FOREIGN STUDENT enrollments at American universities barely grew last
year, and there are fears that, for the first time since the Second
World War, the number of foreign students studying here will decline.
During the 2002-03 academic year there were 586,323 foreign students
in the United States, up less than a percent from the previous year,
according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). The IIE
also found that a large jump in enrollments from Asian countriesmainly
China, India, and South Koreamasked a huge falloff in students
from Middle Eastern countries. The number of students from Saudi Arabia
and Kuwait each fell by 25 percent, while those from the United Arab
Emirates decreased 16 percent.
While economics are a factor, the main culprit appears to be tough
new student visa requirements implemented for security purposes in the
wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. The rules apply to all applicants,
though those from 25 countries with suspected ties to terror groups
undergo particularly close investigations.
Victor C. Johnson, associate executive director for public policy at
the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors: Association of
International Educators (NAFSA), says the IIE findings reflect those
found in their own survey of 300-plus schools. Roughly two thirds of
those schools reported stable or lower foreign enrollments this year,
results that might suggest there will be an actual decline
next year. Why? For the first time ever, the United States has
put into place a policy that deliberately makes it difficult for students
to enroll, Johnson says. The rules particularly affect Arab males
and all science students, regardless of where they're from.
Clearly it's not in America's economic interest to lose students
to other countries. If the trend continues, it could eventually harm
national security, Johnson says. Historically, America has been the
leader in educating the future leaders of foreign countries, a role
that's given the U.S. a network of influence in those countries.
WHEN IS THE best time for women academics working toward tenure to
have children? A recent University of California-Berkeley study provides
a gloomy answer for female academics who want a family and a career.
Women sans children are 30 percent more likely to be on track for tenure
than women with kids, according to the study, dubbed Do Babies Matter?
Suppose a woman wants children. Should she have them early? The study,
which looked at 160,000 people who earned Ph.D.s between 1978 and 1984,
found that of women who had babies earlier, 56 percent were tenured
14 years after earning their doctorate. Of the men who became fathers
early in their careers, 77 percent obtained tenure within that period.
Two thirds of the women who start their career before having children
never have children. Their male colleagues were 70 percent more likely
to have kids. Many women academics who have families indicate that their
careers have kept them from having as many children as they desired.
A second study of 8,700 professors in the University of California system
found that 38 percent of women said they did not have as many children
as they wanted. Marc Gouldena research analyst who worked with
the main author, Mary Ann Mason, graduate dean at Berkeleysaid
they weren't able to dissect the data to look at specific fields
of academia such as engineering or English. But anecdotal evidence indicates
that the situation for women faculty members may be worse in areas like
engineering, where men dominate.
Academia still runs on rules that favor the male-as-breadwinner stereotype,
Goulden says. Indeed, 52 percent of the men in the study had stay-at-home
wives, a situation that presumably freed them to work long hours and
have families. Ninety-one percent of the women, however, were married
to men who also worked full time. Moreover, the academic career track
is biased against those who take time off for any reason.
Academia is, however, becoming feminized: 44 percent of all Ph.D.s
are women, as are the majority of master's holders. And within
a few years, women will receive the majority of doctorates, as well.
But academia is based on a model that's been around for a
thousand years, not 20, Goulden says.
AUSTRALIAAmerican schools are fortunate. U.S. companies have
a long tradition of financially supporting universities. Australian
universities aren't so lucky.
As government support has declined over the past decade, Australian
universities have raised fees and generated revenue from foreign students
to compensate. The country attracts large numbers of foreign students,
particularly from Asia. Nonetheless, schools often remain cash-strapped.
They are trying hard to get corporate funding but are having limited
success. While some companies now make substantial donations, a leading
Australian academic with U.S. experience is trying to convince them
to do more. Rory Hume, an executive vice-chancellor of UCLA from 1998
to 2002, is spearheading the effort. To convince companies to ante up,
he points to Australia's mining industry as a role model and cites
its support for the education of mining engineers. We have only
three mining engineering schools in the country, and the mining industry
is very closely engaged with them, he says.
Industry executives often try to influence course content and complain
that graduates are not ready for the workplace but do little to help
financially. Hume is optimistic, though, that Aussie companies will
eventually follow the U.S. model.
