April 2014 Issue
News Flash
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News Flash

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Well Designed

Vivian Loftness is searching for the source of a buzzing noise. She tilts her ear toward the ceiling. “This doesn’t happen here,” she says. It’s true, the Intelligent Workplace at Carnegie Mellon feels like paradise: a bright, quiet space that’s home to architecture faculty and graduate students as well a variety of plants, CO2 sensors, louvered windows, ergonomic chairs, and myriad other environmental controls. In this living laboratory, Loftness, a professor of architecture, won’t tolerate the kind of noise pollution that’s pervasive in other workplaces. 

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In fact, she’s spent most of her life building environments that balance comfort and efficiency. As early as high school, she was making art and sketching house plans but also loved math and chemistry. Then as an undergraduate she discovered that architecture provided the perfect confluence of these passions. Loftness earned her Master of Architecture degree from MIT during the 1970s energy crisis and soon became a pioneer in energy-efficient architecture. One of her early projects was a passive and active solar Greek Solar Village of public housing with Greek architect Alexandros Tombazis and the European Community. She was also central to the team designing CMU’s Intelligent Workplace, where faculty and students test everything from lighting to air to acoustic quality in a space that uses a fraction of the energy of most offices. From Athens to Pittsburgh and beyond, Loftness has devoted herself to creating “wonderful places that sit more gently on this earth.”

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She continues to research the health and productivity impacts of good environmental quality, for instance, how daylight affects our work, eye health, and sleep patterns. She’s committed to improving the environments of children, setting guidelines so future classrooms will give kids access to the outdoors, which research has shown increases learning ability. In recognition of her innovative spirit, Loftness received several accolades in 2013 alone:

LEED fellow, for her contributions to the green building community;

Design Futures Council senior fellow, for her leadership in design; and

 2013 Star of Building Science, by Building4Change journal, for her contributions to building science.

The awards are no surprise, given her attention to details like the buzz in her office. No doubt she’ll find the source of the noise and restore tranquility to the workplace. 
—Julie Albright (DC’92)

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New York, New York

V11n2 Newsflash 19Start spreading the news! Carnegie Mellon is creating an Integrative Media Program at Steiner Studios in New York City’s Brooklyn Navy Yard. It’s part of the city’s Applied Sciences initiative to transform its economy. CMU’s program, launching next year, will provide students, after beginning their studies in Pittsburgh, with hands-on training alongside working professionals in fields such as film, games, social media, big data, interactive computing, performing and visual arts, and urban design. 
—Lisa Kay Davis (DC’09)

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"Well done is better than well said."

V11n2 Newsflash 3Both and Thomas Edison. Bill Gates and Jane Goodall. Marie and Pierre Curie. In the past 140 years, these are a few of the leaders in science and technology recognized by the Franklin Institute, which honors the spirit of inquiry and discovery embodied by Ben Franklin. Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh received a Franklin Medal last year, and this year, two Carnegie Mellon professors have joined that prestigious list: Edmund Clarke and Mark Kryder.

Both Clarke and Kryder joined the CMU faculty more than 30 years ago; today, their offices are a stone’s throw from each other on the Pittsburgh campus: Clarke in the Gates-Hillman Complex and Kryder in Roberts Engineering Hall. Although both have received Franklin Institute awards for their contributions to information technology, their areas of expertise are quite different.

V11n2 Newsflash 13Clarke, who joined CMU in 1982, is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the FORE Systems University Professor of Computer Science. His early work in model checking provided automated means for identifying design errors in hardware and software. Today, he is extending model checking and similar techniques to analyze the complex computer systems used in communications, medicine, and transportation. Clarke has received the Franklin Institute’s 2014 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science.

Starting at CMU in 1978, Kryder, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, has focused on magnetic data storage. Later, he served as Seagate Technology’s senior vice president of research and chief technical officer. While he was at Seagate, the company introduced an innovative perpendicular recording technology for hard drives, which significantly increases their storage capacity. For that work, Kryder is a co-recipient (with Shun-ichi Iwasaki of the Tohoku Institute of Technology) of the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering.  
— Aaron Jentzen (DC’12)

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Human Factor

Whether V11n2 Newsflash 10researching the Romanov Dynasty or settling an argument over where Johnny Cash was born, people rely on Wikipedia to satisfy their intellectual inquiries. Online communities such as Wikipedia make up an increasing part of human interaction, and research on these communities helps programmers build better platforms. Haiyi Zhu, a CMU PhD student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, and two of her professors, Robert Kraut and Aniket Kittur, are contributing to that research. For their collaborative paper, “Effectiveness of Shared Leadership in Online Communities,” they’ve won the annual Human Factors Prize from The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, which has 67 active chapters throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. 
—Paul Carboni (DC’13)

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Dynamic Duo

V11n2 Newsflash 7Jay Apt, a former astronaut, can do everything from quantifying a hurricane’s catastrophic risk to gauging offshore wind power to scrutinizing clean-energy efforts such as geothermal power generation. The Carnegie Mellon professor wants the planet he saw once from outer space to be just as beautiful and just as healthy for generations to come.

