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Images of Afterlife: Beliefs from Antiquity to Modern Times
by Geddes MacGregor
Paragon House, $21.95

With sturdier limbs and brighter brain/ The old soul takes
the road again… Is there more – after we have finished this
earthly life? Well, British poet John Masefield thought so. But if
so, what form does an afterlife take? Will we meet dreamlike
figures, go through layers of purgatory, or reside in the
aborigine’s “River of Sky” (a.k.a. The Milky Way)? And how do we
get there – a boat across the river Styx, or some more pleasant

Geddes MacGregor’s reflective and historical journey into the
beliefs of different faiths and cultures ranges from the ancient
Middle East to modern America.

MacGregor, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, shares
his own very personal views as well. “…our experience of God here
and now,” he says, “warrants our expectation of a meaningful life
in the hereafter.”

Reclaiming the Author: Figures and Fictions from Spanish America
by Lucille Kerr
Duke University Press, $17.50

This book focuses on significant authors who form the
“modern canon of Spanish American fiction” – Cortazar, Donoso,
Fuentes, Puig, and Vargas Llosa – as well as the less well-known
Poniatowska and offers a detailed look at the question of

What is an author’s authority and where does it end? Who in
the narrative is responsible, and what are the boundaries? “Should
we read the author as a de-faced figure or as a corporealized
entity readily accessible to any reader?” asks Lucille Kerr,
professor of Latin American literature in the Department of Spanish
and Portuguese.

“What kind of place or authority are we to grant to this
person or figure, this concept or problem, for the reading of
literary texts…,” asks Kerr, as she offers a rereading of major
texts that reclaims “the author” as a critical concept.

Visionary Leadership: Creating a Compelling Sense of
Direction for Your Organization
by Burt Nanus
Jossey-Bass Publishers, $24.95

“There is no more powerful engine driving an organization
toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive,
worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared,”
says Burt Nanus.

But can something as ethereal as “a vision” be designed,
explained, and packaged for an organization? Nanus, a professor of
management in the School of Business Administration, shows leaders
of all levels how they can move step-by-step from the search for a
vision, to actions that implement it, to its reality.

Even more than “a thousand points of light,” says Nanus, what is
needed are “hundreds of powerful beacons to show the way.” Some
believe this to be the most important management book of the year.

Joyce in Context
Edited by Vincent J. Cheng
and Timothy Martin
Cambridge University Press, $59.95

This collection of 16 innovative essays evolved from a 1989
Philadelphia conference that drew “Joyceans” from around the world.

Divided into four contexts, it presents Joyce within a
literary and historical period, a view by those on the social
margins, in relation to particular literary, cultural, or
theoretical texts, and considers Joyce’s individual volumes within
the entire body of his work.

Vincent J. Cheng, associate professor of English, acts both
as editor and contributor. His chapter, “Joyce and Ford Madox
Ford,” examines a friendship and neglected literary relationship
between Joyce and the critic and editor who also lived in Paris in
the ’20s and ’30s. Ford, says Cheng, was “one of Joyce’s staunchest
defenders in the two decades when Ulysses was causing world-wide
controversy and even supporters were giving up on him…”

ALSO: Substance Abuse and Gang Violence, edited by Richard
C. Cervantes, assistant professor of clinical psychology, School of
Medicine (Sage Publications, $28.75)

USC Scripter Awards Honors ‘The Hurricane’

From left are Dan Gordon, Jerry D. Campbell, Armyan Bernstein, Lesra Martin, Terry Swinton and Sam Chaiton.

Photo by Carrie Ellsworth

The 12th annual USC Scripter Awards, honoring the year’s best film adaptation of a book, were held March 4 at Union Station. This year’s winner was “The Hurricane.” Pictured above from left are screenwriter Dan Gordon; Dean of University Libraries Jerry D. Campbell; screenwriter/producer Armyan Bernstein; Lesra Martin, who inspired the book “Lazarus and the Hurricane,” on which the film was based; and authors Terry Swinton and Sam Chaiton. Sponsored by the Friends of the USC Libraries, the Scripter Award is given to the author or authors of the book on which an English-language film is based and to the screenwriters who adapted the book for the screen.

