Issue: Summer 2004
What’s New - Shelf Life - People Watch
News & Notes on All Things Trojan
A Big Name in Engineering
||Photo by Jason Dziezielewski
a $52 million gift, USC’s engineering school renames itself to honor
digital communications pioneer Andrew J. Viterbi.
of faculty, staff, students, alumni and well-wishers crowded into USC’s
engineering quad March 2 to honor Andrew and Erna Viterbi for their $52
million gift. Viterbi PhD ’62, a USC trustee and co-founder of the cell
phone giant Qualcomm, is the creator of an algorithm embedded in
hundreds of millions of cell phones.
In recognition of the gift, the school was renamed the USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering.
USC President Steven B. Sample, a fellow electrical engineer, made the
formal announcement. With a drum roll from the Trojan Marching Band, a
four-story cardinal red banner bearing the name of the new school
unfurled from the top of Biegler Hall. Sample thanked Viterbi for
opening the frontier of digital communications and changing the world
of cellular technology.
“The gift by the Viterbis will be a powerful catalyst for bold research
and innovation, and will forever associate USC’s engineering school
with one of the most illustrious names in the history of engineering,”
Cheers, applause and whoops of joy rang from the crush of spectators.
Morning engineering classes had been canceled, so engineering
undergraduates, sporting T-shirts with the new USC Viterbi School logo
on the front and a schematic of the famous Viterbi Algorithm on the
back, filled the quad.
Calling Viterbi “a true pioneer,” an ebullient Dean C. L. Max Nikias
announced plans for a new Viterbi Museum to document the Qualcomm
co-founder’s many academic and entrepreneurial accomplishments. The
facility will open next year in the new Tutor Hall, on Viterbi’s 70th
Erna, Viterbi’s wife of 45 years, was visibly moved by the show of appreciation.
Viterbi said his decision to support USC went back four and a half
decades. “In a way, I feel that we’ve grown up together,” he said of
his relationship with the university.
A year after earning one of the first doctorates in electrical
engineering granted by USC, he joined the UCLA faculty, teaching
courses in information theory and digital communications – the field he
It might not have happened without USC.
A young engineer with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Viterbi had wanted
to study for a doctorate at Caltech, but he couldn’t afford to quit his
day job to enroll in a full-time program. “USC allowed him to enroll in
its doctoral program and continue to work full time at JPL,” the Los Angeles Times reported in an article on the naming gift.
Today, Viterbi is best known in connection with the algorithm that
bears his name. A mathematical formula to eliminate signal
interference, the Viterbi Algorithm – first described in a paper he
published in 1967 – paved the way for the widespread use of cellular
technology and thrust Viterbi into the limelight of wireless
communications. Today, the algorithm is used in all four international
standards for digital cellular telephones, as well as in data
terminals, digital satellite broadcast receivers and deep space
telemetry. Viterbi is also the co-developer of CDMA (Code Division
Multiple Access), the most widely used cell phone technology in the
“To have our school bear the name of the creator of the Viterbi
Algorithm and the co-founder of Qualcomm Corporation will be a source
of tremendous pride for our faculty, students and alumni,” said Nikias.
“His is one of the most brilliant careers in engineering history – and
he is a USC alumnus, one of our own.”
||President Sample joins the Viterbis and engineering dean Nikias at the announcement of their naming gift.
Viterbi photo by Irene Fertik
member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of
Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Science, Viterbi has
received countless awards for his contributions to communications
theory and its industrial applications. They include the Institute of
Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ Shannon Award and Alexander Graham
Bell Medal and the Marconi International Fellowship Award.
“He would be a star on the faculty of any engineering school in the
world,” Nikias says. “And, in fact, he has accepted our offer to join
our faculty here, which is a major gift in and of itself.”
||Debate photo by Wally Skalij LA Times
Forensic Fireworks from Bovard
Let’s put on a debate. Sounds simple, but when that debate involves
four Democrats who want to be President of the United States, a major
newspaper and an international cable network, nothing is simple.
On Feb. 26, USC played host to one of the most-watched debates of the
primary season when Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards, Rev. Al
Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich came to Bovard Auditorium for a bout
sponsored by the Los Angeles Times
and CNN. An estimated 2.25 million people tuned in, making it the
highest-rated debate on CNN for this political season. Host Larry King
moderated, with Times reporter Ronald Brownstein and editor
Janet Clayton grilling the candidates. CNN’s Judy Woodruff was also on
campus for live broadcasts of her daily “Inside Politics” show.
