Tim Blanchfield, Rockefeller’s Fitness Guru

Sarah Baker

Photo credit: Evan Davis

“Don’t put anything off. Do it today. Don’t wait.” This is the advice that Timothy Blanchfield, the Fitness Manager of The Rockefeller University, has for the Rockefeller community. If you have been to Rockefeller’s gym in Founders Hall, you have most likely run into Blanchfield. Since he was hired in the spring of 2014, it has been his main goal to keep Rockefeller fit—he manages the gym and its equipment, runs free fitness classes for the campus community, and is in charge of Rockefeller’s participation in the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge every summer. I sat down with him at Rockefeller’s Faculty and Student’s Club to discuss his job and the path that led him to fitness.

Blanchfield grew up in Beacon, New York, about an hour north of New York City. When Blanchfield was living in Beacon, the Breakneck Ridge trail was not well known, but now it is a popular hike due to a challenging rock scramble and nearly vertical climb in the first mile, as well as its stunning views of the Hudson River and neighboring mountains. However, in those days, the Mount Beacon Railway was a popular tourist destination. This trolley followed the steep mountain face, had sweeping views of the valley, and led to a casino at the top called the Beaconcrest Hotel. In 1978, after several fires and financial issues, the railway closed.

In college, Blanchfield began doing some fitness training with his friends. He was completely self-taught, but he realized that he could help people get into shape at the gym. A few years later, Blanchfield joined Teach for America in the Bronx, where he was teaching for five years. Although he was teaching history, he also helped with some of the physical education programs and found that many people would come to him for fitness advice. Blanchfield used his free time to begin personal training after school and when he left teaching, he was a full-time fitness trainer until Rockefeller hired him as part of Human Resources’ initiative to increase the wellness offerings at Rockefeller. Now he works part-time for Rockefeller and manages his own personal training business on the side.

When Blanchfield first started at Rockefeller, many people did not know about his free fitness class offerings. In fact, initially, only people from Human Resources attended his classes, but this worked to get the ball rolling. Through word-of-mouth and increased advertising of the fitness classes, a diverse array of Rockefeller community members of all ages and fitness levels now attend his classes. Classes are always being added and adapted. One of the most popular classes is Blanchfield’s strength and conditioning class on Mondays at 7:30 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 12 and 1 p.m.

Blanchfield also organizes Rockefeller’s annual participation in The Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. There is space for 210 people (30 teams) to participate. Participants receive a fitness tracker at the beginning of the challenge to track their steps and other physical activity online for 100 days each summer. The program aims to improve physical activity, mental wellness, nutrition, and sleep; this contributes to improvement in all-around wellness of the participants. In addition, the Global Challenge provides both a sense of comradery and competitiveness to campus as participants work harder to get in steps and climb the leaderboard, visible on the Virgin Pulse app.

Blanchfield says that he loves every part of his job. He finds satisfaction in helping people improve themselves and enjoys working at an institution like Rockefeller where there is a constant flux of students, postdoctoral fellows, research technicians, and other employees—there are always new people with whom he gets to work. To make the most of the limited space for equipment, Tim is continually working on replacing old machines and putting in new and improved equipment. He is excited about adding an upright rower to the gym soon. A cardio intervals class will also be added with a focus on high-intensity interval training. Blanchfield’s biggest pet peeve is when people do not return their weights to the rack after they finish using them. No one wants to spend half of their workout looking all over the gym for the weights they need!

Blanchfield’s advice for anyone at Rockefeller who wants to get into fitness is to start slow and find something you can enjoy and can handle. It is okay to modify anything as needed. The biggest mistake people make when they decide to start working out is that they go too hard at first, especially if they are working out with a friend who has been working out for years. So ease into everything to avoid injury and fatigue. The goal is to find a way to include fitness in your lifestyle in a way that will be maintainable for you.

Motivation can be hard to find and to sustain. Even incredibly fit people like Blanchfield burn out sometimes. This past year, Blanchfield realized that this was happening to him. He had completed six full Ironman races in four years. (That’s six long-distance triathlons where he swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles!) Plus, he had done about ten half Ironman races in that same four-year period. So this past year he has been taking a bit of a break from intensive training and has allowed his proclivities for pizza to creep up on him. Everyone needs a break sometimes. However, Blanchfield is still very active—he discovered a love for mountain biking about three years ago, and now, he goes up to his condo on Hunter Mountain to ride his bike through the mountains almost every weekend. Not only is it fun and a beautiful place to bike, but this can also get him up to 90,000 steps for the Global Challenge.

Since Blanchfield’s advice to us is not to put anything off, I asked him what is one thing he would to do that he has not yet done. He has no plans to leave New York anytime soon, but eventually he does want to move somewhere more south or somewhere more west. Some options are North Carolina, Jackson Hole, or Park City—anywhere beautiful with plenty of places to go mountain biking. He says he’s been in the city too long, but we are thankful he has been here because he is doing a wonderful job of helping members of the Rockefeller community lead happy and healthy lives.

A description of the Rockefeller University fitness center can be found here and you can check out the full fitness class schedule here.

Review: Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves

Frans de Waal

W.W. Norton and Company, March 12, 2019

326 pages

Hardback, $15.00


Yuriria Vazquez

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Can you imagine your human life without emotions? In other words, can you imagine yourself not feeling any joy, sadness, fear, anger, empathy, pleasure, or excitement? Most likely, our social world would vanish, and we might not survive since fear would no longer be elicited. Frans de Waal’s most recent book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves, invites us to ponder the essential role of emotions in the lives of humans and other animals. The book challenges the notion that only humans are capable of having emotions and that it is not possible to study emotions in animals. The book is captivating, mind-changing, and a must-read for anyone interested in behavior, neuroscience, and social interactions.

De Waal is a well-known ethologist and zoologist. He is currently the C.H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the Psychology Department of Emory University and a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences. De Waal begins by narrating an astonishing event involving a myriad of emotions expressed between a chimpanzee and a human. The event relates to a particular hug between a severely ill chimpanzee and a researcher. The chimp knew Jan van Hooff, the researcher, for forty years. Mama, the chimp, was motionless lying on her deathbed. When Jan entered the room, and Mama noticed Jan’s presence, she embraced him and grinned. During the embrace, Mama’s fingers patted Jan’s head and neck. A pat is a movement chimps use to quiet whimpering infants. Mama was clearly happy about van Hooff’s presence, and her patting indicated to Jan that she had no problem with him being in her territory. This event is astonishing. Normally, no one would dare to invade the territory of a chimpanzee because their outrageous strength can be deadly; the fact that Jan was able to do this denoted a deep social bond between Mama and Jan. It serves as evidence that chimps are capable of having and expressing emotions like happiness and gratitude. With this story, de Waal begins an exciting journey full of knowledge and reflections about what is known about human and animal emotions and whether it is plausible to study emotions in animals.

