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The Skinny on Thick Envelopes

This fall’s freshman class has nearly two dozen scholars from neighborhoods around the University Park campus.

Selectivity at USC is on the rise, with a record-low 21 percent of freshman applicants receiving the coveted “thick envelopes” last spring. This compares to 24.8 percent who were offered admission in 2007.

The “thick envelope” recipients include 22 students who live in the neighborhoods around the University Park campus and have been part of USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative since they were in seventh grade. These students attend university-run Saturday morning classes and weekday afternoon tutoring sessions to help them prepare for college. If accepted at USC, they are eligible for full financial aid grants.

This year, all 41 of the program’s participating graduates were offered admission at an institution of higher education. Nineteen of the proud USC-bound students, holding USC banners, had their picture taken with USC President Steven B. Sample (right).

And who are the other newcomers?

In all, USC received 35,809 applications for just 2,600 places in its freshman class � that’s 2,000 more applicants than the previous year’s pool.

Applications from New York, northern New Jersey and Long Island were up 11 percent, and those from the Washington, D.C., area were up 18 percent. More geographically diverse, the students are also smarter: The mean composite SAT score of all admitted applicants stands at 2,108 � 18 points above last year’s crop.

And they come from more diverse backgrounds. About 20 percent of the admitted applicants are under-represented minority students, and more than 10 percent are first-generation college goers. Recruited athletes are only 1.5 percent of admitted students.

Overall, 53 percent of admitted freshmen are Californians, 40 percent come from the other 49 states and U.S. territories, and 7 percent are foreign nationals.

“With this group of admitted students, USC has taken its place among the highest in academic rank and solidified its position as the nation’s most diverse, top-rated private university,” says USC vice provost for enrollment policy and management Jerome A. Lucido.

“These are extraordinarily talented and interesting young women and men to teach � and to have as classmates and roommates.”

USC enrolls more African-American, Hispanic and Native American students than most other private research universities in the country. The total stood at 3,190 as of fall 2007 � out of an undergraduate student body of 16,500. Nearly 18 percent are low-income students (defined as Pell Grant-eligible) and, importantly, they graduate at rates comparable to the overall undergraduate population.

Nearly 60 percent of USC’s undergraduates � more than 9,000 students � receive some form of financial aid. USC offers admission without regard to ability to pay, and the university meets 100 percent of the demonstrated need of on-time financial aid applicants.

As a result, USC has the largest university-funded fi-nancial aid budget of any school in the country, providing more than $180 million each year to undergraduates.

The top 15 domestic locations of admitted students for fall 2008 include the Southland, Northern California, San Diego, Greater Chicago, New York City and suburbs, Dallas/Fort Worth, Seattle, Houston, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Boston, California’s central coast area, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Portland.

� James Grant

Photo by Philip Channing


A Love Story Set in a Landmark

A gift by alumna Verna B. Dauterive is the largest yet made by an African American to an American university.

Though they were born and raised in Louisiana, Verna Johnson and Peter Dauterive first set eyes on each other in Doheny Memorial Library. Their subsequent courtship, long marriage and lifelong ties to USC are the backdrop to a landmark $25 million gift � made in April by Verna B. Dauterive, M.Ed ’49, Ed.D ’66, in memory of her late husband, a 1949 graduate of the USC Marshall School of Business.

The history-making gift is the largest by an African American to a U.S. institution of higher learning. “We are tremendously grateful to Dr. Verna Dauterive � an alumna who personifies excellence in her professional and civic life � for honoring her alma mater in this way,” said USC President Steven B. Sample in announcing the gift.

Verna Dauterive received her bachelor of science degree from Texas’ Wiley College in 1943. Within months, she landed a teaching job, beginning a 62-year career with the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she held principalships and leadership positions in teacher selection, recruitment and university relations.

While employed with the district, she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in education at USC, taking classes at night and on weekends. Her dissertation � a historical-legal study of integration in U.S. public schools � has been has been widely used as a reference for law students.

Peter Dauterive enrolled at USC under the GI Bill after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He graduated near the top of his class and embarked on a banking career at the Broadway Federal Savings & Loan Association. He later earned a master’s degree in executive management from the University of Indiana and, in 1973, became the founding president and CEO of the Founders Savings & Loan Association.

Throughout the years, the Dauterives enjoyed a close, multifaceted relationship with their alma mater. In 1960, Verna was a founding member of the USC Rossier School of Education’s first support group, becoming its first woman president in 1974. She led the drive to create the school’s first endowed faculty position, the Irving R. Melbo Chair in Education. She has been an adjunct professor, served on all of the school’s decanal search committees since 1973 and continues to be a life member of USC Rossier’s Alumni and Support Association and a member of its board of councilors.

An ardent ambassador for the university at large, she was one of a small group of alumni that formed the nucleus of the USC Black Alumni Association in 1975.

In 1985, the couple endowed the Dr. Verna B. Dauterive and Peter W. Dauterive Scholarship � USC’s first scholarship for minority doctoral students in education.

About her current gift, Verna Dauterive is humble. “It’s an act that praises and thanks the university for its achievements and its dedication to diversity and global outreach,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to reach back and help those who follow and to leave a legacy for Peter.”

� Annette Moore

Peter and Verna Dauterive on campus in 1995, when Verna was honored by USC Rossier.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Verna B. Dauterive


�� QUICK PIX Assistant professor of ophthalmology Alexander Walsh of the Keck School of Medicine of USC briefed congressional staffers in February about optical coherence tomography, a non-invasive diagnostic technique that provides high-speed, high-resolution images of key structures within the eye. Walsh called the technique “revolutionary” and said it will be used to combat the growing epidemics of blinding eye diseases worldwide.