On the night of the debate, the press corps alone numbered 340 people, representing about 100 media outlets. The Times
deployed 35 staffers to cover the debate, CNN sent more than 80 TV
production and support staff and USC dispatched its own crew of 100
students and staff.
Even with months of preparation, the
volatility of the political process kept planners on their toes. "We
had to be ready for any possibility, ranging from nine candidates
debating to none," says Geoffrey Baum, public affairs director at the
USC Annenberg School, who headed the 12-person university planning team
along with USC associate vice president Susan Heitman. The
instructional value of the debate was kept high on their agenda. Nearly
two-thirds of the 750 seats were reserved for students and their
professors, and a weeklong series of related events – billed as “Debate
Week at USC” – featured teach-ins, an open forum, a political
involvement fair and an appearance by political satirist Bill Maher.
Art for High-Rollers
||Illustration by A.J. Garces
collective groan rumbled through the art world as the latest Monet show
opened in Las Vegas. There, smack in the middle of the Bellagio Casino,
past the slot machines and the blackjack tables, hung 21 masterworks,
including the Impressionist painter’s luminous “Water Lilies.” Such
crass pandering by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts for a reported $1
million jackpot, says USC’s Selma Holo, represents a new low. Holo, who
runs the museum studies program and USC Fisher Gallery, excoriated the
“blurring of the line between financial gain and museum missions…. One
really has to ask, what’s next?” she told the Los Angeles Times.
The Las Vegas show’s defenders charge naysayers with elitism. But Holo
rejects that label categorically. “I will not buy that this is about
non-elitism,” she told the Boston Globe. “This is about desperation and about making money, and nothing else.”
||Special ops troopers entering an Arab village cafe.
Artificial Intelligence software and computer gaming make language acquisition faster, more effective and action-packed fun.
it be cool if action video games had some pedagogic value – say, taught
you a foreign language? That’s just what USC computer scientists have
in mind with the Tactical Language Training System. Now in development
for the U.S. Army and being tested at West Point, Ft. Bragg and in USC
ROTC classes, the prototype takes you into an Artificial
Intelligence-animated virtual environment where you’re expected to
communicate in Lebanese Arabic.
“In typical video game fashion,
the idea is to get to the next level,” says project leader W. Lewis
Johnson of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Information Sciences
Institute. “In this game, in order to get to the next level, the
learner has to master the linguistic skills.”
Johnson directs the ISI-based Center for Research in Technology for
Education, which is spearheading development of TLTS. At first glance
the system looks like conventional language-lab software: Students
imitate words and phrases pronounced by native speakers, then practice
them in sample dialogues. But it sports some amazing new bells and
• pedagogical-agent technology that gives tailored feedback on the player’s performance;
• speech-recognition that detects common errors and evaluates the player’s speech; and
• a learner model that dynamically tracks what aspects of the language the player has mastered and what areas need more work.
The program covers non-linguistic cultural communication too. “In
face-to-face conversation, nonverbal behavior such as gesture, posture,
gaze, head movements and facial expression play an important role in
coordinating a successful exchange,” says ISI scientist Hannes Hogni
Vilhjalmsson. “Wrong interpretation of nonverbal cues or the wrong
nonverbal responses can lead to serious misunderstanding and escalate
hostility.” The system gives an overview of common Arab gestures that a
Westerner might misinterpret (for example, Arabs may roll their eyes to
signify “no”) and American gestures (such as a thumbs-up) that an Arab
The training culminates in a mission where the player, wearing
earphones and a microphone, puts his language skills to the test in an
unscripted video game environment.
You’re a soldier moving through a Lebanese village. You encounter
AI-animated Arabic speakers who, thanks to sophisticated
voice-recognition software, can carry on free-form conversations. After
exchanging greetings with the locals, you need to find out their names,
ascertain your location, discover the identity of the local headman and
get directions to his house.
You then follow these directions through the game interface. If you
speak intelligibly, the locals will understand and assist you. But if
your Arabic is garbled or offensive, Johnson adds darkly, they’ll
The game can adapt itself to each user, noting consistent errors and targeting them for remedial practice.
