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Students Who Have Served

Veterans make up a tiny portion of the Brown population—but thanks to recent efforts, more and more post-military undergrads are busting stereotypes and bringing diverse backgrounds to campus.

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11 November, 2018

Much has been written of the Syrian civil war and resulting refugee crisis—seven years’ worth of newspaper articles, television broadcasts, and radio dispatches so far. But Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar ’14 PhD still felt something was missing from this steady stream of news coverage. “What bothered me was that it was so difficult to find first-hand accounts,” she explained. “Specifically, first-hand accounts where the narrative was open, rather than guided by this very popular refugee narrative of gratitude and assimilation. I wanted more open-ended stories.” Joukhadar’s debut novel, The Map of Salt and Stars (Touchstone), endeavors to tell one such story. We meet 12-year-old Nour in 2011, still reeling from her father’s recent death, as her family moves back to Syria from New York City. When a stray bomb from the escalating conflict destroys their neighborhood in Homs, the family embarks on a cross-country journey to find refuge. This contemporary narrative is intercut with episodes from the centuries-old legend of Rawiya, a 12th-century heroine apprenticed to a famous mapmaker. Joukhadar and Nour share certain biographical details. Both are Syrian American, grew up in Manhattan, and have synesthesia—a neurological phenomenon where certain sensory inputs such as sounds, letters, or tastes can provoke the sensation of color. For our young protagonist, oil sizzles in a pan in “yellow and black bursts,” pigeons coo “soft blue and purple,” and her beloved uncle speaks in “honey yellow” tones. “I wanted to give her a little bit of brightness in a situation that at times got really ugly,” the author said. Although Joukhadar has been crafting novels since age nine, for years that passion was secondary to a career in science. At Brown, she received her PhD in medical sciences and went on to complete a post-doctoral fellowship. But in 2015, she said, “I was at a point in my career where I had to figure out what direction I wanted to go in. I felt like I owed it to myself to really dedicate myself to writing for a while and see where that went.” Following the success of The Map of Salt and Stars, which garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, Joukhadar has already begun work on a second novel. This one focuses on the Syrian diaspora and the immigrants who settled in Midwestern communities like Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis—cities she visited during her recent book tour. Throughout the tour, Joukhadar said, she was often asked by readers “What can I do to help?” First, she urged, use her book as a “gateway” to seek out works where Syrian authors and refugees are able to speak in their own words. Second, “engage with the political system,” she said. “Talk about things like the Muslim ban, do something about it, try to get it repealed. Sometimes, I think that Americans forget that our voices are really powerful.” ✏️: Abigail Cain ’15 📷: Neha Gautam Check out the rest of BAM's September/October issue on our all-new website:
10 November, 2018

Poll after poll tells us that, in the Trump era, Americans are more politically divided than ever. Brown profs and students are attempting to understand the national rift—and find ways to reclaim middle ground. 1 – Are Brown Speakers Too Liberal? After the 2016 election, Greer Brigham ’20, a Democrat, wondered why no one he knew had foreseen Trump’s victory. “If you are an economist and you miss a recession, you would have to think about your sources of information,” he says. “I thought about my own life and felt that the conversation we were having on campus was separate from the one going on nationally.” So Brigham created SPEAK, a coalition of students seeking to bring more ideologically diverse ideas to campus. The initial 20 members of the club —all undergrads—included libertarians, socialists, Democrats, and Republicans; together, they gathered data on every speaker who had come to Brown in 2017. The group sorted by professors and non-professors, as well as by international and domestic topics. Ultimately, SPEAK calculated that, of the 237 speakers brought to campus, 94.5 percent leaned left. They included Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn ’81, Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, and Guardian political reporter Sabrina Siddiqui. The most prominent of the few conservatives invited were NRA lobbyist Mercedes Schlapp, National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru, and Ben Domenech, cofounder of the RedState blog. For Brigham, the