Six from Harvard Law School awarded Skadden Fellowships

first_imgSix students and recent alumni were recently were chosen by the Skadden Foundation to receive two-year fellowships to support their work in public service. This year’s recipients include current students Haben Girma ’13, Hunter Landerholm ’13, Adam Meyers ’13 and Mara Sacks ’13, and recent graduates Robert Hodgson ’12 and Daniel Saver ’12.The fellowships, which provide a salary and benefits, were established in 1988 by the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in recognition of the need for greater funding for graduating law students who want to devote their professional life to helping the poor, elderly, homeless and disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights. Applicants create their own projects at public interest organizations with at least two lawyers on staff.“There are so many people who are suffering the effects of our challenging economy, yet nonprofits and legal services organizations do not have the budget to meet the demand for existing fundamental legal services,” said Alexa Shabecoff, assistant dean for public service in the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at HLS. “I am so happy that thanks to the generosity of the Skadden Foundation truly fabulous law students and judicial law clerks, including six exceptional and wonderful Harvard students and alumni, will be able to deploy their amazing talents to aid communities and clients that desperately need the help.”last_img read more

Waves of caring

first_imgThis is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.Surfer Mary Setterholm has wiped out in some gnarly waves during more than 40 years on the water. She has faced even tougher challenges on dry land.The victim of clerical sexual abuse as a child who for a time was a teenaged prostitute, Setterholm will graduate from Harvard Divinity School (HDS) with a master’s degree and a plan to help others find their way back from the edge of despair.Setterholm has temporarily slowed over the years by an occasional dangerous set of waves and a couple of nasty bike accidents. But her physical and emotional setbacks have helped her to develop a credo based on healing and forgiveness, along with a warrior’s resolve never to give up.In surfing, as in life, said Setterholm, “you have to have resiliency skills, and know how to bounce back. You have to grab your board, get on it, and get back out there.” Her time at Harvard, she said, is “more than a bounce back; this is a punch back. I am so glad I am here around this sensibility.”The Southern California native was a natural on a surfboard. She won the U.S. National Surfing Championship at age 17. But her life away from the ocean was troubled. She married young and had five children. The union was rocky and abusive. Once divorced, she returned to prostitution as a kind of way to take back some control.“At the time I reasoned that prostitution was a more honest arrangement than being in denial about a bad marriage lacking authentic intimacy,” she said. “I was a wild woman on the outside with a hurting child inside; my solutions were reckless — and God was always bailing me out, always waiting for me to slow down.”She also used the ocean to reclaim her life. Along with her accomplishments on the water, Setterholm was a fierce advocate for women in the traditionally male-dominated sport. She helped to create the Women’s International Surfing Association in 1974. Years later she founded a successful surf school in Southern California, where she helped women (and men), and weekly busloads of inner-city youth, feel comfortable in the surf.Then one day, she encountered a homeless woman yelling at students in a restroom on the beach.“I went in ready to do whatever I had to,” said Setterholm, who was prepared to drag the angry woman out. Instead, she found herself gently saying: “Let me help you.”Soon, advocacy for the homeless and the poor became her second full-time job.In 2003, a meeting with an inspiring nun named Sheila McNiff helped Setterholm to confront the abuse she had suffered as a child at the hands of clergy, and guide her back to education. She graduated with a theology degree from Loyola Marymount University in spring 2009, then headed to New York’s Union Theological Seminary before transferring to Harvard in 2010.“I knew I had to salmon ‘up-river’ with my stories and my understanding and just be present. I found hearts of gold here.”The encounter with McNiff helped crystallize something else for Setterholm.“She did more to form my ministry ethos than anybody when she said, ‘Where can I meet you?’ It made me realize that in advocacy work, you go to them, it’s not the other way around.”While at HDS, Setterholm made weekly trips to Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in Boston, where she used her teachings from Serenity Sisters, the support group she created for exploited women and recovering prostitutes. She also received the School’s Hopkins Shareholder Award, which recognizes ministerial promise.Setterholm plans to open her own women’s center after graduation with help from a grant from Memorial Church, but it may have to wait just a bit. She hopes to enter a Ph.D. program first, expanding on her HDS thesis work, which explored the way prostitutes have been used in religious teachings as a stand-in for deviant or disbelieving members of society.“I think God has bigger plans than what I’ve imagined,” said Setterholm. “I could never have imagined making it this far, or to Harvard. God’s imagination is far wilder than mine.”last_img read more