�� FREIGHT FLOWS Transportation expert Genevieve Giuliano, senior associate dean for research at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, is chairing a panel of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies that is studying the role of government in freight infrastructure projects. A report will be written this year for the U.S. Department of Transportation and congressional committees.

�� AD SNOOPS In a joint venture between the Annenberg schools at USC and the University of Pennsylvania, USC communication professor Jonathan Taplin and Joseph Turow from Penn examined the implications of new database marketing at a National Press Club panel in April. The panel discussed new advertising technologies that track consumer behavior and deliver relevant ads.

�� MUSING ON MISSILES The “U.S. Defense and Foreign Policy: Nonproliferation and Weapons of Mass Destruction” undergrad course taught by Wayne Glass of the School of International Relations met on Capitol Hill this summer. “One month in Washington is about the best classroom for studying policymaking that I can think of, featuring about 40 briefings from experts and officials all over the city, including Condoleezza Rice,” Glass says.

�� ALTERED STATE Professor Dowell Myers of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development spoke to state legislators in June about how California can shape immigration reform at the federal level. At a demographic hearing, Myers talked about the dynamic relationship between the state’s immigrants and its aging baby boomers, and the implications for the workforce, tax revenue, housing and access to education.

For more Capital Connections, visit

Global Horizons

Digging for Peace

Archaeologists draw up the first-ever agreement to govern the Middle East’s ancient artifacts.

Israelis and Palestinians may not be able to agree, right now, on their present or future, but if a pair of Los Angeles archaeologists have their way, they’ll soon see eye to eye on their past.

Working tirelessly for five years, UCLA archaeologist Ran Boytner and USC archaeologist Lynn Swartz Dodd have guided a team of prominent Israeli and Palestinian archaeologists to arrive at the first-ever agreement on the disposition of the region’s archaeological treasures following the establishment of a future Palestinian state.

“Our group got together with the vision of a future when people wouldn’t be at each other’s throats and archaeology would need to be protected, irrespective of which side of the border it falls on,” says Dodd, a lecturer in religion and curator of USC’s Archaeological Research Collection.

With dozens of high-ranking Israeli, Palestinian, U.S. and international statesmen and Palestinian archaeologists already aware of the Israeli-Palestinian Archaeology Working Group Agreement, the 39-point document now faces its toughest audience: Israeli archaeologists whose government would cede control of tens of thousands of artifacts and hundreds of sites.

“We’re talking about putting your precious archaeological heritage � things you believe your ancestors created � in the hands of what you now consider to be your enemy,” Dodd says. “We’re asking enemies to become partners.”

According to international law, says Boytner, director for international research at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, “if there is a future Palestinian state, the Israelis will have to return all archaeological artifacts to the Palestinian state.”

That could prove a deal-breaker in some future peace negotiations. But if archaeologists can reach an amicable agreement now, then “we can help create a stable peace process that will be respected by both sides for years to come,” says Boytner.

While the agreement does not spell out the disposition of specific sites or artifacts, it has implications � depending on how borders eventually are drawn � for a wide range of cultural lightning rods located in or excavated from Israeli-occupied territories. These include a religious compound thought to be involved in the production of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran), the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and an important site (Mount Ebal) thought to be the spot where the Old Testament leader Joshua built an altar to the Jewish God in thanks for allowing the Israelites to cross the Jordan River and reach the Promised Land.

In addition to international law on the repatriation of artifacts from occupied territories, the document draws on such democratic principles as equal protection for archaeological treasures of all cultures and unfettered access to sites and artifacts for the public and scholars, without regard to their ethnicity or religion.

Participants see themselves as private citizens trying with the only tool they have at hand to contribute to a process that so far has stumped diplomats.

“Even though we are archaeologists, we are peacemakers first,” Boytner says.

� Meg Sullivan

Sites such as the Jerusalem village of el-Walejeh would be protected under the pact.

Photo by Rafi Greenberg

[SPIRITUAL CZAR] Historic Hindu

With the appointment of Varun Soni as its new dean of religious life, the university founded by a Catholic, a Methodist and a Jew is making new interfaith inroads. The Indian-born, Southern California-reared lawyer and theologian is the first Hindu to serve as chief spiritual leader at an American university. Soni holds a raft of degrees: a bachelor’s in religion from Tufts University, a master’s in theological studies from Harvard University, a master’s in comparative religion from UC Santa Barbara and a juris doctor from UCLA. He is currently completing yet another � a Ph.D. in religious studies � from the University of Cape Town. His interest in world religion is long-standing. As an undergraduate, he lived among Buddhist monks in Burma. Later, he did field research in South Asia. “I feel deeply honored and humbled to be the next dean of religious life at USC,” says Soni, who takes over for the retiring dean of religious life, Rabbi Susan Laemmle.

To read more about USC’s groundbreaking new dean of religious life, visit



Have Brushes, Will Travel

A dental student practices her future profession without electricity in remote Honduran villages.

Launched two years ago by Kathy Stolarz, a USC School of Dentistry staff member, the USC chapter of the Global Medical Brigades has grown into one of the strongest in the country. Last January, more than 200 USC students and medical professionals traveled to rural Honduras to deliver health care. First-year dentistry student Susanna Grimm gives this account of her trip:

Our USC group is part of an international network of university clubs and nonprofit organizations working under the umbrella of the Global Medical Brigades. A brigade consists of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dentists assisted by undergraduate students studying medicine, dentistry, international relations or Spanish.

The volunteers pay their own way and are housed and fed by the nonprofit Sociedad Amigos de los Ni�os, founded in 1966 by Sister Maria Rosa Leggol. Thanks to Sister Maria Rosa’s dream of helping the children of her native Honduras, my fellow brigade members and I soon found ourselves traveling up steep mountainsides, feasting our eyes on spectacular vistas.