Mark Kamlet, CMU’s provost, not only oversees research on the academic side of campus, but also puts his expertise in healthcare economics to use by helping the university establish the Disruptive Health Technology Institute, a place that will focus on bringing better health care where its most needed.

It’s these kinds of efforts that demonstrate why both men were elected by their peers to be among the newly named fellows in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest, most prestigious general scientific society. 
—Elizabeth Shestak (DC’03)

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Face Value

Amna AlZeyara (SCS’14) sits among 4,000 conference-goers in a crowded auditorium in Minneapolis, Minn. The audience profile skews young and is mainly female. In fact, most of the women in attendance are still enrolled in college, studying science and technology.

V11n2 Newsflash 11The computer science major has traveled more than 7,000 miles, from her home in Qatar, to the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, one of the most prominent technical conventions for women in computing. She is there to network, learn, and, most importantly, participate in the undergraduate research competition. Her work on Hala—a 3D animated robot with Arabic facial features that interacts with visitors to CMU-Q— is poised for an award this year. The challenge was to translate culturally specific facial expressions so both Arab and non-Arab visitors could understand and interact with the robot successfully.

The CMU-Q senior says she has always had a passion for programming: “It’s the best way to apply all that you are learning in the classroom.” That’s why she enrolled in the computer science program at CMU-Q. During her undergraduate studies she says she has been immersed in research and experimentation.

Her hard work is about to culminate into a single moment as the judges announce the young researcher from Qatar as first-place winner of the undergraduate competition. It’s a global honor, and AlZeyara is aware that this is another step toward her dream of becoming a noted researcher. On the flight home to Qatar, she plots her next steps, setting her sights on attending graduate school in the United States. She says Carnegie Mellon is high on her list. 
—Lisa Kay Davis (DC’09)

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Brainy

V11n2 Newsflash 18Taking a break from her homework, an undergrad fires up a pinball challenge on her smartphone while her roommate toys with a robot factory game. But this is about more than procrastination: They’re using Lumosity, an online brain-training program. For the second year in a row, this neuroscience-based company has produced a list of “America’s Smartest Colleges” by analyzing the game performance of tens of thousands of students at almost 500 universities. Carnegie Mellon’s students have earned the university the #5 slot in Lumosity’s annual rankings, beating every Ivy League school except Princeton and jumping a dozen places since last year. 
—Janet Jay (DC’07) 

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No Regrets

V11n2 Newsflash 2When Laurie Barkman, a Tepper MBA student, places out of introductory human-resources courses, she approaches the head of the marketing department for permission to do independent study. He’s not sure that’s a good idea.

Unfazed, she secures sponsorship from a local businessman, a Tepper alum, which ultimately gets her the OK for her studies proposal.

More than a decade later, Barkman (TPR’99) is CEO of Genco Marketplace, one of America’s largest merchandise liquidators. She attributes her success to the same mantra she used at Tepper: Regret is worse than being told no.

In recognition of her accomplished career, the National Diversity Council has named her one of its Most Powerful and Influential Women. 
—Elizabeth Shestak (DC’03)

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Physics Lesson

Robert Swendsen is in his lab. There’s no atomic microscope or supercomputer—just a desk, two computers, and some melting snow trampled in from the wintry outside. The setting is actually an office, but the Carnegie Mellon professor of physics could tell you differently.

His desk? It’s made up of a tremendous number of atoms. The melting snow—add heat, and it turns from water to gas. Add heat and pressure, and the atoms start to behave very strangely. Are they gas or liquid? Called “critical phenomena,” these types of mysterious states have long since intrigued physicists, including Swendsen.

V11n2 Newsflash 1What are the atoms actually doing? How do they interact? These are questions he asked while doing post-doc work in Germany in the 1980s. He knew that predicting how atoms behave under fluctuating heat and pressure would be key to developing better technologies that impact our everyday lives.

However, the math involved in these predictions is complex. So, Swendsen turned to a field that was just emerging: computational physics. Here, you can turn physics problems into computer simulations and predict far beyond the possibilities of pen and paper. In other words, feed it the right algorithms, and the computer will plot out an accurate image of how water molecules or protein molecules, for example, change over time.

Eventually, Swendsen discovered a way to continuously predict how temperature, pressure, and magnetic fields affect systems. His method has been used by scientists in many fields, particularly in biophysics, where simulating protein synthesis can help us learn how to fight disease.

