My Top Penn List: The Year of Did You Know… in Review

Author: Casey Ryan, C’93

The Penn powers that blog have played around with the schedule for this semester, which gave me an extra few weeks off from Frankly Penn.  I’m well-rested from the word-vacation; it was a nice change for the new year.  It also gave me some time to think about my next post.

In a prior post, I had mentioned that members of the Global Alumni Network (GAN) team, our Regional Club program, pen a weekly Penn fact-cum-update to our Regional Alumni Club Leadership – the Did You Know…  These are news stories or tidbits that underscore some of the outstanding work in study and research going on around campus as well as the notable contributions of our faculty, staff, and alumni at Penn and in the world at large.  These short articles are meant to bring the University a little closer to our alumni wherever they may be. To usher in my first post (and first My Ten Penn list) of 2012, I wanted to highlight my favorite “Did You Knows” of 2011, unedited.

10.          Robust Media System in Afghanistan, sent March 20, 2011

Did You Know… that the Annenberg School for Communication is involved with an effort to build a more robust media system in war-torn Afghanistan?

The Annenberg School’s Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS) is helping to shape and execute a large scale United States Agency for International Development (USAID) effort to foster independent radio, create a supporting legal culture that can sustain a freer communications environment, and analyze what media approaches are most effective in sustaining democratic values. “We’ve assembled a distinguished team to design curricula and work with advocates, media management and regulators,” said Monroe E. Price, Director of CGCS. “This is an investment in the talent key to the operation of media in the future.”

This is the newest initiative to join the CGCS’s other Middle East-related projects including the Jordan Media Strengthening Program, the model for the current Afghan program.

For more information about the CGCS’s specific efforts in the Middle East, please go here.

9.            Global Warming Warning, from June 24, 2011

Did You Know… that Penn researchers link the fastest Sea-Level rise in two Millennia to increasing temperatures? An international research team including Penn scientists has shown that the rate of sea-level rise along the U.S. Atlantic coast is greater now than at any time in the past 2,000 years, and there is a consistent link between changes in global mean surface temperature and sea level. Benjamin Horton, associate professor and director of the Sea Level Research Laboratory, and postdoctoral fellow Andrew Kemp, both of Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences Department of Earth and Environmental Science conducted the study. Their work was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To view the press release, click here.

Check-out this Office Hours webinar by Professor Benjamin Horton by clicking here. Revisit Dr. Benjamin Horton’s discussion of the geophysical mechanisms behind earthquakes and tsunamis and the history of both in the context of Japan and the greater South/East Pacific.  Note: You must download the GoToMeeting Codec (G2M2 decoder) to view these recorded webinars. Visit to download the codec.

8.            Penn in the Movies, from December 8, 2011

Did You Know…that Penn alumni wrote, produced, and directed several movies in the theaters? The Mighty Macs, tells the story of tiny Immaculata College winning the inaugural women’s NCAA basketball tournament in 1972. It was written/directed/produced by former Penn Football player Tim Chambers, C’85, and also produced by former Penn Basketball star Vince Curran, ENG’92, W’92. The Muppets, the first Muppets movie in several years, finds the Muppets fighting to save their theater. Todd Lieberman, C’95, and a Mask & Wig alumnus, is a producer on the film.  Mike Karz, C’89, W’89, and Class of 1989 president, produced New Year’s Eve, that shows how the lives of several couples and singles in New York intertwine over the course of New Year’s Eve.

Let’s go to the movies! Read about The Mighty Macs in the Daily Pennsylvanian. Read more about New Year’s Eve and see a video clip of Mike talking about the film here. Read more about Todd Lieberman and why his Muppet cameo was cut from The Muppets.

7.            ENIAC Day, sent February 11, 2011

Did You Know… that Philadelphia City Council has officially declared February 15 as “ENIAC Day,” celebrating the 65th anniversary of the historic computer’s dedication at Penn? The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, was built to calculate ballistic trajectories for the Army during World War II. Under the direction of John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert of Penn’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering (now the School of Engineering and Applied Science), construction of the 27-ton, 680-square-foot computer began in July 1943 and was announced to the public on February 14, 1946. ENIAC was the first electronic general-purpose computer and its six original programmers were all women.

To read more about ENIAC Day, visit this link. For further reading on ENIAC, go here.

