Adaptability key to success of cohort studies

first_img Read Full Story With federal research dollars declining, investigators must think of creative and flexible ways to keep their long-running cohort studies running and funded, said Bruce M. Psaty, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington, at the 158th Cutter Lecture on Preventive Medicine at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) on December 5, 2013. Some of the ways he mentioned included being more willing to share data and seeking out new collaborations.Cohort studies follow and compare groups of people generally for years, tracking disease risk factors, health outcomes, and other factors (such as smoking habits or diet). Psaty, who has served as principal investigator of many large epidemiological studies, shared his recent experience successfully overcoming federal funding challenges as an investigator with the Cardiovascular Health Study.The long-running study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, has tracked cardiovascular risk factors in people age 65 and over since 1988, producing 1,000 papers and 200 ancillary studies.“Adaptation is a way to keep the cohort alive, vital, and functioning,” Psaty said in his talk, “Cardiovascular Cohort Studies in Times of Big Data and Financial Austerity: The Cardiovascular Health Study as One Model.” Sharing data and collaborating with new investigators can help keep these studies thriving during challenging economic times, he said. “Take small steps and be crafty along the way.”last_img read more

Bloomberg named Commencement speaker

first_imgMichael R. Bloomberg, M.B.A. ’66, an entrepreneur and civic leader who built an information technology company into a global news and financial information service and served three terms as mayor of New York City, will be the principal speaker at the Afternoon Exercises of Harvard’s 363rd Commencement.“Mike Bloomberg’s career represents a rare blend of public leadership, private-sector entrepreneurship, and powerful philanthropic engagement,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “He has led one of the world’s great cities, built one of the nation’s most influential information services, and generously committed his attention and resources to worthy causes in public health, the environment, civic life, the arts, and — not least of all — education. I greatly look forward to welcoming him in May.”Born in Boston and raised in Medford, Mass., Bloomberg received his B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University and his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and he has remained closely engaged with Harvard as an alumnus. The renovated Baker Library | Bloomberg Center is named in honor of his late father, William Henry Bloomberg, as is a professorship that was endowed in 1996.He began his career with an entry-level job at Salomon Brothers in 1966, and quickly rose through the ranks to oversee equity trading and sales before overseeing the firm’s information systems. After the firm was acquired in 1981, Bloomberg founded a small startup that used emerging technology to improve the delivery of information to the buyers and sellers of financial securities. Today, Bloomberg L.P. has more than 300,000 subscribers to its financial news and information service and about 13,000 employees worldwide.A believer in the power of philanthropy to improve people’s lives, he established Bloomberg Philanthropies, with areas of focus that include public health, the environment, government innovation, the arts, and education. His commitment to higher education is especially evident in his having given more than $1 billion to his undergraduate alma mater, Johns Hopkins, including particular support for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.Elected mayor shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001, Bloomberg made increasing public safety, as well as improving education and enhancing public health, key areas of focus when he took office. New York voters re-elected him twice. He stepped aside from the mayor’s office on Jan. 1.Earlier this year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Bloomberg as special envoy for cities and climate change, looking to the former mayor to mobilize municipal leaders to respond to the threats from climate change.“Mike Bloomberg is a prime example of someone who has done well and done good,” said Catherine A. Gellert, president of the Harvard Alumni Association. “I am sure that our alumni will be eager to hear from a member of our ranks whose career has had such a wide impact across the public, private, and nonprofit spheres.”    Bloomberg will speak on May 29 during Commencement Day’s Afternoon Exercises, which serve as the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. The exercises will take place in the Tercentenary Theatre of Harvard Yard, between Memorial Church and Widener Library.last_img read more

Have silicon switches met their match?

