|| || || |
A Sense of Place
How does Tufts define its physical identity when the most
distinctive campus sits at the top of a hill? How does
the university define its sense of place as its academic
and research needs evolve?
These are among the questions an award-winning architectural
firm will strive to help Tufts answer as it creates a
ten-year master plan for the Medford/Somerville campus.
William Rawn Associates Architects, Inc. (WRA) of Boston
has been commissioned to replace a plan developed more
than 15 years ago, said John Roberto, vice president for
“We are thrilled to be working with William Rawn
Associates,” said Roberto. “Early on, Bill
and his colleagues demonstrated a keen understanding of
Tufts. They’re creative designers and planners whose
project approach is very well aligned with the university’s
The plan’s overall goal is to translate academic
and research priorities into a physical plan, said Roberto.
As such, it will consider both the renovation and reuse
of existing space and construction of new facilities.
The plan will be developed over the next year and as the
individual components of the academic plan move forward,
the physical master plan will be in lockstep with it.
He added that the plan will encourage and strengthen a
sense of community. “Not just the Tufts community,
but the cities of Medford and Somerville as well. The
needs and concerns of our host communities will be considered
as we deal with context, form, open space, and landscape,”
he said. “Bill Rawn has worked closely on many of
these issues over the years, on both academic and residential
housing projects, and his experience will prove invaluable
as we stay mindful of our neighbors.”
Rawn, who is well known for his award-winning campus buildings,
civic buildings, and music and theater centers, said he
saw in the Tufts project two fascinating challenges.
“At the top of the hill and then moving down onto
the President’s Lawn, there’s a distinctive
Tufts landscape and architecture,” he said. “It’s
our job to make certain this level of quality can be achieved
in all sectors of the campus and bring about a unified
sense of place for Tufts.”
Rawn said he was also attracted to the issue of university
character. “Tufts’ second challenge is maintaining
the intimate scale of a liberal arts college campus while
also meeting the needs, priorities, and intensity of a
major national research university,” he said. “We
look forward to celebrating these two characters simultaneously.”
The firm brings exceptional credentials to the task in
both design and planning. One of its signature buildings
is Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood. Winner of seven national
American Institute of Architects Honor Awards, the firm
has an impressive track record in planning that includes
a ten-year master plan for Northeastern University, planning
and architectural work for Amherst, Williams, and Swarthmore
colleges, and the conceptual design for the Arts Precinct
at the University of Virginia.
Sackler School names new dean
Dr. Naomi Rosenberg has been appointed dean of the Sackler
School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. She will report
to Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, dean of the School of Medicine.
Rosenberg, who joined Tufts in 1977, is professor of
pathology and former director of the Genetics Graduate
“I’m privileged to have the opportunity
to work with Dean Rosenblatt and strengthen the graduate
programs that we have and work to develop new ones,”
said Rosenberg. She succeeds Dr. David Stollar, who
has served in an interim capacity since July 2002. “We
are immensely grateful to Dr. Stollar for his leadership
during this time,” Rosenblatt said, adding that
Stollar is returning to his laboratory to pursue important
research in DNA antibodies and autoimmune diseases such
In 1975, Dr. Rosenberg developed the first model to
study the way leukemia developed in a tissue culture
dish. “If you can study the disease in a controlled
laboratory condition, you can identify which genes are
changed when the cancer develops and you can actually
manipulate those genes to try to understand how they
contribute to the cancer,” she said.
Her research led the way for identification of a gene
called abl, which causes chronic myelogenous leukemia
(CML). These discoveries were central to the development
of imantinib, a drug used to treat the disease.
Over the years she has also mentored 23 Ph.D. students
and seven postdoctoral fellows.
A native of Vermont, the new dean is married to another
Tufts faculty member, Dr. Mort Rosenberg, who holds
appointments at Tufts School of Dental Medicine and
School of Medicine. She has a daughter in college and
a son who will enter Tufts in September as a member
of the Class of 2008.
Bound for Mars
professor Samuel Kounaves builds a “robotic geochemist”
While NASA’s pair of rovers search for answers about
the history of water on the red planet, their story is
only one chapter of the much larger Mars Exploration Program.
At Tufts, chemistry professor Samuel Kounaves and colleagues
will be continuing the inquiry with research on the “Phoenix,”
a new Mars lander set to launch in 2007. Kounaves is also
working on developing a 2009 NASA Mars rover mission involving
a robotic chemistry lab.
What is the mission of the “Phoenix”?
A The “Phoenix”
will study the geologic history of water and search for
evidence that Mars may have sustained life, or might still.
It will “follow the water” by landing at high
northern latitudes where the current “Odyssey”
orbiter has reported near-surface ice. Whereas the current
rovers are “robotic geologists” and are probing
the surface, the “Phoenix” is a robotic geochemist
with the ability to dig down one meter and perform a variety
of chemical analyses on the retrieved soil samples.
Q Are there
difficulties associated with landing techniques?
