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Rising to Expectations

USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative is working to make college accessible to hundreds of local students.

Commencement 2007 was a double victory for a dozen graduates from the neighborhoods surrounding USC’s two campuses: In addition to becoming members of the Class of 2007, they made up the 10th anniversary class of graduating Trojans who came up through USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative.

The university began NAI – a program to encourage local middle- and high-school students to prepare for college – in 1991, to reach out to high schoolers at Foshay Learning Center and Manual Arts High School. These students, many the first in their families to contemplate college, were motivated to keep that goal firmly in sight. From seventh grade on, they attended Saturday morning classes and weekday afternoon tutoring at USC during much of the school year. Once in high school, they enrolled in advanced placement and honors classes. If they maintained good grades and won admission, the university offered them full financial aid grants to pay for college.

By the end of 2006, 412 students had completed the program; of these, 132 are attending or have graduated from USC, while 194 have attended other four-year colleges.

And the numbers keep growing: 33 scholars earned high-school diplomas in June; 13 of them were offered admission to USC.

After NAI scholars matriculate as USC freshmen, the Undergraduate Success Program gives them additional support. With all the academic preparation they’ve had, many of these inner-city students still experience culture shock. “We’re used to being in schools with mostly Latinos and African-Americans,” says Carmen Gonzalez ’07.

She and fellow NAI veteran Marlene Chavez ’07 have helped ease the way for younger students following in their footsteps by staying connected and leading the Saturday tutoring sessions they had once attended.

Another integral part of the program is NAI’s Family Development Institute, says NAI director Kim Barrios. “We believe it’s important to bring in parents as partners.”

“I really, really like the fact that NAI includes parents, that they show them exactly what we are doing,” says Chavez, who graduated with a psychology major and begins a master’s in social work this fall at USC.

In the years that the program has been in existence, “our expectations for the students have risen because the expectations at USC have risen,” Barrios says. GPAs have gone up exponentially, as have SAT scores. The program has increased the number of Saturday sessions from 20 to 22 a year and offers a tougher curriculum now. “There are now five days of tutoring after school; before, we had three,” she notes. “In essence, our scholars have no time on their own. But it’s worth it, and they know it.”

Looking back, says Gloria Jimenez ’07, who graduated with a public policy major, the toughest thing about NAI is rising to those expectations. “We had to get really good grades,” she says. “We had to do all these extra things that kids who weren’t in the program didn’t have to do. They didn’t have to take AP classes. There was a lot of pressure.”

But it all paid off. “There was always somebody there who was pushing you,” she says, “telling you what you needed to do to get into college.”

– Kay Mills

For more information on USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative, visit

Carmen Gonzalez ’07, right, tutors NAI scholars Jessica Guevara and Daniel Garrido on a Saturday morning.

Photo by Roger Snider

Water Foul?

RoboDuck to the Rescue

A new breed of quackers cruise the Redondo Beach harbor in search of deadly algae blooms.

Yacht-owners, kayakers, harbor patrolmen and sea lions are seeing a new vessel on the waters of Redondo Beach’s King Harbor these days – one that someday may save the lives of some of the lions.

At just under 7 feet long and 2 feet wide with low fiberglass hulls and USC banners, two RoboDucks set out on an intensive biological research mission this summer: to solve the mystery of algal blooms, including the deadly “red tide” algae infestations.

The ducks  are  robotic vessels created by Gaurav Sukhatme, an associate professor of computer science in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and director of USC’s Robotic Embedded Systems Laboratory.

The roving, autonomous vessels have been cruising the harbor all summer long without humans at the controls. Navigation is provided by on-board GPS systems. Readings are recorded by a network of stationary instruments suspended from buoys and piers.

Sukhatme worked with biology professor David Caron of USC College and the USC Wrigley Institute, one of the world’s leading experts on algal blooms.

“It’s very difficult to be on the scene when the bloom is emerging,” Caron says. “What you want is to be there with all your equipment studying what is happening as it begins.” By the time the bloom is detected, it’s too late to do more than monitor the end stages.

Caron is hoping the robots can change that. Deployed in the confines of King Harbor, they are on call continuously. Their onboard sensors monitor water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity. In addition, a special instrument measures the density of chlorophyll in the water and uses this figure to estimate the density of algal growth.

If and when the instruments detect a surge in algae, Caron and his team can arrive on the scene promptly with “a full-court press.”

Among other things, the scientists hope to determine what triggers algal blooms, which can have catastrophic consequences for sea mammals. According to a recent New York Times report, Southern California marine mammal hospitals were overwhelmed with cases of sea lions poisoned by domoic acid, which appeared in record levels off the coast of Los Angeles in April.

The prototype RoboDuck vessel was a foot-long miniature not much bigger than a toddler’s bathtub buddy. The second generation duck is no toy.

“RoboDucks are at the cutting edge of research in autonomous robotics,” says Sukhatme. “On this project, we’re building on several years of development in our lab, mainly working with more conventional [ground-based] robots.”

Doctoral student Amit Dhariwal MS ’02 worked to give the robot sonar-based mapping and exploration capabilities. Classmates Jnaneshwar Das and Arvind De Menezes Pereira  MS ’07, respectively, designed the boat’s instrument controls and created its GPS-based navigation system. Other USC Viterbi team members on the project include technician Carl Oberg and doctoral student Bin Zhang.

While the scientists try to figure out what prompts a bloom and why, Redondo Beach city councilman Chris Cagle is just “ecstatic” to be getting world class environmental research essentially for free.

It’s a great example of how you can get government and the academic-scientific community working together to solve a problem, Cagle told the Daily Breeze, the local South Bay newspaper.

