on other planets. The high-tech scope was developed by Physics/DEAS faculty member Paul Horowitz. Applied Physics graduate student Curtis Mead helped design the scope’s camera, and a team of graduate and undergraduate students built a computer to process a trillon bits of information per second. Boxed out … The Exponent, Purdue University’s student newspaper, covered a recent talk there by Dean Venky encouraging engineers to invent outside the box: “Sahil Shah, a junior in the School of Industrial Engineering, said he agrees with Narayanamurti that scientific research should be applied to the real world. ‘I thought it was very good exposure listening to him. It broadens your view,’ Shah said.” A Model Computer Scientist … Radhika Nagpal and colleagues walked the line between computer science and biology

Bioengineer kit parker takes a novel approach to “sports medicine”, using engineering to investigate the cause of injury.

with ease, as their latest Nature paper, “The emergence of geometric order in proliferating metazoan epithelia” attests. A review of the paper in Cell put it this way: “[the authors] have enabled us to appreciate a pattern where none was previously apparent, and their result is elegant in its simplicity.” Zipped Media ... The premier issue of 02138 <http://www.02138mag.com>, a non-affiliated alumni magazine covering the “Harvard lifestyle”, proclaims Bill Gates COL ‘77 as # 1 in its list of the 100 most influential Harvard affiliates. In a separate article, 02138 features Gregg Favalora ‘97 <http://www.02138mag. com/magazine/article/951.html> (S.M. in ES), a founder of Actuality Systems who “proudly stands in the nerd phalanx.” J
computer scientist radhika nagpal explores her “other” side, biology, in a recent nature paper.

Cover shot … The Gates Foundationsponsored research of bioengineer David Edwards (including a photo of his very likeness) was featured as part of a cover story, “Injecting New Ideas into Vaccines,” in the May 12 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Hotwired … Computer scientist Matt Welsh found another mountain to climb. Network World reported on Welsh and his team’s blow-out as they were gathering records of seismic activity on Reventador, an active volcano located in northern Ecuador. The group deployed a wireless sensor mesh network to collect their data, which, as they found out, is not without its risks when a volcano decides to blow its top. Good sports … SouthCoast Today reported on Kit Parker’s work with faculty and students from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School’s Engineering Technology program. The team fabricated six plastic “membrane stretchers” to be used in

10 I DEAS – Fall 2006

fAcuLty NEwS

the Boston globe reported on a new telescope set up by paul horowitz and his graduate students (pictured are andrew howard and curtis mead), that will scan the heavens for signs of life. despite its lofty mission, the scope is housed in a simple shed 30 miles outside of the city of Boston.

promotionS and appointmentS
Donhee Ham Promoted to Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, as of July 1, 2006. David Brooks Promoted to Associate Professor of Computer Science, as of July 1, 2006. Henry H. Leitner Appointed Senior Lecturer on Computer Science for an additional five years, as of July 1, 2006. Gu-Yeon Wei Promoted to Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, as of July 1, 2006. Engineering and Applied Sciences also welcomed two faculty to the neighborhood. Geophysicist Jeremy Bloxham was named as the new dean for the physical sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He is currently Harvard College Professor and Mallinckrodt Professor of Geophysics as well as a Professor of Computational Science at DEAS. Bloxham replaces Venkatesh Narayanamurti, dean of engineering and applied sciences, who served in a joint capacity as the first physical sciences dean during the past three years. Daniel P. Schrag, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of the HUCE now has a joint appointment at DEAS as Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering.

JoSeph J. harrington paSSeS away
Joseph Harrington, Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Engineering and Professor of Environmental Health Engineering in the HSPH Department of Environmental Health, has passed away. He was 69 years old. Harrington received his Ph.D. in applied physics and engineering from Harvard. During his 42 years at the University he studied the application of systems analysis techniques to environmental problems. Starting in 1960, he participated in the groundbreaking Harvard Water Program, which helped guide the United States’ water resource planning nationwide. He also served as a consultant for federal, state, and local governments, including the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Research Council Committee on Water Supply and Wastewater Disposal, and the EPA. “Joe was a wonderful professor and mentor. Besides a wonder and love of statistics he instilled, I remember so many stories. Always precise, all who knew him came away enriched and certainly smarter,” wrote Casey Brown in an online guest book entry. Donations in memory of Prof. Harrington may be made to Manhattan College, Office of Planned Giving, Manhattan College Pkwy, Riverdale, NY 10471.
DEAS – Fall 2006 I 11


what i did on my Summer vaCation
Ah, summer. The season offers a chance for even hard-working Harvard undergraduates to get a bit of R&R—as in: research and more research. Three current engineering sciences concentrators were kind enough to tell us about their experiences in the lab this past summer. We preserved their words verbatim but took a few liberties with the presentation.