After testing an early version last year, the U.S. Army Special
Operations Command has committed to development at USC of a full,
Disaster Demo On Demand
Photo by Philip Channing
Shake, Rattle and Roll Film
It’s not every day that interns show veteran researchers a new way of
seeing things. But that’s exactly what undergraduates in the Southern California Earthquake Center
internship program have done. Last summer, students at the USC-based
national research center developed a method for depicting “live”
earthquake images on a computer screen. Using real seismic data
downloaded from a computer at Caltech, these animated movies plot
geometric symbols on maps to represent the direction and intensity of
fault ruptures. Traveling above and below ground, the simulations show
the earthquake’s calculated impact on land, buildings, bridges and
nearby cities. In a timed trial, they were able to produce the movies
in less than an hour – a big advantage for media and emergency workers
during a disaster.
The students wrote their own computer code using free, widely available software. USC earth scientist and SCEC director Thomas Jordan
says he has never seen anything like it. “A lot of people said it was
impossible, and to my knowledge, it’s the first time an earthquake has
been captured by a computer in this way,” he says. “It illustrates the
kind of sophisticated projects the interns attack each summer.”
||Illustration by A.J. Garces
An NSF-funded anti-cybercrime initiative creates a mini-Internet to test new weapons against computer attacks.
USC and UC Berkeley have jointly declared war on cybercrime.
Through a three-year, $5.46 million National Science Foundation grant,
the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute
and UC Berkeley’s Center for Information Technology Research are
establishing a large-scale cybersecurity testbed to evaluate and
improve defenses against Internet-spread computer viruses, worms and
“With so much of the world’s business now dependent on the Internet, we
are no longer talking about nuisance pranks and vandalism, but
potential losses in the billions of dollars,” says ISI’s Terry Benzel,
a co-principal investigator on the project. “We need better tools to
Announced in October, the Cyber Defense Technology Experimental
Research network, or DETER, is part of a two-pronged, $10.8 million NSF
anti-cybercrime initiative established in collaboration with the
Department of Homeland Security. Testing and evaluation methodologies
will come from a sister project, called Evaluation Methods for Internet
Security Technology, or EMIST, run by UC Davis, Penn State and Purdue
University. The defense tools themselves will be put to the test and
perfected at USC and UC Berkeley.
DETER architects are creating a closed, isolated network that credibly
represents the make-up and operation of the entire Internet, from
routers and hubs to users’ desktops. Approximately 1,000 computers –
with permanent hardware clusters at UC Berkeley and at ISI’s Marina del
Rey, Calif., and Arlington, Va., facilities – will form the testbed
Proposed defenses against viruses and worms can currently only be
tested in a few limited-scale private research facilities or through
computer simulations that don’t adequately represent the way the
In contrast, DETER’s isolated mini-Internet will allow researchers from
government, industry and academia to test new and existing security
technologies under a wide variety of attack techniques.
It also will serve as an educational resource for training network
security specialists, says Clifford Neuman, director of USC’s Center
for Computer Systems Security and a co-principal investigator on the
The ambitious project comes at a time when attacks on the Internet have become more sophisticated, frequent and destructive.
The Slammer/Sapphire worm, for instance, broke speed records a year
ago, infecting more than 75,000 hosts worldwide in just 10 minutes. The
attack caused ATM failures, network outages and disruption of airline
In 2001, a three-week period saw more than 12,000 denial-of-service
attacks against 5,000 distinct targets – ranging from high-profile
e-commerce sites to small, foreign Internet service providers. By 2003,
the rate of such attacks had increased tenfold.
“Over the past 10 years,” says Benzel, “much good security research
hasn’t made its way to commercial products partially because of a lack
of evidence of the benefits and tradeoffs that new security
technologies bring. DETER will help bridge that gap.”
– Eric Mankin and Gia Scafidi
Taking Our Temperature
How Secure Are We, Anyway?
While the USC Viterbi School of Engineering focuses on cybercrime
defenses, the USC Marshall School of Business will be measuring the
damage already done. In December, the school’s Center for Telecom Management
agreed to partner with the Information Technology Association of
America to conduct the first national assessment of cyber-security
readiness. “If cyber security is truly a national priority, then we
need to be able to take our temperature in terms of measuring the
cyber-security health of the nation,” says ITAA president Harris N.