Over the course of the book, de Waal covers a lot of thematic ground, ranging from the expression of emotions through facial expressions and body language to different types of emotions, emotional intelligence, social signals, and consciousness in primates, birds, elephants, rodents, and fishes. The author’s narrative style is fluid, fresh, and clear. The chapters pose challenging questions to the reader by narrating experiments and their results and de Waal proposes possible answers to these questions.

De Waal challenges even the most skeptical reader and his arguments favor the existence of emotions in animals, their neural basis, and their evolution. The author defines emotion as an internal state affecting different physiological responses, such as changes in heart rate, skin color, facial movements, voice, and tears. He supports the idea that the body influences emotions through hormones, hunger, sexual arousal, insomnia, and exhaustion.

These two arguments shape a definition of emotion based on a physical substrate. De Waal identifies an explicit difference between emotions and feelings: “Emotions are bodily and mental states that drive behavior. Only when the person experiencing these changes becomes aware of them do they become feelings, which are conscious experiences. We show our emotions, but we talk about our feelings.”

By using Darwin’s definition of evolution, “descent with modification,” the author makes a case that since evolution rarely creates anything completely new, no human emotions are entirely new. This is a crucial argument to support emotions in other species, and poses an open question regarding the evolution of emotions and if they are shaped by species who depend on them for their social and survival needs.

All these arguments invite skeptical readers, like me, to think that emotions are measurable phenomena, and hence it is possible to study them in several animal species.

One of my favorite parts in this book was the section related to the expression of emotions. Here, the author does an amazing job of presenting evidence about how facial expressions in primates and body movements, such as tail movements in dogs or cats, provide a window into assessing internal emotional states. For example, we all know when a dog likes us and is excited about interacting with us. We just need to see how it moves its tail from side to side. We use similar reasoning to infer when a cat is angry. We just look at its fur and the shape of its body.

The book describes how Paul Ekman, an American psychologist and a pioneer in the study of the relationship between emotions and facial expressions, developed the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). FACS classifies facial expressions in humans based on facial muscle contractions. The book emphasizes that most of the time, emotions have ways to be expressed. To understand them, then, it is crucial to focus on the signals, the form they take, and their effect on others. De Waal himself conducted research to classify facial expressions in chimpanzees. Interestingly, he reports mixed facial expressions depending on the situation.

Other passages of the book relate to empathy. Here, de Waal describes several examples across different species, including rats, bonobos, and prairie voles. From all of the examples, one can conclude that indeed empathy is not exclusively human. In the case of prairie voles, which are tiny rodents, males and females form monogamous pair-bonds and raise their pups together. James Burkett, a scientist at Emory University, showed that if one mate is upset by anything, its partner is equally affected. This is true regardless of whether the partner is present during the stressful event.

Another mesmerizing experiment, involving bonobos, was developed by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. The experiment consisted of providing a bonobo with a whole pile of fruits, which he could eat by himself or share with another bonobo sitting behind a mesh door. The first thing many bonobos did was to open the door, and let the other bonobo enter. This action cost them half of their fruits. However, if there was nobody behind the door, they would eat all of the fruits immediately. This behavior provides strong evidence for empathy and pro-social behaviors. This kind of behavior is also seen in rats and elephants when they help their peers get out of dangerous situations. As de Waal puts it: “Social connectivity at its best [is] the glue of all animal and human societies, which guarantees supportive and comforting company.”

As in real life, not everything is peaches and cream. Conflict resolutions, power signals, and social organization are also part of real life and of de Waal’s book. The author focuses on social hierarchies in non-human primates and the differences between bonobo and chimpanzee societies. Crucially, bonobos are a female-ruled society, while chimpanzees are male-ruled. Both societies are hierarchical, but have very different strategies to deal with social organization. While male chimps easily form coalitions, bonobo males are not very cooperative. Bonobo females form a kind of sisterhood, and they work together in response to male harassment. This is a sharp contrast to chimpanzee females, who endure abuse and infanticide. The book reveals that brain areas like the amygdala and anterior insula, which are involved in emotional processing and social behavior, are enlarged in the bonobo compared to the chimpanzee. Studies have also shown that bonobo brains contain more developed pathways to control aggressive impulses. All this evidence supports de Waal’s point that emotions influence the way we relate to others, and thus our social lives.

One thing missing from the book is a graphical schema comparing the brains of different animals (primates, rats, birds), with the brain areas involved in emotional states. This would help readers to easily understand portions of the book involving brain structures like the amygdala, insula, hypothalamus, dopaminergic system, and so on. At some point, the author proposes to construct a taxonomy of emotions, in order to get a fingerprint of each emotion. The proposed taxonomy would be based on the areas and brain circuits involved in each emotional state. However, the author just flirts with the idea and does not develop it. This is a pity, since in recent decades, huge progress has been made in understanding circuits related to emotions like fear, aggression, mating, and romantic and maternal love, among others. A similar omission occurs when the author talks about patients with emotional impairments. Overall, the information is extremely limited in the book in terms of neurophysiological data supporting behavior.

Despite these shortcomings, I enjoyed and learned much by reading Mama’s Last Hug. The book is a masterpiece from an ethological point of view. It convinces the reader that animals have emotions and of the importance of studying them in ethologically relevant settings. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in behavior, evolution, and neuroscience. It provides a huge amount of information but also leaves you thinking about the open questions in the research of emotions.

Amuse Yourself

A column about NYC museum exhibits to check out on a rainy weekend day. This month: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Camp: Notes on Fashion.

Sydney Tiemann

Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This year’s Met Gala theme required plenty of explanation and is arguably the least readily definable: “camp.” The annual themed fundraising event supports the Met’s Costume Institute, which subsequently puts on a fashion exhibition considering that theme. These exhibits are wildly popular (last year’s “Heavenly Bodies” garnered the most visitors the Museum has ever seen), and this year’s iteration is no exception. I was accompanied on my Saturday afternoon visit by what felt like a thousand others through the narrow bubblegum-pink hallways of the show, each of us coming to our own definitions of what camp means in the context of couture fashion.

The exhibit begins with a history lesson in camp (this does not refer to summer camp or cabins in Maine—an easy misinterpretation). Each gallery defines camp in a distinct and evolving way as the exhibit moves through its history. The first room presents the origins of camp as a verb (se camper in French, meaning to strut about in an exaggerated or theatrical way), highlighting Louis IV and his extravagant manner of dress. Camp is then presented as an adjective as a feature of subversive cross-dressing queer communities and its general capacity to play with masculine and feminine dress codes. We next learn about Oscar Wilde’s camp (a noun) and Isherwood’s camp (subsets of nouns) until we come to a gallery based on Susan Sontag’s cornerstone essay, “Notes on Camp”, and the inspiration for this year’s theme. Thus far the exhibit is borderline didactic but helpful nonetheless for us laypeople.

