Tag Archives: Wendy Kopp

Talking science

Pelosi, Holt, and Tilghman convene science roundtable

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Ca., joined more than 20 leaders from government, industry, and academia to discuss America’s commitment to research in the physical sciences and energy at a Dec. 15 roundtable in Princeton’s Chancellor Green. The meeting was organized by Pelosi, President Tilghman, and Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.
In a statement delivered afterward, Tilghman said the United States has reached an important time to “make a very serious investment in the kind of innovation and creativity that has always fueled this country and its economy.”
Pelosi agreed, promising that the incoming Congress would focus on science in many forms: “The science to protect and defend America, the science to grow our economy through innovation and education, the science and engineering to rebuild our infrastructure in America … , the science to make America healthy, and the science to preserve our planet by reversing global warming and declaring our energy independence — they are all related,” she said.
Participant Norman Augustine ’57 *59, a former president and CEO of Lockheed Martin, chaired a 2005 National Academies committee that found America’s funding for research and science education was severely lacking. As a nation, he said, “We’re in a relatively strong position today, but I think it’s widely agreed that we’re losing that position, and we’re losing that position rapidly.”
Augustine told PAW that in the Chancellor Green meeting, which was not open to the public or the press, participants had “near-total agreement” about the improvements needed for science education and research. “People agree what the problem is, [and] we agree what has to be done,” he said. “We just have to do it.”

PAW’s top 10 features of 2008

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According to Web traffic, here are the 10 most popular feature stories from the last 12 months of PAW:

1. Princeton’s most influential alumni (Jan. 23)
As selected by a panel of faculty and alumni experts

2. Two brothers, two paths (Nov. 5)
Gabe Legendy ’05 and his brother Conrad ’07 felt called to the Army during a time of war — but then their plans diverged

3. Going solo (April 23)
A profile of violist David Carpenter ’08

4. Raking muck in the new public square (Oct. 8)
TPM Media’s Josh Marshall ’91

5. The Gehry that landed on Ivy Lane (Oct. 8)
The new Lewis Library brings a futuristic face to a tradition-heavy place

6. Marking time (Sept. 24)
Combining history and archaeology, Princeton scholars reconstruct daily life in the fields of Turkey

7. The new rules of financial aid (May 14)
Elite schools offer more while other colleges struggle to stay in the game

8. Growing the campus (June 11)
How Princeton preserves its “lazy beauty”

9. Rethinking Reagan (Oct. 22)
Liberal historian Sean Wilentz still disagrees with the conservative president, but gives credit where it’s due

10. Everything you wanted to know about money and ethics, relationships, fashion, and health (March 5)
PAW wasn’t afraid to ask our alumni pundits

Names in the news

i-e1f79d7f5e3cf5320968ab219cc3cdf8-billington_kopp.jpgLibrarian of Congress James Billington ’50, left, and Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp ’89 were among 23 people who received the Presidential Freedom Medal from President George W. Bush Dec. 10. Princeton professor Robert George also was honored. [WhiteHouse.gov]
Recent graduate Victor Amin ’08 bypassed the Wall Street job market to create an Internet startup, the spam-protection provider rSapient. [ABC News]
Actor John C. Vennema ’70 began previews for the New York production of “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” a Martin McDonagh play directed by Garry Hynes. [Broadway World]
Publishers Weekly chose Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos ’86 — “the driving force behind one of the industry’s most dynamic, if sometimes controversial, companies” — as its Person of the Year. [Publishers Weekly]
Queen Noor of Jordan ’74 is expected to become a blogger for the Huffington Post’s World News page. [Media Bistro]
Eli Harari *73, founder of SanDisk, the world’s largest supplier of flash storage cards, received the Global Semiconductor Alliance’s top leadership award.
[Marketwatch]
History teacher and high school football coach Joe Cattolico ’96 led his team to a Sacramento city championship in just its third varsity season. [Sacramento Bee]

Billington and Kopp photos by Chris Greenberg.

