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Web guru Farber noted for 'network'ing

(01/13/99 10:00am)

Computer and Information Science Professor David Farber is a man of many accomplishments -- and now he has one more to add to the list. This month, Network World recognizes Farber as one of the 25 most powerful people in networked computing. The magazine ranks Farber -- the only honoree from the world of education -- among such figures as Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Bill Gates, Michael Dell of Dell Computers and Steve Case of America Online. Farber, 64, has spent the last 25 years creating ways to link computers together. And while he is a force in the industry, he said that his primary commitment remains to academia. "The thing that keeps you young and your mind in gear is getting a new crop of students with new ideas every year," Farber said. "It's a remarkable thing that you don't have in industry." A member of President Clinton's Advisory Committee on Information Technology, Farber is also researching and implementing Internet II -- a part of the White House's 1996 Next Generation Internet initiative that aims to combine the network, computing and storage aspects of the Internet. One of Farber's latest projects is his Interesting People mailing list -- an electronic newspaper that targets people interested in technology and its implications. Farber, who teaches in the University's new Telecommunications and Networking master's degree program, said that most technical reporters and many government officials subscribe to the e-mail service. "It also ends up in the hands of some rather ordinary people," he added. This is not the first time Farber has been honored on a national level. In 1995, he received the Sigcomm Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement in data communications. And the following year, the John Scott Award Advisory Committee honored Farber for his role as a pioneer in the field of networked computing. In the early 1970s at the University of California-Irvine and in the 1980s at the University of Delaware, Farber encouraged computer use in non-computing-based departments and also to facilitate communication between different colleges. Sanjay Udani, a sixth-year doctoral student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, is working with Farber to create a global "virtual campus" that would allow students from all over the world to talk to each other and to professors about their studies. Udani said Farber is "great for communicating with high-level people, and many other professors have gained from his presence." Farber is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society and the Advisory Board of the Center for Democracy and Technology. His name was also in the news across the nation last month when he testified extensively as a key prosecution witness in the government antitrust trial against Microsoft.


Digital design major begins in style

(01/12/99 10:00am)

The interdisciplinary major combines courses dealing with computers, art and media studies. Students hoping to strike it rich by founding the next successful software company now have a way to start traveling down that path while still at Penn. A semester-old major, called Digital Media Design, is intended to give students a foundation of knowledge in technology, graphic art and media studies. Officials expect students who graduate with a DMD degree to go into advertising, computer software design, special effects, Web page design or film animation. The program combines coursework from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Annenberg School for Communication and the Graduate School of Fine Arts to bring graphic art into the next millennium. "It was natural for these three components to fall together, literally, into a degree program," said Norman Badler, a professor of Computer and Information Science. Badler said the degree program is an important step for the Engineering School because it allows undergraduates to combine seemingly different disciplines into one field of study. So far, 17 undergraduates have enrolled in the program, and officials said the program has generated a much higher level of interest than originally anticipated. Students are required to take six Communication courses with an emphasis on visual communications, as well as six from Fine Arts, 11 Engineering classes and a few related classes in the Psychology and Mathematics departments. But the program extends beyond the classroom, as each student in DMD is expected to intern at a firm in a the multimedia industry. Badler said the excellence of the three schools strengthens the major. "There was a pre-existing strength at Penn in three areas of relevance -- in computer graphic technology in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, in design in the School of Fine Arts and in the understanding of communication and media in Annenberg," he explained. David Phillips, who coordinates the program, said he hopes the schools will eventually offer classes that are specifically geared toward DMD majors to complement the more general requirements. Such classes, he said, would "give more of a sense of focus" to the major and "enhance departmental and interschool awareness" of the degree. Phillips added that he also wants to require students to complete a special senior project that utilizes what they have learned. Also, instructors encourage students to attend lectures and discussion sessions with professionals in the fields of computer programming and animation and design. Last semester's speakers included Graham Walters, an executive at Pixar Animation, and Greg Eitzman, an engineer from Silicon Graphics. Engineering freshman Jason Muramoto said he plans to major in DMD. "I am really enthusiastic about the program, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun," Muramoto said. "Graham Walters' presentation was nifty. He had videos from the production of Toy Story and A Bug's Life. He walked us through the production process." Among those lecturers scheduled to visit the University this spring are Stanford University communications professor Cliff Nass and computer animator Chris Landreth.