Miller. A survey, to be conducted on a semi-annual basis, will assess
the cyber-security preparedness of small- and mid-sized businesses and
large enterprises. Subsequent surveys will measure the extent to which
the nation has met high-level security improvement goals and where more
work needs to be done. “The resulting data will provide a snapshot that
can be used by decision makers for determining improvement goals, IT
security investment, research and public policy options,” says CTM
executive director Morley Winograd.
Woody, We Hardly Knew Ye
An edgy new biography captures the passionate, troubled life of an
American folk legend – part patriot, part subversive, all genius.
||Photo by Mark Tanner
The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie
By Ed Cray
W.W. Norton, $29.95
Ed Cray was flipping through the New York Times when he came upon an article that would determine the course of his life for the next five and a half years.
The article announced the opening of the Woody Guthrie Archives – a
collection of more than 10,000 previously unavailable drawings, diaries
and journals of the folk singer and self-proclaimed “Okie” who had
traveled the nation in the 1930s and early ’40s proclaiming “This Land
Is Your Land.”
Cray, a journalism professor in USC’s Annenberg School for
Communication, is a longtime fan. He had even met Guthrie in 1952 at a
friend’s house in Santa Monica.
Some 50 years later, thinking about that archive, Cray thought, “Gee, that would make a great book.”
After countless hours of research and more than 100 interviews, Cray has his book. Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie
chronicles Guthrie’s passionate and troubled life, from his humble
beginnings in Oklahoma in 1912 to his death from Huntington’s disease
in 1967. Cray interviewed more than 70 people – past wives, lovers and
friends, Guthrie’s first singing partner in Los Angeles, his surviving
children, his sister, a former real-estate agent who had sold Guthrie a
plot of land in Topanga Canyon, and even a psychiatrist who briefly
Aside from the archival material, Cray obtained
Guthrie’s FBI file, medical records from mental institutions where he
was warehoused for the last 13 years of his life, and notes from other
would-be Guthrie biographers who never completed their projects.
“What makes the book is this marvelous love affair,” says Cray,
referring to the romance between Guthrie and Marjorie Mazia, a
strong-willed Martha Graham dancer who became his second wife in 1945.
They had a tempestuous marriage that ended in divorce in 1953, largely
because Mazia was afraid that Guthrie – then in the throes of
Huntington’s disease – would hurt their children.
Although Mazia remarried three times, Guthrie remained at the center of
her life and, after his death, she founded the Huntington’s Disease
Society of America.
The author of more than 17 books – including biographies of George C.
Marshall and Earl Warren – Cray presents Guthrie’s life in
unprecedented detail. For example: Guthrie was a C+ student at best,
but he excelled at typing. Family and friends recount how he would type
page after page, late into the night: all-caps, single spaced, edge to
edge, top to bottom. “He was enormously prolific,” says Cray. “It’s
stunning how much of [his writing] is really fine, and most of it’s
Guthrie, who married three times, was drawn to many women – several
outside his marriages. Cray traces this need back to the early loss of
the folk singer’s mother. She had been institutionalized in the Central
State Hospital for the Insane when Guthrie was just 13; she died there
three years later.
The immense amount of detail Cray accessed brings Guthrie’s life into
sharper focus than ever before. “In exploring the nuances of Guthrie’s
work, Cray’s exacting style is pitch-perfect,” praises Los Angeles Times
book reviewer Elizabeth Partridge. But whatever critics say, Cray lays
claim to “a biographer’s feeling that I know this guy and I got him
Ballot Hymn of the Republic
As America gears up for another presidential election, a new book of
essays considers what has changed since the Florida debacle of 2000.
||Photo by Mark Tanner
Rethinking the Vote: The Politics and Prospects of American Election Reform
Edited by Ann N. Crigler, Marion R. Just and Edward J. McCaffery
Oxford University Press, $27.95
When Ann Crigler and Edward McCaffery began compiling a book on
American election reform, the freakish 2000 presidential impasse was
still fresh in everyone’s mind.
Before the editors were finished, though, another electoral anomaly –
this time California’s gubernatorial recall – had pundits once more
scratching their heads.
The dozens of essays in Rethinking the Vote are attempts to learn from
the recent past and offer plausible solutions for the future. Some 22
scholars – including USC law professor Susan Estrich and political
scientist Jeb Barnes – weigh in on the pitfalls of and problems with
America’s voting system.