first_imgSilicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors, the switchable valves that control the flow of electrons in a circuit, cannot simply keep shrinking to meet the needs of powerful, compact devices; physical limitations like energy consumption and heat dissipation are too significant.Now, using a quantum material called a correlated oxide, Harvard researchers have achieved a reversible change in electrical resistance of eight orders of magnitude, a result the researchers are calling “colossal.” In short, they have engineered this material to perform comparably with the best silicon switches.The finding arose in what may seem an unlikely spot: a laboratory usually devoted to studying fuel cells, the kind that run on methane or hydrogen, led by Shriram Ramanathan, associate professor of materials science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). The researchers’ familiarity with thin films and ionic transport enabled them to exploit chemistry, rather than temperature, to achieve the dramatic result.Because the correlated oxides can function equally well at room temperature or a few hundred degrees above it, it would be easy to integrate them into existing electronic devices and fabrication methods. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, therefore firmly establishes correlated oxides as promising semiconductors for future 3-D integrated circuits as well as for adaptive, tunable photonic devices.Challenging siliconAlthough electronics manufacturers continue to pack greater speed and functionality into smaller packages, the performance of silicon-based components will soon hit a wall.“Traditional silicon transistors have fundamental scaling limitations,” says Ramanathan. “If you shrink them beyond a certain minimum feature size, they don’t quite behave as they should.”Yet silicon transistors are hard to beat, with an on/off ratio of at least 104 required for practical use. “It’s a pretty high bar to cross,” Ramanathan explains, adding that until now, experiments using correlated oxides have produced changes of only about a factor of 10, or 100 at most, near room temperature. But Ramanathan and his team have crafted a new transistor, made primarily of an oxide called samarium nickelate, that in practical operation achieves an on/off ratio of greater than 105 — that is, comparable to state-of-the-art silicon transistors.In future work the researchers will investigate the device’s switching dynamics and power dissipation. In the meantime, this advance represents an important proof of concept.“Our orbital transistor could really push the frontiers of this field and say, you know what? This is a material that can challenge silicon,” Ramanathan says.Solid-state chemical dopingMaterials scientists have been studying the family of correlated oxides for years, but the field is still in its infancy, with most research aimed at establishing the materials’ basic physical properties.“We have just discovered how to dope these materials, which is a foundational step in the use of any semiconductor,” says Ramanathan.Doping is the process of introducing different atoms into the crystal structure of a material, and it affects how easily electrons can move through it — that is, to what extent it resists or conducts electricity. Doping typically effects this change by increasing the number of available electrons, but this study was different. The Harvard team manipulated the band gap, the energy barrier to electron flow.“By a certain choice of dopants — in this case, hydrogen or lithium — we can widen or narrow the band gap in this material, deterministically moving electrons in and out of their orbitals,” Ramanathan says. That’s a fundamentally different approach than is used in other semiconductors. The traditional method changes the energy level to meet the target; the new method moves the target itself.In this orbital transistor, protons and electrons move in or out of the samarium nickelate when an electric field is applied, regardless of temperature, so the device can be operated in the same conditions as conventional electronics. It is solid-state, meaning it involves no liquids, gases, or moving mechanical parts. And, in the absence of power, the material remembers its present state — an important feature for energy efficiency.“That’s the beauty of this work,” says Ramanathan. “It’s an exotic effect, but in principle it’s highly compatible with traditional electronic devices.”Quantum materialsUnlike silicon, samarium nickelate and other correlated oxides are quantum materials, meaning that quantum-mechanical interactions have a dominant influence over the material properties — and not just at small scales.“If you have two electrons in adjacent orbitals, and the orbitals are not completely filled, in a traditional material the electrons can move from one orbital to another. But in the correlated oxides, the electrons repulse each other so much that they cannot move,” Ramanathan explains. “The occupancy of the orbitals and the ability of electrons to move in the crystal are very closely tied together — or ‘correlated.’ Fundamentally, that’s what dictates whether the material behaves as an insulator or a metal.”Ramanathan and others at SEAS have successfully manipulated the metal-insulator transition in vanadium oxide, too. In 2012, they demonstrated a tunable device that can absorb 99.75 percent of infrared light, appearing black to infrared cameras.Similarly, samarium nickelate is likely to catch the attention of applied physicists developing photonic and optoelectronic devices.“Opening and closing the band gap means you can now manipulate the ways in which electromagnetic radiation interacts with your material,” says Jian Shi, lead author of the paper in Nature Communications. He completed the research as a postdoctoral fellow in Ramanathan’s lab at Harvard SEAS and joined the faculty of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this fall. “Just by applying an electric field, you’re dynamically controlling how light interacts with this material.”Further ahead, researchers at the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, established at Harvard in 2013 through a grant from the National Science Foundation, aim to develop an entirely new class of quantum electronic devices and systems that will transform signal processing and computation.Ramanathan compares the current state of quantum materials research to the 1950s, when transistors were newly invented and physicists were still making sense of them. “We are basically in that era for these new quantum materials,” he says. “This is an exciting time to think about establishing the basic, fundamental properties. In the coming decade or so, this could really mature into a very exciting device platform.”You Zhou, a graduate student at Harvard SEAS, was co-lead author of the paper in Nature Communications. The research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences, as well as an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award to Ramanathan.last_img read more

