Category Archives: Kudos

English professor Carla Kaplan receives National Endowment for the Humanities honor

a woman in her home officeCarla Kaplan, the Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature, received one of the first Public Scholar grants awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the organization announced on Tuesday. Kaplan was one of just 36 honored scholars, joining the likes of prize-winning authors Diane McWhorter and Edward Ball, and received the grant to support her work on the book Queen of the Muckrakers: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford (1917-1996).

Queen of the Muckrakers will be the first major book to examine the life, writing, and influence of Jessica Mitford, a woman who walked away from British aristocracy to eventually revitalize muckraking. Mitford’s expose-style writing re-introduced and radicalized Gilded Age ideas of civic responsibility in ways that still influence contemporary conversation about social inequality, whistle blowing, and the ethics of writing.

The Public Scholars program is designed to “support well-researched books in the humanities intended to reach a broad readership.” The Program is part of The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, an agency-wide initiative that seeks to bring humanities into the public square and foster innovative ways to make scholarship relevant to contemporary life. To read the full announcement of the first Public Scholars awards, visit the NEH website. The awards have received coverage in media outlets such as the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe.

Wendy Parmet, Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, discusses vaccination policy, the Constitution, and the education system

Wendy ParmetThe 2015 measles out­break con­tinues to res­onate. Last month, Cal­i­fornia became the third state to dis­allow vac­ci­na­tion exemp­tions for school entry based on reli­gious and philo­soph­ical grounds, leaving only med­ical exemp­tions intact. Public-​​health advo­cates announced a vic­tory, while fam­i­lies opposed to man­dated vac­ci­na­tions regrouped to con­tinue the fight, claiming vio­la­tion of cer­tain con­sti­tu­tional rights.

Public-​​health law expertWendy E. Parmet is the George J. and Kath­leen Waters Matthews Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Law and Pro­fessor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. She co-​​authored an article in the July 22 issue of the New Eng­land Journal of Med­i­cine exploring the evolving land­scape of vac­ci­na­tion policy. We asked her to dis­cuss some of the impli­ca­tions of the new law in California.

Valen­tine Moghadam, Director of Northeastern’s Inter­na­tional Affairs and Middle East Studies pro­grams, explains the ins and outs of the nuclear deal with Iran

Moghadam_Valentine_620-350x233Iran and the world’s six major powers reached a his­toric deal on Tuesday, agreeing to limit Tehran’s nuclear capa­bility for at least a decade in exchange for the lifting of eco­nomic sanctions.

We asked Valen­tine Moghadam, director of Northeastern’s Inter­na­tional Affairs and Middle East Studies pro­grams, to explain the ins and outs of the land­mark agree­ment. Here, she holds forth on the deal’s biggest win­ners, Israel’s response, and Con­gress’ forth­coming review of the accord, which was roughly two years in the making.

Mai’a K. Davis Cross examines the sig­nif­i­cance of the vote and what’s next for Greece and Europe as a whole

1451ca5b99e7cb4d611b83271d18e0e3c567d9ea1On Sunday, 61 per­cent of Greek voters rejected the eco­nomic mea­sures Euro­pean cred­i­tors pro­posed in exchange for the loans Greece needs as part of a rescue plan for the country. Prime Min­ister Alexis Tsipras had urged Greeks to vote “no” against aus­terity mea­sures, and reports indi­cated that the pres­sure has inten­si­fied to restart bailout talks, as Tsipras on Tuesday heads to Brus­sels to obtain a rescue deal with Euro­pean leaders.

We asked Mai’a K. Davis Cross, an assis­tant pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence and inter­na­tional affairs and an expert in Euro­pean pol­i­tics, to examine the sig­nif­i­cance of the vote and what’s next for Greece and Europe as a whole.

Pro­fessor Martha Davis, School of Law, comments on the historic Supreme Court ruling

Northeastern University School of Law - Women in the Law - ConfeHis­tory was made Friday morning when, in a land­mark deci­sion for the gay rights move­ment, the Supreme Court ruled, 5–4, that same-​​sex mar­riage is a con­sti­tu­tional right.

When the court decided to con­sider the right to marry for same-​​sex cou­ples, it sought answers to two ques­tions. The first, argued suc­cess­fully for the plain­tiffs by North­eastern School of Law alumna Mary Bonauto, L’87, was do the “equal pro­tec­tions” guar­an­teed by the 14th Amend­ment mean same-​​​​sex cou­ples should be allowed to wed? The second ques­tion was can a state refuse to rec­og­nize out-​​​​​​of-​​​​​​state same-​​​​​​sex marriages?

