Midday Melodies

By Derek Simon

To say that New York is a musically rich city is the equivalent of saying it is a very large city: technically true but completely missing the point. Conveniently, Rockefeller happens to be located in this cultural hub, and as such we all have the opportunity to go listen to this impressive array of world-renowned musicians. But as is so often the case, with great talent comes great ticket prices. One of the rare exceptions to this rule happens to be located in our very own Caspary Auditorium every Friday at 12pm. Continue reading

A Joan Mitchell Painting in The Rockefeller University Collection

By Bernie Langs

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© Estate of Joan Mitchell

I hold the opinion that Abstract Expressionism was the last great movement in the history of painting. This school, or style, emerged in America (and centered in New York) after World War II, and its many master artists would include the likes of Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Helen Frankenthaler. Abstract Expressionism features a bold technique and centers around emotions, sometimes those buried in the unconscious of the artist.

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WISeR (Women In Science at Rockefeller): A New Initiative

By Asma Hatoum, Mariko Kobayashi, and Alessia Deglincerti

WISeR(Logo)This summer, a small group of postdocs came together to launch a new initiative called wiser (Women In Science at Rockefeller) to begin to tackle a persistent problem: the underrepresentation of female leaders in academic and non-academic sectors of science.

While women hold 60% of all bachelor’s degrees and constitute 48% of the overall workforce, females in leadership positions, particularly in the stem (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, remain a minority. In 2009, the National Research Council released a congressionally mandated report on gender differences in science and engineering faculty at key transition points in their careers. One of the most striking findings in the report was that a gender gap is most apparent at the phd to faculty transition—women are simply not applying to tenure-track positions at research-intensive institutions. This gender gap is particularly pronounced in the biological sciences: in the 1999-2003 period, women received 45% of biology phds but represented only 26% of applicants for tenure-track faculty positions.

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Happy Halloween!

By Aileen Marshall

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A jack-o’-lantern, made from a pumpkin, lit from within by a candle

Halloween is coming up at the end of this month on October 31st. It has become a very big holiday in this country, for children as well as adults, and it is growing in other countries. How did Halloween get started?

The holiday we know today is actually a combination of a pagan harvest festival and a Christian holy day to honor the dead. It actually started in Ireland in medieval times as a harvest festival called Samhain (pronounced so win). Samhain in Gaelic means “summer’s end.” It was the end of the Celtic calendar, the start of the “dark half of the year.” It coincided with the end of the growing season, with the crops dying off and days getting shorter. The ancient Celts believed it was a day the deads’ spirits could return to earth and visit their relatives or on which evil spirits possess someone. Wearing costumes was a way of fooling ghosts and demons. People would also light bonfires and carve out a turnip and put a candle in it as a means of keeping evils sprits away. There is an ancient Irish folktale of a man named Jack who tricked the devil, and trapped him in one of those carved turnips. The devil eventually got out and cursed Jack to wander the earth every Halloween carrying his lantern. Hence the term “jack o’ lantern” or Jack of the lantern. It was also common to have games of fortune telling. One game was to peel an apple so the skin came off in one piece and throw the peel over one’s shoulder. It was said the peel would form the first letter of the person he or she would marry. In England and Scotland people would go “guising,” visiting friends in costume and asking for food or coins.

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New York State of Mind

This Month Natural Selections interviews Carly Gelfond, Assistant Director of Development. Country of origin: United States.

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

I’ve been living here for seven years, since I graduated from college in central New York State. I’m originally from New Jersey.

2. Where do you live?

I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It takes me an hour to get to and from Rockefeller, but it’s worth it. I love where I am at both ends of the trip.

3. Which is your favorite neighborhood?

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Markus Library Reopens with new Study Areas and New Staff Member

By John Borghi

To walk into the Rita and Frits Markus Library today is to enter both an elegant space for members of the Rockefeller community to research and study and an establishment ready to meet the information needs of a twenty-first century research institution. After passing by the security desk in Founder’s Hall, visitors to the newly renovated library can either proceed down the stairs to the quiet study spaces and collaborative research areas located on levels A and B or up the stairs to the historic second floor reading room. In addition to the significant physical improvements, this latest renovation also marks a development in library services that reflects advancements in scientific inquiry on campus and in the broader research community.

