Faculty and research
Bryn Mawr Provost, Dr. Ralph Kuncl, keeps a framed print of an autumn crocus in his office to remind him of his first major scientific discovery. Kuncl, a neurologist, came to the College last summer from The Johns Hopkins University, where he was vice provost for undergraduate education and professor of neurology and pathology at its School of Medicine. He has taken off his doctor's white coat to pursue an interest in higher education that began with his own "transforming" undergraduate experience at Occi dental College, from which he received his B.A. in 1970.

"I feel called to my second career, and feel I have been preparing for it my entire life!" he said.

Kuncl told the story of his discovery at a Weekly Brown Bag series gathering last September to illustrate his belief about the culture of science. The lunchtime discussions, sponsored by the Center for Science in Society, bring together faculty in the sciences and humanities to explore intersections between the traditional disciplines.

While looking at microscopic slides of biopsied human muscle tissue as a young professor, Kuncl noticed one with a unique vacuolated pattern and recognized it. "I'd spent hours as a graduate student and post-doc staring at stained cross-section biopsies of muscle, and as a graduate student I had read an obscure 1970 paper about a patient who died from an overdose of colchicine," he said. He knew instantly that he had discovered the first case of colchicine myopathy.

Colchicine is an alkaloid originally extracted from the autumn crocus as a remedy for gout. Known by the ancient Greeks as helpful for painful joints, and first introduced to the United States by Benjamin Franklin as a remedy for gout, it is still often used to relieve inflammation in acute and chronic flareups of gout.

Kuncl and the team he assembled found 12 more cases of colchicine myopathy, and the findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1987. The end of the discovery played out in the 2003 volume of Experimental and Cellular Research, when Kuncl's first publication from Bryn Mawr's department of biology, of which he is also a member, reported finding the ultimate cellular mechanism by which colchicine causes muscle disease.

"I don't believe much in serendipity," Kuncl said. "I believe that scientific discovery only happens to the prepared-it is really just the recognition of a pattern-and is most often the result of team enterprise."

Kuncl has specialized in neuromuscular disease, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. In 2002, his book, Motor Neuron Disease, was published in an international series by Elsevier and Saunders. He was named recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal from the University of Chicago for his seminal discoveries about the role of glutamate in ALS and the development of experimental drugs for that disease (Journal of Neuroscience 2002).

In his Brown Bag presentation, Kuncl described the Wisconsin Alumni Research Fund (WARF), founded in 1925 to bring UW-Madison faculty discoveries-which have included the MRI scanner and a 1995 patent on the first stem cell-to society at large and turn the profits back into additional on-campus research. The potential marketability of ideas to industry and the government has had, however, deleterious effects on academic science.

Weekly Brown Bag Series
Synopses of this year's Weekly Brown Bag faculty discussions on the science of culture and the culture of science may be read online.

"The culture of sharing found in labs in the 1970s and 80s now more typically requires material transfer agreements, creating a legalistic environment and a patent-oriented culture of secrecy," Kuncl said. "That may have some advantages, but the pace of science can slow and collegiality evaporate under the pressure of competition. Colleges like Bryn Mawr might do better at encouraging technology transfer. But we should also support investigators who pursue the subjects in which they're interested, regardle ss of the availability of outside funding. Ideally, their passion spills over into their teaching, and the reflected glow promotes the College."

In the last century, the baccalaureate degree has moved from being chiefly a good marketed for the leisure class to a gateway to employment and social and financial success for all.

"This is a beneficial social development, but in some ways the degree is becoming a commodity," Kuncl said. "Most colleges and universities espouse the same goals and aspirations, trumpeting similar themes and curricula in catalogs and on websites. Residential liberal arts colleges are particularly challenged in their efforts to attract students as universities develop undergraduate research and residential learning communities.

S&T, the College's quarterly newsletter featuring Bryn Mawr alumnae/i and faculty who work in science and technology may be read online.
"Although the highest values of institutions like Bryn Mawr are breadth of education and the development of critical thinking, we could be more appreciative of teaching in applied areas such as finance, education, creative writing and film studies. We could make alliances with local businesses through internships and challenge them to put more women in middle and upper management. We also need to do better at assessing the teaching outcomes of undergraduate research, that is, individually mentored creative activities of all sorts."

Career advancement and enhancement are at the top of Kuncl's list for faculty. "For those who want it, I aim to facilitate their abilities to enlarge their roles at the College beyond their departments and to develop broader perspectives in higher education," he said. "In my short time here, it has become clear that the Bryn Mawr faculty has within it some great future leaders in higher education and some of the classiest teachers I've known."