Researchers study Kaposi’s sarcoma virus

Visiting scholar Tiffany Jones and S. J. Gao, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC

To understand a virus that causes cancer – and ultimately learn how to beat it – scientists must be able to infect a healthy cell with the virus, keep that cell alive and transform it into a cancerous cell.

Scientists at USC and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have discovered how to do that with the virus that causes Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common cancer among AIDS patients. The discovery is described in a study published on Feb. 1 on the website of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Kaposi’s sarcoma persists,” said S. J. Gao, the study’s senior investigator and professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “In underserved populations of Africa, it’s the No. 1 cancer, accounting for up to 30 percent of all cancers in some areas. It’s a very important problem to address, but there has been no good model to study the virus that causes it.”

In 1994, researchers showed that infection by Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) causes Kaposi’s sarcoma but found that healthy individuals can be infected and show no signs or symptoms. Transmission is not well understood, but infection is thought to be lifelong and becomes of particular concern to those with compromised immune systems.

“We want to understand the mechanism that causes the cell to become cancerous, but we have not been able to make human cells become cancer cells that live and grow forever,” Gao said. “Most healthy cells will die when introduced to stress, such as infection. It’s a natural protective mechanism of the cells.”

Gao’s team of researchers tested various types of human, mouse and rat cells. The rat mesenchymal stem cell, which can differentiate into kidney and blood vessel cells, was the only viable model that could be infected with KSHV, kept alive and transformed into a cancer cell.

“There are limitations to using a nonhuman or human model, but the chief thing is that we now know a cell that can be efficiently infected. Before infection, it is not a cancer cell, and, after infection, it is,” Gao said.

The researchers now are using the cell model to determine what viral products or genes are required to induce Kaposi’s sarcoma, and what cellular components are manipulated by the virus.

“We can use this model to develop a novel therapeutic approach that targets this virus-induced malignancy,” Gao said.

Tiffany Jones, the study’s first author, is a visiting scholar at the Keck School. The study was a collaborative project in Gao’s laboratory at the Keck School, the University of Texas Health Science Center and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Former Naval research director installed as new chair

Yannis C. Yortsos, Michael Kassner, Yang Ho Cho and USC President C. L. Max Nikias

In an elegant ceremony, Professor Michael Kassner was installed on March 26 as the first holder of the Choong Hoon Cho Chair in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Kassner, professor of materials science in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (AME), expressed deep gratitude for the honor.

“I will do my best to bring great credit to the chair,” he said.

Kassner, an expert in the mechanical behavior of metals, materials creep, fracture, fatigue and thermodynamics, joined USC in 2003 as AME department chair. More recently, he oversaw a nearly $1 billion basic research budget for the U.S. Navy as director of the Office of Naval Research in Washington, D.C. Kassner received the U.S. Navy’s Meritorious Public Service Medal for his service.

He is a fellow of the American Society of Metals, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A graduate of Northwestern and Stanford universities, Kassner previously worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as head of the physical metallurgy and welding section and thrust leader for physical metallurgy research; spent a year at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands as a Fulbright Senior Scholar; and taught at Oregon State University for more than a decade.

Support from USC Trustee and Korean Airlines CEO Yang Ho (Y.H.) Cho and the Boeing Co. created the USC chair, which honors Choong Hoon Cho, the late chairman of Korean Airlines and Y.H. Cho’s father.

“Thanks to the inspired support of Y.H. Cho and the Boeing Co., the Choong Hoon Cho Chair in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering will serve as a vital cornerstone of academic excellence,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias said.

Added USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos: “Like his distinguished father before him, Y.H. Cho has taken Korean Airlines to new heights as chairman and CEO and possesses a deeply held belief in the power of education.”

Endowed chairs are the most tangible means to attract, honor and retain top-level, globally prominent faculty. The chairs provide invaluable financial support above and beyond salary for use in research, teaching and other academic endeavors.

