Campus & Community

Manly break or holiday in ‘Wonderland’?

long read

Professors reveal their summer vacation plans

Isaac Kohane
Isaac Kohane has rigorous traveling plans: ‘During the seven-hour drive [back and forth to a vacation home in Canada], I’m going to write the second edition of my book, ‘Microarrays for an Integrative Genomics.” (Staff photo Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office)
With their Commencement, students will go forth to “press on to higher and better things – at all events, to other things,” as Nathaniel Hawthorne once put it. But students aren’t the only ones planning new projects or looking forward to relaxing in a shady hammock – or both, simultaneously. Professors, too, are embarking on fresh adventures, as the following brief interviews show.

Though for a decade Roy J. Glauber has been a “keeper of the broom,” sweeping up paper airplanes thrown at the stage of the Sanders Theatre during the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, in 2005 he swept up a prize of his own: an actual Nobel, received for his work on the quantum theory of optical coherence. Glauber, the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, called from Trieste, Italy, to discuss his summer plans:

“Of course this year is quite different because the announcement of the Nobel Prize last October has kept me hopping ever since, and I’ll be doing quite a bit more of that in the weeks ahead. Once I leave Trieste, I’ll go to speak at the University of Erlangen in Germany, then to Essen, then back to Boston briefly, then to New York, then back to Boston. On June 18, I start traveling in earnest. It will involve a long succession of stops, and I’m not certain of any of them yet. I’ll probably start out in Hong Kong and Macau, then on to Europe; I think it will involve going to Russia at some point, and will probably end in Austria.

The travel begins again in late August, but I’m hoping to spend most of August taking it easy, and winding down a bit. I’ve been completely unable to attend to things for the past year – unable even to look at bank statements, pay bills – just mostly routine things. I’ve got a garden, which is sprouting in every direction, and I’ve scarcely set foot in it this spring.

The problem is when you’re in a situation of this sort, it’s a bit like discovering you have relatives you never knew everywhere on the globe, and they start inviting you. But it sure beats the quiet of retirement.”

As William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government, Harvey C. Mansfield has viewed political philosophy from a broad perspective, having written not only about Machiavelli and Edmund Burke, but also about the theory of executive power and, in his latest book, “Manliness,” a concept he addresses both within and outside the context of political life:

“I’ll spend this summer writing, with my wife, Delba Winthrop, about Tocqueville, as part of a series called “A Very Short Introduction.” They’re those little books that the Coop has by the cashier as you go on your way out.

We’re writing about Tocqueville because we did a translation together of his “Democracy in America,” which came out in 2000, and about 10 years ago we participated in CSPAN’s re-enactment of his voyage through America. I had done translations before – of Machiavelli – but not in French, so that was quite an undertaking. The current project is more in keeping with the season.

When my children were young – we have five grandchildren now – we used to go to Stone Pond in Marlborough, N.H., where we had a “camp,” as people in New Hampshire call it. There we had a lovely time, swimming and canoeing and hiking. After the children grew up, we sold the place. We like it in Cambridge; it’s very quiet in the summer, and the weather is usually good – or if it’s bad it doesn’t last.”

Isaac Kohane wears many hats. In addition to being the Lawrence J. Henderson Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard Medical School, he is a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital Boston, chair of the hospital’s Informatics Program, and director of the Countway Library of Medicine:

“This year, my wife and children are spending their summer at my mother-in-law’s place in the Laurentians in Canada. She has a nice house by the water, and it’s a chance for them to spend time with their cousins. I’ll stay with them for two weeks on either end of their seven-week vacation, and will also be driving up from Boston on weekends.

During the seven-hour drive I’m going to write the second edition of my book, “Microarrays for an Integrative Genomics.” I really enjoy having a solid block of uninterrupted reflection and synthesis of the research I’ve been doing for the past several years. At work I do a lot of mentoring as well as my own research; then when I come home I have three wonderful, extremely energetic children, so at the end of the day I just pass out. This way I have seven hours each way of personal time. Plus, I’ve found my best writing voice comes when I’m dictating – it’s a much more conversational tone than when I have my hands on the keyboard.