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Football (The American Kind)

By Aileen Marshall

Have you ever wondered what your lab mates are talking about when they discuss Sunday’s football game every Monday morning? Or have you seen a game on television and tried to follow it? Have no fear, football is a very exciting and entertaining sport that can be enjoyed by all. The season just started on Labor Day weekend, so here are some “Cliff’s Notes” to help you enjoy the game.

For those who are not familiar with the game, it is played on a 100-yard-long field, with every 10 yards numbered. At each end of the field is a 10-yard-long “end zone.” The last yard line on each end of the field is called the “goal line.”  Goal posts are at the back of each end zone. Each game is divided into four 15-minute quarters, with a “halftime” period after the second quarter. Each team defends its half of the field. The object of the game is to get the oblong-shaped ball into the opponent’s end zone and score points. Continue reading

New York State of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Jim Keller, Grants Management Specialist in the Department of Sponsored Research & Program Development. Country of origin: United States.

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

I moved here from Buffalo, NY nine days before 9/11—September 2, 2001.

2. Where do you live?

Crown Heights, Brooklyn, but I’m about to move on up to the East Side! Continue reading

The University is Getting All the Ducks in a Row to Fight Mosquitoes

by Melody Li

(Photograph courtesy of The Rockefeller University)

Although this summer in New York City has proven extremely rainy and stormy, Rockefeller University has declared drought for its fountains this year. A recent petition addressed to the University community (although the University staff did not receive the email) might shed light on the rationale behind the decision. Some parents and professors on campus, are concerned that the fountains might provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which were particularly aggressive last summer and might have spread from the Faculty Club gardens all the way to the children’s playgrounds. Quoted from the petition, “Through the end of summer children were coming back home every day covered in bites, just from being in the playgrounds, despite daily and frequent application of repellents.” In addition to the children, the Plant Operations and Security personnel were being bitten constantly as their jobs require them to work outside most of the time. Due to the fear that mosquitoes might carry West Nile virus and/or other emerging viruses, the parents’ petition urged the University to shut down the fountains for the year.

The Philosopher’s Garden fountains were designed as part of the University landscape master plan in the 1950s by the late, seminal landscape architect Dan Kiley, featured in the May 2010 Natural Selections issue (http://selections.rockefeller.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/ns-05-2010.pdf). The fountains were installed as part of that plan in 1956, to dampen the traffic noise from York Avenue and to create a beautiful visual display in the Continue reading

The Fourth of July

by Aileen Marshall

This month we celebrate the Fourth of July. But do you know what we are really celebrating? It’s not just a day of picnics and fireworks. The holiday is also known as Independence Day. It marks the day the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, signifying America’s independence from the United Kingdom.

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution recognizing the separation of the thirteen colonies from England. Thomas Jefferson finalized the Declaration of Independence and it was signed on July 4 of that year. The Revolutionary War went on for another seven years, but we celebrate on the day the independence was declared. John Adams wrote that the day “will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.  It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [Shows], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Continue reading

New York State of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Marisa Cerio, Laboratory Administrator in the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology & Epigenetics. Country of origin: United States.

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

My whole life—thirty three years!

2. Where do you live?

Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

3. Which is your favorite neighborhood?

It’s not beautiful, but based on the sheer number of great restaurants, venues, and shops, I’d probably have to say Williamsburg. The Snug Harbor/Randall Manor section of Staten Island is really gorgeous though.

4. What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated?

Manhattan. It’s great and all, but if you’re living in New York without checking out the outer boroughs, you’re definitely not seeing the full picture. There is such an amazing range in diversity of people, cultures, landscapes, and lifestyles within the outer boroughs. And not just Brooklyn—The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island have some truly wonderful neighborhoods, museums, trails, and, of course, Italian ices. Continue reading

Infographic: A World Map of Rockefeller University

by Alessia Deglincerti

Ever wondered how international RU is? Take a look at the map below, the countries colored in black are all represented among the RU population (based on country of citizenship; students and employees with an academic appointment only, it does not include guests or visitors to the campus). The table provides the count by country as of June 2013.  Thanks to Maria Lazzaro, Director of Immigration and Academic Appointments, for providing the information!

Privacy notice: only the numbers by country of citizenship were collected and no other personal information

July/August 2013

A Spin through the Past: Early Centrifuges and Microtomes in Flexner Hall’s Historic Lab

by Claire Warriner

When learning about the accomplishments of past scientists, it seems natural to focus on their moments of discovery. Less often told are the stories of the arduous processes by which those discoveries were made and the technology that made them possible. Rather than a few, once-in-a-lifetime eureka moments, science’s great legacy is built on innumerable hours spent, for example, sectioning tissue or waiting for a spin to finish.