Bryn Mawr is already a second home to Kuncl, who was its American Council on Education (ACE) fellow in 2000-1. He completed a study on women's colleges' success at producing future women Ph.D. scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, assisted President of the College Nancy J. Vickers in the development of the implementation version of The Plan for a New Century, and worked with then provost Robert Dostal, Rufus M. Jones Professor of Philosophy, to create a transition plan for College's new sabba tical-leave program. The former policy offered eligible faculty members a semester at full pay or a year at half-pay after six years of teaching. The new policy, which takes effect in the 2005-6 academic year, offers a year's leave after 12 semesters of full-time teaching or a semester's leave after six semesters.

Kuncl is now analyzing the variability and validity of college rankings as they relate to competitiveness. He is also writing about the underfunding of federal research and development in higher education as compared to the fields of health and defense.

Faculty notebook
Associate Professor of Psychology Kimberly E. Cassidy has received an Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA)of $144,569 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for a three-year research program to examine gender stereotyping in children through the phonology of names.

Associate Professor of Social Work and Social Research Julia Littell has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation to study the effectiveness of multisystemic treatment (MST)-a brief, intensive intervention technique-on outcomes for youth in the juvenile-justice, mental-health and child-welfare systems. Littell will employ GSSWSR doctoral students Burnée Forsythe and Melania Popa in her research project, which she developed under the aegis of the Campbell Co llaboration.

On March 2, The Bryn Mawr Chamber Society premiered Frank Mallory's arrangement of Franz Schubert's Fantasy in F minor, Op. 103, D. 950. W. Alton Jones Professor of Chemistry, Mallory wanted to make this "musical treasure," originally composed as a piano piece for four hands, available to players of other instruments. Violinist Federico Piantini from the Lansdowne Symphony joined Mallory on clarinet, Professor of Mathematics Paul Melvin on cello, and Professor of Chemistry Sharon Burgmayer on piano.

In a February 18 concert of music from the East and West sponsored by the Centers for 21st Century Inquiry, Milton C. Nahm Professor of Philosophy Professor of Philosophy Michael Krausz conducted the Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in performances of Beethoven's Coriolan Overture and Symphony Number 7. The Peabody Percussion Group performed three contemporary pieces incorporating musical themes from Pakistan, Japan and India. Krausz has conducted orchestras in Bul garia and numerous ensembles in the United States.

Convocation 2003 speaker
Bryn Mawr's May 17, 2003 Convocation speaker will be noted research chemist David Oxtoby, a Trustee of the College and son of the late John Oxtoby, professor emeritus of mathematics. Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago, Oxtoby will become the ninth president of Pomona College in Claremont, CA in July.

The President of Pomona's Board of Trustees describes Oxtoby as "brilliant of mind and staggering in his scholarly credentials. In the best traditions of a liberal arts education, he is also something of a Renaissance man, accomplished in French, German, and Italian, knowledgeable about classical music and architecture, active in theater and athletics."

Oxtoby has held faculty and administrative titles at Chicago, serving as the William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor. While dean, he continued to teach at both the basic and advanced levels. He will join Pomona as professor of chemistry as well as its president.

Writers working, teaching, learning
By Minna Canton Duchovnay, '98, M.A. '99

Young writers grow by considering the work of others as they produce their own prose and poetry, believes Karl Kirchwey, director of Bryn Mawr's creative writing program and senior lecturer in the arts. Students become part of a "community of critics" through the process of studying work by published authors in course syllabi. They assess the strengths and weaknesses of their peers' work and, most difficult of all, learn to criticize their own, he said.

A poet and an experienced teacher of young adults, Kirchwey came to Bryn Mawr two years ago to develop a program that will offer students a foundation on which to develop their skills in creative writing. Students can advance from an introductory freshman course to intermediate levels (200), advanced levels (300) and independent study (403).

Author of four volumes of poetry, At the Palace of Jove (2002), The Engrafted Word (1998), Those I Guard (1993), and A Wandering Island (1990), Kirchwey was director of the Unterberg Poetry Center at New York's 92nd Street YM-YHWA from 1987-2000. He taught high school English after completing an M.A. in English literature at Columbia University, and creative writing and literature at Smith, Yale, Wesleyan, Columbia, and at the Poetry Center.

The Center's literary reading series is the largest in the United States, with 80 visiting writers each year. Kirchwey attended more than 1,000 readings during his tenure. "It was an incredible education for me as a poet to hear those writers read," he said. The events, by their nature, however, did not create an intellectual community. "Writers would come and read, perhaps answer a few questions, sign autographs, and disappear into the night," he said. Then one day, as Kirchwey tells it, "Bryn Mawr called my bluff," when it sought him out to direct a community of writers working, teaching, and learning.

Internationally known writers have visited Bryn Mawr since its early years to give public readings. In 1996, Margaret Holley, Ph.D. '83, constituted creative writing courses and visitors into a Creative Writing Program and pulled disparate visiting writers' funds together into a Writers' Reading Series. While on campus, speakers usually visit creative writing classes and meet informally with students. On September 26, past U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz, 97, visited Writing Poetry I, where stud ents asked questions about his work and writing habits, focusing on how he got started as a poet. Last fall's series included novelist Nadine Gordimer, whose short stories Kirchwey had assigned in his Introduction to Creative Writing course, and scholar-novelist Umberto Eco. Derek Walcott and Ian McEwan came to campus this spring.

