John Reif, E73
HOME: Durham, North Carolina
ACADEMIC TITLES: A. Hollis Edens Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, Duke University; Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Computing and Information Technology, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
CURRENT RESEARCH: Nanoscience, in particular “self-assembly,” which uses DNA to build nanostructures. Among the results from his lab have been the first molecular-scale computing devices using self-assembly and the first robotic devices that can walk autonomously, without external control.
INGRAINED HABIT: Veering into unfamiliar academic territory. “It all started with Tufts’ Unified Science Study Program, where I developed close relationships with my professors and began doing projects in diverse areas. At Tufts I became enthusiastic about using computers for anything and everything—simulating neural networks, making computer art and a computer-animated movie, designing a geodesic dome.”
SHAMELESS ADDICTION: Extreme skiing at Alta, Utah. “The wonderful rush that comes from taking a challenging ski run through deep, uncut powder is similar to the one that comes from discovering a new algorithm.”
HIS INHERITANCE: Investigative rigor, handed down to him from his dad, Arnold Reif, an Austrian émigré who became a research professor at Tufts Medical School
BELOVED COLLABORATOR: His daughter Katie Reif, E11, who worked with him to invent a new system for concentrating solar energy, and now is employed as a structural engineer in Seattle.
HOW HE MET HER MOTHER: On a winter camping trip. He and Jane Anderson, J75, both survived the harshness of the Kancamagus wilderness in New Hampshire, where it got down to twenty-four degrees below zero. But sparks didn’t fly until the two happened upon each other a month later. “She came up one of the dorm stairwells in the late evening and found me playing my flute. Things went from there, and ever since, she has been the center of my emotional life.”
HIS EDUCATION: B.S. (applied mathematics and computer science), Tufts; M.S. and Ph.D. (applied mathematics), Harvard
Pamela Wechsler, J82
ALTERNATING PROFESSIONS: Prosecutor, television writer
CURRENT POSITION: Legal counsel to the Middlesex County district attorney
PAST POSITIONS: Trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, assistant attorney general for Massachusetts, and assistant district attorney for Suffolk County; writer and legal consultant for the TV crime dramas Trial by Jury, Conviction, Canterbury’s Law, Law & Order, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent
RADICAL DEPARTURE: Her move to Los Angeles. “When I was a homicide prosecutor in Boston, I met a writer on a TV show about a homicide prosecutor in Boston and started helping him develop story ideas. As soon as I went on set, I knew I wanted to write myself. So I studied the craft and eventually wrote a spec script.” And then things happened fast. “That script got me my first writing job. I tossed my suits and immersed myself in a new culture thousands of miles away.”
RUDE AWAKENING: “Ten months after my move, the show for which I was hired, Trial by Jury, was canceled. Luckily, I found a new job, but I learned the hard way why writers don’t decorate their offices until the show gets a second-season pickup.”
WHY SHE RETURNED TO THE FOLD: “My mother was ill. It took me about two minutes to make the decision to move to L.A., and seven years later, it took me about two minutes to make the decision to move back.”
WRITERLY INSPIRATION: Double lives. “I’m fascinated by the dentist who traffics in child porn, the accountant who deals drugs.” Not to mention the German conman who poses as a denizen of the American upper crust—like Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, aka Clark Rockefeller, the real-life antecedent of the character Gray Vanderhoven from an episode she wrote for Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
CURRENTLY TUNING IN TO: Mad Men, AMC’s sixties-era series about the double life of charismatic New York advertising executive Don Draper
DEFINING TRAIT: A continuing inclination to keep her options open: “I have no idea what’s next. I’ve never had a five-year plan.”
HER EDUCATION: B.A. (political science), Tufts; J.D., Boston University School of Law