The main quadrangle of West Campus—from the steps leading to Clocktower Quad, to those leading to Davison Quad, and the Chapel Quad— will become Abele Quad, named for architect Julian Abele, the designer of more than thirty buildings or spaces in that area. The announcement came after president Richard H. Brodhead in December formed an advisory group, chaired by executive vice president Tallman Trask III, to consider how to honor the African-American architect, a move in response to student demands. The group reviewed the history of Abele’s contributions and consulted with surviving members of the Abele family (some of whom are Duke alumni) to develop the plan for commemoration. A marker designating Abele Quad will be placed on the most-trafficked pathway at the center of the quad. In addition, a plaque explaining Abele’s role will be placed in Duke Chapel, the most celebrated of his designs, and his name will be added to the cornerstone of the chapel, along with the name of Horace Trumbauer, for whose Philadelphia architectural firm Abele was chief designer. Duke also will purchase the rights to the Odili Odita mural “Shadow and Light (for Julian Francis Abele)” and make it a permanent installation at the Nasher, commission a biography of Abele, and fund the annual event in his honor celebrating African-American achievement.
A few drops, mystery solved
A miserable cough, a stubborn head cold. Patients with these symptoms often beg their physicians for a round of antibiotics, even when a virus is to blame. In fact, studies have shown that of the three-fourths of patients who end up on antibiotics, the majority do so unnecessarily. But soon doctors will have a quick, new diagnostic tool to sort out who might benefit from a prescription and who will just have to wait it out. A team of infectious-disease researchers and genomics experts at Duke is refining a simple blood test to tell whether a respiratory illness is caused by a virus or bacterium. From a small sample of blood, the test looks for certain gene patterns that indicate which type of microbe is to blame. In a study published in Science Translational Medicine, the team found their blood test to be 87 percent accurate in detecting various viruses, common bacteria like strep, and even the absence of infections, in 300 area patients. That makes this new method more accurate than similar tests currently in use. Study authors are working to develop a one-hour version that can be used in clinics.
Why is it so hard to break a bad habit?
Curbing your evening ice-cream binge is difficult because habits are programmed deep inside our brain circuitry. A team of neuroscientists in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) recently published research examining the brain’s “stop” and “go” signals in mice models. Pathways in the part of the brain that control motor actions and compulsive behaviors work like a game of red light, green light: There is a “go” signal, which tells you to have another scoop, and a competing “stop” signal. In a habituated brain, both of these pathways were stronger, but interestingly, the “go” signal got a head start—it activated more quickly than the stop signal. The mice that were able to break their habit (in this study, a sugar fix) had weaker “go” signal cells.
Top science honors for two professors
Adrienne Stiff-Roberts and Chris Dwyer, both assistant professors of electrical and computer engineering, will receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). It’s considered the highest honor given to scientists by the U.S. government and will be presented at a White House ceremony in the fall. The award, which comes with a grant of up to $1 million over five years, is meant to recognize young investigators and support the early stages of their independent research careers. President Barack Obama said of this group of 100 PECASE recipients, “With their talent, creativity, and dedication, I am confident that they will lead their fields in new breakthroughs and discoveries and help us use science and technology to lift up our nation and our world.” Stiff-Roberts will use the award to support her work on developing hybrid nanomaterials, while Dwyer will use his to create novel sensing devices that someday could be used to analyze blood samples for cancer, among other applications.
Biden brings his cancer "moonshot" to Duke
President Barack Obama announced at his State of the Union address that Vice President Joe Biden would launch a “moonshot” to “end cancer.” A month later, Biden was at Duke Medical School presiding over a panel to discuss the details. Duke’s reputation for innovative treatments and collaborative research provided an instructive backdrop for Biden’s plan, which is to accelerate a decade’s worth of cancer advancements within the next five years.
“We’re not looking at incremental change,” said Biden at the February 10 event. “What we’re trying to do is end up with a quantum leap on the path to a cure.”
With a billion-dollar investment from the federal government, and more from donors, Biden hopes to find better ways to share vital research and information among academic medicine, the pharmaceutical industry, and physicians. The goal is to break down institutional and bureaucratic barriers to get effective treatments to patients faster.