New molecule links asthma, cancer

first_img Read Full Story A newly discovered molecule may play a role in controlling both asthma-induced airway muscle thickening and tumor growth—and manipulating it may lead to new asthma and cancer drugs, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The researchers discovered the molecule, “microRNA-10a,” using state-of-the-art sequencing, and found that it regulates pathways that control cell proliferation.The study was published in the May issue of The FASEB Journal.“We hope this study will serve as the fundamental building block for future follow-up studies on evaluating microRNA-10a’s potential in treatment asthma and uncontrolled tumor growth,” said senior author Quan Lu, associate professor of environmental genetics and pathophysiology at HSPH, in a May 1, 2014 Science Daily article.last_img read more

HIV/AIDS: Promising prevention method

first_img Read Full Story In the years since a 2011 study found that early treatment with antiretroviral drugs could reduce HIV transmission between couples in which one partner has the virus and the other does not, “Treatment as Prevention” (TasP) has become a major focus for attention in the global fight against AIDS. But more work is needed to know how to use TasP in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are 1.5 million new infections each year and 25 million of the world’s 35 million people live with HIV.This past spring, the Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI) hosted the first TasP Africa workshop in Gaborone, Botswana. Led by Max Essex, chair of HAI and Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences, the event brought together researchers, policy makers, and drug industry representatives to share plans and compare notes.“We had open and constructive discussion about common goals and problems,” Essex said in the Summer issue of the HAI newsletter. “Those conversations should enable the various projects on Treatment as Prevention in Africa to move ahead more expeditiously.”last_img read more

Meredith Rosenthal elected to Institute of Medicine

first_imgMeredith Rosenthal, professor of Health Economics and Policy at Harvard School of Public Health, was one of 70 new members elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Academies announced October 20, 2014. Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.Read National Academies press release: Institute Of Medicine Elects 70 New Members, 10 Foreign Associates Read Full Storylast_img

HILT announces fall Spark Grant awards

first_imgHILT awarded six Spark Grants of $5,000 – $15,000 this fall. Awardees will:Develop new methods for hands-on teaching. Matthew Hersch (FAS) will develop experiential learning opportunities for students in history of technology courses including in-class demonstration and simulation.Expand a pilot “writing oasis” program for graduate students. Nancy Khalil (FAS) will expand “Graduate Writing Oasis,” a successful pilot to provide dedicated time and collaboration in dissertation writing.Evaluate the teaching and assessing of critical thinking. Margaret Hayes (HMS-BIDMC), Suzanne Cooper (HKS), Richard Schwartzstein (HMS), Amy Sullivan (HMS), and William Wisser (HGSE) will conduct a mixed methods study analyzing the teaching and learning of critical thinking skills at Harvard—the differences in approaches across Schools, and faculty and student perceptions of critical thinking instruction and assessment.Form a free statistical help service for all Harvard students. Emily Slade (SPH) aims to bridge the gap between statistics courses and student’s ability to implement concepts in their own work with a student-run consulting service.Increase student pathways in STEM. Katherine Penner (FAS) will implement a large-scale version of a successful pilot “book club” aimed at lower level math students to create an environment to practice and experiment with advanced concepts.Study the writing process through revision history. Daniel Seaton, Selen Turkay, and Andrew Ang (VPAL Research) will analyze revision patterns in student writing, how those relate to activities within specific passages of a written text, and how revision-history analytics can play a role in supporting writing. Read Full Storylast_img read more

