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  Michael Rogan image
  Music librarian Michael Rogan displays an illustrated page from Musurgia universalis, published in Rome in 1650, and intended by its author, Athanasius Kircher, to be a compendium of all musical knowledge.

Upfront Selections

Illuminating a Hidden Treasure

Digital project brings new respect to rare music collection

When Michael Rogan came to Tufts three years ago, he was intrigued by a secret buried deep in the music library stacks.

The Frédéric Louis Ritter Collection was not only the single largest named special collection at Tufts but a sweeping overview of music history, containing works from the 16th to the 19th centuries on all areas of musical interest—history, biography, theory, composition and performance.

The more than 2,000 volumes include a 1558 book considered one of the first on music theory, an 1869 Brahms edition of Couperin’s keyboard works, first editions of Schubert and Schumann, important scores of comedic operas, as well as Ritter’s own books on harmony, composition and music history.

“What makes this collection significant is its size and that it was gathered by one person who was using and studying the material,” said Rogan. “Ritter was a professional musician and college teacher, and so it reflects an individual’s cultural connection with an unusual depth and breadth. It didn’t seem right that a collection of this uniqueness was virtually unknown outside Tufts, and that even Tufts students didn’t realize we had these remarkable sources. The collection had too many strengths and offered too many opportunities for study to be left languishing in obscurity.”

Now those worries are coming to an end, and with them, the long silence imposed on the collection. Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Tufts University Berger Family Technology Transfer Endowment, the collection will be introduced to the world in a collaboration among Rogan, archivists and Tufts faculty.

Called “A Paradigm for Special Collections Access and Use,” the project was crafted by Rogan with Jane Bernstein, Austin Fletcher Professor of Music; Gregory Colati, director of the Digital Collections and Archives; and Thomas Cox, web designer for the Tisch Library.

The proposal incorporates two themes: the practical necessity of using the Internet to widen awareness about and access to fragile primary source materials via an online finding aid, and a “real time” dialogue about the music by making it part of Tufts’ academic calendar.

To encourage that discourse, Tufts will invite nationally recognized music scholars who are interested in enhancing teaching through technology to speak on some aspect, score or historically important volume from the collection. A website will be created containing the selected items.

The invited scholars will be promoting the use of the collection by highlighting its treasures, demonstrating new research and teaching methods using technology, and providing a model for students about special collections.

Frédéric Louis Ritter, a noted scholar, composer and conductor, was born and educated in Strasbourg. He immigrated to the United States at 23 and was named the first professor of music at Vassar College in 1867, serving until his death in 1891.

Ritter’s collection came to Tufts thanks to Albert Metcalf, a Tufts trustee and avid supporter of music education at Tufts, who purchased it at auction in the 1890s.
Rogan is optimistic that as the Ritter Collection continues to grow in appreciation, so will its potential for innovative digital archiving, discussion and research. He points to one of his favorites of the collection, for instance, Rameau’s 1733 score for the opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, which includes marginalia from an actual 18th-century performance.

“It would be really exciting to reconstruct performances of the pieces as they were played for their contemporaries,” said Rogan. “We are also hoping that the website, which starts with an index, could be developed into a more robust site that can, for instance, include scores and their recordings. As a professional musician, Ritter could just open a score and hear it instinctively. But as a teacher, I think he would deeply appreciate a multimedia resource like the web that would allow students at the beginning of their inquiry to have the same advantage he had.” —Laura Ferguson



  Andrew Camilli
  Andrew Camilli

Cholera on Closer Inspection

Innovative research methods yield new insights about why this epidemic strikes with such deadly intensity

Among all the water-borne bacteria, Vibrio cholerae is in a class by itself.

Since it began spreading from Asia in the early 19th century, it has struck Europe, North and South America, and Africa. The disease explodes with the full force of an epidemic, killing through dehydration brought on by diarrhea.

Andrew Camilli and his laboratory of four graduate students and two postdoctoral fellows at Tufts Medical School, however, recently made a major breakthrough that might assist in stopping future outbreaks in their tracks. Such work may lead to a “designer vaccine” that targets proteins expressed by the cholera bacteria at the beginning of the infection process.

Reporting in the May edition of Nature, senior author Camilli found that cholera bacteria appear to become even more infectious as they pass through and exit the human intestinal tract. In fact, researchers found that cholera bacteria were up to 100 times more infectious than lab-grown cholera when injected into mice. The cholera remained “hyperinfectious” hours after being put in a sample of pond water.

“What we see as cholera bacteria essentially seems to gather strength in the small intestine,” said Camilli, assistant professor of molecular biology and microbiology. “Once those bacteria are released by the human, usually back into another water source, they have a powerful chance of spreading and infecting additional victims, thus fueling the epidemic.”

The research comes as a result of nine years of fine-tuning a pioneering method of identifying proteins expressed by the bacteria at the beginning of infection, research that earned Camilli the Eli Lilly and Co. Research Award, considered one of the most prestigious honors bestowed on a young microbiologist.

