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 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 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:

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:

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:

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:

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 (

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 and

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:

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: 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:

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:

Science Communication and Media Group

The SCM team ( 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

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:

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:

Tri-I Biotech Club

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

Tri-I Consulting Club

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

Art Studio

There is an art studio available on campus for community use. If interested, contact Zachary Mirman (

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: 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 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


Gender Harassment in Science: Instances of Everyday Harm

Emma Garst

*Identifying details have been changed to protect privacy.

When I met her, Laura* was the sort of postdoc who exuded professorial confidence. She was charismatic, a good writer and speaker, and an excellent experimentalist. Our professor sang her praises. Why shouldn’t he? She was talented and motivated.

Some lab members started joking that our professor was “clearly in love with her.” The joke spread; it was an easy way to release tension in a very competitive work environment.  I thought Laura was laughing along with everyone else, but when this ribbing continued for a couple of months, Laura turned to me in frustration and asked, “Can’t I just be good at my job?”

In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a study on sexual harassment in the academic sciences entitled “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.” The report reveals the shocking extent of gender-based harassment in the academic workplace.

Between 20-50% of female students in science, engineering, and medicine report experiencing sexual harassment. This number jumps to over fifty percent for women at the faculty level. The report further breaks down high-risk populations—women of color and LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to experience harassment than white, heterosexual women.

In total this means that, excluding the military, women in academia are harassed at higher levels than in any other sector of society.

Harassment is not just unwanted sexual attention or sexual assault; it can be a culture of belittling comments or raunchy jokes. The most prevalent but most misunderstood form of sexual harassment is gender harassment. Gender harassment is described as “verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion, or second-class status about members of one gender.” When I spoke with Kate Clancy, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois and co-author of the 2018 NASEM report, she had a more snappy way of putting it: “we call [gender harassment] the put-downs of sexual harassment, whereas unwanted sexual advances and sexual coercion are the come-ons.”

These put-downs are all around us—they’re insidious and difficult to articulate because they are so thoroughly normalized in our culture. The women who experience gender harassment and choose to speak up about it are labeled as “sensitive” and over-reactive. But gender harassment is sexual harassment. It is, in fact, the primary form of sexual harassment.

The NASEM report found that women are leaving science due to sexual harassment, and that jokes can be just as harmful to a woman’s career as more violent forms of harassment. The negative effects of gender harassment extend beyond the subject to witnesses, labs, and entire institutions. As the National Academies’ report states, “the net result of sexual harassment is therefore a loss of talent, which can be costly to organizations and to science.”

But why is gender harassment so damaging? “For most people [an unwanted sexual advance] is a rare event. I think for a lot of folks it’s easier to externalize it and say, wow, this guy is just…trying to date me or trying to make me feel bad,” says Clancy. “Whereas put downs are really easy to internalize because one, we don’t recognize them as harassment and two, they often end up making you feel like the problem is you.”

Gender harassment can be even more difficult to spot as a bystander. This was the case with Laura’s harassment—I absolutely laughed along with the group. Despite going to a women’s college, despite considering myself a “Good Feminist,” I didn’t even see what I was contributing to until Laura told me. I hadn’t considered the implications of the “joke” —that she hadn’t earned her praise, that she had been singled out as a favorite not because of her skill but because our principal investigator might be attracted to her.

In a way, Laura’s harassment was textbook—the harassment was coming from her peers (80% of gender harassment does). It was not a one-off joke, but instead lasted for a period of months (which, again, is common). And she didn’t feel there was a way to address the harassment, either through direct confrontation or an institutional route.

So what is it about academia that makes it so toxic for women and damaging to their careers?

One major factor is a culture of male dominance. This is easiest to understand in fields such as engineering and physics, where men vastly outnumber women. However in the biomedical sciences, where women have been earning more Ph.D.s than men for many years, the concept is more nuanced. Male domination in these fields refers to the fact that men generally hold higher positions than women, and that the field has historically been male.

Academia is also hierarchical. Institutions with a strong hierarchical power structure are more likely to foster sexual harassment. This is especially true when power is concentrated in a few individuals (for example, “superstar” professors), and those who report feel that revealing harassment will have lasting effects on their careers. The nature of our system causes students to rely heavily on the full-throated endorsement of their mentors—which leaves them little to no recourse if they wish to report inappropriate behavior.

The truth is academic science is highly competitive. People can be cruel to each other in all sorts of ways, due to professional jealousy, ambition, or just general stress. Everyone has an anecdote about being humiliated at lab meeting, or getting back an eviscerating review on a paper. Everyone has experienced some incivilities (officially defined as, “low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target”).

Part of this is the broader culture of academia. “We tend to equate treating people like crap with being rigorous researchers,” Clancy points out. However, these incivilities are not evenly distributed; “There’s ample research that now shows, even though incivilities don’t seem to be gendered, they are actually quite gendered and racialized.…The folks that experience them most are typically women of color followed by white women, then men of color and white men,” Clancy says. Given that women and people of color also have their gender or race routinely used against them, it’s no wonder academia has a climate problem.

