January 2014 Issue
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Ushering In a New Era

UASureshThe Investiture of Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh

The skirl of bagpipes permeates Carnegie Music Hall as the procession begins on the outskirts of Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus. Faculty members, trustees, and select guests follow the university’s Pipes and Drums musicians into the packed hall. All are in their colorful academic regalia.

The Investiture of Subra Suresh as the ninth president of Carnegie Mellon is off to a rousing start, which in a way has been Suresh’s unspoken mantra since July 1, his first day on the job.

Just hours before the Friday, November 15, Investiture began, he emailed the Carnegie Mellon community about an “extraordinary new gift of $67 million from the charitable foundation of CMU alumnus and trustee David A. Tepper (TPR’92).” The money will go to what will be called the David A. Tepper Quadrangle, located along Forbes Avenue. It will house the new home for the business school and “strategically co-locate a variety of university-wide activities to tap into CMU’s interdisciplinary culture.”

Earlier in the week, on Monday, Suresh had emailed the CMU community with other breaking news: launching of the Simon Initiative, “named in tribute to the work of the late CMU faculty member and Nobel laureate Herbert Simon (CMU’90).” The initiative will accelerate the use of learning science and technology to improve student learning.

UA-bagpipesIn concert with the initiative is the creation of the Global Learning Council—comprised of leaders representing academia and industries, with Suresh serving as chairman—which “will serve as a best-practices resource for individuals, institutions, and organizations seeking to deploy technology-enhanced learning approaches to improve learning outcomes for all.”

If that wasn’t enough news for one week, on Wednesday there was LaunchCMU, the first Pittsburgh gathering of the biannual program, designed to connect stakeholders in community development, venture capital, and the CMU entrepreneurship ecosystem. So far in 2013, CMU faculty and students have created 36 startup companies, a record for the university.

So, as part of the yearlong “Crossing Boundaries, Transforming Lives” theme commemorating Suresh’s inauguration, Friday’s Investiture had some work to do to keep up the headline-grabbing momentum.

Once the procession ends, CMU music students Henry Attaway (euphonium) and Chris Pearlberg (tuba) perform a moving National Anthem. Then, the event takes a Tony-Award-winning turn. Patina Miller (A’06)—accompanied by Thomas Douglas, Professor of Voice and Music Theatre—shows why she won a 2013 Tony, starring in the musical Pippin. Singing “Corner of the Sky” written by Stephan Schwartz (A’68), she brings many in the crowd to their feet. There is no encore, though, as she must hustle back to New York to perform in the Broadway musical that evening.


UA-MarySureshAfter Miller, an array of speakers offer heartfelt remarks, including Professors Allan Meltzer and Jim Daniels, as well as alumni and students bearing sentimental gifts, such as a Tartan kilt.

Then comes John Holden, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who will introduce the keynote speaker, Eric Schmidt (H’09), Executive Chairman of Google.

First, though, Holden has greetings from Washington, D.C., to pass along: “I’m happy to convey the congratulations of President Obama.” Then, he makes sure everyone in the hall, and those watching the telecast worldwide on the Web, comprehend the “incredibly creative and effective” background of Suresh, noting that he is “one of only 16 Americans who is a member of all three of our National Academies—National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.” He concludes by saying, “I look forward to working with Subra at CMU and seeing where he helps take this great university.”

Schmidt then steps to the podium and echoes Holden’s respect for Suresh and for CMU. He quotes the late Andy Warhol (A’49): “Time changes things, but you have to change them yourself,” and he puts those words in perspective for the rapt audience: “From the freshmen in the room all the way up to the most distinguished faculty members, everyone here is a problem solver.” He goes on to talk about the world’s many problems, such as joblessness, economic disparity, barriers to education, lack of opportunity for social and political progress. “They’re going to be solved here, in my humble opinion,” he says, through “the current and future students of the institution led by Dr. Suresh.”

UA-SchmidtAnd with that, Dr. Suresh is center stage. He welcomes Schmidt’s ambitious prediction. “The university is fortunate to have some 94,000 accomplished alumni across the globe whose successes and connections with Carnegie Mellon enrich this university every day. Current members and alumni of CMU campuses now span the globe, from Pittsburgh to New York City to Silicon Valley to Australia to Singapore to Qatar to Rwanda. Going from the past and the present to the future, there are many exciting possibilities, perhaps even imperatives, for CMU.”

