Into Africa: Spotlight on the Rockefeller University Employee Art Exhibition

By Qiong Wang

image2Living in New York, most of us often find ourselves trapped inside concrete jungles, busy and occupied all the time. Sunshine and the view in the distance from our windows are often blocked bluntly by another building. On the subways, we look down, napping or playing with cell phones, avoiding eye contact. We talk fast, walk fast, eat fast-food and couldn’t go through a day without our caffeine shot. Slowly, we start to forget the world outside, a world that is organic and original.

One day, I stopped by the Employee Art Exhibition on my way to get lunch in the Weiss lobby. A series of acrylic paintings caught my attention. There was a vivid giant lion head about to leap out of the paper with his fur standing on end and both eyes gazing ahead; a baboon mother watching her baby playing in the grass; an elephant enjoying his shadow in the river with his ears wide open and a majestic giraffe sticking her head above and over tree leaves against the blue sky. I was very impressed by the painting’s details, the strokes, the color, the light and shadow, and the background. More so, I could feel there were feelings and stories behind these paintings and I was compelled to find out more about them. On the 13th floor of Weiss, I met up with the artist, Dr. Bruce McEwen, a distinguished neuroendocrinologist, in his office.

image3 Acquired somewhat from his heritage, Dr. McEwen has enjoyed drawing since his childhood. He started painting about 15 years ago, starting with water colors. In recent years, he fell in love with acrylic painting. His paintings in the exhibition were inspired by his wife’s wonderful photography, which was also on exhibit. Both Bruce and his wife, Dr. Karen Bulloch, are talented artists who make a variety of art pieces in their leisure. In the summer of 2014, they went on safari in southern Africa with a group of scholars. Being a travel lover, I immediately became fascinated with their safari experience. It was the couple’s first trip to Africa and a trip like never before. They had never been in such close proximity to hippos, rhinos, lions, giraffes, and even at the mercy of a charging elephant. The reality of seeing these animals, Dr. McEwen said, was surreal, completely different from visiting a zoo. It felt like Jurassic Park. In the safari park, the couple was covered in dust every day. Tourists were tucked in the back of open trucks covered only with metal fences. Wild animals could care less about human presence, especially when there are prey in sight. It seems quite certain that they assume the leading roles, and tourists are just extras. Locals have to learn to co-exist with these wild animals, protecting themselves and sharing resources. It is a real eco-system, a world where hyenas tear a giraffe apart and share dinner among themselves.

image1 Unfortunately, these animals’ real enemies are not themselves, but humans. To date, there are still many greedy, selfish slaughterers out there killing elephants for bloody profit. Bruce told me that the safari security personnel were equipped with guns not to protect visitors per se, but to defend wild animals against any illegal hunting.

What struck the couple most and brought them to deep reflection and awareness is the extreme gap between rich and poor and the importance of the middle class. They visited several village schools made of adobe and wouldn’t soon forget the expression of excitement on the faces of those school kids when given a soccer ball. “They were all very smart,” Dr. McEwen said, “We don’t realize how much we have.” As a matter of fact, Karen, a fantastic photographer, captured and documented some precious moments of their school visit on film, which were also on view as part of the exhibit in Weiss lobby. The couple has made and kept a connection with local schools there and they sincerely hope their continuous outreach arrives soundly in the hands of those in need in the future.

image4My conversation with Dr. McEwen had to end, but it lit up my dream of Africa. Although seemingly a far-reach right now, one day it can happen, and it will happen. Once deeply enchanted by the classic film Out of Africa, I can’t wait to step into Africa, to soul-search, to feel, to perceive and to understand simple happiness in life.


The Pursuit of Vocation

By Peng Kate Gao

Work is love made visible.

−Kahlil Gibran

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, in his brilliantly written book The Happiness Hypothesis, summarized three ways that people generally view their work: a job, a career, or a calling. A job is what people do to earn money and to support their families. A career is what people do to achieve higher goals, such as advancement and prestige. A calling, on the other hand, is for those who find their work so intrinsically engaging and fulfilling that they do it for the sheer love of it. These people usually would continue to work even without pay, if they suddenly became very wealthy. They would have found their life’s vocation.