The focal point: White supremacy

first_imgThe weekend clashes between white nationalist demonstrators and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., that killed a 32-year-old woman and injured others has reignited long-simmering fears that racist hate groups are resurgent nationally and now may feel emboldened to push their goals publicly.President Donald Trump, whose 2016 campaign was embraced by right-wing groups, drew criticism from both political parties for initially blaming all sides and being slow to explicitly disavow the white nationalists, who included Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis.Bart Bonikowski is an associate professor in Harvard’s Sociology Department and a faculty affiliate at the Center for European Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. He studies political sociology in the United States and Europe, with an emphasis on populist discourse and the processes that animate nationalist political movements. The Gazette spoke with Bonikowski about the political implications of the weekend violence.GAZETTE: How do you view the rally and resulting violence that occurred in Charlottesville?BONIKOWSKI: It’s clear at this point that the extreme right has been emboldened by Trump’s campaign rhetoric and policies since he’s come into office. It’s not too much of a stretch to draw a direct line between his discourse and the violence. His campaign focused primarily on anti-immigrant discourse and anti-Muslim rhetoric, but there were numerous dog whistles targeting African-Americans, as well: Comments about inner cities, his use of the phrase “my African-American,” his support for All Lives Matter, and his retweeting of neo-Nazis and failure to condemn [onetime Klan leader] David Duke during the campaign. All of these actions were clear attempts to mobilize two factions: one, everyday racist, ethnonationalist white supporters who are not members of the KKK or the neo-Nazi movement and second, the radical extremists we saw in Virginia.In addition, even the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and to some degree, his populist appeals, have spillover effect that emboldened racist groups. All of that was clearly an attempt to reach out to these factions and build support for his candidacy. And since he’s come into office, President Trump has done a number of things to maintain that base of support — the halting of criminal justice reform, the disempowerment of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice, the threat to investigate affirmative action programs at elite universities — all of these decisions demonstrate commitment to ethnonationalism and embolden extremist movements. What that suggests is that these radical movements are part of his base, and his reaction to the Virginia events demonstrates he wants to continue receiving support from them.(Read Harvard President Drew Faust’s statement on the events in Charlottesville here.)GAZETTE: The conflict itself, the wall-to-wall public attention it garnered, and the president’s brief, middling initial response were celebrated by many white nationalist figures. Was Charlottesville a watershed moment for white nationalist groups politically?BONIKOWSKI: It would be a mistake to say that these movements have been purely fringe prior to the Charlottesville rally. They’ve certainly been sidelined in mainstream politics in recent decades, but they’ve been very active on the ground in various parts of the country — not just the South. They have also been involved in terrorist attacks in the U.S. on numerous occasions. Once in a while, they attempt to gain entry into institutional politics, though usually unsuccessfully. This is all part and parcel of a long-term history of white supremacy in the United States.But during President Trump’s administration, they’ve received greater legitimacy from the most powerful office in the country than they have in many, many decades. They are being actively legitimized by the administration which I think is a watershed moment. Not only is President Trump normalizing them, but they are actively exerting pressure on him to respond to these events in certain ways and to represent their interests. Immediately after one of his late and insufficient responses, David Duke said: Hey, watch out. We got you elected. You better stay true to your promises. And Trump’s subsequent rhetoric was in line with those instructions. So he’s very well aware of the fact that they’re important to his continued support and he’s hesitant to censure them in any way. In contrast, he’s not hesitant at all to rail against many other groups and institutions, including the media and the judiciary.GAZETTE: It appears there’s a resurgence of white nationalist and white supremacist groups in the last few years. Is this ideology growing, and, if so, why now?BONIKOWSKI: Until someone does actual systematic research on changes in the membership, it’s hard to know whether the movement itself is growing. With white supremacists and other extremist movements, much like with radical terrorism of all forms, one of the primary objectives is media attention. So the reason they hold these rallies and the reason these rallies sometimes turn violent is that they want to be noticed because that legitimizes their cause and amplifies their message. That’s exactly what they’re getting. It’s a tricky situation for journalists. On the one hand, giving them attention adds fuel to the fire. On the other hand, ignoring them is a problem because these are odious ideologies that have to be documented and condemned. So how to cover them in the media is a bit of a conundrum. In any case, regardless of whether their numbers are growing, their ideology is certainly getting a lot more attention, which is ultimately what they want. Moreover, in some ways, this is just the tip of an iceberg. It’s all too easy to dismiss these people as a small group of extremists — and they are that — but they’re part of a larger system of racial inequality and domination in the United States. White supremacism and racism in this country runs the full gamut from private views expressed around dinner tables and everyday discrimination all the way through neo-Nazis and the Klan who hold rallies and engage in violence. Trump’s rhetoric and his strategic silence is an attempt to reach out to this wide spectrum of people who hold ethnonationalist and racist views.GAZETTE: A lot of people were disturbed and surprised to see that these white nationalists were mostly young, male, and dressed like suburban dads in tan khakis and golf shirts, not white hoods or studded black leather. Were you