Backstage with the Dead

March 23, 2017


Six quarts milk. Twelve large bottles Perrier water. Five cases Heineken’s beer. One half case colorless cream soda. Two bottles red Bordeaux wine (French).

These beverages – and many more – were requested by the Grateful Dead for the band’s May 8, 1977 show at Barton Hall, according to the tour rider in its contract with the Cornell Concert Commission. Pages from the contract, which also calls for a messenger with “enough sense to be able to come back from a supply house with something useful, the same day, and not lose the receipt,” are among the items associated with the historic show now on display in the library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

“It gives a pretty interesting behind-the-scenes look at the show,” said collections assistant Kristen Reichenbach ’16, who curated the small exhibit in the reference room on Level 2B, Kroch Library, to celebrate the concert’s 40th anniversary this year.

The show – known to Deadheads simply as “Cornell ’77” – was part of the band’s “Terrapin Station” tour and became a legendary part of Grateful Dead lore, widely considered one of their best concerts ever. At Cornell, it was also an iconic event, in part for the freak May snowstorm that struck campus while fans were inside Barton.

Since 2011, a recording of the show has been preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. “Cornell ’77,” a book about the show, will be released in April by Cornell University Press.

In addition to pages from the rider, the exhibition on display through May also includes photographs and newspaper reviews of the concert.

- Melanie Lefkowitz

Math professor mentors winner of science talent search

March 21, 2017

Steve Strogatz/Provided
Alex Townsend with his computer in Malott Hall.

When 18-year-old Aaron Yeiser was awarded second place honors – and $175,000 – in the national Regeneron Science Talent Search, no one was prouder than his mentor Alex Townsend, assistant professor of mathematics.

Townsend began mentoring the high school senior while he was an applied math instructor at MIT, through a program called MIT PRIMES. For the last 15 months, Townsend has continued to mentor Yeiser privately via weekly Skype and email exchanges.

“Aaron is an ambitious and mathematically talented young man with astonishingly advanced technical skills and heaps of perseverance,” said Townsend. “Working with Aaron is wonderful on every level. If I mention a mathematical topic, then by next week he will have taught it to himself. If I ask him a technical research question, he will come back to me with an expertly considered reply. His attitude to research and his own learning is his fantastic strength. Those of us who know Aaron realize that this is only the very beginning for him.”

Yeiser’s winning project involved developing a new mathematical method for use in the field of computational fluid dynamics. He ran his simulations on a mini-supercomputer Townsend built, which now resides in the basement of Malott Hall.

Yeiser's work was motivated in part by an NSF grant Townsend received to build a next-generation spectral method, which will help to solve real-world fluid flow and airfoil problems. Townsend’s goal is to demonstrate that spectral methods in computational mathematics can be a flexible, general and powerful numerical tool.

- Linda B. Glaser

IVF puppies: Where are they now?

March 21, 2017

Red and Green, now Jubs.

In 2015, the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine introduced the world to seven very special puppies – the first dogs born as the result of vitro fertilization. Three separate pairs of beagle and cocker spaniel parents contributed embryos, which were transferred to a fourth female. Genetic testing confirmed that all three breeding pairs contributed at least one puppy to the litter, but the surrogate mom did not.

The keys to successful canine IVF eluded scientists for decades because of unique features of canine reproduction. It took a team of veterinary researchers from Cornell and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to crack the code. The process can now be used to rebuild populations of endangered canine species.

March 23 is National Puppy Day, so an update on the magnificent seven seems in order. The puppies will turn two this summer. All seven were spayed or neutered before they were adopted. Color-coded at birth, most have been renamed by their owners.

Dr. Alex Travis, who led the IVF project at the college’s Baker Institute for Animal Health, has Red, a female beagle, who was and still is named for the Cornell Big Red; and Green, a male beagle his children renamed Jubs. Travis sighs: “The thing they like best is chewing on just about anything that we don’t want them to chew on.”

Jennifer Nagashima went home with Cannon (Purple), a male cocker spaniel/beagle named for the late Cornell scientist Patrick Concannon, a pioneer in dog and cat reproduction. Yellow, a male beagle, was originally nicknamed Pete, and lives with IVF team member Nucharin Songsasen, a research scientist at the Smithsonian who renamed him Buddy. Blue was called Beaker at Cornell, but his adoptive family changed his name to Kiwi. The new name of Zebra, Ivy LeFleur, is a play on IVF.

- Claudia Wheatley



New site gathers the stories of Ivy minorities

March 16, 2017


Jordan Abdur-Ra'oof '18, a junior in the School of Hotel Administration and a forward on the Big Red men’s basketball team, recently launched a website called

"I wanted to create a website devoted to Ivy League minorities," Adur-Ra'oof said. "The purpose of the site is to serve as a literary platform where African-Americans, LGBTQ+, Hispanics, people of low economic status, wealthy African-Americans and other minorities could share their stories.