Cited more than 10,000 times, Swendsen has helped to pioneer computational physics, which has redefined what was once thought possible, from engineering medical technologies to simulating the entire universe itself.

His “multiple, groundbreaking algorithmic developments in computational statistical physics” have earned him the 2014 Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics from the American Physical Society, which represents more than 50,000 physicists in academia, research, and industry. 
—Danielle Commisso (DC’06)

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Fair is Fair

Although he now holds one of the most influential government positions a healthcare economist can attain, Martin Gaynor says his introduction to the field came about “by accident.”

It wasn’t until college that he truly discovered economics—“the combination of the rigor of the scientific method with its real-world potential.” He had already completed graduate school when he encountered the branch of economics that would catapult his career. “I literally just stumbled into it,” he recalls, by landing a job working with data that sparked his interest in healthcare markets and healthcare organizations.

V11n2 Newsflash 16began teaching at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College in 1995. Since then, the economics and health policy professor’s award-winning research has focused on competition in healthcare and on the role of incentive structures within the healthcare industry. As he explains it, “I try to take a hard, rational look at issues, but with compassion for impacts on the least fortunate among us.”

His often-cited research caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces the U.S. antitrust laws and protects consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. Gaynor has taken a “temporary leave from the university” to join the FTC as its director of the Bureau of Economics, which is responsible for all economic analysis at the FTC.

He says he misses the classroom, but he relishes the chance to help protect consumers from fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices.
—Janet Jay (DC’07)

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Taking it to the Street

Carnegie Mellon students in the master’s degree program in computational finance (MSCF) intently study the complex mathematical and statistical concepts that underlie today’s global marketplace. Once they graduate, most will head to Wall Street to work for some of the world’s leading financial institutions. The program’s respect on the “Street” is largely due to its rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum that brings together experts from four Carnegie Mellon schools, says Executive Director Richard Bryant. Not surprisingly, MSCF has again been ranked the top 2013-14 financial engineering program by QuantNet.com, a leading site for financial engineering graduate students.
—Danielle Commisso (DC’06)

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Genetic Wonder

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Today, patients can take diagnostic tests to determine their risk factors for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These tests are derived from studies of the human genome. Dietrich Stephan has been instrumental in both inventing and implementing the infrastructure necessary to make these tests available. His research has also resulted in the development of treatments for autism, ALS and other medical conditions. Stephan (S’91) will continue his genetic research as the new chair of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, a program that is consistently ranked among the best in the United States.
—Paul Carboni (DC’13) 

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Powerhouse

V11n2 Newsflash 15In a span of 14 months during 2004-05, Florida was thrashed by seven hurricanes. Millions of people were left without power—unable to cook their food, cool their homes, or do daily tasks such as pump gas. Four of those storms happened in 2004. It was the first time four hurricanes hit one state in one season since 1886, when it happened to Texas.

NextEra Energy’s subsidiary, Florida Power & Light, scrambled around the clock to manage the state’s crisis. Lewis Hay III (TPR’92) remembers it well. He was CEO of the power company.

As a young boy, he dreamt of running a business. It’s why he earned his MBA at CMU. He went on to hold leadership positions in various industries before settling into NextEra Energy, based in Juno Beach, Fla. He became the corporation’s president and CEO in June 2001 and chairman of the board less than a year later.

V11n2 Newsflash 14Those storms in 2004-05 could have given him second thoughts about his career path. “Putting Humpty Dumpty back together again as quickly as possible is something that was an interesting and challenging experience, but it’s one that I prefer to forget,” he says. But the company and the state persevered, he adds, thanks to everyone working as a team in all areas—from fixing the state’s power transmission and distribution systems to keeping the communities affected by the outages up to date with the latest information.

Hay recently retired with quite a track record. For the past seven years, NextEra Energy has been named No. 1 among electric and gas utilities on Fortune magazine’s annual list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. That kind of leadership also led to Hay recently being named by Power Engineering magazine as one of the power-generation industry’s 25 most influential people during the past 25 years. 
—Emmett Zitelli (HNZ’01)

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Good Ideas

V11n2 Newsflash 17In tallying U.S.-based companies with venture capital funding, Carnegie Mellon alumni are at the forefront, according to PitchBook, which is a Seattle-based private equity and venture capital research firm. From 2010-2013, CMU alumni created 79 VC-funded companies, the ninth most among universities internationally. Perhaps even more impressive, through the first three quarters of 2013 (the most recent stats available), PitchBook reports that CMU was in a three-way tie for fifth place among universities with 22 VC-funded companies emanating from Tartan alumni.

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