Hidden within those panoramic views were small villages in the middle of nowhere. Hundreds of villagers waited in line patiently for us to arrive and provide them with care. Wearing their best clothes and warmest smiles, the Hondurans often would walk for more than three hours from remote mountain villages in the hope of finding us. The sun was hot, their feet were bare, their bodies were weary, but there were no complaints, only thanks. Day after day, this is what I saw.

I experienced dentistry in its most rudimentary form. There was no electricity, no X-rays and no light except for the sun. Conditions were primitive, and patients varied considerably in their needs. Their ages ranged from 4 to 75 years. The elderly needed extractions, and the young needed a variety of treatment, but mostly they all needed education in good oral hygiene practices to prevent disease.

There were patients with severe periodontal disease whose teeth were rotted down to the gum line. Other dental “disasters” that I observed and helped to treat were periapical abscesses and fistulas along with the removal of residual roots.

The dental problems of both young and old reflected the effects of one of Honduras’ main crops and exports � sugar cane. The poor nutrition of the villagers and the lack of proper oral hygiene also contributed to dental miseries.

Each day hundreds of patients came in through triage and waited to see a doctor. While visiting the doctor, they would be asked if they needed a tooth pulled or had mouth pain. If they said yes, they were given medical and dental treatments, then sent to our makeshift pharmacy for medicine and vitamins. Along with the pharmaceuticals, everyone also received a toothbrush and toothpaste whether they had seen a dentist or not. These were the limited yet essential resources we could give them, and they were grateful.

A world away and separated by a cultural chasm, this human adventure in Honduras was a life-changing experience. Not only was it educational and motivational, but it also was eye-opening and inspirational. It revealed what a true test of skills, ingenuity and patience this one-week mission was for a dentist. I know that I made at least a little difference in the lives of those people I served.

To learn more about the national Global Medical Brigades volunteer network, visit

Illustration by Tim Bower



�� SWEET SIXTEEN USC shattered last year’s record of nine Fulbright Scholars as 16 students received the coveted grant for 2008-09. Fifty USC students applied for the honor, and 22 were selected as finalists � a 50 percent increase over last year’s number. In the coming academic year, USC Fulbrights will be traveling to 13 countries for study and research. “The university is attracting incredibly bright and accomplished students who are taking advantage of the university’s outstanding academic program and vast array of co-curricular offerings,” USC vice president for student affairs Michael Jackson says.

�� FRANK HONOR In April, USC was honored with one of four inaugural Benjamin Franklin Awards for Public Diplomacy, a prestigious new honor bestowed by the Department of State for outstanding contributions to public diplomacy at home and abroad. “We recognize USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy for having evolved into the world’s premier research facility in this field,” says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who presented the award to Adam Clayton Powell III, USC vice provost for globalization. USC offers the world’s first master’s degree in public diplomacy.

�� CHINA CONFAB More than 100 Chinese scholars and government officials attended the first international conference on evidence-based practice and policymaking for social sciences in Beijing. Organized by the School of Social Work and the USC Rossier School of Education in collaboration with Peking University’s Institute of Population Research, the two-day conference in March provided a framework for establishing a center on evidence-based practice in social science at Peking University, the first of its kind in Asia.

�� ELECTION SLEUTHS The USC U.S.-China Institute sent six university faculty members and students to observe the March 22 Taiwan presidential election. The six examined the democratization movement, the protocols in place to ensure fairness and the mobilization of women and young voters. While in Taiwan, they attended rallies and collected campaign ephemera. Once home, they presented their findings at a symposium that was widely covered by Chinese-language media.

For more information on USC’s global reach, visit

People Watch

Inspiring the ‘Spirit’

Jeffrey Davenport is the Trojan Marching Band’s unanimous choice for its most inspirational member.

Seven orthopedic surgeries didn’t stop Jeffrey Davenport from walking with his classmates at Commencement.

The 22-year-old Santa Monica native graduated this spring with a double major in German and print journalism. Born with cerebral palsy, which causes his legs to constantly tighten up, he still considers himself a lucky man.

Cerebral palsy, which is a one-time shock to the brain around the time of birth, ranges in severity. “My case was mild,” Davenport says, “and I am very thankful that I can still walk and participate in most things.”

He played trumpet for the USC Trojan Marching Band all four years. When it came time for the band’s student leaders to vote for this year’s Spirit of Troy honor, given to the group’s most inspirational member, Davenport was the unanimous choice.

“I was moved,” band director Arthur Bartner says. “What a great kid! He is a true Trojan. Even if he couldn’t do everything physically, he found a way to do it. He marched every game, coming in the stadium behind the band. He went on every trip. For four years, he played every note.

“His heart was right there.”

Davenport has played the trumpet since the fourth grade. At his high school, he was drum major for his last two years and conducted the field shows at football games and competitions. At USC, although he was not able to march in formations on the field, he played from the stands or the field.

Davenport’s personal highlights from his tenure with the band include a trip to Miami, where USC defeated Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl, and the unforgettable “Bush Push” game against Notre Dame later that year, when he, like many others, couldn’t see the winning touchdown and had to judge the end of the game by the reactions of band members in front of him.

Because of his disability, Davenport has not been able to participate in sports the way he would have liked. This has made him a bigger sports fan, and he hopes for a career as a sportswriter. “I don’t worry about what I can’t do, I just try my best,” says Davenport. It’s something that you learn to cope with, he says. “You can’t let [cerebral palsy] keep you down.”