"This is a space devoted to challenging preconceived notions and stereotypes. With an ever-changing society, and strong emotions about race, gender and LGBTQ+ rights, the time was right to create a forum where some of the brightest minorities could share their experiences."

'All Things Equal': Yael Levitte on faculty resources

March 16, 2017

Robert Barker/University Photography

Yael Levitte, associate vice provost for faculty development and diversity, discusses some of the programs offered at Cornell to assist faculty with their academic careers, in the March 14 All Things Equal podcast.

Janet Mock gives diversity keynote

March 16, 2017


Trans women’s rights and media advocate Janet Mock is among the keynote speakers at the Diverse Women in Science and Engineering and Cornell Women of Color Coalition Joint Symposium, March 18.

Symposium registration is full but registration for Mock’s talk, 3 p.m. in Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall, is free and open to the public. Mock is the New York Times best-selling author of “Redefining Realness,” a contributing editor at Marie Claire magazine and the founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project to empower trans women. Her work has been recognized by the Ms. Foundation, Planned Parenthood and ADCOLOR; and Time magazine named her one of the 30 most influential people on the internet.

The symposium is cosponsored by Diversity Programs in Engineering; Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies; the University Diversity Council and Haven, the LGBTQ Student Union.

- Dan Aloi


We Are Weill Cornell Medicine: Dr. Lia Logio

March 10, 2017

Practicing medicine is for Dr. Lia Logio as much an art as it is a form of love. The daughter of a teacher and a doctor, Logio combined the passions of both in her pursuit of a career that is wholly her own: a physician who teaches how to doctor. 

“In my role, I get to imprint my passion and excitement for caring for patients to the next generation,” said Logio, vice chair for education and the Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, as well as program director of the Weill Department of Medicine Residency Program at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “It’s really a labor of love to get to know them and help them navigate to their successes. And in some small way, you have pride in watching them accomplish wonderful things.”

Bulletin immerses readers in Southeast Asian cultures

March 7, 2017


Every story in the spring 2017 Cornell Southeast Asia Program Bulletin conveys the transformative nature of cultural immersion - from associate professor Marina Welker’s enthnographic study of Indonesian clove cigarette factories to Cornell undergraduate Gail Fletcher’s account of her internships and study abroad experiences in three Southeast Asian countries. The perspectives learned and connections made through cross-cultural exchange are critical to creating a society of global citizens.

Also read about the explosion of SEAP activity in service of global learning and social justice. This includes an outreach conference to build awareness around, and stimulate discussions on, the experiences of refugees in community colleges and how to make campuses more inclusive, and a Burmese Language Pedagogy conference that brought together Burmese language instructors from all over the globe.

With SEAP Publications now operating in partnership with Cornell University Press, the hope is that nuanced knowledge of this region will spread and inspire people to travel, study, engage with other cultures, fight for diversity and tolerance, and transform one another in the process.

- Brenna Fitzgerald

Government professor meets with Cambodia's king

March 7, 2017

Mertha, right, meets King Norodom Sihamoni.

Being president of an academic center does not usually come with access to royalty, but for Andrew Mertha, professor of government, it does.

Mertha was appointed president last year of the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), one of Cambodia’s leading scholarly organizations. On Jan. 10, he and his fellow CKS executives were granted a lengthy audience with the king of Cambodia, His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni (whose full title is 32 words long).

Mertha explained that in addition to the numerous programs that CKS manages aimed to increase opportunities for advanced scholarship of Cambodia, CKS also has a set of libraries in its office complex, for which the king is a patron.

“We spoke for about an hour in a combination of French, English and Khmer about the goals of CKS in expanding its programs to better serve the educational needs of Cambodia scholars and of the country more generally,” said Mertha. “I personally spoke to His Majesty about my desire and professional goal of increasing awareness of and interest in Cambodia among new generations of Cornell undergraduates.”

CKS is the only American Overseas Research Center located in Mainland Southeast Asia, and Mertha is its first new president in more than 15 years.

- Linda B. Glaser

Cornell Botanic Gardens: a hidden gem

March 7, 2017


A website called the Crazy Tourist cites the Cornell Botanic Gardens as one of 26 "hidden gems" in New York state:

"These botanic gardens, formerly known as the Cornell Plantations, are located close to Cornell University in Ithaca, and consist of 25 acres of botanical gardens and 150 acres dedicated to the F.R. Newman Arboretum. These gardens date back to the founding of the university in the mid-1800s, and have been continually maintained and expanded since then.

"Come visit this beautiful area specializing in trees and shrubs native to New York state, and boasting an especially well-known herb garden. The Arboretum has several stunning tree collections, such as their chestnuts, oaks and maples. The botanical gardens are open to all daily for no entrance fee, and is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon if you find yourself in Ithaca."