Medieval Merriment at the Boar’s Head Dinner

A royal procession of deans, professors, and student leaders marked the beginning of the Boar’s Head Dinner, the University of Rochester’s longest-running tradition, on Thursday, December 4th. The 80th annual River Campus feast offered students and faculty a medieval meal by transforming Douglass Dining Center into a royal court set for a feast — jesters included!

Regarded as one of the University’s biggest events for student life, this year’s upperclassman scrambled to secure a spot at the feast, with tickets selling out in just under an hour.

More than 600 attendees enjoyed the holiday dinner of turkey, roast pork, and apple stuffing as served by members of the campus a cappella groups. After Hours, the Midnight Ramblers, Roc Hakol, Vocal Point, and the YellowJackets also provided some musical entertainment, leading the captive, hungry audience in singing “The Boar’s Head Carol,” “The Gloucestershire Wassail,” “Figgy Pudding,” and “Let it Snow,” among other festive tunes. The caroling servers, dressed as lords and ladies, acted as the dinner’s medieval waitstaff.

The Strong Jugglers also offered entertainment as court jesters to the High Table, composed of deans, administrators, student leaders from the SA Government and Campus Activities Board, and a faculty member chosen as the Boar’s Head Reader.

This year, Professor of Chemistry Benjamin Hafensteiner provided his account of the Story of the Boar. Building off of the story of an Oxford student’s encounter with a wild boar, Hafensteiner’s remarks featured his own spin on the historic tale, adding in his own UR-centric references along the way.

Each year, a student organization that has positively impacted campus life receives the Boar’s Head Award. Past winners include the D’lions, ADITI, and MERT. GlobeMed, last year’s Boar’s Head recipient, had the honor of “passing on the boar” to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization rooted in creating an educated community dedicated to engaging issues of social and economic justice

Through teach-ins, forums, and public panel discussions, SDS works to educate the campus on current issues, in both the global and campus communities. In the past year, the group has helped to advocate for fair wages for University workers through demonstrations, speak outs, and petitions. In May, they held a Community Field Day to bridge the gap between students of different backgrounds.

The evening wrapped up with another quintessentially Rochesterian tradition: the singing of the Genesee.  Asking all of the seniors to stand, Dean Burns honored those who will soon be wrapping up their last fall semester as undergraduate students.  A unique tradition providing merry hearts and full stomachs, the Boar’s Head Dinner is an experience that is not to be missed in your time at Rochester!

From Breadboards to Brooches: Making Jewelry with Amanda Preske

By Joe Bailey
University Communications

When walking by the Common Market, you may have noticed one of the University’s quirky little treasures: jewelry hand-made from old circuit boards. Many have speculated on who creates these works of art. Could it be a computer science student, or perhaps a studio art major? Actually, these little treasures were designed by third-year chemistry doctoral student, Amanda Preske. Preske is a student in the Krauss Lab, and when she’s not in the lab making carbon nanotubes for use in artificial electron transfer chemistry, she’s in her workshop making jewelry. Her creations are on display in the art cart on the first floor of Wilson Commons, next to the Common Market, and made their debut during the holiday shopping fair in December.

Preske got her inspiration to make circuit boards into jewelry at an early age, while watching her brother tear apart an old computer. She saw beauty where others might have just seen silicon and metal. Another important source of materials for her has been the E-cycling program, both at her alma mater, RIT, and here at the U of R. Electronics are recycled and repurposed in this program, and if the circuitry catches her eye, she’ll scoop it up, encase it in epoxy resin, and turn it into an earring or necklace. It is necessary to encase the circuits in epoxy not only to produce the characteristic glossy shine, but also to protect wearers of the jewelry from sharp soldered contacts, or other loose circuit elements.

Wherever someone has an old computer, she’ll be right there waiting to repurpose the breadboard into art. As Preske told this reporter, “why be boring, when you can embrace your quirks?”

Preske’s creative business is made possible by Etsy, which is a specialized website similar to eBay. Etsy allows artisans to sell high-quality hand-crafted pieces on a larger scale than they would be able to otherwise. In fact, the art cart where Preske sells her jewelry on campus is sponsored by Etsy’s Rochester branch. Cash or credit are currently the only accepted forms of payment, however, it is likely that flex will be accepted as a form of payment at promotional events in the future. Preske plans to continue her business in the future, even once she graduates with her doctorate. She has always enjoyed hands-on projects such as this jewelry business.