“We have all had our experiences with death and tragedy,” said Biden, who lost his son Beau to a brain tumor last year. Indeed, the room at the hall was full of people affected by cancer. “When you’ve been through it, you have a different perspective,” he said.
Biden’s understanding of the patient perspective impressed Kimberly Blackwell ’89, a breast-cancer oncologist at Duke Cancer Center, who was one of ten experts on the panel. Unless you’ve been a patient or a caregiver, she says, “it can be hard to see how the pieces [of treatment] fit together and where the roadblocks are.”
After meeting with more than 220 oncologists and other cancer experts, Biden found that systemic issues were to blame: Data are not standardized for productive sharing, clinical trials are bound by red tape, and research itself is too often siloed. Scientists, institutions, and drug companies do not communicate with one another, even when working on parallel tracks.
The Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), the world’s largest academic- research organization, has been at the vanguard of sharing data, says Michael B. Kastan, executive director of the Duke Cancer Institute. Groundbreaking therapies benefit from collaboration within the university. For example, work is under way to move studies of the poliovirus therapy developed at Duke’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center to other solid tumors, including prostate, breast, and lung cancers.
But even therapies long proven to be beneficial run into hurdles when used with other, newer, drugs, says Kastan. While combined targeted therapies for specific tumor mutations are the future of cancer care, he says “the old paradigms are not set up for the era of personalized medicine.”
A major barrier to developing new treatment protocols is the clinical-trial system, says Blackwell. The number of Americans participating in it has declined in the past ten years. Currently, only about 5 percent of American cancer patients are enrolled in clinical trails. Patients often perceive the financial risks as too great.
“Countries that offer free health care are able to attract patients to clinical trials more easily and quickly, speeding up the pipeline for drug research,” says Blackwell. Patients in the U.S. agreeing to participate in a clinical trial don’t know in advance what will and won’t be covered by insurance—unexpected copays, additional medications—because they don’t know what side effects or complications will arise.
Meanwhile, doctors and hospitals are concerned about liability, should something unforeseen go wrong. Unless a drug company is involved to fully fund all costs, the trials are often money-losing propositions for physicians and institutions. And getting the drug industry to collaborate for efficiency is almost as difficult as “getting a nuclear deal with Iran,” joked Biden.
The moonshot is meant to get the whole cancer-treatment machine in better working order. “Biden is the catalyst,” says Blackwell. “Now it’s up to us to provide the fuel.”
Senior engineers a version of Harry Potter clock
Of all the madcap inventions in the Harry Potter series—the Marauders Map, the Invisibility Cloak—the Weasley Clock is one of the most practical. Instead of telling time, it reveals where members of the Weasley family are throughout the day. Each person is represented by a hand, and the hours are replaced by locations, such as school, “traveling,” “lost,” or the worrisome “mortal peril.”
The fictional version resides in the kitchen of The Burrow, but now a real-life digital version hangs on the wall of Trey Bagley’s parents’ home in Houston. Bagley, a senior computer science major, created his clock at Duke’s Innovation Co- Lab, a creativity incubator in the Telcom Building—no magic required. Using a Photon board, IFTTT programs, and LED lights, he was able to build a replica that tracks all six members of his family, as long as they have their phones with them.
His clock, which has a laser- cut wood face and lights instead of hands, features the categories work, school, on the way, forest, holiday, and, of course, mortal peril. “We all set up rules on our phones so that for different locations or events, it’ll change which category we’re lit up under,” he told NPR’s Rachel Martin. Say Bagley takes his phone with him on a walk in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens: “I’m able to draw a radius around that on the computer and say—if my phone enters this line, then set me to ‘forest.’ ”
Bagley worked on his invention during exam week and finished in time to take it home for Christmas. He says his mother is comforted by seeing all lights on “home” at the end of the day. Still, the most dire category is always a possibility, especially after graduation, when he begins work at Microsoft. As he told Martin, “If their stock drops below their three-year low, it automatically sets me to ‘mortal peril.’ ”
Why am I so quick to blame people, but slow to praise them?