“What they [USC researchers] come up with will not only help Redondo, it can help the whole nation,” Cagle said.

– Eric Mankin

Illustration by Michael Klein


›› FUN WITH GERRYMANDERING  Videogames and policymakers do mix, as Chris Swain of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts proved in June. He and a USC interactive media research team demoed the Redistricting Game on Capitol Hill. Joined by Rep. John Tanner of Tennessee, who has proposed legislation requiring states to conduct redistricting through independent commissions, Swain showed how manipulating district lines can yield skewed victories, effectively allowing politicians to choose their voters instead of the other way around. “If you think electronic games are just an idle amusement, you should think again,” Swain told lawmakers.

›› BENCH TO BEDSIDE  Randolph Hall, USC’s vice provost for research advancement, was part of a roundtable discussion in late April for California’s congressional delegation about the work of the National Institutes of Health. Hall discussed the need to connect publicly funded research done at NIH with medical breakthroughs that help individuals. “To sustain this funding, we must remain focused on research that will improve quality of life, save lives and reduce the cost of health care,” he said.

›› ORAL TRADITION  The Children’s Dental Health Improvement Act of 2007 and other legislation that seeks to improve dental coverage for underserved communities drew Eugene Sekiguchi to Washington in May to meet with congressional leaders. Sekiguchi, the USC School of Dentistry’s associate dean for international, professional and legislative affairs, met with USC alumna Rep. Hilda Solis, Rep. Diane Watson and Rep. David Dreier.  “Our legislators are the ones who can make positive change happen in oral health,” Sekiguchi said.

›› SEEING EYES  A new generation of noninvasive imaging tools allows doctors to view key physiological structures within the eye. Stephen J. Ryan, president of the Doheny Eye Institute and a professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, previewed these new digital imaging technologies at a congressional briefing in April. He discussed how these tools will help diagnose disease and save and restore sight.

For more Capital Connections, visit


›› JUST THE HIGHLIGHTS  “There’s so much sports on TV now, it’s not special any more,” David Carter of the USC Marshall School of Business told USA Today. “There’s no ‘appointment TV’ anymore. This is the highlight reel generation. They’re saying ‘Why watch an entire basketball game when I can tune into SportsCenter and watch highlights of the two minutes that matter or watch the highlights on my cellphone?’ We want the Cliff’s Notes version of everything.”

›› INTERNMENT LIT  Kevin Starr of USC College was quoted in The Sacramento Bee on memoirist Kiyo Sato-Nunneley’s depiction of her family’s experiences in a Japanese internment camp. “It’s a beautifully written book,” Starr said of her Dandelion Through the Crack. “There’s not an ounce of self-pity in the book, not one ounce. There’s a sense of gratitude for having survived. I don’t want to presume, but there’s an implied forgiveness.”

›› LAUDABLE LAURIDSEN  Calling Morten Lauridsen one of two “bona fide choral masters” invited to the American Masterpieces Choral Festival, an article in The Seattle Times went on to praise the composer and USC Thornton professor’s work as “the answer to music lovers who have felt alienated by atonality or impatient with contemporary works that are short on such staples as melody and harmony. His music is, in a word, gorgeous.”

›› BEFORE THE FALL  Jon Pynoos of the USC Davis School of Gerontology was quoted in USA Today about caring for elderly parents. “Most of the housing we live in today is ‘Peter Pan’ housing: It’s designed for people who are never going to grow up and grow old. We have narrow hallways, slippery bathrooms and houses that are crammed full of stuff.” All of these conditions can make it harder for an elderly person to maneuver, Pynoos observed.

›› MISSILE MUSCLE  USC alumnus Riki Ellison ’83 was interviewed on CNN about the proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Ellison, a former USC football player, explained his motivation in founding the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. “A good professor at USC and a couple of knee surgeries put me in that direction,” Ellison said.

For the latest on USC faculty and administrative news, visit

Bumper Crop

Record-Breaking Fulbrights

From Kazakhstan to South Korea, nine Trojans become elite scholars on-the-go.

For the first time in USC history, nine students have received Fulbright scholarships.

The prestigious awards support one year of study or research in more than 140 countries. Since 2000, 38 Trojans have earned this highly competitive academic honor.

“We are seeing a big increase in students expressing interest in the Fulbright competition,” says Tony Tambascia, director of academic recognition programs. “The quality of the applications just keeps getting better.”

Interdisciplinary studies and global health major Tania Rezai ’07 is headed to Spain to research women’s health issues. Also headed for Iberia is American studies and Spanish major Nichole Hornig ’07, whose focus is on  language acquisition in children. Meanwhile Brittany Bailey ’07,  an international relations and Spanish major, will examine multicultural education initiatives in Colombia.

Kristina Buhrman, a doctoral student in history, will study rituals to ward off disaster in Japan, while English and communications major Diana Lin ’07 will trace the evolution of written Chinese in Shanghai.

International relations and geological sciences major Amelia Paukert ’07 will pore over water-rights treaties in Kazakhstan; and journalism major Zain Shauk ’07 travels to Jordan to see how the kingdom censors its media.

Priyanka Basu, an art history Ph.D. candidate, will do research in Germany. And Anthony Phillips, a 2006 graduate in neuroscience and biological sciences, is heading to South Korea for volunteer opportunities.

It’s a safe bet that, while on the road, these Trojan Fulbrights won’t forget to write.


Illustration by Tim Bower

People Watch

Lord of Ladino

After publishing 40 books, Moshe Lazar gears up for a magnum opus on anti-Jewish propaganda.

Moshe Lazar has been called “a one-man humanities department.” A bibliophile of epic proportions, he has collected rare books from around the world, researching and writing about Provençal literature, Spanish and Judeo-Spanish biblical texts, Ladino literature, Hebrew poetry, medieval drama, the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, contemporary French theater and a dozen other topics.

