WinterWonderGrass Tahoe wrapped up last weekend, April 6-8, 2018, at the base of Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, California–serving asa celebrational entrance celebration to spring in California. Surrounding music, brews, and mountains, the lineup featured headlining sets from The Devil Makes Three, Railroad Earth and The Infamous Stringdusters. Despite some aggressive weather, the beautiful location is the result of cataclysmic volcanic and glacial master planning. The inimitable backdrop was also highlighted by performances from The California Honeydrops, Elephant Revival, Steep Canyon Rangers, Fruition, The Brothers Comatose, Shook Twins, The Lil Smokies, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys, Grant Farm, Pickin’ on the Dead, Jon Stickley Trio, Old Salt Union, The Kitchen Dwellers, The Drunken Hearts, and so many more. Artists-at-Large included Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon), Bridget Law (Elephant Revival), and more.Photographer Sam Watson was on the scene to capture the glory, as you can see in the full festival gallery below.WinterWonderGrass Tahoe | Squaw Valley, CA | 2018 | Photos: Elliot Siff Load remaining images
Photo: Emily Butler Load remaining images On Sunday night, Phish closed out a top-notch three-night run at Alpharetta, GA’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park. From the performance’s opening moments, everyone watching—both in person and from their couches—knew this show was going to be special.Phish came out of the gates with Hot Chocolate‘s “You Sexy Thing”, marking the first time one of the many donut-themed cover debuts from last summer’s Baker’s Dozen residency has made its way onto a post-Dozen setlist. The set continued in unusual fashion, as the band launched into the “Tweezer Reprise” that went missing from Friday’s show in the two-slot. The momentum didn’t slow from there, as the band moved into “What’s The Use?” and a well-played (and weather-appropriate) “Petrichor”. Next, the band lit into Vida Blue‘s “Most Events Aren’t Planned”—the third Phish rendition of the Page McConnell side project staple—followed by excellent readings of “Vultures”, “Reba”, and “Sand”.Cutting to set two, after opening with the first “Taste” in just over a year (since 8/2/2017), Phish set out on an exploratory version of “Golden Age”, bringing ’round the miracles that set one taught us to believe in. The set continued through “Twist”, “Waves”, “Fuego”, and a rare “Mango Song” before finally landing in “Bathtub Gin”, marking just the second time in its last 11 appearances that the song appeared in the second set. This “Gin” refused to disappoint, as the band came together for a laser-focused jam. When they returned to the song’s closing theme, rather than close out the set, Trey Anastasio led the band back into a reprise of “You Sexy Thing” to bookend the performance, smiling widely as he played. You can watch pro-shot footage of “Bathtub Gin” > “You Sexy Thing” Reprise below:Phish – “Bathtub Gin” > “You Sexy Thing” Reprise [Pro-Shot][Video: Phish]The encore continued with yet more “miraculous” hijinks, as a vocally flubbed “Fee” led Trey to invite the audience to sing along to the second and final encore number, a song they “remember all the words to.” The song, it turned out, was the instrumental “2001”, which they crafted into a funky reprisal of the show’s earlier highlights, incorporating elements of “You Sexy Thing” and “Tweezer Reprise”—at one point simultaneously. You can listen to a full soundboard recording of the show via LivePhish.Phish’s summer tour continues tonight with the first of two performances in Camden, NJ. For more information on upcoming dates, head to the band’s website.You can also check out a gallery of photos from the show below via Emily Butler Photography.Setlist: Phish | Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre At Encore Park | Alpharetta, GA | 8/5/2018Set One: You Sexy Thing, Tweezer Reprise > What’s The Use? > Petrichor, Most Events Aren’t Planned, Vultures, Reba, SandSet Two: Taste > Golden Age > Twist > Waves > Fuego > The Mango Song > Bathtub Gin > You Sexy ThingEncore: Fee, 2001Notes: Reba did not contain the whistling ending and featured You Sexy Thing quotes from Fish. Trey teased What’s The Use? and You Sexy Thing in Taste. Golden Age contained Reba whistling and teasing. Fee featured Trey on megaphone. Trey forgot some of the lyrics of Fee and told the crowd after the song, “We’d like to end the show now with something we remember all the words to.” He then began 2001 (an instrumental), encouraging the fans to help them out.Phish | Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre At Encore Park | Alpharetta, GA | 8/5/2018 | Photos: Emily Butler