The contributors offer a variety of viewpoints on the drama of Bush vs.
Gore and the American electoral system in general. They also discuss
the status of voting around the world. “Opinions range from those who
want a truly participatory democracy, in which all votes count, to
those who believe in a more minimalist approach, looking for rough
justice in voting and voting systems,” says Crigler, a political
scientist and director of USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics.
After the Florida deadlock brought balloting irregularities to light,
some researchers took a second look at California’s 2000 results. Sure
enough, they detected a racial and ethnic bias in voting machines and
in the pattern of vote-counting errors. Systematic technical errors and
biases made a difference in the count, effectively disenfranchising
groups of voters, conclude Crigler and co-editors McCaffery, a USC law
professor, and Marion R. Just, a political scientist at Wellesley
Since most counties in California used the same technologies for voting
in the recall election, these biases likely still exist and may have
been exacerbated by the complexity of the ballot and the brevity of the
time available to prepare for the recall election, according to
“We dodged a bullet in a sense,” he says of the California recall
election, “because in the end the votes were not close enough to fall
within the margins of error. But the gun is still loaded, waiting for
the next close election to trigger it.”
Contributors look at the pressures on pollsters and media to call the
2000 presidential election quickly. This came at the expense of
accuracy, throwing the nation into 36 days of turmoil and indecision.
In her chapter, USC’s Estrich issues cautionary comments about the
prospects for any meaningful electoral reform that does not look at the
role of money in politics.
“How can we make democracy in general – and its central act, voting, in
particular – meaningful and participatory in a world of old boys flush
with ever-new money?” Estrich questions.
Books and Music
||September 11 in History: A Watershed Moment?
Edited by Mary L. Dudziak
Duke University Press, $22.95
Did 9/11 really “change everything?” USC legal historian Mary Dudziak
brings together leading scholars of history, law, literature and Islam
in a collection of essays challenging that notion, which has served as
the rationale for various departures in domestic and foreign policy.
“The presence of change,” writes Dudziak, “the nature of change, of a
historical moment so near may be, for this generation, impossible to
||Mosaic: Music of Greece
By Nick Stoubis
USC Thornton School studio guitarist Nick Stoubis goes back to his
ancestral roots with this CD of contemporary Greek bouzouki music. Not
only does Stoubis play all the instruments; he composed all but three
of the songs and engineered, mixed and produced the recording alone. “I
felt this way it would truly be a very personal expression of the
music,” Stoubis writes in the liner notes.
||It’s Not the Media: The Truth About Pop Culture’s Influence on Children
By Karen Sternheimer
Westview Press, $26
Are school shootings the result of violent video games? Do sexed-up
movies lead to teen promiscuity? Hardly, says USC sociologist Karen
Sternheimer. From a century’s worth of historical and societal trends
to the most current social science research, Sternheimer debunks the
conventional wisdom that media creates a toxic environment for
America’s youth. The real origins of problems affecting children today,
she contends, have to do with complex economic, social and political
changes. Media culture is simply a softer and more visible target.
Photo by Philip Channing
Busy Mind, Healthy Brain
Idleness isn’t only bad for the elderly. New research shows leisure
activities in the prime of life help keep Alzheimer’s at bay later.
books, going to museums and socializing with friends during early and
middle adulthood is related to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s
disease, a new USC study shows. “While we have not proved the adage
‘use it or lose it,’ it certainly makes sense that keeping an active
mind contributes to positive aging,” says lead author Michael Crowe MA
’00, a doctoral student in psychology in USC’s College of Letters, Arts
Crowe and USC psychologist Margaret Gatz based
their findings on the Swedish Twins Registry, a set of records on
same-sex twins born between 1886 and 1925. Forty years ago, these
Swedish twins had filled out questionnaires describing their activities
before age 40. They cited such interests as reading, social gatherings,
theater and moviegoing, club participation, gardening and sports.
Decades later, the subjects were tested for dementia.
The USC researchers, along with scientists from Sweden’s University of
Götenberg and Karolinska Institutet, concentrated on 107 twin pairs
where one twin was diagnosed with a cognitive impairment and the other
was not. Greater overall participation in leisure activities, the team
found, reduced the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
– even when education was taken into account.