FE I n th I am E lA w b… verifi orking c mec ationof on the d a h to us anism. cockroa esign, c I bui ons chin e in o lt t Prof s esso rder to o a vacuu piredm ruction , and rWo icror m ap ptim ture o o s(SC p i M)w dcalleds ze a pro aratus boticleg mac fo ce h m h I had inedfib ichinvo artcom ss deve r the lab er-re lves lope posi to va info lam in th tem d by ry m rc in ic e ofan shop b y design edcomp atedlas rostruc a e o o o desi therop sed on t n the s sites.Of r-micro pot he fe tion gnin tent wh .t im g a in re al lif aconce hereisa sibility o en wor es, bigd pton e. king r pra iff pap eran erence cticality —G b dim EnE plem etween vA enti ngit


l lI

le eop en p t,the s wh ear h h ime ere t of t sstothe ios,soto W lo ou er. A ofstre trat figurec nd ark ind hy Kit P tasp a k d Wis with storany differen er way gths an ng orki iacarre formto the oth ent len hange t e I’m w card er nc ctio cific t tha f diff ellsd er suff ofthec going a ngles”o fcellfun lls to spe get e o a fI e shap , so I am ve“rect mposite strain c t—buti o ?I ak ul ha ries lydiffic ure. spe t if we esthec u met t o b ing o s,howd ose geo ooterri nice pic idth pon th thingt ffer a w no du ill o base etries— me it w ti m geo one in hI d hI C this —C ! ere

Ck I am no t sure w hat like, but I have to I expected Sou th sa in seein g the gre y, the shock ha Africa to be s been a at amou lifestyle ll mine nt of sim she ilitude b the sam reinPretoriaan etween dtheSta e passio tes. n fo things a re a bit m r success, work thereexists ethic, th ore laid for luxu back he ough ry, awar re, appr eness o What I h eciation f fashio ave fou n an nd to be the Stat here mo d technology. es, is a v re so tha ibrant s basic,in n back in ens grained senseof e of joie de vivr all Ame e and a hospita ricans, w lity,thin ill do w gs,whic ell to be h nefit fro — R Ot IM I m.

Cultu r

e sho

Chimdimnma “Chi Chi” Esimai ‘07 (Engineering Sciences, SB) participated in the Program for Research in Science and Engineering (PRISE) and worked with Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Kit Parker. Geneva Trotter ‘08 (Engineering Sciences, SB), also in PRISE, worked with Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Robert Wood. Oluwarotimi “Rotimi” Okunade ’07 spent her summer in Pretoria, South Africa with Medicine in Need (MEND), a non-profit company started by faculty and students at DEAS.

12 I DEAS – Fall 2006

PlA CE t Ob At ti E mes it se min eme ute of m d du mys yd ri c flex hedule ay was ng the r ibili was egu plan ty m l cou ldm to exp uchmo ned, bu ar term eve akem lore t thi reop i cou ry ss th e l o bost d not in retime e Grea n,andI umme r had ter b on’s tore the m d r fl atm o osp iversear egular t ectand ston ar ore here purs erm ea. I tsan term d u s r wou time pr emaine foodcu uch as e ething s lt o d l x mer devenb fessors vibran ure.the ploring acad wer t an inca ewi er lli d e m cam pus bridge ngtogo eadily a many o mic cces an e isgr tolu f my ea n s ven bett tandth chwith ible and —G me. er p atm Su EnE lace a vA to b deharv me. ard’s
er in gine n en with tly, a ork dy w rren nS d cu nate to ter a stu a, n IO R At ian a te fortu minis fric I ysic qui h A to ASP to ad g ph Sout n n pirin ave bee hen been all over lation i as s an ing, I h k has t entres a formu study A ak or my ns ch nt c the m D. My w treatme try of su cifically erceptio e p . n N B ME erent T ify the e frica. Sp des and erapies ill th A st iff tu at d is to ju South ing atti inhaled e, they w rl te in o ch st whi l trials ting exi arison t avourab frica de nd nica evalua mp lts are f outh A itals a co ) cli in S FDA esu ns in s at hosp aim injectio : if the r nt (who public g of the ials t e ll e r lo abou nificanc overnm sed in a the ana linical t on ( u ti ig oc eg Its s rage th ugs are he MCC ogy int applica t ol dr ou for enc hich res) and he techn pment t t o es w min ent cen entry of g devel eatm ion the itate dru IV. tr cil nct to H to sa rther fa ut also b fu and ly to TB MI n Ot I not o —R