� Steve McDonagh

Photo by Dietmar Quistorf


�� RETIRING Two senior administrators, Dennis F. Dougherty and Alan Kreditor, retired on June 30. Dougherty, senior vice president, finance and the university’s chief financial officer, and Kreditor, senior vice president, university advancement, have a combined 69 years of service to USC. Dougherty was responsible for financial and business support systems for the university’s faculty, students and staff, including budget and planning, treasury, comptroller, financial payroll and services. A former member of the board and later executive committee of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, he received its Distinguished Business Officer Award in 1994. USC awarded Dougherty an honorary degree in 2005. Kreditor, who has served in his present position since 1992, directed USC’s relations with philanthropic and volunteer communities, including individual supporters, charitable foundations, corporate donors and alumni. He spearheaded the university’s Building on Excellence campaign, which raised more than $2.9 billion, making it the most successful campaign in the history of American higher education at the time of its conclusion. Kreditor was a professor of planning and development, and previously served as dean of the USC School of Urban Planning and Development for 18 years, during which time he was instrumental in establishing the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Dennis F. Dougherty

Alan Kreditor

�� ATTORNEY Carol Mauch Amir, USC associate senior vice president of administration, has been named general counsel of the university. In this capacity, she advises the president, Board of Trustees and senior administrators in legal matters, and is responsible for overseeing all legal issues at USC in its various schools and departments and the affiliates it controls. She also will continue in her role as secretary of the university, where she is responsible for maintaining corporate documents and monitoring corporate filings of USC and its subsidiaries.

For a complete list of USC trustees, senior officers and deans, visit

Carol Mauch Amir

Conversation with MILIND TAMBE

Multi-Agent Man

The computer scientist, who has a thing for sci-fi, tells how an “annoying byproduct” of his research is improving airport security.

Milind Tambe, who came to USC in 1993 after earning a Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon, grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai) with a keen interest in science fiction � and cricket. He incorporates the former into some of his classes on artificial intelligent agents. Tambe explains how a random finding about randomization that he and colleagues observed is changing airport security practices. He spoke with USC Trojan Family Magazine’s Allison Engel.

How old were you when you became a Trekkie? In India, we got to see Star Trek in the 1980s. Before that, there were Isaac Asimov books that I borrowed from the library.

Is it true you sent a letter recently to the writer of one of your favorite Star Trek episodes? I wrote to Melinda Snodgrass, who had written about a robot who has rights. In my class on sci-fi and AI [artificial intelligence], we conduct a trial of that robot based on that episode. On a whim, I asked if she would come to the class. She lives in New Mexico, and she’s agreed to give a lecture in my class on Nov. 13.

You’re an expert in artificial intelligence, specifically multi-agent teamwork. What are multi-agents? Agents are entities with some degree of autonomy. They can be software-bots, which are software programs, or they can be robots or they can be real people or sensors. Multi-agents are systems where multiple agents interact.

What were the seeds of the randomization project you helped develop for airport security? It was never meant to be anything about randomization. In fall 2002, my Ph.D. student Praveen Paruchuri and I started work on teamwork with resource constraints, which is, let’s say, if you have two robots that want to collaborate but have only a fixed amount of fuel. It turned out in solving these problems that one way to attain coordination is to have the robots randomize their actions. We didn’t want that! The randomization seemed like an annoying byproduct.

So what did you do? USC’s Homeland Security Center [CREATE] was being formed about that time, and somebody gave a talk and said the terrorists had used the fact that our society runs precisely on time against us. I had this idea bubbling in my head about what to do with randomization. I thought, ‘This is what we use it for.’

How did it go from theory to practice at LAX? We presented this work at LAX in April 2007 to a roomful of 25 to 30 police officers. We said we could do randomization with some mathematical guarantees behind it. It’s not just rolling dice. It seemed like every single person in that room � the canine units, the checkpoints, the foot patrols � said they had a use for it. The greatest thing was that they actually started using it, beginning in August 2007.

Have other airports been calling? We’ve begun work with the federal air marshals and with TSA at another airport. And we are talking about other defense applications. I’m stunned by the amount of excitement it has generated. My parents in Mumbai said they got a call from reporters.

Now that you are immersed in randomization, do you still come to the office at the same time each day? I am a small enough person that I don’t have a security risk.

Were you a cricket player growing up? Yes. Everybody has to be. It doesn’t matter whether you have space or not. You find a little corridor and you start playing. When India was playing, our science teacher would hold a radio to his ears and teach. And then he’d suddenly stop and say, ‘It’s a 4!’ and write the score on the board. The problem is that you get emotionally involved with cricket players and the team. In college, I realized that if the Indian team would do well in cricket, then I would do well in my schoolwork. If they would do bad, I would do bad. So I had to eliminate this sort of addiction.

You’ve given up cricket? Not really. My sons, 9 and 10 years old, now play.

For a longer version of this interview, visit

Photo by Philip Channing

Lab Work

Life at Rock Bottom

Findings on seafloor microbes could change assumptions about the deep-sea carbon cycle and evolution.

Once considered a barren plain with the occasional hydrothermal vent, the seafloor appears to be teeming with microbial life, according to a paper published in Nature by a USC geomicrobiologist.

The world’s mid-ocean ridges � a 60,000-kilometer system of underwater mountain ranges � represent “potentially the largest surface area for microbes to colonize on Earth,” says the study’s author, Katrina Edwards of USC College.

While seafloor microbes have been detected before, this is the first time they have been quantified. Using genetic analysis, Edwards and her colleagues found thousands of times more bacteria on the seafloor than in the water above. The scientists also found higher microbial diversity on the rocks compared with other vibrant systems, such as those found at hydrothermal vents. With evidence that the oceanic crust supports more bacteria compared to overlying water, the scientists hypothesized that reactions with the rocks themselves might offer fuel for life.

Back in the lab, the researchers calculated how much biomass could theoretically be supported by chemical reactions with the basalt and compared the figure to the actual biomass. It was completely consistent.

