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News Clips - August 3, 2007

From July 27 to August 2, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 452 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Annual Design Awards
BusinessWeek | July 30
Who made off with the most IDEA awards? The evolution of design from a narrow focus on aesthetics into a richer discipline that embraces branding, services, sustainability, medicine--even the comfort and safety of pilots and passengers--is on clear display in the 2007 International Design Excellence Awards. What had once been the preserve of engineers, business consultants, ecologists, and brand managers now falls within the growing purview of designers.***Carnegie Mellon took one bronze IDEA award.


Salary, gender and the social cost of haggling
Washington Post | July 30
About 10 years ago, a group of graduate students lodged a complaint with Linda C. Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University: All their male counterparts in the university's PhD program were teaching courses on their own, whereas the women were working only as teaching assistants. That mattered, because doctoral students who teach their own classes get more experience and look better prepared when it comes time to go on the job market. When Babcock took the complaint to her boss, she learned there was a very simple explanation: "The dean said each of the guys had come to him and said, 'I want to teach a course,' and none of the women had done that," she said. "The female students had expected someone to send around an e-mail saying, 'Who wants to teach?' " The incident prompted Babcock to start systematically studying gender differences when it comes to asking for pay raises, resources or promotions. And what she found was that men and women are indeed often different when it comes to opening negotiations.


(-: Just between you and me ;-)
The New York Times | July 29
Emoticons, the smiling, winking and frowning faces that inhabit the computer keyboard, have not only hung around long past their youth faddishness of the 1990s, but they have grown up. Twenty-five years after they were invented as a form of computer-geek shorthand, emoticons — an open-source form of pop art that has evolved into a quasi-accepted form of punctuation — are now ubiquitous. ... The first commonly acknowledged use of the contemporary emoticon was in 1982. Scott Fahlman, a research professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, was linked to an electronic university bulletin board where computer enthusiasts posted opinions on matters as divisive as abortion and mundane as campus parking.


Disclosing bias doesn't cancel its effects
The New York Times | July 28
Nobody likes to be at the mercy of an expert, especially of those who charge for their services and whose trustworthiness can be hard to assess. Mechanics are a common source of this frustration, but there are many others: doctors, plumbers, financial advisers, real estate agents and technical support people, to name a few. We ordinary folks have to gauge, sometimes on the spot, whether a specialist’s opinion is worth the price, and whether that person stands to gain because you are not sure what they are talking about. ... In a study published in 2005 in The Journal of Legal Studies, 147 subjects were asked to assume either the role of an adviser or of someone depending on advice. The researchers set up two experimental conditions. In both, there was a conflict of interest: the advisers stood to gain financially if the clients followed their biased advice. ... In the second condition, the advisers disclosed their conflict of interest: they conceded they would benefit if the clients heeded the advice. But coming clean didn’t have the expected result. Although the clients, now aware that their advisers were biased, were more skeptical about taking the advice, “they didn’t discount it enough,” said George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and a co-author of the study, which was conducted at the university.


Overseas branches are vital to American academe and the U.S. economy, university officials tell house panel
The Chronicle of Higher Education | July 27
For the many American universities now looking to establish or expand branches and research projects overseas, the decision to go abroad seems an obvious response to a globalizing world. But at a Congressional hearing here on Thursday, officials from three universities with sizable international operations found themselves a bit on the defensive. Lawmakers -- including one outright skeptic -- questioned whether university ventures, all of which are indirectly or directly subsidized by taxpayers, might be undermining America's economic competitiveness by helping other countries better develop a scientific and technological work force. The university officials responded with a unanimous message. On the whole, they insisted, their overseas operations bring the United States far more in benefits than what they might cost in the loss of some economic edge. ... Overseas ventures are also vital to American universities' survival, said Mark G. Wessel, dean of the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. This is so, he said, because of "the competitive forces in our industry that force us to be entrepreneurial." In 1997, Carnegie Mellon had one overseas academic program. Today it has 12, he told the committee, "and the list is growing." Mr. Wessel said the programs not only helped American institutions expand their opportunities for research, but also enabled universities to attract resources from companies and governments overseas. The benefits to our economy "far exceed the costs," he said.