A dearth of nutrition in school lunches

first_imgU.S. school cafeterias are starved for funds, lack facilities, and are staffed by workers who often know more about wielding “box cutters and can crushers” than chefs’ knives, according to Ann Cooper, a onetime celebrity chef turned Colorado lunch lady and school food reformer.Cooper, speaking at a Harvard conference on food in public schools, said schools should work to serve nutritious, wholesome foods, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, rather than the packaged and processed foods that are prevalent in many institutions. Part of the challenge, she said, is money. When more than half of a school district’s cafeteria budget goes toward personnel, it’s tempting to opt for prepackaged food that requires little preparation.But epidemics of diabetes and obesity prove that the choice is a false one, Cooper said. Both conditions, which cost some $250 billion annually to treat, have their roots in an unhealthy diet. To address the school food portion of the problem and how it affects young lives, she said, will require significantly more money for facilities — many schools today don’t even have kitchens — staff training, and fresh, whole foods.Cooper called on every school to start a garden to help students understand where their food comes from, and for nutrition and food literacy to be a core part of the curriculum, not an add-on to an occasional health class.Despite tight federal budgets, Cooper said that America should invest in school food programs because diet is so important to child health. The federal government, she said, spends less on school meals per pupil than most people spend on coffee each day.“It’s not that we don’t have the money; we are choosing not to prioritize our kids’ health,” said Cooper, who is director of food services for the Boulder Valley School District and founder of the Chef Ann Foundation, which works on national school food reform.Cooper was the keynote speaker Wednesday at an all-day conference on the foods served in the nation’s public schools. The conference was sponsored by Harvard University Dining Services, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Project Bread, the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the Let’s Talk About Food program.After a brief welcome by David Davidson, managing director of Harvard University Dining Services, Let’s Talk About Food founder Louisa Kasdon said the organizing groups’ interest in improving the quality of school food grew out of a broader interest in diet and the U.S. food supply. School nutrition, she and other event organizers thought, was a topic that should be readily addressed.“How hard could that be?” Kasdon said, sparking laughter among the almost 200 people gathered in Harvard’s Sever Hall.Instead of the easy task they expected, she and others found it a difficult fight to change school food offerings, which the critics rapidly learned is the most regulated aspect of the nation’s food system.“Kids who don’t eat well when they’re young, from the get-go, never really catch up,” Kasdon said.The speakers addressed a variety of issues, including federal policy, the business of school food, what kids now eat at school, links between diet and cognition, and models of change.Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, said that Congress is now considering reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which expires in September. Among other things, the act provides nutritional guidelines for school lunches, and must be reauthorized every five years. The last reauthorization, in 2010, took significant steps toward improving the nutritional quality of school lunches, Leib said. Possible changes this time include increasing the amount of federal reimbursement for meals, taking steps to increase student participation in the program, and providing grants for kitchen equipment and staff training.The school nutrition program is so large — 30 million children eat school lunches daily — that the stakes extend beyond America’s schoolyards, Leib said. Changes to the food program can influence the broader U.S. food system, which is facing a host of its own related challenges.The heavy lifting doesn’t have to occur just at the national level. While the federal government provides a broad framework, state and local governments have wide latitude in determining the final form of school food programs, according to Bettina Neuefeind, a research fellow at Harvard Law School who collaborates with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.Neuefeind said the clinic has worked with Project Bread to create a “school food interventions toolkit” that includes an array of suggestions on how to improve school foods. She discussed just a few of them, including proven ways to “nudge” students into making good food choices, emphasizing food literacy, and paying attention to what are called “competitive foods,” those sold to students outside the national food program, in cafeterias, or at school-related events.Efforts to improve school food have generated backlash, with some critics complaining that kids throw away the food they don’t like. That, Cooper said, is a problem that’s up to adults to solve by setting rules and guidelines for what kids eat. It hasn’t been that long, she said, since the days when there was no such thing as “kid food,” just food that kids ate with the rest of the family or they went hungry.“No child has ever died for lack of chocolate milk and chicken nuggets,” Cooper said.last_img read more