With all the exhibit’s efforts to define camp, I found it increasingly difficult to do so, yet I was gaining a compounding and mutable picture of its story. This speaks to camp as an elastic and multifaceted concept—something that seems to cause discomfort, as evidenced by the initial confusion after the Gala theme was announced. When we find a notion difficult to encapsulate neatly in one concise satisfying term, we tend to simplify it or shy away from it in favor of black-and-white definitives (often stated confidently in less than 280 characters on a social media platform). What I loved about the camp exhibit is that it challenges that tendency, forcing us to engage with something we can’t perfectly pinpoint. That, and the absurdly campy clothes.

The final gallery is a dim atrium displaying all manners of fanciful haute couture items in the camp aesthetic accompanied by quotes on camp. A ruffly periwinkle Viktor and Rolf ball gown fashioned completely upside down with the neckline at the wearer’s ankles. A Jean Paul Gaultier top hat covered in human hair. Sparkly dresses with belts and creases painted on as a suggestion of functionality but having no function themselves. Tinsel and jewels and feathers and fur and hidden and obvious messages—this is admittedly what most of us came for. It’s the most delightful dress-up box imaginable.

Sontag prefaces her seminal essay with the quip that “to talk about camp is…to betray it,” yet here I was at the end of an exhibit having been told what camp is from at least fifty different perspectives. I felt like by directly engaging with the idea of camp and observing its effects on the fashion world in such an obvious way, we were all betraying some kind of secret about it, thus missing the point entirely. But bringing a nuanced concept to a broader audience is certainly an important undertaking, and I’m glad the Costume Institute chose this theme at a time when we could all use a bit more nuance.

Catch the show before it closes September 8. When you leave, you likely won’t have that satisfyingly definitive answer to what camp is, but you’ll certainly have an expanded understanding and get to witness the fashion world’s whimsical interpretations. If you miss it, consider these other upcoming NYC art exhibitions this fall:

Whitney Biennial 2019 (Whitney Museum of American Art, through Sept. 22)

Yayoi Kusama solo exhibition (David Zwirmer gallery, November)

Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall (The Brooklyn Museum, through Dec. 8)

She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York City 1919-2019 (Gracie Mansion, through Dec.)

Pierre Cardin Future Fashion (The Brooklyn Museum, through Jan. 5)


Evan Davis

Smorgasburg is an outdoor food market that originated in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2011 and now takes place every Saturday and Sunday, in Williamsburg and Prospect Park, respectively. Originally an offshoot of the Brooklyn Flea, the founders created a food centric market due to limited space. Today over 100 vendors flock to Brooklyn every weekend to serve innovative foods to tourists from all over the world.

Culture Corner

Television Review: Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story and Springsteen on Broadway

Bernie Langs

Photo Credits: Netflix

If one believes that we’re living in a golden age of television, that blessing comes with a bonus of a golden age of rock and roll documentaries. Recent superlative films airing on Netflix and other cable services include full-length features about Keith Richards, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison, with an emphasis on new interviews with the primary subject (unless deceased), as well as many musicians who retell their stories as witnesses to the life and era in question.

Two new documentaries have left me with an increased appreciation and respect for the featured artists. Martin Scorsese’s film about the mid-1970s Rolling Thunder Revue tour of Bob Dylan is anchored throughout by a rare discussion with Dylan today. The second is the Netflix feature of Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway show, which was a sell-out hit during its limited run. The contemporary Dylan interviewed by Martin Scorsese is insightful, intelligent, humorous, and energetic, defying his late 70s age at the time of filming. Springsteen appears bright, witty, and deeply introspective as he relates the story of his life and career without pause and with biting emotional intensity.

In Springsteen on Broadway, the artist undertakes a live performance of his recent autobiography, Born to Run. Springsteen strums a solo guitar or plays the piano while recollecting and diving deep into the key events of his life and successful years in the world of music. It is unlike any Broadway show I’ve ever seen, a unique journey of the heart and soul.

Springsteen has a physical appearance akin to a chiseled stone monument, a weathered journeyman who has risen to peaks of success and heights of uncompromising integrity. Yet the artist has been felled at times by his depressive inner demons, many stemming from decades of confusion about his relationship with his tough, emotionally-stunted, hard-drinking father. Springsteen’s confessions are so raw, open, revealing, and, at times, brutal that I could only watch the documentary in short segments over several weeks. Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, joins him onstage to perform at times during the show, a respite from the rough ride we’ve been witnessing.

Springsteen rolls through versions of many of his hits, including “Thunder Road,” “Growin’ Up,” and “Born in the USA,” and supplements the music with a wide range of discussions. He speaks at length about how his long-time sax player and stage foil, the late Clarence Clemons, burst into his life and remained an overwhelming vital force throughout their many years together. The void created from Clemons’s death has been a great one for Springsteen, one with which he continues to struggle.

As an artist, Springsteen has a unique mind and a sharp view of the America in which we live today. His autobiography, the basis of the Broadway show, is an exciting read and a vivid display of literary rock and roll reminiscing. During the show, the stories about his father include the tale of how he had brought him to one concert to make his father see that his rock star son’s entire stage and musical persona as a working class man dressed in factory attire was based not on his own experiences but is borrowed from his dad. This manipulation was used by Springsteen to make an artistic statement, which was the key to his success.

More than any top director of major artistic films, Martin Scorsese is a musician’s filmmaker. He cut his teeth working on the Woodstock documentary and his early movies are peppered with well-placed rock and roll classics. His music documentaries include studies of George Harrison’s life, Living in the Material World, and the final performance of The Band in The Last Waltz. His new feature, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story studies the artist’s enigmatic mid-1970s wandering, troubadour-like tour, with its free spirit and great musical intensity. The new interviews with Dylan are focused and revealing, and one delights in the sing-song cadence of his spoken word. Dylan is the epitome of a vastly creative, genius poet well deserving of his Nobel Prize in Literature.

In one of Dylan’s first scenes, he asks Scorsese to halt filming as he attempts to get a handle on recalling the tour that took place decades ago. He humorously claims not to remember one thing about Rolling Thunder Revue and notes, “I wasn’t even born yet!,” a notion that makes complete sense in that this Bob Dylan is absolutely not the man we see speaking and singing in the 1970s footage. In the same segment, Dylan notes that his life has been centered around the act of creating, nothing more and nothing less, a remarkably astute sentiment.

There were many great artists that bounced in and out of the line-up of Rolling Thunder Revue, including Roger McGuinn of The Byrds and the late Mick Ronson, the guitar virtuoso who helped propel David Bowie to fame. The footage of the legendary Ronson soloing with the band are a highlight of the movie. One interviewee claims that Ronson told him at the time he had no idea what Dylan thought of him and that Dylan had never spoken to him during the tour. Yet there is a moment captured in the movie when Dylan stands before Ronson, rocking back and forth in a bliss-like state as the guitarist riffs with powerful intensity.