Amazon Music has launched their new “Produced By” series, featuring Amazon Original music developed to spotlight “today’s community of producers working behind the scenes to develop the best in music.”The new series pairs producers with a collection of today’s top genre-spanning artists to create exclusive recordings for Amazon Music listeners. Today, GRAMMY Award-winning, Memphis-based producer Matt Ross-Spang is brought into the spotlight with the release of Margo Price’s new, Amazon Original song, “Leftovers”.“I wrote ‘Leftovers’ based on the kinds of people that don’t have any original ideas of their own,” explains Price in a press release. “It could be anything from stealing a song idea, to copying someone else’s style, or dating an ex of a good friend. … I also really just wanted to rhyme ‘asshole’ with ‘casserole’ and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Matt Ross-Spang is a legendary producer and engineer in the making, who puts his blood, sweat, and tears into making some of the best sounding records of our decade. We always have a lot of fun in the studio.”“As first and foremost a music fan and now as a producer, I’ve always been drawn to artists with unique voices whose gift transcends genre and time,” said Matt Ross-Spang in a press release. “I’m excited and honored to play a role in this innovative opportunity Amazon Music is providing these extraordinary individuals. As my hero Sam Phillips said: ‘If you’re not doing something different you’re not doing anything!’”About Matt Ross-Spang, a press release details:Matt Ross-Spang began interning at Sun Studio at age 16, eventually working his way up to Chief Engineer & Operations Manager. In 2015, Ross-Spang left Sun to become an independent engineer, producer, & mixer based primarily out of the legendary 1960 time capsule studio Sam Phillips Recording Service. Recent productions by Matt include both albums by Margo Price, as well as the latest Lucero, Nicki Bluhm and Sean Rowe records. He won two GRAMMY Awards for his work on Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free and The Nashville Sound, and has worked on several GRAMMY-Nominated Albums such as Lori McKenna’s The Bird and the Rifle, Brent Cobb’s Shine On Rainy Day and Luther Dickinson’s Blues and Ballads. He recently mixed unreleased Elvis Presley tracks for the compilation album Way Down in the Jungle Room and the Elvis documentary The Searcher . More info is available on Matt Ross-Spang’s official website.“Leftovers” was recorded in RCA’s historic Studio A with Margo Price’s touring band, which features drummer Dillon Napier, bassist Kevin Black, guitarist Jamie Davis, slide guitarist Luke Schneider, and Jeremy Ivey on acoustic guitar & piano. Listen to the new Margo Price song below:Margo Price – “Leftovers” (Amazon Original)Amazon Music’s “Produced By” series will continue with new Amazon Original releases throughout the week with GRAMMY Award-winning artists including John Prine, William Bell, and Al Green, marking his first individual effort in a decade. Future “Produced By” installments will feature acclaimed producers and artists from a variety of genres including Latin, Indie, Country, and R&B.Amazon Music listeners can simply ask, “Alexa, play the playlist Produced by Matt Ross-Spang” in the Amazon Music app for iOS and Android and on Alexa-enabled devices. In addition to the new track, Amazon Music listeners can access hundreds of Amazon Original songs and numerous albums featuring both emerging and established artists across numerous genres, available to stream and purchase on Amazon Music.