"These writers serve as eminent mentors," Kirchwey said. "I'm also drawing on connections I made at the Poetry Center to diversify our course offerings and enlarge the circle of our instructors so that undergraduates will be exposed to a variety of teaching styles and backgrounds."

He created an advanced fiction and nonfiction workshop, offered last spring, in which distinguished authors Phillip Lopate, Maureen Howard, Lore Segal and Lynne Sharon Schwartz each taught three-week modules. Toward the end of the semester, they participated in a public reading and panel discussion on the dividing line between fiction and non-fiction. This spring, Jessica Hagedorn, Sigrid Nunez, Peter Cameron, and James Lasdun are teaching a similar modular master class in fiction. "This format provides no t only the opportunity to work with four different teachers but also with ones who are routinely affiliated with MFA programs," Kirchwey said.

Bryn Mawr offers creative writing as a six-course minor and as a three-course concentration for English majors. Exceptionally gifted students may petition to devise an independent major. This year, there are 15 minors and concentrators.

Kirchwey has developed a one-semester course, Introduction to Creative Writing, that he hopes will serve as the gateway for all students who do a minor, concentration, or major, although those with equivalent expertise may bypass it. Adapted from a year-long Structure and Style course taught at Columbia, it positions students for intermediate and/or advanced courses. Roughly four weeks each are devoted to short fiction, poetry, and drama. Each week of class time is divided equally between discussi ng student work and syllabus readings. Students are divided into three groups in which they write or revise work each week; the entire class also discusses the work of five students each week. Enrollment is limited to 15 students, with 10 or more places reserved for freshmen. Upperclassmen with little or no previous experience in creative writing are selected on the basis of a detailed questionnaire, but gaining admission into the class is a true lottery experience for freshmen. Slips of paper with applica nts' names are placed in a cookie jar, and Kirchwey selects them in everyone's presence.

"The Creative Writing Program is intended to serve both those students in the English department who would naturally gravitate towards its courses and those in other departments all across the College who are interested in creative writing or who wish to discover an interest," Kirchway said. Last year a senior majoring in geology not only enjoyed the course immensely but she also turned out to be one of the best students in the class.

"It is unusual for an undergraduate writer immediately to find a distinctive voice, which is usually developed only through experience and reading," Kirchwey said. In his own poetry classes, he is interested in training students to appreciate the lineage of ideas that originate with individual writers and are transformed and drawn out by successive writers across the centuries. He demonstrates this process to students by examining a subject, for example, walking on the beach and the washing out of writing in the sand, as it is described in a love sonnet of Edmund Spenser, and its poetic descendents in works by Zbigniew Herbert, Sheamus Heaney, and Kirchwey himself.

Courses in short fiction, poetry, memoir, creative nonfiction, playwriting and screenwriting are offered at the 200 level; there are 300-level courses in short fiction, poetry and experimental writing. This semester Kirchwey reintroduced feature journalism, which had not been offered since 2000, and in 2003-04 he intends to offer courses in literary journalism, writing for children, and literary translation.

"Our program is rare for a school of its size, and I'd like to make it the best in the country," he said.

Herbert Aptheker, 1915-2003
Herbert Aptheker, 87, a Marxist historian denied academic appointments because of his political views until he came to teach at Bryn Mawr in 1969, died on March 17 in Mountain View, CA. Aptheker was best known for his three-volume Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States and for editing the correspondence and writing of his mentor, W. E. B. DuBois.

Student demands for a course on black history led to an invitation to teach at Bryn Mawr, where he remained until 1973.

Aptheker was known for his outspoken defense of civil rights and as one of the first scholars to denounce American military involvement in Vietnam.

Born on July 31, 1915, in Brooklyn, Aptheker received his B.A. from Columbia University in 1936, master's in 1937, and doctorate in history, on black slave revolts, in 1943.

He is survived by his daughter, Bettina, a leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement who is a professor and chairwoman of Women's Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and two grandchildren.

Lovat Fraser Maypole scarf
This stunning silk scarf from the Class of 1952's 50th reunion based on Claud Lovat Fraser's watercolor sketch, The Maypole, is still available for purchase. Thanks to the generosity of Joanna Rose '52, a small number of these scarves were produced and are being offered for sale on behalf of the Friends of the Bryn Mawr College Library.

Claud Lovat Fraser was a British artist and theatrical designer in the first decades of the 20th century. The Maypole is from his 1913 sketchbook, part of the Library's extensive collection of his papers donated by the late Seymour Adelman.

Price: $65, including shipping. Please send your order and check to:

Canaday Library/Office of the CIO
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
For additional information, call 610-526-5270.

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