The quad: News from around campus

The Center for Documentary Studies hosts a night for fans of podcasts

Strings of bare bulbs softly illuminate a darkened Motorco Music Hall in Durham. Rows of benches and folding chairs fill the room, and two enormous speakers flank a stage with no piano, no instruments, just more chairs, microphones, and a single computer. This won’t be singing and dancing—this will be listening.

“Are You Listening?” is in fact the name of the program: Four Triangle podcasters are about to present live versions of podcasts, taking what they make in the studio out in front of people. (Among the podcasts is “The Civilist,” by Steven Petrow ’78.)

Such a feat seems impossible, a problem John Biewen, audio program director of the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) and the evening’s host, admits when the lights go down and he steps up to the mic. “I didn’t want to come onstage and press ‘Play,’ ” he says, echoing what he said previously when he discussed how you take a podcast, created over days or weeks, with sound compilation and editing and production, and present it live in front of people. “You can record a podcast live,” he said. “You can’t do a podcast live.”

Podcasts, of course, are yet another example of a fragmenting media ecosystem in which more and more people create output for mostly smaller and smaller audiences. Biewen is a prime example. He spent much of his career making radio broadcasts for places like NPR, where his short pieces would reach millions of listeners. His “Scene on Radio,” which he produces at CDS, has an audience he says is in the thousands. “Not the hundred thousands or millions, but not in the dozens or hundreds.” Biewen says on iTunes alone there are more than 300,000 podcasts competing with his and with those of the three other podcasters who joined him onstage.

As Biewen says, he doesn’t press “play”; instead, he teaches audience members en masse to create sounds of hubbub and protest guided by his hand signals, enlists the support of the other podcasters, and has them read a script that expertly skewers your standard NPR three-minute feature. Then, more seriously, he tells a story. “Scene on Radio” had been working already on a series about race, “a topic that has become painfully urgent,” he says, and he delivers a story about a confrontation between his younger self and a black teen over a bicycle. The audience loves it. When the next pair of podcasters comes up, they’re wearing dresses with gold spangles, and it’s evident that everyone has figured out ways to engage with a live audience rather than just pushing “play.”

“It really is just designed to meet our audiences in person,” Biewen has said of the event, “and do something fun to help stir them up.”


Two Duke students, seniors Justin Bryant and Julian Keeley, were named Schwarzman Scholars. The scholars, selected based on their leadership, entrepreneurial attitude, and worldly curiosity, are slated to earn a one-year master’s at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. David Robertson ’15 also was named among the 125 scholars in this class.

Three faculty members were named by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) to its 2016 class of fellows: David Smith, the James B. Duke Professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Center for Metamaterials and Integrated Plasmonics; Jennifer L. West, the Fitzpatrick Family University Professor of engineering and associate dean for Ph.D. education; and Paul Modrich, the James B. Duke Professor in the department of biochemistry in Duke’s medical school and 2015 Nobel laureate in chemistry. The NAI, which was founded in 2010 to highlight academic innovation and enable further growth in the future, will induct its new class of fellows on April 6 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston.

Terrie E. Moffitt, the Nannerl O. Keohane University Professor of psychology and neuroscience, and psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Avshalom Caspi, the Edward M. Arnett Professor of psychology and neuroscience, and psychiatry and behavioral sciences, received the 2016 American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions. The duo, who collaborate to study mental health and human development, received the award for research that has “fundamentally transformed our understanding of why some people suffer disproportionately from mental- health problems, commit crimes, or grow up to have poor self-control.”

House courses allow students to teach their peers about pressing topics, in an accessible format

There are lecture halls, and then there’s where juniors Matthew King and Amy Kramer taught their house course “American Policy Through The West Wing.”

The leather couches and purple lounge chairs facing a ninety-inch-screen TV in the Keohane 4E Atrium make for prime real estate during basketball watch parties. But in the fall, every Monday night for an hour and a half, the space rang with Aaron Sorkin quotes and loose academic discourse.

“The portrayal of public servants and political staff [in The West Wing] is so much more positive and idealistic than what we’re seeing today,” says King, referencing newer, more cynical shows like Veep or House of Cards as well as real-life events. “It’s almost therapeutic for students to see that and to see what government maybe can be like.”