Singer, pianist, songwriter, and arranger Donny Hathaway was one of the brightest new talents in soul music at the dawn of the 1970s. As a session musician and producer at Curtis Mayfield‘s Curtom Records in Chicago, he arranged multiple hit songs for various soul, gospel, jazz, and blues artists and took part in recordings by Mayfield, Aretha Franklin and The Impressions, among others. After being named the studio’s house producer, he also began recording his own music, which quickly became his main focus. He began to generate buzz in 1969 with the premiere of “The Ghetto Pt. 1”, the first single off his debut LP Everything is Everything, and vaulted to prominence the following year when the album premiered to critical acclaim.After releasing his self-titled second album in 1971, Hathaway began working with lauded vocalist Roberta Flack. In 1972, the pair released Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, an album of pop, soul, and gospel duets that went on to sell over one million copies. That same year, Hathaway released Donny Hathaway Live, perhaps the brightest gem in his impressive catalog. The album has been called one of the greatest live albums ever recorded, and has been covered and cited as an influence by John Legend, D’Angelo, Luther Vandross, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, and Amy Winehouse (who proudly referred to Donny as her favorite artist and even name-checked him in her hit song “Rehab”). You can listen to Donny Hathaway’s Live in full below:While he was successful in his professional life, Hathaway was haunted in his personal life. During the prime of his career, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and was forced to maintain an intensive medication regiment to maintain his sanity. As the 70’s wore on, his mental state worsened, and he was hospitalized on several occasions. His condition also brought tension to his personal relationships and caused a falling out with his close collaborator Flack.Things appeared to be looking up when the two reconciled and began work on a new duet album, Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway, in late 1978. However, the two would not get the chance to finish the project. After being sent home from a session on January 13th, 1979 by the producer after an episode of paranoid delusion, Hathaway returned to his room at The Essex House hotel in New York City. Later that night, his body was found on the sidewalk outside, right below his 15th-floor window. Donny Hathaway’s death was ruled a suicide. He was 33 years old.Though devastated, Flack went on to finish the album they started, including “You Are My Heaven” (co-written by Stevie Wonder), Hathaway’s final recording. You can listen to the upbeat love song in all its painful irony below:Happy birthday, Donny. Decades after your death, your influence still looms large over the world of music.
Load remaining images On Friday night, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood continued their 2019 winter tour with a performance at Denver, CO’s Ogden Theatre. The band, comprised of Chris Robinson, Neal Casal, Adam McDougall, Jeff Hill, and Tony Leone, worked through two sets of fan-favorites as well as a sing-along cover of The Rolling Stones‘ “Loving Cup” and more.Chris Robinson Brotherhood Continues Winter Tour With Show At Fort Collins’ Washington’s [Photos]Chris Robinson and company will continue their tour tonight, Saturday, February 9th, with a performance at Aspen, CO’s Belly Up Aspen followed by a pair of performances at the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride, CO on Sunday, February 10th and Monday, February 11th. For a full list of the band’s upcoming tour dates, head to their website here.Below, you can check out a beautiful gallery of photos from the Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s performance at the Ogden courtesy of photographer Bill McAlaine.Setlist: Chris Robinson Brotherhood | Ogden Theatre | Denver, CO | 2/8/19Set One: Comin’ Round The Mountain, Someday Past The Sunset, Reflections, Clear Bue Sky, Sunday Sound, Sweet, Sweet Lullaby, Blue Star Woman, Let It FallSet Two: Loving Cup, Rare Birds, Vibration & Light, Venus In Chrome, Serves Me Right To Suffer, Good To Know, Narcissus Soaking Wet, Shore PowerEncore: Mr. Soul.Chris Robinson Brotherhood | Ogden Theatre | Denver, CO | 2/8/19 | Photos: Bill McAlaine
HAYNEVILLE, Ala. — One afternoon this week, George Thampy ’10, a chemistry concentrator, joined four other Harvard undergraduates on a low scaffold at a nearly completed church in this small south-central Alabama town. Their task was to screw a heavy wood panel onto the rafters.Thampy stretched both arms wide. When the board still wobbled, he did what any good Harvard student would: He used his head.The Mather House senior won’t always be working on scaffolds. After graduation, he plans a career in finance. But this week he is one of 22 Harvard undergraduates using their Alternative Spring Break to do finishing work on a new Hayneville Church of Christ. The original burned down, an arson target, in 2008. Said Thampy, “I’m irrepressibly happy to be here.”Marcel Moran ’11 (from left), George Thampy ’10, Nworah Ayogu ’10, Rachael Goldberg ’12, and Kennedy Mukuna ’12 offer numerous helping hands.The Harvard workers are along on one of 10 domestic public service trips sponsored this year by the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA). They made the 21-hour drive to Alabama in three PBHA vans.Along the way, Emmett Kistler ’11 stopped in his native New Jersey to renew his license so he could help with the driving. “For us, this is grounding,” said the Eliot House junior. “You get down here, and it’s revitalizing.”There’s more, too. “Before I got here, I didn’t know how to swing a hammer,” he said.