Saving an endangered language

Atayal is a language spoken fluently by only a few hundred people in northern Taiwan, a location visited by USC Dornsife students.

As the old school bus wound its way through the steep mountain passes of northern Taiwan, the students gazed out the windows at the lush, tropical topography unfolding before them. At the outskirts of the village, the bus shuddered to a halt at a beautiful spot alongside a creek spanned by a couple of bridges.

The students, who were part of the Problems Without Passports (PWP) program at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, quickly dispersed to take photographs and look around.

USC Dornsife senior and linguistics major Jackie Kim wandered with several classmates to the spot where a few aboriginal Taiwanese were selling fruit.

Adjacent to their stands was a small faucet where fruit could be rinsed and immediately consumed. The students recognized some special plums that had been given to them by a native Atayal speaker earlier that week, and they stood admiring the fruit.

“I just randomly said the Atayal word for plum and they were surprised,” Kim recalled. “Their response in Mandarin was, ‘You know the Atayal word for plum?’ Then we asked them in Atayal, ‘What’s your name?’ and we started a short conversation and suddenly the bus driver chimed in. It turned out he was pretty fluent in Atayal, and he translated for us a bit.”

Atayal, an Austronesian language, is spoken fluently by only a few hundred people in northern Taiwan today. Mandarin is Taiwan’s official language.

“The [fruit sellers] were definitely excited,” Kim said. “They thought it was awesome that we even had an interest in learning the language because even many Atayal children don’t know how to speak the language.”

USC Dornsife students Sonia Tellis, left, and Mary Waller read an Atayal children’s book in Taiwan.

Khalil Iskarous, assistant professor of linguistics at USC Dornsife, taught the six-week course in Taiwan focusing on the endangered Atayal language and culture. In keeping with the PWP’s goal of combining problem-based research with study in a foreign country, the course was designed to allow graduate and undergraduate students substantive experience doing work in the field while learning about a global problem.

The majority of people are familiar with endangered species. But endangered languages? According to linguists and other cultural preservationists, this phenomenon is a serious problem, hastened over the last few generations by globalization. Just this summer, Google launched an endangered language documentation project to help address the issue.

“When languages and cultures die, an important part of our human heritage and culture is lost,” Iskarous said. “This is especially the case when these languages and cultures have the potential to teach us an enormous amount about the human mind and human society.”

Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, Peter Guekguezian, a second-year doctoral student in linguistics at USC Dornsife, accompanied the group to Taiwan along with one other graduate student. Guekguezian was eager to take advantage of the rare opportunity to do linguistic field research.

“Sometimes sitting down in front of a computer can be tedious, even boring,” Guekguezian said. “But when you’re out there talking with someone and really getting to know their language on a firsthand basis, it’s just wonderful. You really get to see why language is such a human science … the human experience is really captured through language.”

The course, which took place from May 16 to July 6, was open to all majors and areas of study. Students worked with native Atayal speakers to document the language using largely acoustic data recorded from conversations and their recounting of cultural folklore. For the first two weeks of the program, students studied at USC, learning the basic Atayal vocabulary, grammar and the principles of language documentation.

During the trip, Iskarous and his students traveled to the city of Hsinchu, an hour and a half from Taipei by bus. Native speakers came down from their mountain villages to work with students at National Tsing Hua University three days a week.

Each student selected a different aspect of Atayal culture to research in order to develop a diverse lexicon and linguistic record. As they gathered their data it was then parsed, labeled and entered into a shared Internet database.

“The students did an amazing job,” Iskarous said. “They took the documentation work extremely seriously and worked five to six hours a day, most days of the week. They worked closely with the native speakers, collecting conversations then transcribing a language they didn’t really know. They came up with translations with the knowledge they had gained in only six weeks about the language. We ended up with quite a bit of data.”

Because the native Atayal speakers spoke Mandarin but no English, the Atayal speakers translated their stories to Mandarin, then Mandarin speakers translated the stories to English for the students.

