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On the Neural Frontier

How do we make a sandwich, appreciate beauty, or resist the urge to have another drink? Brown researchers are mapping the body's most complex organ in surprising new ways.

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08 September, 2018

How many people can call themselves an engineer, professor, fighter jet and commercial pilot, and astronaut? Dr. Byron K. Lichtenberg ‘69 can! He enjoyed a decorated and diverse career following his graduation from Brown with an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering in 1969. Following his time on College Hill, he flew fighter jets with the Air Force, beginning in Vietnam and continuing for 23 years as a member of Massachusetts Air National Guard. In all, he flew 238 combat missions. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ After returning from Vietnam, Lichtenberg continued his studies at M.I.T., where his interests turned to space exploration. In 1983, he became the first astronaut to serve as a payload specialist, spending 10 days in space conducting a variety of experiments in life and materials sciences, astronomy, and solar, upper, atmosphere and plasma physics. He returned to space in 1992 for 9 days, logging a total of 468 hours spent in orbit. His experiences as an astronaut inspired him to serve as president of Zero Gravity Corporation, a company focused on making the sensation of weightlessness available to the general public, through the use of parabolic aircraft flights. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ After 238 combat missions and 310 orbits around the planet, Lichtenberg earned himself an easy retirement, right? Not exactly his style; instead, he chose to fly commercially as a captain with Southwest Airlines, where he spent 19 years, from 1994 until 2013. Now, he serves as an instructor with the FAA, and as a professor of engineering at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ 📸: NASA 📝: Peter Goldman ‘20
04 September, 2018

As NFL week one approaches, the Atlanta Falcons announced their 53-man roster, which includes Richard “Dewey” Jarvis ‘18. Jarvis, a 6’2”, 230 pound linebacker surprised many in making the roster as an undrafted free agent, where the odds were stacked against him. It is not the first time Dewey has faced adversity; he was born with Hirschsprung's disease, a rare colon disorder that kept him in and out of the hospital as an infant. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Dewey came to Brown in 2013, earning playing time at linebacker and on special teams during his freshman season. Unfortunately, a knee injury forced him to redshirt his second year, and he came back in 2015 after a position change, shifting to defensive end. Jarvis truly broke out in 2016, adjusting to his position change and becoming a disruptive force and anchor on the Bears defense. He was named First Team All-Ivy, along with Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and finishing ninth nationally in tackles for a loss. He repeated this performance in 2017, finishing with 8 sacks, another First Team All-Ivy nod, and a trip to the Senior Bowl, an elite draft showcase where he was able to impress against talented peers from conferences such as the SEC and PAC-12. His career 17.5 sacks are second all-time in Brown history. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Throughout his college career, Dewey never believed he would make the NFL. He had dreams of being a doctor, and earned a biology degree while on the pre-med track. However, his M.D. will have to wait, as strong preseason performances have helped to shoot him up the Falcons depth chart. Having shifted back to his natural position of linebacker, along with special teams duties, he is preparing to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, the opening game of the 2018-19 NFL season. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ 📸: Brown Bears Football 📝: Peter Goldman ‘20
02 September, 2018

Judo legend Jimmy Pedro ‘94 was recently inducted into the Brown Athletic Hall of Fame, for his achievements as both a wrestler at Brown and in the field of judo. Pedro had just earned first-team All Ivy honors in 1991, when he took two years off of school to train for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, where he represented the United States in judo. He continued to represent the United States in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 games, earning bronze medals in Atlanta and Athens. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Over Pedro’s judo career, he won 5 U.S. National Championships and 2 Pan-American Games gold medals, and is widely regarded as the greatest American judoka. He has the most gold medals in international competition of any American, and was only the eighth American to medal at the Olympics. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Pedro retired from competition after earning a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and entered the field of coaching. Today, he continues to run Pedro’s Judo Center in Wakefield, MA, and serves as coach of the national team, a role he undertook in preparation for the 2012 games. Under his guidance, the American national team has found Olympic success, with Travis Stevens earning a silver medal in 2012, the men’s team’s first since Pedro’s own in 2004. Pedro has also worked closely in guiding Kayla Harrison, who’s back-to-back golds in 2012 and 2016 were the first two gold medals in United States Olympic judo history. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ 📸: Pedro’s Judo Center 📝: Peter Goldman ‘20
01 September, 2018

Madeline Miller's latest novel gives the goddess and enchantress Circe a sympathetic and empowering new story. AUTHOR AND BROWN ALUMNA MADELINE MILLER WRITES MYTHOLOGY FOR THE #MeToo ERA When novelist Madeline Miller ’00, ’01 AM, first read Homer’s "The Odyssey" in eighth grade, the story of the goddess and enchantress Circe left her incensed. She had expected a thrilling encounter between Circe and Odysseus. “I remember thinking, ‘Here’s Odysseus, the wily prince of Ithaca, and there’s going to be a real battle of wits between these two people,’” she says. Instead, the wandering hero draws his sword and threatens Circe. The goddess falls to the ground, begs for mercy, and invites Odysseus into her bed. “I remember this feeling of ‘That’s it? That’s all she gets?’” Miller says. “It felt like such a frustrating treatment of a fascinating character.” That teenage frustration laid the foundations for her latest novel, "Circe," which weaves a new version of the story. Miller’s sympathetic, empowering narrative casts Circe as a mythological figure for the #MeToo moment—a woman often at the mercy of powerful men who has faced abuse and trauma and strives to define herself on her own terms. That journey begins in the halls of her father, the egotistical sun god Helios, where her burgeoning powers are grounds for banishment. Over the following millennia, the goddess encounters a string of ancient Greece’s iconic characters: the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, vengeful Athena, capricious Apollo, and, of course, Odysseus himself. “I have always felt that these stories are incredibly relevant,” Miller, who studied classics at Brown, says of Greek mythology. “Human nature has not changed, even though culture has changed. We’re still struggling with so many of these issues, like allowing women to have power.” Circe is not the first classical character Miller has reimagined. Her 2011 debut novel, "The Song of Achilles," recounts the events of "The Iliad" through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’s childhood friend and (in Miller’s tale) lover. The book snagged a spot on the New York Times’s bestseller list and was awarded the Orange Prize for fiction the following year. But Miller might never have written the novel had it not been for a college production of William Shakespeare’s "Troilus and Cressida" she codirected during her senior year at Brown. “I remember being so excited about the opportunity to work with these characters in a living way,” she says, “to give notes to Achilles and talk to Patroclus about his motivation.” For the first time, she realized that the characters she’d studied in class could come to life creatively as well as academically. “That production completely changed my life.” 📝: Abigail Cain '15 📸: An Rong Xu / The New York Times
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