The Elusive Geomechanics Major

By Dan Wang ’14
Univ. Communications

Out of the more than 4,500 full-time undergrads at the University of Rochester, exactly three are pursuing a major in geomechanics. Just who are these brave few?

The trio is made up of very different students: a freshman from Kingston, Jamaica who emphasizes her environmentalism; a junior who went to high school in Rochester and would like to work on an oil platform or for an oilfield services company; and a Take 5 scholar from outside of New York City who would like to do fieldwork to study seismology and geothermal energy.

But first, what kind of degree are they pursuing? The bachelor of science degree in geomechanics is a program run jointly between the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. An interdisciplinary major, completing geomechanics also means taking classes in math, physics, and chemistry.  Lisa Norwood ’86, ’95, assistant dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and a former geomechenics major, describes the program this way, “The curriculum emphasizes the application of the principles of mechanics to problems associated with the atmosphere, the oceans, and the solid earth.”

Kayon Ellis ’16 has not yet declared her geomechanics (geomech) major, but she’s quite set on pursuing it. Ellis comes by way of Jamaica, and this is her first year living in the United States. A commitment to environmentalism and an analysis of basin sediments in streams prior to coming to Rochester propelled her to study geomechanics. “I find the study of the earth fascinating,” says Ellis. “You just can’t study anything in isolation; you have to analyze the whole system.”

Two years ahead, Michael Grotke ’14 has different goals in mind. Grotke grew up in Tucson, Arizona and attended high school in Rochester. On campus, he works part-time for the Earth and Environmental Science Lab, and is a member of the SA Appropriations Committee. What does he see himself doing? “I hope to use this degree towards a career in the oil and natural gas industry, most likely shale-gas and crude oil exploration.” The companies he’d like to apply his geomech training to include Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Shell, and Halliburton.

Skipping two more years ahead, the final geomech major is Brian Castro ’12 (T5). Though he had a hard time deciding between studying physics and mechanical engineering, he has embraced the geomech major with vigor. Castro also has extensive experience in fieldwork. Research on geothermal energy took him to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and, as part of an NSF-sponsored program, to work at a geosciences research company in New Zealand. He also conducted seismic research at the University, in Professor Cynthia Ebinger’s lab. Castro’s interests are more academic, and he’d like to further study seismology, geothermal energy, and planetary science.

The major is robust enough to accommodate all of these interests. Dean Norwood sees no shortage of ways to use the geomech major. “Career opportunities include work with the U.S. Geological Survey and with departments of natural resources or environmental protection at the federal, state, and county levels; with the oil and mineral resources industries; and in multidisciplinary private consulting firms engaged in geological engineering.”

Oceanography: A new addition to Earth and Environmental Sciences

By Alayna Callanan ’14
Univ. Communications

Many students at the University of Rochester may enroll in introductory chemistry courses with no clue how the material can relate to anything they care about. But, Associate Professor John Kessler hopes his new class, EES 212: A Climate Change Perspective to Chemical Oceanography, can demonstrate how the material relates to students and help them understand the course concepts.

Kessler hopes to show students that “chemistry can be done outside a sterile chemistry lab.” Oceanography, he explains, provides tangible, real-life applications of chemistry, geology, and biology. It is a topic fairly new to the University, but since nearly 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, study of the oceans is critical to understanding climate change.

Junior Erin Hayes is pursuing a degree in the geological sciences and has been looking for this missing link ever since she took an oceanography class in high school. “I’m very excited to take a course that combines both my interests in Chemistry and Geology,” Hayes says.

Research experience is another academic component that Hayes and many other students strive to get.  Kessler is planning an exciting field trip where students will be able to conduct research themselves. The research will focus on oceanic methane, a contributor to greenhouse gases and a personal favorite of Kessler’s, and will explore the dynamics and effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Students interested in the opportunity should contact him or take his class to find out the details of the project.