Student awardS
Graduate student Marcus Roper, who works in the lab of Michael Brenner, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, received a fellowship from the Kodak Fellows Program. The fellowships are given each year to one of the top graduate students, as designated by the host program, at a few of the best schools across the country. Computer Science graduate student Emanuele Viola won a Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Student Paper Prize for “Pseudorandom Bits for Constant Depth Circuits with Few Arbitrary Symmetric Gates.” Salil Vadhan served as Viola’s advisor. CS Graduate student Rebecca Nesson was awarded one of the 19 $10,000 2006 Anita Borg Scholarships sponsored by Google. Fellow CS graduate student Meeta Sharma Gupta was also recognized as one of the 28 finalists; she will receive $1,000. The Google Anita Borg Scholarship was formed to further the vision begun with Borg’s revolutionizing the way technology is thought about. She sought to eliminate barriers that women and minorities face when entering the technology and computer fields. Engineering Sciences concentrators Hisham Mabrook ’08, Oluwarotimi Okunade ’07, and Amy Xu ’07 were each awarded a Weissman Internship. The Weissman Program, established by Paul ’52 and Harriet Weissman in 1994, enables students to develop a richer understanding of the global community in which they live and work. Herchel Smith Undergraduate Research Scholarship winners for 2006 included Bradford Diephuis ES ’08, who worked with Assistant Professor of Computer Science David Parkes; Jie Tang CS ’08, who also worked Parkes; Mark Wagner ES ’08, who worked with a faculty member at Columbia; and Can Cenick ’08 AM, who worked with a faculty member in Cambridge, England. And kudos also go to Hoopes Prize winner Gregory Valiant ‘06 (Mathematics), who worked with DEAS’s Michael Mitzenmacher. J

DEAS – Fall 2006 I 13

iN PRofiLE

holding the Center

John Hutchinson brings the field of fractures together
Zhigang suo (right) and John hutchinson stand side-by-side as colleagues; hutchinson advised suo while a graduate student at harvard. suo is now a professor of mechanics and materials.


s Professor Hutchinson still there?” ranks as one of the most common questions—apart from “Does Harvard really do engineering?”—that DEAS staff members are likely to hear. John Hutchinson, Abbot and James Lawrence Professor of Engineering and one of the most distinguished researchers in fracture mechanics, has spent the past four decades at Harvard. In fact, he earned his PhD and started his career in the same building, Pierce Hall, where he currently works. Such longevity may explain in part why so many students remember and ask for him, but as anyone who has met him knows, his popularity comes down to character.

the same institution,” he says. “For me this has been great, since Harvard is such a good place to work and teach. I’ve never felt restless at Harvard, but that can be partly attributed to the fact that I have taken a six-month sabbatical or leave of absence almost every three years—to England twice, California for a year, and to Denmark the rest of the times.” Because of his globetrotting, his influence extends well beyond one campus. In 2002, when he was awarded the Timoshenko Medal, considered the highest honor in applied mechanics, the committee wrote: “An interesting aspect of his personality but also of his impact on mechanics of solids and materials becomes apparent if we look at the names of some of the people with whom he has worked.” All the researchers mentioned, with appointments located on the opposite coast and the opposite side of the world, rank as pioneers in engineering and applied mechanics (see sidebar).