Since joining Tufts in 1995, he has employed a method he started as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. The method allows the isolation of bacterial genes induced during infection by using a recombinase reporter system. RIVET (recombination-based in vivo expression technology) has proven to be a highly sensitive means of identifying and tracking bacterial genes that are activated after encounter with a host.

Camilli says characterizing the genes of the cholera bacteria in transmission was a challenging case from the start. “The bacteria can change their gene expression within minutes,” said Camilli. “Thus, we worry that by the time you isolate the bacteria, it’s too late to tell which genes were firing when.”

That’s a problem for developing an effective vaccine, he noted. “When you make a vaccine to protect people, you will want that vaccine to target the natural transmissible form of the organism. We have a vaccine for cholera now, but it is only partially effective because it was designed using laboratory-grown V. cholerae bacteria, which aren’t expressing the same genes as the transmissible form.”

In the past, characterizing cholera genetics was also research of profound urgency. Today, death by dehydration is limited to about 1 percent of cholera victims, thanks to oral rehydration therapy. But the disease consistently resurfaces. In the 1970s and 1980s, epidemics broke out in the Middle East and Africa. During the 1990s an epidemic that began in Peru spread across South America. And most recently, an outbreak in Rwanda quickly reached a horrific scale. After being crowded into camps, some 23,000 refugees died from drinking contaminated water.

“The view that cholera is a disease we have under control is a false one,” says Camilli. “There are still some 300,000 cases a year. Down the road, as populations increase in Third World countries, we will see more outbreaks. Africa is now the major continent for cholera, and if I had to place a bet, it’s going to get worse.”

To better understand the development of infection, Camilli’s lab did not study strains growing in their Boston laboratory, but rather went to the source. They set up an international collaboration with a research hospital in Bangladesh, where Dr. Camilli’s graduate students collected rice-water stools, so-called because the diarrhea looks like water in which rice has been cooked. Since the rice-water stools are literally pure V. cholerae, the samples have provided a snapshot of the bacteria as they are being transmitted.
In the laboratory, the researchers found that after passing through the human gut, the cholera bacteria looked different. Looking at RNA of the stool bacteria, they noticed a marked change in the gene expression patterns compared to laboratory-grown bacteria. It appeared that genes associated with movement and nutrient uptake were apparently switched on at some point in the gut, while genes that restricted movement were switched off.

That detailed genetic information, the first-ever characterization of gene expression in the transmissible form of Vibrio cholerae, may help researchers design new drug treatments and vaccines that target pathogens as they appear in nature, thereby heading off epidemics. But Camilli also sees other wide possibilities for research.

“This could be a paradigm for examining transmission of other pathogens as well,” he said. “There are dozens of pathogen species out there that spread from human to human either directly or after a short time in the environment, and in each case it’s possible that as they exit they are in a hyperinfectious state to aid in transmission. The more you understand transmission the more prepared you can be to intervene. We’ve only just opened the door.” —Laura Ferguson


Interview: Jamshed Bharucha

  Andrew Camilli

“I will be working hard to enable the faculty to be as good as it can be, to strengthen our research base, and to project a strong and articulated academic reputation.”


Jamshed Bharucha became Tufts’ new provost on August 1 after a 19-year career at Dartmouth College. As provost, he is “chief academic officer,” working closely with President Lawrence S. Bacow to oversee Tufts’ academic mission. To this task he brings an unusual breadth of experience. At Dartmouth, he was dean of the faculty and a teacher respected by students and colleagues alike: he received Dartmouth’s Huntington Teaching Award and held the John Wentworth Professorship in Psychological and Brain Sciences. His research in the field of cognitive neuroscience has established his reputation as an innovator, particularly in advancing knowledge about music perception. His background and training undoubtedly have made him eager to explore areas defined less by precedent than by possibilities.

Born in Bombay to an American mother and Indian father, he attended the Bombay International School. From his mother, he developed an early love for music; he remembers wandering among the pews at the church where she practiced the organ. Today, he is an accomplished violinist and relaxes by playing in chamber music groups. His father, an engineer, encouraged a respect for science and rigorous scientific inquiry. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College, Bharucha earned a master’s in philosophy from Yale and a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard. Today, at age 46, he admits Tufts is a “leap” from the familiarity of Dartmouth. But like most leaps, it has opened up new possibilities, and it is with a characteristic love of challenge that he looks forward to the questions as much as the answers.

One of your focuses at Tufts will be encouraging interdisciplinary connections. How did your own career develop an interdisciplinary direction?
As an undergraduate, I was interested in both the biological basis of cognition as well as broader philosophical issues. My undergraduate major was biopsychology, but I really wanted to explore the mind/brain problem.

What is the mind/brain problem?
Well, we all have a mental life. We think, we remember, we feel, and there are brain processes going on when these mental phenomena occur. For a long time philosophers have been interested in the relationship between brain phenomena and what we consider mental phenomena. Today, we assume that cognition, or mental phenomena—thought, emotion, language, perception—arise out of neural processes in the brain. And yet to many people there is an unsettling disconnect between the two. When you study neural processes, you’re talking about chemical processes, electrophysiological processes, and they don’t seem to capture the mental phenomena as we know them.