Program participants spoke of the graciousness of the Atayal people.

“I think it meant something to them to get to know people like us who were actively interested in their language,” Guekguezian said. “For me, it was just great to see the language so alive.”

Kim took advantage of her free time by traveling around the island as much as possible.

“I was really impressed by Taiwanese hospitality,” she said. “If you asked someone for directions, they would walk with you for a mile until you found what you were looking for.”

On her last day in Hsinchu, Kim took a 21-mile bike ride along the coastline, which she said was especially memorable. She also explored the popular night markets found in Taiwan’s urban areas, which feature a huge selection of inexpensive clothing, jewelry and food.

Much more than a cache of esoteric research papers, participating students played a direct and important role in establishing an enduring record of Atayal that could potentially be used by scientists or even descendants of the speakers who may one day want to learn more about the language and culture.

“Getting the opportunity to do field work as an undergrad is very difficult if you don’t have much experience,” Kim said. “It was life-changing. I know that sounds extreme, but it just opened my eyes to so much.”

Iskarous was recently awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation in the amount of $973,963. His research will investigate the relation between the muscular movements involved in human language and the muscular movements of the octopus arm and a 1-millimeter worm. These latter two species have muscular systems related to those of the human tongue.

Trade war a bluff in the game of a paper tiger

US President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, US, January 11, 2017. Some hawkish members of the Donald Trump team have repeatedly adopted war-like rhetoric about the incoming administration’s trade relations with China and other developing countries. They seem to want to send the message that other countries need the United States more than the other way round.But like many presumptuous war mongers in the past, they may not see the whole picture or understand history.The trade war warriors’ first miscalculation is not recognizing that the world is now vastly different from the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan, their role model, was US president.Since then, according to the World Bank, the global total of merchandise exports has climbed more than eight times to almost $16.5 trillion in 2015.Of this amount, the United States accounts for a little more than 9 percent. So its ability to mobilize enough war efforts against the largest exporter, which accounts for 13.8 percent, cannot but be limited.Second, according to the World Trade Organization, although China is dependent on the US for 18 percent of its total exports, larger than the US is on China (7.7 percent), China’s global reach is more extensive.Third, as a result of its economic transition that has been underway over the past few years, China is increasingly less dependent on the making of small daily commodities. It has grown to be a versatile manufacturer and, empowered by up to 7 million college graduates every year, is now producing some of the best machinery in the world.More recently, China has also grown into a worldwide investor, and most importantly in large infrastructure projects and technologies.Last but not the least, the new administration has promised that the US economy will create 25 million more jobs. Can Trump’s trade war lieutenants say what these new workers will produce and, more pertinently, to whom these products will be sold?If the US is going to produce more, it will have to sell more, and it will have to sell more to the rest of the world. And one of the world’s largest, and most rapidly growing group, of consumers will be in developing countries such as China.So trying to shut out China is unwise, because it is equivalent to shutting out some of the best opportunities that free trade can generate for an economy. All the trade war threat to China is just the bluffing of a paper tiger.

Conference to Tackle Teacher Pay

USC professor Dominic Brewer said the time is right for a conversation about teacher compensation alternatives.

Should teachers be paid based on how long they teach, how well they perform or some other measure?

On March 10, President Barack Obama announced a federal merit pay proposal that would increase pay for high-performing teachers in 150 school districts.

“It is time to start rewarding good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones,” he said in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

This contentious topic, which has been the source of many long-running battles in K-12 education, will be the subject of a unique conference at USC on March 31.

The all-day Alternative Teacher Compensation Conference at the Davidson Conference Center will bring together parties who are often on different sides of the issue, including school board members, district administrators and teachers union representatives.

The event will be hosted by the Policy Analysis for California Education, an independent, non-partisan research center based at USC, the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University. It will be co-hosted by the Full Circle Fund, a Bay Area-based philanthropy organization, and co-sponsored by professional associations and business organizations throughout California, including the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

It will be the first conference of its kind in Southern California since USC Rossier School of Education professor Dominic Brewer joined the Policy Analysis for California Education as co-director in June.