A house course, at its best, is an educational magic bullet. For students, it’s either more digestible or more practical fare than some Ivory Tower offerings: Beyond the West Wing course (which is in its first iteration), a class exploring “Harry Potter and Christian Thought” also was offered this fall, as was the popular “Tools for Financial Coaching.”

For administrators, the half-credit courses can bolster insightful discussion, which research has shown happens more easily in a less formal setting. Moreover, locating the classes in residential halls helps tear down any notion that learning stops outside the academic quad.

“The idea is that it’s a catalyst of intellectual activity within the dorm,” says Shane Goodridge, assistant dean of Trinity College and director of courses. “You have residential life with a spark of intellectual activity, so that students are talking and discussing things within the house courses that are linked back informally to the classroom and the traditional setting here.”

House courses have been taught on campus since the fall of 1969, but, unsurprisingly, a few things have changed. Originally, the seminars were taught by faculty to indulge quirky fields of knowledge outside the core curriculum; now students teach with a faculty member advising. (For King and Kramer, that was Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy and director of the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy, a group to which both student-instructors belong.) More notably, the class offerings shift with the winds of the era: A 1974 Chronicle article details courses like “Principles of Internal Combustion Engines” and “History of Psychical Research and Parapsychology.”

King and Kramer’s house course was especially timely. “Typically Americans don’t vote because of foreign policy,” said Kramer, a few weeks prior to the November election. “ISIS is a dinner-table conversation now.”

The seeds of the course were planted in the summer of 2015, when King and Kramer were working in Mississippi as part of the Robertson Scholars Program. Kramer was binge-watching The West Wing and fortuitously encountered a syllabus from a University of Georgia class that used the show as a framing device.

“I thought, ‘This would be the best course—imagine if we could teach about foreign policy or current events,’ ” Kramer said. “I didn’t have really a game plan; I just loved the show so much, and I thought other people love it, too, and there’s definitely potential here.”

The duo then pitched the course idea for approval. Guidelines require the curriculum to include at least fifty pages of reading each week and 1,500 words of writing over the semester, but otherwise course requirements are pretty wide-open.

Kramer and King had to navigate an interesting dynamic— they’re both well-versed in international relations, sure, but they don’t have quite the authority of professors. During one evening’s main lecture, King talked about Africa, his regional specialty, pitching it as a collaborative exercise: He was working on an article for Foreign Interest magazine, and his lecture was a dry run of some of his findings. “You guys are my first sort of sounding board,” he said.

“Amy and Matt, just having done a ton of things, they’re just talking about their own experiences and research,” said Gautam Hathi, a senior majoring in computer science who took The West Wing course. “They’ve traveled a lot, so they’re talking about that, and they’re directly connecting things in ways that students can relate to, which is interesting.”

It’s easier for students to openly engage with controversial issues in a house course, where, being close to a friend’s dorm or their own, they can munch on popcorn and put their feet up. But that engagement and honest discussion seemed especially important in this house course: Beyond providing the students with exposure to foreign affairs, King and Kramer were attempting to foster an environment where political ideas can be exchanged, comprehended, and weighed.

“It’s difficult to sort of break through the basic equations where it’s refugees equal ‘good’ or refuges equal ‘bad,’ ” King said, discussing a class that featured intense debate about the Syrian refugee crisis. “What Amy and I try to do in the lecture is raise some of the questions and to give people a framework to approach issues in which they can engage with them several levels down."

“It’s not just a sort of throwaway, easy course that won’t impact people’s lives,” he said. “Our teaching from day one could have a real impact.” —Lucas Hubbard

What’s the difference between men and women?

It’s a good conceit for a standup comedian, but Duke biology professor Susan Alberts actually has researched one disparity that has proved historically persistent: life expectancy. In her research, Alberts—along with a team of international scientists—analyzed birth and death records dating back to the eighteenth century, as well as data for six species of wild primates. She found that even as medical advances have improved life expectancy for males and females, women still outlive their male counterparts by three to four years. Analysis of the wild primates delivered similar findings, hinting that the difference might be biological (stemming from the presence of a second X chromosome in females) or societal (a tendency for females to engage in less risky behavior).