My favorite moment in Rolling Thunder is when Joni Mitchell, who joined the performers late in the tour, is in a back room with Dylan and Roger McGuinn teaching them her newly-penned song “Coyote,” which went on to become a classic (and which is also featured in Scorsese’s Last Waltz). When Mitchell begins singing this fantastic tune, we once again understand her status as one of the most respected artists in popular music. It’s a sublime moment in rock and roll history, captured on film in this one-time, unrehearsed, spur-of-the-moment performance with three legends.

The 1970s Dylan and the man we see on film today seems honest and genuine, nothing like the cunning, cultural manipulator described by the over-imaginative rock press through the years. He loves music and appreciates his musicians and it is obvious he is enjoying the tour. Funny enough, Dylan also drives the entourage’s large tour bus, the sight of which is oddly surreal. Perhaps he took the wheel because it offered the best and widest view of the scenery, a front seat vantage from which to take in America as they ride the open roads and swing into towns and cities.

Scorsese has chosen wisely from the many works performed during the Rolling Thunder Revue. We see some of the most moving songs by the artist from his mid-70s catalogue and hear several from his earlier days. There is a powerful version of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” an emotionally meditative “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” and a searing rendition of “Isis.” “Isis” was on Dylan’s 1976 album, Desire. It is a power-packed story of love and the seeking of earthly fortune. Dylan sings as a wide-eyed, energetic narrator with his face painted Kabuki white. It invites the listener to dream of cinematic action and adventure.

I believe that the present-day music industry has struggled to produce consistently high quality music on par with the excellence we are experiencing today in movies and television shows. But I’ll take it as a win that I find such deep satisfaction from a new documentary about a Dylan tour from a long past era or by watching Springsteen onstage in a Broadway show expounding with deep emotionality the tales of his older catalogue as it relates to his personal life. I consider these two films a huge validation for the continued relevancy of rock and roll, the music that acts as the powerful soundtrack for so many lives, including my own.

Natural Expressions


Bernie Langs of The Rockefeller University Development Office has released a new video, “The Boardwalk of Desire.” Acting as director, composer, and musician, Langs uses Atlantic City as a backdrop over which he performs his song “Gin and Bitters Boardwalk.” Check out this release on YouTube.


Email Megan E. Kelley at mkelley@rockefeller.edu to submit your art/music/performance/sporting/other event for next month’s “Natural Expressions” and follow @NatSelections on Twitter for more events.

The Rueben Sandwich

Aileen Marshall

Reuben on rye at Katz’s Deli, Ernesto Andrade via Wiki Commons

What do you get when you order a Reuben? It is a large, hunger-killing sandwich consisting of corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and melted Swiss cheese, all grilled on buttered rye bread. While it can be considered an iconic New York City food, its origin is unclear. There are several different claims as to the inventor of this sandwich, none of which have ever really been proven. There are stories about it starting here in this city, while there are conflicting assertions that it was invented, surprisingly, in Omaha, Nebraska.

Most of the claims to a New York City origin are attributed to Arnold Reuben, a German immigrant who owned Reuben’s Restaurant and Delicatessen, known for large sandwiches named after celebrities. In 1914, it was located on Broadway and 82nd Street. In Craig Claiborne’s New York Times column in 1976, Reuben’s daughter, Patricia Taylor, said that one night in 1914, an actress named Annette Selos, girlfriend of Charlie Chaplin, came in to her father’s place and said that she was famished. Reuben made her a sandwich of ham, turkey, coleslaw, cheese and dressing on rye. She said it was the best sandwich she’d ever had. He named it the Reuben’s special. However, this combination is not what is considered a Reuben sandwich.

Another story comes from a 1968 book, Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices, by George Hertner. He wrote that the Reuben was invented by William Hammerly, a New York City accountant and amateur cook. Hammerly named it after Arnold Reuben because of his well-known charity works.

One more claim to the inventor of the sandwich comes from Reuben’s son, Arnold Reuben Jr. In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times in 1993, he gives credit to a chef at the restaurant during the 1930s, Alfred Scheuing. Reuben said that he would work in his father’s restaurant many late nights and would grab a burger to eat. One day Scheuing said he was sick of seeing the boy eat so many burgers. He said he had “some nice fresh corned beef.” He put some on rye bread, added fresh sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese, and grilled it for him. Other than these interviews, the only other substantiation to these claims is the fact that Reuben’s menus from these times list both a Reuben’s Special, the ham and turkey version, and a Reuben sandwich, the traditional corned beef version.

The other claim to the invention of the Reuben comes, unexpectedly, from Omaha, Nebraska. In the 1920s there were a group of men who would meet for a weekly poker game in a room at the Blackstone Hotel. The lore goes that they liked to make their own sandwiches during the game. One of the men was grocer Reuben Kulakofsky. His family has claimed over the years that he made up this sandwich from a platter sent up to the room by the hotel. There is a competing story about the hotel chef, Charles Schimmel. His granddaughter, Elizabeth Weil, wrote to the New York Times that Schimmel invented the sandwich specifically for Kulakofsky. That’s why he named it after him. Schimmel subsequently put it on the hotel menu. A 1934 menu from the Blackstone does list the Reuben sandwich. Note that a Reuben sandwich is grilled. It’s not clear if there was a grill in the hotel room where the men played poker.

Another Omaha tie comes from 1956. Fern Snyder was a chef at the Rose Bowl Hotel in Omaha. The National Restaurant Association had a contest that year for the best hotel and restaurant sandwich. Snyder’s entry of a recipe for a Reuben sandwich won the contest.

Wherever it comes from, this meal-sized sandwich is relatively easy to make at home. Just butter one side of a slice of rye bread, then put it in a hot pan or grill. On top of the bread place several slices of corned beef. On top of the beef put some drained sauerkraut. Over the sauerkraut, pour some Russian dressing. Top it all off with a slice of Swiss cheese. Butter one side of another slice of rye bread, place it on top of the sandwich, butter side facing out. Press the sandwich together, and continue to grill and press, flipping occasionally, until the cheese had melted and the bread is golden and crispy on the outside.

There are many restaurants in this city that offer a Reuben sandwich. One place close to our university is Ess-a-bagel on Third Avenue near 51st Street. The Brooklyn Diner on 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue also offers a Reuben. And there is the famous Katz’s Deli, on Houston Street near First Street. Of course, many diners have Reubens on their menu. While not the healthiest choice for a meal, it is savory, satisfying, and delicious.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, I interview Michelle, the dog who lives with Emma Garst (Hang Lab, The Rockefeller University). I love animals, please write me at pviswanath@mail.rockefeller.edu if you have pets! That’s the whole point of this.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Michelle: I’m going on four years old! I guess I should be settling down, but I think maturity is overrated. I am still “young at heart,” as my mom likes to say.