disparity was unacceptable. “Republicans hold almost everything right now, so we have to understand those views and values and engage with them,” he says. SPEAK called for Brown to raise the number of conservatives brought to campus to 30 percent. Where to draw the line with speakers remains an ongoing debate within SPEAK, but everyone in the group opposes inviting blatantly racist or intentionally offensive fringe speakers, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, or members of the extreme left Antifa groups, who often advocate violence. Instead, the group wants policy-oriented individuals firmly within the conservative or libertarian mainstream. The group published an initial list of suggested conservative speakers, such as Jeb Bush (who indeed spoke on campus in April), Sean Spicer, and Arthur Brooks, former head of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The goal, Brigham says, is to create a format that allows students to engage with and challenge such speakers rather than simply hear a lecture. He says that many students have said there should be an advocate on stage for the opposing viewpoint. 2 – Making Sense of #MAGA Following Donald Trump’s election win, political science professor Rob Blair heard from many students that they were concerned about the state of American democracy. So he developed a class, Democratic Erosions, which launched in the 2017–18 academic year and took a nonpartisan look at how and why democratic systems fail. “We wanted students to feel they were part of the conversation,” he says. Twenty universities from across the country participated in the class over the past academic year, using the same syllabus and interacting through shared blog posts. The schools ranged from fellow Ivies to public institutions like Berkeley to the University of the Philippines. All attempted to place Trump’s rise within a larger international context. “We learned just how strong a role feelings of alienation play in creating polarization,” says Blair, referring to why certain demographics—like the poor white working class—identified so strongly with Trump’s nativist politics. The class did a virtual session with students from the University of Memphis during which one Memphis student spoke of the energy and enthusiasm he felt going to a Republican rally. “Most of my students hadn’t seen what local Republican politics looked like, so they really valued that,” Blair says. The class also read excerpts from the book Strangers in Their Own Land about the rise of the Tea Party. Students were encouraged to analyze their own local, mostly left-leaning politics by attending rallies and events, such as one in support of the DACA (“Dreamers”) immigrant youth. “Students learned just how polarizing those events can be,” Blair says, because they mainly “address their own rather than try to convince partisans across the aisle.” 3 – Bridging the Chasm For political science professor and libertarian John Tomasi, Brown at its best is a place where students are constantly connecting and engaging with new ideas. Since 2003, Tomasi has directed the Political Theory Project, which aims to continue Brown’s tradition of pluralism and rigorous debate. The PTP has attracted ire on campus for receiving funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, which pours huge sums into conservative causes. Tomasi counters that PTP donors have no say in its agenda or curriculum. According to him, such PTP classes as “Capitalism: For and Against” attempt to expand students’ circle of ideas. “There are no easy answers,” Tomasi says, “but we want to give every student, whatever their starting viewpoint, a chance to develop the most sophisticated stance possible.” The PTP’s Janus Forum lectures have included the recent talk “Socialism Now?” featuring Yale economics prof John Roemer—the world’s top scholarly defender of socialism, says Tomasi—alongside Harvard’s Andrei Shleifer, arguing for capitalism. Each professor surprised students by acknowledging the values of their opposing ideology. Roemer said he believed markets still had an important role to play in socialist society, while Shleifer explained how difficult it is in practice to create well-functioning market societies. Daniel Shemano ’19 says that listening to the discussion helped him construct a more nuanced position. “The more intellectual perspectives a student gets, the more they grow,” he says. “I think our mission is to build bridges where chasms exist,” Tomasi says. “If students don’t know what’s on the other side, they won’t know how to build a bridge there.” ✏️: Jack Brook ’19 🖌️: Nate Kitch Check out the rest of BAM's September/October issue on our all-new website:
10 November, 2018