“It’s fun to do something tangible,” said Marcel Moran ’11, one of four co-leaders on the Hayneville trip. “It’s using your brain in a whole new way.”This week, students are tackling a wide range of construction work, painting, staining, tiling, putting up sheet rock, installing siding, and building scaffolds. “We’re at the finishing steps of this church,” said Moran, a pre-med student on his third service trip. “So precision is the key.”There were three volunteer experts on site Tuesday (March 16). “We do the work,” said Moran, “but they’re showing us how to do it.”Standing nearby in the carport was William “Bill” Gorsline, an Illinois information technology consultant and volunteer carpenter. “They send us pretty talented kids,” he said of the PBHA workers. “They can’t get enough of this. They want to learn it all.” He was working with two other experienced construction mentors, Joe Piekos and George Holtz.Gorsline, who volunteers on behalf of St. Isidore Parish in Bloomingdale, recognizes that other kinds of learning are going on too. He took his own children on a work trip to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. “They were in tears for the whole week, “ he said.Joseph Gaspard ’12, a government concentrator, was cutting tile on a wet saw. It buzzed and whined, and a cloud of mist shot from the back. “This is more hands-on than I’m ever going to get,” he said. Careful and intent at the saw, Gaspard wore an Adams House T-shirt, old jeans cinched with kneepads, safety glasses, and a dust mask.This is better than a standard break, he said, because, “I’ve done the whole sitting-on-the-beach thing before.”Will Quinn ’10 of Winthrop House braced his feet and lowered a portable cement mixer into a 5-gallon bucket. It was his second PBHA alternative spring break trip, he said, but his first time using a cement mixer. Quinn pressed the trigger, and a sheet of gray slurry sloshed over the wrists of Trevor Bakker ’10, who had crouched to steady the bucket.Bakker has applied to Oxford, where he plans to pursue a one-year master’s degree this fall before embarking on a career of human rights law. Meanwhile, he is learning how to lay tile. Does that compare to studying governments? “Certainly, there is little room for error in tiling,” said Bakker.This is the 12th PBHA service trip Tim McCarthy has directed, all in the South and all to rebuild churches. McCarthy, who is a lecturer on history and literature, works with Harvard students from the Phillips Brooks House Association’s Alternative Spring Break program.Tim McCarthy ’93 looked in on the cement mixing. This is the 12th PBHA service trip he has directed, all in the South and all to rebuild churches. McCarthy, a big man in a tails-out white shirt and a ball cap, is a lecturer in history and literature and public policy at Harvard and director of the Human Rights and Social Movements Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center.He started taking such trips as a graduate student at Columbia University. “I was really transformed by the experience, and found my herd, so to speak,” said McCarthy.In the spring of 2001, he led Harvard’s first Alternative Spring Break trip, and has since squired hundreds of undergraduates — “some of Harvard’s best souls,” he said — on similar work trips. “I’m on my own spiritual journey,” said McCarthy. “This is part of it.”There is time on these trips for intellectual engagement too. At one point, McCarthy stood in the unfinished carport for an animated conversation with three students. “We were trying to solve the affirmative-action problem,” he said later of the discussion, while heading back to work. “Now we’re going to put up a ceiling.”To get to Hayneville, population 700, you drive down Lowndes County Route 26. Two lanes of blacktop cut through a screen of sticklike trees hung with Spanish moss. Just beyond the trees are placid creeks, pale yellow dirt driveways, neat doublewides, sparkling ponds, and rolling acres of pasture for goat, cattle, and horse farms.But Hayneville wasn’t always a crossroads in picture-book farmland. It is a former Ku Klux Klan stronghold, 20 minutes by car from Montgomery, the first capital of the Confederacy. It is a few minutes south of where the Selma protest march broke the back of Jim Crow segregation in 1965.Before then, said 57-year-old Martin McCall Sr., “I was scared to come to Hayneville because of the KKK. We got people shot right in the street here.”McCall, pastor at Hayneville Church of Christ, said most church burnings in the South even today are racially motivated. But the 2008 fire that burned down the old church was “a break-in that went bad,” he said, set by a black man later convicted of the crime.“They saved only the front porch,” said McCall of local firefighters, who kept running out of water. “It was horrible to watch.”Building a new church — brick and wood, like the old one — has cost about $260,000 so far, said McCall, a mason and carpenter who did much of the work himself. Insurance money helped, but so did $100,000 donated by local residents, “white and black,” he said.The PBHA volunteers help too.“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said McCall. “It’s like the angels from heaven came down and blessed the congregation.”
