January 2, 2014

Now that 2014 is upon us, the members of the college’s Public Affairs staff decided to take a page from many newspapers, magazines and websites and look back at the year that was at Amherst. Here are some of our favorite stories from 2013.

Look Before You Text

Leah Thompson ’15

People who write text messages while crossing the street often disobey traffic lights. They tend to cross mid-intersection or fail to look both ways. These are just two of the findings of Leah Thompson ’15, who, with a team of researchers, published a study on social and technological distraction in the peer-reviewed journal Injury Prevention.

Winter Storm Nemo Finds Amherst

Campus after Winter Storm Nemo

More than a foot of snow blanketed campus on Feb. 9, prompting students to break out the snowballs and, yes, dining hall trays.

Physicists’ Work Sheds New Light on Possible “Fifth Force of Nature”

Physics Professor Larry Hunter

In a breakthrough for the field of particle physics, Professor Larry Hunter and colleagues at Amherst and The University of Texas at Austin established new limits on what scientists call “long-range spin-spin interactions” between atomic particles. Observation of such interactions, which have been proposed by theoretical physicists but not yet seen, would suggest the existence of new particles beyond those presently described by the Standard Model of particle physics.

Campus Farm Takes Root

Book & Plow farmers Tobin Porter-Brown and Peter McLean

This past spring, the farm-to-table movement sprouted at Amherst. And in the college’s case, farm-to-table equals about three-quarters of a mile. Book & Plow Farm, on the east side of campus, began supplying Valentine Dining Hall with fruits and veggies from its first harvest in September.

Dino-Mite! John S. ’77 and Leigh Middleton Give Amherst a Dryosaurus Skeleton

The Beneski Museum of Natural History's Dryosaurus altus

The agile and speedy vegan dinosaur, roughly the height of a pony and the length of an American alligator, is the newest inhabitant of the Beneski Museum of Natural History.

National Champs!

Members of the men's basketball team celebrate their NCAA championship

The Amherst men’s basketball team won the program’s second NCAA championship with an 87-70 victory over the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor on April 7.

Amherst Prof Devises First Head-to-Head Speed Test with Conventional Computing, and the Quantum Computer Wins

Computer Science Professor Catherine McGeoch

Catherine McGeoch, the Beitzel Professor in Technology and Society, who developed and conducted experiments to test the speed of a quantum computing system against conventional computing methods, found that quantum computing is, “in some cases, really, really fast.” Her work was covered by The New York Times, Science World Report, MIT Technology Review and the Nature News Blog, among many other media outlets.

A Wish Fulfilled: WWII Veteran Receives Diploma at Commencement

Arhur Ourieff receives his diploma during Commencement May 26

The outbreak of war forced Arthur Ourieff to cut short his undergraduate education and leave his beloved Amherst without his degree. That changed during the college’s 192nd Commencement on May 26, when the 89-year-old Los Angeles resident was awarded his diploma along with this year’s 468 graduates.

New Amherst App’s Mission: Track Wildflower STD That Intrigued Darwin

Biology Professor Michael Hood

Michael Hood, associate professor of biology, and the college’s IT department developed a smartphone app enabling citizen scientists from around the world to help with the Wildflower Health Watch, a project aimed at better understanding how a particular plant disease is spread in natural populations.

Anthropologists’ Book Explores Possible Solution to World Hunger: Instant Noodles

Anthropology Professor Deborah Gewertz

A staple of American college students’ diets for decades, instant noodles serve “an important role in satiating hunger and in sustaining lives for many worldwide, including those hanging on under difficult circumstances,” according The Noodle Narratives: The Global Rise of an Industrial Food into the Twenty-First Century, by Deborah Gewertz, the G. Henry Whitcomb 1874 Professor of Anthropology, and co-authors Frederick Errington and Tatsuro Fujikura ’91.

Amherst Closes the Books on a Record-Setting Campaign

The Amherst community closes the books on a campaign

The college raised an astounding $502 million, and 86 percent of alumni and 54 percent of parents connected with Amherst students, faculty and one another during the campaign.

Yes, Mr. President, But…

Amherst President Biddy Martin

Amherst President Biddy Martin wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education that President Barack Obama is correct to prioritize the affordability of higher education, but she urged caution in setting standards of accountability.

Injustice Inspires Opera

Mallorie Chernin, director of Amherst's Choral Music Program, conducts during a rehearsal of The Garden of Martyrs in Buckley Recital Hall.

This fall, Northampton’s Academy of Music staged world-premiere performances of The Garden of Martyrs, an opera dramatizing the 1806 execution of two Irish immigrants falsely convicted of murder. The opera featured music by Amherst’s Associate Professor Eric Sawyer and libretto by UMass Professor Harley Erdman.

Bathroom Reading

A Frost Library's bathroom walls

An unknown person or persons covered the walls of two Frost Library restrooms with letters and journal accounts of the romance between poet Rainer Maria Rilke and writer Lou Andreas-Salomé. Is it graffiti? Yes. Is it staying? Definitely. Amherst magazine reported.

Native Americans, in Their Own Words

The college's new collection of American Indian writings

It’s not every day that a donation of some old books will bring tears to one’s eyes, but when it’s an unprecedented collection of American Indian writings, some 1,500 volumes dating back to the 1700s, one can understand why professors Kiara Vigil and Lisa Brooks got a little misty. “[It’s] like suddenly being amidst a seemingly infinite living sea, a literary and intellectual tradition that I have been studying and teaching, immersed in, my whole life,” said Brooks. The newly acquired Younghee Kim-Wait ’82 Pablo Eisenberg Collection provides researchers access to indigenous voices long omitted from the history books.

From Amherst to Baseball’s Front Offices

Ben Cherington ’96

“If running a Major League Baseball team is on your to-do list, it pays to attend Amherst College,” said a Bloomberg News article about Amherst’s amazing pipeline to top jobs in baseball.  The college has more than a dozen alumni in Major League front offices, including general managers of the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. The New York Times and NPR’s Only a Game also took a look at this phenomenon.

Mead Mummy Mystery

The Mead Art Museum's mummy case

The Mead Art Museum gathered experts this fall with the goal of restoring and exhibiting a 2,600-year-old mummy case and lid that were donated to the college in 1905. But the case has generated a number of unanswered questions, such as: Where’s the mummy?

TEDx Showcases Amherst Thinkers

Rosanne Haggerty '82 participates in Amherst's TEDx event

In November, Amherst hosted its inaugural TEDx event, featuring all Amherst-affiliated speakers. Four alumni, two professors, one staff member and one student presented their talks on the theme of “Disruptive Innovation” to an audience of 350 people at Kirby Theater.

Amherst College Press Names Founding Director

Amherst College Press Director Mark D. W. Edington

Mark D. W. Edington, a social entrepreneur with an extensive background in higher education, will guide Amherst’s digital-first publishing venture, which will solicit and edit peer-reviewed books written by leading scholars in the humanities and the social sciences and then make them freely available online.

Faculty Hiring Rose, New Administrators Named

Some of the new faces on campus this year

In addition to embarking on an unprecedented faculty recruiting binge, the college filled or added several significant senior administrative positions during the past year. Some of the appointments included a new provost, director of financial aid, chief financial officer, dean of students and dean of admission and financial aid