“Because of all of the parties on board, we have the prospect of everyone working together, which the kids of California desperately need,” Brewer said.

“California has a terrible track record for starting and stopping policies and never learning from their successes or failures. Here is the opportunity to have a designed demonstration in which we can really learn something.”

Teachers unions have long objected to the prospect of merit pay, which they say can reward and punish teachers based on the subjective assessment of administrators or on the performance of students, whose academic achievement is often linked to factors beyond the classroom.

On the other side of the debate is the argument that the salary schedules which pay teachers according to the number of years they have taught – rather than how effective they are in the classroom, how hard they work or the subject they teach – do not work.

They were created in the era of World War II when racial and gender discrimination was rampant, in order to ensure equity in pay. Today, with teachers earning degrees and education centering on accountability, such pay schedules are not a reliable measure for what teachers should earn, it is argued.

Brewer said a conversation about teacher compensation alternatives could not have arrived at a better time in history.

Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have publicly urged school districts to experiment with new approaches to teacher compensation.

In response, many school districts around the nation have taken up the challenge.

At the USC conference, leaders of pioneering districts in Minneapolis and Denver, among others, will share what they are doing with district-level teams of educators and union leaders. The conference also will be attended by state legislators, policy experts and educators from around the state.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia and United Educators of San Francisco president Dennis Kelly will talk about a recently approved parcel tax to fund innovations in teacher compensation in the Northern California district.

Dan Katzir from the Broad Foundation will speak about growing philanthropic support for new thinking about teacher pay.

Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles), chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education, also will speak at the event, and U.S. Secretary of Education senior adviser Jim Shelton is scheduled to attend.

Federal funding for innovations is considered an incentive for a discussion about teacher pay alternatives. The economic stimulus plan includes $200 million for a Teacher Incentive Fund to support programs for teacher performance pay.

Brewer said the conference should be an opportunity to exchange ideas about new ways to pay the people who contribute the most to student learning and who cost the most in California’s education system – the state’s teachers.

“When money is tight, it’s an ideal time to look at ways to get the maximum out of the resources we have,” Brewer said. “Even though there’s less money, there’s some opportunity to target resources in a more effective way and work with the money in more creative ways.”


Jack Borsting, holder of the E. Morgan Stanley Professorship in Business Administration and executive director of the Center for Telecommunications Management in the USC Marshall School of Business, will serve on the advisory council of the Electric Power Research Institute. EPRI is a nonprofit organization serving 1,000 organizations in 40 countries through scientific research, technology development and product applications related to the generation, delivery, marketing and use of energy. The 30-member council advises EPRI’s board of directors. Last November, Borsting also received the Fellow Award from the International Engineering Consortium at its annual Executive ComForum for his contributions to the information industry.

President Steven B. Sample gave more than 100 Beverly Hills area residents his views on the future of education, good and bad. The occasion was his address to the city’s Community Millennium Forum Series at the Museum of Television and Radio on Jan. 10.

Richard Bergman, professor and chair of physiology and biophysics at the USC Keck School of Medicine, has won an R.H. Williams-R. Levine Award for his contributions in science, humanitarianism and preceptor training. The award, given by the Western Metabolism Club section of the American Federation of Clinical Research, will be presented at the federation’s annual meeting in Carmel in February. Bergman, also a professor of medicine and biomedical engineering, pioneered the application of quantitative methods to the study of diabetes.

Research to Prevent Blindness has awarded $100,000 to the department of ophthalmology to support research into the treatment and prevention of blinding diseases. Ronald Smith, chair of the department, will conduct the research. To date, USC has received $2.6 million from RPB.

Volunteers are being sought for a Saturday, Jan. 29, neighborhood cleanup in the Boyle Heights community. The HSC cleanup day kicks off community outreach efforts for the year, said Lou Calanche, HSC’s community outreach director. Registration is from 8:30 to 9 a.m. at Murchison Street Elementary, 1501 Murchison St. The event will run from 9 a.m. to noon, with a barbecue for volunteers on the playground from noon to 1 p.m. For more information on the cleanup, call Calanche at (213) 743-1675.