Thankfully, Hutchinson is not an academic who looks good only on paper; he excels in the classroom as well. His alma mater, Lehigh University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, in bestowing him honorary degrees, both cited his dedication to mentorship. For the latter, nominator L. Ben Freund wrote: “His abilities as an educator/mentor are most in evidence through his former graduate students who are forging distinguished careers for themselves at Illinois, Brown, Harvard, and many other universities, companies, and laboratories in the U.S. and abroad.” Hutchinson says without hesitation that his students and collaborators, including his one-time acolyte, now Harvard colleague Zhigang Suo, Allen E. and Marilyn M. Puckett Professor of Mechanics and Materials, arrive with “great things” already inside them. “Any faculty advisor knows you cannot take credit for what your students achieve,”

Hutchinson has an ever-present ease about him that draws in students; a bright-eyed sense of excitement that never wavers, whether it is his first or fortieth commencement; and the ability to see potential solutions to problems where others see only dead ends. “It is unusual to spend one’s entire career at
14 I DEAS – Fall 2006

iN PRofiLE

he says bluntly. Nevertheless, the evidence, both quantitative (number of coauthored papers) and qualitative (praise from students and colleagues), points to a strong correlation: being taught by or collaborating with Hutchison often leads to a successful outcome. Faculty should, he contends, provide students with opportunities and startup ideas and then “set them loose.” As evidence, Suo was only one individual in a group of students from China, including Huajian Gao (now at Brown), Young Huang (now at the University of Illinois), and Tianjian Lu (now at Cambridge), who were successfully set loose. All of them came to Harvard in the 1980s and 1990s to study solid mechanics—and all but one of them worked with Hutchinson. “These individuals, and others among our students, had not only risen to the top of an incredibly competitive educational system in China, but they had exceptional train-

at the University of California, Santa Barbara, over the past 25 years. “Tony is a materials engineer with an active laboratory, and I am a mechanics theoretician—together we have quite broad research interests and we continue to work on lots of interesting technological problems.” “What counts is what you are doing, not what you have done,” he explains. “Of course, there is satisfaction in realizing that people are using your work—there would be little reason for doing research without that. But it is the act of doing that is the heart of engineering. I saw an interview with Duke Ellington late in his life, when he was asked which of all the songs he had composed he liked the best. Without hesitation, he replied, ‘The one I am working on now.’ Researchers, however, consistently cite a particular paper Hutchinson worked on with Suo, “Mixed-mode cracking in layered materials,” in 1992, as their

colleagues,” Hutchinson says. “As I said, it is the problem that I am working on now that is the most interesting. I have no big aspirations. Any success I may have achieved has been in small increments over long periods of time, and I intend to continue that process for a while longer.” J

frequent flIer
To tackle the thorniest problems in solid mechanics, engineering materials, and structures, John Hutchinson has collaborated with some of the most notable and far-flung luminaries in the field. “How do all these collaborations happen? Well, when you work away steadily day after day for more than forty years, you can’t help but interact with lots of people,” he says. “Collaboration is unquestionably effective in research. The synergy of multiple minds working on a problem can be huge, especially when the individuals bring different knowledge and skills to the table.” Besides his long-term collaborations with Tony Evans, a professor of materials and mechanical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Hutchinson had many other fruitful collaborations. For example, the committee that awarded him the 2002 Timoshenko Medal provided the following (partial) list: John C. Amazigo, U. of Nigeria; Michael Ashby, U. of Cambridge; E. Byskov, Aalborg U., Denmark; L. B. Freund, Brown U.; Warner T. Koiter, Delft U. of Technology; Robert M. McMeeking, UCSB; K. W. Neale, U. of Sherbrooke, Canada; and Viggo Tvergaard, Technical U. of Denmark. His interactions at Harvard have been no less impressive. “For the first thirty years I had one group of colleagues: Fred Abernathy, Bernard Budiansky, George Carrier, Howard Emmons, Tom McMahon, Dick Kronauer, M. Krook, Jim Rice, and J. L. Sanders,” he says. “They were joined by my younger colleagues, Rob Howe and Howard Stone, over a decade ago, and more recently by Garrett Stanley, Joost Vlassak, Michael Brenner, L. Mahavedan, and Zhigang Suo.” Of his original colleagues, he notes, only Abernathy and Rice are “still at the till.” Yet much of the group’s academic legacy remains intact. For example, biomechanics and biomechanical engineering, initiated by the late Tom McMahon and Dick Kronauer over two decades ago, are now growth areas at Harvard, thanks to the infusion of new faculty members, such as Dave Edwards, Dave Mooney, Kit Parker, Maurice Smith, and Debra Auguste, following in their footsteps. “There have been many changes. Nevertheless, I am happy that the mix of physical applied math and applied mechanics is still alive and well with the young faculty we have added in recent years,” Hutchinson says.