Kessler previously taught oceanography at Texas A&M University and has done extensive work as chief scientist regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He normally has a limited scope of how he can study oceanic methane, but with this unfortunate accident, researchers used the opportunity to “learn how the planet functions naturally,” says Kessler. Geologic record has shown that similar situations have occurred in the past. Since no one can deliberately release at least 200,000 tons of oil and gas, this phenomenon has not been able to be replicated. Although Kessler typically studies natural events, he performed work on this because the spill was natural but accelerated, essentially. Research from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is still being analyzed. Professor Kessler hopes to introduce students to oceanography, more specifically chemical oceanography, and will tie in his personal knowledge and research to the class.

Read More: At Least 200,000 Tons of Oil and Gas from Deepwater Horizon Spill Consumed by Gulf Bacteria

Alayna Callanan ’14 is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences. She is the president of UR Rock Climbing Club and the Outing Club, is the secretary of the Undergraduate Student Geological Organization and is a member of Gamma Phi Beta.

In the Photos (courtesy of John Kessler): Professor John Kessler conducts research during his first expedition to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences and Humanities Alumni: Mona Koda

Name: Mona Koda
Age: 27
Occupation: Vice President of Operations at Hokushokousan
Education (UR and additional): B.A. in Chemistry/B.A. in Japanese with a minor in Psychology, University of Rochester, 2006; M.P.H. in Environmental Health Sciences, Molecular and Environmental Epidemiology Track, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, 2008; M.B.A. in Finance and Healthcare Management, University of Rochester, Simon Graduate School of Business, 2010.
Current city/state of residence: Sapporo, Japan


What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?


I was involved in both executive boards of UR Cinema Group and the Campus Activities Board, as well as being the founder of Yosakoi (also known as Japan Matsuri, although the club no longer exists). I learned many different leadership skills, such as time management, communication skills, and conflict resolution.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?


After graduation, I went to Columbia University to complete my Master in Public Health (MPH). I have been interested in medicine since I was a child, making a career in the medical field felt natural. Once I found out about the program, the decision to apply was the obvious course for me.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?


I currently work for my family’s company in Japan, as the Vice President of Operations and Managing Director. I also consult for the company while handling the company’s finances, accounting, and human resources. I chose this job since they needed someone with business education and I had happened to complete my MBA at the time.

Where would you like to be in five years?


I would like to be back in the medical field, either as a medical student or at a job. Although I have gained valuable experience from my current work outside the field, I would like to be able to use my previous education in both public health and business in the next chapter of my life.

How are you still connected with the University?


I currently do interviews as an alum for the incoming MBA class since I went to the Simon School as well as the College. Additionally, I visit the school whenever I am back in Rochester, to keep up to date with developments of the University.

What advice do you have for current students?


Attend events since they are both more diverse and easier on the wallet than what you would find outside of campus, giving you experiences you would otherwise miss. Be involved on campus by participating in clubs that interest you, since the skills you can gain from them will be useful later in life.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Julia Tomoyasu Silveira

Julia Tomoyasu Silveira
Age: 26
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Chemistry, University of Rochester, 2008; Pharmacology Graduate Student, Weill Cornell Medical College.
Current city/state of residence: New York, NY
Job Title: Graduate Student
Employer: Weill Cornell Medical College

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I chose to come to Rochester because I thought the school had a perfect size with very good science departments. My dad is Brazilian and my mom is Japanese, so they were clueless in giving me suggestions on where I should go to college. But the only thing my dad who works in a pharmaceutical company told me was, if I want to become a scientist I should go to a university with a graduate program instead of a liberal arts college. I wanted to study liberal arts with emphasis in chemistry but I wanted to do research, so I thought Rochester would be the perfect combination, and it really was!

When and how did you choose your major?

