Dear Readers, We were honored this summer when the New Hampshire Supreme Court Society reached out to us for permission to use “The Age of Disinformation” by Ellen Liberman [Summer 2017] during its June Freedom of the Press consortium. The teaching seminar is aimed at lawyers and public school teachers and this year examined challenges to freedom of the press in an era of distrust and fake news.

A few weeks later, we learned the University had won two international awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for stories featured in these pages.

More than 710 institutions from countries as diverse as Australia, Switzerland, South Africa and the United Kingdom took part in CASE’s 2017 Circle of Excellence awards. Judges in particular saluted the story, “Life in Black and White,” by Nicole Maranhas [Winter 2016], which tells the incredible story of how Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala ’78 helped change apartheid laws in South Africa. If you haven’t read it yet, it—like “Age of Disinformation” and all our content—is easy to find at

You’ll next find Liberman’s writing in our Winter 2017 issue, when our cover story will bring URI expertise to bear on your everyday lives, from how to avoid mosquito bites to how to have better arguments with your spouse. Maranhas, meanwhile, wrote this issue’s cover story on antibiotics. We’ve all seen the headlines that warn we’re approaching a post-antibiotic era; her story takes us inside the latest research and the little-known but compelling history of these miracle drugs, and helps us understand what may be coming next.

Maranhas just landed a new job as a writer for URI’s George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience. Who knows what stories she will find to tell there? Stories of struggle and hope, of new paths taken, and just maybe the next big breakthrough in treating and curing neurodegenerative disease. We’re looking forward to reading more.

Pippa Jack
Editor in Chief

mars1Letter from Mars

Sitting in pitch darkness, my crewmate’s headlamp pierced our only window, illuminating the layered lava flows outside. Nonessential systems were powered down because a storm meant our solar panels weren’t charging well. High winds had knocked out our communication back to ‘Earth’ entirely. My crewmate turned to me and deadpanned, “There are no rules anymore.”

This is life on Mars.


I am writing this email from our Martian-analog habitat on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. Due to communication delays, 20 minutes will pass between my pressing “send” and anyone reading this. These delays, and lack of internet, make problem-solving difficult and live interactions with family impossible. That’s just one of our challenges.

Six of us are serving as crewmembers on HI-SEAS Mission V. We will be here for eight months. The purpose of the experiment is to better understand psychological challenges, stressors, and factors that affect crews to better select astronauts for future planetary spaceflight missions. We live in our small dome-shaped habitat, leaving only in simulation space suits, and survive off our own power and water supplies.

Officially, I’m the Health and Performance Officer. I’m responsible for emergency plans, preparing medical equipment for extravehicular activity, and coordinating with ground medical teams. In addition, I run 3D printing to create anything that’s needed, from lab equipment to special occasion cookie cutters. I fly our drone for 3D mapping the environment and outreach, and have even gotten to film an episodic series for The New York Times. Isolation has its benefits.

Imagine living and working with five people you can’t get more than 20 feet away from—for the better part of a year. Conflicts must be resolved quickly since your colleagues will also be the ones you share breakfast with and say goodnight to, every day. It demands patience, humility, and good communication. It requires being cognizant that open-mouth chewing may be deadlier than the outside Martian environment.

Every day includes research tasks to study group cohesiveness and individual stress levels. We are given geological challenges whose solutions we need to plan for, practice, and execute. These range from taking field measurements to exploring underground maze-like lava tube caves carved out by old eruptions.

At URI, I studied electrical and biomedical engineering. One day during my junior year, I was searching for some much-needed inspiration. I stumbled onto an article about engineers who became astronauts and soon found myself applying for NASA internships. Eventually, I landed a position working in the Mission Operations Division of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. I was asked to come back three more times throughout my academic career, each time learning about a different aspect of human spaceflight. After graduating, I decided I wanted to experience working in developing countries and travel to different corners of the world. In the following years, I had the pleasure of doing short-term work and volunteer contracts with an incredible organization known as Engineering World Health. I traveled to Africa over the summer while pursuing a degree at the International Space University, and to Nicaragua the following year to work with biomedical students and staff in several hospitals while studying the local language and culture. Although these two pathways seem disconnected, both industries have aspects of exploration and of improving life on Earth.

And so my path has led me to this. Admittedly, no experience prepared me for needing to remove human waste from our compost toilet, but it’s important to keep life interesting.

The possibility of participating in the space industry revolution was not in my mind at URI. Now I realize it’s alright to come from the smallest state, so long as you keep your dreams big.

Brian Ramos ’11

Mauna Loa, Hawaii

Editor’s Note: Ramos is the second alum to serve at the space dome; Sheyna Gifford, M.S. ’06, spent a year there for HI-SEAS IV. You can read about her experiences in “The Martians,” [Spring 2016].

Mission to South Dakota

I just returned from a second mission to South Dakota as a volunteer with Veteran Service Corps (VSC). As a veteran of the R.I. National Guard, I volunteered with Veterans Stand in December of 2016. This group was formed to support Native American water protectors during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Although I did not end up going last December, I traveled to North Dakota in February to assist in building a camp in support of the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters and water protectors at the nearby Oceti Sakowin camp.

The Cheyenne River Sioux tribe of South Dakota leased the land where we built this support camp, called Four Bands. As a result, VSC has formed a partnership with them.

Unemployment on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation hovers around 90 percent, and 60 percent of households live under the poverty line. Average male life expectancy is 48 years old; along with Haiti, this is the lowest in the Western hemisphere. There have been 13 suicides on the reservation this year alone, many of them teenagers. It is vitally important that programs are created to keep youths on the reservation positively engaged. VSC and the tribe are working to accomplish this goal.

With this in mind, my son Willem and I collected sports equipment from Wickford Little League, parents, and friends to donate to the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, and stayed on the reservation for a few days. While there, we helped refurbish a youth community center and set up outbuildings for the Sioux Sundance ritual.

I am happy to say that the tribe started up Little League softball and baseball leagues this summer!

Veteran Service Corps is a registered nonprofit, and all donations are tax deductible. Donations can be made at or to the Lakota People’s Law Project at

Dave Andrews ’94, Ph.D. ’18

Saunderstown, R.I.

The Great Rhody “R” Debate

I found the latest edition [Summer 2017] of QuadAngles to be one of the most informative ones I have read. Great job! However, I do take issue with “Riley’s Rhode Island Glossary” on page 9. I was born in Pawtucket and raised in Newport. One of the defining characteristics of my speech is a hard “R,” not a dropped “R.” The dropped “R” is a characteristic of Eastern Massachusetts speech, with some inflection creeping into northeastern Rhode Island.

Bye now; I have to go paRk my caR in the gaRage.

Bob Cudworth ’54

Moosic, Penn.


The Roots of His Degree

I dabble in genealogy and am descended from the Northup family, long found in the Kingston, R.I., area. While researching these ties, I read that John V. Northup, Jr., was one of 30 original subscribers to buy farmland in 1888 for the R.I. Agricultural Experiment Station and school. This school, of course, became URI. I wonder what my great-grandfather would think if he knew his contribution enabled me to earn my Ph.D. in chemistry 92 years after he helped establish the university?

John V. Northup, Jr., and his wife are buried in the cemetery on Route 138, just a few miles west of Kingston campus.

W. F. “Rick” Howard, Ph.D. ’80

Haverhill, Mass.