A limit on football tackling

first_imgFootball fans see the hard hits every weekend in the fall. But that’s just during the games. What about all the blocks and tackles in practice, all week long, all season long? Those countless collisions, and the repeated concussions that can result, could add up to a lot of head trauma. In recent years, neuroscientists have found chronic traumatic encephalopathy and other persistent, debilitating brain injuries in former players. In response, Crimson football coach Tim Murphy and his fellow Ivy League head coaches voted last week to eliminate full-contact practices. The coaches’ proposal — reached unanimously at their annual off-season meeting in New York — is expected to pass muster with their universities’ athletic directors and presidents, and will likely become official policy as early as the fall season.The Ivy coaches’ decision is now resonating across the world of sport. USA Today called it a “seismic shift” in football’s effort to combat brain injury. Murphy’s phone has been ringing off the hook since the coaches’ vote was reported on Tuesday.If the move does prove to be a game-changer, perhaps it’s fitting that the groundswell would begin with Harvard and its peers. The Ivy schools pioneered a brutal brand of American football in the 19th century, and then came together at the beginning of the 20th to change the rules, making it less bloody and ultimately improving the game, with the help of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, Class of 1880.Murphy did his part to kick off changes at the dawn of the 21st century: He banished scrimmages and full-contact practices from the regular season in 2001, replacing player-to-player hits with tackling dummies and other drills, even having players practice without pads — which, counterintuitively, may reduce risk, research has shown. Rather than pose a disadvantage, he says the policy has made his players healthier and more competitive. The Crimson boasts the second-highest winning percentage of all Division I football programs over the past 15 years. Harvard has won eight Ivy championships in that time, sharing the title last season with Dartmouth (which did away with even preseason full-contact practices in 2010).In 2012, the National Football League (NFL) forbade teams from holding more than 14 full-contact practices during the regular season.During a hectic day in his Allston office, Murphy shared some thoughts on the issue with the Gazette.GAZETTE: Why have the Ivy League coaches decided to scrap full-contact practices from the regular season?MURPHY: I believe coaches at all levels are serious about mitigating any safety issues, and this was an obvious and positive step in that direction.GAZETTE: How did you reach this conclusion personally?MURPHY: I have felt for some time that it was the right thing to do, but it all came together as a group last week.GAZETTE: Do you expect other programs to follow the Ivies’ lead?MURPHY: There are many coaches and programs out there who feel as I do. So, yes, I believe it is only a matter of time before the Ivy plan is adopted by all NCAA schools. Related Harvard players focus on lessons of hard work and team play that will resonate for decades Less football than life GAZETTE: Do you expect more resistance from some conferences than others?MURPHY: This is really the NFL model, so give them some credit. If it works in the NFL, it should work well in all conferences and levels of football.GAZETTE: How do you respond to some coaches’ concern that practices without full contact won’t adequately prepare players for full-contact games?MURPHY: We still have full contact and live tackling [and scrimmaging] in preseason and spring football, so there are plenty of opportunities to acclimate and teach proper technique.GAZETTE: What takes the place of full contact in regular-season practices?MURPHY: Once the season starts, we “thud” on Tuesday and Wednesday [otherwise known as “high and hard”] and polish on Thursday with no pads. The “thud” or “high and hard” technique is no live tackling, no full-speed hits, and no hits on defenseless players. The goal, for every player at every position, is to be in control and to stay on your feet at all times.GAZETTE: Is this a step toward saving football? Might this policy trickle down to high school and youth football programs, where some parents have become reluctant to enroll their kids?MURPHY: The future of football at all levels is bright because the culture, rules, practice regimen, and sports medicine have changed and improved so much, mitigating so many of the safety issues, and will continue to do so.last_img read more