Moreover, among female twins, the twin who participated frequently in
“intellectual-cultural activities,” such as getting together with
friends or joining clubs, showed a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, co-authored by Crowe and Gatz with gerontologist Ross Andel
PhD ’03, now on the faculty at the University of South Florida, was
published in The Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.
The data didn’t show significant gender-based differences, but it
indicated that mental activity seems to protect women slightly more
than men. “We speculate that men in this generation may have had more
stimulating occupations than women did, so that difference in leisure
activities assumed greater importance in women,” says Gatz.
Follow-up research, she notes, will look at larger samples, with
greater focus on leisure activities and levels of intellectual and
social stimulation in the workplace.
||Illustration by A.J. Garces
What Little Bullies Are Made Of
Do bullies learn from birth to push and shove their way through life?
Or are they hard-wired from the womb? USC psychologist Laura Baker has
been puzzling over that nature/nurture conundrum for years. Lately, she
and colleague Adrian Raine, an expert in the biological basis of crime
and delinquency, have turned their attention to Southern California
twins – more than 500 sets of them, identical and fraternal. “We’d like
to be able to predict and prevent problem behavior,” Baker says. The
researchers are zeroing in on antisocial activities and attention
deficit disorder. Their study, funded by the National Institutes of
Mental Health, tracks the twins in waves, beginning at ages 9 and 10
with follow-ups every two years through age 21. So far, Baker and Raine
have completed two waves: the twins are now ages 11 and 12.
In earlier research, Raine had demonstrated that when nature and
nurture join forces in negative ways, the likelihood of criminal
behavior more than doubles. He identified biological (slow motor
development or obstetrical complications) and psychosocial (poverty and
neglect) factors that predispose one toward criminal behavior. When the
two overlap, however, aggression really spikes. “As a group, these
‘bio-social’ individuals account for about 70 percent of all crime,” he
Bio-social people also have significantly more academic and behavioral
problems, which leads back to Baker’s interest in playground bullies.
“Aggression takes many forms, from pushing and manipulation to breaking
rules,” she says. “The complexity of violence and aggression makes it a
difficult and fascinating area of study. Just as there are many forms
of aggression, there are probably many causes for aggressive behavior,”
she adds. “The more we know about each [gene] and how it influences
behavior, the more we can help mediate the problem.”
||Yo-Yo Ma with student Xioadan Zheng
Photo by Irene Fertik
To Excel at Cello
In a master class open to the public, world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma charms and coaxes beauty from USC student-artists.
no one shows up, I’ll be the student and play for Mrs. Schoenfeld,”
Yo-Yo Ma joked, ascending the stage at USC’s Bovard Auditorium hours
before his March 5 all-Dvoˇrák concert with the USC Thornton Symphony.
Actually, plenty of people already had shown up: By 1:30 p.m. the hall
was packed with cognoscenti, including longtime USC cello professor and
chair Eleonore Schoenfeld and Ronald Leonard, the Piatigorsky Professor
The afternoon crowd was gathered to watch the world-famous cellist
teach. The only person missing, in fact, was Xioadan Zheng, Ma’s first
Moments later, an embarrassed Zheng emerged from the wings, settled
herself and launched into an impassioned andante from Prokofiev’s
Symphonie Concertante. Despite being late and – she subsequently
admitted – dizzy from the cold medication she’d taken, Zheng remained
calm and poised as she tackled the work’s chromatic slides, groaning
bass notes and sharply plucked outbursts.
When her bow came to rest, Ma rose from the audience, grinned and urged
the USC cello major to stand and accept her due. “That was incredible.
Beautiful. Amazing,” he said. Then, “doesn’t this piece scare you?” Ma
asked, confiding that Prokofiev’s tour-de-force “really scares me.”
Such camaraderie and good-natured modesty set the tone for the two-hour
master class, featuring performances by Zheng and Paul Wiancko, both
students of Leonard, and Alexander Suleiman, a student of Schoenfeld.
Ma asked the young musicians to venture opinions about their own
performances. They seemed a little taken aback; in a master class, it’s
the master who usually does the opining.
As the student cellists played (with an accompanist sketching out the
orchestral parts on a stately Steinway grand), Ma often was seen
drawing a phantom bow across his body, swaying with the musical phrase.
The second student, Suleiman, played the moderato from Haydn’s concerto
in C for cello and piano. “My one comment,” Ma gently criticized, “is I
could use more joy.”
