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July 17, 2014

Personal Mention

Chester S. Spatt, the Pamela R. and Kenneth B. Dunn Professor of Finance at the Tepper School of Business, has been named a new member of the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Research Advisory Committee. The committee provides advice and recommendations to the Treasury’s Office of Financial Research on issues related to financial stability. Spatt has previously served in several key advisory roles, including three years as chief economist and director of the Office of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (2004 -2007). He is a current member of the Model Validation Council, which was established in 2012 by the Federal Reserve System Board of Governors to provide expert and independent advice on its process to rigorously assess the models used in stress tests of banking institutions. Spatt also is a current member of the Systematic Risk Council (SRC), a private sector, non-partisan body of former government officials and financial and legal experts committed to addressing regulatory and structural issues relating to systemic risk in the United States. A highly-respected scholar and researcher in financial economics and financial markets, Spatt has focused much of his attention and research in recent years on economic issues related to securities regulation, asset allocation, taxes and the looming crisis of underfunded public pension plans. Read the full announcement by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Stephen E. Fienberg
, the Maurice Falk University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences, will testify today (Thursday, July 17) before the U.S. Senate on how the federal government can strengthen its research portfolio and capitalize on research and development (R&D) investments. Fienberg served as a member of the National Research Council's (NRC) Committee on Assessing the Value of Research in Advancing National Goals. The NRC is the operating division of the National Academies — the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. Fienberg will share highlights of the committee's report, "Furthering America's Research Enterprise." He will outline the committee's findings on how scientific research impacts society and how all efforts should best be measured for accountability. "If we cultivate talent, provide adequate and dependable resources, and invest in a diversity of basic research, fresh discoveries will continue to power our economy and to enrich our lives in unpredictable and unimaginable ways," Fienberg said. The full committee report is available at

Cleotilde (Coty) Gonzalez
has been selected to serve on the Human Factors Committee of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. OSAC is working to develop standards and guidelines for the forensic science community to improve the quality and consistency of its work. Gonazalez, associate research professor of social and decision sciences, will provide input on issues related to human factors, such as systems design and its relation to human performance, and ways to minimize cognitive and confirmation bias and mitigate errors in complex tasks.

Alex John London, professor of philosophy in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and director of CMU’s Center for Ethics and Policy, has co-authored an opinion paper in the July 17 issue of Nature about a recent Facebook study that unknowingly put nearly 700,000 of the social networking site’s users in a psychological experiment. The piece argues that claims in the media that the study was scandalous or an egregious breach of research ethics are overblown. Read “Misjudgments will drive social trials underground."

Markus Deserno
, associate professor of physics, has been appointed to the editorial board of the Biophysical Journal, the leading international journal for original research in molecular, cellular and systems biophysics. Editorial board members, who are appointed for three years, take responsibility within one of the seven subsections of the journal. Deserno assumed responsibilities within the membrane section on July 1.

A 2005 paper by Carnegie Mellon researchers that explored the burgeoning community of end user programmers will be honored as the Most Influential Paper from a decade ago at the IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC) Conference in Melbourne, Australia, July 28-Aug 1. This year’s winning paper, "Estimating the Numbers of End Users and End User Programmers," was from VL/HCC in 2005, and was authored by Christopher Scaffidi, then a Ph.D. student and now an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Oregon State University, along with his adviser, Mary Shaw, professor in the Institute for Software Research, and Brad A. Myers, professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. This is the third year in a row that Myers has shared the Most Influential Paper Award. The paper concerned so-called end user programmers — people who do programming, but are not trained as professional programmers. After analyzing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Scaffidi and his co-authors estimated that 90 million end users would be in American workplaces by 2012 and that 55 million of those would use spreadsheets or databases and thus potentially be programming. Also, 13 million of these end users would describe themselves as programmers, compared to there being fewer than three million professional programmers. "These were astonishing numbers," Myers said, "which, along with the detailed analyses presented in the paper, has resulted in this paper being highly cited, and highly influential in getting more researchers to focus on this class of programmers, which generally has received little attention."

Zachary Urbach
, a 2014 Mellon College of Science alumnus, has received a one-year study scholarship, and students Miriam Hegglin, Yoon Hee Ha and Michael Matty have received funding for internships in Germany. All four have landed competitive international research experiences in science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) fields through the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, or DAAD for short). Urbach will continue his research in polymer science that he began as a chemistry major at CMU at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPIP) in Mainz, Germany. Hegglin, a rising senior with a double major in civil and environmental engineering, and engineering and public policy, will study sustainability as an intern at Philipps Universität Marburg. Ha, a rising junior majoring in mechanical engineering, will build models for electronic bikes at Hochschule Hannover. Matty, a rising senior majoring in physics will study condensed matter physics at Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen. Learn more.