Harvard strengthens ‘living laboratory’ to help mitigate climate impact

first_img Related A hot idea for conserving energy A $200,000 Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund to support undergraduate and graduate student research that addresses sustainability challenges, including but not limited to climate and health. This builds on an existing Student Sustainability Grant program that provides seed funding for students to pilot their creative ideas.“We want Harvard to be a laboratory for the way organizations can choose to operate, not just to model the change we want to see in the world but to spark new approaches and methods that have broad applications,” said President Drew Faust. “These goals create opportunities for our students to expand their knowledge and skills as they seek to address global challenges.”Wendy Jacobs, clinical professor and director of Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, will lead the Living Lab Course and Research Project, which is designed to bring together students from across the University in interdisciplinary teams to develop innovative approaches for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at Harvard and beyond. The strategies will be scalable for consideration and potential adoption by other similarly situated institutions and enterprises that want to reduce their emissions and improve public health in and around their buildings. “I am really excited about this course — its purpose is to unleash the incredible creative energy of students and faculty from across the University to identify innovative and practical ways for Harvard to reduce its own climate impact,” said Jacobs. “We will focus our attention on solutions that have demonstrable environmental and public health benefits and, ideally, also include an educational component that extends beyond the course itself.”This interactive course will include lectures from faculty experts representing most of Harvard’s Schools, including the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Kennedy School. Ideas developed by the student teams will be vetted with policymakers, community leaders, and business leaders during the semester. Some of the project ideas subsequently may be implemented by students in the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, which is also open to cross-registrants from across the University.“We will afford students from across the University a unique opportunity to collaborate, to learn from each other, and to hear from distinguished faculty from a variety of disciplines,” said Jacobs.One task for students will be to assess and analyze tools for choosing off-site emissions reduction projects as a means to achieving long-term climate neutrality commitments by businesses and organizations. The course was a key recommendation of a faculty advisory group convened to explore ways to meet Harvard’s 2006-2016 greenhouse gas reduction goal. Findings will specifically be used to inform the University’s approach to coupling off-campus emissions reduction opportunities with on-campus efforts in order to meet its ambitious, long-term climate commitment.“Climate change and ultimately sustainable development are global issues that touch every part of life, and as a university with a broad and diverse faculty we have a role to play in piloting new ideas that can be widely replicated well beyond the boundaries of our campus,” said Heather Henriksen, director of the Office for Sustainability (OFS), where the living laboratory initiative will be housed.The Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund (CSIF) will provide funding for research assistantships and independent research projects that tackle real-world challenges on campus or in the community, and lead to the practical application of emerging technologies or strategies that can be used to inform the University’s implementation of its five-year Sustainability Plan.Projects supported by the CSIF must have an identified faculty sponsor and map directly to one of the goals, standards, or commitments in Harvard’s Sustainability Plan. Special consideration will be given to projects that take advantage of the power of multidisciplinary discovery or that focus on climate change or health and well-being. A Climate Change Solutions Fund Faust established to provide grants to faculty research exploring low-carbon innovations already gives special consideration to projects that propose using the campus as a living laboratory.“The University’s innovation ecosystem is well prepared to help envision and support the creation of the tools, technologies, and solutions needed to act on climate change and enhance public health, and these new programs will only help accelerate those efforts,” said Jodi Goldstein, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Managing Director at the Harvard Innovation Labs.An advisory group will provide ongoing guidance to OFS on the management of the CSIF. Its members include Matthew Guidarelli, assistant director for social and cultural impact at the Harvard Innovation Labs; Leah Ricci, assistant director of sustainability and energy management, Harvard Business School; Professor William Clark, Harvard Kennedy School; and Professor Jack Spengler, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.center_img Healthy buildings and clean air keep people healthy.That simple premise is driving a series of studies being conducted by Harvard researchers, some of which have gathered insights from University dorms and office buildings. It is part of a multiyear partnership between the Office for Sustainability and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment to use campus spaces to inform public health research and apply the findings in capital projects and renovations.This partnership and another involving faculty and students working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are being hailed as models for the type of collaborative work that the University wants to stimulate as it launches a reinvigorated “campus as a living laboratory” initiative. The effort will support projects that use the campus as a test site for developing solutions that enhance well-being and mitigate climate impact, or help neighboring communities tackle these problems. The outcomes will be specifically designed for sharing at local, regional, and global levels.Harvard launches a reinvigorated “campus as a living laboratory” initiative. Graphic by Judy Blomquist/Harvard StaffThe initiative announced today includes two new, fully funded projects:A multiyear Climate Solutions Living Lab Course and Research Project to study and design practical solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at Harvard, in neighboring communities, and beyond; and Student’s project would put Eliot students in the room that’s not too hot, not too cold, but just right for them last_img read more