A teacher thanking his students, a sentiment that sounds more like a proverb rather than a practice, showcases why Hutchison stands out.
ing in mathematics and mechanics,” he says. “They were ready to go when they arrived at our doorstep, and we were very lucky to have them as students.” A teacher thanking his students, which sounds more like a proverb than a practice, showcases why Hutchison stands out. He relishes the chance to work closely with students and postdocs on pieces of a larger puzzle in applied mechanics, which no doubt leaves a lasting impression on them. He worries that with large-scale, multiple-investigator projects securing the majority of today’s grants and funding, such critical relationships might suffer. He says the “jury is out” on which is the better approach to research, but a funding agency need not look further than Hutchinson’s legacies for what is possible at the small scale or, better, simply stay tuned and wait for what is to come. Of particular note has been Hutchinson’s collaborations with Tony Evans, a professor of materials and mechanical engineering favorite composition. The article is among the 10 most-cited papers in the field of engineering in the past decade. “Zhigang was a young faculty member at UCSB when we wrote this article, and he claims he was a bit bored by the task, but I had a pretty good idea it would be a bestseller,” Hutchinson says. “While some have termed this article as one of the ‘bibles’ in our field, in fact most of the papers citing it have been from outside our field, mainly from the electronics industry, where they are famous for getting layered materials to do exceptional things.” That his work inspired researchers from outside engineering and applied science is yet another confirmation of why his office is likely to remain one of the more popular sites to visit on campus (no rubbing of his toe permitted, however). “Like most of us, I live from day to day. My plans are to continue working on technical problems in my field that I identify through interactions with

DEAS – Fall 2006 I 15


nanotech fabrication technician ed macomber feels at home in one of the mckay laboratory’s clean rooms.

that CrimSon glow
Ed Macomber accepts Harvard
college-bound high school senior knows the chance of getting into Harvard is slim—nine percent and falling fast. Applying to work for the “ivied idol” can be equally harrowing—and competitive. Once part of the family, employees often face their own version of the H-Bomb. “You work where? Really? Wow, you must be smart! Did they ask about your GPA? Hey, can you help get my kid in?!” Ed Macomber, a native of Acushnet, Massachusetts, beat the odds twice. He first made the cut as a summer scholar for the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program hosted by DEAS and later landed a job as a nanofabrication technician at Harvard’s Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS). Like all the “best and brightest” who do get past the iron gates, Macomber stood out. Upon seeing his application to the REU program, Director Kathryn Hollar said she found Macomber’s practical know-how and determination rare and welcome. “You could tell he was going to be someone special—a real asset for a lab and for other students,” said Hollar. Kit Parker, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, knew instantly that he wanted Macomber as part of his Disease Biophysics research group. Technically still an undergraduate, at age 37 Macomber offered broad experi16 I DEAS – Fall 2006

machine shop for eight years—an apprenticeship with a guy who was a real old-school machinist.”. His knack for figuring things out meant that he could tackle any machine in the lab, even if he had never seen it before. Broken tools that faculty and researchers had long since abandoned suddenly came back to life in Macomber’s hands. His “old-school” attitude also made it much easier to enter the entirely new world of the soft lithography process, a set of micro- and nano-“printing” techniques the Parker lab uses to engineer cardiac tissue. Learning such a sophisticated technique during REU helped him to garner his next acceptance: a technician job in the clean rooms of the CNS. “I help install new machinery, repair machinery when it goes down, stock expendables in the clean rooms,


ence and know-how that went beyond any transcript. “I was the old guy on the block,” he says with a smile. “I knew that I liked what I was learning. I liked the community up here, so I really didn’t bug out too much about the age thing.” Three years earlier, Macomber, who has been employed as everything from a stonemason to a mechanic, decided to earn his associate degree in engineer-