Sanford team develops a way to measure whether redrawn legislative districts are equitable

The North Carolina General Assembly has been ordered by the courts to redistrict many of its state legislative districts for a special election in 2017, though the matter has returned to the courts—this time, the U.S. Supreme Court—and remains uncertain. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, a redistricting case decrying partisan gerrymandering appears headed for the Supreme Court as well.

For insight, turn your attention to the Sanford School, whose “Quantifying Gerrymandering” program has addressed gerrymandering in two significant ways.

In April last year, a group of ten retired state Supreme Court justices (five Democrats, five Republicans) began working at the request of the program to create an unofficial, nonpartisan map for North Carolina’s congressional districts. In August, the judges released their unofficial map, which yielded six districts that looked safely Republican, four that looked safely Democratic, and three that could go either way. What’s been lacking, though, and what the Sanford project aims to address, is a way to quantify how representative and how gerrymandered North Carolina districts truly are. Jonathan Mattingly, professor of math and statistics, says he might be getting close to just that.

“I don’t think I have a scale yet,” he says—he can’t quite take a map or district and give it a straightforward gerrymandering rank. “But I’m getting close, and I hope this will open a discussion.”

He’s speaking of a team of undergraduate and graduate students he led that started by examining North Carolina’s 2012 congressional elections. In that election, Democrats garnered more total votes but ended up carrying only four of thirteen congressional districts—and a minority party carrying 69 percent of the representation is sort of a poster child for gerrymandering. Courts found those 2012 districts unconstitutional; redrawn districts in 2016 turned a better voting result for Republicans (53 percent of votes cast) into a similarly outsized result. Mattingly and his team got on the case.

As they explained in late November 2016, the team came up with an algorithm that drew random districts, counted the votes (according to the 2012 and 2016 maps and the unofficial map drawn by the judges), determined winners, and then started again, repeating thousands and thousands of times. They then came up with probability densities showing how many districts would likely be noncompetitive—highly Democratic or Republican—and how many would be in play. The results his team shared in a Sanford School classroom showed that by far the most likely results were for Democrats to take six or seven of the thirteen seats, and in fact, the unofficial map the judges drew would have yielded six seats for the Democrats. The probability for the results to have yielded the actual 4-9 result naturally was vanishingly small: “You really had to do something incredibly intentional to get these districts,” Mattingly says.

The point, Mattingly says, is not that his team created a way to fairly redistrict. The point is that his probability distributions help measure redistricting fairness. “It gives you a sense of how many districts you would expect to be competitive.” Given population distribution, you wouldn’t expect North Carolina to have thirteen competitive districts; certain districts will be highly urban or rural, and they’ll lean one political direction or another. “But let’s say there are four or five that should be competitive,” he says, which his results expect. “If you have a redistricting that says you have less than that, you have a problem.”

The team ended up with ways to measure competitiveness (the degree to which districts have been gerrymandered) and fairness (the degree to which the redistricting is representative). It requires complex formulas, to be sure, but it’s a start, and he says there are a lot of similarities between the formula used in the Wisconsin case and the ones his team developed. Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court famously opined that though gerrymandering looks unconstitutional, “we have no basis on which to define clear, manageable, and politically neutral standards.” Mattingly’s work may change that.

Archibald Motley’s painting “Hot Rhythm” has been donated to the Nasher

The 1961 oil on canvas “Hot Rhythm,” a depiction of the bustling Jazz Age in Chicago’s South Side, was given to the Nasher Museum of Art in early January. Mara Motley and Valerie Gerrard Browne donated the painting in honor of Richard J. Powell, Duke’s John Spencer Bassett Professor of art and art history, and C.T. Woods-Powell. In 2014, Powell curated “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist,” an exhibition that began at the Nasher before traveling to museums in four other states, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Marriage as a form of health care?

Whether an individual survives a stroke depends on many factors. Perhaps surprisingly, though, marital status may be one of them. Even after adjusting for many items correlated with being married (higher income, stronger support system), Duke researchers, led by sociologist Matthew E. Dupre, found in a study of 2,351 individuals across two decades that both men and women who were continuously married had the lowest risk of death from a stroke. In descending order, those with multiple divorces had a 50 percent higher risk, those who never married had a 34 percent uptick, and those widowed multiple times had a 25 percent higher risk. (Being divorced or widowed only once showed no risk increase.)

