Emeritus Faculty Association #114 March 2006
Friday, March 3, Javits Seminar Room, Melville Library E2340, 10.30 am.
After our customary informal half-hour over coffee, fruit, and pastries, courtesy of the Provost's Office, Prof Joanna Fowler will speak on "Imaging Addiction in the Human Brain"
Abstract: The addiction to legal and illegal drugs poses one of the most medically, socially and economically devastating public health problems facing modern society. Yet treating the addiction remains a challenge. Some important but unanswered questions are: What brain regions are exposed to the drug? What neurochemical systems are changed in the addiction? Are drugs of abuse toxic to nerve cells? Do drugs produce changes in the brain that account for the inability of the addicted individual to stop taking the drug? In this presentation we will highlight some of the insights on the effects of drugs of abuse on the human brain which have been gained through the use of brain imaging on human subjects. We use positron emission tomography (PET) and we develop and apply radiotracers labeled with the short lived positron emitters carbon-11 (20 minute half life) and flourine-18 (110 minute half life). These allow us to measure the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs of abuse on the hiuman brain. Our work is supported by the US Department of Energy and by the National Institutes of Health. (For another approach aimed at scanning for such effects in the brain see the last item "keeping in touch" below).
Bio: Joanna S. Fowler earned a B.A. in chemistry from the University of South Florida in 1963, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Colorado in 1967. After completing postdoctoral appointments at the University of East Anglia, England, and at Brookhaven Lab, she joined the staff of Brookhaven in 1971. Fowler was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 2003. Her work has also garnered numerous other honors, including the Jacob Javits Investigator Award in Neurosciences in both 1986 and 1993. The 1986 award was shared with the late Brookhaven Lab chemist Alfred P. Wolf. In 1988, Fowler and Wolf shared the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest, given by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society. In 1997, she received the Aebersold Award from the Society of Medicine. In 1998, she was awarded the U.S. Department of Energy's E.O. Lawrence Award and the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal, sponsored by the Olin Corporation Charitable Trust and administered by the American Chemical Society, and, in 2002, she was awarded the Glenn T. Seaborg Award from the American Chemical Society. Fowler holds eight patents for radiolabeling procedures. More bio and selected publications can be found here.
(1) Charles Staley, our predecessor as EFA newsletter editor, announced that effective of the end of the semester he would be leaving to a retirement community in Pennsylvania. We wish him good luck and long life.
(2) Judy Wishnia announced that our new chancellor appointed Dec 19 (former US navy vice admiral John Ryan) unlike his predecessor had requested a $70 million budget increase for new faculty lines, saying that the last decade had seen a decrease of 1000 full time faculty and a 44000 increase in students. Ed Katkin requested to know if it was true that the old SUNY provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs Peter Salins had been reassigned to the Stony Brook Political Science department (confirmed by our speaker).
Judy also said that notwithstanding the spate of pension cancelations nationwide, our SUNY pension was still safe for now (although the price of security is eternal vigilence and March 14 is retiree advocacy day in Albany for those who can make it).
(3) The chair announced that the new EFA office/lounge was now ready. So far it has a conference table with 10 chairs. A phone and computer are expected soon. The committee would like to encourage as much utilization of this facillity as possible, both for those who have no other office on campus, as a meeting place for those pursuing some university related initiative, or even just as a place to park your coat while you browse the library. Take the North elevator to the 4th floor and turn right to room N4047. He announced the door combination with a request not to spread it beyond the EFA community. If not present at the meeting you can ask Homer or any friend who was there for this combination. And please sign the guest book when you come.
(4) Linwood Lee announced the passing of Herb Muether. Herb came from Queens college to be the first member of our physics department and was the master of the undergraduate program for many years. His research was in neutron physics at BNL and he generated the department's first PhD. As a historical note he was a senior officer of Alexander Pond on a ship in WWII.
(5) With rise in interest after 9-11 in the role of religion in global security, the international section of the American Bar Association is sponsoring a three person panel on Friday April 7 at the Waldorf Astoria which will include our own Yessin El-Ayouty. The panel will address such a role for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For the latest on agenda and times see http://www.abanet.org/intlaw/spring06/promo.html.
(6) This year, to mark Stony Brook's 50th anniversary, the president wants to have a reception to thank the emeritus faculty for their role in the early development of this university. It is currently scheduled for Tues May 9, from 5.30 - 7.30pm at Sunwood. Please mark this in your calendar. The opportunity to speak with the president does not occur often, and your committee would like a good showing. There will be another reminder later.
Our main speaker, Jeffrey Segal, distinguished professor and chair of the Political Science Department:
The chair read an introduction written by Howard Scarrow who unfortunately could not attend. Howard had wanted to introduce the speaker himself because he was part of the small department in 1982 that recruited Jeff Segal straight out of graduate school, and Howard has followed Jeff's growth into the distinguished scholar of today - see bio in last issue. We should add that bio the fact that his latest book is now on prominent display in Border's and that the New York Times included a 6-column graph from it in its recent court coverage. Also not mentioned in the bio was that he has in fact run for public office, since 2204 serving on the Mount Sinai school board.
Jeff began by relaying the following story: When the President announced his nomination to the Supreme Court, pandemonium broke out in political and legal circles. One prominent journal wrote that "in all the excitement one thing stands out: where others were radical, he was rabid; where others were extreme, he was super extreme." The nominee was also opposed by leading members of the bench and bar, by the former president of the NAACP, and by the president of Harvard University. No, the nominee referred to here was not Samuel Alito - it was Louis Brandeis, nominated for the Supreme Court by President Wilson in 1916.