But now, at age 79, he is embarking on his magnum opus: a book documenting 1,800 years of anti-Jewish propaganda.

A USC College professor since 1977, Lazar is devoting his current sabbatical to the project. “I hope I can do it in a year,” he says. “I’m dealing with theology, with art, with theater, with paintings, everything. I have more than a thousand caricatures of anti-Jewish images alone, from all over the world.”

Although he has written, edited, translated and published dozens of books, this one – he calls it “the most important book I’ve ever written” – will be the culmination of decades of scholarship.

“I don’t do it for promotion,” Lazar explains. “I do it because it has to be said. I’ve wanted to say it because I’m a survivor from the camps in Europe.”

Born in Romania and raised in Belgium, Lazar spent World War II in French concentration camps and in hiding, separated from his parents, four brothers and a sister. Miraculously after the war, his entire family was  reunited.

He emigrated to the new state of Israel in 1948, fighting in the War of Independence as well as in two subsequent Israeli wars in the Sinai.

Fluent in 10 languages, he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in comparative literature at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and the Sorbonne in Paris. A stint doing research at Spain’s University of Salamanca sparked his interest in Ladino – a mixture of old Castilian, Hebrew and Turkish that was, until quite recently, the lingua franca of Sephardic Jews. Now a world authority on the language, he has saved and translated many original manuscripts and republished them in collections of Sephardic religious classics.

In 1984, Lazar spearheaded efforts to save the Jewish quarter of Girona, a city in Catalonia known as the birthplace of Jewish Kabbalah. For his efforts, he was given the insignia of the Order of Civil Merit of Spain.

Lately he’s been getting involved in philanthropy. Last year he donated thousands of rare volumes to the library collections of USC and Hebrew Union College. Still his briefcase is a little heavier than necessary. With each trip to campus, he slips in more books to drop off at Doheny Library.

At the same time he is giving away his books, Lazar impishly admits to generating more. From an antiquarian in Buenos Aires whom he frequents online, Lazar recently recovered two obscure epic poems dated 1637 and 1656. He edited, annotated and published both.

And there’s his long-planned book on anti-Jewish propaganda. “I’ve been thinking about this ever since I was in hiding [in the 1940s],” he says in anticipation.

– Allison Engel

USC’s “one-man humanities department.”

Photo by Philip Channing


›› AMERICANIST  Howard Gillman has been appointed dean of USC College and holder of the Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair. A professor of political science and history in USC College for 17 years, Gillman also served as USC’s associate vice provost for research advancement, a post in which he helped create and launch the USC U.S.-China Institute. He is regarded as one of the nation’s leading scholars on constitutionalism and judicial politics and is the author of numerous publications and books, the latest being The Votes That Counted: How the Court Decided the 2000 Presidential Election (University of Chicago Press, 2001).

›› LEGAL SCHOLAR  Robert Rasmussen, an expert on bankruptcy and corporate reorganizations, has been appointed dean of the USC Gould School of Law and holder of the Carl Mason Franklin Dean’s Chair in Law. He joins USC from the Vanderbilt University Law School, where he has been director of the programs in both law and human behavior and law and economics. He was recognized for outstanding teaching six times while on Vanderbilt’s law faculty. Previously, he worked in the Civil Division Appellate Staff at the U.S. Department of Justice.

›› POLICY EXPERT Ernest Wilson has been appointed dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and holder of the Walter H. Annenberg Chair in Communications. A pioneering researcher on Internet technology and digital communication in developing countries, he is the ranking senior member of the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and has served in several policy positions at the national level, including director of international programs and resources on the National Security Council. His current scholarship spans China-Africa relations and the role of culture in national security policy. Wilson joins USC from the University of Maryland.


›› ENTREPRENEUR  James G. Ellis, former vice provost for globalization at USC, has been appointed dean of the USC Marshall School of Business and holder of the Robert R. Dockson Dean’s Chair in Business Administration. Previously he served as the school’s vice dean for external relations and associate dean of undergraduate business programs. As a faculty member, he has been one of USC Marshall’s most highly-rated teachers. Ellis was president and CEO of American Porsche Design from 1985 to 1990 and was with Broadway department stores for 13 years prior. He has been involved in a number of entrepreneurial ventures throughout his career.


›› LIBRARIAN Catherine Quinlan has been named dean of the USC Libraries. Quinlan comes to USC from the University of British Columbia, where she served concurrently as university librarian and managing director of the university’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, a $74 million prototype for academic information management. In this role, she raised much of the facility’s funding, including a $30 million donation – UBC’s largest capital gift ever. Before joining UBC in the mid 1990s, Quinlan served for seven years as director of libraries and chief librarian at the University of Western Ontario.

›› TECHNOLOGY CHIEF Ilee Rhimes has been appointed USC’s chief information officer and vice provost for information technology services. Rhimes has 35 years of information technology and financial experience – more than 25 of those years in higher education. He served as the chief information officer at the Ohio State University since 2000 and spent more than a decade prior to that appointment in technology-leadership roles at Miami and Kent State universities in Ohio. In the private sector, Rhimes has worked for both a financial services and a technology consulting firm.

Visit the About USC page for a complete list of USC trustees, senior officers and deans.



From Scofflaw to Law Student

Graduation always brings gripping tales of students triumphing over adversity, such as Lucy Flores ’07.

It seems impossible that the polished, engaging, thoughtful woman who is headed for law school this fall at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas could have been stealing cars at the tender age of 13. Or shoplifting, running away from home and running with what could charitably be called the wrong crowd.