The university’s Board of Trustees’ chairman, Ray Lane—the Master of Ceremonies who also preseUATepperDamonSureshnted Suresh with CMU’s Charter and Seal—clearly likes what he has heard at the Investiture. More importantly, he says he likes what he has witnessed since July 1:

“Just your first 100 days have worn me out!”

After a closing performance by the Carnegie Mellon Concert Choir, the Investiture fittingly concludes as it began—with bagpipes.

A reception for all follows in the hall’s foyer, and judging by the many enthusiastic conversations, amid bites on delectable hors d’oeuvres, there is great anticipation of what headlines come next.

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Emmy Worthy

Cromwell.The Nokia Theater in downtown L.A. pulses with a glamorous, nearly tangible energy. Six thousand of Hollywood’s finest settle into their seats, while 30 million watch from home—all waiting for the start of television’s biggest night, the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. For 2013, among the nominees are a bevy of Carnegie Mellon alumni. Particularly impressive is the breadth of nominations, which range from acting to art direction, affirming the diverse strengths of the College of Fine Arts:

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie:

James Cromwell (A’64) for “American Horror Story: Asylum”

Zachary Quinto (A’99) for “American Horror Story: Asylum”

Outstanding Art Direction for a Multi-Camera Series:

John Shaffner (A’76) (nominated twice) for “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men”

Ann Shea (A’80) (nominated twice) for “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men”

Outstanding Art Direction for Variety or Nonfiction Programming:

Suttirat Larlarb, associate professor of costume design, for “London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony”

Eugene Lee (A’62) for “Saturday Night Live”

Outstanding Costumes for a Series:

Eduardo Castro (A’76, A’77) for “Once Upon a Time”

Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special:

Robert A. Dickinson (H’05) (nominated twice) for “The 55th Annual Grammy Awards” and “The Oscars”

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series:

Jeffrey Klarik (A’69) for “Episodes”

Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie:

Mark Worthington (A’91) (nominated twice) for “American Horror Story: Asylum”

Edward Rubin (A’82) for “American Horror Story: Asylum”

In addition, shows produced by the production company of John Wells (A’79) received two nominations:

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Miniseries, or Movie:

 • “Southland”

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series:

• “Shameless”

Among the crowd, Cromwell seems to hold particular interest during the ceremony, as this marks his fourth nomination in his 40-year career, with no wins.

Halfway through the telecast, it’s time for the category that includes Cromwell and Quinto. Cromwell nabs the Emmy, to rousing applause, including from Quinto. Lee and Larlarb win golden statues as well to make it a winning night for Carnegie Mellon

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Banking on Success

Roman Blanco.The Santander Group, a global financial services company with more than 102 million customers worldwide and nearly 15,000 branches, is ranked 43rd in the Forbes Global 2000 list of the world’s largest companies. It’s also the parent company of Santander (formerly known as Sovereign Bank), which has a new president and CEO: Carnegie Mellon alumnus Roman Blanco (TPR’91). Blanco (left) is a veteran with The Santander Group, having executive stints in Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Colombia. Boston-based Santander has over 700 branches throughout northeastern United States and is among the top 25 retail banks in the country. Blanco is on record saying there are plans to expand.

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Lay of the Land

Andrew S McElwaine.It’s a typical day for Andrew S. McElwaine (DC’98)—nonstop meetings with prominent D.C. lawmakers and lobbyists. It’s all part of his job as president of American Farmland Trust (AFT), the largest U.S. farmland protection group.

The conservation organization links farmers, conservationists, and policy-makers, which accounts for McElwaine’s nonstop meetings. AFT strives to protect farmland as well as promote sound farming practices. McElwaine is happy to report that, since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped to save more than 3 million acres of farmland and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.

McElwaine (left)—who has more than 30 years of nonprofit experience in conservation, land protection, agriculture, and public policy—became president last July. He says his devotion to “conserving working and natural lands” is rooted in his childhood. Having grown up in the nation’s capital, he recalls witnessing, “the rolling agricultural communities, the open space, and the beauty of the area replaced with what I call ‘condo canyon.’ The major change in the landscape made me interested in conservation from an early age.”

With the world’s growing population, he believes “we’re probably going to have to increase the productivity of our existing land base by at least 50% in the next 20 years.” 