I chose Chemistry as my major because that was the only subject I remained good at while I learned English in high school, and I was very interested in how molecules interact with each other in nature. I started to realize that everything we see and touch are chemical molecules and interact with each other based on chemical principles and physics. I wanted to learn the “language of nature” in a way. I was fascinated that even though we think life is very complex, it all comes down to how atoms and small molecules interact with each other. As a chemistry major, I thought I would be able to get an overview of chemical interactions in nature.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I spent most of my time in Dr. Robert Boeckman’s lab doing research and working at Java Cart (I don’t think it’s there anymore, it was right next to ITS). I just loved chemistry so much so I did everything to earn more chemistry. I was a Chemistry TA for two years (Organic Chemistry workshop leader and General Chemistry TA) and learned how to teach. I also learned that explaining concepts are very hard and appreciated the work of teachers so much more!  I was also in ADITI and learned about Indian culture. At first I was hesitant to join because most of the students are Indian in ADITI, but they were very welcoming. Not only I learned how to dance Bhangra and Garba, I learned that Hinduism is close to Buddhism and found so many things in common between Japan and India. It was really fun to learn about various Indian customs and dances through ADITI.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

I recommend using the writing center. I am half-Japanese and half-Brazilian, and I moved to the US when I was 16, so I am not good at writing at all. I was very shy about asking for help in writing, but they are very helpful, and they always answered my questions patiently. My English improved a lot after I started going to the writing center.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

Dr. Robert Boeckman and Dr. Dinnocenzo have been my mentors in Rochester. I was pre-med until I graduated but I had interest in research, so they gave me advice on what career to choose and they were always encouraging me to pursue my passion. They knew that I was interested in both biology and chemistry, so they asked me hard questions to make the right career choice for my future. I always looked up to them and I started thinking about going to graduate school when I met these professors. I thought if I could think about science all day and advice students like they were doing to me, it must be a fun job. They always talk about their work with such passion and I want to become a scientist like them.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I worked at the NIH as a post-baccalaureate fellow for a year right after graduation. I was a chemistry major, but I was pre-med and loved doing research, so I decided to try medicinal chemistry research at the NIH Chemical Genomics Center. I thought it could be a perfect combination of chemistry and medicine. I synthesized small molecules that were screened for potential inhibitors for various proteins. I realized that I wanted to learn what molecules do in the body to have an effect, so I decided to switch to another job. For two years, I worked at Uniformed Services University at the Naval Medical Center under Dr. Brian Cox looking at the endogenous opioid gene expression in the brain (amygdala region) after stress. I did not know anything about neuroscience, but I learned while I worked there. I really enjoyed studying neuropharmacology and working with Dr. Cox made me decide to go to graduate school.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. I am still a first year, so I have not joined a lab yet, but I am interested in neuropharmacology. I am especially interested in addiction and fear. I chose this career because I like doing research and I like asking questions about science. I find our brain so fascinating and I want to learn more about how our bodies work in such an intricate and an elegant way.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

I started to exercise and cook after I graduated from college. It sounds very obvious, but it is important to eat well and move your body as well as working. After exercising and eating well, I realized I work more efficiently, and it has been really good for my health.

How are you still connected with the University?

I still keep in touch with professors and I see friends from college all the time. Professors wrote me recommendations for graduate school admissions without any hesitation and they were very happy to hear that I got accepted to Cornell.

I moved to Washington D.C. without knowing that many people but I went to a happy hour run by the U of R alumni, and made new Rochester friends there. It is amazing how you become close friends with people from college even if you didn’t know that person when you were there! Just because I went to Rochester, I felt close to my classmates and become close friends. I was very pleasantly surprised to make new friends after college this way.

What advice do you have for current students?

I would just enjoy more and stop complaining about the cold. I remember when I was there, I was always thinking about the next exam, and how cold it was and I wish it were over soon. I wish I just took some time off to appreciate all the resources and went out to Eastman and participated in student clubs more. Now that I think about it, if I didn’t complain about the cold too much, it wouldn’t have gotten to my nerves as much. Of course, I also would advice to study hard! Even though I do not use what I learned in class while I was in Rochester now, I know how to analyze and criticize scientific work. I learned how to study in college, and I am so glad I did.

Nine Rochester Students Awarded Fellowships for Graduate Research

Univ. Communications – Nine University of Rochester students and six alumni have been named recipients of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. Additionally, 18 current students and recent alumni also were given honorable mentions by the NSF. The fellowship, which is part of a federally sponsored program, provides up to three years of graduate study support for students pursing doctoral or research-based master’s degrees. Since the program’s inception in 1952, it has supported nearly 50,000 students conducting research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and selected social science disciplines. Of the more than 12,000 applicants, only 2,000 were awarded fellowships and 1,783 were given honorable mentions. The fellowship includes a three-year annual stipend of $30,000, a $10,500 educational allowance to the institution, and international research and professional development opportunities.