But dramatic turnarounds do happen, and Lucy Flores, an honored political science major who graduated in May, has a turnaround worthy of a movie.

One of 13 children, she dropped out of high school, as did all but one of her siblings. But she had been identified as gifted in elementary school. That identification, and a parole officer who believed in her, helped Flores begin the long journey to a stellar academic career at USC – which she managed despite holding down as many as four jobs.

She tears up when she talks about how her father, Jose, took out a home loan when tuition was due before a student loan arrived. At the time, she was such a greenhorn that she didn’t know the difference between “graduate” and “undergraduate.”

In April, she received the John R. Hubbard Award from the USC Mexican American Alumni Association for being an outstanding student. Her powerful thank-you speech floored the 800 alums gathered at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. In it, she described the moment she realized  her life had to change:

“It happened when I was leaving the detention facility,” she said.

“The myth was that if you turned back to look at the facility as you were being driven away, you would be back. And I just knew that I was destined for something different.

“So, as we drove away, I focused on the headrest so hard my eyes watered, they burned, I didn’t even want to blink.

“I remember the look of the tan plastic, the stitching on the headrest, all the while telling myself that I just couldn’t go back.”

The full text of Flores’ speech is published online at

Lucy Flores ‘07 and her father, Jose Flores

Photo by Roger Snider

A Conversation with ED CRAY

Bountiful Biographer

The prolific author and journalism professor reflects on Woody Guthrie, discipline and the biographer’s art.

Journalism professor Ed Cray has led an eclectic life (wire service reporter, ACLU staffer, musical folklorist, founder of the Minority Educational Training Program at the Los Angeles Times). His publications are no less eclectic: he has written 18 well-regarded books, including biographies of Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief Justice Earl Warren and – most recently – Rambling Man, about folksinger Woody Guthrie. He is currently creating a Center for the Biography to be housed in USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. He spoke with USC Trojan Family Magazine’s Allison Engel.

Rambling Man is full of surprises. Who knew that “This Land Is Your Land” began as a song about class disparity, written in response to Kate Smith’s hit version of “God Bless America”? What surprised you most about Guthrie?  There were a number of discoveries. Guthrie’s personal life was marked by tragedy. His beloved older sister was burned to death when Woody was 7. His mother, ill with Huntington’s chorea, threw a lantern at his father and burned him from the neck to the groin. Woody was 13, and effectively lost both his mother and father. Later, Woody lost a child to fire. This daughter was what the British call a ‘chime child,’ a marvelous child who inspired Woody to write all these incredible children’s songs, which I would argue, and Pete Seeger agrees with me, probably will be Woody’s lasting contribution. There isn’t a nursery school in the country that doesn’t have Woody Guthrie’s Songs to Grow On and More Songs to Grow On. They are just fabulous, full of funny lines and words, and written from a child’s point of view.

I’m surprised no one has made them into a children’s musical. There’s a thought. Woody is so rife, so unbelievably fecund in his writings. The archive has about 10,000 pages of mostly unpublished material. Just cherry-picking, you could do at least three evenings of a one-man show and never repeat yourself. It’s not just poems and songs, it’s recounting of discussions, arguments he hears in bars, reminiscences. It’s rich with Woody’s characteristics: his sheer, loyal patriotism and love of the land, his optimism and his humor. Even when he was writing his protest songs, there was humor in them. His eternal optimism was a characteristic he got from his father.

Which is remarkable, given all the tragedies. No question about it. It’s also important to understand that Woody Guthrie was not some rube, some natural-born poet who just fell off the turnip truck in the big city. Woody Guthrie was raised in a middle-class home. His father was a land broker who went broke in the Depression. As Woody once said, he lost a farm a day for 35 days. But Woody was very widely read. He was particularly interested in religion and specifically the Eastern religions. The hick was his stage role.

Your style is to write 1,000 words a day, edit it the next morning and move on. How do you get those 1,000 words down, day after day? I stare at the computer until drops of blood pop out on my forehead. That’s stealing a line from the journalist Gene Fowler. Actually, it’s a matter of craftsmanship more than brilliant creativity. I don’t try to be a stylist. I try to be a storyteller and, using journalistic standards, move the story. I don’t like to stop for description. I don’t try to turn a phrase. In the case of Woody Guthrie, the less I try to show off as a writer, the more he stands out as a brilliant creator. Writing about the Columbia River, he wrote: “In the misty crystal glitter of her wild and windward spray…” It’s a lovely, poetic line. And he’s full of them.

Tell me about the Center for the Biography that you are establishing at USC. Only about 20 percent of American colleges and universities teach biography, as a result of historians turning away from the “great man” theory in the ’60s and toward social history. But there are real problems in writing biography that deserve serious consideration. We held a framing committee meeting in mid-May with professional writers and academics who teach biography. The center is on its way to becoming a reality.

To read a longer version of this interview with Ed Cray, visit


Photo by Philip Channing


Pumping Up Cardio Care

Arnold Schwarzenegger says “I’ll be back,” and returns to salute USC’s New Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute.

Ten years ago, then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger had his aortic valve repaired by a team of USC surgeons headed by Vaughn Starnes, chair of cardiothoracic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. This past April, Gov. Schwarzenegger marked the 10-year anniversary of his surgery by visiting the Keck School and saluting its new USC Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute.

The institute is waging war against the leading cause of death among Americans – heart disease. Created under the leadership of Starnes, it brings together a unique collaboration of cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons, cardiologists, pulmonologists and basic scientists, all working as a team without the usual boundaries of departments or specialties.

Its programs include innovative robotic therapy and heart valve replacements. Scientific faculty members associated with the institute are exploring new research opportunities in vascular biology and regenerative medicine.

