January 2004

Rocket Science

Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms of AIDS

A Cultural Perspective on Technology

Taking IT to New Levels

High-Tech Mapping of Ancient Sites

Tracing the Paths of Scientific Discovery

S&T Briefs

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Please send us your comments on this issue, ideas for future issues, and news about your professional interests and accomplishments.

Al Dorof, Editor

© 2004


Bryn Mawr College
A newsletter on research, teaching, management, policy making and leadership in Science and Technology

S&T Briefs

Exemplary Physicians

In 2001, Donald Lindberg, M.D., director of the National Library of Medicine, invited distinguished individuals in the medical community to nominate exemplary physicians for inclusion in a planned exhibition that would celebrate the lives and achievements of women who have made outstanding contributions to medical practice and research. The exhibition, titled “Changing the Face of Medicine,” opened at the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Md., on October 14 and will continue through April 2, 2005.

Frances K. Conley Seven Bryn Mawr alumnae are included among the 338 physicians featured in the exhibition. Frances K. Conley ’62, who earned her M.D. at Stanford University Medical School, was the first woman to pursue a surgical internship at Stanford University Hospital and the first woman to be a tenured full professor at a medical school in the United States. In 1991, she announced her intention to resign as professor of neurosurgery at Stanford to protest the sexist attitudes of a male colleague, which spurred the university to adopt policies to deal with gender insensitivity. On the exhibition Web site, Conley credits Bryn Mawr as her mentor: “At Bryn Mawr I saw women as professors and student body presidents, women who sparkled with wit and intelligence and were highly motivated to do something important with their lives. At Bryn Mawr I learned I had the intelligence to do whatever I wanted in life.”

Ethel Dunham Ethel Collins Dunham ’14 (M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) was the first woman to be elected to the American Pediatric Society and the first woman to receive its most prestigious award, the John Howland Medal. As the chief of child development at the Children’s Bureau, Washington, D.C., a national agency dedicated to improving the health and welfare of American children, Dunham established national standards for the hospital care of newborn children. She also innovated home-visit programs for new mothers.

M. Irene Ferrer M. Irené Ferrer ’37 (M.D., Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons) was the first woman to serve as chief resident in medicine at Bellevue Hospital, New York City. At Bellevue, she worked with André Cournand and Dickinson Richards to develop and test the first cardiac catheter, for which Cournand and Richards received the Nobel Prize in 1956. A distinguished cardiologist, Ferrer has won numerous awards and is a member of the board of directors of the New York Heart Association.

Virginia Frantz Virginia Kneeland Frantz ’18 (M.D., Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons) was the first woman to be a surgery intern at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital, to become president of the American Thyroid Society and, with Allen O. Whipple, to describe the insulin secretion of pancreatic tumors. Her studies with Raffaele Lattes of the control of bleeding during surgery led to the discovery of oxidized cellulose as an aid to wound healing that could be absorbed by the body.

Anneliese Sitarz Anneliese Lotte Sitarz ’50 (M.D., Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons) was one of the founding investigators of the Children’s Cancer Study Group, a national pediatric-cancer-research network that was established by the National Cancer Institute in 1955 to study the potential of antileukemic agents in children. A professor emerita of clinical pediatrics at Columbia, Sitarz is a member of numerous professional societies, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Marjorie Wilson Marjorie Price Wilson ’46 (M.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) was one of the few women to rise to the highest ranks of medical administration before her death in 1997. She served as associate director of the National Library of Medicine, director of the department of institutional development at the Association of American Medical Colleges, and president and chief executive officer of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. Wilson also held advisory positions at the National Board of Medical Examiners, the John E. Fogarty International Center and the Institute of Medicine’s Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship Program.

Norma Wohl Norma Spielman Wohl ’42 (M.D. Hahnemann Medical College) is a distinguished psychiatrist who specialized in the growing phenomenon of cult groups. While working in private practice, she also served as psychiatric consultant for Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges and was director of child-psychiatry training at the Children’s Clinic of the Philadelphia Psychiatric Center.

To learn more about these and other outstanding physicians, you can visit the “Changing the Face of Medicine” exhibition online, read physician biographies and view video clips at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/. Visitors may also post stories about women physicians who they think should be part of the project.

Top 125

Michelle Francl An article co-written by Bryn Mawr Professor of Chemistry Michelle Francl has made the list of the 125 most-cited articles in the history of The Journal of the American Chemical Society, the nation’s premier chemistry journal. The list was compiled using data from the Science Citation Index, a widely used information retrieval tool. The number of times a given research paper is cited in other scientists’ work is often used as an indicator of its impact; an article with 10 or more citations is generally considered quite successful. According to the JACS list, which appears in the prestigious publication’s 125th anniversary issue (see http://pubs.acs.org/jacs125th/articles.html), Francl’s paper has been cited 798 times to date. That makes it the 108th most cited of the 135,149 articles published by JACS since the journal was founded in 1879.

The paper is titled “Self-Consistent Molecular Orbital Methods. 24. Supplemented Small Split-Valence Basis Sets for Second-Row Elements.” Published in 1982, it reported the creation of “a mathematical set of functions that could be used as the building blocks for creating quantum-mechanical descriptions of molecules,” Francl says. The paper is frequently cited because such quantum-mechanical descriptions of molecules have a wide variety of applications.

“People use these descriptions to predict the structures of molecules and to understand how molecules interact with each other, for example, to figure out how a drug molecule might react in the body. They can help predict ‘molecular fingerprints’ — the characteristic patterns observed when molecules are exposed to light, called their spectra. The descriptions help researchers determine how a molecule can be constructed and figure out how much energy a reaction might take,” says Francl.

Math and Science Partnership

Professor of Mathematics Victor J. Donnay is one of five co-principal investigators on a $12.5 million five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to support the Mathematics and Science Partnership of Greater Philadelphia. Led by La Salle University, Philadelphia, the project includes 13 colleges and universities and 46 school districts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Its goal is to improve mathematics and science education in grades 6-12 by facilitating relationships between public school teachers and administrators and faculty from the partner colleges and universities.

“We will use the grant to help finance the quality, quantity and diversity of mathematics and science programs in secondary schools,” says Donnay. “We want to help current and future teachers to become proficient in using hands-on, inquiry-based teaching methods. Research has shown that such active learning approaches increase student interest in and enjoyment of mathematics and science, and lead to improved student learning.”

GUT-Level Research

Paul Melvin Professor of Mathematics Paul Melvin received a $136,240 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to find purely topological definitions of the invariants arising out of Seiberg-Witten theory. These include the basic classes for 4-dimensional manifolds and the Ozsvath-Szabo Floer homology for 3-manifolds.

“This research falls under the larger topics of gauge theory and string theory, which are closely connected to and motivated by theoretical physics, in particular the attempt to develop a grand unifying theory (GUT) for the forces of nature,” Melvin explains. “Low-dimensional bordism theory is the mathematical analogue of n+1 dimensional quantum field theories. Progress in understanding the mathematical underpinnings of this sort of physics feeds back into better understanding of the physics.”

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