And of course I’ll be at the hospital, where I have the privilege of seeing patients once a month, and would also like to find time to attend to my garden. It used to be a fairly conventional lawn and I put heaping mounds of soil on it and did all sorts of bizarre abstract patterns with mulch. I tend to get a little manic when I take on a new hobby, but then I run out of steam. So I’ll be able to spruce it up again this summer. “

Kay Kaufman Shelemay is the G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and a professor of African and African American studies:

“Summers are a time to refresh the faculties, to do research and writing, a time for reflection. For me, this summer is both a beginning and a return. I’m starting a new project on Ethiopian music and musicians who came to the United States as part of the new wave of African immigration beginning in the 1960s.

I’ll be making my first trip back to Ethiopia in years. I did my dissertation research there, on the liturgical music of Ethiopian Jews, and lived in rural villages and in Addis Ababa for several years. But for political reasons – notably a 17-year revolution – I wasn’t able to revisit until the 1990s, and at that point I was busy with other projects. Life intervened repeatedly to keep me from going back despite several planned trips.

But in the past three months I’ve started up a new project on African music and musicians in the U.S., investigating how Africans perform their ethnic identity in the diaspora. I’ll spend a couple of weeks in Addis Ababa in June. I’ll be doing new research in a way that looks at my old field differently, studying what is now an ongoing conversation between Ethiopian musicians at home with those abroad. I’m so very excited!”

James Sidanius is a recent addition to the Harvard faculty, having begun teaching “Statistics and Intergroup Relations” in January. He is a professor of psychology and of African and African American studies, and head of the Psychology of Power Laboratory.

“I’ll be very busy this summer, primarily trying to finish up a book I’ve been working on for five or six years now. We followed kids who entered U.C.L.A. as freshmen in 1996 for five years to look at university influences on intergroup behavior. One major finding was that belonging to an ethnic group on campus – and we broadened that to include fraternities and sororities, which are almost exclusively disproportionately white – increases students’ sense of being targeted or victimized, both by other students and by faculty. It ends up lowering intergroup friendship patterns, and for white kids it increases their levels of prejudice. So it adds a new dimension to the question of whether these groups are constructive to campus life, as proponents of multiculturalism argue, or destructive in that they seem to increase ethnic tension for everybody.

In addition to the book, I’ll be attending several conferences – I’m giving the plenary talk at the APA in August, and another plenary at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, in Philadelphia. And I’ll be going to Greece to give another paper.

On a more personal note, my wife and I will probably go back to L.A. for a while, since we have another home there, and will visit our son at least twice this summer. He lives in New York, so being closer to him is one of the advantages of being at Harvard. “

Dean for the Humanities Maria Tatar has for many years led a fairy tale existence, writing about classic children’s tales from “Little Red Riding Hood” to “Hansel and Gretel.” The latest legendary figure to capture the imagination of the Harvard College Professor and John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures was Bluebeard, the protagonist of her recent book, “Secrets Beyond the Door.”

“As of July 1, I am going on sabbatical and will be at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study exploring the nexus of boredom, curiosity, and wonder in the reading experience. Think of Alice sitting on the banks of the river with nothing to do, falling asleep over a book that bores her because it lacks pictures and conversations, then creating a Wonderland. She’s a curious child in both senses of the term, and her adventures tell us a lot about how the prodigies and marvels of literature produce astonishment but also transform us into inquisitive creatures.

To celebrate the end of the academic year and make the transition to my sabbatical, I’ll be spending part of July on Squam Lake for an extended family reunion. Squam is small by comparison to nearby Lake Winnipesaukee, and quite serene. The local folklore is that it was the model for “On Golden Pond,” and we ritually watch that film, along with “What about Bob?” every summer. We bunk in two houses that together sleep about 20 people, and there will be three generations there over the course of the month, with about 30 family members cycling in and out through July.

I’m hoping to spend several weekends in New York City, visiting my two children, who will be interning at magazines in New York. My son Daniel, who is 19, will be working at Forbes, and my daughter Lauren, who is graduating from Harvard this year, will be at New York Magazine and the Paris Review. The rest of my summer will be spent hanging out at Widener Library, after an absence of three years. Serving as dean kept me out of the stacks, and I’m looking forward at long last to the pleasures of a renovated Widener.”