The following graduating seniors received fellowships:

  • Emilia Sola-Gracia ’12, bachelor of science in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • David Kaphan ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Sharese King ’12, bachelor of arts in linguistics, minor in American Sign Language
  • Mark D. Levin ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry, minor in mathematics
  • Susan Pratt ’12, bachelor of arts in mathematics and bachelor of science in physics

The following graduating seniors received honorable mentions:

  • Chad Hunter ’12, bachelor of science in chemical engineering, minor in mathematics
  • Matej Penciak ’12, bachelor of science in physics and bachelor of arts in mathematics
  • Benjamin E.R. Snyder ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry and bachelor of arts in mathematics

The following graduate students received fellowships:

  • Michael Baranello, doctoral degree candidate in chemical engineering
  • Ellie Carrell, doctoral degree candidate in pharmacology and physiology
  • Jason Inzana, doctoral degree candidate in biomedical engineering
  • Vijay Jain, doctoral degree candidate in physics

The following graduate students received honorable mentions:

  • Esteban Buz, doctoral degree candidate in brain and cognitive sciences
  • Dev Crasta, doctoral degree candidate in clinical and social sciences in psychology
  • Adam B. Johnson, doctoral degree candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Patrick S. Murphy, doctoral degree candidate in microbiology & immunology
  • Ian Perera, doctoral degree candidate in computer science

The following recent alumni, who are currently pursing advanced degrees elsewhere, received fellowships:

  • Molly Boutin ’11, bachelor of science in biomedical engineering
  • Caitlin Hilliard ’10, bachelor of arts in brain and cognitive sciences and American Sign Language
  • Patrick Sheehan ’11, bachelor of science in physics & astronomy and bachelor of arts in mathematics
  • Raisa Trubko ’10, bachelor of arts in physics and bachelor of science in optics
  • David J. Weinberg ’11, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Hannah (Geswein) Williamson ’08, bachelor of arts in psychology

The following recent alumni, many of whom are currently pursing advanced degrees elsewhere, received honorable mentions:

  • Samuel Anderson ’11, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Isthier Chaudhury ’11, bachelor of science in chemical engineering and bachelor of arts in interdepartmental programs
  • Emily (Grzybowski) Dennis ’11, bachelor of science in molecular genetics and bachelor of arts in studio arts
  • Aaron Gorenstein ’11, bachelor of science in computer science
  • Seth Kallman ’09, bachelor of science in brain & cognitive sciences
  • Kathleen Mulvaney ’10, bachelor of science in molecular genetics
  • Alison Ossip-Klein ’10, bachelor of science in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Camillia Redding ’10, bachelor of arts in political science
  • Maria Strangas ’10, bachelor of science in ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Adam Williamson’08, bachelor of science in electrical & computer engineering and bachelor of arts in physics

Article written by Melissa Greco Lopes, editor of The Buzz and student life publicist in University Communications. Photo courtesy of  the NSF website.

Dance Conference Gets Students Moving

Univ. Communications – The University of Rochester’s Program of Dance and Movement has for years been a small but vibrant community. Perhaps many of you are unfamiliar with the academics of the dance program but the presence of dance as an integral part of campus life cannot be denied.  There are nine extracurricular dance ensembles and regular performances by invited groups. Within the program, however, students find even more opportunities to explore new styles and connect with dancers from other universities.

The weekend before Spring Break, 10 dance students, along with program director Missy Pfohl Smith and dance instructor Courtney World, traveled to Penn State University for the annual American College Dance Festival Association’s Northeast regional conference.  The enthusiastic students kept a blog chronicling their experiences of conference, which consisted of workshops on different dance techniques and principles of motion. There were also performances by dance ensembles from various colleges, including Rochester.