How do we find ours? In many ways, this is an age-old question. Two and a half millennia ago, Confucius advised, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Nowadays in industrialized western society, where individual autonomy and achievement are farmers among the highest priorities, this question seems even more urgent. As Apple entrepreneur Steve Jobs, remembered as much for his passion as his success, once said, “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” This type of sentiment has always created mixed feelings in me. I am deeply moved and inspired, but at the same time confused and even frightened, as one question burned in my mind: what is my burning idea and would it be strong enough to motivate me to the end? For a long time, I thought my passion was out there, like some great truth, waiting to be found.

Continue reading

For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 3 Edition

By Jim Keller

Ah, the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races, such tenuous categories where one can know everything one week and nothing the next. Take last year’s Best Supporting Actress race for example—who could’ve guessed that frontrunner Oprah Winfrey would be snubbed on Oscar nomination morning? The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), the National Board of Review (NBR), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), and the American Film Institute (AFI) have announced their respective winners. Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globes) have announced their nominees. These announcements serve as the starting gun for the second leg of an unusually wide open Oscar race. Nowadays the race begins in August with the Telluride Film Festival, but I digress. By the time this article is published various other critics groups will announce their awards/nominees and a consensus will begin to take shape. As I said, anything can happen in these races and the third leg is yet to come. So while the would-be contenders are out in full-force kissing babies and making appearances, let’s examine the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races in this third of the three-part series.

Continue reading

New York State Of Mind

This Month, in closing out our Ten Years of Natural Selections celebration Natural Selections reprints an interview with Frank Schaefer, Assistant Director, Laboratory Safety and Environmental Health. Country of origin: USA. The original interview was published in the December 2004 issue.

How long have you been living in New York City?

35 years (all my life).

Where do you live?

Richmond Hill, Queens.

Which is your favorite neighborhood?

Bayside, Queens because of the quiet surroundings and its proximity to the Long Island Sound.

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

The most overrated thing about the city is Times Square. It is just too crowded and if you ask me… A waste of electricity. The most underrated thing about NYC is its people. I think New Yorkers are very willing to help one another and don’t get enough credit for the good they do.

What do you miss most when you are out of town?

When I’m out of town, I generally miss running through the trails in Forest Park and a slice of pizza from Alfies.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

If I had the power to change anything, it would be eliminating trash from the streets by enforcing laws that prohibit littering. It’s irritating to see people throw trash from New York State of Mind their cars onto the street. It’s not only an aesthetic issue, but a problem for the city’s wastewater treatment plants as well.

Describe a perfect weekend in NYC.

Sunny in the upper 80’s. I’d start the day early with a long run and then spend the afternoon with my wife and children watching the horses run at Belmont Park, and win of course. In the evening we would barbeque in our backyard with family and friends.

What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?

Watching the Mets make it to the World Series in 2000 by beating the St Louis Cardinals at Shea.

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?

I would like to live in South Florida.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker? Why?

Absolutely, I’ve lived and worked here all my life.

Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part IV: John H. Northrop, 1946 Prize in Chemistry

By Joseph Luna

So far in this series, it seems as if we’ve focused on foreigners. For a young institution like Rockefeller in the early 20th century, it took time for original Nobel level work to emerge, and so it’s not too surprising that the first three visits to Stockholm was for work done before the recipient arrived at Rockefeller, and in far off places: France/Canada, Austria, and the great state of Missouri. That changed in 1946, when two Rockefeller scientists won Nobel prizes in Chemistry, the elder of whom was a true New Yorker, a Yonkers born and Columbia University-trained, eighth generation Yankee, named John Northrop.

His biography borders on Rooseveltian: John’s father, a zoologist, was tragically killed in an explosion two weeks before young Jack was born in 1891. His mother, a trained botanist, raised him alone in Yonkers and taught at both Columbia and Hunter College. With a mother deeply interested in nature, Jack’s young adulthood was spent largely outdoors, quite a feat for a city boy. He hunted and fished, was at home on a horse or in a canoe, and loved to travel. His youthful adventures took him as far as the American southwest, where in 1913-14 he spent time prospecting for gold along the Colorado River. World War I halted that.

Continue reading

Checkers’ Mate!