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

M: The foster agency gave it to me, and mom kept it because she thought it was funny! You can take it up with her. We get asked sometimes if I was named after First Lady Michelle Obama. For the record: no. Who would dare.

PV: What is your first memory?

M: I have some early memories, but the most exciting one was when I took a long road trip up from Pittsburgh to meet my new mom! I was driven by a couple of volunteers, so I got to meet a lot of new people. I love new people.

PV: Where do you live?

M: I live in Faculty House with my mom and our roommates, Fangyu Liu and Mizuho Horioka. I like to play a fun game with Fangyu, where I make funny noises and she makes funny noises back. We have a good time. (*Editor’s note: this is not a fun game for Fangyu.)

PV: What are your favorite smells of NYC?

M: Oh boy, I love trash day. New York has so many interesting smells, I couldn’t name just one! There’s old chicken, and fresh pee, and Thai take out, and bird droppings…

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

M: I love New York but I would love to run more! I’d like to live somewhere off in the mountains, where my mom wouldn’t worry about me running off to explore every once and a while.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

M: I’ll try any food once, but it’s got to be chicken. I love when we get rotisserie chicken and I get the little fatty salty skin bits. MMMmm.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

M: I like taking mom up to Randall’s Island! There’s plenty to sniff and explore up there. There are squirrels, and we also get to walk past lots of dogs on the way. I find other dogs confusing… but very interesting.

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

M: I have to pass on this question, I don’t want to play favorites with my fans.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

M: One time I almost got that rabbit on the Rockefeller campus! I even got away from my mom, but I couldn’t find it once it got in the bushes. Actually, it is an exciting but sad story, not funny. I would like to chase the rabbit again someday.

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

M: My mom basically only posts pictures of me (for obvious reasons). You can follow her Instagram @egarst.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

M: Opening doors. Just imagine, I could take myself out on walks all the time!

New Member Guide to Campus

The Natural Selections Editorial Board

We welcome all of the new members of our community to The Rockefeller University! Here are resources you may find of interest:

Markus Library

Located in Welch Hall (enter the Founder’s Hall lobby and walk down the stairs), the library provides resources for scientific research at the university. In addition to providing access to scientific articles, the library has public computers, meeting spaces, a lounge with current magazines and newspapers, and Kindles loaded with popular books that are available for checkout.


Classifieds are posted by members of the community looking for scientific items, selling items, searching for housing, or submitting announcements. You can subscribe to receive RU classifieds alerts here: https://inside.rockefeller.edu/classifieds/.

The Faculty and Students Club

Located on the B level of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall and open from 4-11 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Faculty and Students Club is a place for social interaction, thesis celebrations, barbecues, parties, and meetings. The club provides discounted drinks to members of the Rockefeller community who have an account. To set-up an account, contact Human Resources.

Resource Centers

Rockefeller has many collaborative resources centers with specialized equipment and expertise. Find the complete list here: http://inside.rockefeller.edu/rc/.

Information Technology

IT maintains a safe and secure campus technology network and aids in technical support for computer issues. Their website can be found here: http://it.rockefeller.edu/.

Occupational Health Services

Located in Room 118 of the Hospital Building, OHS provides free health care services to Rockefeller employees covering physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Services provided can be found here: http://inside.rockefeller.edu/hr/occupationalHealthServices.

Office of Sponsored Programs Administration

OSPA aids with the compilation of research grants in compliance with the correct policies and regulations, the identification of available funding, and any issues with obtaining funding (http://www2.rockefeller.edu/sr-pd/homepage.php).

Athletic Facilities

There is a tennis court, squash court, and gym on campus. To access the gym (6th floor of Founder’s Hall), you must sign a waiver at the security desk in Founder’s Hall. The tennis and squash court must be reserved at https://appintpl.rockefeller.edu/tennis/t_logins and https://appintpl.rockefeller.edu/squash/s_logins.

People at Rockefeller Identifying as Sexual/Gender Minorities

PRISM fosters a community of support for LGBTQ+ individuals at Rockefeller. PRISM co-hosts Friday breakfasts with seminar speakers, organizes talks and social events, and provides resources for the Rockefeller community. Find out more here: http://ruprism.org/.

Women in Science at Rockefeller

WISeR is a professional development and advocacy group for women scientists at Rockefeller. WISeR co-hosts Friday breakfasts with PRISM, organises lectures, outreach and a mentorship programme. Check out their activities and resources here: https://www.wiseratrockefeller.com/ and sign up to join.

Science Education and Policy Association

SEPA gives scientists the ability to be engaged in policy-making and see how scientists affect policy and policy affects science. SEPA provides training, hosts career panels, and allows for engagement with policy at local and national levels. Check out the website here: https://sepanyc.org/.

Rockefeller Inclusive Science Initiative

RISI is a student-run group that serves as a support system for Underrepresented Minorities on campus. RISI organizes seminars, mentoring programs, and training. Follow RISI on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ru_risi?lang=en.

Science Communication and Media Group

The SCM team (http://scicommandmedia.rockefeller.edu/) is comprised of a group of students and postdocs who bring interesting lectures and film screenings to campus throughout the year. If you are interested in bridging the gap between scientists and the public, you can consider joining the SCM group by emailing scienceandmedia@rockefeller.edu.

Postdoc Association

The PDA provides social and career development resources for postdocs and research associates at Rockefeller. In addition, the PDA holds a retreat every year, communicates with the administration about the needs of the group, and hosts seminar series and social events throughout the year. You can learn more here: http://pda.rockefeller.edu/.

RockEdu Science Outreach

RockEdu is Rockefeller’s outreach initiative aimed at students K-12 in the New York City community to foster awareness of science and hands on lab experiences. If you are interested in volunteering through RockEdu, you can sign up here: https://www.rockefeller.edu/outreach/volunteers/.

Tri-I Biotech Club

The Tri-I Biotech Club is for members with a shared interest in biotechnology. Find out more here: https://wcbiotechclub.org/.

Tri-I Consulting Club

The Tri-I Consulting Club is for members with a shared interest in consulting. Find out more here: https://triiconsulting.wordpress.com/.

Art Studio

There is an art studio available on campus for community use. If interested, contact Zachary Mirman (zmirman@rockefeller.edu).

Weill Cornell Music and Medicine

The Weill Cornell Music and Medicine group fosters balance between medical and musical interests of the Tri-I community. For more info, go here: https://music.weill.cornell.edu/recruitment. Also, of note, there are 2 music rooms on campus in Scholars and the Abby. Contact the Founder’s Hall security desk for access.