Stanley Falkow PhD ’61 was “one of the great microbe hunters of all time”—or so he was dubbed as he was presented the 2008 Lasker-Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science, nicknamed the “American Nobel.” Brown President Christina Paxson gave a slightly more academic description of him as she awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree (Sc.D.) in 2013, calling him “the father of molecular bacterial pathogenesis,” which is the study of how infectious microbes cause human disease. The widely celebrated Stanford professor researched illnesses as varied as diarrhea, plague, gonorrhea, and whooping cough, but he was best known for discovering how antibiotic resistance spreads from one bacterium to another. Peter Shank, professor emeritus of medical science and adjunct professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, remembered Falkow as “both a wonderful scientist and a warm and caring person.” Shank hosted him in 1988, when Falkow gave Brown’s prestigious 22nd annual Charles A. Stuart lecture (named for Falkow’s own mentor), an honor that places him among a slew of Nobel Prize winners. While Falkow himself did not win the Nobel Prize, he was nominated for it—and won many (if not all) other major science awards. In addition to the “American Nobel,” he also won the 2014 National Medal of Science, given by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House. Falkow considered his 2007 induction into the Royal Society in Britain, where he joined the company of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein, as one of his foremost honors. PASTEUR AND SAUERKRAUT Stanley Falkow was born in Albany, New York, in 1934 to two Yiddish-speakers: a Soviet immigrant shoe salesman and the daughter of Polish immigrants, who ran a corset shop. The family moved to Newport, Rhode Island, in 1943. Although his was not a big reading household and he was a poor student with weak eyesight, Falkow said that his passion for bacteriology started with a library book: “At the age of 11, I read Paul de Kruif’s Microbe Hunters, which dramatized the discovery of bacteria and viruses and their roles in human disease,” he wrote in the article “I Never Met a Microbe I Didn’t Like,” published in the journal Nature Medicine in 2008. The book’s heroes included Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch—and they became Falkow’s heroes. “I dreamed of becoming a bacteriologist,” he wrote in the same article. His first view of bacteria was in spoiled milk: “barely discernible in my [...] microscope, but no doubt about it, here were Antony van Leeuwenhoek’s tumbling animalcules.” In 1951 Falkow enrolled at the University of Maine, where his early training as a bacteriologist included making sauerkraut in a lab: “[We] studied how each group of microbes interacted and sequentially cooperated to transform a crock of alternating layers of shredded cabbage, salt, and water into a wonderful accompaniment for bratwursts,” he recalled in a 2008 article, “The Fortunate Professor.” After graduating in 1955, he began graduate school at the University of Michigan, but recurrent bouts of anxiety and agoraphobia compelled him to drop out. Falkow learned to manage his panic attacks, using tactics as varied as fly fishing and, thanks to the recurring subject of his bacteriological research, scatological humor. “Shit is often funny,” he wrote in a 2014 article, “On Teaching.” (He was once gifted with a framed collection of fake feces, which he proudly displayed in his office.) Lecturing made him anxious—but he found that making people laugh relaxed him. “I confess the belief that microbes will always have the last laugh,” Falkow once wrote, but he laughed along with them. TRANSPLANT PIONEER Falkow resumed graduate school in 1957 when he began his studies at Brown, during what he referred to as “The Golden Age of Molecular Biology.” He researched in Charles Stuart’s lab, worked as a teaching assistant for Seymour Lederberg, and took classes from Elizabeth LeDuc, whose cell biology lectures, he once recalled, “seemed like poetry.” In “The Fortunate Professor,” Falkow reflected on his time at Brown: “All my professors […] led my classmates and me to the cutting edge of thinking about the biology of that era. They posed questions I had never contemplated, and, now forced to consider them, I was humbled and yet challenged. Graduate school was one of the happiest times of my professional life.” During that period, Falkow also performed early fecal transplant experiments—a currently revived technique that shows great curative promise—working to mitigate the harsh effects of antibiotics by giving patients capsules of their own healthy stool. For a 2014 New Yorker article, “The Excrement Experiment,” ( Falkow recalled being confronted by a hospital administrator in 1958—“Is it true that you’ve been feeding the patients shit?”