By George Barany and Daniel Silversmith

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977) who currently lives in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, where he has known Daniel Silversmith, a practicing clinical psychologist, since 1999. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to the answer, visit More Barany and Friends crosswords are at

Get this month’s puzzle here!

Culture Corner

An interview with famed vocalist and vocal coach Dorian Holley (Part One of Two)

By Bernie Langs


Looking over the resume of Dorian Holley, one marvels at the long list of names of the biggest successes in popular music for whom he has served as a back-up vocalist, background singer, or studio recording partner. He worked, for example, as a featured vocalist for tours by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Rod Stewart had him along for the Vagabond Heart World Tour as did Don Henley (of the Eagles) for his Inside Job World Tour. He has recorded with dozens of artists, including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Elton John, Babyface, and Randy Newman. Holley has been the vocal coach and Assistant Musical Director for American Idol on television for almost a decade and was the lead singer for the house band on The Late Show with Jay Leno. He also finds time to work as a vocal instructor at the Los Angeles College of music and teaches performance classes there. But he is perhaps best known for his back-up vocal work with the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson and, in particular, his involvement in the scheduled This Is It performances that would’ve been held in London, England in 2009 if it weren’t for Jackson’s untimely death.

Holley is working hard to break out as a solo performer and appears live in the Los Angeles area club scene. His voice is silky smooth, soulful, and his depth of musical knowledge shines through in his melodic phrasing on his recent recorded materials.

I recently sent Holley ten questions about his work. The first five below are general and about his career. The second five focus on This Is It / Michael Jackson and will appear in the February 2015 issue of Natural Selections.

Continue reading

It’s Christmas Time in the City

By Aileen Marshall

Like the old song says, the “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks” are “dressed in holiday style.” Besides the hustle and bustle of this busy shopping season, New York has many time-honored holiday activities. Here are just a few to help you feel that holiday cheer.

The gigantic tree at Rockefeller Center is an impressive sight for young and old alike. Every year, a huge evergreen is selected and transported to Rockefeller Center, on 5th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. It is set up behind the Prometheus sculpture next to the ice skating rink, strung with almost five miles of lights and topped with a Swarovski crystal star. The tree lighting ceremony is usually the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, usually with a few celebrities and a known figure skater. Even though the ceremony will have passed by press time, the tree is lit daily from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. except on Christmas, when the lights are on all day. To see the tree is free, but the area may be crowded with tourists, so the best way to see it is to go skating on the rink. Looking up at the beautiful tree and the tall buildings from the rink is an experience not to be missed. Admission is $27 for adults and $15 for children. Sessions usually last about two hours, starting from 8:30 a.m. to midnight. Visit for more information.

Continue reading

The Peggy Rockefeller Concert Series

By Ben DiMatteo

Now in its 56th year, The Peggy Rockefeller Concert Series is decidedly unknown to much of the campus community. But those familiar with the program know that some of the most accomplished musicians in the world played Caspary Auditorium as a live rehearsal for Carnegie Hall.

Since its inception, the series has featured performances in a wide array of genres, from chamber music, to Renaissance revival, to operatic arias, to jazz. Three dedicated caretaker scientists with a passion for music have shepherded the program across five decades, and kept the program afloat through rising and ebbing tides of interest within the Rockefeller community. Though performances often sell out, admission sales and private donations barely cover the program’s expenses.

The concert series traces its origin to 1958, shortly after its unique venue was unveiled. Caspary Auditorium’s geodesic structure was designed by modernist architect Wallace Harrison, who also led the construction of Rockefeller Center, the U.N. Complex, Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera House, and Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill Co-ops.

Continue reading

Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part III: Herbert Gasser, 1944 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

By Joseph Luna

Annotated_ScopeIt started with a twitch. Sometime around 1770 in Bologna, Luigi Galvani charged his Leiden jar, an early capacitor, with static electricity using a hand cranked friction machine. He then took a wire connected to the jar and touched it to the exposed spinal cord of a dissected frog. We don’t fully know the original purpose of the experiment, but we remember Galvani’s name for what happened next. The dead frog’s legs moved.