Bronk Fund

The Bronk Fund is available to students in their first through fifth years on campus. Students can be reimbursed half of receipts for fitness activities, language/art class, or theater/concert/sporting events, up to $125 total per year. The fund also provides a lottery of free tickets to students for various events throughout the year.

Life on a Roll

Inside Iran: Oasis of Kashan

Nan Pang

The city was once known among merchants as a prosperous oasis along the Silk Road. Nowadays, Kashan is better known for its production of fine rose water. Located between Tehran and Esfahan, the city is often overlooked by most travelers, but the magnificent architecture of Timche-ye Amin od-Dowleh in the bazaar itself is worth a trip. It is also fascinating to get a flavor of affluent carpet merchants lifestyles through the opulent Tabātabāei House and Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse.


Fighting Fatigue

Emma Garst

Sometime in the last ten years, Jess got a tick bite. Maybe it was at our local park, where we would sometimes have picnics and watch the deer stroll by. Maybe it was that time we spent a night in Big Sur, our lopsided tent parked on a thicket of brambles. Maybe it was at Point Reyes, when she waded into a field of perfect golden grass for a picture. In the picture her hands are raised up in a classic Facebook “yay!” position, her face lit-up in a happy cackle. The grass tickles just under her armpits. It would be years before she looked on these forays into nature with any scrutiny. In the meantime, she became a scientist.

Jess knew at an early age what a scientist looks like. Her parents, first generation Jamaican and Guyanese immigrants, met at MIT, and they tried to instill a love for science in their children. “People ask me if I felt pressured into science–but I actually feel grateful to my parents for making it a very clear option.” She smiles across the kitchen table where we are whiling away a morning. “Sometimes it amazes me that anyone can get into science because it’s so intimidating. There’s this very specific idea of what it looks like to be a scientist, what it is to be a scientist.”

Making good use of our proximity to Stanford, in high school she began working in a lab that uses fly genetics to study how the brain develops. She learned how to mate flies and how to pull out their brains under a dissecting microscope. But the real impetus for her interest in neuroscience came from the community around her. “We were all super sleep-deprived, even in ninth grade. I just saw how it was affecting people.”  Our high school was known for its high achieving students, but it was also known for less happy things – anxiety, depression, suicides. “I was curious why teenagers were like this – I knew the one thing that really defined us as teenagers in Palo Alto is that we were all sleep-deprived.”

Jess continued her studies in neuroscience at Princeton. She developed tools that allowed researchers to image neural circuits, making beautiful tangles of color. She also learned how to traverse the rarified world of Ivy League science as a black woman. “In many spaces, it’s not a priori obvious you should be there,” she explains. “You have to project confidence and a sense of purpose. … I’ve sort of developed that ability to always seem like I know what I’m doing.”

Throughout, she planned to use her training to study sleep. Jess is interested in sleep on a molecular level, and how sleep and psychiatric disorders are linked. However, in her sophomore year of college she started feeling fatigued. She would be worn out, like she was recovering from a cold, and wake up every morning with a headache. When she went to the doctor, he checked her for mono. When that came back negative, he told her to sleep more. She was a college student after all.

Despite the seemingly close relationship between sleep and fatigue, these processes affect each other in complicated ways. Muddling the matter is how we use fatigue interchangeably with tiredness and sleepiness in our everyday language. These symptoms can be caused by lifestyle or sleep disorders – someone who fights strong bouts of sleepiness throughout the day might need more sleep, or they might be narcoleptic. Someone who feels persistently weak, dizzy, and listless (signs of fatigue) might need more sleep, or they might be an insomniac. Beyond sleep disorders, both sleepiness and fatigue can be caused by acute infection (think flu) and chronic immune dysfunction (think lupus). As a symptom, fatigue can be crippling. As a tool for diagnosis, it is practically useless.

During Jess’s first year as a neuroscience graduate student at Harvard, her symptoms of fatigue started to get out of hand. It began to affect her work as a scientist. “[That] was the first time I consistently had moments when I looked at people, and they were disappointed in me,” she recalled. “That experience was scary.” After a year of rotations, Jess went on medical leave. She didn’t know what was wrong with her, and her health was going downhill. “It feels like you’re on a 21 speed bike but you’re stuck in first gear,” she explains. “You can go places, but there’s no way to work up momentum.” She thought medicine just might not have a solution.

Then in 2017, one of her doctors suggested she be tested for B. miyamotoi, a tick-borne pathogen recently discovered in the United States. B. miyamotoi is closely related to the bacteria which causes Lyme disease – but unlike Lyme, an infection is unlikely to cause a tell-tail bulls-eye rash around the tick bite. The Centers for Disease Control report fewer than 60 documented cases of B. miyamotoi in the United States.

Jess had it.

After a course of horse pill sized antibiotics, there are no more bacteria circulating in Jess’s blood–yet her fatigue persists. Since the apparent root cause of her sickness has been cured, Jess is in some ways back to square one. She has that nebulous diagnosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a condition without a cause. Nevertheless, she is heading back to graduate school. “You know, I’m coming back from medical leave but I’m not actually better. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. No one has answers for that.”

“Right now I’m trying not to be in my scared place.”

The Elusive Egg Cream

Aileen Marshall

A New York Egg Cream. Photo Courtesy of Jason Perlow, Wiki Commons.

Egg Cream Components: Fox’s U-Bet, Seltzer and Whole Milk. Photo courtesy of Jason Perlow, Wiki Commons.

How many of you have heard of an egg cream? Do you know what it is? Have you ever had one? If you are of a certain age and from the metropolitan area, you probably remember this beverage fondly. An egg cream is one of those disappearing iconic New York City foods. Lou Reed even wrote a song about it. “You scream, I steam, We all want Egg Cream.” Ironically, it has neither eggs nor cream. It is simply milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer. While that combination may not sound appetizing, if made right, it can be delicious.

Until the mid-twentieth century, combination candy store and luncheonettes were common in the city. These were the type of establishments where there were registers up front that sold candies, cigarettes, and newspapers. In the back was a lunch counter and maybe some tables where one could get sandwiches, burgers, fountain sodas, and ice creams. This was the kind of place where you would go for treats such as an egg cream, an ice cream soda, or a malt. In those days, it was common to make the soda by mixing the syrup with seltzer from a tap.

It is not clear exactly where the egg cream was invented. The most popular attribution is to a Brooklyn candy shop owned by Louis Auster in the 1890s. It is said he sold as many as 3,000 egg creams a day. Auster made his own chocolate syrup in batches in the basement. His egg creams were so popular that a large ice cream manufacturer offered to buy the rights to his syrup recipe. He felt the sum was too small, so he turned them down. When an executive from the ice cream company heard of Auster’s refusal, he called him an anti-Semitic slur. Auster was incensed and vowed to take his secret formula to the grave. It is said that Auster’s grandson made the last batch of his chocolate syrup in 1974.