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Lifesaving Diagnostics

Anantha Chandrakasan.In regions near the equator, people are at risk of contracting malaria from mosquitos. It’s a treatable disease if quickly detected. However, symptoms often don’t appear for days, which can have deadly consequences. Last summer, the laboratories of CMU President Subra Suresh (above) and MIT’s Anantha Chandrakasan published, in the journal Lab on a Chip, findings on recognizing electrical properties of infected cells, which could lead to early malarial detection and save countless lives. The researchers are now working to integrate this breakthrough into a portable detection device that could be used throughout the world.

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Global Connection

Global Connection.
A new partnership is connecting CMU to one of China’s largest research institutions, Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong Province. When the Joint Institute of Engineering opens its doors next fall, the CMU-SYSU collaboration will offer graduate programs in electrical and computer engineering. Students will earn dual degrees and gain international experience by studying at both universities.



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Marketing Call

Srinivasan.Celebrity endorsements are a time-tested marketing technique. Companies spend enormous amounts of money to get famous people’s names connected to their products, but does that actually raise profits? Or are companies merely following unproven strategies from a bygone era?

This is the question Kannan Srinivasan, a Tepper professor of international business and management, marketing, and information systems, decided to investigate. After speaking with some golf enthusiasts in his department, he knew where to start: Tiger Woods. Did an endorsement from the world’s number one golfer help sell enough golf merchandise to warrant the mammoth amount of money Nike reportedly paid him annually?

His conclusions, “The Economic Value of Celebrity Endorsement: Tiger Woods’ Impact on Sales of Nike Golf Balls,” were published last year in the journal Marketing Science. In the 23-page paper, lead author Srinivasan determined:

Tiger Woods.From 2000 to 2010, the Nike golf ball division reaped an additional profit of $103 million through the acquisition of $9.9 million in sales from Tiger Woods’ endorsement effect. Moreover, having Tiger Woods’ endorsement led to a price premium of roughly 2.5%. As a result, approximately 57% of Nike’s investment in Woods’ $181 million endorsement deal was recovered just in U.S. golf ball sales alone.

The findings are just the latest in a long line of business marketing papers that have garnered international attention. It also exemplifies why Srinivasan received the 2013 Fellow Award from INFORMS Society for Marketing Science, which is the largest professional society in the world for the field. The honor recognizes significant accomplishments in the practice of marketing.

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Balancing Act

Balancing Act.At universities today, financial officers face conflicting demands that involve financial realities, the educational mission, and public expectations. “They are to go forth and be fiscally prudent, but not in a way which places economics before academics,” wrote Amir Rahnamay-Azar in his dissertation while pursuing his EdD in higher education management from Penn. He put his words into action as a financial officer at USC (1999-2010) and Georgia Tech (2010-2013). Last August, he brought his expertise to CMU, where he is Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer.

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OutstandingWhen it comes to autism, “there is no cure,” according to the NIH. However, Kathryn Roeders’ latest statistical research has helped to identify genes that affect a child’s risk for autism, knowledge that could one day impact diagnosis and treatment of the condition. In part for the Carnegie Mellon professor’s statistical research into autism, she recently received the Janet L. Norwood Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Statistical Sciences, which is given annually by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health.

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Silicon Valley Scene

Silicon Valley SceneNot too long ago, Bob Iannucci and his wife were trekking through the Costa Rican rain forest, scanning trees for the bright colors or flap of wings that would alert them to one of the many birds they hoped to see. Iannucci had his camera at the ready. Amid the serene surroundings, he contemplated combining his interest in birds with his research on sensory devices—perhaps using the ability to collect data on temperature, noise pollution, and weather to help enthusiasts both find and protect birds.

It’s this entrepreneurial, project-based mindset that Iannucci brought to Carnegie Mellon’s Silicon Valley campus (CMU-SV) when he became a faculty member in the summer of 2012. Over the course of his career, he had worked for several technology and software companies, in positions ranging from lead engineer at startups to chief technology officer of Nokia.

Having built his reputation as a top-tier professional, he says, he wanted to challenge himself not with another startup, but with passing along to students his research, entrepreneurship, and technological innovation expertise. CMU-SV—strategically located in the heart of Silicon Valley—was an ideal fit, offering MS programs in software engineering, software management, engineering and technology innovation management, and information technology as well as a PhD program in electrical and computer engineering.

Silicon Valley Scene 2.Iannucci says he has been delighted with his move to academia. He has helped to prepare students to begin their own startups, become sought-after candidates for prominent tech companies, or become faculty members at world-class schools.