Supernova serendipity

Princeton astronomer recalls a once-in-a-lifetime star sighting

On Jan. 9, 2008, Alicia Soderberg, a postdoctoral research associate in astrophysics at Princeton, was studying the X-ray emissions conveyed from space by NASA’s Swift satellite when she recognized an extremely bright light on the screen of her computer, saturating the satellite’s view “as if we had pointed a digital camera directly at the sun.” That light, Soderberg and colleague Edo Berger later confirmed, was a supernova — an explosion of a massive star.
Seeing a supernova is not unusual — the stars are brighter than 100 billion suns. But in the vastness of space, there generally is a delay of days or weeks between a supernova’s explosion and its discovery by astronomers. By then, “most of the fireworks are already over,” Soderberg said.
Soderberg is the first astronomer to observe a supernova in the act of exploding. Her finding, named Supernova 2008D, is described in a paper to be published in Nature May 22, and in a May 21 teleconference, she described the experience as being at the right place, at the right time, with the right telescope. “I truly won the astronomer’s lottery,” she said.
Soderberg had been studying another supernova, SN 2007uy, in the spiral galaxy NGC 2770, located 90 million light years from Earth in the constellation Lynx. Seeing two supernovae in the same galaxy in a matter of weeks is extraordinarily unusual — a one-in-10,000 chance, she estimates. A typical galaxy produces one supernova every 100 years.
The Princeton group’s discovery sparked a campaign of observations from telescopes in the United States and beyond, including the Hubble Space Telescope.
The use of an X-ray flash, rather than optical observation, to detect a supernova marks a “paradigm shift” and could lead to more discoveries, according to Robert Kirshner, a professor of astronomy at Harvard University and one of Soderberg’s mentors. Kirshner also stressed that luck was only part of Soderberg’s find. “If you’re active and you’re energetic, it helps a lot because you manufacture your own luck, in a way,” he said. “There’s nobody who’s more focused and energetic than Alicia Soderberg.”

Courtesy of NASA/Swift/Skyworks Digital/Dana Berry
This digital animation shows an artist’s rendering of the shock wave discovered by Princeton University’s Alicia Soderberg and a team of scientists. A supernova is born when the core of a massive star (the blue orb) runs out of nuclear fuel and collapses under its own gravity to form an ultradense object known as a neutron star. The shock wave erupts and ripples through the star, emitting X-rays (seen here as bright white light). The remnants of the explosion cool (the white light gets smaller), and then the visual light from the supernova glows (seen as yellow clouds). The fading white dot in the middle of the animation represents a newly born neutron star.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the frequency at which supernovae occur in a galaxy. It is about once every 100 years.

Down and up, 1,000 times

On May 5, with his hands pressed against the hardwood of the Princeton Seminary gym, Ryan Bonfiglio ’01 completed 1,000 push-ups in 20 minutes and 50 seconds, besting a mark from The Guinness Book of World Records set by fitness guru Jack LaLanne on the national television show You Asked For It in 1956.

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The high-speed push-ups, completed in sets of 25, were recorded by a digital camera that also captured Bonfiglio’s “official timer” – a wristwatch positioned on the floor.
Bonfiglio, a former Princeton wrestler, is not new to breaking world records. In 2004, he set the record for most pull-ups in one hour: 507. That record was broken when a competitor chinned-up over 600 times in 60 minutes. Bonfiglio contested the mark, arguing that chin-ups and pull-ups use different muscles and therefore are different exercises, but the Guinness Book officials were firm in their refusal to differentiate.
LaLanne’s “quickest completion of 1,000 push-ups” category has been retired by the The Guinness Book of World Records, so Bonfiglio is looking to challenge a related mark: most push-ups in one hour. Record-holder Roy Berger, a Canadian who was proclaimed “Mr. Push-up” by Muscle & Fitness Magazine, completed 3,416 push-ups in an hour in 1998.
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Robinson

Names in the News

With the Boston Celtics rolling toward the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, ESPN told the story of how Celtics CEO Wyc Grousbeck ’83 came back home to Boston and stepped into one of the most cherished corner offices in town. … Wendy Kopp ’89‘s Teach for America continues to grow, according to a recent AP report, and Kopp expects even more expansion in the next two years, as the group aims to increase its corps of first- and second-year teachers from 5,000 to 8,000. … Princeton musicologist Simon Morrison *97 is helping to revive Prokoviev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet” for a series of July performances at Bard College. … Two hundred years ago, China was the world’s greatest economic power, Princeton economics professor Burton Malkiel *64 told CFAs at a recent conference. Malkiel expects that China will regain that position in the next 20 years. … William Zinsser ’44 wrote a May 18 New York Times essay about the most peculiar Manhattan office he ever occupied and its most memorable perk: a fireman’s pole that connected the fifth and fourth floors.

The Countdown:

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Days until Reunions 2008