To help Suleiman find the joy, Ma engaged him in a musical game of tag.
“Whenever I see tension in your body,” he told the Leipzig-educated
Advanced Studies student, “I’m just going to poke you.” The ensuing pas
de deux was itself an exercise in mirth. When Suleiman frowned, Ma gave
his jaw a playful tap. When his shoulder or elbow stiffened, the
maestro swatted it gently. Soon Suleiman was playing with a smile, his
eyes locked on Ma as if they were dance partners.
last student, Paul Wiancko, presented such a stunning reading of the
allegro from Dvorák’s cello concerto, Op. 104 that Ma’s first comment
was: “What are you doing tonight?” (Ma himself was to play the piece
later that evening with the USC Thornton Symphony under maestro Sergiu
chimpanzee named Gracie recently set a new record when she leaped to
freedom – for the fourth time – from her habitat at the Los Angeles
Zoo. Vaulting from a beam near the top of the Mahale Mountain enclosure
to a water pipe about 15 feet away, she remained at large for 45
minutes while zoo officials scurried to evacuate roughly 4,000
visitors. Known for their intelligence and dexterity, chimps and other
great apes are prone to turn into hairy Houdinis when confined in zoos,
says USC primatologist Craig Stanford. “I know of stories of chimps who
escaped from islands by commandeering small boats,” Stanford told the Los Angeles Times.
To discourage future attempts, the zoo has added 10 feet to the redwood
fence surrounding the enclosure and removed the water pipe Gracie used
in her latest flight. But don’t be too sure she’ll stay put now. After
her third jail break in 1999, the keepers had smoothed out potential
handholds in the enclosure and spent $35,000 for an overhang designed
to keep the chimps in; none of that stopped the Steve McQueen of the
||Illustration by Tim Bower
A knack for solving problems has led breast surgeon Gail Lebovic to engineer a string of medical inventions.
surgeons, when they see a problem, instinctively reach for a scalpel.
When Gail Lebovic sees a problem, her instinct is to reach for a
sketchpad, perhaps to design a new gadget, widget or gizmo.
It started in 1987, when the Keck School of Medicine star was a
surgical resident at Stanford. The standard surgery for breast cancer
back then was brutally simple: remove the cancer and any risk of
recurrence. Leaving behind disfiguring scars seemed unavoidable.
But not to Lebovic.
Standard surgery skills were just not enough for these patients, she
realized. So she signed on for a fellowship in cosmetic and
reconstructive surgery, intent on applying those techniques to the
It was a tough balancing act: to minimize scarring and the amount of
tissue removed without compromising principles for treating cancer. But
Lebovic saw the difference it made when cancer patients came out of
surgery looking and feeling balanced, feminine and whole.
Today, more surgeons strive to perform breast cancer surgeries in a way
that protects the patient’s appearance, including breast-conserving
lumpectomies, skin-sparing mastectomies and immediate reconstructions.
Lebovic didn’t stop there. When patients complained of the discomforts
of mammography, she came up with Woman’s Touch MammoPad, a disposable
cushion placed directly on the imaging equipment. “This looks
deceptively simple, like a mouse pad,” she says, holding up a thin,
rectangular pad that sells for about $4. “But the foam is incredibly
complex. The key was to develop a product that decreased pain, but
didn’t affect the X-ray image,” she adds.
Of 1,000 Swedish women who tested it, the majority reported the
MammoPad cut the discomfort of mammography in half. Today, some 1,500
breast centers – including the breast clinic at USC/Norris Cancer
Center and the USC Executive Health and Imaging Center in downtown L.A.
– use the MammoPad.
Lebovic also created a bandage she calls the Expand-a-Band Breast
Binder, used to help women recovering from any invasive breast
procedure. She has started four medical device companies to date, and
is working on her fifth.