Wendy Parmet, Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs ,dis­cusses the Supreme Court’s healthcare law upholding and the future of the health­care law

Wendy ParmetOn Thursday the Supreme Court made its second sig­nif­i­cant ruling on Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health­care law, finding in a 6–3 deci­sion that fed­eral sub­si­dies offered through the Afford­able Care Act should be avail­able to all sub­scribers, regard­less of whether the states in which they live have set up their own health insur­ance marketplaces.

The ques­tion the court had to con­sider was whether Amer­i­cans that receive their insur­ance through a federal-​​run health insur­ance mar­ket­place, as is the case in 34 states, should be eli­gible for fed­eral sub­si­dies that help make that health insur­ance affordable.

Oppo­nents to the law argued the sub­si­dies should only be avail­able to those whose states operate their own health insur­ance marketplaces.

In the majority opinion, Chief Jus­tice John Roberts wrote, “Con­gress passed the Afford­able Care Act to improve health insur­ance mar­kets, not to destroy them.” In a press con­fer­ence, Obama declared the law is “here to stay.”

Here, Wendy Parmet, an expert in health policy and law who has joint appoint­ments in the School of Law and the School of Public Policy and Urban Devel­op­ment, dis­cusses the court’s deci­sion and the future of the health­care law.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor Amy Far­rell deliveres the lecture in the latest installment of the “Minds Over Matters: NUterm Faculty Speaker Series”

farrell1400-740x493In the wake of last year’s deadly shooting of Michael Brown in Fer­guson, Mis­souri, as well as other events in which the police’s use of force has been ques­tioned, is policing in America facing a legit­i­macy crisis? And if so, what do we do about it?

Amy Far­rell, an asso­ciate pro­fessor in theSchool of Crim­i­nology and Crim­inal Jus­tice, offered these ques­tions to kick off her lec­ture and dis­cus­sion last week in the latest install­ment of the “Minds Over Mat­ters: NUterm Fac­ulty Speaker Series.”

The series fea­tures weekly pre­sen­ta­tions from top fac­ulty scholars who dis­cuss their research and examine timely topics of global impor­tance. Farrell’s research focuses on the admin­is­tra­tion of jus­tice, with par­tic­ular emphasis on under­standing the impact of race and gender on police, pros­e­cu­tion, and sen­tencing practices.

When people lose trust in police, Far­rell said, research has shown that they are less likely to follow laws, assist police, come for­ward as wit­nesses, and obey police com­mands in sit­u­a­tions where offi­cers are attempting to use coer­cive force.

I think what you see res­onating across our country today is a wide­spread fear of the police,” she told stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff in atten­dance, “a fear of the police that may have long been held in com­mu­ni­ties of color that’s now being rec­og­nized by com­mu­ni­ties that have the priv­i­lege not to have feared the police in the past.”

In response to these legit­i­macy con­cerns, police nation­wide have done some “col­lec­tive soul searching,” she said, and imple­mented sys­tems of trans­parency, like the Boston Police Department’s releasing of video footage fol­lowing inci­dents. Yet, Far­rell noted, “restoring that public con­fi­dence is a fun­da­men­tally dif­fi­cult task.”

Of the handful of issues that have at times threat­ened police legit­i­macy over the past 100 years in America, she said two are present in the wake of recent events: dis­crim­i­na­tion and inap­pro­priate use of coer­cive force.

Far­rell pointed to four prob­lems that have con­tributed to this sit­u­a­tion:
1) The move­ment away from com­mu­nity policing over the past 20 years—“Community policing never had a heyday, but it was a little plant that was starting to grow.”

2) The increased reliance on tech­nology to solve problems—the idea that police can col­lect data on “hot spots” for crime but aren’t mea­suring things like fair­ness and pro­ce­dural justice

3) The mil­i­ta­riza­tion of police—she pointed to a 2014 ACLU studythat exam­ined the increasing number of law enforce­ment agen­cies that have SWAT teams. “They are being deployed for rou­tine policing,” she said. “SWAT teams’ reliance on mil­i­ta­riza­tion and tech­nology increases the social dis­tance between police and community.”

4) Implicit bias—Farrell said this has been lurking under the country’s racial progress of the past half cen­tury. “These are not prej­u­dices that we are born with, but we live in a racial­ized society,” she said.

Solu­tions to these prob­lems won’t be easy, as his­tory has shown, Far­rell said. But she offered a few ideas, among them bringing com­mu­nity part­ner­ship back to policing and shrinking the social dis­tance between police and com­mu­nity by having police forces that are not only diverse but that also learn from and share in each other’s per­sonal experiences.

Far­rell also echoed her ear­lier calls for devel­oping account­ability sys­tems for police that go beyond crime sta­tis­tics and inte­grate a wider range of values beyond crime like fair­ness, equality, and pro­ce­dural jus­tice measures.