“Laboratory findings will be rapidly translated into patient care, thanks to the collaboration between our physicians and scientists, who share core facilities and other resources within the institute,” says Starnes, the institute’s executive director. “We are currently recruiting additional faculty to add to the exceptional researchers already here.”

The goal is to improve the odds faced by patients like the governor. Back in 1997, Starnes and three other surgeons had repaired Schwarzengger’s aortic valve. When  healthy, the valve prevents blood from flowing back into the left ventricle of the heart. The movie star, however, was born with a defective valve, and had decided to undergo surgery while he was still in good health. After implanting a new human tissue valve, Starnes had predicted: “This will not limit him in any way when he recovers.”

The prediction proved accurate.

With the new institute in place, Starnes says, “we want our patients to know that whatever the level of care they need, our team will design and implement the health plan that works best for them.”

According to Brian Henderson, dean of the Keck School, the USC Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute “will allow our faculty to push the boundaries of their fields.

“And it will continue USC’s push to expand our facilities here on the Health Sciences campus, providing space for growth in our research and patient-care programs.”

The USC Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute opened to patients at the Healthcare Consultation II building in December 2006. A new facility, to be located at the corner of San Pablo and Alcazar Streets on USC’s Health Sciences campus, will provide state-of-the-art treatment rooms, outpatient clinics and labs under one roof.

– Jon Weiner

The governor, Vaughn Starnes and USC President Steven B. Sample

Photo by Jon Nalick

[THE BUZZ] Of Fruit Flies and Men

In a triumph for pests, scientists have helped figure out how to make the fruit fly live longer. Humans may benefit too. Working with a team of researchers at various institutions, USC chemist Richard Roberts discovered a single protein that can inhibit aging, holding implications for human longevity and the treatment of disease. The group’s research, published in Nature Chemical Biology, describes a new method for blocking receptors (docking bays for proteins on the cell membrane) involved in aging and disease. In the fruit fly’s case, scientists manufactured compounds to block such receptors. The result: a 30 percent boost in bug life-expectancy with no apparent side effects. “It demonstrates that a single inhibitor can dramatically alter lifespan, a very complex trait,” says Roberts.

– Carl Marziali

For more information on this study, visit

Illustration by Tim Bower


Cancer Fight Goes Skyward

USC celebrates opening of Harlyne J. Norris Cancer Research Tower with streamers and blaring trumpets.

The Keck School of Medicine of USC dramatically increased its laboratory research space on April 25 with the opening of the Harlyne J. Norris Cancer Research Tower.

An expansion of the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, the 10-story structure spans 172,440 square feet at the corner of Biggy Street and Eastlake Avenue.

It houses one of the nation’s first centers focused exclusively on epigenetics, the study of how chemicals that attach to DNA can be switched on and off. Understanding this switching mechanism has vast implications for cancer prevention and treatment, experts say.

The building is dedicated to the vision of the late USC trustee Kenneth Norris Jr., husband of Harlyne Norris, who is also a USC trustee.

“I’m enormously proud of this beautiful building and what may come from the research being done here,” Harlyne Norris said at the opening. “There’s been a great deal of cancer in my family, and I have great hopes that a cure will be found here.”

The university broke ground on the $97 million structure in 2003. The tower was funded initially by a $15 million grant from the Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation. The contributions of about 15 families and groups of donors who named laboratories, floors and research offices were recognized with individual dedications.

A first-floor bridge connects the new building with the Renette and Marshall Ezralow Family Research Tower and the Norman Topping Research Tower, completing a trio of structures that house researchers dedicated to cancer research and clinical trials alongside physicians practicing high-quality patient care.

The new tower includes five floors dedicated to basic research, two floors for preventive medicine research, the Hinderstein Family Meditation Garden and the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Conference Center, with a 200-seat auditorium.

“Programs housed at the Norris Cancer Research Tower will help scientists around the world develop new ways of approaching treatment and prevention of disease,” says Peter Jones, director of the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

One floor of the new tower is dedicated to the new Epigenome Center. “We are already recognized as a center of excellence in this arena,” says Jones. “With the opening of this facility, we will really be able to develop breakthroughs in this explosive field.”

The tower also provides a temporary home to USC’s growing Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. The center’s scientists can focus on basic stem-cell biology in the new laboratories, including human embryonic stem cells, developmental biology and the biology of tissue regeneration and repair, says Martin Pera, who heads the center.

“Access to this research space allows us to move ahead with our recruitment program to build up a critical mass of outstanding stem cell scientists,” Pera says.

“The new tower also houses our stem cell core facility that supports work in stem cells through training, research materials and provision of space for pilot and collaborative research projects.”

– Meghan Lewit

The Harlyne J. Norris Cancer Research Tower

Photo by Jon Nalick


›› X, Y AND DISEASE  Gender may play a role in tumor development and progression in colon cancer patients, suggests a study led by Heinz-Josef Lenz of the Keck School of Medicine of USC – the first study showing that molecular markers may be sex specific. Researchers were able to identify molecular markers predicting response time to tumor progression and overall survival. When they stratified for men and women, different genes appeared to be predictive for outcome. Taking gender into account when examining the patient’s genetic profile, Lenz says, may help identify those who will benefit from specific chemotherapy treatments.

›› GRAY MATTER WORKOUT  Patients with Parkinson’s disease may find relief on a treadmill, according to a study by Keck School of Medicine neurologists Michael Jakowec and Giselle Petzinger and USC gerontologist John Walsh. The team looked at the effects of dopamine in motor learning and execution on animals doing treadmill exercises. Physical activity, they found, may help the injured brain function more efficiently by pushing the dopamine-producing neurons to work harder, thereby promoting stronger connections in the brain and bringing relief to the patient.

