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January 16, 2014

Personal Mention

Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh recently was named a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Membership in the Chinese Academy is the highest academic honor offered for science and technology in China; only nine foreign members were inducted this year. President Suresh was recognized for his scientific contributions in materials science and engineering, including his work connecting nanomechanical cell structure to disease states. He also was honored for his leadership in building the worldwide scientific and engineering research dialogue through the Global Research Council, which he helped to found while director of the U.S. National Science Foundation. The council will have its annual meeting in Beijing in May 2014. Suresh will be recognized during the Chinese Academy's General Assembly scheduled for June in Beijing. He is CMU's second faculty member recognized with that nation's highest title for science and technology. The late Herbert Simon was elected to it in 1994. Read more.

President Suresh and his research colleagues at MIT and Nanyang Technology Institute in Singapore have developed a new model for studying how the human immune system fights malarial infection. The researchers created a strain of mice with an immune system that mimics many features of the human immune system and can be infected with the most common form of the malaria parasite. The research team's discovery could greatly accelerate the understanding of malaria and advance the development of new drugs and vaccines to combat infection. The research was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  Learn more.

Stephen Fienberg, the Maurice Faulk University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences, has been named to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) newly created National Commission on Forensic Science. The commission is part of a new initiative to strengthen and enhance the practice of forensic science and is made up of 30 members who were chosen from a pool of 300 forensic service practitioners, academic researchers, prosecutors and defense attorneys. Fienberg will be the commission's only statistician. The members will create guidelines concerning the intersections between forensic science and the criminal justice system and develop policy recommendations for the U.S. Attorney General, including uniform codes for professional responsibility and requirements for formal training and certification. Read more.

Fienberg also is the editor of the "Annual Review of Statistics and its Application," one of the newest journals published by Annual Reviews. In the first volume, he wrote an essay titled "What is Statistics?" He traces statistics as a discipline from the mid 17th century through the present and evaluates the future of the field and the role of applications in it. Read his essay and the entire first volume of the new journal at

Two professors in the School of Computer Science, Aarti Singh and Siddhartha Srinivasa, have been awarded endowed chairs reserved for faculty members who show exceptional promise in the early stages of their careers.

  • Singh, an assistant professor in the Machine Learning Department who joined the CMU faculty in 2009, will hold the A. Nico Habermann Chair of Computer Science. Singh’s research focuses on how to extract meaningful information from datasets that are both massive in size and plagued by noise, missing values and inconsistencies, while balancing the competing goals of computational efficiency and optimal accuracy. She is a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and is lead investigator for an NSF Big Data grant.
  • Srinivasa, an associate professor in the Robotics Institute who joined the faculty in 2005 after earning his master’s degree and Ph.D. in robotics at CMU, will hold a Finmeccanica Chair in Computer Science. He founded the Personal Robotics Lab, where he and his research team are developing the fundamental building blocks of perception, navigation, manipulation and interaction to enable robots to perform challenging manipulation tasks with and around people. The Home Exploring Robot Butler, HERB, is a two-armed, mobile robot that serves as a testbed for these technologies and methods. In addition, he is a principal investigator and manipulation lead of the CMU Tartan Rescue Team, which is developing a robot that can respond to natural and man-made disasters.

English Professor David Shumway will lead discussions for a series titled "From Romance to Intimacy: Changing Stories of Love, Courtship and Marriage" on Sundays at the Peters Township Public Library. Participants will read three selected novels that have been paired with a film, then explore how the film adaptations update, diminish or alter the novels’ visions of love. Sessions will be held from 7 - 8:30 p.m. as follows:

  • Feb. 9 – “Emma” by Jane Austen and the 2005 film “Clueless.”
  • March 2 – “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the 2013 film “The Great Gatsby.”
  • April 6 – “The Maples Stories” by John Updike and the 1979 made-for-television movie “Too Far to Go.”

Registrations will be accepted at the library circulation desk for individual sessions at $10 per session or $25 for all three sessions.

Alumnus Dan Gilman (DC'04), long-time chief of staff for outgoing City Councilman and now Mayor Bill Peduto, was sworn in as his District 8 predecessor last week (Jan. 6). Gilman represents the residents of Oakland, South Point Breeze, Shadyside and North Squirrel Hill. Since earning his CMU degree in ethics, history and public policy, Gilman has played an integral role in the transformation of the East End, including working on more than $1 billion in economic growth in District 8. At Carnegie Mellon, Gilman, the son of Mellon College of Science Dean Fred Gilman, served as Student Body President and was selected as student representative to the Board of Trustees. He also was an Andrew Carnegie Society Scholar.

Obituary: Dale T. Mortensen (TPR 1967)

Dale T. Mortensen (TPR 1967), an economist whose pioneering work on labor markets won a Nobel Prize and helped governments and policy makers better understand the stubborn complexities of unemployment, died of cancer on Thursday, Jan. 9, at his home in Wilmette, Ill. He was 74.
Mortensen, who earned his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon in 1967, was one of three economists who shared the 2010 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their work on a line of economic thinking known as search theory. Together he and the other two laureates, Peter A. Diamond of MIT and Christopher A. Pissarides of the London School of Economics, developed a model to help explain why even in times of economic health, when employers have many job openings, it can be hard for unemployed people to find work, and conversely, why employers may have a hard time filling open positions even during periods when the pool of available workers is large.

Read the obituary in The New York Times