—and getting fired on the spot. After earning his PhD in 1961, Falkow did postdoctoral research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, and taught at Georgetown and the University of Washington, before his 1981 arrival at Stanford, where he worked until his 2010 retirement. “He was one of those rare people who truly did live for and embody the joy of science,” says David Relman, a colleague and former student of Falkow. “He loved science for the beauty of it, for the intrigue, for the fun.” Falkow died on May 5 at his home in Portola Valley, California. The cause was complications of myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone-marrow disorder. He was 84. He is survived by his daughters, Jill Stuart Brooks and Lynn Falkow Short; and by his wife, Lucy Tompkins, also a professor at Stanford, where Falkow was professor of microbiology and immunology at the School of Medicine (Stanford Medicine) for nearly two decades. ✏️: Catherine Newman 📷: Linda Cicero/Stanford News Service
09 November, 2018

It’s been a good year for John Krasinski ’02. In April, his horror film, "A Quiet Place," which he co-wrote, directed, and acted in, and which costars his wife, Emily Blunt, opened in theaters—and pulled in more than $320 million at the box office. This fall, Krasinski reboots an iconic Cold War hero for 21st-century audiences in the title role of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. The 8-episode limited series started streaming August 31st on Amazon. Why Jack Ryan? “To start with, I was a huge fan of both the books and the movies,” Krasinski says. “And I was really excited to bring Jack Ryan back to his early days where he’s just this CIA analyst behind a computer. From there, we’re able to slowly walk his trajectory into becoming a more badass guy.” While "Jack Ryan" pushes the former star of "The Office" into Thinking Man’s Action Hero territory, "A Quiet Place" has boosted Krasinski’s reputation as a risk-taking filmmaker. Tracking one family’s nerve-wracking journey to remain silent in the face of sound-sensitive alien predators, the thriller has nearly no dialogue. “It was a high-wire act, and I was extremely nervous going into it,” Krasinski recalls. “But when I did my pass on the script, it was all about this idea of parenthood. "A Quiet Place" is a love letter to my kids. It’s about planting a flag in the ground and saying, ‘What would you do for your family?’” Krasinski hesitated to cast Blunt in "A Quiet Place," having heard all the “horror stories” about the perils of working with a spouse. But Blunt, mother of their two young children, insisted on collaborating. “We were flying on a plane one day and she had nothing to do on the flight, so Emily read the script. Then she turned to me and said, ‘No one else can play this role.’ It was like a romantic comedy: ‘Are you saying what I think you’re saying?’ Then she told me, ‘I have to play this role.’” Krasinski has already started work on a second season of "Jack Ryan", which filmed in Colombia over the summer. As for his next directing gig, the lanky triple-threat says he’s open to suggestions. “I’m just looking for that next thing that hits me on a very personal level,” Krasinski says. “I’m a very sensitive guy. I cry at everything, so there’s got to be a couple of tears involved when we’re discussing the next project.” ✏️: Hugh Hart 📷: Justin Bettman
09 November, 2018

FRESH INK - Check out recently published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from Brown alumni and faculty: Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin '83 (Liveright Publishing) You've probably heard of Captain Kidd, but not Stede Bonnet, a Barbados plantation owner who in 1717 decided to abandon his family, build a 60-ton sloop, and go marauding. The golden age of pirates in the West ran from 1650 to 1720, and here Dolin zeroes in on pirates operating out of colonies and plundering the Atlantic coast. Things could be confusing, as there was an often porous line between a privateer, a captain with a "letter of marque" legally allowed to capture enemy ships, and an ordinary pirate. A cinematic look at an intriguing time. The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How A Mysterious Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies by Dawn Raffel '79 (Blue Rider Press) In 1897, Dr. Martin Couney launched an incubator exhibit—with actual premature babies in incubators—for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in London. It was a hit, and Couney soon immigrated to the United States, where he set up similar exhibitions at amusement parks and World's Fairs. As late as 1943, you could have visited his sideshow in Coney Island. By the 1950s, just after Couney's death, incubators—which were developed in Europe in the 1880s, but rarely adopted by hospitals—finally became common in maternity wards. With a vast cast of characters and a lively narrative that jumps through time and place, this is history that reads like a novel. Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto by Alan Stern '75 & David Grinspoon '82 This is the story of New Horizons, NASA's 1,000-pound spacecraft that traveled three billion miles across the solar system for the first-ever flyby of Pluto in 2015. In an often riveting account, Stern, who led the mission, and Grinspoon, an astrobiologist, track the genesis of the idea, the decades-long trek to corral support for the project, the spacecraft's nine-year flight, and the frightening moment just days before the flyby when mission control in Maryland lost contact with the ship. The book also contains numerous color photographs of icy Pluto. Alumni Fiction: Under The Escalator by George Held ’58, illustrated by Bryan Canniff (Filsinger & Company, Ltd.) Notes from the Fog: Stories by Ben Marcus ’91 MFA (Knopf) Alumni Nonfiction: Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart by Peter Bearman ’78 and Adam Reich ’03 (Columbia) Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia by Karida Brown ’13 AM, ’16 PhD (Univ. of N. C.) The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind by Justin Driver ’97 (Pantheon Books) Technicolored: Reflections on Race in the Time of TV by @F. Ann duCille ’73 AM, ’88 AM, ’91 PhD (Duke) The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House by Norman Eisen (Norm Eisen) ’85 (Crown) The Only Girl: My Life and Times on the Masthead of Rolling Stone by Robin Green ’67 (Little, Brown) Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg ’93 (Crown) The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas by Monica Muñoz Martinez ’06 (Harvard) What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life by Sharon Saline (Dr. Sharon Saline) ’85 (TarcherPerigee) The Bordeaux Kitchen: An Immersion into French Food and Wine, Inspired by Ancestral Traditions by Tania Teschke ’93 (Primal Nutrition) Alumni Poetry: Date & Time by Phil Kaye ’10 (Button Poetry) Faculty Nonfiction: The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents by Corey Brettschneider (W. W. Norton & Company) Health Care Revolt: How to Organize, Build a Health Care System, and Resuscitate Democracy―All at the Same Time by Michael Fine (PM) Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America by John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck (Princeton) Faculty Poetry: Be With by Forrest Gander (New Directions)
08 November, 2018

William Simmons ’60 was “one of the most distinguished scholars of Native New England,” according to Robert Preucel, director of the Haffenreffer Museum, who introduced him that way before a talk in 2014. C. Morgan Grefe, director of the Rhode Island Historical Society, where Simmons was a trustee for almost 20 years, remembers his “brilliant intellect,” too—but also his “sparkling sense of humor” and “tremendous compassion for humankind. He was so very kind and so very smart.” All that and he wore “great” cowboy boots, says Grefe, a cowboy boot aficionado herself. Simmons was a Providence native who began and ended his distinguished anthropology career at Brown, first as an undergraduate and, ultimately, as a professor, provost, and vice president. “I don’t think I know anyone who loves Brown, Providence, and Rhode Island more than Bill did,” says Daniel Smith, chair of the anthropology department. Simmons got connected to the Haffenreffer as an undergraduate in a surprisingly random way. He’d applied for a campus job and was picturing waiting tables at the Ratty. Instead, he found himself being interviewed by the great archaeologist and sociology professor J. Louis Giddings, then director of the museum. Simmons was already a budding archaeologist and later described himself as having “accumulated a small collection of surface finds of arrowheads and other stone tools” in addition to having “read lots on the subject and had been a member of the Narragansett Archaeological Society.” Giddings hired him to work at the museum before inviting him on a number of fieldwork trips to Alaska, where they made consequential discoveries about Arctic prehistory. “I have never ceased thanking my lucky stars,” Simmons said about meeting Giddings. Simmons ultimately wrote his undergraduate thesis not about peyote, as he had originally proposed—Giddings “showed visible relief” when he abandoned the topic—but on the work they’d done together on Arctic whaling culture. The paper was called “Faunal remains from prehistoric sites, Alaska,” and Simmons graduated with honors in 1961. After Brown, Simmons went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard and arrived in 1967 at Berkeley, where he would spend the next three decades teaching anthropology and serving as a dean. He did not allow his professional aspirations to overshadow his compassion, however. Simmons sought to redress the desecration of Native American burial grounds, after a 1967 dig in which he and his team had excavated a site on Conanicut Island in