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University has named the Chicago Tribune this year’s winner of the Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers for its evenhanded and thorough investigation of improper influence peddling in the admissions process at the University of Illinois in “Clout Goes to College.”The Taylor Award and a $10,000 prize, established to encourage fairness in news coverage by America’s daily newspapers, will be presented at a ceremony on April 8 at the Nieman Foundation in Cambridge, Mass.In “Clout Goes to College,” the Chicago Tribune revealed that lawmakers and university trustees used their sway to help subpar applicants gain admission to the University of Illinois, at times over the objections of admissions officers. The paper exposed secret admissions clout lists and a corrupt admissions process and in doing so, paved the way for reforms including a new admissions system, a new university president and chancellor, and six new members of the university’s board of trustees.Over the course of five months, the paper published about 90 stories and developed two online databases that showed readers what role their local high schools and legislators played in the scandal. Reporters Robert Becker, Jodi Cohen, Tara Malone, and Stacy St. Clair worked with editor Tracy Van Moorlehem and graphic artist Keith Claxton to produce the series.Taylor Award judge Ames Alexander commented, “Fairness was both the means and the end of this investigation. The newspaper let University of Illinois officials speak for themselves at length, publishing e-mails that spoke volumes about the tainted admissions process. But while the Tribune pounded the power brokers and university officials who had corrupted the admissions system, it sought to protect ‘clouted’ students who weren’t demonstrably culpable. The staff’s dogged and conscientious efforts produced a remarkable result: An unjust student selection process was replaced with one based on merit.”Another judge, Monica Campbell, said, “The idea that political favoritism exists in the university admissions process is not new. But in a nuanced and comprehensive way, this series shows how a university system can allow for such corruption and drives that angle, rather than merely calling out the culprits, in a way that usefully shows how power and undue pressures wind their way through a university’s bureaucracy. Taken together, with informative graphics, reproduced e-mails and sidebars, the series offers a precise case study on deal-making at universities — not just at the University of Illinois, but what may likely exist at other institutions — and fairly portrays the culture that allows such problems to exist.”
Rising global temperatures could cause the vast Amazonian rainforest — sometimes viewed as the lungs of the Earth — to give off significant carbon dioxide, worsening the climate-changing problem of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Deborah Clark, an authority on tropical forests, told the group gathered for the Sixth Annual Harvard Plant Biology Symposium on April 29.The event, “Trees and the Global Environment,” was hosted by the Plant Biology Initiative and organized by Harvard’s Noel Michele Holbrook, the Bullard Professor of Forestry, and Stuart Davies, director of Asian programs at the Arnold Arboretum.Clark, a researcher at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said temperature observations have shown a quarter-degree Celsius rise in tropical temperatures for each of the last three decades. Most worrisome, however, is that the photosynthetic process that drives the consumption of carbon dioxide by trees begins to decline when temperatures get too high. In that case, the trees’ respiration — in which carbon dioxide is emitted — becomes greater than the carbon dioxide uptake in photosynthesis.“Tropical climate has already started changing, quite strongly and quite rapidly,” Clark said. “Conditions for tropical forests into the future are going to become more stressful.”“There’s a recognition — certainly at the Arboretum — that understanding the whole spectrum of how forests and trees interact with the environment hasn’t been addressed so well,” Davies said.The two-day event, held at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Mass., brought together researchers with a wide range of expertise, including computer modeling of how trees fit into the global environment, tree physiology, population biology, and community scale interactions.Clark said that people tend to discount the importance of trees and plants and their role as the foundation of the ecosystem. Tropical forests alone, for example, hold 25 percent of the carbon in the terrestrial biosphere and process enormous quantities of carbon daily. Further, the natural world, mainly through plants and the ocean, has been humanity’s ally in the fight against