Take heart, says the brain-science team that published a new study on this question. It’s human nature to treat negative actions as intentional and positive ones as unintentional. By combing MRI technology with measures of emotional reactions, the team found that people engage different processes for negative and positive intentionality judgments. Actions that produce a negative outcome are processed in the amygdala, a region of the brain often linked to negative emotions. When study participants experienced positive scenarios, the amygdala response was absent—and judgments of intentionality were based not on feelings, but on emotion-free analysis of the outcome.
A new dean for Pratt
After a months-long international search, Ravi Bellamkonda, a biomedical engineer, scholar, and entrepreneur, has been named the Vinik Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering. In his new post, which will start August 1, he says he plans to “nurture certain areas of research in which we can be absolutely worldclass leaders.” He sees Pratt leading the way in sectors critical to the global economy, such as materials, computing, security, health, and the environment.
Bellamkonda says he was drawn to Duke’s “reputation for being entrepreneurial and forward-thinking,” as well as the university’s “flexibility to reach a little further and not just play it safe.”
As chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of biomedical engineering, a joint appointment between Emory’s School of Medicine and Georgia Tech’s engineering school, he has brought together faculty and students from both institutions to research novel approaches to health issues such as Alzheimer’s, nerve damage, and cancer. He also introduced programs to foster experiential learning in engineering. His Atlanta lab was among the first to successfully use the immune system to regenerate nerves damaged by trauma and to design ways to destroy scar tissue impeding recovery after spinal-cord injuries. He also founded three start-up companies.
At Duke, he’ll encourage collaboration among Pratt’s 1,240 undergraduates, its 960 graduate students, and the university’s other schools. “I’d like us to collectively create an environment that is inspiring and meaningful, so that all of us feel like we are part of a noble enterprise trying to find solutions to pressing world problems,” he says.
The Rubenstein Library test kitchen whips up recipes from the archives
The prune soufflé was not a success. The recipe from a 1920s weight-loss advertisement looked promising enough, but in a perverse way: “It sounded so unappetizing that I felt compelled to give it a shot,” wrote test cook Katrina Martin, a library technical-services assistant. Her culinary effort—“ a sad, deflated pan of brown blobs”—is one of more than a dozen contributions on the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen blog.
“People are exploring the archives and finding recipes that speak to them, that they identify with emotionally— whether that’s something that sounds really good or really awful,” says Kate Collins, a research-services librarian, who launched the online project with her colleague Elizabeth Dunn a year and a half ago.
Dunn had heard that librarians at the University of Pennsylvania were cooking up early modern recipes from their archives, and she wanted to do the same with Duke’s Special Collections. The library’s extensive catalogue of early-American cookbooks and manuscripts, as well as the John W. Hartman Center’s collection of advertisements, has proven to be an addictive source of cooking inspiration for library staff and the blog’s small-buthungry fan base.
Anyone who wants to participate is given free rein to find a marvel in the digital or paper archives, be it Beef Shins in Wow Wow Sauce (early 1800s) or a Goblin Sandwich (1946), which amounts to deviled ham and avocado sandwiched between the halves of a donut. In terms of optics, Collins judged that concoction “probably our best worst one.”
Some hideous recipes have turned out quite tasty. The Velveeta Corn Ring With Creamed Mushrooms “should not have been good,” says Collins. “We all were shocked. It appeals to base instincts: cheesy, salty, carb-y.” Other standouts included a Hoppin’ John from 1847—tested by two Ph.D. students—topped with burnished cubes of smoked ham hock, and a sweet potato custard from the 1870s that was so good Collins made it for Thanksgiving.
Potable recipes are accepted, too. An easy, boozy punch came from the 1977 Duke University Library staff cookbook. A library colleague who brews beer found a recipe for ale made out of spruce needles. The fermenting, like the cooking, will take place off campus. Alas, sighs Collins, “there’s only a test kitchen of our own minds.”
Chemistry major named Gates Cambridge scholar
Senior Catherine Newman is among the thirty-five U.S. recipients of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which covers a student’s tuition and expenses while completing a graduate degree at the University of Cambridge. The chemistry major with a concentration in biochemistry and a minor in biology is from Mebane, North Carolina. At Cambridge, she will continue her research on multidrug resistance, while pursing a master’s of philosophy in biological science with a biochemistry concentration.