Summer program teaches diplomacy

(12/02/98 10:00am)

An educational institute is looking for 80 students to go to The Hague next year for the conference. Representatives from a program designed to teach diplomacy and communication skills to 80 students from around the world came to Penn yesterday to talk to students about their workshop next summer in the Netherlands. The delegates will meet at the fourth annual International Student Symposium on Negotiation and Conflict to discuss a host of pressing international issues. "[The program] provides students with a head start in their careers," said Cody Shearer, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for International Mediation and Conflict Resolution, which is organizing the conference. Shearer added that students interested in international relations, as well as business or even medicine, should find the program worthwhile. Shearer, as well as former program participant Andrew Fleming, spoke yesterday to about 30 Penn students about the program in Stiteler Hall's undergraduate lounge. The symposium begins on July 19 in The Hague -- a center of international justice which has been the site of many important international criminal trials, such as those for several Serbians accused of committing war crimes during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia -- before moving on to Rotterdam's Erasmus University, the host institution. The goal of the symposium is to teach strategic negotiation tactics and communication skills through simulations, workshops and field trips to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal. "I learned that listening is so much more important than speaking," said Fleming, a 1998 Northwestern University graduate who participated in the program last summer. "I learned invaluable lessons that you can't possibly pick up in a book or in a lecture. [The program] changed my mentality." Previous lecturers have included Lord David Owen, former foreign minister of the United Kingdom and the United Nations-appointed mediator in the Balkans; former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim; and former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart. On weekends, students will have time to engage in social activities around The Hague and spend time in the heart of the city. Participants will also travel to other European cities, including London and Paris. Selection to the program is rigorous -- only 80 applicants out of a pool of nearly 800 students from 82 countries were admitted last year. According to Shearer, the participants are not only well-read and articulate but also "assertive, inquisitive [and] controversial." This year's sessions will include television and media training to help students become more adept at "speaking on their feet," Shearer said. The IIMCR intends to expand the program by organizing symposium sites in Argentina, South Africa, Singapore and the Middle East. This summer's symposium will run from July 19 to August 13. Students have the option of taking the course for academic credit through Erasmus University. For further information, students should visit the IIMCR homepage at http://www.iimcr.org or contact IIMCR via e-mail at iimcr@erols.com or by telephone at (202) 462-9544.


Group takes a 'virtual' tour

(11/09/98 10:00am)

On Friday night, students and faculty at the University had an opportunity to travel back in time and across seas to the Roman Empire. In one hour, more than 50 professors and students "toured" the Forum built under the emperor Trajan -- a more than 200,000-square-foot civic square which stood as a symbol of the power of imperial Rome until the building's collapse more than 300 years after the fall of the Roman Empire. But the tourists paid no airfare and carried no passports for this trip -- in fact, they did not even leave campus. James Packer, professor of Roman architecture and archaeology at Northwestern University, and William Jepson, director of computing in the department of architecture and urban design at the University of California at Los Angeles, led students and faculty on a virtual reality tour of the Forum of Trajan. Their presentation -- sponsored by the Classical Studies Department and held in the Chemistry Building -- was entitled "Restoring Trajan's Forum: A Three-Dimensional Approach for the Early 21st Century." Using a $250,000 virtual reality machine, Jepson presented his model of the Forum of Trajan based on Packer's architectural drawings. The machine -- which displays 30 images per second -- allows users to "walk through" and experience the forum as it might have appeared in 114 A.D. According to Classical Studies lecturer Paul Scotton, "it [the project] is state of the art scholarship." Jepson and Packer, who has had a number of books and articles published on the Forum project, began to collaborate early in 1997. However, Packer first began to lay the foundations of this project in 1972, after leading a Northwestern alumni tour of the ruins of the Roman Empire one year earlier. Seeing that the site had never been studied conclusively, Packer -- after receiving a grant from the National Endowment of Humanities to spend six months in Rome to study the site -- launched his plans for the "reconstruction" of the Forum of Trajan. To shape his reconstruction on paper, Packer studied essays from archives and libraries in Rome, Paris and Munich, and consulted with teams of archaeologists, architects, computer scientists and photographers. The product of decades of excavations, research and deliberation is a three-dimensional, interactive, intricately-detailed model of the Forum of Trajan. "The Trajan Forum has not been viewed in such a way since the beginning of the 9th century A.D.," Packer said, noting that the project was funded by a number of institutions, including the Los Angeles-based J. Paul Getty Trust, a foundation dedicated to interdisciplinary scholarship in the visual arts and humanities. "I have? looked into Trajan's Forum, and it is truly impossible to [mentally] reconstruct the way it really looked," said Sarah Kupperberg, a post-baccalaureate student in the Classical Studies Department. "If nothing else, [the program] shows how useful computer technology really is. It's fascinating."