This supports the idea that bacteria survive on energy from the crust � a process that could change our assumptions about the deep-sea carbon cycle and evolution.

For example, many scientists believe that shallow water, not deep water, cradled the planet’s first life. They reason that the dark carbon-poor depths appear to offer little energy; meanwhile, rich environments like hydrothermal vents are relatively sparse.

But the newfound abundance of seafloor microbes makes it possible that early life thrived � and maybe began � on the seafloor.

After all, “it was a bastion of stability compared with the surface, which was constantly being blasted by comets and other objects,” Edwards says.

But current knowledge of the deep biosphere is limited. And most seafloor bacteria uncovered in the study show little relation to those cultivated in labs.

Rather than bringing bacteria to the lab, Edwards plans to bring the lab to the bacteria � by building a microbial observatory 15,000 feet below sea level north of Bermuda in the Sargasso Sea.

Thanks to a $3.9 million grant awarded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Edwards and more than 30 colleagues will continue to study seafloor bacteria. They also will study the bacteria’s subseafloor cousins, which are constantly cycling through the porous rock.

In the first expedition of its kind, the drilling operation will penetrate 100 meters of sediment and 500 meters of bedrock.

Aside from experiments on how bacteria alter rock, the scientists will measure the diversity, abundance and relatedness of microbes at different depths. This will shed light on whether the bacteria evolved from ancestors that floated down from above or from an unknown source deep in the crust.

� Terah U. DeJong

Photo by Philip Channing


�� GOOD MOLECULES Scientists at USC and Harvard Medical School have developed new anti-inflammatory agents that may fill the void left by the market removal of Vioxx and similar drugs. USC College chemist Nicos Petasis and biologist Charles Serhan of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital are developing analogs of lipoxins, natural substances released by the body. Rather than blocking the action of pro-inflammatory agents as COX-2 inhibitors do, these compounds mimic the action of anti-inflammatory molecules.

�� HAIR TODAY Cheng-Ming Chuong and Maksim Plikus of the Keck School of Medicine of USC are part of a team of researchers who found that hair in mice regenerates in waves, rather than individually. The scientists’ findings, published in Nature, suggest that hair stem cells are regulated not only by the environment within one hair follicle, as previously thought, but also by adjacent hair follicles, other skin compartments and systemic hormones. The research has implications for stem cell research and organ regeneration, as hair is one of the few organs that regenerate regularly.

�� BOYS VS. GIRLS Baby boys in developed nations are more likely to die than baby girls, according to a new study by Greg L. Drevenstedt of the University of Pennsylvania and Eileen Crimmins of the USC Davis School of Gerontology. They found that the gender gap in infant mortality reached as high as 30 percent in 1970. Since then, advancements such as caesarean sections and intensive care units for preemies have helped boys survive. However, they are still at a higher risk because of their larger bodies. USC researchers Sarinnapha Vasunilashorn and Caleb Finch were also study authors.

�� OUT ON A LIMB A study published in Nature, with Francesca V. Mariani, assistant professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, as one of the lead authors, found a new model to explain how signals between cells in the embryo control limb development. Secreted growth factors at the tip of the embryonic limb act as instructive molecules to control the pattern of bones along the length of the limb, a finding that may contribute to understanding how limbs might regenerate.

For the latest USC faculty research updates, visit


Pitch the Eye Patch

Non-surgical ‘lazy eye’ treatment shows promise in adults, once thought to be too old to show improvement.

Researchers from the United States and China have developed a simple and effective treatment for amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” a disorder that affects about 9 million people in the United States alone.

The non-surgical treatment � which involves repeating a simple visual task � was effective on 20-year-old subjects. Previously, amblyopia had been considered almost irreversible beyond age 8.

However, patients seeking treatment must wait for eye doctors to adopt the procedure, says USC College neuroscientist Zhong-Lin Lu, who led the research group.

“I would be very happy to have some clinicians use the procedure to treat patients, but it will take some time for them to be convinced,” Lu says.

“We also have a lot more research to do to make the procedure better.”

In a pilot clinical trial at a Beijing hospital in 2007, 28 out of 30 participants showed dramatic gains after a 10-day course of treatment. “After training, they start to use both eyes,” says Lu. “Some people got to 20/20. By clinical standards, they’re completely normal. They’re not amblyopes anymore.”

The gains averaged two to three lines on a standard eye chart. Previous studies by Lu’s group found that the improvement is long-lasting, with 90 percent of vision gain retained after at least a year.

Amblyopia is caused by poor transmission of images from the eye to the brain during early childhood, leading to abnormal brain development. “For amblyopes, the neural wiring is messed up,” Lu explains.

Lazy eye is actually a misnomer, because in many cases the structure of the eye is normal. The disorder is often diagnosed too late for conventional treatment with an eye patch and cannot be rectified with glasses. Amblyopes suffer a range of symptoms: poor vision in one eye, poor depth perception, difficulty seeing three-dimensional objects and poor motion sensitivity.

The study, which appeared in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that amblyopes trained on just one task improved their overall vision. Improvement was far greater for amblyopes than for normal subjects.

The findings also have major theoretical implications. The assumption of incurability for amblyopia rests on the notion of a “critical period” � that the visual system loses its plasticity and ability to change after a certain age.

“This is a challenge to the idea of critical period,” Lu says. “The system is much more plastic than [scientists thought]. The fact that we can drastically change people’s vision at age 20 says something.”

A critical period still exists for certain functions, Lu notes, but it might be more limited than previously thought. “Amblyopia is a great model to reexamine the notion of critical period,” Lu says. “However, ultimately it needs to be adopted by clinicians and that will probably require multi-center clinical trials.”

Researchers are working to develop a home-based treatment program.