Technically still an undergraduate, at age 37 Macomber offered broad experience and know-how that went beyond any transcript.
ing. Despite his impressive skill set, he felt stuck and decided a degree would open new opportunities. While he was attending Bristol Community College, he chanced upon a flier for the Harvard REU Program and decided to fill one out, never thinking he’d get in, let alone end up an employee. His life in a clean-room lab did mean he had to make some minor adjustments. Macomber says with a pause that “there was less emphasis on productivity and getting the product out the door” and more on “trying to find the right result.” He couldn’t help noticing that compared to a factory floor, things at Harvard were a lot cleaner and quieter. “I worked at a and process chemical waste—basically, whatever needs to be done,” he says. Macomber will also benefit from CNS’s move to the future LISE building, which will contain an ultra-sophisticated, 10,000-square-foot underground clean room. “I was intimidated by Harvard at first, but I think I am in the swing of it now,” he says. “I love the community. I’m really happy with my job. I like all the people I work with.”Remaining slightly awestruck by an institution with more brand recognition than Disney, Macomber says he’s certain of one thing: Working at Harvard “always keeps you on your toes .” J


an engineering omelet
igh school students from the newly created West Roxbury Education Complex’s Engineering School tried their best to avoid making an omelet. In the first ever DEAS-sponsored “egg drop,” students used popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and just about anything else available at the local grocery store to protect their fragile eggs’ gravity-gulping voyage from the Gordon McKay Library on the third floor of Pierce Hall to the ground below. In addition to having fun, the goal was to showcase some of the basic principles of good engineering design. J


Visitww.deas.harvard.edu/newsandevents for the latest details, dates, and times for DEAS events. Here are some highlights from the past months and a list of future opportunities.

crcs surveys prIvacy; quantum systems fInd control
The Center for Research in Computation and Society (CRCS) completed its second year with a very successful workshop on Data Surveillance and Privacy Protection (170 registrants and more than 120 participants). You can see slides from the lectures at http://crcs. deas.harvard.edu/workshop/2006/index. html. In related news, this year CRCS will host one additional postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Ben Adida, who studies cryptographic solutions to public policy problems. If you want to keep tabs on the latest, sign up to the CRCS mailing list (e-mail maryfran@eecs.harvard.edu). Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Navin Khaneja and An Wang Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Roger Brockett hosted the Principles and Applications of Control in Quantum Systems workshop in August. Researchers in areas from physics to signal processing science came together to explore how control theory could lead to improvements in state-of-the-art methods in fields ranging from magnetic resonance to quantum information processing.

Finding her way
demic kind), a face-off with a busted pinball machine as a teen, or even a casual crush on another engineer. Their tales evoked the greatest response from the parents in the audience, many of whom could be seen nodding in agreement or whispering, “See, you can do it” to their daughters. “Engineering is not necessarily physical, but a way of thinking,” said Assistant Dean of Academic Programs Marie Dahleh, who helped organize and spoke at the event. “What drove many pioneering female engineers to do what they did was their desire to make things better.” n May 3, Harvard’s DEAS took part in Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, a nationwide effort in its sixth year, which aims to do more than simply live up to its title. Organizer Judy Nitsch, president of Judy Nitsch Engineering Inc., said the goal “is to reach over 1 million girls in the sixth to 12th grades” and ultimately inspire them to study or pursue engineering as a profession. A panel of five female professionals, experts in areas as various as business, chemical engineering, and environmental law, echoed that philosophy as they explained how they were first introduced to engineering. Stories ranged from celebrity encounters (of the aca-


The event concluded with a global positioning system (GPS)-based treasure hunt on the paths of the wet, soggy, and newly seeded Law School lawn. Teams of two used either handheld Wi-Fi devices or traditional maps to discover clues that could be used to open a locked briefcase containing prizes. The rules of the adventure hinted that finding a path inevitably requires going beyond the obvious “X marks the spot” protocol: The groups must all work together to solve the puzzle, and you can take many paths to reach a goal. The event was sponsored by the Harvard University Marshal’s Office and the Harvard DEAS. J

BuIldIng BIology
The Radcliffe Institute relied upon some expertise at DEAS for the standing-room-only Frontiers in Tissue Engineering symposium held on November 3. The symposium convened leading scientists, engineers, and clinicians in the application of engineering design methodologies to provide new perspectives on replacements for failing organ systems. Debra Auguste, Barbara J. Grosz, David J. Mooney, and Kit Parker, were all part of the organizing committee.