THE DAY MAY COME when all sorts of businesses can count on an extra
revenue stream generated from what's essentially a byproduct of
their main business: heat. Every day, countless businessesfrom
manufacturers to restaurants to dry cleanersgenerate and vent
huge amounts of waste heat from their in-house power plants, mainly
gas turbines or diesel generators.
Daniel Kammen, a professor in the department of nuclear engineering
at the University of California-Berkeley, is among those promoting the
capture and use of that heat. Called CHP for combined heat and power,
the idea is to capture waste heat from turbines and generators and use
it to warm nearby buildings such as apartments or offices. This could
help cut consumers' energy bills and makes the burning of fossil
fuels more efficient.
The growing popularity of distributed power generation, the use of
small power plants by businesses to produce their own electricity, makes
CHP possible. Kammen says businesses quickly come to realize that by
selling the excess heat produced by their generators, they can earn
extra revenue without being distracted from their primary ventures.
It's a resource they're wasting, so if they can make
money off of it for eight hours a day instead of zero, it's a benefit,
he says. The cost of retrofitting buildings is cheap, Kammen adds, because
it requires only basic, standard plumbing.
Even power companies benefit. They act as brokers, collecting revenues
from both buyers and sellers. The latter need the power companies to
handle things like metering, billing, maintenance, and customer servicethe
sorts of administrative chores no pizzeria or dry cleaner wants to do.
IN THE FAST-MOVING robotics technology field, the latest advance is
a robot that moves at a snail's pace. It, in fact, moves not only
as slow but just like a snail. Dubbed RoboSnail (though the French may
want to call it Escargobot) it's the brainchild of Brian Chan,
a graduate student working with Massachusetts Institute of Technology
mechanical engineering professor Anette E. Hosoi.
Hosoi and her students were studying the flow of fluids in flexible
membranes like arteries. Chan got the idea of putting a motor on a device
that floats along a thin film of liquid similar to the way a snail moves
on its slime trail. Chan had been doing other research using water striders
and, in collecting them, had amassed a tankful of snails. He kind
of had snails on the brain, Hosoi says.
To learn how snails move, the researchers put them on glass and videotaped
them from below. The first RoboSnail prototype squeezes the liquid between
the robot's foot and the floor. As pressure differences
push the ooze backward, the device is propelled forward. Hosoi says
a second prototype moves more like a real snail. The foot flexes and
moves the liquid in waves. Imagine, she says, forming a hump at one
end of a carpet, and then moving it along like a wave. Once it gets
to the other end and flattens, it also moves the carpet forward.
Snails, of course, secrete their own mucus for the job. RoboSnail uses
an off-the-shelf lubricant called laponite, which consists of tiny clay
particles suspended in water. Given that the robotic snail leaves a
slime trail, just like its real-life inspiration, it's likely to
be used in industrial and other harsh environments, Hosoi says. Oil
companies have already shown interest in using it to climb down sludge-covered
drills to take measurements thousands of feet below ground. But users
will need to be patient. A RoboSnail will never move fast. It's
good for slow and steady kind of work, Hosoi says. But how would
it taste with drawn garlic butter?
Risk-averse and conservative are adjectives
commonly used to describe the National Institute of Health's (NIH)
grant system. And the NIH acknowledges that that is a fair reflection
of its policies. But as part of an effort to change that perception,
the NIH will next year award up to 10 Director's Pioneer Awards
to researchers who are highly creative, nontraditional thinkers. The
awards will focus not on proposed projects but on exceptional
individuals whose body of work has shown a willingness to take risks
and be inventive. We want the Albert Einsteins identified,
says David Armstrong, chief of the NIH brain disorders and clinical
neurosciences integrated review group, and one of the coordinators of
the awards. The NIH says it's taking a risk because clearly not
all the ideas proposed by award winners will bear fruit. But it hopes
that those that do pan out yield huge payoffs.
Candidates can either nominate themselves or be nominated by others,
and the deadline for nominations is April 1. Nominations are limited
to a two-page letter and a two-page biography. And it is open to engineers,
chemists, and mathematicians, who don't normally receive NIH funding.