That first demonstration of life’s animation as the product of a then mysterious electrical force became a founding moment of neuroscience. Over the next hundred years, studies of bioelectricity would reveal that the physics of moving electrons applied to everything with a nervous system and could be measured with a device named for Luigi, the galvanometer. By the late 1800’s, nerves had been thoroughly described anatomically, and budding neurophysiologists were able to measure voltages and describe the impulses carried across scores of them. But there was a problem. While the galvanometer could measure impulses across collections of nerves, it wasn’t sensitive enough to make measurements from single nerve cells, nor was there a device fast enough to record them.

Continue reading

Thanksgiving’s Traditional Main Course

By Susan Russo

Benjamin Franklin, an American founder, philosopher, diplomat, and bon vivant, famously wrote to his daughter Sarah, “I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representation of our Country; he is a bird of bad moral Character….The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original Native of America….”

Your mother’s or grandmother’s turkey roasting recipe may be the one you always use, but you will find recipes, traditional and nouveau, in abundance on the Web. Below are some chefs’ suggestions that you might want to consider, whether you select a frozen turkey, a “heritage” or “heirloom” turkey (which might have an earthier flavor), or a kosher bird. For size, allow one to one-and-a-half pounds of turkey per person. If your family or guests are mostly white meat-eaters, you could roast a turkey breast in addition to the whole bird.

Continue reading

Culture Corner

Concert Review: Steve Winwood and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers at Madison Square Garden, Sept. 10, 2014

By Bernie Langs

Suffice it to say I expect a lot from music, including filling the need for a communal experience of substance now that I’ve shed the tedium of liturgical gatherings of the established religions. Not only do I desire that a concert experience will bind me to those in the audience in having shared in something unique and special, but that the music itself will bring me to an individual experience of gain—gain in philosophical ideas or a flow within the soulful river of pure being and an experience on a higher plane of existence. Or I can also tap my toe and dance! But in the case of popular music, there have been so many disappointments in recent years that I usually shun the genre of live performances.


Given this somber introduction and my tentativeness in seeing rock music live, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take up my good friend Curtis’s offer to join him at Madison Square Garden to see the great British musician/composer Steve Winwood and the all-American, long-lasting band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I met Curtis years ago in college where we’d often do musical jams in the evenings, experimenting in that time of youth with long solos and emotional musical communions. A couple of years ago, we rejoined forces to write some new songs, one being an “homage” to the late Beatle, George Harrison.

The concert at the Garden was scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Since no one in New York shows up to a concert on time, the venue must have been about one tenth full when Steve Winwood took the stage at 7:31 p.m. Ah, those punctual Brits.

Continue reading

Posted in Art

Life’s a Parade!

By Aileen Marshall

Have you ever watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and wondered who all those people under the giant balloons were? I had the privilege to find out for myself in 2002. A Macy’s employee I knew invited me to join the balloon vehicle team. It has been a real thrill these past twelve years to be part of such a classic American event.

For those of you not familiar with the parade, it has been a tradition in New York for years. The parade started in 1924, organized by a group of Macy’s employees. The 1927 parade featured the first giant helium character balloons. Until 1998 about two dozen balloon handlers managed the ropes attached to the balloon. That year two Toro Workman vehicles were added to each balloon to add stability. Attending the parade has been part of a Thanksgiving routine for many families in the metropolitan area.

To take part in the parade, one must be a Macy’s employee or sponsored by one, as I am. The first year I had to attend a class at Macy’s with very detailed information on how the balloons fly. I also had to attend two practices. Finally I had to help at the press event a few weeks before the parade. In subsequent years it is still required to attend at least one practice.

In the class I learned about how a balloon is created, and things such as properties of helium, drag, blow down angles, and free lift. I was impressed by how much flying these balloons involve principles from sailing and aviation.

Continue reading

New York State of Mind

This Month Natural Selections interviews Fred Leon from The Darst Lab.

image4How long have you been living in the New York area? 

I was born, raised and grazed here in New York City.

Where do you currently live?

I currently live in Woodhaven Queens but I grew up in Jamaica Queens.

Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I have been to all boroughs and I have to say that I would like to move to Bayside in Queens because the neighborhood is clean and quiet. The homes there are very pretty but I don’t want to sound like a Queens fanboy.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city?