surprised to see how unabashedly public this rally was? Does their bland, “fresh face” style suggest something new about their appeal or a strategic approach to expand and push forward?BONIKOWSKI: The fact that many of these people were middle-class white men is not surprising at all. White supremacist groups have long had support among middle-class Americans and not just the poor and uneducated. That’s been the case throughout U.S. history. It also shows that the kind of racial resentment that Trump draws on cannot be fully attributed to economic anxiety. For some supporters it is, but not overwhelmingly and not exclusively. These are people who lead reasonably comfortable lives, but what they perceive as a threat is a change to the demographic and cultural makeup of the country. They have a strong sense of subjective status loss and white victimization. These are long-standing narratives. So the fact that they’re middle class is not surprising. On the other hand, the fact that they’re not wearing masks, that they’re willing to show their faces, suggests that they’re emboldened, and they think that their ideology is seen as legitimate by at least some people, including presumably the administration. This is clearly an effort to demonstrate mainstream appeal.Society in general has seen these groups as fringe and reasonably contained, but not everyone has that experience. African-Americans are often confronted with explicit forms of white supremacy from these kinds of movements, but also more subtle and passive forms of it in everyday life. So it’s probably more of a surprise to the general public than it is to certain communities that have been targeted in the past. The other thing is, my research suggests that Trump’s ability to capture the Republican Party in the primary was partly a result of a tension between cultural cleavages based on popular conceptions of national identity in the U.S. These cleavages are partly about who gets to be a legitimate American. Trump’s rise to power is a result of the successful mobilization of ethnonationalist forms of American identity. If that’s the case, it’s not all that surprising that the most extremist movements would be capitalizing on these developments during his presidency.GAZETTE: How much of this is truly organic, how much is a byproduct of social media amplification, and how much is an elaborate trolling of so-called political correctness, the kind of thing encouraged in online communities like 4chan or Reddit? Is there any way to know?BONIKOWSKI: It’s hard to know how to draw that distinction. Even if some of it is performative, it has very concrete consequences, as shown by the violence and the killing that occurred. But also it has spillover effects to everyday life among people who are not part of the rally. It affects how people interact on the street and in schools, much as Trump’s [campaign] rhetoric may have influenced some people’s beliefs and behavior toward minorities. So the question of how dearly they hold these views, I’m not sure that’s so relevant. In some ways, we could ask the same question about Nazis in the 1930s. How many of them really believed in the ideology, how many of them joined because their friends joined, how many of them were doing it to belong to some sort of community? All of these are interesting pathways from an academic standpoint, but at the end of the day, the movement committed unspeakable atrocities and embroiled the world in a massive war. Here too, there are many pathways toward social-movement mobilization that sociologists have documented, but what matters more in this case are the consequences.In terms of the role of the changing media landscape, these movements existed before social media, but they now have a larger number of channels through which they can disseminate their message and through which they can coordinate their actions. You mentioned 4chan and Reddit and Twitter, of course, but also a number of news or quasi-news online organizations, including Breitbart and Stormfront, that allow this content to be freely shared and easily accessible to the wider public. It seems that the megaphone they have is getting louder and more powerful.What is crucial is how mainstream media and political elites respond to this. And economic elites, as well: CEOs are resigning from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in protest of President Trump’s tepid reaction to Charlottesville. So the onus is on anyone who is seen as an opinion leader, as a thought leader, to unambiguously and explicitly condemn these events and President Trump’s behavior and make clear that this is not an acceptable situation in contemporary United States.The fact that these extremist movements are seeing Trump’s response as supportive of their tactics and their ideology does not bode well for the immediate future. My guess is that we’re going to see more rallies, we’re likely to see more violence and even net of that, I think the everyday lives of African-Americans, of Muslims, of Latinos, of other minorities in this country are likely to get more dangerous because people outside the movement are also emboldened by these extremist actions and the president’s lack of condemnation of them.GAZETTE: Where does the movement go from here? Does the widespread public backlash suggest these groups might dial back their incendiary efforts?BONIKOWSKI: It’s hard to predict the future, but I doubt that this will be the case. As I mentioned, these movements thrive when they receive attention in the media, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. And in this case, they’re getting the media attention as well as support from the president. So, if anything, this is likely to give them an incentive to hold more rallies and become more extremist in their practices.At the same time, what the current moment might produce is a stronger reaction against President Trump’s discourse among Congressional Republicans, among people who have otherwise been willing to turn a blind eye to his previous norm violations. Fortunately, at least some people draw a sharp moral line when it comes to the KKK and white supremacy. Unfortunately, not everyone has been vocal about this, but a number of Republicans have. And so, there’s hope that as a consequence of these events, there will be a greater willingness to censure the president in the future. But again, as we’ve seen in the past couple of months, this all too often consists of little more than statements of dissatisfaction and concern, but no concrete action. We’ll see how things go forward.This interview has been edited for clarity and length.last_img read more