Eclipses, through the years

first_imgEclipses like the one coming Monday have mystified and intrigued humans for millennia. They also fascinate Harvard researchers, who have long studied them to better understand the workings of the sun and the solar system.In the early years of Harvard College, founded in 1636, most astronomical work occurred in the math department. That changed in 1839, when William Cranch Bond was hired as the “Astronomical Observer to the University.” His arrival led to founding the Harvard College Observatory, which might not have happened if not for an eclipse.John Adams Whipple created a daguerreotype of the partial eclipse of 1851 at the observatory in Cambridge. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerBond viewed his first solar eclipse when he was 17 years old, and the experience jump-started his interest in astronomy.Since its inception, the observatory has dispatched expeditions into the path of total solar eclipses to study the sun’s corona and the inner solar system. Armed with telescopes, notebooks, cameras, and various bulky, eccentric experimental devices, the scientists have set out to understand a fundamental cosmic beauty. A team of Harvard scientists will be stationed in Kentucky for Monday’s much-anticipated total solar eclipse.In 1869, Harvard sent a team to Shelbyville, Ky., to record a solar eclipse on a sequence of glass plates. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerThe first solar-eclipse expedition was to Lilla Edet, Sweden, in 1851. George Phillips Bond, son of William Cranch Bond and the observatory’s second director, was nearly clouded out. Disheartened, he had given up on observations until an hour before the event began.The clouds broke just in time, and Bond witnessed majesty. He sketched two diagrams of totality, coloring the “rosy prominences” that entranced him.“Language is utterly powerless … I cannot picture a sight more awfully glorious on this side of heaven,” Bond wrote of the experience.Not pleased with how “flat” the corona looked in photographs, William Pickering sketched how he envisioned the 1869 Shelbyville eclipse coming down on the plate as he prepared for an 1886 eclipse expedition to Grenada. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerThese were rudimentary years for science. Bond had traveled to the site alone, and had borrowed his only telescope from a local observatory. But as the physical sciences grew in sophistication and researchers came to appreciate the potential of photography as a recording tool, scientists launched expeditions more often and with more complexity, taking with them cameras and scientific instruments.The partial eclipse of 1851 was recorded at the observatory in Cambridge by daguerreotypist John Adams Whipple. Such early photography was not a simple process. The participating astronomers and photographers all had jobs in the process: whether watching the boundaries of the sun for moments of contact, calling out the time, preparing photographic mirrors, exposing them to the image, or speeding them off for developing.A glass plate image of totality of the 1889 eclipse in Willows, Calif. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerThese early eclipse photographers did not aim to represent the beauty of an eclipse, but to capture the image so scientists could parse the event’s details afterward.In 1869, Harvard sent a team to Shelbyville, Ky., to record a solar eclipse on a sequence of glass plates. The images of totality were striking, but not entirely satisfying. When William Pickering, an astronomer who worked at the Harvard College Observatory, later studied the images in preparation for an 1886 expedition, he described the corona as “flat” and wanted to better capture its wispy grandeur. With some adjustments to his instruments and methods, he was able to capture a stronger image in Willows, Calif., in 1889.Eclipse camp setup in Gray, Maine, for the Aug. 31, 1932, eclipse. Courtesy of Wolbach LibraryAs the capabilities of photography expanded, so too did the complexity and variety of instruments that were brought on expeditions. Each telescope and each camera needed an operator during the fleeting phenomenon. That made for large teams, usually 15 to 20 people. Their camps often took at least three days to establish and rig, becoming curiosities in local communities. Residents would gather around in crowds to chat or hear public lectures or to catch a glimpse of science in action.For the upcoming eclipse, as a century ago, Harvard scientists will be stationed along the path of totality to observe and study the sun, with one team observing it from a Gulfstream aircraft at 50,000 feet over Kentucky. The instruments and circumstances change, but the hunt for knowledge continues.To read more about the history of Harvard College Observatory solar eclipse expeditions, click here.last_img read more