“I’ve got others percolating too,” she says, “but I can’t really talk about them yet.”
||Photo by Philip Channing
Graham Bell of the Cosmos
When the eye-popping images started streaming in from the Red Planet, USC computer scientist and University Professor Solomon Golomb
had reason to feel proud. The tightly compressed communications
packages traveling millions of miles to Earth are the fruit of Golomb’s
1966 research. Without heavy-duty compression, it would be
inconceivable to send crisp, data-rich photographs over the
limited-power transmitters aboard the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
And at the heart of the LOCO-I (low complexity lossless compression for
images) system used by the Mars rovers are Golomb codes; his name
occurs 34 times in the scientific paper describing the system. The Mars
images are not Golomb’s first interplanetary milestone. In 1961, a
radar signal encoded with another Golomb-devised signal technology
bounced off Venus. A lot has changed in 40 years. Back then, he says,
“we could get radio signals to and from the Moon about 250,000 miles
away. Now we can get television pictures from a planet more than 100
million miles away.”
Original Toga Party
||Illustration by Tim Bower
Reviving Dead Culture
Classicist Eleanor Rust reaches for a slim, red, cloth-covered volume titled Satyricon by Petronius.
She flips to the description of a dinner party thrown by a filthy rich
Roman, formerly a slave. Her voice drips with scorn as she relates the
spectacle of live birds escaping from a main course. The book’s
patrician narrator clearly considers his host “a crass social climber;
a member of what, today, we would call the nouveaux riches,”
explains the USC doctoral student. “This story is about the anxieties
of social class and class mobility – issues as relevant in our world as
they were in ancient Rome.”
Ancient cultures aren’t so
different from our own, says Rust, who has been reading dead languages
almost as long as she’s been reading; her father taught her the Greek
alphabet as a child. “The Romans were the first to deal with issues
similar to those we see in our modern urban culture,” she says.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Rust its Jacob
Javits Fellowship, a national honor recognizing exceptional promise.
“Eleanor is exactly the kind of student who makes USC classics
special,” says department chair Thomas Habinek. “She has the technical
skills of the traditional classicist, but uses them to understand
ancient culture more comprehensively.” Sociologists might find her
dissertation topic enlivening: Rust plans to focus on the origins and
customs of symposia and convivia.
In ancient Greece and Rome, these were terms for “drinking parties,”
where elite young men were informally mentored by older men in public
speaking, poetics, philosophy, politics and, says Rust, how to hold
Space Law Man
Engineers and astronomers plotted the course of space exploration, but
a USC international expert was the first to map its legal boundaries.
Political scientist Carl Q. Christol
was contemplating the legal dilemmas of outer space long before
satellites filled the night sky and the United Nations established
procedures for staking claims on the moon.
Today, the USC
Distinguished Professor Emeritus remains one of the foremost
authorities on the international law of space, along with the marine
environment and human rights. His pioneering courses on the politics of
peace and human rights made USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
one of the first American institutions to put human rights on the
Christol also helped negotiate five major U.N. space treaties laying
out the basic principles of exploration and the exploitation of outer
space and its natural resources. As a consultant, he weighed in on such
international issues as the rescue and return of astronauts in distress.
Preoccupied as he has been with matters extraterrestrial, he looks back
fondly on his earthly duties at USC. “I loved working with my students,
challenging them to think and watching them learn,” says Christol, who
retired from teaching in 1987.
Even now, he continues to trail-blaze the international legal
landscape. He’s currently completing his ninth book, International Law
and U.S. Foreign Policy, covering legal developments that have surfaced
since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Former space shuttle pilot and retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr.
MSSM ’77 has joined USC’s Board of Trustees. A former deputy commandant
of the U.S. Naval Academy and commanding general in support of
Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait, Bolden retired from the Marines in
2003. He is now senior vice president of TechTrans International Inc.,
a language services company with employees in Houston and Moscow.
Carmen H. Warschaw
’39, the first female president of California’s Fair Employment
Practices Commission, was named an honorary trustee of USC. She and her
late husband, Louis Warschaw ’39, were instrumental in founding the
university’s Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in
American Life – the first academic research center of its kind. In
1999, they established the center’s Carmen and Louis Warschaw
Distinguished Lecture Series.
Electrical engineer P. Daniel Dapkus and trustee Ronald D. Sugar
have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, bringing the
number of USC-affiliated NAE members to 26. Dapkus, who holds the
William M. Keck Chair in Engineering, directs USC’s Center for Photonic
Technology as well as its Compound Semiconductor Laboratory.
Sugar, who joined the USC Board of Trustees in 2003, is chairman and
CEO of Northrop Grumman Corp., a former executive with Litton
Industries and TRW, and a fellow of the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics and of the Royal Aeronautical Society.