Winter Submissions

Thank you for your interest in writing for the winter edition of Brevia!  The list of available topics appears below. 

Please sign up for an article here by midnight on November 8th.


Submit a 500-700 word reflection on your own research. Open to any discipline.


Science in Everyday Life: Unorthodox uses for seemingly mundane items. Possible tie-ins to cooking, student life, or cultural comparisons—e.g. Japanese and Korean household technologies.

Connections: Brevia always finds it interesting when topics from one class relate to subjects explored in another. What are the coolest and most unexpected connections students have discovered among their classes or areas of study, and how do those connections influence their perspectives?

Mind, Brain and Behaviour: What does it mean to be conscious? Reflections on the connections between linguistics, neurobiology, psychology, philosophy, art, and music.

Lab Rats and Bookworms: Reflections on the culture of lab-work and research assistantships at Harvard. How does working for course credit, for pay, or as a volunteer make the research experience different? Opinions on the mentorship system, finding the right PI, getting published?

Propose Your Own Topic Write on a topic of your choice.


Religion Down, Science Up?: Religion among young people in the US is famously on the decline. Is this good, bad, or indifferent for science? Does it matter if scientists are also people of faith? In the science versus religion battle, has science won? Please refer to this NYT article about the decline of religion for an interesting perspective on the debate.

Gender Testing at the Olympics: Many individuals fall somewhere in between traditional male/female classifications, which creates a tough situation for athletes. The Olympic committee recently adopted a new policy of gender testing; read about it here. What do you think of athletic gender testing? Where, if anywhere, should the Olympic committee (and other athletic organizations) draw the line?

Over-treatment: Is our culture one of over-treatment? Do we attack diseases to a point at which we destroy patients’ quality of life and burden their families with enormous expenditures, without making much difference in outcome? Then again, how can we tell family members to just let patients with chronic conditions die? This article may invoke useful reflection on the topic of over-treatment.

The Wisdom of Gen Eds: Many colleges and universities have core or general education requirements; many do not. On balance, are general education requirements an asset or a detriment to a student’s education? Do they force us to sacrifice depth for breadth, or are they necessary to the well-rounded college experience? How does Harvard’s gen ed curriculum stack up to those at other schools? Are there connections to the philosophies behind Columbia’s Core Curriculum and Brown’s open curriculum?


Research Group Profile: Systems Research at Harvard: Who are the people at Systems Research? For starters, they’re developing ROBOTIC BEES. “The Systems Research at Harvard (SYRAH) Group explores a wide range of projects in operating systems, networking, distributed systems, programming languages, and mobile sensor networks. Some of our ongoing projects include the Provenance Aware Storage System (PASS), high-performance storage, securing software execution, and building swarms of insect-scale flapping wing robotic bees.”

Profile of a Primary Researcher: Ramnik Xavier, “Guts & Bugs in Health and Disease.”: Ramnik Xavier will speak on Thursday, November 7th from 6 PM – 7:15 PM at the Broad Institute Auditorium, located at 7 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142.  Please visit the online Harvard Gazette event for more information.

Profile of a Post-doc: Emily Derbyshire, Harvard Premedical Society on Malaria: Emily Derbyshire will speak about the relationship between malaria and drug discovery on Wednesday, November 6th, from 5 PM – 6 PM at the Eliot Memorial Dining Hall.

Portrait of a Grad Student: Roland G. Benoit, Developmental Psychology: Roland Benoit will speak about developmental psychology on November 14th.  Please visit his Google Site for more information.

Profile of an Undergrad student: Genomics Research: Three Harvard students were involved with the Summer Research Program in Genomics (SRPG) last summer.  For more information about this program, please visit its website.

Event, Intelligence and Surprise Attack: Failure and Success from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 and Beyond: Erik J. Dahl, former research fellow, International Security Program, 2006-08; assistant professor of national security affairs, Naval Postgraduate School.  Dahl will speak on Monday, November 4th, from 12:15 PM – 2 PM at Nye C on the fifth floor of the Taubman Building at HKS.

Dahl’s book, Intelligence and Surprise Attack, examines the puzzle of why surprise attacks so often succeed, even though in most cases warnings had been available beforehand. He challenges the conventional wisdom about these intelligence failures, which holds that attacks succeed because warning signals get lost amid noise and intelligence officials lack the imagination to “connect the dots” of available information. By comparing cases of intelligence failure with intelligence success, Dahl finds that the key to success is not more imagination or better analysis, but rather the collection of precise intelligence, combined with the presence of decision makers who will listen to the warnings they receive.

Event, The Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Fair (LSURF): This research symposium will occur on Monday, November 4th, from 2 PM – 5 PM at Radcliffe Gym.

Event, Architecture and Knowledge Discussion Group, Urban Design: Jean-Pierre Le Dantec (University of Paris – La-Villette) will lead a discussion on “Urban Design and the Genius of the Site: From André Le Nôtre to Today.” This event will take place on Monday, November 4th, at 5 PM in room 114 of the Barker Center. The discussion is co-sponsored by the Renaissance, and France and the World seminars.

Event, Preventing HIV Among Young Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: Is Cash the Answer?: This event will take place on Wednesday, November 6th, from 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM at the Harvard School of Public Health, Kresge 502, and will be lead by Audrey Pettifor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Event, Shakespearean Studies: Paul Menzer (Mary Baldwin College) will lead this event, entitled “Shakespeare, Anecdotally,” on Friday, November 8th, at 5:30 PM in room 133 of the Barker Center.

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