Meagan Smith, 2016 USC costume design graduate; Emmy-winning costume designer Terry Dresbach; Megan Guthrie-Wedemeyer, the 2016 USC costume design graduate who will be joining the Outlander costume crew; and Emma Menzies, a 2016 USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate who helped Guthrie-Wedemeyer on the exhibit, at the entrance of the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.

Engineers Use MRI for Linguistic Studies

Shri Narayanan, left, supervises Ph.D. student Eric Bresch, who is preparing a subject for MRI imaging.

How does your tongue move exactly when you utter a simple “hello”? Does the tip move faster than the base or vice versa? Does the movement vary if you’re not a native English speaker? If you’re angry, sad or ebullient? Would it move differently if you had suffered a stroke or had any other form of cerebral damage?

These are some of the questions that Shrikanth Narayanan, director of the USC Viterbi School’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory, is trying to answer.

In search of responses, Narayanan and a multidisciplinary team of researchers have, for the past several years, refined the use of real-time magnetic resonance imaging, that allows them to go where no researchers have gone before, thanks to funding from the National Institutes of Health.

“It’s very hard to look inside the body to see speech articulation; it’s a very hostile environment,” said linguistics professor Dani Byrd, a member of the research team looking into the mysteries of speech production. “It’s dark, it’s wet, it’s somewhat salty, things move very, very fast, they whack into other things, so a fast-moving tongue can hit up against the palate with quite a lot of force or our two lips can come together with quite a lot of force, and almost none of these events are externally visible.

“With this technology we can see what were the events that took place in the human body which shaped the vocal fold vibration , in a way that created the speech output,” Byrd said. “We can see the events that cause the speech waveform to have the properties that we see now.”

To peek into the human vocal tract, Narayanan and his team have developed software and hardware that allow them to record body movements when subjects are inside an MRI machine reading a series of prepared sentences aloud or while talking to someone outside the scanner.

During a recent scanning session at the USC Imaging Science Center, a German speaker read out loud a series of statements, first in his native language and then in English. Outside, Narayanan and Ph.D. student Yoon-Chul Kim monitored the movement of the subjects’ vocal tract, which could be seen in real time on a computer monitor.

On a tiny square of the monitor, the movement of the tongue, the lips and the velum can be seen just as the volunteer inside the MRI machine spoke. Ph.D. student Eric Bresch tracked the sound, making sure the loud thumping of the scanner did not clutter the sentences being uttered by the subject.

“It’s a major accomplishment technically,” Bresch said, referring to the contraption he had put together to capture the vocal utterances and diminish the acoustic noise of the MRI.

The USC team is the first in the nation to use this technology for linguistic research, and even though it has its drawbacks, its use has proven far superior to other tools.

“One of the powerful aspects of our approach is that MRI provides a full picture of the position of soft tissue while speech sounds are being produced,” said Krishna Nayak, assistant professor in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering and a member of the research team. “Compare this with one of the pre-existing modalities to study real-time speech, ultrasound, which only lets you see the tongue. To really understand the shaping of the vocal tract, you need to see both sides. In fact, you need to see all three dimensions.”

Linguists also have used electro-magnetometry, a method that yields high temporal resolution by tracking a few sensors placed on key speech articulators, though it has the potential not only to produce distorted results – since the sensors are placed on the tongue – but provides only a partial view of the front part of the vocal tract.

“That’s why real-time MRI is such a powerful technique,” Nayak said.

Real-time MRI in its present form does have limitations. First, the volunteers have to be lying down supine when the pictures are being taken, an unnatural position for day-to-day communication. Second, the imaging still doesn’t have the spatial and temporal resolution that the researchers would like.

“We’d like to image even faster than we do right now because there are certain sounds that require very rapid motion of the tongue tip and of the lips , the human vocal tract is very amazing,” Nayak said.