The Rockefeller University’s Historic Lab, located on the first floor of Flexner Hall, is exhibiting several scientific instruments highlighted in Dr. Carol Moberg’s book, Entering an Unseen World: A Founding Laboratory and Origins of Modern Cell Biology 1910-1974. The exhibit, curated by Dr. Moberg and Olga Nilova, Outreach and Special Collections Librarian, brings to life the birth of modern cell biology at what was then called The Rockefeller Institute. In addition to copies of historical letters, the exhibit features scientific tools, two centrifuges, and two microtomes, all of which played key roles in the development of this nascent science. Three of these four tools were designed at Rockefeller in response to specific research needs and were the prototypes for modern centrifuges and microtomes used in laboratories around the world today. The instruments are arranged in the display in a way that tells a chronological history, beginning with research done in the wake of Peyton Rous and James B. Murphy’s split over the origins of cancer and extending to the use of the electron microscope. 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

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

Hideyo Noguchi’s Bust Is Back in Welch Hall

by Joseph Luna

A version of this article previously appeared on the blog The Incubator.

There’s much to see in the newly opened Welch Hall library. For some, it will be a wholly new introduction to such an important campus landmark, fully renovated for twenty-first century science. For others, heading into the new space will be like visiting an old friend, as the hall retains much of its original character. And yet for others, it’s a fitting place to honor a national hero. Since 2004, the portrait of founding RU scientist Hideyo Noguchi has graced the Japanese 1000 yen note, and since then, visiting the place where he worked has been on the itineraries of many Japanese tourists. Having now returned to Welch Hall from the RRB lobby, the bronze bust of Noguchi will no doubt continue to inspire in a more attractive setting. And if you know Noguchi’s story, you might just head over for a photo as well.

Picture yourself at the entrance of a prestigious laboratory in Philadelphia, where you hope to be a postdoc. You just arrived from a small village in Japan and you never went to medical school; you instead learned from textbooks (in self-taught English, French, and German) enough to pass the Japanese M.D. examination with pure hard work. On top of that, you’re without the use of your left hand due to a childhood fire accident. Perhaps you have a letter of introduction in your attaché case, but by all measures you’ve shown up out of the blue, and are hoping—no, praying—for a job. As you stand at the threshold, you become suddenly aware that you’re thousands of miles from home. Do you enter the building? Continue reading

Memorial Day: A Brief Overview

by Daniel Briskin

A few years ago, I found myself sitting with friends before class. We were discussing the upcoming exam schedule and our study plans, when one of us pointed out an approaching three-day weekend. Quickly, we realized that none of us knew the cause of the school holiday; we only knew the ever-important fact that we would get a respite from classes. As none of us knew the holiday, we referenced our calendars and discerned that the event in question was Memorial Day. Answering this one question only led to others: who are we honoring? Soldiers? If so, how is Memorial Day different from Veterans Day—perhaps Veterans Day honors living soldiers and Memorial Day honors dead soldiers? This discussion, from three people born and raised in America, who had collectively celebrated the holiday more than 60 times, showed that our education in and appreciation of our national history was woefully lacking. Therefore, for those who are curious about the origins of Memorial Day (which this year will be observed on Monday, May 27) I have compiled some facts and data about the holiday. Continue reading

New York State of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Amanda Martinez, Associate Director of the Women & Science initiative in the Development Office. Country of origin: USA.

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

I have lived in New York for nine years.

2. Where do you live?

I live in Astoria, Queens.

3. Which is your favorite neighborhood?

My favorite neighborhood is Jackson Heights. It is the intersection of many different cultures. Astoria is a very diverse area as well, but in Jackson Heights this diversity is more pronounced. It’s great to walk around and hear the different languages, smell the different foods, and feel immersed in an international experience only a short subway ride away. Continue reading

RU Art—Architecture Edition

by Carly Gelfond

For years, every morning on my way to work, as I hurried along the white marble pathway leading from the driveway to the buildings on the North end of The Rockefeller University’s campus, I stared uncomprehendingly at the exterior of the long, low building, formally known as Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall. What an eyesore, I would think as I passed. I knew I should be more open-minded, but I just didn’t get it, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the person who designed it—a person with aesthetic taste so strikingly different from my own that he could consider something like this beautiful. Who was this guy? One day I finally decided to look him up.