VanDerveer retires; Saller makes pizza; FLiCKS returns

April 23, 2024

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Many a cheer for VanDerveer. 

After three NCAA titles, 14 Final Fours, and 38 seasons at Stanford, women’s basketball head coach Tara VanDerveer will retire on May 8. With 1,216 NCAA victories under her belt—more than any other college basketball coach—she played a key role as women’s basketball ascended in popularity. (This month, for the first time ever, the NCAA women’s championship game, between Iowa and South Carolina, drew more viewers than the men’s.) At a recent press conference, VanDerveer said that after contemplating retirement “at least 20 times in my mind,” she finally felt ready. Longtime associate head coach Kate Paye, ’95, JD/MBA ’03, who was part of VanDerveer’s 1992 championship squad, will take the helm of the women’s team. As for VanDerveer, she will still be involved with Stanford Athletics but in an advisory capacity. When you’re the coach, she said, “you’re on 24/7, and I’m ready for maybe just the seven, not the 24.”

Dark matters.

Moving day is almost here for the world’s largest digital camera built for astronomy. Scientists at SLAC have been constructing the 3,200-megapixel Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) for two decades, and it’s now time to package (anyone know where we can find gigantic boxes?) and ship the three-ton, car-sized camera to Chile, where it will be driven up an 8,900-foot mountain in the Andes to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. Once in place, the LSST will snap a picture every 15 seconds for the next 10 years, “producing the greatest movie of all time and the most informative map of the night sky ever assembled,” said Željko Ivezić, director of Rubin Observatory construction. The LSST’s optical system is so powerful, it could grab a detailed photo of a golf ball from 15 miles away. The camera will capture images with billions of stars and galaxies, giving scientists unprecedented insight into everything from our own solar system and the Milky Way to the mysteries behind dark matter and energy. “There are so many scientists here at SLAC and around the world who will find something valuable in the data this camera will produce,” said Risa Wechsler, a professor of physics at Stanford and director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at SLAC. “This is an exciting time to be studying cosmology.”

So hungry we could eat at the president’s house.

Richard Saller in his kitchen flanked by interns Annie Reller and Kalissa Green Photo: Summer Moore Batte, ’99

University president Richard Saller enjoys pizza baking, so Stanford sent our intrepid student interns to Hoover House to see what’s shaking. Watch Annie Reller, ’24, and Kalissa Greene, ’25, help Saller in the kitchen while talking about garlic and spinach, introductory seminars and campus protests. Oh, and whether the weather on campus is generally warm or cold. Turns out that point is highly dependent on where you hail from.

A heated situation.

When oceans heat up, stressed coral reefs expel their protective algae, leaving them pale and vulnerable to disease. Most of them, that is. Professor of oceans and of biology Stephen Palumbi has developed a test that can identify heat-resistant coral, which may aid in protecting the reefs we have left. “The big idea is that evolution has crafted a solution to help corals in the future,” said Palumbi. “It’s done, it’s built, it’s sitting there, and we need to learn how to use it.”

The ketone key.

The ketogenic (keto) diet has, in recent years, gained popularity as a weight-loss practice, but a new pilot study at Stanford Medicine shows promise for using the diet to treat mental health conditions. First introduced by physicians in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy, the low-carb, high-fat diet has been shown to reduce the excitability of neurons in the brain. With that connection in mind, Shebani Sethi, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, spent four months studying 21 participants with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and a metabolic abnormality like obesity or insulin resistance (common side effects of antipsychotic medications). When adhering to a keto diet, the participants lost weight and improved their metabolic markers. Three-quarters of them also showed clinically meaningful psychiatric improvement. “It’s very promising and very encouraging that you can take back control of your illness in some way, aside from the usual standard of care,” said Sethi.

But wait, there’s more.

In a letter sent to undergraduate students admitted to the Class of 2028, President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez emphasized the importance of freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression at Stanford—and encouraged students to engage disagreement “with an open and curious mind.”

On Saturday, Cardinal men’s gymnastics won its fifth consecutive NCAA championship. Sophomore Asher Hong took three individual titles. (Here he is on the parallel bars. You know what? Watch all the team’s reels. They’re incredible.) And in case you missed it, Stanford recently covered the rise of the men’s team on the national stage.

You can’t teach kids to code if they don’t understand logic, according to associate professor of computer science Michael Genesereth. After starting a grassroots initiative to introduce logic education in secondary schools around the country, Genesereth has organized the first International Logic Olympiad, with the first round taking place later this week.

Daily reporter Sarayu Pai, ’22, spoke to Stanford tree experts and compiled leafy factoids just in time for Arbor Day this Friday. Among the discoveries: Coast live oaks make up more than half of the 43,000 trees on campus, with at least one as old as the U.S. Constitution. And the tree yucca in front of the Anderson Art Collection was recently crowned the largest of its species by the California Big Tree Registry.

Metformin, a type 2 diabetes medication, can cause weight loss, but the process was a mystery, until now. It turns out that metformin increases lac-phe—the same hunger-suppressing molecule produced by the body after vigorous exercise.

For millions of Americans with major depressive disorder, a new, nonpharmaceutical treatment may help: VR goggles. Activities like exercising, socializing, and going outside can ease symptoms of depression, but a new study found that engaging in these activities in VR may be just as beneficial.

Water problems? Call an economist. Nobel Prize winner and professor of economics Paul Milgrom, MS ’78, PhD ’79, says water management is ripe for a market fix. He’s using California’s complicated water rights system as a case study in how a flexible market that incentivizes conservation and adjusts based on rainfall could help overcome policy challenges.

FLiCKS is back! The Sunday-night tradition that started in the 1960s and faded to black in the 2010s was revived by undergraduates this month with a screening of Saltburn. A few things were different: The event was held in the GSB’s CEMEX auditorium rather than in MemAud, for example. But the antics of yore were on full display, down to the TP raining from the balcony.

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