The competing claim to the egg cream’s origin is that it started on the Lower East Side in the 1920s. This candy store’s owner, a man named Hymie Bell, liked to add vanilla ice cream to chocolate soda. From there he got the idea to make a drink with cream, chocolate syrup, seltzer, and eggs. Competing stores quickly copied this drink, but removed the eggs to make it cheaper.

Bell’s concoction is one hypothesis as to how the egg cream got its name. Others say it came from a man named Boris Thomashevsky, who was an actor in the 1880s. After returning home to New York from a tour in Paris, he asked soda fountain clerks to make a drink he had there, “chocolat et crème.” Possibly “et crème” sounded like “egg cream” to American ears. Another postulate is that Yiddish speakers would refer to the drink as “echt keem,” which means “pure sweetness.” This phrase got anglicized into “egg cream.”

The decline of luncheonette style eateries and drinks like the egg cream started in the 1960s. With the growth of mass produced sodas, there was less demand for soda fountains. Egg creams are difficult to bottle or can. The syrup tends to settle on the bottom and the bubbles dissipate. This drink is best when freshly made.

Egg creams are traditionally made in a small, preferably chilled Coke-style glass. Whole milk is needed to get enough creaminess. There is debate as to whether one should mix in the syrup or the seltzer after the milk. Adding the seltzer first will result in a white head; the syrup first method leaves a brown head on the drink. Some devotees insist it should be Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup in an egg cream. Fox’s was invented in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. What makes Fox’s syrup stand out to aficionados is the lactic edge from the milk powder in the syrup. It’s best to add the seltzer from a pump to help the frothiness, but you can also whip it up by hand. However you make it, you want to strive for a balance between creaminess, sweetness, and bubbles. Here is a simple recipe from Serious Eats:

2 tablespoons Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup

1 1/2 ounces whole milk

3/4 cup seltzer

In a tall glass, add chocolate syrup and milk. Tilt the glass slightly and pour (or spritz) the seltzer off your stirring spoon until you have a nice foamy head that’s nearing the top of the glass. Stir vigorously to mix the chocolate in and serve immediately.

If you don’t want to try to make one yourself, there are still places in the city where you can order an egg cream, such as the Times Square outpost of the famous Brooklyn eatery, Junior’s, or Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop on Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street. Another famous location for egg creams is Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A, near 7th Street. In the outer boroughs, you can find the retro Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain in Carroll Gardens, the famous Eddie’s Sweet Shop in Forest Hills, on Metropolitan Avenue, near 71st Avenue. Queen’s also holds the last location of Jahn’s, the well-known ice cream parlor, in Jackson Heights on 37th Avenue at 81st Street. The price for an egg cream at these locations varies from $2 to $7. Keep an eye out the next time you are in a city diner or deli and see if they have an egg cream listed under beverages.

An egg cream is a traditional NYC treat. I would highly recommend rewarding yourself with one sometime after a hard day’s work.

Culture Corner

A Garden of Sports and Musical Delights

Bernie Langs

The period of the mid- to late- 1960s and early 1970s in America was the greatest window in history to experience childhood and adolescence. The whole world had the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic and exciting revolutionary developments in the arts at that time. A new creative sensibility and awakening was flowing out like fine wine as we took in the music of The Beatles and other pop and rock-and-roll groups; heard sounds in jazz from Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Freddie Hubbard; and listened to Leonard Bernstein as an international conductor demanding that his audiences give twentieth century atonal classical pieces the respect he passionately believed they deserved. Film directors such as Truffaut, Kubrick, Hitchcock, and many others churned out thoughtful masterworks, and television expanded its comedic and dramatic programing for the better.

Stateside, if one adds the element of sports, those of us growing up in the Tri-State area were doubly blessed with a Golden Age of baseball, football, and basketball championships. In addition, several legendary players graced the roster of the New York Rangers hockey team. It was my great fortune that from late childhood to my teen years, I was able to enjoy the best of sports and music because of my frequent visits with family and friends to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. I also saw games at Shea Stadium, where I witnessed the New York Mets rise to a World Series victory, and I watched the Jets from field level seats win a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, which brought them to the Super Bowl. I visited Yankee Stadium where I enjoyed seeing Whitey Ford pitch and attended a game where Tom Tresh hit three homeruns, one landing smack into the baseball glove of a lucky fan just rows away from my seat. When Nassau Coliseum opened in 1972, my father got tickets for us to see the Islander hockey team and my brother bought us tickets there for my first concert in the mid-1970s featuring Bob Dylan and The Band.

These places all had their appeal, but there was nothing like the magic of being inside Madison Square Garden when the New York Knicks were locked in battle against their rivals or as the Rangers furiously skated around the ice. In music, nothing could compare to when the Rolling Stones and other mega-groups bounced around onstage in passionate performances at the venue.

My earliest Garden memories are of attending afternoon Rangers games with my father, brother, and sister. Since the games were replayed in the evenings on television in the 1960s, we would stroll  by the announcers interviewing players between periods of action and later see ourselves on our fuzzy, black-and-white television at home. We went as a family to the final hockey game at the “old” Madison Square Garden in 1968, and I recall that the friend I brought returned from the restroom with a wooden sign in his hands reading “Men’s Room” and rationalized his vandalism as his chance to procure a vital piece of sports history. Seeing players such as Rod Gilbert and the talented goalie Eddie Giacomin are still among the happiest of my early memories. In addition, as a teenager I went to a Rangers’ game and sat with my father and his friend, the well-known retired NHL referee who made a name for himself as a TV hockey announcer, Bill Chadwick, known as “The Big Whistle.” I beamed in joy as Rangers fans casually greeted him with smiles and handshakes all evening.

We were fortunate at that time to witness the greatest basketball team that the New York Knicks ever assembled, featuring talented stars such as Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, and Earl Monroe. These gentlemen played as a unit and brought intelligence, grace and sportsmanship to the court. I went with a friend in the early 1970s to a game where future Los Angeles Lakers’ coaching genius Phil Jackson went to the free throw line for the Knicks towards the final moments of the game, a shot which would determine the outcome of the contest. The ball hit the front of the basket’s rim, bounced backwards to the backboard, and we collectively gasped as it fell through the hoop. The crowd erupted in a wave of sound so loud it was as if we were standing next to the engine of a jet plane. It was a unique moment of euphoria that only the sharing of a live sports contest can elicit.