Rhode Island where they’d uncovered seven cremation burials and 58 Narragansett graves. The 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act would later make such excavation unlawful and require federally funded museums and other federal agencies to return Native American cultural objects—including human remains and artifacts from burial sites—to the Native American tribes they belonged to. But in 1972, well in advance of such a legal mandate, Simmons’s personal doubts about the excavation led him to contact the Narragansett and, ultimately, to request that Harvard return the skeletal remains to the tribe, which they did. “I don’t think anything like that had happened before,” Simmons said. Simmons returned to Brown in 1998 as executive vice president and provost, as well as professor of anthropology. He specialized in archaeology and social anthropology with a focus on the religion and folklore of Native American tribes, and of the Narragansett people in particular. He wrote a number of books, including The Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620-1984, which New York Folklore called “a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.” He collaborated with Native American scholars and served on the economic development working committee of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Brown’s current provost, Richard M. Locke, has hailed Simmons’s “pioneering Native-centered interpretations in which indigenous histories and voices could be heard.” Nancy Brown-Garcia, the Narragansett Tribe’s chief deputy historic preservation officer, once described Simmons as “one of my very dear friends.” In 2015, as part of Brown’s 250th anniversary celebration, Simmons turned his anthropological attentions to the University itself, curating “Deo Speramus: The Symbols and Ceremonies of Brown University,” an exhibit at the Haffenreffer, where he was a fellow and one-time acting director. In a videotaped introduction to the collection, Simmons analyzes the objects and rituals of the University, including arcane artifacts culled from “various mothproof closets.” Examining Brown’s seal, he concludes that it means to communicate: “This is a community apart from the world, and there is something sacred and special about it.” And he says, about the ritual of commencement, “This procession represents the eternal purpose of the university—its goals, its missions, its values: educating the people and improving the world and so forth.” Simmons certainly educated the people and improved the world—and whatever that mischievous “so forth” includes, he doubtless did that as well. Simmons died of cancer on June 2. He was 79. He is survived by his wife, Cheryl and his daughters, Riva Mullins and Kaia Simmons. ✏️: Catherine Newman 📷: Harvard University
08 November, 2018

Shiru Cafe on Angell Street, which opened in February, has become a hit with Brunonians for its free coffee. The catch? Students register with Shiru online and give info about themselves, such as field of study, skills, and job interests. Shiru can then share that data with corporate sponsors looking for employees. The model’s been successful overseas: Shiru has more than 20 cafés in India and Japan, where it claims 100-plus sponsors including Microsoft and JPMorgan. Sponsors have yet to sign up here, but Shiru’s already working on a second location near Yale. Providence general manager Keith Maher says he expects more than 75 percent of Brown students to register with Shiru by fall. We got feedback from some students: What’s not to like? — “I like free things, I like coffee,” says James Okun ’20. “Yes, you’re selling your data to corporations, but generally people don’t care and just want free stuff. My data is already out there from career fairs and talking to different companies. College kids are on a budget, so I think it’s nice to have free coffee close to campus.” Fun job, win-win business model — “I started working for Shiru over the summer and really enjoy it,” says Vanessa Garcia ’20.5. “I like talking with people about what they do each day, and I enjoy making latte art. We’re sponsored by companies looking to hire Brown students. They’ll only reach out if they’re interested in hiring you. Really, it’s a huge win-win for everyone involved.” Why cooperate with Big Brother? — “There’s a general sense that Shiru is not inherently evil but that it’s playing to students’ weaknesses to get data,” says Erin Malimban ’19. “Giving data away to get coffee and a place to sit bothers me. It’s disrespectful to the ethos of Brown, where people do things they want to do as opposed to being tracked down by a company.” ✏️: Joshua Danielson '20 📷: Frank Mullin Check out the rest of BAM's September/October issue on our all-new website:
08 November, 2018