In the end, organizational climate is by far the best predictor of sexual harassment. Harassment flourishes where people who report it are perceived to take on risk, where there are no sanctions against perpetrators, and where reporters’ experiences are not taken seriously by their peers or institutions.

Sure, individuals harass. But that is a learned behavior that grows out of a culture of perceived ambivalence. Frequently an institution’s priority is “symbolic compliance,” which focuses on protecting the institution and avoiding liability, instead of ensuring the safety of its employees.

Any institution serious about the success of the women it hires must take decisive action to stamp out the toxic culture that dominates the scientific workplace. Without a concerted effort to reform the workplace, gender equality will always be a fantasy for the academic sciences.

It’s the accumulation of harassment over many years that causes lasting damage to women in science. I truly think that every one of Laura’s experimental successes was, at some point or another, reduced to “because he’s in love with you.” In a job that contains so much day-to-day failure, how horrible is it to take away the successes as well?

When Laura and I talked recently, she brought up one of the earliest, most formative experiences of her scientific career. She was a technician, straight out of college, and had gone to her professor to propose some experiments.

“Woah, watch out,” he said. “Girl scientist on the loose.”

Of course this affected the way she presents herself. Of course this caused her to think about how she is perceived by the scientific community. It was a joke. And it stuck with her.

In the end I moved on from the lab where I met Laura. She moved on too— out of science entirely.

I am a graduate student now. Recently, I received a small bit of positive feedback from someone I consider to be a mentor. Elated, I flounced into lab and showed the first person I ran into.

My labmate read it, and laughed, “he should have just asked for your number.”

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, Natural Selections interviews Fifi, the young cat who lives with first year graduate students here at The Rockefeller University, Sarah Cai, Lindsey Lopes, and Kathryn Eckartt. Fifi is extremely sweet and playful and I enjoyed our meeting. Please contact me if you have sweet, little nonhumans living with you. I’d love to meet them.

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

Fifi: I turn one on June 14th! That makes me a teenager in human years, which my moms say makes sense because of my sometimes naughty behavior.

 PV: Is there a story behind your name?

F: The shelter that I was adopted from named me Fifi and the name stuck!

PV: What is your first memory?

F: I don’t remember a lot from when I was a baby, but the people at the shelter said that I was found as a stray in NYC when I was six weeks old, and some nice person brought me to the shelter.

PV: Who are your moms? When did you first meet them?

F: My moms are Sarah Cai, Lindsey Lopes, and Kathryn Eckartt. They adopted me last October. I met them while I was hanging out with a bunch of my kitten friends at the shelter, and it was love at first sight.

PV: How do they belong to the Tri-I community?

F: They are all first year graduate students at The Rockefeller University. Sarah just joined Titia de Lange’s lab, Kathryn is in Jeremy Rock’s lab, and Lindsey is still rotating.

PV: Where do you live?

F: I live in Faculty House. I don’t really know what that means, but I like to look out the window at all the cars on the FDR and York Avenue.

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

F: Hmm, I’m a city cat, but I definitely wish that I could go outside! Maybe somewhere with a big yard and lots of birds to look at.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

F: I love snacks. Some of my favorites are cat treats, chicken, and black beans…but I’ll definitely try anything if you leave your plate unattended! Except veggies. I don’t like veggies.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

F: What are weekends? Is that when the humans are home more? I like to hang out in my moms’ rooms and knock over things on their desks, dressers, or any flat surface. I also like to nap in the sun.

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

F: I like pretty much everyone that I meet, especially if they give me snacks!

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

F: Sometimes Lindsey dog-sits and one time I decided that I wanted to try out some dog food, so I jumped onto the bookshelf where the dog’s food was and knocked over the whole bag. I made a hole in the bag with my teeth so I could eat the food…dog food is yummy!

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

F: Yes! Check out my Instagram @fifi_the_kitten.jpg

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

F: I would love it if I had opposable thumbs because then I could get into all the treat jars! My moms had to stop leaving treats out in plastic bags because I would chew through the plastic to get more treats when they weren’t looking.

The 73rd Annual Tony Awards

Melissa Jarmel

The 73rd annual Tony Awards will broadcast live on June 9th at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. James Corden is returning to host the show, so I expect the opening number this year will be as smart and delightful as his last. The full list of Tony nominations can be found here, but I wanted to highlight some of the new shows appearing on Broadway this year.

Aaron Sorkin wrote a play based on Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird that is currently being performed at the Shubert Theatre. This classic American story explores race and class in the South in the 1930s. If you’ve been a fan of Sorkin’s snappy dialogue and skillful rhetoric, you’d be remiss to skip out on this production even though it did not receive a Tony nomination for Best Play. This was a strong year for new plays on Broadway so it’s possible that a strange split vote resulted in this oversight, or rumor has it that it might have been an intentional snub due to the lawsuits that the production has been involved with that led to the shut-down of some community theatre productions. However, this production still accrued nine deserved nominations in other categories.

