Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

Tiger of the Week: Daniel Velasco ’13, Teach for America Alum and Charter School Mentor Teacher

Daniel Velasco ’13 (Courtesy Daniel Velasco)

Daniel Velasco ’13 (Courtesy Daniel Velasco)

By Jeanette Beebe ’14

Outside Daniel Velasco ’13’s classroom window at the 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Ind., stands an abandoned building with boarded up windows. But the view doesn’t bother Velasco — his focus is on his students, not his surroundings.

“I absolutely love all of my students, even those that make me want to pull my hair out,” Velasco said with a chuckle. “The greatest lesson I have learned from them is patience.”

This is Velasco’s third year at the charter school. During his first two, he taught full time as a Teach for America fellow. Velasco taught AP United States history, AP world history, economics, government, and world history. He has also tried to build relationships with his students, and to connect with them as a mentor.

“When I teach my kids, stay after school with them, and host tutoring sessions during breaks, I think about the teachers that did that for me,” he said.

After completing his two-year Teach for America commitment, Velasco decided to stay at the 21st Century Charter School as a mentor teacher. In this role, he continues to teach half time, and he also serves as a building leader. Although he is young, he has considerable responsibility at the school. He works closely with two building administrators and 25 teachers.

In the mornings, Velasco teaches economics and government classes to 12th graders. In the afternoons, he observes teachers in their classrooms and gives them feedback in order to help them improve their teaching style and instruction.

“Life as a teacher is both draining and rewarding,” he said. “My life is completely different than when I was at Princeton, because I no longer have just my education and my future to worry about, but also my students’.”

Velasco’s own education was global. He’s a city-loving, second-generation Mexican Midwesterner who was born and raised in Chicago. He spent much of his time at Princeton — well, not at Princeton. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Race Car Aerodynamicist Arron Melvin ’01 *07

Arron Melvin ’01 *07 (Courtesy Arron Melvin)

Arron Melvin ’01 *07 (Courtesy Arron Melvin)

Arron Melvin ’01 *07 raced cars before coming to Princeton, and as a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, he found he had a knack for understanding the science of what makes cars go fast — fields such as fluid mechanics and aerodynamics. “What I enjoy doing in an academic sense was consistent with the career I wanted to pursue,” said Melvin, who now works as the chief aerodynamicist for Chevy IndyCar.

Melvin joined Pratt & Miller Engineering and the Chevy team in 2012, and much of his work came to fruition in 2015 when Chevy and its IndyCar rival, Honda, both released new aero kits — body components designed for greater speed and versatility. Chevy outpaced Honda to win pole position in each of the season’s 16 races, and two Chevy drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon, won the two biggest titles on the circuit, the Indianapolis 500 and the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, respectively.

Racer magazine, in its season recap, wrote that Chevy was the clear winner in what would be remembered as “the Year of the Aero Kit,” and Melvin and colleagues Charles Ping III, Christopher Berube, and Mark Kent won the 2015 Louis Schwitzer Award, for “innovation and engineering excellence at the Indianapolis 500.”  But Melvin, who also has worked on the hyper-competitive Formula One circuit, knows that technological advantages often are short lived. He and his team are hard at work designing improvements for next year. “I’m very driven by the competitive side of things,” he said. “We’re pretty pumped up for 2016.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Chris Hamm ’14, Helping to Build a Better Solar-Powered Home

Chris Hamm ’14 was part of a Stevens Institute of Technology team that built the winning entry in the 2015 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. (Courtesy Chris Hamm)

Chris Hamm ’14 was part of a Stevens Institute of Technology team that built the winning entry in the 2015 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. (Courtesy Chris Hamm)

Last month, after more than a year of planning, four months of construction, a cross-country voyage, and nine days of on-site assembly, Chris Hamm ’14 and his teammates from Stevens Institute of Technology were ready to show off their work: SURE HOUSE, a “sustainable and resilient” solar-powered home that was among more than a dozen entrants in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Irvine, Calif.

The biennial competition rates projects in 10 categories, including architecture, engineering, and energy balance. At the end of more than a week of judging, the Stevens team topped the final rankings.

For Hamm, a master’s student who directed energy analysis for the project, creating the 1,000 square-foot home presented challenges he’d never encountered before. “Seeing a project through, from the beginning design phases to actually building it, requires another level of collaboration and compromise,” he said.

