Duke Digest – April 28, 2016

In today’s issue:

  • Patek Goes to Washington, Talks Up Research
  • ‘Pleasant’ Experience Distracting from Climate Change Threat?
  • Obama Nominates Two Duke Alums to Serve as Ambassadors
  • Former Judges Open Discussions on Redistricting
  • Coding and Computers Help Spot Methane, Explosives
  • ‘Just Mercy’ Selected as Summer Reading

PATEK GOES TO WASHINGTON, TALKS UP RESEARCH
On April 13, Sheila Patek, associate professor of biology, took part in a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Coalition to Promote Research that highlighted university faculty members with some unusual sounding research projects. At the event, Patek presented her research on mantis shrimp to Congressional staff, members of the media and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who first drew attention to Patek’s research when he included it in his December “wastebook.”

Professor Patek Goes to Washington, Talks Up Research (today.duke.edu)

‘PLEASANT’ EXPERIENCE DISTRACTING FROM CLIMATE CHANGE THREAT?
Megan Mullin, associate professor of environmental politics, co-authored a New York Times op-ed titled “Global Warming Feels Quite Pleasant,” in which she argues that rising wintertime temperatures coupled with lower summertime humidity, and Americans enjoyment of such weather, are a contributing factor to the general public’s lack of concern over global warming. Mullen and co-author Patrick Egan, outline research, recently published in Nature, arguing, “in order to more effectively raise awareness and increase public concern about climate change, our research suggests that we need to stop talking so much about rising temperatures.” A better strategy, they say, would be to focus on extreme weather events.

Global Warming Feels Quite Pleasant (NY Times)

OBAMA NOMINATES TWO DUKE ALUMS TO SERVE AS AMBASSADORS
Earlier this month, President Obama announced his intent to nominate two Duke alumni to key administration positions. He nominated Geeta Pasi, T ’84, to serve as the Ambassador to the Republic of Chad. Currently, Pasi serves as the Director of the Office of Career Development and Assignments in the Bureau of Human Resources at the Department of State. President Obama has also nominated Lawrence Silverman, G ’80, to serve as the Ambassador to the State of Kuwait. Silverman currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the Department of State.

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts (whitehouse.gov)

FORMER JUDGES OPEN DISCUSSIONS ON REDISTRICTING
Last week, ten retired North Carolina judges gathered at the Sanford School of Public Policy to hear from academics, legislative attorneys and political advocates to begin a project that would result in a new, but unofficial, map of N.C. congressional districts. The project, designed to increase public understanding of how independent political redistricting might function in North Carolina if adopted. The day-long discussions will be continued in two future work sessions.
CODING AND COMPUTERS HELP SPOT METHANE, EXPLOSIVES
A Duke University team is using software to dramatically improve the performance of chemical-sniffing mass spectrometers. Using an idea first mentioned in a 1970 journal article, the team relied upon expertise from different electrical and computer engineering labs, along with colleagues from RTI International to develop technology that will allow them to scale down the size of mass spectrometers to a portable unit. Doing so will lead to devices that could be used to detect environmental or safety hazards in the field. The team is working to show these devices can detect trace amounts of methane to spot leaks in infrastructure and various explosives to thwart terror attempts.
This work was supported by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate and is currently supported by ARPA-E, Department of Energy.
‘JUST MERCY’ SELECTED AS SUMMER READING
A memoir centered on social justice, equality and the quest for innocence has been selected as the Duke University Class of 2020 Common Experience summer reading book.

Attorney Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” relates his fight against racial and economic biases in the U.S. legal system. The story focuses on one of Stevenson’s most famous cases, in which he helped exonerate Walter McMillian, a black man convicted of killing a white woman in 1986. McMillian was held for six years on death row before the conviction was overturned.

The Duke Common Experience program is designed to give incoming students a shared intellectual experience with other members of their class, with the summer reading choice as a key focal point. A committee composed of students, staff and faculty selected the book after an extensive review of numerous recommendations.

‘Just Mercy’ Chosen for Duke Summer Reading (Duke Today)