DEAS – Fall 2006 I 17


Q&a with william peine
The human touch

alumnus William peine, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at purdue, operates hand controls for a surgical robot under development. the system is designed to give surgeons the dexterity they will need for operations by mimicking the human wrist. (purdue news service photo/david umberger)

my way to Pierce Hall. The first sentence in the DEAS pamphlet was “Harvard prides itself on multidisciplinary research.” That was enough for me!


ou are going to feel a slight bit of pressure …” is a doctor’s polite code for “this is going to hurt.” Imagine if the relationship were reversed: a doctor feeling the sudden pinch. With the help of Bill Peine PhD ’99, surgeons could soon use tactile feedback from robotic surgical devices to help them better diagnose conditions or even make minute and critical adjustments when operating on tissue. Peine, an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering, plans to make robotic-assisted operations more common by developing a smaller, smarter, and cheaper class of tools for everyday use in the OR. In addition to their bulk and complexity, current models remain out of reach because of their high cost—over $1 million. With continued advances in technology, he envisions future surgeons calling for their “bots” as often as often as they now do for their scalpels. At Harvard, Peine was part of Gordon McKay Professor of Engineering Rob Howe’s close-knit Biorobotics lab, a

group focused on sensing and mechanical design in motor control of robots and humans. “Harvard definitely has a family feel to it. As a grad student you know most all the faculty in the department,” Peine says. No doubt he will instill such values into his future robots—and with careful control, patients may never feel the sting of the needle again. Let’s trace your educational trajectory. You started at Purdue as an undergraduate. I come from a long tradition of Boilermakers [the nickname for Purdue alumni]. My grandparents graduated from Purdue in 1929 and 1930. My dad graduated in 1959, and all three of my uncles graduated from Purdue. Then you traveled east and pursued your Ph.D. at Harvard. When I popped up from the T [in Harvard Square], I was inspired. The buildings, trees, and feel of the Yard were captivating. I randomly walked into a building and asked if they had engineering. Within minutes I was wandering

Then, after a period working in the high-tech and medical industries, you returned “home” again. The culture at Purdue has changed since I graduated. Opportunities for multidisciplinary research are everywhere and strongly encouraged with dollars and upper-level support. My return to Purdue was motivated in large part by this. Now that you’re settled, you are exploring the boundaries of the human-machine interface. Who’s in control? I like to say that the surgeon will always be the primary actuator in the system. It will be a long time before surgical robots act like industrial robots and process patients autonomously. A robot may guide the surgeon’s hand and make minor corrections, but the interaction with the patient is still the “art.” You certainly have mastered the art of balancing multiple roles: researcher, entrepreneur, and teacher. I love being the hub of a wheel and stretching myself to unite different people and ideas. Given the shift to a global economy and the rise of a bettertrained international workforce, I think

18 I DEAS – Fall 2006


future engineers in the U.S. must have a systems-level mindset. Speaking of work, how have you been influenced by the corporate world? Having been on the “front lines” of surgical robot development in industry, I learned how to listen to the customer, understand the economics of the problem, and appreciate the challenge of medical device documentation and approval. I think these experiences certainly help me focus my research, but they also translate into my mentorship of graduate students and my classroom

teaching. I can honestly say, “This is what they do in the real world,” and then explain why and give a personal example. Students eat this up. But doesn’t the real world get in the way of building an android like Data from Star Trek? Economic justifications for robots that look and act like humans are hard to come by. Having said that, these machines fascinate us. I saw a NOVA special on Mark Raibert’s running robots in the MIT Leg Lab when I was a kid. Way cool stuff to a 12-year-old. I since have

met Mark and worked with his company, Boston Dynamics. Truth be told, he still inspires me. In other words, humans, unlike the Tin Man, still win out on having heart. Our brain runs at 10Hz. Our individual muscle fibers and sensory organs are pretty crappy compared to sensors and actuators we use in robots. Yet we can do amazing things. We have so much to learn about ourselves. J

linking Back
With the DEAS challenge Fund completed in 2005, Alex Balkanski AB ‘81, AM ‘85, PhD ‘87 was among the first to take advantage of the new universitywide professorship challenge. He endowed a chair in applied physics and physics (his field of concentration as an undergraduate). The professorship honors his father, a highly respected materials physicist, and celebrates alex’s 25th reunion at the college. Balkanski, now a member of the Silicon Valley Team of Benchmark Capital, previously led C-Cube (which he also founded) and DiviCom, two pioneering companies that drove the MPEG standard to dominance in consumer electronics and broadcasting. He also serves on the boards of Ambarella, Aspendos, Decru (acquired by Network

