Culture Corner Television Review: “Da Vinci’s Demons” (Starz network; Fridays at 9:00 p.m.)

by Bernie Langs

Having seen the previews, I decided to watch the first episode of the British-exported television series “Da Vinci’s Demons” with the idea in mind of writing a scathing review of the show for its comic book depiction of one of the world’s greatest geniuses, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), hero of the Italian Renaissance. As I viewed the show, I became surprisingly engaged and found myself tuning in a week later for the second episode, which, though weaker than the premiere, held my interest enough for me to want to watch future episodes. That’s not to say the show isn’t ridiculous, cartoonish, and nothing like the times or the man it features. I currently don’t watch any television weekly series, so it’s quite a shock that I’m engaged with this one. Continue reading

Stopping to Smell the Rhododendron

by Jessica Phippard

Stop to admire the azaleas, but don’t take a bite! (Photograph by the author)

A sense of calm overcomes me as I enter campus each morning, the street sounds fading out as the stresses of the morning commute melt away. It is the landscaping on campus that does this to me. Despite any anxieties about what the day may bring, the flowers and trees in sharp contrast to the urban environment put my mind at ease. This concept of plant life improving mood is a popular study in the field of psychology, and I believe this is true regardless of whether or not we actively revere our surroundings. Whether this is a learned association or something more deeply rooted in our evolution, it matters not; my workday is more enjoyable due to the vibrant surroundings.

Winter or summer, it is the tall centenarian London Plane trees lining the main path up from 66th Street that best stand out to me. In the warm months it is their shade which I most readily embrace, but in the cooler months when their branches are bare, I simply admire Continue reading

New York State of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Leslie Church, Assistant Editor in the Communications and Public Affairs Office. Country of origin: United States.

1. How long have you been living in New York?

I have been living in New York City for a little over a year.

2. Where do you live?

I live in the East Village. Or, as my phone often likes to (appropriately, I think) autocorrect it, the Easy Village.

3. Which is your favorite neighborhood?

My own. On the surface it looks to be all hipsters and NYU kids with something to prove, but half of the residents in my building are tried and true New Yorkers who have been living there for thirty years. They have some stories. And we have [the restaurant] Mud! If you like delicious food and dimly lit cozy cafes with friendly waiters who won’t judge you for having dinner by yourself, go to Mud. Continue reading

An RU Graduate Looks Back

by Mayla Hsu

(Photograph courtesy of Nick Acheson)

What was it like to start graduate school at RU during the Kennedy administration? I had a glimpse of the past when I spoke to Nicholas H. Acheson, RU Class of 1969, who is now an Emeritus Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University. In a wide-ranging conversation, Acheson, a tall, erudite gentleman, reminisced about student life in a pioneering scientific university, among path-breaking scientists doing research that would launch entirely new fields of inquiry and earn multiple Nobel Prizes. New York City during the social upheavals of the 1960s formed a backdrop.

Acheson, 71, was at Harvard University doing a senior year project in James Watson’s lab, when he first learned of newly discovered viruses that infect bacteria, known as bacteriophages (or “phages”). The new phages were a curiosity because they use RNA—not DNA—as their genetic material, so understanding them illuminated an entirely new form of life.  As Acheson began thinking about graduate school, RNA phages had been recently isolated from the sewers of New York City and described by Norton Zinder at RU, which prompted Acheson to become interested in RU’s graduate school. During the admissions process, he interviewed with then-President Detlev Bronk, and remembers barely getting a word in edgewise as Dr. Bronk enthused about various subjects like Greek philosophy and the graduate program.  As a driving force behind establishing the graduate school at RU, which saw its first graduating class in 1959, Bronk saw students as instrumental in shaking up the hierarchy of science and research, making it sound like a very appealing place to study. Continue reading