The scholarship was started in 2000 with a grant of $210 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Recipients are chosen on the basis of their intellect, leadership potential, and commitment to improving the lives of others. Newman has worked with the Global Medical Brigades program and tutored in the Durham community.
At fifty, the Ciompi Quartet plays on
In 1998, as Duke’s Ciompi Quartet prepared to perform a concert in Jerusalem, a rare March snowstorm swept in and paralyzed the whole city. Their formal plans dashed, they decided to play in the meeting room of their Old City hotel—there, at least they would have a captive audience and an upright piano for the Schumann Piano Quartet. All went well until halfway through the last movement, when the lights flickered and went out, pitching the room into darkness.
“Coda!” yelled violinist Eric Pritchard. The three other members skipped ahead to the final section, finishing the piece from memory, to a room of inky shadows.
Hsiao-Mei Ku, a Ciompi violinist since 1990, remembers how the audience “exploded with joy and tears, yelling, ‘Bravissimo! ’ ” That impromptu concert was, she says, a moment that captures the essence of the group. “To tell you the truth, it does not matter what happens during the rehearsals. Here is what matters, really, what we bring to the stage: totally unified as one,” she says.
The singular quartet marks its fiftieth anniversary this spring. It was founded in 1965 by Italian violinist Giorgio Ciompi; today all members are Duke professors, and they perform and record together all over the world. The most senior member is cellist Fred Raimi, who joined in 1974, and the newest member is Pritchard, who arrived in 1995.
“Our concerts can cover a span of 250 years,” says violinist Jonathan Baggs, who settled into his Ciompi role in 1986. “To play a piece written in 1780, then a short piece written in 2015, and end with a Beethoven quartet—that’s thrilling."
Institute will promote national-parks research
A new, independent institute located at Duke will foster educational programs in conservation and environmental management and support greater use of public lands as research sites. The Park Institute of America also will fund student internships and raise public awareness of the challenges confronting some of our nation’s most treasured places.
“Our parks and protected areas face mounting pressures from climate change, invasive species, pollution, and other long-term environmental threats, at a time when resources to manage these lands are shrinking,” says Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation.
The institute is a nonpartisan collaboration between the Nicholas School and the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, a nonprofit organization of former National Park Service employees.
Two legacies remembered
When people think of Duke, two institutions immediately spring to mind: basketball and medicine—or, medicine and basketball. In January, the university community lost two men who paved the way for Duke dominance in both arenas.
William G. Anlyan, the university’s first chancellor for health affairs when he retired in 1989, transformed Duke University Hospital from a regional medical center in a tobacco town to a cutting-edge research institution with a global reputation. In his forty-year career with the university, the former surgeon and dean of the medical school oversaw the development of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Eye Center, and the country’s first physician-assistant program, not to mention innovations in cardiac care and disease treatment and prevention.
“Bill Anlyan transformed Duke into the world-leading institution it is today,” the current chancellor, A. Eugene Washington, said in a statement. “His passing is a tremendous loss because of the way he lived his life, the achievements he brought to fruition, and the legacy he bequeaths to us all.”
Anlyan, who was ninety when he died on January 17, also was a founding member of the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
William Edwin Foster, the beloved Duke basketball coach (1974-80) who brought the Blue Devils back to national prominence, died on January 7 at age eighty-six. In 1974, he took over a moribund basketball program— the team had placed last in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time ever—and, four years later, led them to the NCAA championship game, losing to Kentucky by six points. In three seasons, from 1977 to 1980, Foster’s teams won the ACC tournament two times, won seventy-three games, and lost only twenty-four.
“Bill really worked hard to regain the fan base starting in this area and making us a national brand,” Mike Gminski ’80, one of Foster’s most celebrated recruits, told GoDuke.com. “He was ahead of his time as far as marketing and selling the program, and he restored the name that Duke had lost for a little bit.”
Foster also coached at South Carolina, Utah, Rutgers, and Northwestern.