Group takes a 'virtual' tour

(11/09/98 10:00am)

On Friday night, students and faculty at the University had an opportunity to travel back in time and across seas to the Roman Empire. In one hour, more than 50 professors and students "toured" the Forum built under the emperor Trajan -- a more than 200,000-square-foot civic square which stood as a symbol of the power of imperial Rome until the building's collapse more than 300 years after the fall of the Roman Empire. But the tourists paid no airfare and carried no passports for this trip -- in fact, they did not even leave campus. James Packer, professor of Roman architecture and archaeology at Northwestern University, and William Jepson, director of computing in the department of architecture and urban design at the University of California at Los Angeles, led students and faculty on a virtual reality tour of the Forum of Trajan. Their presentation -- sponsored by the Classical Studies Department and held in the Chemistry Building -- was entitled "Restoring Trajan's Forum: A Three-Dimensional Approach for the Early 21st Century." Using a $250,000 virtual reality machine, Jepson presented his model of the Forum of Trajan based on Packer's architectural drawings. The machine -- which displays 30 images per second -- allows users to "walk through" and experience the forum as it might have appeared in 114 A.D. According to Classical Studies lecturer Paul Scotton, "it [the project] is state of the art scholarship." Jepson and Packer, who has had a number of books and articles published on the Forum project, began to collaborate early in 1997. However, Packer first began to lay the foundations of this project in 1972, after leading a Northwestern alumni tour of the ruins of the Roman Empire one year earlier. Seeing that the site had never been studied conclusively, Packer -- after receiving a grant from the National Endowment of Humanities to spend six months in Rome to study the site -- launched his plans for the "reconstruction" of the Forum of Trajan. To shape his reconstruction on paper, Packer studied essays from archives and libraries in Rome, Paris and Munich, and consulted with teams of archaeologists, architects, computer scientists and photographers. The product of decades of excavations, research and deliberation is a three-dimensional, interactive, intricately-detailed model of the Forum of Trajan. "The Trajan Forum has not been viewed in such a way since the beginning of the 9th century A.D.," Packer said, noting that the project was funded by a number of institutions, including the Los Angeles-based J. Paul Getty Trust, a foundation dedicated to interdisciplinary scholarship in the visual arts and humanities. "I have? looked into Trajan's Forum, and it is truly impossible to [mentally] reconstruct the way it really looked," said Sarah Kupperberg, a post-baccalaureate student in the Classical Studies Department. "If nothing else, [the program] shows how useful computer technology really is. It's fascinating."


'Sushi Night' gives students a taste of Japanese culture

(10/13/98 9:00am)