� Carl Marziali

Illustration by Michael Klein

[FAB LAB] High-tech Lab Brings Ideas to Life

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering has opened a new Undergraduate Fabrication Laboratory, a high-tech workshop where students can build, cut, sculpt or carve materials for class or personal projects. Located in the Rapp Engineering Research Building, the facility is outfitted with a suite of precision tools including a computer-controlled 3-D router, high-resolution scanner and 3-D printer. “We are providing students with more hands-on experience and increasing the resources they will have access to for the fabrication of everything from experimental wingtips to scale models,” says Edward Maby of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, who chairs the advisory committee for the lab. In a matter of hours, students can take an idea and transform it into an exact replica � be it a new glider, airplane wing or surfboard. “Right now the lab is relatively small, but with increased usage, it could expand in coming semesters,” Maby says.

� Ben Murray

To see photos of the Fab Lab and read more, visit

Arts & Culture

Unlocking the Maya Code

Art historian Megan O’Neil looks for clues to how ancient civilizations put their own spins on the past.

Think of Megan O’Neil’s scholarly work as forensic art history. She’s not looking to solve crimes, although she uncovers plenty of murder and mayhem.

She’s looking for something far more universal: how ancient civilizations depicted their own histories. By studying monumental Maya stone sculptures from the 5th to 8th centuries in Mexico and Central America, she looks for clues to how civilizations put their own spins on the past for religious, political or other reasons.

O’Neil, an assistant professor of art history at USC College, wants to know what happened to public art of the past, particularly sculptures commissioned by royalty.

“Moving these sculptures, burying them, digging them up, breaking them, putting them in new places � what fascinates me are all the ways people were able to create, display and modify their histories,” she says. “For the Maya, we see moments of warfare in which sculptures were broken. We have examples in which they weren’t cleaned up and other examples in which they were, and those pieces were then taken and buried as if they were human bodies.”

Sometimes, she says, snakes were offered and fires lit in front of the broken sculptures before they were buried.

How these icons were handled “brings up questions about communal memory and historical memory,” she says.

O’Neil, who came to USC three years ago after earning her Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, has brought new classes and areas of scholarship to campus. She has taught “Ancient Maya Arts and Writing,” “Conquest of Mexico in Art” and “Literature from the 16th Century to the Present,” survey and upper-division classes that deal with ancient Mesoamerica and Peru, and an experimental class that turned into a favorite � “History of World Arts in Los Angeles.”

That class, for freshmen and sophomores, involved going on a bus every week to a different museum in the city.

It says something about this engaging, enthusiastic scholar that she switched from undergraduate study on the Aztecs to graduate work on the Maya because she knew it would be harder. There are fewer primary sources in European languages for the Maya, and learning to decipher Maya hieroglyphics “takes a very, very, very long time � essentially your whole life,” she says.

The symbols are complicated because scribes prized creativity. For example, the word for “jaguar” can be written 10 different ways. Further complicating � and enriching � decipherment is the fact that signs can stand for syllables or words.

Decipherment is a relatively new field, having begun during the Cold War when a Russian linguist demonstrated how a manuscript from a 16th-century Spanish friar held the key to the code, a story told by Michael Coe, one of O’Neil’s undergraduate professors, in his book, Breaking the Maya Code.

O’Neil thinks the fact that there is still much to be discovered is part of the allure of the Maya.

“I tell my students there is still a lot to do. As an undergraduate, I could feel that there’s room for me to make a contribution. And it’s also that these places where the sculptures are found are beautiful. It’s amazing the kinds of buildings that could be built and the sculptures made with no metal tools, no pack animals and no wheels. There’s the fascination of, ‘how did they do that?’”

��Allison Engel

Photo by Dietmar Quistorf

[POSH PORTRAITS] Looking Mahvolous at 35

USC Roski School of Fine Arts alumna and painter D. J. Hall ‘73 is the subject of a 35-year retrospective show at the Palm Springs Art Museum through Sept.14. Her subjects are privileged, beautiful women captured in an emotionally charged realist style. Beneath the pretty faces and scenery of a Hall painting, there’s an uneasy feeling that something is amiss. Accompanying paintings such as the oil-on-linen diptych shown here are photographs, drawings, color studies and notes that Hall uses in her elaborate planning process.

For more about the “D.J. Hall Thirty-Five Year Retrospective” exhibition, visit

The Conjurer, 2000. Collection of The Palm Springs Art Museum


Wiki Woman

USC Law librarian Hazel Lord turns her passion for medieval documents into a global wiki for scholars.

When senior USC Gould School of Law librarian Hazel Lord began researching the medieval period up to 1535, she set out to create a bibliography of England’s vast trove of court rolls, case reporters, royal charters, and legislative and administrative records.

But Lord soon realized that her work would become dated if she simply published a standard bibliography.

That’s when she got the idea to set up a wiki on the medieval period that could be continually added to and updated. Wikis, collaborative Web sites that invite users to contribute material, are a growing trend in the academic world.

“The problem with a bibliography is it is set in time,” Lord says. “Once it’s published you can’t add to it or edit it. It’s a dead item frozen in time on the day it is published.”

So, after consulting with colleagues, Lord developed a database of published and online sources in the wiki English Medieval Legal Documents AD 600-AD 1535: A Compilation of Published Sources.

Initially, she expected to find 100 or maybe 200 items, but by the time Lord finished, she ended up with almost 1,000 items in her database.

Posted in February, Lord’s wiki is growing in both size and popularity.

In its first two months, the wiki received more than 75,000 hits, and a number of scholarly Web sites have created links to it, including Oxford University’s Bodleian Law Library and, a peer-reviewed compilation of the best Web resources for education and research.