›› BITTERSWEET SCIENCE  The path that a bitter or sweet flavor takes from the tongue to the brain has been mapped out. A group led by USC neuroscientist Emily Liman found a gate in the taste cell TRPM5, which allows electricity to pass between the exterior and interior of the cell, triggering an electrical impulse in the nervous system. When a tastant – the crucial molecule of taste – binds to the cell, the gate opens sending an electrical signal to the brain. The findings could help improve the bitter taste of some drugs.

›› EPILEPSY IMPLANT  Researchers in the Keck School of Medicine recently began an important clinical trial to test an innovative implantable device for epilepsy. The so-called Responsive Neurostimulator is the first device that actually tracks and records seizure activity in epilepsy patients. Keck School clinical neurologist Christianne Heck, the study’s principal investigator, says results so far are positive, with no major problems reported.

For the latest USC faculty research updates, visit

Shelf Life

Literary Jitters

Drink your way across Europe, with nary a hangover, following writers who haunted famed coffee-houses.

The Grand Literary Cafés of Europe
By Noël Riley Fitch
Photographs by Andrew Midgley

“The coffee-house is like the wayside chapel that once restored religious pilgrims: coffee, the dark aromatic elixir of Arabica in a small white cup, resting on a round marble-top table; a bitter, irresistible taste on the tongue; and perhaps one’s own reflection in the wall mirror.”

So begins Noël Riley Fitch’s lavish travelogue on good coffee and conversation throughout Europe.

“Simone de Beauvoir,” she continues, “sits in solitude beside the glass in the Deux-Magots, sipping from the little white cup and recording her thoughts, the flow of coffee seemingly stimulating the flow of ink on the blank page.”

From the German Kaffeehaus to the Portuguese brasileiras, Fitch takes readers to literary haunts from Paris to Budapest to Munich. Whether the establishments are called a “café, caffe, Kaffeehaus, kawiarnia or coffee-house,” they have been central to urban cultural and artistic life, Fitch explains. “Since the 16th century, coffee has been the beverage of choice to inspire thought, argument and dreams.”

The oversized, beautifully-illustrated volume is – what else? – a coffee-table book. Lavish photographs by Andrew Midgley celebrate the architecture and décor of these everyday meeting places. But Fitch, a lecturer in USC College’s Master of Professional Writing program, also focuses on the famous writers and artists who frequented the coffee-houses, examining the role of the café in culture and society.

Fitch’s previous books have prepared her well for this one. They include Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties; Hemingway in Paris: Walks for the Literary Traveler; and Literary Cafés of Paris.

She explores coffee’s discovery in Africa in the 15th century, then traces the history of the coffeehouse from Mecca, Damascus, Constantinople and Cairo, to its spread throughout the Ottoman Empire and Europe. Her descriptions of each coffee-house, from the humble to the lavish, place readers squarely inside the vibrant photographs. There’s Madrid’s Café de Gijón, known as much for its surly waiters as its intellectual history. There’s the elegant Le Fouquet on the Right Bank in Paris, the birthplace of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Vienna’s Café Central, a favorite of both Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud, is described as “a library with coffee service.” And for those inclined to sit where Voltaire once pondered liberty, Fitch includes present-day directions and details.

–  Allison Engel

Café Griensteidl in Vienna

Photo by Andrew Midgley Courtesy of New Holland Publishers


Drama Kings: Players and Publics in the Re-Creation of Peking Opera 1870-1937
By Joshua Goldstein

After its formation in the late Qing period, the genre known as Peking opera rapidly rose in popularity. In Republican-era China, it was considered the epitome of national culture – star singers of the 1920s and 1930s were cultural icons. Historian Joshua Goldstein of USC College chronicles the emergence of this art form, looking at the lives of key players, the nature and content of the performances, and the relationship between Peking opera and Chinese nationalism.


Night of Four Moons
CD by Catherine Cooper and Kevin Cooper

Sponsored in part by the USC Thornton School of Music’s Protégé Program, this CD features 18 tracks inspired by poetry and texts from around the world, including Native American chant, Spanish Renaissance poetry and Yiddish folk songs. Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cooper MA ’02 and guitarist Kevin Cooper MM ’01 recorded songs with USC Thornton faculty composer Frederick Lesemann, DMA candidate Seven Gates and other noted composers. Available for purchase at


Roman Tragedy
By A. J. Boyle
ROUTLEDGE, $29.95A classics professor in USC College, A.J. Boyle offers the first detailed cultural and theatrical history of Roman tragedy in his book exploring the major literary genre from its roots in the 3rd century BCE. Analyzing the work of Ennius, Pacuvius and Accius, as well as Seneca and his post-Neronian successors, Boyle reflects on the history of Roman tragic techniques in the context of the city’s evolution.Faculty books can be purchased at Trojan Bookstore. Call 213-740-9030 or visit


Me and My Shadow Economy

Group Logic for ‘Me Generation’

Baby boomers undermine their own interests by shunning immigrants, a USC demographer contends.

Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America
By Dowell Myers

The golden years of America’s 78 million baby boomers will shine only as brightly as do the fortunes of the country’s changing immigrant population.

That’s according to a new book by demographer Dowell Myers, a professor in USC’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development.  Drawing on detailed census data – particularly in California, a bellwether for the nation – Myers predicts the economic and social impact of immigrants on the nation.

The book has received much national attention. In March, Myers spoke at a Congressional hearing on immigration reform in the Great Hall on Ellis Island. Immigrants at all skill levels will be needed more than ever over the next two decades, Myers told members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, to offset the decline in American birth rates and the aging of the baby boomers.