Is it possible that people are uncomfortable that there might be no more mystery to the human experience?
Absolutely. On the other hand, for a scientist, that only enhances the mystique because it raises so many other questions. The field is ripe for philosophers to look at data from cognitive science and try to advance our notions of consciousness and cognition, knowing what we do about the brain. Every year we are learning more about the neural basis of consciousness. Some claim that though eventually we may understand all the processes that give rise to mental phenomenon, we may not necessarily be equipped to grasp that relationship intuitively, just as it’s very difficult to understand in an intuitive way the findings in physics and astronomy about particles that are too small to see or galaxies that are too far to imagine. My new colleague at Tufts, the famous philosopher Dan Dennett, has written a landmark book, Consciousness Explained, which takes on some of these challenges.

When did you know you would pursue an academic career?
Courses I took in college were important influences; they made me realize I wanted to spend my life around universities. What attracted me to philosophy was that it gave me a rigorous platform to question assumptions and normative ways of thinking. That is training that everybody should get in the liberal arts experience: learning how to question notions until you really understand them and can justify them, or until you recognize that there’s more complexity than was evident. What I realized after being in graduate school in philosophy was that I missed science. Cognitive psychology and the emerging fields of cognitive science and neuroscience were inherently interdisciplinary and provided an opportunity to explore some philosophical questions with scientific methods, so I switched.

You have also incorporated your love of music into your research on music perception. Can you elaborate?
A fundamental error that is often made is thinking that cultural influences and biological influences are distinct. The brain is a highly malleable organ, and while it does come with genetically programmed constraints, it has an extraordinary ability to adapt to the environment. The process of acculturation is one in which the brain alters its structure and function to internalize some of the regularities in one’s physical and cultural environment. That is why when you go to a completely different culture the sounds and sights seem different. You perceive the sounds and sights through neural filters that have developed through experience. Music is a well-defined cognitive domain that provides a window into these issues. My students and I have been using computational neural net models to simulate the process by which the brain learns musical patterns. More recently, we have been using functional MRI brain imaging to track the neural basis of music perception and the process of learning.

What attracted you to Tufts?
It was the exciting opportunity presented by Larry Bacow. The provost position was defined with great clarity, and the chance to work directly with the president in advancing Tufts was attractive. Tufts has the best of a liberal arts college and a research university, and is thus well positioned as an institution looking to the future. Today is my 30th day on the job and I’m just loving it. The people I have met are extraordinary. I’ve been impressed with their dedication to their work and to Tufts, and with their tremendous spirit.

What kind of attributes do you need to be a good provost?
I think it’s important to be a good listener; academic leadership is not something that can be exercised only top-down. The faculty in particular have an important stake in the institution; they determine the quality of the learning experience for the student, and the academic reputation, so moving an institution forward means listening first. But that’s not enough. It also takes articulating some strong themes and high expectations in ways that advance the institution. It’s a combination of good listening and strong leadership.

Have you identified any central themes?
I would echo the themes that Larry Bacow has articulated. Building a great institution means attracting great students and great faculty and finding meaningful ways for them to feed off each other.

I will be working hard to enable the faculty to be as good as it can be, to strengthen our research base, and to project a strong and articulated academic reputation. That is going to involve raising resources to make important investments; Tufts is a relatively under-resourced institution with a lot of talent and a lot of potential. But it also means being strategic. I will spend a lot of time trying to identify strategic opportunities and working with students and faculty to advance them.

A theme that is important to me is that Tufts can attract and develop a unique kind of faculty member—a person who wants to build a distinguished international career as a scholar, and who also loves to inspire and mentor students. Not all great scholars are good teachers or really take an interest in students. Not all great teachers are great scholars. But I am convinced there are enough people who have both talents. That is the magic formula. It means providing faculty with resources and incentives to excel at both. But it also means thinking about ways in which teaching and research are not distinct activities, but rather an integrated, organic process of learning for both students and faculty.

The most powerful learning experiences for students come not from the classroom but from working closely with professors and other students in the process of discovery and creation—in research labs, studios, or through thesis or independent work. This kind of active learning experience can only be provided by a faculty who view themselves as both active scholars and devoted teachers, and who welcome the chance to invite students into the creative enterprise at the very leading edges of knowledge. I will seek to maximize opportunities for our students to work with faculty in this way.

Another important theme is to find ways to bring together students and faculty from all our schools and campuses, to exploit synergies that are latent. If we can provide a platform at Tufts for faculty to realize their fullest potential as distinguished scholars and inspiring teachers and mentors, and if we can link up students and faculty across schools in the process, I think we have a winning strategy. Tufts has the right size and attitude toward teaching and research to be able to develop in a way that other great institutions will seek to emulate.






© 2002 Trustees of Tufts University, all rights reserved.