The first concert I attended at the Garden was by the rock band, The Who, in 1974. My friends and I were huge fans, but being in high school out in the suburbs prevented us from going to the New York box office at the Garden the day tickets were on sale. A friend called his father in Manhattan where he was working at his business in the Garment District near the Garden on 7th Avenue. His dad waited a couple of hours outside in a line for the tickets with hundreds of young people, and he got us the coveted seats. The Who gave a great show in 1974 at the Garden, playing hits from their 1960s and early 1970s repertoire. A few months later, we again enlisted this wonderful man to do the same for The Rolling Stones. That afternoon, a teenager in queue marveled to his friend that the line for tickets was huge and around the block. My friend’s dad turned to them and to their surprise said, “This is nothing! You should have seen how long the line was for The Who!”

When we trekked a few months later to the Garden to see The Stones, the stage was custom-designed for the band’s New York dates. As we heard the opening guitar chords of Honky Tonk Women, a huge, tightly-shut, silver “flower” opened to reveal the band that had been hidden inside of it, with lead singer Mick Jagger riding atop one leaf as it descended. Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards often tell interviewers that they truly love playing the Garden and how special the energy is in the arena.

I understand how lucky I was to have had many opportunities for such pure and positive experiences in the late 1960s and early 1970s at live sporting and music events. It makes me think of Mick Jagger crying out onstage between songs: “Madison Square Garden – Top of the World!”

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, Natural Selections interviews House and Kima, the forever kittens who live with me (Freiwald lab, the Rockefeller University), and sometimes, with my partner, Scott Rennie.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Kima: We don’t know exactly, but the humans guess about 1 in human years. In cat years, we are teenagers.

 PV: What are the names we gave you?

House: My name is Gregory Mouser House, MD. I was named after a very important and smart doctor that I remind my humans of.

K: My name is Kima Lima Greggs. I was named after a fictional character in the Wire, a TV show my humans like.

 PV: What is your first memory?

H: I wasn’t feeling well, I was very sick. The humans who found me looked very concerned, but they were talking about youth in Asia.

K: I remember a shop window and humans brought me inside that shop. You told me it was the Petco at Lexington and 86th.

PV: Do you remember when we first met?

H: We met on a Saturday afternoon. I was sleepy, but I was also hungry, so I was falling asleep with my head buried in the food bowl. Scott decided right away that I was going to be your kitten.

K: I was meowing with my older cat friends in my foster home when you and Scott came to visit. You had already decided to adopt me, so I knew you wouldn’t mind me pooping in front of you.

PV: What did you think of each other when you first met?

H: I thought she was a great playmate to have in my apartment. We wanted to play together instantly.

K: Hated him. Maybe you don’t remember, but he used to be smelly, and acted like he owned the place.

PV: Where do you live?

K: We live with you! In Scholar’s residence. Sometimes we live in Philadelphia with Scott. Scott is a postdoc at UPenn.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

K: Anywhere that both of our humans could live together. With any other animals we might grow to tolerate.

H: Where there are lots of things to hunt.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

K: House will try anything once, even things that never moved like carrots or avocadoes.

H: Kima’s favorite food is whatever’s on my dish. She hates tuna though. Don’t try to give her tuna.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

H: I like to chase Kima around.

K: I like quiet time to myself.

PV: Besides us, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

K: Natalie is very sweet. She lives with us and feeds us when you’re gone.

H: Natalie, Sofia, Tara, Margie, Liz, Vero, Madi, and Ceren are a few I can think of right away.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

H: One time we went somewhere and came back with cones around our heads. It was fun to try to get them off. Kima looked so funny.

K: That wasn’t funny at all. You know what’s funny? Every time the humans flush the toilet, House thinks it’s a great big monster. He runs to the farthest corner of the apartment.

PV: Is there some way others can see more pictures of you online?

K: Yes, you have an Instagram account @majorpooper where you upload pictures and videos of us.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

H: I have all human abilities.

K: I wish I could close the door on House whenever I wanted.

Natural Expressions


Come see Amy Huang and Lilian Nogueira of the Nussenzweig Laboratory on Wednesday, July 10th as they perform an arial lyra act in “Summer Heat: A Single Point Aerial Dance Co. Showcase.” The performance will be held at The Slipper Room on the Lower East Side with doors at 7 p.m. and the show beginning at 8 p.m. (21+). Tickets can be purchased for $25 online.


Join Megan E. Kelley of the Kapoor Laboratory at “The 5th Annual CCD Block Party” art show and music festival in Coney Island where she will be displaying her artwork. The Block Party features work by artists who have reimagined album covers as well as live music. This free event takes place Saturday, July 13th from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Coney Island Brewery (1904 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn).


This month, Bernie Langs from The Rockefeller University Development Office announces the release of his song “Armoured Heart.” This newly recorded pop song was composed and performed by Bernie with nods to “For No One” by Lennon/McCartney. Check out the release on SoundCloud.


Email Megan E. Kelley at mkelley@rockefeller.edu to submit your art/music/performance/sporting/other event for next month’s “Natural Expressions” and follow @NatSelections on Twitter for more events.

Life on a Roll

Bernie Langs

“The Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries are exhibited in Paris in the Musée de Cluny, also known as Musée du Moyen Âge–Thermes et hôtel de Cluny. The museum’s building, now undergoing a comprehensive renovation, served as a residence for the Abbots of Cluny and is the oldest surviving Parisian and Gothic-style townhouse. Dating back to the fourteenth century, it incorporates ancient Roman remains that are now part of the museum’s lowest level. The sumptuous and stunning Unicorn tapestries reduced tourists from around the globe to a hushed state of awe the day I visited in March of this year. The six intricate tapestries were woven around 1500 in Flanders from designs drawn in Paris and are recognized as masterpieces of the late Middle Ages.


Elodie Pauwels


The red walls of the Alhambra overhang Granada, Spain and hide several Nasrid-style palaces. This is the place Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile agreed to fund one of Christopher Columbus’ voyages at the end of the fifteenth century. A vivid description of life in and near the palace is offered by Washington Irving in his Tales of the Alhambra–a nice summertime read!

Graduating Class 2019

Sarah Baker

On June 13, 2019, The Rockefeller University will add thirty new alumni to its community, each with a freshly obtained Ph.D. The road to a Ph.D. is not an easy one and requires a combination of hard work, resilience, creativity, motivation, and probably some luck. Some of the graduating class have moved on to new jobs or postdocs elsewhere, whereas others are continuing their work at Rockefeller. This month, the Natural Selections editorial board honors them for their determination and accomplishments. Congrats to our new doctors!

Intimately tied to my time at Rockefeller are my greatest accomplishments, my deepest disappointments, and my fondest friendships—it’s been a ride I feel fortunate to have taken. – Annie Handler


RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Season 2, Episode 1, 52:10 – Robert Heler


I knew I would get to indulge in creative and exciting science during my time here, but I’m equally grateful for the time I had to enjoy so much of what NYC has to offer from brunch to Broadway and new best friends. – Melissa Jarmel


Rockefeller is the best! – Kouki Touhara


I didn’t realize how strong people’s feelings could be about free cookies. –Anonymous Graduate