Education for Leadership

Selling college students on Pittsburgh
Pop City Media | July 28
Face it: The college scene has always been the epitome of cool. Hip is defined by the number of college kids who frequent any given spot, how many from the 18-25 demographic really like Bar X, Museum Y, or Neighborhood Z. If you’re in the same zip code as a college, you need only follow the young people to the social mecca of town. But if students are leading the way to the most happening places, something’s leading them to any given city in the first place. “Pittsburgh has always figured prominently in the [admissions] literature,” says Anne Witchner, assistant dean of student affairs at Carnegie Mellon University.

Arts and Humanities

Reservoir of jazz
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 2
The popular "Reservoir of Jazz" concert series returns to Highland Park on Sunday. For the next five weekends, the series will present music as diverse as Carnegie Mellon University's pre-college jazz ensemble to the Opek Big Band. There will also be tributes to Walt Harper, the iconic pianist and club owner, and Art Blakey, a powerful drummer who formed the seminal group Jazz Messengers. Concerts are from 5 to 7 p.m. Here are the dates: Carnegie Mellon School of Music pre-college jazz ensemble and jazz choir plus Center of Life jazz group. (Sunday)


Pittsburgh makes big impact on small screen
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 30
Maybe it's this former steel town's blue-collar traditions. Or its down-to-earth reputation. Or perhaps the city's many connections to the entertainment industry. Whatever the reason, Pittsburgh has become a popular setting for TV shows. Spike TV's bank heist-driven miniseries "The Kill Point" was shot and is set in the city. The TNT medical drama, "Heartland," and Fox's planned fall TV news sitcom, "Back To You," starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, both set their shows in Pittsburgh although they're filmed elsewhere. ... "Heartland" creator David Hollander grew up in Mt. Lebanon and set his CBS legal drama "The Guardian" in Pittsburgh. Rob Marshall, who directed the Oscar-winning "Chicago," grew up in Pittsburgh and is a Carnegie Mellon University graduate, as are producers John Wells ("The West Wing," "ER" and "China Beach") and Steven Bochco ("Hill Street Blues" and "NYPD Blue"). Producer Mindy Kanaskie ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") graduated from Montour High School.


Stage reviews: Among Stratford's 14 plays, these 2 draw varied reactions
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 30
In its 55th season, the Stratford Festival, the biggest repertory theater in English-speaking North America, is humming along, benefiting from its recent physical upgrades and with 14 varied shows running in its four theaters. But it is also experiencing change, because Richard Monette, its longest serving artistic director, is retiring after this year, his 14th. ... I've seen four shows so far: stylish musical ("My One and Only"), dark Shakespeare ("The Merchant of Venice"), light Shakespeare ("The Comedy of Errors") and American regional classic ("To Kill a Mockingbird"). Today's two reviews will be followed by the other two, later this week. Beyond those four shows, I'd point to a few others I hope to get back to Stratford to see. Chief among them is Brian Bedford in "King Lear." Bedford is one of my favorite actors, but he's not my immediate idea of Lear, so I look forward to that a lot. Seana McKenna is playing Anne Hathaway in "Shakespeare's Will." And Carnegie Mellon's Mladen Kiselov is directing David Edgar's "Pentecost," a bracingly contemporary play about art, imperialism and refugees -- not what you think of as the usual Stratford fare at all.


Next page: Foretelling a city / Context and consequences
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 29
When Robert Dickey III became chairman of the Allegheny Conference in 1973, the critical public-private partnership that had produced Renaissance I was fractured. Mayor Pete Flaherty had been elected in 1969 on a platform that he would be "nobody's boy," and this included opposing Conference plans in regard to such areas as Downtown spending and transit (Skybus). In 1973, after a mayoral term marked by balanced budgets and tight employment policies, Flaherty was re-elected, receiving both the Democratic and Republican nominations. ***This article was written by Carnegie Mellon professor of history and policy, Joel Tarr.