Seniors sell a biweekly delivered box of "ugly" produce

Okay, so you’ve launched a start-up. Your product is ugly, and your distribution strategy involves basically ringing people’s doorbells and running off. Oh, and you want to change the world. Easy, right?

Meet Ungraded Produce. Created by seniors Anya Ranganathan and Courtney Bell, in the fall of 2016, the start-up has finished its first season of turning fruits and vegetables people wouldn’t normally buy into a biweekly delivered produce box that satisfied customers. And satisfied the bottom line, too, mind you. “We make a profit on every box that we sell,” says Ranganathan.

It all started two years ago, when Bell, an environmental sciences major, spent a summer interning for Quicken Loans in Detroit, which was not quite in her wheelhouse. “I was feeling down on myself,” she says. Bell didn’t think she was serving her interests.

“Then I get a text from Anya one day, and she has this idea,” she says. Ranganathan was in Durham, interning with the mayor’s office when, through the Poverty Reduction Initiative, she learned of people living in neighborhoods that didn’t have access to high-quality and affordable produce.

Ranganathan’s mother, through her work as a consultant, had encountered Intermarche, France’s third-largest grocery store chain. In 2014, as part of a European Union effort against food waste, Intermarche created “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables,” through which they sold unsightly but perfectly edible produce at a 30 percent discount. The campaign went viral and became enormously successful. Based on that, Ranganathan says, “the idea came up that we could aggregate misshapen produce from North Carolina farms and deliver it to customers’ doorsteps.”

And wham, things began to happen. Ranganathan started talking with farmers, grocers, and community leaders. She learned about the produce grading system, which the Ungraded Produce website describes as “a set of quality standards largely based on cosmetic features rather than taste or nutritional content.” If produce is insect-damaged, bruised, or old, the two are all for regulations. But they don’t think people need protection from produce that looks funny. “Grocery stores might reject an apple for being too large or too small,” Ranganathan says. And thus plenty of perfectly good, edible, yet unsightly produce enters the waste stream. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it contributes to a large problem: Americans throw out about 133 billion pounds of food per year.

“I think our name almost pokes fun at the system,” Bell says. “Our slogan is, ‘All shapes are welcome.’ ” The funny-looking produce Bell and Ranganathan buy from local farms costs less than the stuff the farms sell to grocery stores, and customers get the savings. Their biweekly box of four to seven fruits and vegetables costs just $13 per box, and their customer list expanded once word got around.

Most of the customers come from the Duke community, but Ungraded Produce highlights more than Duke customers. As they developed their idea, the two reached out to Duke’s law school with a couple of questions. “They just said, ‘We want to take you on,’ ” Bell says; and the law school’s Start-up Ventures Clinic began helping them figure things out. Then they received a $5,000 Environmental Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grant from the Nicholas School of the Environment. “I remember our first lawyer kinda looked at me and said, ‘I had no idea you guys were undergrads,’ ” Ranganathan recalls. Says Bell, “People just treated us with so much respect and gave us so much support.”

The two are enjoying and expanding their start-up. Ranganathan has a job lined up for next year, but Bell expects to try to make a go of it as a small business, and not just because she wants to help prevent food waste. “It’s a campaign larger than produce,” Bell says. “We want to make ugly produce sexy.”

For the moment, they’re just thrilled to see their work turning food waste into food, especially since they know many of their customers. “It’s cool to go to my friend’s apartment,” Bell says, “and see she made a stuffed acorn squash.” —Scott Huler

Questionable e-mails put Duke professors on edge

Multiple Duke professors reported receiving e-mails from a purported student who was requesting reading lists for their courses. The individual, whose name “Gary Joe” doesn’t belong to a current student, sent the e-mail from a non-Duke account. The incident occurred roughly a month after the creation of a website called Professor Watchlist, devoted to highlighting leftist, “anti-American” teachings throughout academia. At Duke, professors in both the department of cultural anthropology and the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies program, as well as a doctoral candidate teaching a course in the divinity school, received the request. Similar e-mails were reported by professors at the University of Michigan and the University of Denver.

