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The Universal Times newsletter

The Universal Times

the newsletter of The Summer Science Program

February, 2010    


College Admissions Season

Tweeting Your Asteroid

Testifying in Santa Fe

SSPer News

It’s All About Next Summer

Media Mentions

President’s Council


College Admissions Season

Good news is trickling in from excited graduating seniors from SSP ‘09.


Stephanie Laga ‘09 shared this happy email from Pasadena: “It is an honor to inform you of the Admissions Committee's decision to offer you a place in the California Institute of Technology Class of 2014.”


Leah Weiss ’09, daughter of Michael Weiss ’74, also got good news from Caltech. Mike writes: “Leah is thrilled. Carol and I are grateful for Leah's growth at SSP. She wishes there could be an ‘SSP college’!”


Charlie Kelly ’09 wrote: I'm going to Yale! Woohoo! I get paid on Friday and-- first things first-- I am going to fill up my SSP donation envelope!”


Kendall Capshaw ’09 wrote to her AAD, Dr. Bill Andersen: “I just found out that I was accepted to MIT. I really can't thank you enough for all your help and support!”


Tweeting Your Asteroid

Mika McKinnon ’00 sent in this tip: “Anyone with a hankering to check on their old asteroid probably already knows the joy that is LookUp for finding astronomical objects without needing to comb through several databases. Now instead of needing to remember the website, you can use Twitter send the name of your object to the LookUp twitter account and it will reply with RA & Dec and a link to more info.


“Example: you tweet: @lookupastro Mars; It tweets back at you:

‘Mars (Planet) is at RA 06:05:01.232 Dec 23:33:06.130 More info


“Admittedly, it's only really useful for folks who have a twitter account set up with their cellphone, but that's pretty much exactly who joins a university astronomy club!”


Testifying in Santa Fe

Since 2005 the New Mexico state government has paid the program fee for state residents to attend SSP (after they have been admitted by the regular process). However, this funding must be approved each year, and right now budgets are especially tight. In December, SSP President Eric Korevaar ’76 travelled to Santa Fe to testify at a hearing of the New Mexico Legislative Education Study Committee. To support the request he invited Erika DeBenedictis ’08 of Albuquerque and Paula Tapia ’09 of Truth or Consequences.


Erika’s mother wrote afterward: “Thank you for inviting Erika to be an advocate for SSP before our state's senators and representatives. Dr. Kevin Krisciunas [her AD] has been a real friend and mentor for Erika as she considers her college choices. In addition to writing her university recommendations, he has also challenged her and been a resource for her. She asks his advice; she respects his answers. As parents, we are grateful for his interest and help for our daughter.”


SSPer News

Lots of news in this UT. Send us yours!


Ronald Florence ’59 has a new book: “Emissary of the Doomed tells the exciting and moving story of an effort to ransom the lives of as many as one million Jews during the Holocaust. I've been pleased with the pre-publication comments and trade reviews. Copies should be available from your favorite bookstore or amazon.com.”


Van Snyder ’63 posted some pictures from the 50th anniversary celebration, and “recreational” photos taken by him and his classmates in ’63 using the 6" Ross Astrograph. He writes: “I also recently completed a clone of Intercom-1000, a single-address program interpreter used on the three-address Bendix G-15 for SSP '63. I sent notice of it to the SSP '63 class. Maybe others will want it?”


From Lee Van Slyke ’64, posted to the SSP Forum Yahoogroup: “I have received my first patent, US #7,580,872. I realize that many of you have done more with patents than I, but invite you all to share in the celebration. The patented design addresses shortcomings of existing methods by which capital markets apply risk-bearing capacity to such problems as hurricanes, price bubbles, and post-retirement medical care.  (You can find the patent here, entering 7,580,872 as the patent number.) The patent was based on a provisional application filed in 2000. Yes, it took nearly nine years to get the patent issued. Young SSP'ers, don't give up!” 


Julian Krolik ’66 represented SSP at a panel discussion in Baltimore for the Young Scholars Program of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, located at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches theoretical astrophysics. In recent years YSP has sponsored several SSPers.


Dr. David Pierce faculty ’74-’86, ’93 recommends: “For a barrel of Laugh Out Louds, take a look at the Ig Nobel Awards. My favorite is for Physics. Wish I had thought to assign this to some of my classes.”


Michael Weiss ’74’s professional goal is to make a better, faster, stronger insulin. His work on engineering insulin may help prevent cancer in diabetics and improve the lives of insulin users in equatorial countries. He writes: “We had a run of good luck on our insulin research, with three papers being selected by the Journal of Biological Chemistry as respective ‘Papers of the Week’. The JBC website has a podcast interview. Our company is getting off the ground as we received a federal small-business grant to get started, and will be seeking venture capital soon.” 


Steve Trainoff '79 of Wyatt Tech Corp. has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society “for exceptional contributions to the development of analytical instrumentation whose worldwide use will continue to play a major role in the health and well-being of us all.” He writes, "They elect no more than 0.5% of the membership per year. It is particularly unusual for this honor to be conferred on a non-academic physicist. I am humbled and pleased. It seems that some of the users of instruments I designed REALLY like them."


Sekhar Chivukula ’78, TA ’83-’84 and Elizabeth Simmons ’80, TA ’84-’85, both professors at Michigan State, have helped create a new central service for physics postdoc applications, to help “manage all the pieces of information that must flow hither and thither to match prospective hires with departments.”


Eric Switzer '98 writes: “I am currently a postdoctoral Institute Fellow at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. Keep up the great work! 