A The most recent
successful missions, the “Path-finder” in
1997 and the current rovers, have used air bags, which
by bouncing cushion the landing. The problem with this
technique is the limitation in the size of the instrument
payload that can be carried and the type of terrain on
which it can safely land. “The Phoenix” will
use a lander with retro rockets, similar to those used
in the successful 1976 “Viking” mission.This
allows for a larger lander with greater mass and more
precise control of where it will touch down.
Q What are you
hoping to find?
The tasks will include searching for the origin
of ice found on Mars, and evidence of past water and “habitable
zones” to determine whether the soil could support
past or present indigenous life.
Do you believe in the possibility of life on Mars?
A There are places
on Earth that have harsher conditions than are found on
Mars, and where living organisms are only now being found
alive and prospering. Since Mars and Earth most likely
had similar environments during their first billion years,
there is no reason to suppose that life could not have
developed and evolved on Mars, especially in a protected
Some say the rovers, or orbiters, offer a richer
source of information than the landers. What’s your
A Current rovers
allow us to probe a large surface area, but a large lander
such as “Phoenix,” with the ability to dig
a meter into the subsurface, will be able to provide a
much wider range of science. The craft can do wet chemical
analyses to determine inorganic chemistry and the oxidizing
properties of the soil, it can identify minerals and their
phases, and it can identify organic compounds.This information
is vitally important in understanding the geochemistry
and the potential of the Martian environment to support
life. In addition, this information is critical for ensuring
the safety of astronauts who may land there. The distinction
between rovers and landers will of course disappear with
large rovers such as the MSL 2009, which can do both.
A popular animated series
finds its place in the hearts and minds of students
In an episode of The Simpsons called “Homer the
Great,” Homer Simpson is crestfallen when he’s
barred from the “No Homers Club.” “Why
not?” he whines. “You let in Homer Glumplich.”
“It says No Homers Club,” comes the definitive
reply. “We’re allowed to have one.”
That exclusivity certainly doesn’t apply to the
other No Homers Club, a Tufts student organization open
to anyone with a penchant for the “deeper meaning”
of the animated series, and considered the first of
its kind in the country. Co-founder Josh Belkin, A04,
explains the club as an appreciation for The Simpsons
as “more than a kid’s cartoon—it’s
a biting political satire and social commentary about
Belkin and club co-chair and member Pam Aghababian,
A04, are now taking that philosophy into the classroom.
They’re teaching “The Simpsons and Society”
at the Experimental College and the course description
neatly sums up their ambition: “We’ll investigate
how the show has depicted institutions such as religion,
government, education, family, the entertainment industry,
big business, and organized sports . . . . [we] will
also explore the significance of parodying numerous
works of classic literature and famous films on the
show. Through readings, discussions, and screenings,
we will understand how art is not only imitating life,
but mocking it as well.”
Belkin and Aghababian introduced The Simpsons into the
realm of pass-fail last year when they went to the Ex
College with a proposal for a freshman seminar. “At
first I think they were hesitant because they didn’t
think there would be anything academic behind it,”
says Aghababian. “But then we showed them a full-page
bibliography and they said all right!” It went
on to be one of the most popular freshman seminars of
Tufts students crave the quirky originality of The Simpsons
in part, say Belkin and Aghababian, because they’ve
probably been watching since the age of ten or 12, absorbing
endless Simpsonesque details. From there it’s
not a stretch to see episodes and characters as critiques
on society, for example, Itchy and Scratchy as parodies
of cartoon violence, or Mr. Burns as a take on corporate
A talented graduate also may explain Tufts’ affinity.
Emmy Award–winner Hank Azaria, A88, provides multiple
voices on the show, including Moe the bartender, Apu
the Kwik-E-Mart owner, Police Chief Wiggum, Professor
Frink, Dr. Nick Riviera, and Comic Book Guy. When Azaria
indulged students with “Apu-speak” at a
recent Light on the Hill ceremony, the response shook
Cohen to the rafters. “I missed that by a year,”
says Belkin, wistfully.
With an instinct that students would join a club devoted
to one of their favorite shows, Belkin and Richard Kalman,
A04, co-founded the organization in 2001. “No
Homers” quickly proved a hit; it snagged “Runner-up
for Best Club” and its first Charity Dodgeball
tournament won the “Imagination Award for Best
Innovative and Creative Program” from the Office
of Student Activities. (The event continued to grow;
last year, 32 teams competed, raising hundreds of dollars
for a local shelter.) And for Tufts students looking
for relief from the academic grind, it’s an easy
fix. Students gather on Wednesday nights to watch The
Simpsons in Anderson Hall and engage in discussions;
even more turn out for the annual Charity Trivia Challenge.
Belkin and Aghababian are graduating this spring, and
both have high hopes that one of Tufts’ most unusual
clubs will carry on. They point with pride that students
paging through the Insiders Guide to the Colleges: 2003
Edition will find the “No Homers Club” mentioned
as a key element of life outside of the Tufts classroom.
(“Since then, applications and interest to Tufts
have allegedly skyrocketed,” according to the
No Homers website.) “We’re living in a media-driven
culture,” says Aghababian, “and so students
bring with them a real visual sense of the world. Who
knows how that could change how they learn?”—LF
For more on the club, visit ase.tufts.edu/nohomersclub.