A senior wins a prestigious Gates Cambridge scholarship

In February, Duke senior Jessica Van Meir was named a Gates Cambridge Scholar, one of thirty-six U.S. recipients to be chosen from approximately 800 applicants. The program, which started in 2000 with a $210 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, covers students’ tuition and living expenses as they undertake a fulltime, postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge in a subject they choose.

For Van Meir, that likely will mean a master’s of philosophy degree in development studies. The Atlanta native has previous, relevant international experience: She interned in Ecuador and conducted a DukeEngage independent project in Nairobi, Kenya.

Once at Cambridge, she plans to “further study how states and citizens negotiate space in cities and explore methods for combating poverty in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.” Long term, she hopes to find a role in government that allows her to work on international human rights issues.

A new online resource aims to provide unbiased science policy updates

On December 1, the Twitter account of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tweeted a link to a piece of climate-change denial. Other politicians reacted quickly: U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said, “We need to bring *Science* back to the Science Committee.” While many scientists responded, too, the point was clear: Science is now politicized.

Into this charged arena comes SciPol, Duke’s new science policy tracking program, an online resource providing unbiased policy updates on changing and evolving science. Active since this past October, SciPol, a program of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society, aims to help nonprofits, people in government and industry, media members, students, and citizens thoroughly understand science policy. The site tracks policy actions by government agencies or other policy actors, providing links to news stories and research. Then, says director Aubrey Incorvaia, “we write policy briefs that expound on the underlying science.” The briefs are downloadable and include links to further research and other sources.

“We have a section called ‘Endorsement and Opposition,’ ” Incorvaia says, that summarizes claims being made for and against a policy, who is making them, and on what those claims are based. “Our goal is to be unbiased, nonpartisan, and objective.”

That is, SciPol is not Politifact for science claims—it’s meant to be a thorough explication of emerging policy, including all relevant information. What’s more, undergraduate students help write the policy briefs; Ph.D. candidates edit them. Thus, Incorvaia notes, even as Duke pursues its goal of “trying to make a community around these policy issues,” it doesn’t lose track of its job as an educator. “This is a pedagogical experience—we’re exposing students to this world.”

The site is growing slowly, and its focus is more deep than broad. Building on the expertise of Science & Society director and law professor Nita Farahany, its first focus is on genetics, genomics, and neuroscience, though it plans soon to expand into nanotechnology, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

What happens when guns are seized temporarily?

With voters in Washington State recently passing a law allowing police to temporarily remove guns from potentially violent or suicidal people, Duke researchers reviewed a slew of cases based on a similar law passed in Connecticut in 1999. Based on 762 instances, they calculated that for every ten to twenty temporary gun seizures, one suicide was prevented. Said lead author Jeffrey Swanson, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine: “Using information that we have from other studies about the means used in suicide in the U.S. population, and the connections between gun ownership and suicide, we can estimate that the gun-removal policy in Connecticut did save many lives. In effect, it offered a second chance at life for people in deep despair, and even a path to recovery when they got help as a result.” Researchers currently are tracking similar policies in Indiana and California.

Duke joins with the NFL to tackle brain injuries

Head injuries remain one of football’s most serious problems. The National Football League, looking to address that issue, has turned to Duke. Joining with the Duke Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the NFL has created HeadHealthTECH Challenges. The new enterprise will award money to research-and-development teams worldwide working to come up with solutions—better materials, better equipment, and better practices and techniques during play. Duke CTSI is managing the first round of proposals already.

Safety in football has been an issue since the sport’s beginning. As early as 1905, after nineteen collegiate players died in the prior season, President Theodore Roosevelt invited college football coaches to the White House to try to brainstorm ways to make the sport safer. Duke, then still Trinity College, had dropped football for that reason in 1894 and didn’t pick it back up again until 1920.

Current safety concerns focus mostly on head injuries— chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), brain damage from repeated head trauma, has been observed in more than 79 percent of players examined after death. (CTE is diagnosed only in autopsy.) A study of living players found that more than 40 percent of retired National Football League players showed signs of brain injury.

