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September 15, 2008

Around Campus

A New Academic Year Begins at WPI

As the New School Year Opens,
So Does East Hall

The campus community was invited to an August 21 open house tour of East Hall, WPI's newest - and greenest - residence hall. Below, faculty and staff toured a suite's lounge and kitchen area before visiting the building's green roof.

East Hall Tour East Hall

On August 24, WPI officially welcomed the Class of 2012, which, at 913 students, is the largest class in the university's 143-year history.

The Class of 2012 is made up of the most diverse student body in the university's history; of the total, 12 percent are international students, an additional 12 percent are underrepresented students of color, and more than 250 women are starting at WPI this year - all of which are record-setting numbers for the university. The Class of 2012 also brings the highest aggregate grade point average ever to WPI with a 3.76, 300 of the incoming students having earned a 4.0. These first year students come from 42 countries, 36 states, and Puerto Rico.

"We are very excited to see more students take us up on our offers of admission than in the past couple of years," says Ed Connor, director of admissions. "With students applying to more and more schools, and the yield rates falling at many colleges, this increase is certainly a testament to the strong academic offerings here at WPI."

As a university with a global focus, WPI actively recruits outside the United States. As a testament to WPI's global outreach, the university is welcoming one student each from Thailand and Kazakhstan. These students have been sponsored by outside organizations to complete their studies at WPI. Most notably, WPI was selected to host an Afghani undergraduate through the AMZ Renaissance Foundation Fellowship Program. Only five fellowships are offered through this program, which provides full funding for four years of undergraduate study. This will be the first student from Afghanistan to study at WPI.

As the campus community welcomed new and returning students, WPI opened its newest - and greenest - residence hall, East Hall. The building features four-person apartments with kitchen, living room, bathroom, and either single or double bedrooms. It has music, recreation, and fitness facilities, technology suites on each floor, and wireless access. East Hall was designed by Boston-based CannonDesign; the general contractor was Gilbane Building Company.

Built over the course of 18 months, East Hall is WPI's second "green" building; the first being Bartlett Center, which opened in 2006 and was the first university building in Worcester to attain LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. East Hall has been registered with the USGBC and is awaiting final LEED certification, which is anticipated to be at the gold level. In February 2007, the Board of Trustees voted to adopt a policy calling for all future buildings on campus to be environmentally friendly and LEED-certified structures.

Zipcars Come to Campus

WPI has partnered with Zipcar, the world's largest provider of cars-on-demand by the hour or day. This new partnership allows WPI to provide Zipcars to WPI faculty, staff, and students as an environmentally friendly alternative to keeping a car on campus. The partnership continues WPI's commitment to investing in sustainable solutions, and marks Zipcar's entry on campus, bringing its operations to more than 50 cities, including London and 26 North American states and provinces.

Beginning in A-Term, two self-service Zipcars - 2008 Honda Civic Hybrids - will be available for use 24 hours a day, seven days a week, parked along the campus Quadrangle. The cars will be available to all staff and students aged 18 and older, with gas, maintenance, insurance, and reserved parking included in low hourly and daily rates. Zipcar was selected as WPI's car-sharing partner based on its superior technology and operations, membership experience, and track record of providing peer universities with a proven, cost effective, and environmentally friendly transportation solution.

"At WPI, we are aware of the impact our students' transportation choices have on our campus, the Worcester community, and the environment as a whole," says Janet Begin Richardson, vice president for student affairs and campus life. "By partnering with Zipcar, we have one more tool in our kit to encourage students to leave their personally owned vehicles at home during the school year, while teaching them to make sustainable transportation choices that we hope will extend beyond their college years."

Bringing Zipcar to WPI complements the many other environmentally friendly initiatives at the university. One of the best examples of those initiatives came about last year when WPI established the President's Task Force on Sustainability in order to drive a "sustainability sensibility" into the university's academic, research, and administrative endeavors.

Graduate Student Sgt. Jason Cox Wins Military Award

Sgt. Jason Cox, a WPI graduate student and Southboro native, is the recipient of the United States Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. Cox received the award in July 2008 for his work on countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

In addition to being a graduate student at WPI, Cox is an alumnus; he obtained a BS in chemistry in 2005, having maintained a 3.8 grade point average. It was that year, just two months into his first year of graduate work, that Cox, a five-year reservist in the U.S. Marine Corps (Alpha Company 1st Battalion 25th Marine Regiment), was called to duty in Iraq. During his seven-month tour in Fallujah, he served as a fire team leader and was required to be in the turret of Humvees, which were often exposed to IEDs. In the Iraq War, IEDs have been extensively used against coalition forces; they are also known as "roadside bombs," which are detonated when vehicles or pedestrians pass by.

With his chemistry background and training in WPI's labs, Cox recognized that infrared spectroscopy could be useful in detecting and identifying an IED from 250-meter distance. He conducted extensive research while maintaining a rigorous combat patrol schedule to validate the usefulness of the technology in detecting IEDs. He subsequently designed a simple but elegant and life-saving device that is built based on the pattern recognition of IED feed-in wires through the differences in thermal expansion.