“Immigrants and boomers need each other,” says Myers. “These are two populations whose destinies are going to converge in less than 20 years. We already know a lot about the boomers’ coming retirement impacts, but we still underestimate the immigrants and how they can help.”

According to Myers, the current voting patterns of white senior citizens and boomers – who together constitute a minority of California’s population but a majority of the state’s voters – show little support for providing social services for immigrants.

But these citizens are voting against their self interest, he says. Better education for young people leads to better jobs with higher incomes and thus more tax dollars to support Social Security and Medicare.

Myers concludes that voters who are reluctant to support social services for immigrants have reasons – including the perception that the foreign-born have a negative impact on the culture – that are based on assumptions about recently arrived immigrants rather than the longer settled.

The benefits of longer settlement are  apparent in California, as they will become in parts of the nation where immigrants have only recently arrived, Myers says.

“In terms of adopting the English language, saving money and buying homes, immigrants have been far more successful than the public assumes,” Myers says. “The idea that immigrants who move to the U.S. never change – that they remain frozen in time in terms of language, education and culture– is something I call the ‘Peter Pan fallacy.’”

Between 1980 and 2015, the cost of programs for the elderly will increase from 31 percent of the federal budget to 48 percent, Myers says. Meanwhile, the ratio of seniors to working-age residents, including immigrants, will grow from 250 seniors per 1,000 working-age residents in 2010 to 411 per 1,000 in 2030.

“In other words, there will be far fewer taxpayers supporting a ballooning retirement population,” Myers says. “If you don’t want to drastically cut Social Security and other benefits, you need to make sure that you have well-educated citizens and residents who can perform highly skilled, and high-paying, jobs.

“The growing economy requires ever more workers in the higher-skilled categories. Without them we lose those jobs,” Myers says.

Such a scenario also could have a dramatic impact on the real estate market, as seniors looking to sell homes will face a dearth of working-age residents who can afford them.

But Myers remains hopeful about the future. “My book is a story of hope. We can help ensure a great future for all of us and our children. But people have to have accurate information before they act.”

– Darren Schenck

Photo by Mark Tanner

[Duplicating Success] How Kinko’s Became King

As a child, Paul Orfalea ’71 could barely read or write. He flunked the second grade. But in 1970, the USC business major started a copy shop in Santa Barbara in an 8-by 12-foot storefront next to a hamburger stand. He called it Kinko’s, the nickname he earned in college thanks to his kinky hair. In this memoir Copy This! How I Turned Dyslexia, ADHD and 100 Square Feet Into a Company Called Kinko’s, written with Ann Marsh (Workman, $13.95), Orfalea, now adjunct faculty in the USC Marshall School’s Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, describes harnessing his learning disabilities – ADHD and dyslexia – to turn his small shop into a global phenomenon. His difficulties gave him “learning opportunities,” he writes. They made him think differently, and develop “an unorthodox, people-centered, big-picture business model” that relied on the skills of his franchise managers.

For information on USC’s Lloyd Greif Center, visit

Arts & Culture

Weisberg Unfurled at Skirball

Summer exhibit celebrates the 30-year career of Jewish artist and USC dean of fine arts Ruth Weisberg.

Showcased at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles from May through July was “Ruth Weisberg Unfurled,” an exhibit of three decades of work by USC Roski School of Fine Arts Dean Ruth Weisberg.

At the center of the exhibit was her monumental mixed-media drawing “The Scroll,” on display for the first time in nearly 15 years. Completed in 1987 for Hebrew Union College in New York and acquired by the Skirball Museum that year, this 94-foot-long drawing resembles the Jewish Torah scroll and was unrolled at the Skirball in a specially constructed semi-circular space. More than 30 other paintings, drawings and prints by Weisberg on display represented a veritable unfurling of her life and career.

“But it’s certainly not a retrospective of all my work, by any means,” Weisberg says.

Much of Weisberg’s work reflects on her identity, drawing parallels from contemporary life and Jewish tradition to explore her own life story. Although she has been described by critics as a “Jewish, feminist, classical artist,” Weisberg hesitates to be categorized.

She is interested in slow art, she says.

“Like ‘slow food,’ it’s art that unfolds over time. But I want people to have an immediate visceral reaction to my work as well.”

Certainly, the colossal scale of “The Scroll” lends itself to such a reaction. Like the Torah, it is read continuously from right to left, unfolding a narrative using scriptural motifs, imagery from Jewish life events, including Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, and images from Weisberg’s own life.

Art historian Matthew Baigell, writing in the exhibit catalog, calls it “one of the most important works ever created in the entire history of Jewish-American art.”

With more than 70 solo exhibitions already on her resumé, Weisberg sees the Skirball show as special, for marking the 20th anniversary of the completion of “The Scroll” but also for showcasing her professional artistic achievements for USC students.

“It is such a benefit for our students to see us as active professionals,” Weisberg says. The fact that she also serves as dean helps humanize that position as well. “The deans at USC are certainly not remote figures,” she says of her colleagues. “We all know our students and colleagues well – it’s one of the great rewards of the job.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times about the exhibition, Weisberg explained that she tells students not to be overly concerned with careerism or being fashionable, because that reflects short-term thinking.

“If you’re in fashion, you’re not in fashion long. You have to work from deeper sources. I try to teach my students to dig deep, because that’s the only source of originality.”

The catalog from the Weisberg show is available from the Skirball Cultural Center by calling (310) 440-4505.

Weisberg was not the only USC Roski faculty member exhibiting in the spring of 2007. “Andrea Zittel: Critical Space” was featured at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary; Sharon Lockhart’s paintings were shown at the Tate Modern in London and the MCA in Chicago; and Charlie White’s photography was on display at the ZKM Museum in Germany and MOCA Shanghai.