Barry Myers, professor of biomedical engineering and director of research at Duke CTSI, is an expert in head and neck injury biomechanics. He says the NFL’s interest in Duke focused on more than just research excellence. Improved head and brain safety in football may come through better-designed helmets, pads, and other equipment, improved materials, and reforms to actual play. Turning scientific discoveries into product and practice is a complex art of its own, though one at which Myers says CTSI excels. “We’re not just giving out grants,” he says: CTSI is helping researchers overcome barriers, helping them learn things they don’t know. “If you’re a materials expert, you can cook up the best materials ever seen, but if I ask you to make a helmet prototype, you have no idea.” Myers consults with the NFL Players Association and has worked with the NFL before on helmets.

“Duke is an interesting confluence,” Myers says of Duke’s legacy of work in biomechanics and Duke Clinical Research Institute’s deep experience in project management and research transition. “Try to imagine a Venn diagram with those three circles. Duke is the ideal nexus and perhaps the only place in the country where you could get all those capabilities in one place.” The first set of grant winners will be announced sometime in the spring.

The university adds new policies and joins a new alliance to ensure diversity

In its efforts to keep its student body diverse, inclusive, and safe, Duke recently has adjusted policies and joined an alliance of universities dedicated to those goals.

First, this past October, the university adopted a statement on diversity inclusion and added to its Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action policies the term “gender expression.” The statement’s key point is simple: “It is essential that all members of the community feel secure and welcome, that the contributions of all individuals are respected, and that all voices are heard.” Duke has spoken out against North Carolina’s controversial HB2, which required people to use the public bathroom that corresponds to the gender listed on their birth certificate, from the time it was passed; the addition of the term to EEOC and Affirmative Action policies solidifies that stance.

Second, in December Duke announced it would remove “capacity to pay” from the admissions process for undocumented students. Traditionally, undocumented students have been treated as international students; now they’ll be evaluated on the same need-blind basis as students with legal status in American high schools. What’s more, undocumented students need not qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, the 2012 policy providing protection from deportation to people without legal status who arrived in the United States before their sixteenth birthday and before 2007.

Finally, also in December, Duke announced that it is one of the thirty founding institutions of the American Talent Initiative, a new alliance whose goal is to increase opportunity for talented low- and moderate-income students, who have a lower likelihood of getting a college degree than wealthier peers.

ATI brings together private institutions like Duke, Yale, and Davidson, and public ones like UNC and the University of Michigan, with support from nonprofits like Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute. Its goal is to attract, enroll, and graduate 50,000 more lower-income students to the 270 colleges and universities in the nation that graduate at least 70 percent of their students in six years. Duke is one of the subset of thirty of those universities that has committed to using recruiting diversity, need-based financial aid, and academic support to support those goals.

The death of four lemurs was caused by a familiar fruit

It turns out to have been avocados.

The four aye-ayes who died unexpectedly in late October at the Duke Lemur Center appear to have been killed by a natural toxin in the skin and leaves of avocados. Persin, a natural antifungal on avocado skin and leaves that is known to affect horses, goats, cattle, and some birds, had never before been identified as a danger to aye-ayes.

Avocados are included in the aye-aye diet as a source of fat. The center had thirteen aye-ayes (it houses around 230 animals from twenty-one species), and all thirteen had eaten from the same food box on October 24. Within thirty-six hours, four were dead and one had fallen ill. That one—Grendel, age six and a half—has recovered fully. The four who died were named Morticia, Merlin, Angelique, and Norman Bates. Morticia was a wild-caught aye-aye who had had seven babies; Angelique was her granddaughter (and Merlin and Morticia’s daughter) and the first aye-aye born to two captive aye-ayes in the world.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is still testing, but the avocado toxin seems to be the only answer. Because the animals died of cardiac effects of a toxin, veterinarians tested for various toxins and found that Persin fit the evidence. When they checked into other cases of sudden unexplained aye-aye deaths across the country, they found that all the affected animals had eaten avocados. Lemur Center veterinarians Cathy Williams and Bobby Schopler sent warnings to their colleagues all over the world, first on November 2 and again on December 12. “The only good to come from this tragedy is that we now know to be wary of avocados,” said Lemur Center director Anne Yoder. “Hopefully our recommendation can prevent this from ever happening again.”

