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Dietrich College News
Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Carnegie Mellon University

July 2014
Kathryn Roeder

Using new statistical tools, Kathryn Roeder has led an international team of researchers to discover that most of the genetic risk for autism comes from versions of genes that are common in the population rather than from rare variants or spontaneous glitches.


Published in "Nature Genetics," the study found that about 52 percent of autism was traced to common genes and rarely inherited variations, with spontaneous mutations contributing a modest 2.6 percent of the total risk. The largest study of its kind to date, the team also showed that inheritability outweighs environmental risk.


"From this study, we can see that genetics plays a major role in the development of autism compared to environmental risk factors, making autism more like height than we thought - many small risk factors add up, each pushing a person further out on the spectrum," said Roeder, professor of statistics and computational biology.


 Read more.

 International Impact  

Sports fans may have had their eyes on Brazil as it hosts the 2014 World Cup, but beyond the soccer fields, the country is facing a different form of competition.


Workers are on strike over conditions and wages, women are raising questions about violence and inequality and there is strong interest in the history of socialism.


Many of the issues are eerily similar to those raised in the 1917 Russian Revolution, putting historian Wendy Goldman's work in the spotlight.


Goldman's 1993 book, "Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936," explored the early socialist experiments with women's emancipation, free love and the "withering-away" of the family.


Twenty-one years later, the book's themes still resonate. It was just translated into Portuguese, and Goldman was recently invited to Brazil for a multi-city tour to discuss its implications.

Only 25 Minutes of Mindfulness Meditation Alleviates Stress       

Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular way for people to improve their mental and physical health, yet most research supporting its benefits has focused on lengthy, weeks-long training programs.


New CMU research is the first to show that brief mindfulness meditation practice - 25 minutes for three consecutive days - alleviates psychological stress.


"More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits," said lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology.

Scott Sandage To Appear On TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?"

The second season of TLC's genealogy documentary series "Who Do You Think You Are?" will feature "Modern Family" star Jesse Tyler Ferguson searching through his family history with help from  historian Scott Sandage.

Premiering at 9 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, July 30, the episode will show Ferguson - who thought that he came from a "nice, normal family" - uncovering the life of his great-grandfather whom trouble seemed to follow at every turn.


"Jesse's ancestor had an unusually varied career that included a lot of ambiguous episodes, which is the kind of history that is the most fun to investigate and learn about," Sandage said.

Read more.

On Twitter? Share that you're watching the episode with the official "Who Do You Think You Are?" hashtag: #WDYTYA.

Brotherly Support

Alexander Su (DC'05) attended CMU for its strong academic reputation.


But it was the strong friendships he built while in school that cemented the connection to his alma mater.


"As alumni, the rigorous academic environment has helped all of us in our professional careers," he said.


"But more than that, I've formed lifelong relationships with friends who have provided me with invaluable advice in achieving all of my goals - whether in my career or in my personal life."


He was equally involved in student life, particularly the CMU chapter of Lambda Phi Epsilon that he helped to found. The first and only national Asian-American interest fraternity, Su wanted to enable longer-term initiatives. He and his friends believed that other Asian-American university organizations, while active, had difficulty sustaining such initiatives due to the annual turnover of leadership.

More Dietrich College News 

Save the Date: Celebrating the Work of Steven Klepper

Jim Ray Daniels Tells "Eight Mile High" Stories

How Statisticians Are Imperative To Advance Federal BRAIN Initiative

Facebook Study Did Not Breach Research Ethics

Stephen E. Fienberg Testifies Before U.S. Senate on How Federal Government Can Capitalize on R&D Investments

Social Integration Improves Lung Function in Elderly

Statistically Speaking: Helping the U.S. Prepare For, Detect and Respond to Infectious Disease Threats

Lisa Tetrault Uncovers "The Myth of Seneca Falls"

Program for Deliberative Democracy Partners with City of Pittsburgh for New Chief of Police Search

IGN Taps Carnegie Mellon Startup Neon Labs for 30 Percent Boost in Video Views

James Duesing Appointed Director of the Center for the Arts in Society

Save the Date: Center of the Neural Basis of Cognition To Celebrate 20 Years

Spring 2014 Dietrich College Dean's List Announced (pdf)

Dietrich College Multimedia 

Stephen Fienberg and Senator Jay Rockefeller

2014 Dietrich College Staff Appreciation Lunch

Spring 2014 Phi Beta Kappa Initiation Ceremony

Class Notes


Find out what's new with LeAnn Neal Reilly (DC'92), Heather Dawn Thompson (DC'93), Kent Haina (DC'00) and others in Class Notes.   


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Personal Mention
Dietrich College Personal Mention shares news and accomplishments from the college's faculty and staff.

Included in this issue are Robert Cavalier, Barbara Johnstone, Rob Kass, George Loewenstein and more.

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In the May 2014 issue of Dietrich College News, there was an error in announcing the winner of the Hilary Masters' Award for Personal Essay as part of the 2014 Adamson Student Writing Awards. The winner was Sophie Zucker for "The Washing" and "Chronic." Read more about the winners.
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