Assumptions of how antibiotics work may be incorrect

first_imgBacterial infections are the No. 1 cause of death in hospital patients in the U.S., and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise, causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. Understanding exactly how antibiotics work, or don’t, is crucial for developing alternative treatment strategies, both to target new “superbugs” and to make existing drugs more effective against their targets.Using synthetic biology techniques, a team of researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University has discovered that bacteria respond to antibiotics very differently — exactly opposite, in fact — inside the body than on a petri dish, suggesting that some of our current assumptions about antibiotics may be incorrect.“The image most clinicians have is that antibiotics work by killing actively dividing bacteria, and nondividing bacteria are the ones that resist treatment and cause infections to persist. I wanted to know whether that’s actually true — does the proportion of dividing bacteria change over the course of an infection, and how do antibiotics impact that?” said Laura Certain, a clinical fellow at the Wyss Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital, the first author of the study.Colonies of engineered E. coli bacteria that were actively dividing at the time ATC was added turn blue when grown on a medium containing lactose, while those that were not dividing when ATC was added remain white. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University“Synthetic biology is widely used to engineer bacteria so that they produce useful products or diagnose diseases, and we used that same approach to create a microbiology tool that can tell us how bacteria are behaving in the body,” she said.The research is published in the Aug. 31 issue of Cell Host & Microbe.Certain and her colleagues used a genetically engineered strain of E. coli that was created in the lab of Wyss core faculty member Pamela Silver a few years ago. The bacteria have a genetic “toggle switch” encoded into their DNA that changes from the “off” to the “on” position when the bacteria are exposed to a chemical called anhydrotetracycline (ATC). When the switch is turned on, a genetic change happens that allows the bacteria to digest the sugar lactose, which bacteria whose switches remain off cannot do. The key to this system is that the toggle switch can only be flipped if the bacteria are actively dividing when ATC is added; nondividing bacteria’s switches will stay off, even when ATC is present. Thus, the toggle switch offers a snapshot in time that can indicate whether bacteria were active or dormant at the moment of ATC exposure.Bacterial studies are often carried out in vitro, but infections happen in the complex environment of living bodies, which are quite different from a petri dish. To evaluate their bacteria in vivo, the researchers implanted a small plastic rod into the legs of mice and inoculated their engineered bacterial strain into the legs to imitate the chronic bacterial infections that commonly arise in humans when medical devices and artificial joints are implanted. They then injected the mice with ATC at different times throughout the course of the infection to flip the toggle switch in any dividing bacterial cells to the “on” position.When they extracted bacteria from the mice and grew them on a special lactose-containing medium, they found that all the bacteria were actively dividing for the first 24 hours, but by the fourth day that fraction dropped to about half and remained constant for the rest of the infection, indicating that the number of bacteria being killed by the body was balanced by new bacteria being created via cell division. This result differed from the in vitro response, in which all the bacteria stopped dividing once they reached the carrying capacity of their environment.Next, the scientists tested the bacteria’s response to antibiotics in vivo by allowing the infection to progress for two weeks, then injecting the mice with the antibiotic levofloxacin. When they analyzed the extracted bacteria, they found that while the total amount of bacteria in the mice decreased, the proportion of the surviving bacteria that were actively dividing actually increased. This outcome was in direct opposition to antibiotics observed in vitro, which killed more dividing cells than nondividing cells. The researchers screened the bacterial colonies for antibiotic resistance, and did not find any evidence that the bacteria had evolved to better withstand the killing effects of the levofloxacin, confirming that the antibiotic was still effective.“There are several possible reasons why we saw a higher proportion of dividing bacteria in the presence of an antibiotic,” said Certain. “We find it most likely that dormant cells are switching into an active state in order to ‘fill the gaps’ that arise when antibiotics reduce the overall bacterial population. If bacteria continue to actively divide throughout an infection, as our study suggests, they should be susceptible to antibiotics.”Indeed, the researchers were able to cure the infection with a higher dose of the antibiotic, indicating that, contrary to conventional assumptions about bacterial infections, there is no fixed population of dormant, antibiotic-tolerant cells in this chronic infection model.“If an antibiotic isn’t working, we should focus on finding ways to deliver more of it to the infection site or identifying other tolerance mechanisms that might be at play, rather than assuming that a bastion of nondividing bacteria is the culprit,” said corresponding author and Wyss core faculty member Jim Collins, who is also the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and a professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.For additional information, visit the Wyss Institute website.This study was supported by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.last_img read more

How Much Is Your Data Worth?

first_imgAccording to Gartner’s Doug Laney, some 80% of executives believe the value of their company’s data is reflected on their balance sheet, yet this increasingly valuable asset is rarely managed with the same discipline, principles and practices as financial or human capital or physical assets. How can a business bridge this gap? View this conversation I held at MIT’s Chief Data Officer Information Quality Symposium (MITCDOIQ) recently with Gartner VP Doug Laney and SiliconAngle’s Paul Gillin and Wikibon’s George Gilbert on theCube.last_img