climate change, storing away about half of the carbon dioxide humanity has emitted, said Clark.Clark said she is most concerned about the effect of climate change on lowland tropical forests, which grow in places that already have high temperatures. A continued increase in temperatures could push these trees past the tipping point where the carbon dioxide taken in through photosynthesis drops below that lost in respiration, making them net carbon dioxide emitters. One study showed that tipping point to be about 28 degrees Celsius, or 82 Fahrenheit. Another study showed that the average temperature in the Costa Rican rainforest she studies reaching that point by 2020, meaning much higher temperatures in the daytime, as well as higher nighttime temperatures.Hand in hand with higher temperatures comes the fear of increased drought. Though the trees are adapted to periodic such conditions, severe droughts can reduce leaf area and kill off trees, Clark said.“We’re quite concerned about … how warming is going to impinge on these forests,” Clark said.One caveat on those fears, Clark said, is the possibility that higher CO2 levels will have a fertilizing effect on the trees, allowing them to withstand less favorable conditions. Though there is hope of a fertilizer effect, her studies haven’t detected one.“I’d say there’s no evidence of a CO2 fertilization effect coming to the rescue,” Clark said.One potential area of positive news could be nearby, in the Harvard Forest. Steven Wofsy, the Rotch Professor of Atmospheric and Environmental Science, discussed results of his own studies at the forest in Petersham, as well as in the Amazon.Wofsy said the Harvard Forest, which has been studied for decades, continues to grow, taking up carbon dioxide as it does. Like much of the forest covering New England, the original forest was cleared for farmland in earlier centuries and is growing back. Harvard Forest is a transitional forest, affected by a variety of factors, some climactic, some not.The forest, he said, was pasture in the mid-1800s, then abandoned between 1830 and 1890. Even as it has grown, the forest has experienced many shocks, each of which can open the area to tree regrowth. Gypsy moth infestations and ice storms have killed trees, opening the canopy for new trees. The legacy of past pollution like acid rain and the land’s farming history are likely also at play as the forest continues to mature and deadfall accumulates, holding carbon until it decomposes.Another possible factor, Wofsy said, is that the forests’ growing season has increased since he began studying it in 1990, rising from between 100 and 135 days to closer to 145 to 150 days.“That’s a big impact,” Wofsy said.Wofsy said forest growth in April is vigorous enough that it takes up carbon dioxide overall, something it didn’t do years ago. With warmer temperatures, the evergreen white pines in the forest can kick right into action, while the deciduous trees are still putting out their leaves.Temperatures have climbed about three-fourths of a degree Celsius, something else that would affect the trees.Wofsy’s Amazonian studies haven’t provided answers as dramatic. His measurements indicate hopes that the Amazonian forest would be a sink of carbon dioxide, removing excess from the atmosphere to sequester in tree trunks, roots, and leaves, do not bear fruit. Instead, he said, they show a near carbon balance.“You hardly ever see anything where the Amazon is sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. It just doesn’t do that,” Wofsy said.Wofsy said the future carbon dioxide uptake of the Amazonian and New England forests can’t be predicted at this point.“I really think nobody knows what a forest like Harvard Forest can be under current conditions,” Wofsy said.
Five students dedicated to the study of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) were named among the recipients of the 2011 Siebel Scholars awards.Karim Atiyeh (M.S. candidate), Michael Lyons (Ph.D. candidate), Geoffrey Mainland (Ph.D. candidate), Rohan Murty (Ph.D. candidate), and Yinan Zhu ’11 (joint A.B./S.M. candidate) will all receive a $35,000 award for their final year of graduate studies. From facial recognition to CPU brains to novel wireless networks, the scholarship winners are exploring the frontiers of computer science.The students are among other honorees hailing from Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Tsinghua University in China, University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.Siebel Scholars are selected from among students who rank in the top of their class and are chosen by the dean of their respective schools on the basis of outstanding academic achievement and demonstrated qualities of leadership.SEAS Dean Cherry A. Murray will host a reception for the winners later this fall. To read more on the students and their projects, visit the SEAS website.