6.            Helping the American Education System Address the Needs of Youth & Industry, from May 31, 2011

Did you know… that the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the Penn Institute for Urban Research, co-hosted a two-day conference, “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America: The Policy, Practice and Research Issues?”

Leading experts on education and policy-making came to campus to present strategies for innovation and planning to help the American education system address the needs of both youth and industry. In attendance was former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, C’65, who commented on the education system’s failure to train our student to fill positions in the job market. He noted that it takes careful planning to ensure that the education system prepares youth to learn the skills necessary for today’s workforce in order to maintain the US as economic power.  He emphasized this by stating that “the return on investment is to keep America great.”

For more information, visit this site.

5.            Penn’s Pulitzer Prize, from April 21, 2011

Did You Know…that Jennifer Egan, C’85, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel, “A Visit From the Goon Squad?”

Egan, Penn’s first alumna/us to win the Pulitzer for fiction, also won the 2011 National Book Critics Circle award earlier this year. Set mostly in the world of rock music business, the novel’s storyline moves away from a traditional structure by wandering from a one narrative thread; each chapter functions as a self-contained story. However, all of the stories are linked by a common set of characters and themes, that come together throughout the novel.

Egan read at the Kelly Writers House on during Alumni Weekend on May 14, 2011 at 4:00 PM.

For a video excerpt from Egan’s prior engagement at Penn, visit this site.

For more information from the Penn Current, visit this one.

4.            Color a Dinosaur, from July 7, 2011

Did You Know… that paleontologists from the University of Pennsylvania, as part of an international collaboration, believe they may have found a way to see dinosaurs in living color?

Scientists have detected traces of a dark pigment called eumelanin, a form of melanin, in ancient bird fossils through the use of intense X-ray beams. The research was conducted by an international team working with Phillip Manning, an adjunct professor in the School of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Earth and Environmental Science, and Peter Dodson, a professor in both the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Animal Biology.

Go here to read the Philadelphia Inquirer story, and here for the Penn News article.

3.            Soccer Playing Robots, from July 29, 2011

Did You Know… that the robots of Penn and Virginia Tech’s Team DARwIn recently won first place in the Humanoid Kid Size competition at the 2011 RoboCup tournament in Istanbul, Turkey? The soccer-playing robots, whose name stands for “Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence,” were particularly skilled at the throw-in competition where a robot must pick up a soccer ball and throw it back onto the pitch.

Penn Engineering team members who traveled to the competition included Stephen McGill, Seung-Joon Yi (visiting faculty member); Yida Zhang, GEN’12; along with Jordan Brindza, ENG’10 GEN’11; Ashleigh Thomas, EE’13 GEE’13; Spencer Lee, ENG’14; and Nicholas McGill, EE’13 ENG’13 GEN’13, who are undergraduate and graduate students in the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory. For the competition, Penn developed the software framework that provided each robot with artificial intelligence (AI). This AI guided the robots’ walk, vision, and gameplay, among other things.

For more information on Penn’s victory, please see this link.

To watch a video of Penn’s DARwIn robots annihilating the Japanese team in the finals, please go here.

For more information on the RoboCup 2011 Tournament, please see this link.

2.            100th Ivy Win for Bagnoli, from October 27, 2011

Did You Know… that Penn Football’s victory over Yale in October 2011 was Head Coach Al Bagnoli’s 100th Ivy League win?  Only two other coaches have ever reached that number.  With the win the Quakers, (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) now have an 18 game winning streak in the League.

For a re-cap of the Penn – Yale game, see the Penn Athletics and Daily Pennsylvanian articles here and here.

Photo by Andrew Councill, The New York Times

1.            Zeke Emanuel, 13th PIK Professor, from August 11, 2011

Did You Know… that Penn named globally renowned bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel as its 13th Penn Integrates Knowledge professor? Emanuel will be the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor and vice provost for global initiatives.  His appointment will be shared between the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy, which he will chair in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, and the Department of Health Care Management in the Wharton School.

Emanuel, one of the world’s leading scholars of bioethics and health care, will be the inaugural chair of the Perelman School’s new Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy. Prior to coming to Penn, he served as the founding chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health since 1997 and was appointed as a special advisor for health policy to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from February 2009 to January 2011.

The Penn Integrates Knowledge program was launched by President Gutmann in 2005 as a University-wide initiative to recruit exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across disciplines and who are jointly appointed between two schools at Penn.

Read the news release  here.

To read a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, please see this link.


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