Protection against reinfection

first_img ‘Viral history’ tool VirScan offers new insights into antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 Medical, political analysts ponder Trump’s coronavirus battle, and what it means for the president and the nation Related People who survive serious COVID-19 infections have long-lasting immune responses against the virus, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).The study, published in Science Immunology, offers hope that people infected with the virus will develop lasting protection against reinfection. The study also demonstrates that measuring antibodies can be an accurate tool for tracking the spread of the virus in the community.The immune system produces proteins called antibodies in response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. “But there is a big knowledge gap in terms of how long these antibody responses last,” said Richelle Charles, an investigator in the Division of Infectious Diseases at MGH and a senior author of the paper. To find out, she and her colleagues obtained blood samples from 343 patients with COVID-19, most of whom had severe cases. The blood samples were taken up to four months after a patient’s symptoms emerged. The blood’s plasma was isolated and applied to laboratory plates coated with the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the virus’ “spike” protein, which attaches to cells, leading to infection. The team studied how different types of antibodies in the plasma bound to RBD. The results were compared to blood samples obtained from more than 1,500 individuals prior to the pandemic.The researchers found that levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin G (IgG) remained elevated in infected patients for four months and were associated with the presence of protective neutralizing antibodies, which also demonstrated little decrease in activity over time.“That means that people are very likely protected for that period of time,” said Charles. “We showed that key antibody responses to COVID-19 do persist.”They also found that measuring IgG was highly accurate in identifying infected patients who had symptoms for at least 14 days. Since the standard PCR (nasal swab) test for SARS-CoV-2 loses sensitivity over time, augmenting it with a test for antibodies in patients who have had symptoms for at least eight days (at which time 50 percent are producing antibodies) will help identify some positive cases that might otherwise be missed, said Charles, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS). When COVID and the election collided Infection detection In another finding, Charles and her colleagues showed that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 had immunoglobulin A (IgA) and immunoglobulin M (IgM) responses that were relatively short-lived, declining to low levels within about two and a half months or less, on average.“We can say now that if a patient has IgA and IgM responses, they were likely infected with the virus within the last two months,” said Charles.Knowing the duration of the immune response by IgA and IgM will help scientists obtain more accurate data about the spread of SARS-CoV-2, explained co-senior author of the study Jason Harris, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at MGH, and an associate of pediatrics at HMS.“There are a lot of infections in the community that we do not pick up through PCR testing during acute infection, and this is especially true in areas where access to testing is limited,” he said. “Knowing how long antibody responses last is essential before we can use antibody testing to track the spread of COVID-19 and identify ‘hot spots’ of the disease.”Lead authors of the paper are Anita Iyer, a postdoctoral fellow at MGH, and Forrest K. Jones, a doctoral student in infectious disease epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.Funding was provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and MassCPR.last_img read more