Nima Samimi has been a chef, a baker, an apprentice carpenter, a muscular therapist, a touring folk singer, and a community organizer. He has written a prize-winning thesis on the Haitian revolution of 1791 and is studying to become a historian of the Middle East. Since his first two paying gigs at age 11 — collecting maple sap in the winter, and working as a library page in the summer — he has held 43 jobs.“Specialization,” the science fiction author Robert Heinlein once wrote, “is for insects.” He could have been talking about Samimi. The 33-year-old Iranian American may be the most overqualified trash collector around.“I think it was a necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention situation,” said Samimi, who struck out on his own at 17, reflecting on his many mini-careers. “But also, I think like most children I was born with a natural curiosity about all things.” Unlike most kids, he never grew out of it.Samimi is the only gardener at the Arnold Arboretum, but his title is somewhat misleading. He’s responsible for maintaining and protecting the Arboretum’s 265-acre grounds, from its gates and benches to its roads to its precious flora. For some, the job might invite tedium — it involves a lot of trash.But Samimi has used garbage as an unlikely muse for the kind of creativity and resourcefulness learned after a lifetime of odd jobs. In his four years at the Arboretum, he has devised a number of inventive solutions to reduce waste and litter and promote recycling on the grounds, earning him the first-ever Arnold Arboretum Director’s Innovation Award in 2009.“The crux of my job is trash,” he said as he made his rounds on a warm, overcast April morning. “You’ve got to get it when you see it.” He paused midsentence and hopped out of his beat-up Chevy to grab a discarded tissue off the side of the road.“It’s a nightmare,” he continued. “In my off time, all I see is trash.” His days, which begin at 7 a.m., often find him roaming the Arboretum like a modern-day Thoreau. He quickly noticed ways in which the Arboretum’s trash collection could be improved.First, he researched and installed recycling bins around the Arboretum. Another problem he noticed, however, was more intractable. The park’s many dog walkers would leave spare plastic bags hanging from the Arboretum’s gates for anyone who had forgotten their own.While the thoughtful gesture did reduce dog waste, Samimi said, “the bags would blow off the gates into the grounds, and I’d be running around picking them up.” One day, he began to sketch a design for a mesh basket to attach to the front of a trash bin, like a large tissue box. He took his design to the Arboretum’s welder, and the Arboretum’s dog walkers now have “take a bag, leave a bag” drop points all around the grounds.Perhaps most impressive, he figured out a little-known way to recycle Styrofoam, a process that has taken him three years.“I called over to [the main Harvard campus] to ask how they recycle Styrofoam, and they told me there was no such way,” he recalled. Samimi researched the issue and found Conigliaro Industries, a Framingham company that would recycle the Arboretum’s Styrofoam — but only in 1,000-gallon increments. Because the material is 90 percent air, Samimi said, the company only deals in large quantities.Samimi began collecting Styrofoam in a spare room at 1090 Centre St., a former dormitory for the Arboretum’s interns. Last month, he finally hauled 20 50-gallon bags to Framingham.In addition to allowing him to dream up new ideas, Samimi’s job gives him the freedom to pursue his real passion: Middle Eastern history. He lobbied aggressively for a job at the Arboretum so he could take advantage of Harvard’s libraries and its Tuition Assistance Plan.He was offered the job in 2007, shortly after finishing his bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He had started college at 24, putting himself through by working full time as a waiter, mover, and assistant building manager.Working so many jobs meant he had already “learned how to learn,” Samimi said. “Surprisingly, I was a pretty good student, and it occurred to me for the first time in my life that I was interested in scholarship.” He has since taken classes at the Harvard Extension School, where he hopes to earn a master’s degree.Samimi may not fit the mold of a typical grounds worker, but the position suits his rather offbeat sensibility, he said.“This is a great place to work,” he said. “I can’t imagine any other job where people would have supported me to do the things I’ve done.”