That introduction set the stage for the remainder of Jeff's talk, which argued that contrary to what children might be taught in school, the process of appointing Supreme Court and lower court justices has always been steeped in politics. Even vacancies in the courts may be the product of political tactics. President Johnson was said to possess information unfavorable to Justice Goldberg and thus able to "persuade" Goldberg to resign from the Supreme Court to assume the role of ambassador to the United Nations. When Johnson appointed as his Attorney General the son of Justice Tom Clark, the obvious conflict of interest left Justice Clark no option but to resign. Congress can also create vacancies in the lower federal courts by expanding the number of judges, as well as by raising the pension of judges. Finally, justices themselves can engineer a vacancy by announcing their retirement only when there is a sitting president of their own party, Justice O'Connor's recent resignation being an obvious example.
A President's choice of court nominees may be influenced by personal, partisan, or ideological considerations. President Bush's recent nomination of Harriet Miers was an obvious example of a president nominating a personal friend, as was President Johnson's nomination of his close friend Abe Fortas. Altogether, going back to George Washington about three-fifths of all Supreme Court nominees have had some kind of personal relationship with the President. The nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor by President Reagan illustrates a nomination designed to meet a narrow partisan goal, wanting a Republican president to be the first to nominate a woman to the Court. Nixon's two failed nominees, Haynsworth and Carswell, were likewise attempts to attract southern voters to the Republican party. Finally, a president's choice of a nominee for the Supreme Court may stem from ideological reasons, as reflected most recently in Bush's nomination of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. (President Eisenhower was not interested in ideology, and thus his nominations of two liberals to the Court, William Brennan and Earl Warren, were the result of political promises to appoint a Catholic, and to pay back Warren for his support of Eisenhower in the contest for the Republican nomination.)
What determines a Senator's vote for or against a nominee? To answer that question Jeff and a colleague measured the extent to which nominees since 1937 have been professionally qualified, and the extent of their ideological (liberal, conservative) commitment, both qualities as evaluated by newspaper editorials at the time of nomination. Those evaluations were then compared with the amount of confirmation support in the Senate. The "good news" is that there has been a strong relationship between a nominee being perceived as highly qualified, and the amount of Senate support. Even Senators who do not share a well qualified nominee's ideology are likely to vote in favor. Thus last November only 20 Senators voted against Sam Roberts. What is not good news is that Senators who share a nominee's ideology are likely to vote to confirm even if the nominee has been perceived as unqualified.
Looking only at more recent years the influence of ideology on Senate votes has increased dramatically. The change can be traced back to the Warren court, but the impact of ideology on the Senate confirmation vote jumped dramatically after the defeat of Reagan's nominee Robert Bork, as reflected last month in the 42 votes cast against well qualified Samuel Alito. What explains this increase? The answer is that the Supreme Court justices themselves have increasingly demonstrated ideological leanings, as demonstrated by Jeff's study that shows a strong positive relationship between nominees' perceived ideology at the time of nomination and their subsequent rulings in cases involving civil liberties. Nominee John Roberts was wrong when he said in his confirmation hearings that a justice can be compared to a baseball umpire. In contrast to baseball where a machine can reveal the exact location of a baseball when it passes over the plate, a Supreme Court justice is required to interpret the meaning of such phrases as "equal protection of the law" or "unreasonable searches and seizures" and then apply those judgements when deciding whether the Constitution allows affirmative action or wiretapping. Unlike baseball, reasonable arguments can be made on either side of those questions.
Footnote from webmaster: With the ascension of Samuel Alito Jr. to the supreme court there are now 5 justices (a majority) who are Roman Catholics. Now I may be showing my age here, but it seems like only yesterday that the campaign of John Kennedy for the presidency produced widespread anguish that the Pope would be dictating the policies of the US. This time around, the subject was not even mentioned! I would like to believe that this indicates a greater tolerance, but especially after hearing Jeff's talk, I fear it more likely that it only has to do with which party your Catholic belongs to.
Keeping in touch, continued.
OHSU's new imaging research center is receiving three cutting-edge MRI machines, including two ultra-high field magnets found in few other places worldwide. At a news conference, Charles Springer (AIRC director and a professor in the OHSU physiology and pharmacology department and the biomedical engineering department, as well as a member of the OHSU Cancer Institute) said "The arrival of these three high-field magnets is a momentous occasion for OHSU research. We are on the verge of becoming one of the top imaging research centers in the nation". The AIRC website, with a photo of Charlie in hard hat, can be found at http://www.ohsu.edu/airc. Charlie requests to please say hello to all his old friends at the Brook.
Organization for seniors wishing to continue to live at home
Instead of moving to an assisted living facility, how would you like to stay at your home and have these services: transportation to and from hospital; an advocate in attendance at medical appointments; home-delivered meals from favorite restaurants; someone at your side when you go to the bank or barber, someone to install grab bars in your bathroom; a way to summon help in an emergency; people to look in on you. All these services were organized by Beacon Hill Village, an innovative nonprofit organization created by a group of mostly academic residents in a Boston locality determined to grow old in familiar surroundings, and to make that possible for others. The annual fee is $550 for an individual or $780 for a household. Next month the organization will publish a how-to manual on their experiences, intended to guide others through the complexity of such a business plan and the surveying community needs. We will endeavour to obtain a copy of this manual and have it placed in our new emeritus community lounge. The full article may be viewed at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/09/garden/09care.html