If you don’t want your shoelaces to come undone, you’d best tie them with a yerk. What? You don’t know what “yerk” means? You would if you subscribed to Alexa’s Word of the Day, the brainchild of recent Brown grad David Markey '18, who created the project for Amazon Echo—the company’s hands-free controllable speaker—in his spare time while pursuing a degree in applied math and economics. He recently sold the app, along with two others, and now is cashing in from the deal. “It was a total high to know that it would continue into the future once I went into the working world,” says Markey. He’s been coding since he was a teenager, creating apps for his own amusement, such as a working version of Pokémon’s battle system that he created at age 15. He bought an Amazon Echo between junior and senior year at Brown, and was disappointed by the existing “word of the day” features, which chose random words by computer and were voiced by Alexa. Markey created one in his own voice, playing the character of a nameless spy battling various foreign entities. For each word, he not only provided the definition and pronunciation (“yerk,” for example, means a sharp tug or jerk) but also used it in a wacky sentence. Along with Word of the Day, Markey created a Word of the Day Quiz and a “Price Is Right” type of game in which contestants try to guess the price of Amazon products. He sold all of them to game company Volley. Now that he’s graduated, Markey plans on traveling the world before joining consulting company Oliver Wyman and Associates in January. He won’t be coding for work but will continue to create programs for himself. “Coding is gratifying in a way few other things are,” he says. “You can create something that does something very interesting, where nothing was before.” ✏️: Michael Blanding 🖌️: Andrew Collin Beck Check out the rest of BAM's September/October issue on our all-new website:
08 November, 2018

David Lipman ’76 knows the meat industry. The son and grandson of butchers, Lipman has gone from working in his family’s meat market to serving as Chief Scientific Officer of a company that seeks to take animals off the menu entirely. Lipman joined Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley startup applying molecular biology to food production in May of 2017. As CSO, he oversees research and development, as well as information technology. Impossible Foods’s decision to hire Lipman reflects the company’s commitment to science, as Lipman is one of the most highly cited researchers in biomedicine. Prior to joining Impossible Foods, he led the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI - National Center for Biotechnology Information) since its creation nearly 30 years ago. Lipman has known Impossible Foods founder Patrick Brown, formerly a Stanford University biochemist, for 25 years. Brown started the company in 2011 to apply cutting-edge science to the problem of global food sustainability. Animal agriculture is more environmentally destructive than any other technology on Earth, and the mission of Impossible Foods, says Lipman, is to reduce the demand for animal products by making something that’s more delicious than meat. “To make a plant-based burger that a meat-eater would like, you have to approach how meat gets its flavor with an understanding of biochemistry,” says Lipman. The critical discovery was that heme, a molecule in all living things, is found in extremely high concentrations in animal muscle and plays a role in the chemical reactions that occur when meat is cooked and even chewed. Impossible Foods uses leghemoglobin, a heme-containing protein from soy plants, to create a meaty taste and feel. Their first product is the Impossible Burger, a patty that delivers the same protein and iron as a beef burger but is made entirely from plants. The Impossible Burger uses about 75 percent less water, generates about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases, and requires around 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef from cows. While the Impossible Burger isn’t available in grocery stores, you can try one at more than a thousand restaurants in the U.S. and Hong Kong (there’s a list at However, some environmental and consumer groups have expressed concerns that the burger’s key ingredient, leghemoglobin, is made using genetically modified yeast in a laboratory—even though numerous studies have found that genetically modified organisms are safe to eat. Lipman says that that is entirely the case with the Impossible Burger and that the company’s top priority is the health and safety of its consumers. He adds that Impossible Foods has gone above and beyond compliance with FDA regulations. The company has said it is confident that it will receive the blessing of the agency, which is conducting a safety review. ✏️: Mary E. Bates ’08 ScM, ’11 PhD 📷: Ye Rin Mok Check out the rest of BAM's September/October issue on our all-new website:
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