A panel of distinguished experts will sift through the applications,
and those selected will be invited to submit a three- to five-page personal
essay and two letters of support. A second panel will cut the shortlist
down to 20 before a final panel picks the recipients. The NIH expects
to begin awarding the first payments in late summer or early fall. Armstrong
says the NIH has no idea if most candidates will be self-nominated or
not, and admits it will be interesting to see how the submissions come
in. The winners will receive $500,000 a year for five years. There are
few strings attached to the stipends, though clearly the NIH will be
looking for winners to conduct cutting-edge research in areas consistent
with the institutes' remit, biomedicine. So what's to stop
a winner from using the money to fund a lengthy holiday in the tropics?
Armstrong notes that most brilliant, innovative researchers have a huge
work ethic. Nonetheless, Pioneer winners will also be asked to participate
in an annual, informal review process.
TOKYOLike the United States and Europe, Japan is feeling the
strain of an aging society and lower fertility rates. Unlike the West,
however, Japan has firmly resisted immigration throughout most of its
modern history. Non-Japanese workers account for only 1 percent of the
population, about one million people. One of the reasons Japan has been
able to postpone the inevitable, says Kyushu Sangyo University's
Atsushi Kondo, is Japan had succeeded in improving manufacturing
techniques through microcelectronics, robots, and automation, and as
a result, less demand arose for imported labor.
But biology has finally overwhelmed even Japanese technology: Japan's
population is on course to start shrinking in 2007. The United Nations
estimates Japan will need a whopping 600,000 foreign immigrants annually
to replace lost workers and maintain economic growth.
Hidenori Sakanaka, director-general of the Tokyo Regional Immigration
Bureau, says opinion in Japan has split into opposing camps. Xenophobes
favor keeping the drawbridge firmly raised no matter what the cost,
but Sakanaka and other progressives are urging drastic immigration reform.
Japan for years has tried to replicate the Silicon Valley phenomenon,
but forum panelist Yasuyuki Motoyama said more attention should be paid
to what made California so attractive a proposition for the world's
high-tech brains. Among the biggest turnoffs for sought-after IT engineers
are a lack of international schools, English-speaking doctors, and other
services geared to non-Japanese speakers.
IMAGINE GETTING your undergraduate and master's degrees in chemical
engineering. Then, having never seriously played the game before, deciding
you'd rather be a pro baseball player. You then not only ace your
farm-team tryout, you actually make the big leagues a few years later.
Sebastian Catana has accomplished the equivalent in the world of opera.
The 31-year-old baritone is currently under contract in his first season
with the vaunted New York Metropolitan Opera. But it wasn't that
long ago when the Romania-born singer was seriously pursuing a career
in chemical engineering at the Carnegie-Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh.
Catana's parents were well-regarded opera singers in Romania whose
careers were suppressed by the former communist government of Nicolae
Ceausescu. Eventually, Catana and his mother emigrated to Michigan.
Catana, always good at math, earned a degree in chemical engineering
from the University of Michigan. Next came a stint at Carnegie-Mellon
for his master's. While there, he was introduced to Claudia Pinza,
the daughter of Italian opera legend Ezio Pinza. She soon became his
mentor. Not long after, he enrolled in a voice program at Duquesne University.
By then, he was years older than the other voice students.
Despite his love of engineering, he decided he loved music more, and
began pursuing a singing career. To help make ends meet, he worked at
Carnegie-Mellon's Colloids, Polymer, and Surfaces Lab. He praises
the lab's director, Annette Jacobson, and its manager, Rosemary
Frollini, for allowing him to work weekends and odd hours so he could
take on singing roles. It was the ideal job. They were both wonderful,
Like pro athletes, professional opera singers must practice hard and
often to keep in top shape. Summers are spent studying and preparing
in Italy. Professional opera companies use rehearsals mainly for fine-tuning.
The singers are meant to show up steeped in their roles and prepared
to sing, Catana explains. Catana says his years in engineering gave
him the necessary focus to succeed in opera. Engineering taught
me to be very disciplined. He says the math he learned in engineering
comes in handy. Music is math, Catana notes.
He made his professional debut in 2001 in a small role in Les Huguenots
at Carnegie Hall in New York. This is Catana's first season with
the Met, and he was given four roles. He's now been signed for
two big and four or five secondary roles for next season, and will be
doing the Marriage of Figaro in Baltimore in 2005.
He's confident of having a long career, but adds, nothing
is guaranteed in this world. One day you're up and one day you're
down. Of course, in the unlikely event that Catana's operatic
career ever hits a flat note, he's still got that master's
in chemical engineering in his back pocket.