Lord also has been contacted by others for advice on setting up their own wikis. “I was astonished,” Lord says. “I had no idea how many people would find this valuable. In my wiki, an Old World resource meets a New World technology.”

Lord’s wiki lists hundreds of published and digitized online medieval documents, including court records, royal charters and proclamations, and the official records of the meetings of parliament.

“There are a tremendous number of legal documents from medieval times,” Lord says. “The medieval kings and their courts were incredible record keepers, and most of the documents that have survived are housed in the British National Archives in Kew Gardens, London. In addition, manor houses, cities and boroughs, churches and cathedrals throughout England have their own archives, often containing legal materials.”

With her wiki, Lord is hoping visitors will find a complete guide to English medieval legal documents either in published or online form. Since no comprehensive bibliography of this material has been published since the 1950s, Lord’s wiki bridges this gap, creating a list of publications to the present day.

“What’s got me really excited is that now we are able to link to digitized images of these original manuscripts,” Lord says. “For example, I have created a link from my wiki to an exciting joint project between the University of Houston and the National Archives in Great Britain, which is digitizing the entire plea rolls and other court records of the medieval period.”

When Lord started as a librarian at USC in the 1960s, technology was minimal.

“I remember the first marvels of the Internet in the early ’90s, the wonder of the first Web browser, Mosaic, and how excited we were when Netscape arrived and more than doubled the speed of searching. And now we have already passed through Web2 technology to Web3! And they say librarianship is not an exciting career?”

��Gilien Silsby

Illustration by Tim Bower


�� MAGIC LANTERNS Before blockbuster art exhibits, there were traveling shows with magic lanterns, rear projections and dancing shadows. The USC Fisher Museum of Art presents the exhibition Phantasmagoria: Specters of Absence, with lectures on the neuroscience of novel experiences (Sept. 9), marvels of Jurassic technology (Oct. 14), the brain’s limits of legibility (Nov. 5) and a concert based on clouds and fog (Oct. 21). September 3 � November 8, USC Fisher Museum of Art.

�� WORD DOC William Rector, a gastroenterologist from Colorado, will read from his first volume of poetry, Bill, in two Visions and Voices events, joined by poets Alex Lemon and USC grad student Cody Todd. Rector writes about what it means to be a physician in the 21st century. September 10-11, Doheny Library and Hoyt Gallery on the Health Sciences campus.

�� PIANO MAN Christopher O’Riley, classical pianist and host of National Public Radio’s From the Top, is a man of many grooves: He’s also known for his transcriptions of songs from the innovative rock group Radiohead. O’Riley will perform with the USC Thornton Symphony in selections from Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalila-Symphonie, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. September 25, Bovard Auditorium.

�� LIGHT FANTASTIC The experimental theatre artist Robert Wilson, acclaimed for his original stage works and lighting, will take to the boards to present hundreds of striking images from productions he has directed and designed, including this year’s minimalist Madama Butterfly at the Los Angeles Opera. An Evening with Robert Wilson will include a Q & A after the performance. September 30, Bing Theatre.

�� SCORE ONE Should a film about King Arthur include a heavy metal soundtrack? Historic accuracy in film music will be explored in a concert by the USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia, presenting silent films juxtaposed with pieces reflecting themes of love and war, as well as more pedestrian pursuits. Monteverdi, Biber, Farina and Vivaldi will be called upon. October 10, Alfred Newman Recital Hall.

For up-to-date event listings, visit USC’s Arts and Events Calendar at


Student Scholars

Three Ways to Wow Them

Two new academic designations � Global Scholars and Discovery Scholars � join the multi-faceted Renaissance Scholars in recognizing USC’s best and brightest.

Imagine a university paying for its finest graduates to go study elsewhere. Impossible, you say? Well this year alone, USC gave away nearly $300,000 in scholarship prizes to outstanding Trojans going on to graduate schools of their choice.

The money comes from the Provost’s Office via a trio of top-level academic honors programs: Discovery Scholars, Global Scholars and Renaissance Scholars. Each entails a stiff set of certification criteria, starting with a 3.5 GPA. Each involves a careful screening process carried out by faculty panels, yielding a narrow field of outstanding finalists.

And the payoff: Each program bestows prizes worth $10,000 apiece to top graduating seniors for the purpose of supporting post-baccalaureate study. This spring 29 prizes were awarded.

Collectively, the three programs represent a push by USC Provost C. L. Max Nikias to recognize � and encourage � students who take advantage of the singular strengths of a USC undergraduate education.

What are those strengths?

Depth with breadth. USC offers some 150 majors and 120 minors, the broadest selection at any university in the United States.

Globalization. For the sixth year in a row, USC ranks as the most international university in America as measured by foreign student enrollments.

Innovation. Unlike many peer institutions, USC actively promotes serious independent research and original creative output at the undergraduate level.

Prizes for the original program in the triad � Renaissance Scholars, designed to promote excellence in two or more widely divergent fields � were first awarded in 2000. This May, the 109th prize was awarded. Among the winners: 2008 valedictorian Julianne Gale, a computer science major, theatre and theatre education minor, with a 3.99 GPA; and salutatorian Andrew Horning, a chemistry major, comp lit minor, with a perfect 4.0 GPA (see below). Perhaps the year’s most astonishing Renaissance Scholar, however, was Laura Simurda. She completed triple majors in astronomy, history and print journalism. The 10 prize winners were chosen from a field of 213 eligible seniors and 77 finalists.

Building on successes like these, Nikias recently introduced two analogous programs adapted from the Renaissance Scholars model.

“Our students already achieve remarkable heights in their scholarship, service and extracurricular activities,” he said in announcing the new Global Scholars and Discovery Scholars programs last October. “These new programs will help them reach even higher while focusing on the important areas of innovation and internationalization.”