Hamm studied environmental engineering at Princeton and took a strong interest in sustainable building and energy modeling during his junior and senior years. His undergraduate thesis explored strategies for adapting Passive House, a popular building-energy standard developed in Germany, to apply to homes in various climates in the United States. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Publishing Veteran John Oakes ’83

John Oakes ’83 (Courtesy John Oakes)

John Oakes ’83 (Courtesy John Oakes)

By Jeanette Beebe ’14

In September, John Oakes ’83, a veteran book publisher based in New York, returned to the Princeton campus for “Careers Beyond Wall Street,” a panel sponsored by Princeton Progressives. He described a shrinking industry that is, well, still stuck in the Stone Age.

“I think going into book publishing — certainly the traditional side of it — is tantamount to apprenticing yourself to a potter. Or a stone carver,” he said.

Book publishing is “quaint, time-consuming, frustrating, and occasionally thrilling,” he said — and it’s in the midst of a massive transformation.

As the co-publisher at OR Books, an independent press that sells e-books and paperback books direct to readers, and prints on demand, Oakes is shaping that transformation, one book at a time. In the coming year, Oakes also plans to re-launch The Evergreen Review, a groundbreaking literary magazine, with Editor-in-Chief Dale Peck.

The Evergreen Review, created by Barney Rosset, the late publisher of Grove Press, published a sea of cultural legends — including Susan Sontag, Malcolm X, Jean-Paul Sartre, Vladimir Nabokov, Allen Ginsberg, and Samuel Beckett — in its original run from 1957 to 1973.

Oakes first met Rosset, Beckett’s American publisher, in 1982, when he found himself knee-deep in his English department senior thesis. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Monica Greco ’13, Helping Refugees in Jordan Start a New Life

Monica Greco ’13 (Hesham Elnagar)

Monica Greco ’13 (Hesham Elnagar)

After Monica Greco ’13 graduated from Princeton, she packed her bags and flew to Amman, Jordan, to begin her yearlong Fulbright scholarship to study Roman military history. But while living in a country in the midst of a refugee crisis, where many families were seeking to start a new life after fleeing from violence in nearby countries, Greco started volunteering with a small nonprofit refugee-aid organization called the Collateral Repair Project (CRP).

“I spent a lot of time on public-policy stuff at Princeton and have always been interested in emergency aid,” said Greco, a classics major who earned a certificate in the Woodrow Wilson School. “CRP is like an extension of me, or I am an extension of it — I’m not sure at this point.”

CRP is located in Amman’s Hashmi Shamali neighborhood, which is home to a large number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. When a refugee family crosses the Jordanian border, adults are forbidden from working in the country in almost all cases, Greco said. CRP’s emergency-assistance program provides basic amenities like food, medical support, mattresses, cooking utensils, heaters, and fans to families in dire need.

“Things are very, very hard — people can’t work, which means they can’t support themselves,” she said. “So while there’s this relief of not being subject to bombings, violence, kidnappings, and torture, things are still hard when they get to Jordan.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Doug Emlen *94, Author of ‘Animal Weapons’

Doug Emlen *94 (Courtesy Doug Emlen)

Doug Emlen *94 (Courtesy Doug Emlen)

Doug Emlen *94, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Montana, thought that writing was his “A-game” — a strength, a specialty even. He’d written textbooks and taught classes about science writing. But when he began working on his first book for a general audience — an exploration of evolutionary arms races in the animal world — Emlen realized he still had much to learn.

“I would send these things that I thought were masterpieces to my editor,” he recalled with a laugh. “And she’d turn around and say, ‘You sound like a professor.’”

As Emlen searched for his narrative voice, he drew inspiration from his days as a Princeton graduate student, when he spent periods of seven or eight months researching dung beetles on an island in the rain forests of Panama. “I was writing these letters back to my then-girlfriend, who’s now my wife, and she kept them all,” Emlen said. “All these incredible things came flooding back, and so that’s how I was able to start working in these back stories and adventures. I’d actually written them down in my letters, 20 years ago.”

The grad-student adventures are woven into a wide-ranging review of biological research in Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle, which won the 2015 Phi Beta Kappa Book Award in Science earlier this month. In the words of one selection-panel member, it’s a “lively, engrossing account of the arms races in animal evolution, development, and ecology.” (Joan Breton Connely ’76 also was among this year’s Phi Beta Kappa honorees, receiving the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award for The Parthenon Enigma: A New Understanding of the West’s Most Iconic Building and the People Who Made It.) Continue reading