The device Cox researched allows the military to image triggering systems for roadside bombs. These triggers are almost impossible to see with the naked eye or current imaging techniques. Coming up with the idea was a combination of luck and optimization, according to Cox, who recognized the utility of infrared imaging. It took time, however, to integrate the device into a platform that was combat ready. The device would not have been finished if it were not for the hard work of other Marines in his squad, Cox said. Together, they shared ideas, and, ultimately, created a system that allowed detection of victim-initiated IEDs.

Cox assembled his findings into a presentation that he gave to his commanding officers in September 2006. This resulted in the inclusion of his data in a proposal to buy forward-looking technology that specifically addresses the area Cox identified. Because of his research, the U.S. Marine Corps will purchase a system similar to his design to detect these bombs. This technology is expected to contribute measurably to counter IED tactics.

"I am just one of thousands of young servicemen and -women who do amazing things on a daily basis while overseas," said Cox, who now lives in Worcester with his wife and newborn daughter. "I'm proud that I could contribute to a device that will ultimately save lives. In terms of recognition, I would rather recognize the United States Marine Corps Reserve as a whole. These are men and women with very fulfilling civilian lives, who are separated from their loved ones to answer the call to duty. They need to be recognized for their sacrifice and hard work."

Cox has resumed his graduate work in chemistry and is working toward a PhD at the university, where he won the first-place award for Life Science at GRAD 2007, an annual poster competition at WPI.


WPI Research Team Wins $900,000 Grant

A research team at WPI has received a three-year, $900,000 award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project aimed at developing a novel way of transforming adult skin cells into stem-like cells. If successful, the research could result in a relatively simple and straightforward method for replacing tissue lost to injury, growing new organs, and curing degenerative diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's.

The grant is one of only 38 awarded by the NIH through a new program called EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration), which was created to fund exceptionally innovative research projects that could have an extraordinarily significant impact on many areas of science. The grants will help investigators test novel, often unconventional hypotheses, or tackle major methodological or technical challenges.

"This outstanding award is indicative of the high quality of work underway at WPI in the life sciences" says John Orr, provost and senior vice president. "It also reflects the value of the extraordinary investment the university has made in life sciences education and research, particularly through our development of Gateway Park and the 125,000-square-foot WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park. Our commitment to playing a vital role in the growth of the life sciences economy locally and regionally, as well as to promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in areas of national need, is bearing fruit."

The WPI research is an outgrowth of a two-year project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the first phase of a major effort aimed at finding ways to enable mammals-including humans-to regenerate tissue in digits and limbs lost to traumatic injury. This ability has been observed in amphibians, but not in higher animals.

Tanja Dominko, associate professor in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology and a member of the WPI Bioengineering Institute, is the principal investigator for the NIH-funded project. She also oversaw the work funded by DARPA as president of the Worcester biomedical company CellThera, which was a member of a multi-institution team led by researchers at Tulane University. In 2006, CellThera signed an agreement with WPI to pursue its portion of the DARPA work jointly with researchers at the university.

Publications & Presentations

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Interdisciplinary & Global Studies Division

Recent Grants

Computer Science

Fire Protection Engineering


VOX to Stage 'Threepenny Opera'

VOX, WPI's music theatre production company, and the Department of Humanities and Arts music division will present German dramatist Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill's classic revolutionary musical theatre production, "The Threepenny Opera" on Sept. 19 and 20 in Alden Memorial. Originally set in the impoverished back alleys of Victorian London, this production finds underworld antihero Mackie Messer (aka Mack the Knife) in prohibition Chicago as he tries to woo Polly Peachum and elude the authorities. "The Threepenny Opera" premiered in 1928 Berlin, offering a socialist critique of the capitalist world.

Advising the student production will be German Professor David Dollenmayer, whose students will provide German and English translations. Returning to direct her fourth production at WPI will be Kristy Chambrelli. Her past theatrical direction at the university includes "The Mikado," "Sweeney Todd," and Choral Music Director John Delorey's "Witchwife." The production will be fully staged and costumed, and Professor Douglas Weeks will conduct the cabaret-style pit band.

Showtimes are Friday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 20 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for general admission, and $10 for students with ID, and are available at the door. To reserve tickets, call 508-831-5051 or email at vox-info@wpi.edu. Doors open 30 minutes prior to the show.

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Monday, September 15

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Wednesday, September 17

Thursday, September 18

Computer Tip

Beware of Computer Viruses

This is a popular time of year for new viruses to be released. McAfee VirusScan updates and Windows security patches are automatically updated for computers on the ADMIN domain, but you'll want to be sure to update your home computer, too. Here are some tips to help you avoid contracting a virus.

The Helpdesk has detailed information online. Contact the staff at helpdesk@wpi.edu or x5888.

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Last modified: July 13, 2010 14:29:58