Information Technology

Carnegie Mellon institute plugs in women to computers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 2
When Dena Haritos Tsamitis joined Carnegie Mellon University's Information Networking Institute in 2002 as associate director, only two of its 37 students were women. Today, the Institute can claim 17 women out of 57 students, or about 30 percent. While the number of women preparing for careers in information networking has grown, it's still far below what Ms. Tsamitis and industry leaders believe should be the norm. "The numbers are going up but not by chance," said Ms. Tsamitis, who is now the Institute's director. "We've done a lot to increase the number by becoming more involved in promoting women in technology." Among those efforts is a new mentoring program that will match female students with top women executives in the information networking industry.


Summer science program still inspiring students
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 31
Todd Mowry planned on being a medical doctor before he realized his passion for computers during the summer of his senior year in high school. He made that life-changing discovery 24 years ago as a student at the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. Today, Dr. Mowry is a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon where the summer science program for talented high school seniors is still going strong. "I came back to Carnegie Mellon because it's the No. 1-ranked computer science department and the best place in the world to do computer science," said Dr. Mowry, who earned a doctorate at Stanford University.


Intel center has new director
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 27
David O'Hallaron became director of the five-year-old Intel Research Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University on July 1. He's been a faculty member since 1989, and has focused his research on supercomputing, computational data base systems and virtualization. ... He is co-leader of Carnegie Mellon's Quake Project, which predicts ground motions during strong earthquakes with supercomputer simulations. O'Hallaron succeeds Todd Mowry at the Intel center; Mowry returned to the university as an associate professor of computer science.


Water wars
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 30
Bill Fuller smelled it, swished it and did everything short of gargling to try to tell whether the water he was drinking was bottled or from the tap. The corporate chef for the big Burrito group tasted four samples of water from unmarked plastic cups, and couldn't tell the difference. "This is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," Fuller admitted. Tap water is hip again, as the battle to scuttle the bottle is on. Environmentalists say the number of water bottles in landfills and the cost of shipping water is taking its toll on Mother Earth. ... Dr. David Dzombak, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a water-quality expert, said he thinks most public water entities do a good job treating the public water supply. "Of course, there are things in our water -- at low levels-- that we just don't know that much about, but we accept the risk," he said. But tap water has its share of drawbacks, Dzombak added.


HIV protein helps cell membranes bend
UPI | July 26
U.S. scientists have discovered how the human immunodeficiency virus can so easily enter the body's immune cells. Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that after HIV docks onto a host cell, it dramatically lowers the energy required for a cell membrane to bend, thereby making it easier for the virus to infect immune cells. "We found that HIV fusion peptide dramatically decreases the amount of energy needed to bend a cell-like membrane," said research Associate Professor Stephanie Tristram-Nagle. "This helps membranes to curve, a necessary step for HIV to fuse with an immune cell as it infects it."

Regional Impact

Companies hope new law helps keep power prices low
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 29
Few companies use more electricity than U.S. Steel and Allegheny Technologies Inc. -- it takes a lot of juice to operate a melting shop. That's why these two companies, allied with Duquesne Light and organized labor, lobbied so hard for a new law that allows utilities and the top tier of energy consumers to negotiate long-term, fixed-rate contracts. ... "Business, politicians and labor all came together and said, look, we've got to get something done," Mr. Turzai said. They had the backing of Jay Apt, executive director of Carnegie Mellon University's Electricity Energy Center. His team published a study on electricity reform in January, and one of the paper's recommendations was allowing the electric distributor to negotiate long-term contracts with heavy industrial consumers. Like a contract with your gym, rates go down if you sign a longer contract, and there's a penalty for opting out. Allowing distributors and suppliers that flexibility "is basic economics." And giving a distributor the security of knowing that it will have major customers for years into the future "provides an incentive for new generation, provides access to capital," Dr. Apt said.