“Since we all come from very different backgrounds in regard to styles of dance and amount of experience, the conference gave us a chance to come together and grow as dancers individually and as a group,” said Emily Hart ’12, a chemistry major and psychology minor. “Keeping the blog was a way to remember the little moments we loved and to stay connected with everyone on the trip and the members of our groups back in Rochester.”

Dance workshops ranged from more traditional jazz and tap instruction to contemporary styles such as house and hip-hop. The students were free to choose which classes to attend and they enthusiastically recounted their social and educational experiences through blog posts.  The instructors also had an opportunity to partake in the workshops as students.   The weekend was “a whirlwind of information, inspiration and connection,” blogged Smith.

The Rochester students gave two performances, one informal called Alien Nation and a formal performance titled Time/Save/Loss/Return. Afterward, Smith wrote: “I just want to share how proud I am of Alaina, Nichole, Lauren, Sydney and Robert, who performed with conviction, honesty and intention today. The fullness of their movement and their connection to one another was very moving and many colleagues; both those I know and those I met this weekend sought me out to congratulate me on what a meaningful and impressive commitment they showed in the work.”

Since their return the student participants have been eager to implement the new techniques they learned into their personal dance and performances with groups like Indulgence, Louvre Performance Ensemble, and Ballet Performance Group. “I’m incredibly thankful that the administration at UR is supporting the dance community on campus. There are a lot of students with plenty of passion for dance,” said Hart, who is a member of both Louvre and BPG. “Dance has been the biggest factor in making my undergraduate experience as fulfilling as it has been,”

“The weekend literally felt like one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ moments for me. I never had the chance to experience so much dancing and actually [be] able to watch live performances,” blogged Octavia Rhim ’15, a member of Sihir Bellydancing Ensemble and Indulgence, at the end of the weekend. “I think that any college student passionate about dance or even just interested, should have the opportunity to go to ACDFA.”

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications. She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world. An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo. She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia ( and the other to photography (

In The First Photo: From left to right are students Sierrah Grigsby ’13, Sydney Robinson ’14, Robert Chen ’11, Nicole Zizzi ’14, Octavia Rhim’15, and Emily Hart’12. Photos courtesy of the student participants.

Two University Scientists Honored as AAAS Fellows

Richard E. Waugh, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and James M. Farrar, professor of chemistry, have been elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and the publisher of the journal Science.

Waugh and Farrar are among 539 new members being honored for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

The AAAS recognized Waugh for his “distinguished contributions to the study of cell and membrane mechanics and for leadership in biomedical engineering.”

Waugh received a Ph.D. in bioengineering from Duke in 1977 and came to Rochester in 1980. His laboratory has historically been one of the leading facilities for investigating red blood cell mechanical properties and the stability of biological membranes.

Farrar was selected for his “distinguished contributions to gas phase ion chemistry, especially the dynamics of ion-molecule collisions and spectroscopy of mass-selected cluster ions.” In the chemistry department he joins his colleagues, Robert K. Boeckman, Jr., William Jones, Thomas Krugh, Douglas Turner, and Richard Eisenberg as a Fellow of the AAAS.

Farrar received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1974 and joined the Rochester faculty two years later. Farrar and his research group focus on reaction dynamics and the photochemistry of ionic species.

New fellows of the AAAS will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Saturday, February 18 at the Fellows Forum, during the 2012 AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver, B.C.

Article courtesy of Peter Iglinski, senior press officer in University Communications. Logo courtesy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science website.

Theater in England: A New Perspective over Winter Break

Univ. Communications – Theater has long been a vibrant and visible element of students’ academic and extracurricular experience at the University of Rochester. Through the International Theater Program productions at Todd, classes in the English department, student groups like The Opposite Of People (TOOP), Drama House, and many other avenues, students here have the opportunity to engage in all levels of the production and research of drama and the performing arts. But perhaps the jewel in the school’s theatrical crown is the annual Theatre in England course which has, for the past twenty-one years, brought students to London over winter break for the ultimate theater-going experience.

The course, which has been taught by Professor Russell Peck since the late 1980s, combines a condensed study abroad experience with a four-credit workload and one to three play attendances per day. “The students sometimes feel lonely if they saw only one play that day,” said Peck with a laugh. This year, twenty-two students collectively attended thirty-five plays.