I think that the most overrated thing in the city right now in my opinion would be those stupid Citibikes. I mean really you have people all over the city riding them and they are ugly and they take up a lot of potential parking spaces (from this driver’s perspective). We have cyclist here in the city already that drive erratically and there are rules that they don’t abide by, throw in some tourists now with no sense of direction and boom, a recipe for disaster. Those should be left to the rental store. Don’t let me get started on the Halal carts. I would also have to say public transportation because most neighborhoods it’s pretty hard to get to a bus or train without having to walk a few blocks to find one. It’s not like the city where you can hop in cabs, buses and boats in a blink of an eye. If you live outside Manhattan you might want to invest in a car. It takes you everywhere on your own time instead of a schedule like some buses. In my final thought I think we need more lines.

What do you miss most when you are out of town?

The sounds and lights of the city. When I am far away especially long drives you go through the long roads of the highways with no ambient sounds except the cars passing you by. I love when I am driving I see the city lights with The Empire State building and the new One World Trade Center welcoming me home. The bright lights of the buildings and planes landing on both the same area airports is my beacon home. The sounds of life on the move even at night, is always something to look forward to.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

Our Mayor HA!!!!! That is a topic of a different sort. I would have to say the school system needs help, our kids are in crowded classes and the elimination of arts and music in most schools I feel take away from potential creativity and it may make some, if most, fall behind because there is no time for individual or concentrated help.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?
Well for me it has to be shopping because many know me as a tech junkie, I have to have the latest or keep up with the times. Except you won’t find me on any Apple products they suck and the sheeple that buy them (just fanning the flames). I also love the park, since a kid my parents always took me to the park to go play and get some fresh air. Nowadays I go just to relax and go out to get some air. I like to go out and eat, even if it’s bad Chinese food and end it with a movie.

What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?

I can say the most memorable day in NYC for me was the first time I stepped into Yankee Stadium (the old one). I was in awe just to see the vastness of the field and the crowd of people just surrounding me. The atmosphere was electric I remember going to the field and meeting the players to take pictures and get autographs. Oh yeah, when I got married here on campus but I should have mentioned that first, well moving along.

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?

Hmm I would say in Tokyo Japan. Where else can I hang out in a crazy setting other than New York where the crowd seems like blast to hang out with [and]crazy shops where you find the weirdest and yet coolest items. I always have had a fascination with Asian culture.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

Man I tell you this city has given me a lot to be thankful for. There is no place that can beat these streets, ‘nuff said. I got my attitude from here so heck yeah I’m a New Yorker. PEACE!!!!!

Over the Moon

By George Barany and Ellen Ross

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977) and Ellen Ross is a Chicago-based writer/humorist/blogger. This puzzle, which celebrates a recent birth in a well-known American family, may be found specifically at, which includes links to on-line solving, the solution, and a “midrash” that explains much about it. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at

Download the “over the moon” puzzle here!

Life on a Roll

Photos contributed by Elodie Pauwells


On a Sunday afternoon, I decided to have a walk in Paris, to enjoy the city, take a few pictures, and keep an eye open: what has changed in the past years? As my footsteps were inexorably leading me towards the river Seine, I was struck by the evidence: I don’t remember seeing any seagulls—or at least not so many—in the city. I must admit they do look better than ugly fat pigeons!



Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes.

Part II: Karl Landsteiner, 1930 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

By Joseph Luna

landsteiner“Blood is a quite peculiar juice.” When the German poet, statesman and erstwhile scientist Goethe wrote those words in the early 1800s, he might as well have been paraphrasing a problem that physicians had been encountering for at least 150 years prior. It was apparent, since antiquity, that blood is essential for life. And as blood largely looked and behaved the same, it wasn’t a great leap to consider transfusing blood from one being to save another. The realities however, were disastrous: foreign blood would clump (agglutinate) inside a recipient patient, leading to rapid destruction of the incoming blood, followed by hemorrhage and death. Animal-to-human transfusions were performed as early as the mid-17th century with occasional success, but the procedure was risky, often fatal and complicated by religious concerns. Human-to-human transfusions were no different and were considered only as a last resort by the 19th century. Absent a scientific explanation as to why blood transfusions sometimes saved or sometimes killed, with no apparent pattern, religious or supernatural explanations naturally attempted to fill the void.

Continue reading