His influence on CMU-SV has expanded; he took over as director of the campus last July while also being CMU’s Associate Dean of the College of Engineering. Obviously, there’s not a lot of free time on his calendar, so he says there are no immediate plans to pursue development of sensory devices in bird habitats. But, he adds, the concept behind it—using technology to change the world—is his overriding focus for CMU-SV.

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Russian Reign

Top collegiate teams gather at the Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Think coaches, medals, and, yes, even cheerleaders. But, as the 120 computer workstations suggest, this isn’t an athletic event. Carnegie Mellon’s Nathaniel Barshay (CS’13), Yan Gu (CS’14), and Jonathan Paulson (CS’13) take the field in matching Tartan shirts, sharing a computer as they race to solve 11 programming challenges. By the end of last summer’s prestigious Association for Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest, they had won top honors among North American teams.

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United Kingdom Honour

UKHonourAnesthesia is tricky; selecting the appropriate type and dosage based on a multitude of factors is essential for any medical procedure. Stratos Pistikopoulos has helped physicians, through computer processes, correctly determine what’s best for the patient. It’s this kind of impactful work—from a career during which he has published more than 250 articles—that has led to his election into the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Engineering, that country’s highest recognition for engineers. Pistikopoulos earned his PhD in chemical engineering from CMU in 1988 and is a professor at London’s Imperial College.

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Watch Out!

Watch Out!Ariel Procaccia is descended from a “dynasty of professors.” His grandfather, uncle, and cousin are law professors, and his father, “‘the black sheep,’ who studied exact science,” broke the mold by becoming a physics professor.

Procaccia doesn’t mind that he was “destined” to become a professor. “What other job gives you absolute freedom to do the things that you find most interesting and work with some of the smartest people in the world?” he rhetorically asks.

On his way to earning his PhD in computer science, he discovered where his subsequent research, career, and academic passion would spring from: the “spirited intersection” of two fields, what he calls the “dynamic duo” of artificial intelligence and economics, a combination that he points out entails groundbreaking technology and societal impact.

As an assistant professor in CMU’s School of Computer Science since 2011, he embraces that combination to tackle problems such as protecting critical infrastructure sites, using voting rules for crowdsourcing, or facilitating kidney transplants by finding medically compatible donors.

For the work he does, he was named one of “AI’s 10 to Watch,” by IEEE Intelligent Systems magazine, a peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to advancing the theory, practice, and application of computer and information-processing science and technology. The list is compiled every two years, and those selected are researchers who have completed their doctoral work in the past five years and already have made impressive research contributions.

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Quantum Result

Quantum Result.Sam Zbarsky might not wear a team jersey as he walks the halls of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md. But make no mistake, he’s a competitor. He is one of only 20 students nationwide to make it to “training camp” for the 2013 Olympics—the 44th International Physics Olympiad, that is.

It was a long time coming. As a freshman, he signed up for a number of academic clubs, but when he learned about the international competition, the physics club got his attention. Making the cut for the Olympiad training camp was a long shot, though. Each year, thousands of the brightest high-schoolers try out for the team, but only 20 make it to training camp: from that group, only five are chosen to represent the United States.

The odds didn’t faze Zbarsky. Sure enough, during his senior year of high school, he receives an invitation to training camp at the University of Maryland. For nine days there, he studies intensively, completes mystery labs, takes daily exams, and solves complex problems. There are no sentimental favorites in the final selections for the Olympiad. It all comes down to testing results.

In just a few months, he will begin his freshman year at CMU’s Mellon College of Science, and he hopes to tell stories to his classmates about competing at the Olympiad, which will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Quantum Result 2. At training camp, he learns how to use equipment like oscilloscopes, and how to record results and procedures. With each lab, he feels his abilities growing, but still, he isn’t certain he will make the final cut.

He does!

Last July, in Copenhagen, Zbarsky and the other four students representing the United States (two from New Jersey and two from California) competed against the most brilliant, budding scientific minds of their generation—hailing from 83 countries. Zbarsky says he enjoyed the intensity. He also enjoyed the results, winning a silver medal at the Olympiad and having a great story to tell his newfound Carnegie Mellon friends a month later, two of whom turned out to be Olympic medalists as well from another competition: Thomas Swayze (S’17) and Ray Li (S’17) won silver medals as part of the U.S. team competing against 96 other countries in the International Mathematical Olympiad. 

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