Each morning starts off with breakfast and a class at the Harlingford Hotel, which has been the London home base for Peck’s group for years. The previous day’s plays are discussed, scripts sometimes read, and performances are evaluated on everything from technical execution to metaphysical issues.

“It’s really nice to be in a room with thirty intellectual people who have all seen the show and to be able to have a multifaceted conversation about all the different aspects of it,” said Jessica Chinelli ’12, an English major with a concentration in theater. Chinelli was formerly the artistic director of TOOP and has worked on Todd productions in both a technical and performance capacity.

After class, the students have a few hours to relax and explore the city before the matinee performances begin. Peck schedules as many plays as he can, some mandatory for all students and many optional, providing a range of choices for each day. Seeing such a large number of plays can be overwhelming, but ultimately the program pushes students to make connections and develop perspective that cannot emerge from seeing just one play.

“The course really builds on itself,” Peck explained. “It’s always good to see several plays together, whether they have anything to do with each other or not.” Though he does not plan the program based on any particular theme or common element, the students quickly begin to weave the connecting threads on their own.

“I think that probably more than any course it helps people to see and to recognize how visually oriented their mental activity is,” Peck said. “They learn to see and judge things from different points of view.”

The students participating come from all academic backgrounds. This year, less than half were English majors. Some have been interested or involved in theater for years and others enter a theater for the first time in their lives when they arrive in London.

“It’s probably one of the greatest experiences that I will ever have in my life,” said Dongdong Han ’12, who is majoring in molecular genetics and had no knowledge of theater prior to the trip. “I know that the theater majors that went, and the folks who are interested in theater really got a lot out of it, but for somebody like me it was a tremendous learning experience.”

Though he plans to pursue graduate school and a further career in research, Han believes that it is vital for scientists to develop interests beyond the lab. “I know a lot of my science and engineering friends have a thing, kind of this unnatural fear for the humanities and I think this is the best way to get someone into theater with no background and it’s one of the best ways to learn,” he explained. “I’ve always believed that the scientific field itself is not meant to stand in isolation. In other words, if you look at all of the top scientists, all of them cultivate [an interest for] something that’s not in the sciences.”

For chemistry major Jonathan Raybin ’12, the program was such a fruitful experience in his freshman year that he went this year for a second time. Since the program of plays is different every year, the course has the advantage of offering a unique experience to every group of students. Raybin has always loved theater but his major curriculum afforded little time to become more academically involved. Nevertheless, he finds that theater enriches his scientific studies. “The analytical skills you use watching are completely applicable. It’s also just…it can be a relief to not be thinking about science!”

“It teaches people how to read and to assess their reading, whether they’re science people or brain and cognitive people, or linguists, and it teaches them how to look,” Peck explained. “As long as they’re alive and people [this is something] that will have bearing on them.”

The group attends performances in a wide range of venues from black box theaters, to small fringe auditoriums, to the world’s most technically advanced Olivier Theater, which is part of the National Theater complex. There, the students even got a backstage tour.

The trip also includes a visit to the legendary Stratford-upon-Avon to view Shakespearean plays in their original setting and attendance to the New Year’s Eve mass at Westminster Abbey. Students sit in the choir and observe the performance of religious rites which are at the root of modern English and French theatrical traditions.

Besides the abundant number of theaters and acting companies in London, another advantage to conducting the program there is the affordability of the experience of British theater. For example, plays at the National Theater are LE12.50 (about $20). “In New York for that play, if it comes to New York, we’d be paying between $100 and $125,” said Peck.

Students do pay for their own air fare but since the class counts as an overload of credits for the fall semester and students sign up in the fall, financial aid packages apply to the cost of the credit hours. Some limited financial aid also is available to cover the $2,750 fee for housing and play tickets. “I’ve been saving for this program since I heard abut it as a freshman,” said Chinelli. “But I made it and Professor Peck was really great about scholarships.”

She added enthusiastically: “It’s a once in a lifetime experience and it will change the way that you view things. [For the University] it’s not a financial investment, it’s an investment in the students, and that should tell you what it is worth.”

For more information about study abroad visit

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications. She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world. An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo. She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia ( and the other to photography (