My favorite to win Best Play this year is The Ferryman, which transferred to the Jacobs Theatre from London last year. Jez Butterworth’s epic drama centers around the fictional Carney family in Northern Ireland. While exploring the often-complicated dynamics of family, Butterworth also weaves a compelling narrative about how the past traumas of a country can strangle a family’s progress for decades to come. It’s worth brushing up on 20th century Irish history before seeing this play to catch the meaning of references to historical events the characters discuss, but the interpersonal dynamics at play are also absorbing enough outside of the context of history. I didn’t check my watch once during this 3 hour 15 minute production (though there is an intermission).

I would also highly recommend Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me, which was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This play was inspired by her experiences as a teenager giving speeches about the U.S. Constitution for scholarship money. Heidi Schreck also stars in this play that explores how her understanding of the Constitution has evolved over time and the impact the Constitution has had on women’s bodies in America. Schreck does not shy away from talking about the specific traumas women in America have experienced as a result of past and current legislation, so a trigger warning is necessary.

Hadestown is the favorite to win Best Musical this year, but this is the only new musical nominated that I have yet to see so I don’t have a personal recommendation. However, I’ve heard great things about this musical adaptation of a folk opera concept album by Anaïs Mitchell that reimagines the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Ticket prices have recently soared for this show upon receiving positive reviews and Tony nominations, but they do offer a general rush and digital lottery.

All of the other nominees for Best Musical offer nostalgia or feel-good vibes, which may be reflective of what Broadway-goers need from art in today’s climate. Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations is primarily a jukebox musical that will have Temptations fans dancing in their seats, but the book is also deftly written to brilliantly convey the group dynamics at play during Motown’s heyday. Beetlejuice genuinely surprised and delighted me as someone who was not a fan of the movie. It’s very self-aware with a stunning set design, catchy music, and energetic acting from start to finish. I’d go see it again. I also still recommend seeing The Prom. But I hesitate to recommend Tootsie, a new musical comedy based on the movie from 1982. While I was laughing throughout this high-energy show with well-placed one-liners and brilliant acting, there was a part of me that was cringing and has cringed more as I’ve had time to process what I watched. For those not familiar with the story-line, a white, cis male who has a hard time finding work disguises himself as a female to get a job and drama ensues. The play seemingly acknowledges the problematic nature of this storyline throughout the show, but the tone in which the character presses on and faces minimal consequences lands a bit deaf. I guess I just don’t understand why we need another story right now about a white, cis male who pushes others around in order to get what he wants to only later justify it all in a self-congratulatory learning lesson for something everyone else has known for a while. But there were a lot of good jokes? Anyway, I think all of these productions will put on a good show for the Tony Awards so tune in on June 9th!

Natural Expressions


Santa Maria Pecoraro Di Vittorio of the Rice laboratory at Rockefeller will be performing as a violist with the Chamber Orchestra of New York directed by Salvatore Di Vittorio at three events this month:

On June 6th at 7:30 p.m., the orchestra will perform Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2, Il Sogno del Cielo, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. The evening will include the work of two Resphighi Prize winners—flutist Tommaso Benciolini and composer Andrea Montepaone. Tickets and more information can be found on the Carnegie Hall Web site, with tickets from $40-50 ($30 for students with ID) or 25% off with the discount code CNY29834.

On June 7th at 7:30 p.m., you can hear Santa Maria Pecoraro Di Vittorio and the orchestra perform works by Vaughan Williams at the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center in Garden City, Long Island. In addition to Williams’ Eighth Symphony and Piano Concerto, the orchestra will play John Barry’s “We Have All the Time in the World,” which James Bond fans will recognize from the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Tickets are $35 ($15 for students with ID) and can be purchased online.

On June 27th at the Cary Hall at DiMenna Center for Classical Music, the Chamber Orchestra of New York will host a special event “Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Di Vittorio’s Venus,” celebrating the orchestra’s recent recordings of two albums for Naxos Records. The night will begin with a an open rehearsal, followed by a performance that will include the work of Ottorino Respighi. The evening’s concert will be recorded and be followed post-concert reception with the performers, co-sponsored in part by Marchesi Antinori Wines and Antico Noe Panini of Florence. Tickets are $50 (21+) and can be purchased here.

Email Megan E. Kelley at 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

Blue Lagoon

Elodie Pauwels

Turquoise blue waters! How could you not fall for this lagoon and surrounding islands near Kissamos in Crete, Greece? To enjoy the warm transparent waters and light sand of Balos Lagoon, you need to earn it: be prepared to reach the spot by boat or by foot, and cope with the absence of shade. Then you can spend hours drooling over countless shades of blue.