Appliance), Entrisphere, Infinera, Mu Security, Newport Media, Picarro and Xoomsys. Other recent notable donors to engineering and applied sciences include former member of the Harvard Corporation, Richard a.Smith AB ’46, who for his 60th reunion gave $1.5 million for a DEAS Dean’s Discretionary Fund. Additionally, James F. Rothenberg AB ‘68 gave a second DEAS Innovation Fund, and Dr. Winston Chen SM ’67 PhD ’70 continued his support for equipment in applied mathematics. To learn more about ways to support engineering and applied sciences at Harvard, contact: Linda Fates, Director of Development, DEAS and FAS Physical Sciences (617-495-0910 or linda_fates@harvard.edu).

alumnus Winston chen sponsors a distinguished annual lectureship series at harvard. this year’s speakers included applied mathematician grigory I. Barenblatt and physicist/applied physicist and nobel-laureate p.g. de gennes.

an initial screenshot for a brighter, better, and more dynamic website for engineering and applied sciences. Watch for the rollout in the coming weeks.

let us knoW What you thInk
We’ve redesigned our Website, expanded our newsletter, and tried to increase the prominence of engineering and applied sciences in Harvard’s various publications (check out the Fall/Winter issue of The Yard, dedicated to science and engineering). We’d love to know the best ways of keeping our alumni and friends informed and, we hope, excited about our continued renewal and growth, especially as we continue our transformation. Please drop us a brief note and let us know how we are doing: what’s right, what’s wrong, and what else can we provide. And for those of you who are wondering, engineering and applied sciences branded merchandise (hats, T-shirts, yo-yos, and Slinkys) will be available soon! Get in touch at communications@deas.harvard.edu or 617-496-3815.

DEAS – Fall 2006 I 19

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my So-Called graduate liFe



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he subtitle for Piled Higher and Deeper comics (known on the Web as www.phdcomics.com) reads: Life (or the lack thereof) in Academia. For those not in the know, author Jorge Cham, who apparently found enough life to complete his PhD in engineering at Stanford and also become a publishing mogul, illustrates and writes a strip dedicated to the trials and tribulations of graduate student life. USAToday.com declared: “You’ll laugh and wince at Jorge Cham’s smart comic strip, which feels your pain, your panic, your coffee addition ... and your departmental politics.” But what is the day (and night) of a modern graduate student really like here at Harvard? We mustered up our courage and cleaned off our camera to find out.. J

8:30am Yun-Ling “Ling” Wong starts her morning in Cambridge with a sugar rush; she retrieves a box of chocolates (a gift for her friend in the lab) from her tiny apartment kitchen. She bought the sweets in Belgium while attending a conference with her advisor Professor David Edwards. 10:30 PM 12:00 PM 10:00am Inside the Engineering Sciences Lab, Ling prepares a new batch of solution used for creating an inhaled vaccine. 10:30am Protected by the glove box, Ling spray-dries the vaccine into a powder form. The end result will be packaged for delivery to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH); there, researchers will analyze its bacteria content to ensure the vaccine is at the proper strength. 11:00am Xaviere Masson, assistant to Professor David Edwards, helps Ling book a flight to Paris, where she is slated to give a talk later this Fall. 12:00pm Proving that Harvard grad students have some lighter moments, over lunch Ling and her fellow labmates—Hunter Lauten, Jarod VerBerkmoes, Andre Germishuizen, and Matthew Thomas—chat about which reality TV show is best and attempt to answer why women buy expensive handbags. 1:00pm While the mealtime debate produced inconclusive results, Ling, Andre, and Brian Pullman switch gears and get down to business with a conference call with a group of the lab’s research collaborators. 5:00 PM 3:30pm After a ride through Boston traffic to HSPH on the Longwood campus, Sunali Goonesekera reports to Andre and Ling that enough bacteria survived the spray -dry process to make an effective vaccine. 5:00pm Returning back to the real world of daylight, Ling, sporting cool specs, and Andre walk down Huntington Avenue en route to Cambridge. 6:00pm A personal trainer guides Ling through a full-body workout. Just like research, multiple repetitions are required for the best results.

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We welcome and appreciate your comments, suggestions, and corrections. please send feedback to communications@deas.harvard.edu or call us at 617-496-3815. this newsletter is published biannually bythe division of engineering and applied sciences communications office. Harvard university 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.deas.harvard.edu
copyright © 2006 by the president and fellows of harvard college

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20 I DEAS – Fall 2006

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