Mission-Critical Meets All-Flash

first_imgIT organizations are modernizing their data centers at an accelerated rate. The newly engineered VMAX All Flash storage family that we announced today combines the trusted data services and enterprise scale of VMAX with the performance and density of high-capacity flash drives. The result is a proven platform capable of delivering new levels of scale and performance to help modernize IT more quickly and with lessrisk.It has been an extremely exciting time for the VMAX team as we worked to get this product available for our users’ data centers. There has been a buzz in the air, not just because engineers like to work on cool technology and innovation, but because the entire team is jazzed and confident they have built a platform for our users that can help transform their IT infrastructures and radically improve the way they manage and support their most-critical applications.So why VMAX All Flash? It’s because we truly believe that the combination of all- flash technology with the enterprise capabilities of VMAX is a critical success factor for the modern data center. Almost every CIO we meet who is responsible for large-scale enterprise environments has a common set of criteria for systems that support their critical applications. These include:Supporting an extensive ecosystem to provide a common, standardized way of delivering storage services for a range of platform, OS, hypervisor, and application types.Delivering management, automation, and simplicity at enterprise scale to abstract the underlying technology to eliminate manual administration and lower operational costs.Providing massive consolidation and efficiencies with flash technology to enable predictability, scale, and control for service provider and large enterprise requirements.Enable rock-solid replication and integrated backup data services to protect mission-critical apps, maintain “always on” data availability, and avoid disasters.VMAX All Flash meets this checklist in a way that no other product in the industry can. Building on customer expectations of VMAX as the most trusted array on the planet, VMAX All Flash is a major leap forward in delivering the capabilities of the modern data center.We are proud of the team and the innovation they have put into this platform. We are also thankful to our users who have placed their trust in VMAX to manage some of the world’s most-critical apps, a responsibility everyone on the team thinks about every day. And we are excited for the future, as we aim to deliver even more innovation and greater business value, without compromising the reasons why VMAX remains at the heart of the modern data center.last_img read more

Connecting the Orphans of Jhamtse Gatsal to the World

first_img“Seeing right there in the moment we changed their lives.”I can only hope that my words above capture the trip of a lifetime. My team and I set out on a journey with Mike Libecki of National Geographic.Mike is a long-time partner of Dell. He has used Dell’s Latitude Rugged Laptops and Precision Workstations on his journeys to remote areas of the world. Mike’s passion for exploring the unknown has carried down to his daughter Lillianna.With this passion, Lilliana and her father have created the Joyineering Foundation to provide technology to students in remote areas. As a true partner, Mike challenged the Dell team to become part of the journey to open a technology lab for an orphanage in a very remote area of Anruchal Pradesh, Eastern India. In January we agreed to put six members of my team on the ground with Lilliana & Mike.  Learn more about Jhamtse Gatsal and its founder Buddhist monk Lobsang Phuntsok in this special documentary.The students range from ages 4-18 and this would be the first time they would ever experience technology that would now open the world to them. The plan included providing twenty Dell Latitude Education devices that would be connected to the internet and powered by solar panels and a solar generator for the 80+ students at Jhamtse Gatsal. After days of hard work we were there, in the moment, to experience how Dell’s technology changed their lives.After some serious travel, we learned a little bit about what Mike likes to refer to as the “full-value” experience. That means, you’re in it with no turning back, “living the dream” and there isn’t good or bad… there’s just joy or “pre-joy,” that challenging part of life you push through until you hit the next great moment.Lilliana Libecki, Mike’s 14-year-old daughter, likes to say, “In a world where we can be and do anything, be kind and do good.”I don’t know that I can put it any better. On this trip, I saw a group of people work together to pull off a fantastic result. I’m more than pleased to say it was an overwhelming success, and the solar power gear we set up will not only support the school but also the surrounding homes in the village.It’s difficult to put into words the reward you experience on just such an outing. Similarly, while our project generated excitement and gratitude from those we came to help, our team was equally affected by the love and compassion that we watched these people pour out on the children they’ve taken in, and how they were equally welcoming of us in their village. What they had, they shared joyfully.I am so proud to work for Dell where there is such a strong focus on giving, and where we celebrate leaving behind a #LegacyofGood. Kudos and thanks to the Dell team that came to India which includes Shannon MacKay, Claudia Davila, Munira Baldiwala, Mark Rehmann, and Chris Ware… and to Jeff Morris and the extended team for assisting us from afar.This was one of the most inspirational and emotional experiences of my life. The spirit of everyone involved was lifted up and the reception and gratitude from the community was just overwhelming. We went to make a difference … we left with an experience of a lifetime touched by the students of Jhamtse Gatsal.All 📸 by @mikelibecki Read the story about Dell’s Solar Powered Learning Labs, a Dell Youth Learning program that helps deliver sustainable and affordable connectivity to schools in some of the most underprivileged areas of the world.last_img read more