Of special interest to the legal eagles among us, Erin Miller ’04 posts frequently on SCOTUSblog (“SCOTUS” being “Supreme Court of the U.S.”) She recently wrote “All the podcasts we’ve recorded since 2006 are now available on a convenient podcast feed, which you can subscribe to by searching for “scotusblog” on iTunes.” Erin works at the Howell-Russell law firm in Washington, DC.


Elaine Johnson ’05 reports: “I have been hired by Teach For America to teach middle school math in New Orleans starting this fall.”


Aniruddha Bapat '08 and Miruna Oprescu ’09 both travelled to Tehran, Iran for the 3rd International Olympiad in Astronomy & Astrophysics (IOAA) last October, and both came home (to India and Romania, respectively) with silver medals!


Also in the international prize department, Ceren Burcak Dag ’09 of Turkey has won the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for developing an innovative method for generating energy through piezoelectric pulses from falling rain drops. She competed in a record-breaking field of more than 8600 projects from around the world. The prize jury wrote "Many young people are concerned about climate change, but few will take action to identify a solution. This year’s winner had a spark of genius in developing a high tech solution that used PVDF, a smart material with piezoelectric properties, to transfer the kinetic energy of raindrops into electrical energy."


Join the Facebook Group Summer Science Program alums with 400 members, and/or the Yahoogroup SSPForum with 300 members (where opinions flew last August on the pros & cons of manned spaceflight).


It’s All About Next Summer

Even after 51 summers, for SSP the most important summer is the next one. Starting in June, 72 more promising teenagers will astound themselves by how fast they can learn, when supported by a community of fellow learners. Donating to SSP is all about alumni, faculty, parents, and friends coming together to make that possible.


One parent wrote: “That's exactly why I keep contributing every year. It was a turning point for my daughter.” Another was even more forceful: “I wish I could give more. Counting on my daughter to do that one day. She was admitted early action to MIT and is over the moon with excitement. 2009 was a very good year for her. SSP was no small part of that.”


Since the 2010 fiscal year began, 246 alumni, faculty, and friends have made a donation. If you are counted among them, thank you again! If not, please take a moment to help make “the educational experience of a lifetime” happen for those kids.

visit www.ssp.org/donate


Media Mentions

Rob Arnott ’70 was one of four “investment sages” contributing to a Jan. 18 Fortune magazine article on “Investing: What’s Ahead in the Next Decade?” Rob was also in the news in November when the firm he leads, Research Affiliates LLC, was awarded “a patent for an indexing methodology that selects and weights securities using fundamental measures of company size, such as dividends and sales … so-called fundamental indexing.”


Tad Rivelle ’76 volunteers on SSP’s Investment Committee, which helped revise the endowment investment policy last winter. He’s well-qualified but very busy, as an article from the December 11th Wall Street Journal makes clear: “A week ago, Tad Rivelle was managing some $30 billion, mostly in high-quality, broadly diversified bond portfolios. Now, he is also running $65 billion worth of complex mortgage securities and other bonds left behind by an ousted star bond manager.”


Each issue of Astronomy magazine describes “a day in the life of” an astronomer. The March issue (page 11) features Janice Bishop '81, TA 86-87, a Principal Investigator for the SETI Institute (and SSP Trustee).


From “Whiz Kids” in the December American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines: “Mary Masterman [‘05] used $300 worth of parts from a digital camera, a microscope, an inexpensive laser, and other gadgets to build a spectrometer …. Spectrometers typically cost between $20,000 and $100,000.”


Also from The Wall Street Journal: “No one would accuse Erika DeBenedictis [‘08] of having a light schedule. Ms. DeBenedictis, 17, recently finished her junior year at the Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, where she took A.P. Physics, A.P. Chemistry and a multivariable calculus class simultaneously. When she wasn't doing homework, she worked on computer-programming projects for science fairs, entering several over the course of the year. She practiced the piano for 30 minutes most days and got up early to sing in a choir, too. So is Ms. DeBenedictis facing a nervous breakdown as she enters her senior year? Hardly. ‘I'm very happy when I'm busy,’ she tells me.”


President’s Council

The Board of Trustees has created a President’s Council, whose members commit to contribute $1,000 or more of unrestricted funds each year to help provide a regular base of operating funds support for SSP.  In addition, the Council underwrites specific one-time initiatives, and gives supporters a way to focus giving to SSP, with or without public attribution, and develop other ideas to support SSP. 


Our special thanks go to these Founding Members:


Henry Lichstein '60

Mitchell Kapor '66 &
    Freada Kapor Klein

Ron Irving '68 & Gail Irving

Franklin Antonio '69

Carel Veenhuyzen '69

Deno Dialynas '69

Rob Arnott '70

Chris Cole '71

Dan Seligson '71

Eric Korevaar '76

Janine Scancarelli '76

Katherine A. Staton '76

Richard M. Mathews '77

Barrie Trinkle '77

Mike McKay '78

Russell Quong '78

Susan Jerian '79 &
    David Essayan

Sarah McCabe '80

Brian Hayes '84

Andrei Iancu '84

Henry Roe '91

George & Brindha Suresh
   (parents ‘05)


As their initial project, several members funded a Young Alumni Challenge Match through mid-January. Thirty-three young donors qualified for the match, resulting in $3,717 in matching funds. During 2010, the Development Committee will propose initiatives for expanding the Endowment and for planned giving.


New members are welcome any time….


Edited by Richard Bowdon '74, Executive Director

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