 –  Lauren Walser

The Floating World (2003)
Photo courtesy of Ruth Weisberg


›› ELEONORE’S ART  A memorial concert celebrates the life and music of beloved faculty cellist Eleonore Schoenfeld, who died in January. In addition to tribute performances by students, faculty and professional colleagues, the program includes excerpts from a feature documentary on the impact of Schoenfeld’s pedagogy. Sunday, Sept. 9, Bovard Auditorium.

›› GLASS YARN  In the hands of Ira Glass, stories of ordinary lives become beveled narrative jewels. In this Visions and Voices signature event, the host of public radio’s popular This American Life and its Showtime cable spinoff gives a multimedia presentation probing the power of storytelling. Saturday, Sept. 15, Bovard Auditorium.

›› WITCH WATCH  There’s a reason The Crucible has been revived continually since Arthur Miller wrote his Tony-winning drama in 1953. Its themes of religious zealotry, false memory and mass hysteria resonate in every age – including the present. The USC School of Theatre presents this troubling drama, set amid the Puritan purges of old Salem, in a lavish mainstage production directed by Andrew Robinson. Oct. 11-14, Bing Theatre.

›› WATER MUSIC  A satiric cantata based on the biblical story of the Great Flood forms the core of a thought-provoking event titled “Humanity Afloat: Performing and Thinking about Sons of Noah.” After a performance of faculty composer Stephen Hartke’s deluvian masterpiece by the USC Thornton Contemporary Music Ensemble, a panel of musicians, literary critics and theologians meditate on possible meanings.  Tuesday, Oct. 16, Alfred Newman Recital Hall.

›› WILLAMS PLAYS WILLIAMS  If composer John Williams had written nothing but the opening theme to Star Wars, he would be a household name. But that’s only one of hundreds of film scores he has composed. And, he has an important second career as a composer of contemporary concert music. The multi-talented maestro conducts the USC Thornton Symphony in his repertoire from both genres, including his Concerto for Horn and Orchestra. Williams gives a talk before the performance. Thursday, Oct. 18, Bovard Auditorium.

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

Post-Modern Opera

Miss Lonelyhearts Sings

Nathanael West’s dark classic is reborn in the Thornton Opera production of a new work by Lowell Liebermann.

Forget everything you thought you knew about opera. Antiquated morality buried in preposterous plotlines, “park-and-bark” arias knit together by labored theatrics, a tedious language barrier and exorbitant ticket prices.

What looked, in the 20th century, like the death throes of a limping dinosaur, turns out to be the birth pangs – make that reincarnation – of a vigorous art form for the 21st century.

At USC in April, audiences had a front-row seat to a christening, of sorts.

In the West Coast premiere of composer Lowell Liebermann’s Miss Lonelyhearts, all the stereotypes went out the window. Based on the tortured Nathanael West novella about a newspaper advice columnist’s descent into depression and madness, this new opera engages the senses and stimulates the intellect in ways that La Traviata hasn’t done in generations.

The scoring is rigorous, vibrant, ironic. The vocal parts, challenging and ripe with emotional potential. The action, quick-paced and startling. Some in the audience, undoubtedly, were put off by the unflinching treatment of lust, drunken violence and other black holes of the human psyche usually left to the imagination.

“This is a nasty little story – filled with every kind of depravity,” wrote one critic in a highly favorable review in the New York Sun, published last spring after Miss Lonelyhearts made its debut in the Big Apple.

But then opera has always been about nasty things, says stage director Ken Cazan, an associate professor of opera at the USC Thornton School of Music.

“All opera is adult,” he says. Sometimes we forget that – so quaintly outdated are the provocative elements in, say, The Marriage of Figaro (considered scandalous in its day). “Opera was not meant to be eye candy,” Cazan explains. “It was meant to educate, enlighten and move us, to make us think and feel.”

Cazan is a catalyst in the transformation under way. Known for his edgy aesthetic and willingness to take risks, he was a key player in the creation of Miss Lonelyhearts, a commission for the Juilliard School’s centennial done in collaboration with USC and the University of Cincinnati’s conservatory.

Cazan brought in professional set, lighting and costume designers to work with students. He also worked with the USC School of Cinematic Arts to provide the film clips that accompanied the performances.

As economic factors are driving more opera commissions to universities, collaborations have resulted from a desire to share resources and present memorable work.

“Co-productions used to be a huge thing in professional opera companies and that’s not happening quite as much,” Cazan observes. “The big opera companies are finding it prohibitively expensive, and right now most world premieres in America are being done in universities.”

This was the second contemporary work staged by USC Thornton Opera – and that’s no insignificant detail in a season comprised of only two productions. Last fall’s Powder Her Face, by British composer Thomas Adès, was no less risky or risqué.

– Diane Krieger and Evan Calbi


A West Coast premiere at USC.

Photo by Damien Elwood

[Dance]  Seeing Spots

Dance collided with digital effects this spring as the USC Repertory Dance Company took the stage in a tech-enhanced program prepared in collaboration with world-famous choreographer Mark Morris and USC Viterbi School of Engineering computer scientists. The goal was to bring together choreographers with programmers in a trial marriage between motion capture and modern dance. Morris was in residence at USC for three days, working with student choreographers who mapped out dance sequences set to passages from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  Morris and the student artists spent time in a motion-capture lab, where dancers donned “data suits” and performed their routines for 3-D computers. Later, the motion-capture data – rendered as leaping dots, vectors, skeletons and constellations – were synchronized with live dancers in a stage performance.

This project was sponsored by the USC Provost’s Arts and Humanities Initiative. For more information on the program and upcoming events, visit

Dancers perform wearing “data suits”

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