A workshop for Braddock kids spawns a show of zines
Pittsburgh City Paper | July 26
The Braddock Carnegie Library boasts of being "America's oldest library," but it won't be showing its advanced years when it hosts The Zine Scene, on Sat., July 28. The Zine Scene will showcase zines created by day-campers in UPMC Braddock's Health for Life Summer Camp. Eighteen 9-year-olds have been working on their zines since mid-June, and have created a gallery-style exhibit that will show off their work. A zine is a low-circulation self-made or handmade magazine. It can be about whatever its maker is interested in, and employ whatever media can be fit onto a folded piece of computer paper. ... To give the kids as many creative outlets as possible, Rottmund and Braddock Carnegie librarian Heather Mantella enlisted Carnegie Mellon graduate student John Pena to teach them how to use digital cameras and how to compose their photographs.


Alfred Blumstein researches redemption in criminal behavior
The Jewish Chronicle | August 2
For a prize-winning professor who's famous for his work in the science and technology of criminology, Alfred Blumstein is working on something just a tad more conceptual these days - redemption. Specifically, the university professor of urban systems and operations research at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University, is doing research on the precise moment when someone with a criminal record no longer poses a threat to society and when society should no longer treat him as such. "We know that the likelihood of committing crime decreases with the amount of time they stay clean while they're free," Blumstein said. "At some point, they're at no greater risk of committing a crime than other similar people in society. The problem is we don't know when that point is, so I'm doing a study of criminal history records."


Thinkers: Plastics future fantastic in Carnegie Mellon prof's view
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 30
This is one of Richard McCullough's visions. In the not-too-distant future, a student will sit down outside a coffee shop, pull a rolled-up plastic sheet out of her backpack, flatten it on the table, and immediately be able to read a newspaper, magazine or book of her choice, displayed in glowing colors. And the whole thing will be made possible by a thin layer of plastics that conduct electricity. Dr. McCullough is a chemistry professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the school's newly appointed vice president of research. Much of his own lab work over the past 20 years has focused on an unusual class of plastics known as polythiophenes, which conduct electricity well enough to match semiconductors made out of silicon. Someday, he hopes, they will achieve the conductivity of metallic compounds.


Carnegie Mellon researchers say higher drug co-pays don't save employers as much as they think
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 27
When a company raises employees' prescription drug co-payments, it will not realize the savings it expects, according to a study on health care costs at Carnegie Mellon University. "What most employers don't consider is that increased co-pays on drugs may lead to an increase in other types of health care," said William B. Vogt, associate professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon. "Not all savings are really savings. They are offset by other types of spending." Dr. Vogt was on the Carnegie Mellon team whose study, "Substitution, Spending Offsets and Prescription Drug Benefit Design," was published this month in Forum for Health Economics and Policy.


HSBC holds internship program
Peninsula | August 1
HSBC organized the most extended and the most successful internship program, where over 30 students were recruited from local, as well as international educational institutions. The internship program is part of the Corporate Responsibility strategy of HSBC and is conducted twice a year during the summer and winter breaks. ... “Personally, this internship experience was the most rewarding of all the work experiences I have had so far”, said Basheera Banu, a third year student at Carnegie Mellon University.


A robot that walks on water
Gizmag | July 27
The NanoRobotics team at Carnegie Mellon University are working on a robot that walks on water, mimicking the Basilisk, or "Jesus Lizard" that's famous for its ability to dash across a water surface on its hind legs. Researchers see amphibious potential in the water-walking robot, as well as a possible efficiency boost in comparison to a boat, because a vehicle that runs across the surface of water experiences very little viscous drag. Computer simulations have been encouraging, demonstrating a few possible efficiency gains in the design and motion over the evolutionary model provided by the Basilisk, particularly with the option of using two or more sets of running legs.