Where could you have gone Sunday night to experience one of the best Japanese cuisines, enrich your cultural perspectives and socialize with friends? You could have visited Harrison College House, also known as High Rise South, and attended the Penn Nihon Club's "All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Night." The third-annual Sushi Night attracted nearly 100 students of all ethnic backgrounds. Engineering junior Mark Yoshitake, internal vice president of the Nihon Club, said it "organized the event to give students a little taste of the Japanese culture." "[The event] is not necessarily for Japanese students, but for anyone with an interest in the culture," he added. Members of the club were admitted for $5, non-members for $8. Those who paid for tickets in advance received a $1 discount. College junior Jun Ishidoya, the club's social events chairperson, said a great deal of preparation went into making the evening a success. From 10 a.m. until the dinner at 6 p.m., 15 students prepared a variety of sushi, including mackerel, smoked salmon, sweet fried egg roll, crab meat, eel and shrimp. "Not only did we learn how to make sushi, but we also bonded with the other members," Ishidoya said. Students of many backgrounds said they appreciated the event. "I think it's really important for clubs like this to share their cultures with the community. I wish that more events like this were held," Wharton sophomore Nikhil Da Victoria Lobo said. Engineering sophomore Hai Ton added: "I had three plates of sushi. That's 36 pieces. I'm about to pass out." The 120-member Nihon Club -- formerly recognized as the Japan Cultural Society -- was established in February 1996 in an effort to heighten the awareness of Japanese heritage on the campus. According to Yoshitake, the organization is making strides to open its vision and scope to non-Japanese students who have an interest in Japanese culture and society. Sushi Night is only one of several cultural functions that the club is planning for the year. The club is working with the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department to provide students at the University with tutoring opportunities. The Nihon Club also hosts bi-weekly video nights for those who desire to broaden their understanding of Japanese history. In addition, the club organizes conversation partners -- Japanese-speaking students who introduce other Penn students to the language. The club prides itself not only in providing learning opportunities for students of Japanese descent but also in enhancing the awareness of cultural diversity at the University. Club President Yusuke Saito, a College and Wharton junior, looks forward to planning a Sushi Night every semester, instead of just once per year. "It's great that so many people from different ethnic groups came," he said.


Students compete in on-line 'Jeopardy!'

(10/09/98 9:00am)

Your heart is pounding. Your palms are dripping sweat. Your hand seizes the mouse, and you frantically move the cursor up and down the computer screen. You are 15 seconds away from the Sony PlayStation that you always wanted, and all that you can do is stare at your computer and repeat to yourself, "In 1852, this oldest American intercollegiate sporting event was held between Harvard and Yale, who competed in this sport." Had you known that the statement referred to rowing, you might have been on the road to fortune. College Jeopardy! Online, developed by Sony Online Entertainment, has brought the popular television game show Jeopardy! to college dorms for no charge for over a year. Word of the online game is spreading among students at Penn. The University's cumulative average of 4,918 points as of Wednesday at 5 p.m. ranks relatively high among the Ivy League schools, compared to leading scorer Princeton University's average of 5,205 and Dartmouth College's low average of 964. College junior Michelle Holme, who interned at Sony Online Entertainment in New York City this summer, said, "[Penn] definitely should not be last. We could boost our rankings.'' Holme herself has tried to boost the University's average, as she frequently turns to College Jeopardy! Online for "a quick, bite-size study break.'' Four students at the University are ranked among the top 10 scorers in the eastern region. Among them, College senior Joe Mira has a personal average of 37,066 points for the first three weeks of the tournament. His rank qualifies him for the semi-finals, in which the top 250 players nationwide will compete. "I'm a big trivia fan. I have watched Jeopardy! every night since the age of 10," Mira said. "My roommate often tells me that I have more useless knowledge than anyone else he knows.'' Caren Piela, manager and publicist for Sony Online Entertainment, explained, "We introduced the tournament for College Jeopardy! Online after seeing many college students go online to play games like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.'' Jeopardy! Online first appeared in March 1997. The college version was created in the fall of 1997. This fall marks its third semester. The tournament is 17 weeks long and is composed of a 10-week qualification period -- which runs from September 14 to November 23 -- a two-week eligibility verification period, a one-week semi-finals elimination round period and a four-week final eligibility verification period, in addition to the finals. The grand prize winner receives a Sony entertainment package in addition to a $1,000 donation to the scholarship fund of his or her school. Winners also get a chance to qualify as a contestant in the television program's College Jeopardy! tournament. The online game is similar to the television version, according to Piela. The main difference is that the online game gives contenders four answers from which to choose, whereas the television version provides no choices. Among the many new categories appearing this fall at http://www.station.sony.com: "Arcane Archaeology,'' "Coeducation 101,'' "Hardcore College Hoops'' and "Nutty Professors.''