April 25, Vol. 23, No. 39

Reflections From CMU's First Couple       

Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon and his wife, Maureen, reflect on their 16 years as the university's first couple in the April issue of the Piper.

President Cohon discusses how the university has progressed in its strategic priorities as well as his plans for next year. The feature on Mrs. Cohon highlights the roles she has played as CMU's first lady and her professional life as an attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

Read the features on President and Mrs. Cohon.

Share your stories and view the interactive timeline of the Cohon era.

Silly Phone Game Provides Job Opportunities 

A silly telephone game that became a viral phenomenon in Pakistan has demonstrated some serious potential for teaching poorly educated people about automated voice services and provided a new tool for them to learn about jobs, say Roni Rosenfeld, professor in Carnegie Mellon's Language Technologies InstituteAgha Ali Raza, a Ph.D. student in language technology and a native Pakistani, and Umar Saif, an associate professor of computer science at Pakistan's Lahore University of Management Sciences.

The game, called Polly, is simplicity itself: a caller records a message and Polly adds funny sound effects, such as changing a male's voice to a female voice (or vice versa), or making the caller sound like a drunk chipmunk. The caller can then forward the message to one or more friends, who in turn can forward it along or reply to it.

Polly may not sound like a research project, but Rosenfeld said it is pioneering the use of entertainment to reach illiterate and low-literate people and introduce them to the potential of telephone-based services. Such phone services could help non-affluent, poorly educated people find jobs, find or sell merchandise, become politically active, create speech-based mailing lists and even support citizen journalism.


Read the full story.

Spring Has "SPRUNG" for Art's Pop Cabaret Class  

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be astonished.


Undergraduate students enrolled in the School of Art's POP Cabaret course present "SPRUNG," a variety show in two acts, featuring Leda n da $wan, tragedy, comedy, Private Eyes, synchronized dance routines, Gods and Monsters, elaborate costumes, trickery and mysterious pageantry!


The show begins at 7 p.m., Friday, April 26, at the Andy Warhol Museum. Attendees must be 18 years of age or older. Admission is free.


Led by Associate Art Professor Suzie Silver, who also performs in the show, the course meets weekly at the museum, where students use the theater as a playground and performance space to create short solo and group performances. This is the second semester the museum has hosted POP Cabaret in partnership with the School of Art.


Read more of the story.  

CMU Engineers To Help Assess U.S. Dams      

A team of civil and environmental engineering faculty and students is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help assess the risk of dam failures nationwide. The recently released 2013 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card collectively gave the 84,000 U.S. dams a D grade.

"We are working to develop tools that will give engineers greater integration of the different sources of information they use to determine this risk," said Burcu Akinci, a professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at Carnegie Mellon.

Akinci and James H. Garrett, Jr., the Thomas Lord Professor and dean of CMU's College of Engineering, are leading a research team that includes several professors who also are working on research in the IBM Smarter Infrastructure Lab - part of the Pennsylvania Smart Infrastructure Incubator - that supports the computational modeling and visualization aspects of this project. They include CEE Assistant Professor Mario Berges and CEE Assistant Research Professor Semiha Ergan.


Read more of the story.  

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Calendar Highlights 

 Personal Mention
Nancy Ko
Alex John London
Illah Nourbakhsh
Jeffrey Zaslow

Obituary: Elaine Koningsburg
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