Oth­er­wise, these are just ideals without action,” she said.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor Natasha Frost comments on ‘Orange is the New Black’ and US prison system

Natasha FrostOnly 6.7 per­cent of fed­eral inmates in America’s prisons are female, according to April 2015 data from the Fed­eral Bureau of Prisons. And Piper Chapman is one of them.

Well, not exactly. Chapman is the main char­acter in Orange is the New Black, the hit Net­flix series set in a fic­tional fed­eral women-​​only prison. The third season was released Thursday evening, with scores of fans expected to binge watch all 14 episodes. (Not to worry, no spoilers ahead!)

One person who won’t be among them though is Natasha Frost, an asso­ciate pro­fessor in Northeastern’s School of Crim­i­nology and Crim­inal Jus­tice. “I hardly watch any crim­inal jus­tice shows,” she said.

How­ever, Frost noted that the show’s growing pop­u­larity has dove­tailed with a rising aca­d­emic interest in female incar­cer­a­tion trends in the U.S. She said that while the country’s overall number of incar­cer­ated males has declined in recent years, the number of incar­cer­ated female has remained steady—or in some instances seen a slight uptick—during that time period. For example, according to a Bureau of Jus­tice Sta­tis­tics report released Thursday, the number of females con­fined in county and city jails increased by 18 per­cent between midyear 2010 and 2014, while the male pop­u­la­tion declined about 3 per­cent during the period.

In a way, these data have made the show timely,” Frost said. “There’s a lot of interest in my field now about what’s dri­ving the steady rate of women’s imprisonment.”

Frost’s research focuses pri­marily on the rates of incar­cer­a­tion across the U.S. states, and she has worked closely with the Women’s Prison Asso­ci­a­tion to com­plete assess­ments of state-​​level vari­a­tions in puni­tive­ness toward women. A 2006 report she co-​​authored was the first to com­pre­hen­sively chart out the dra­matic increase in female incar­cer­a­tion in the U.S. between 1977 and 2004, according to the association’s Insti­tute on Women and Crim­inal Justice.

Asso­ciate vice provost Katherine Ziemer deliv­ers the lec­ture in Northeastern’s “Minds over Mat­ters:NUterm Fac­ulty Speaker Series”

ziemer1400-740x493Whether it’s a boogie board, bicy­cles, or Bruce Wayne’s Bat­suit, the evo­lu­tion of how objects look and func­tion can be traced back to one ques­tion: “What if?” What if I create a dif­ferent kind of surf­board, one that doesn’t require as much training? Or what if Batman is trapped in a dark room and needs to see?

Katherine Ziemer, asso­ciate vice provost for cur­riculum and pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Chem­ical Engi­neering, said that “What if?” is one of her favorite phrases. And it also leads to another ques­tion in Ziemer’s world of mate­rials sci­ence: “Why?”

Ziemer dis­cussed her curiosity on Wednesday after­noon in the Raytheon Amphithe­ater, deliv­ering the latest lec­ture in Northeastern’s “Minds over Mat­ters: NUterm Fac­ulty Speaker Series.” The weekly series fea­tures top fac­ulty scholars who dis­cuss their research and examine inno­va­tion, new dis­cov­eries, and timely topics of global importance.

‘What if we’ is the cre­ativity ques­tion,” Ziemer said. “It makes us open our minds a little bit, and how exciting is that?”

Ziemer explained how she often asks these ques­tions in ref­er­ence to how mate­rials can improve the world around us, whether it’s mon­i­toring brain activity, cleaning up water, or improving telecommunications.

To find answers, Ziemer turns to the atom, the smallest unit of matter. Through her research she attempts to deter­mine if she can con­trol atoms and how they com­bine— and there­fore con­trol the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the mate­rials they make up.

If I want to con­trol atoms, I have to under­stand why they do what they do,” Ziemer said. “I am looking at using atoms to do new and dif­ferent things.”

One way she has done this is through her work with the U.S. Navy to improve com­mu­ni­ca­tions across var­ious plat­forms, specif­i­cally during combat sit­u­a­tions. The Navy asked Ziemer “what if” she came up with a com­mu­ni­ca­tion system that was lighter in weight and required less power but still enabled the level of com­mu­ni­ca­tion the Navy needed.

When Ziemer looked at the amount of power needed for the com­mu­ni­ca­tion system to work, she noticed the var­ious types of chips required to gen­erate and con­trol the mag­netic and elec­tric fields.

Distinguished University Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett pinpoints epicenter of brain’s predictive ability

Lisa Feldman BarrettIn recent years, sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered the human brain works on pre­dic­tions, con­trary to the pre­vi­ously accepted theory that it reacts to the sen­sa­tions it picks up from the out­side world. Experts say humans’ reac­tions are in fact the body adjusting to pre­dic­tions the brain is making based on the state [ ... ]