Taken together, these three honors programs represent one of the most comprehensive and diverse frameworks in the nation for recognizing stellar achievement at the undergraduate level, notes Nikias.

The specs are straightforward enough. Global Scholars must have spent at least 10 weeks in an approved study-abroad setting, and produced a capstone project weighing the intellectual value of their overseas experiences. A total of 32 students were certified for the designation in its inaugural year; of these, seven finalists were truly “academic standouts” and were awarded the $10,000 prize, according to program director Isadora Gullov-Singh.

Matias Sueldo was one of the seven. A double major in public policy and international relations, Sueldo went abroad three times during his undergraduate years. First, he spent a summer working with the South African Red Cross in Randburg, a town on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The next year he traveled to Quito, Ecuador, to monitor presidential elections for the Organization of American States; and the following spring, he went to Choluteca, a small town in Honduras, as a worker with Global Medical Brigades. This nongovernmental organization brings vision, dental and basic treatment clinics to rural areas without regular access to healthcare.

Another Global Scholars prizewinner was saxophonist Valerie Crump, a performance major who spent three months implementing a music therapy program at the Padre Vito Guarato Orphanage in San Salvador � home to 138 mentally and physically disabled children. In her spare time, Crump helped organize benefit concerts for the orphanage and documented the resurgence of indigenous musical traditions formerly repressed in El Salvador.

Grace Kim, another Global Scholars prizewinner, spent five months in Cape Town, South Africa. A health promotion and disease prevention studies major, she worked alongside local physicians, behavioral scientists and epidemiologists at the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre constructing a survey instrument to measure the effectiveness of past AIDS education programs.

The other new prize in the triad � Discovery Scholars � is awarded to undergraduates who have produced exceptional scholarship or creative work while at USC. Open to seniors in every discipline, the honor requires applicants to submit a culminating project in their field. In the creative arts, they must submit a representative portfolio of their original work.

In the program’s inaugural year, 77 students were certified as scholars. From this elite group, 29 students were nominated by their school as prize finalists, and 12 were named as prize recipients.

The sciences were well represented. For her prize-winning project, psychology major Karoline Brandt measured fluctuations in pronoun use by Asian-American trauma patients and assessed correlations between medical narrative and positive health outcomes.

Neuroscience major Henry Wu charted the role of adaptive immune response in a rat model for Parkinson’s disease, and electrical engineering major Omer Faghfoor designed a fully functional, Earth-based test vehicle for potential lunar launch.

The arts prize-winners were no less impressive. Theatre major Rachel Kerry wrote and produced Seven Fragments, a multimedia piece integrating poetry, mask performance, live music and digital animations. Creative writing major Anthony Marra submitted Rain Dogs, a full-length novel about an Irish priest living in the slums of Washington, D.C. Three music majors received prizes for original compositions: Ross Garren, for a set of five miniatures for solo piano; Geoffrey Pope, for a chamber concerto for orchestra and two violins; and Brendan Fortune, for a whimsical orchestral piece interspersed with snippets of phone dialogue recorded while he worked as an IT customer service rep.

In May, the names of the 29 new prizewinners were inscribed on the Wall of Scholars in Leavey Library.

� Diane Krieger

To learn more about these three programs, go to, or For more on USC’s 125th graduating class, go to


Illustration by Michael Klein



�� SINGING For years, Gustavo Hernandez’s best-kept secret was his voice. Profoundly shy, at 16 he finally accepted his father’s $20 bet to get up on stage and sing at a family party. The Berkeley native’s operatic career almost ended before it began. Off-beat and off-key, he forgot the words and at the end, his voice cracked on a high note. “At least my pants stayed up,” Hernandez jokes. Now, eight years later, Hernandez has received his master’s in vocal performance and moved to Viterbo, Italy, to perform in a summer production of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute.

�� TAXING April may be the cruelest month, but Joy Zuoyi Chen somehow managed to juggle finals with filing taxes for low-income members of the community. “If you want something done, go to a busy person,” says Chen, a USC Renaissance Scholar with majors in accounting and piano performance. Chen is the director of the USC-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which is overseen by the IRS. Working with employees of Deloitte & Touche, USC students receive certification to file taxes. Despite impressions to the contrary, tax accounting is an intimate client service, Chen says. “You have to be sensitive in so many ways.”
�� JUMPING Andrew Horning is not your typical science geek. He excels in both science and the humanities. This chemistry major and comparative literature minor graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and the rank of salutatorian at the 2008 Commencement. A long-distance runner and licensed skydiver with 85 jumps to his credit, Horning is proficient in Spanish with a reading knowledge of Italian, a smidgen of Latin and ancient Greek. “I’ve become very interested in the interplay between science and the humanities � how you can look at a scientific problem from the humanities perspective and vice versa,” he says.

For more tales from the 2008 Commencement, visit

[TOP GRAD] Mic Check

He’s one of the world’s leading experts in glass structures. His firm, Advanced Structures Inc., is responsible for the exterior of the Bangkok airport and Biosphere 2 at the University of Arizona, among other important projects. But Mic Patterson admits he’s not proud � from an environmental perspective � of some of the buildings he has worked on. So, instead of retiring, the middle-aged businessman decided to study sustainability issues at USC. In May, he graduated at the top of his class with a master’s in building science from the USC School of Architecture. He carried the school’s flag in the processional as his 87-year-old father and 80-year-old mother watched with admiration. “I’ve done a lot of stuff, and I’ve enjoyed my life,” Patterson says. “But to be 59 and to have this sort of learning experience has been profound and exhilarating.” Patterson is so enthusiastic about USC that he’s not leaving. He begins the School of Architecture’s new Ph.D. program in building science this fall. “I didn’t get enough,” he says with a smile.

� Suzanne Wu

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