Finally, in a reminder that the cycle never stops, since January the center has welcomed three new babies: Furia and Gothicus, both Coquerel's sifakas, and Warble, a pigmy slow loris. All three are doing well.

A professor gives an expert take on the historical Jesus

Mark Goodacre is something of a Biblical sleuth. A New Testament scholar, he is often tapped to sort out hoax from authentic evidence when someone announces a new “discovery” from the early Christian era.

So when CNN launched a six-part series on the historical Jesus, the network turned to Goodacre to help sort fact from fiction. He served as series adviser for the first season of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery in 2015. Recently he returned as lead adviser for the program’s second season, scheduled to debut on CNN in early March and continue for six weeks on successive Sunday nights.

Goodacre, a professor of New Testament and Christian origins in Duke’s religious studies department, helped plan the series and served as the production’s lead fact-checker. He also appears in each episode along with other scholars of early Christianity. “The big worry about any documentary in our area is, ‘Will it be sensationalist? Will it represent my field badly?’ ” Goodacre says. “The nice thing about this series is that it is robust academically, as well as being good TV.”

The series blends reenactment with scholarly commentary. Each episode homes in on a key character or location that figured in Jesus’ life, examining what contemporary scientific evidence, history, and archaeology reveal about the world of the historical Jesus.

For instance, an episode about Pontius Pilate considers physical evidence about the man who ordered Jesus’ crucifixion. In this case, the archaeological record contains rich sources, including coins minted by Pilate, Goodacre says.

“In the popular mind, science and religion are often opposed,” Goodacre says. “In this series we take a scientific mindset—an investigative, critical mindset— and apply it to discussion of the New Testament, the historical Jesus and figures around him.” He adds, “The series doesn’t take a religious stand. Instead, it looks at the historical reality behind the text and the stories.”

West campus now has a completed student health center, a new conference space, and more parking

Three new structures have opened on West Campus as Duke addresses student health, needs for conference space, and the never-ending search for parking.

With the completion of the Student Wellness Center, referred to as “the Well,” Duke has finished the last of the projects that have kept the center of West Campus a construction site for years. The center not only finishes the job, it fits right in. The building’s vast glass atrium and horizontal design elements make it an instant cousin to its neighbors, the Penn Pavilion and the rebuilt West Union.

Inside the Wellness Center, second and third floor lobbies jut out at different levels into an atrium; golden wood columns line the front window from ground to roof; wooden joists run along the third-floor ceiling. And chairs, couches, and small tables take advantage of the pleasantness of the space, making those lobbies places to study or hang out, not merely to wait for an appointment. Most important, the building combines all aspects of student health: Student Health Services moves there, as do Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), DukeReach (for students in severe distress), the DuWell wellness service, and nutrition services. For any issue relating to health or wellness, students now have a single destination.

Next to the Fuqua School of Business, the R. David Thomas Center has been updated and is now the JB Duke Hotel and Thomas Executive Center. Exterior walls in public spaces are now made of glass, with carpets designed to mimic the effect of sun filtering through the outside trees. With marble floors and counters, the occasional table made of petrified wood, fully audio- and AV-capable board- and classrooms, and of course LEED certification (shared by the Wellness Center), the $62 million renovation brings the on-campus center up to the standards of the Washington Duke Inn.

And next to the JB Duke, at Science Drive and Cameron Boulevard, the Science Drive Parking Garage has opened, its seven decks and 800,000 square feet able to hold 2,263 cars. That’s a net increase of nearly a thousand spots (if you subtract the ones from the surface parking the garage replaced, plus other spots lost to recent construction).

Along with those coming to games in Cameron or Wallace Wade, both just across Science Drive, the garage should improve the lives of graduate and professional students, especially those at the School of Law and Fuqua—and locals attending conferences at the JB Duke. The deck includes not only 215 short-term spots for campus visitors but also thirty- six spots for accessible vehicles, twenty- eight for motorcycles, and (keep this in mind, late-to-the-gamers) fourteen spots designated for electric vehicles.

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