How We Expect the Unexpected

Hillel Chiel

To regain balance from an unexpected slip on the ice can require an abundance of rapid movement, but conscious thought isn’t part of the equation.

Or when eating or talking over dinner, no one thinks about altering his breathing even if the food is hotter than expected.

Life is full of unexpected interruptions to rhythmic behaviors that require the flexibility to make subtle to dramatic adjustments, says Hillel Chiel, professor of biology at Case Western Reserve University.  And we just do them.

But, we don’t know how we deal with the unexpected.

Peter Thomas

Chiel and Peter Thomas, assistant professor of mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, will try to learn how we and, for that matter, all animals rapidly and robustly adjust rhythmic behaviors.

The National Science Foundation gave the researchers a $500,000 grant to make progress understanding this mystery.

The ability to make instant adjustments is coveted. Rescue robots built with this flexibility could avoid becoming trapped while crawling through collapsed mines or buildings. And, while mind-controlled prosthetics would be a boon to the paralyzed, the ability of the prosthetics to adjust to real world interruptions without being prodded by thoughts would make them even better.

Chiel and Thomas won’t start by investigating humans–they’ll start with the lowly sea slug and how it adjusts its eating to changes in food.

The results of their work will help us understand how animals and ultimately humans can quickly cope when the unexpected happens, and help create artificial devices that may be better at expecting the unexpected. Read more.

Campus News

Adobe and ITS will provide tips and tricks for creating multimedia, animation, design, web design and video with Adobe Creative Suite 5 from 1:30 to 5 p.m. today in the Thwing Ballroom on the second floor. This session is free and open to students, staff and faculty. Enjoy food, prizes and raffle drawings. For information and to register, go online.  

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Share the Vision is beginning a "Words Matter" campaign; you received an e-mail from Share the Vision with the link.  We have sent out a poll to learn about how you feel on campus and how you think your words and others' affect campus members and the greater community.  Please fill it out here: Words Matter Poll. You may contact with further questions.

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The Class Officer Collective invites you to Halloween at Home 2010. This fall Halloween at Home, which is Oct. 30, will be kicked off at 4 p.m. with a pumpkin-hurling trebuchet and followed by a number of entertainment groups. Throughout the evening, people can enjoy activities organized by student groups, munch on food from area vendors, help out the Cleveland Food Bank, kick back for a drink at the beer garden, and much, much more. As the sun sets, the feature performance will take the stage. Halloween at Home will be topped off at 9 p.m. with a spectacular fireworks display. Come to Freiberger Field on Halloween Eve to celebrate this annual campus tradition. If your group would like to participate by having a Halloween-themed booth, please fill out a booth application online. Any questions or comments may be sent by email.   

For Faculty and Staff

The Department of Human Resources invites employees to attend an open forum on health insurance changes for 2011 noon to 1 p.m. Thursday in Ford Auditorium.  A question-and-answer session will follow a general presentation. If unable to attend, plan to visit the Benefits Fair on Nov. 9 or 10 to speak with a benefits representative.

For Students

Many study abroad opportunities are available to students over winter, spring and summer breaks.  All are three-credit courses open to all undergraduate and graduate students.  An information meeting will take place on Thursday at Thwing in Meeting room C, 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m., and in meeting room Euclid at Thwing on Friday, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Programs offered through the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences for Spring Semester include the following: spring break in Guatemala, Turkey, Sub-Saharan Africa, Netherlands and Ecuador (May).  With the exception of Netherlands, all are approved as global and cultural diversity electives.  Go online for more information or contact Deborah Jacobson, director of International Education Programs for the Mandel School, at 368.6014 or by email for details.

Programs offered through the Department of Bioethics include the following: Winter break in San Jose, Costa Rica (includes an optional week of service learning through the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning before the course) and spring break courses in Paris, Amsterdam, Salamanca and Buenos Aires.  Go online  for more information or contact Michelle L. Champoir, director of International Education Programs for the Department of Bioethics, at 216.368.5377 or by email.

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The university has established the new International Friendship Family Program for international students. Case Western Reserve University alumni, faculty and staff have volunteered to serve as friendship families.  Families get together with their assigned international student every other month for a home-cooked meal, events on campus or an outing in Cleveland. All international students, undergraduate and graduate, are encouraged to participate. Interested students should review and submit the information sheet and request form online by Wednesday. Students will be introduced to their friendship families in November. Completed applications and questions can be sent by email.


Case Western Reserve University has teamed up with Town Hall of Cleveland as the academic sponsor of the longtime speakers series. The next speaker in the 2010-2011 lineup is New York Times reporter and columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of the book Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System - and Themselves. He will speak at 6 p.m. today at the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square. Order tickets online or call 216.241.1919.

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Africa Rising, a documentary portraying the grass-roots movement to end female genital mutilation, will be shown at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Moot Courtroom (A59) at the School of Law. Sponsored by Fredrick K. Cox International Law Center, Law Students for Social Justice, International Law Society, LAMBDA, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Women’s Law Association, Black Law Students Association and SPILF. Dinner will be provided.


The views and opinions of those invited to speak on campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.

Et al.

Jessie Hill, associate director of the Center for Social Justice, presented Children and the Right to Bodily Integrity Before and After Employment Division v. Smith in a symposium at Cardozo Law School Oct. 6-8. Papers will be published in the Cardozo Law Review.

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Andrew Pollis, visiting assistant professor of law, participated in a junior faculty exchange with the University of Maryland on Oct. 7, presenting his article, The Need for Non-Discretionary Interlocutory Appellate Review in Multidistrict Litigation. Pollis presented the article again at the Northeast Ohio Scholarship Colloquium on Oct. 8.

Oct. 25, 2010

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In the News

Mother angry judge emancipated underage, and pregnant, daughter so she could marry

Columbus Dispatch, Oct. 23, 2010
Kathyrn Mercer, a family-law expert at Case Western Reserve University's law school, found it strange that Probate Judge Alan S. Acker didn't allow the girl's parents to address their objections to her marrying her boyfriend at age 17.

Upfront: news and views

Financial Times, Oct. 25, 2010
The Weatherhead School of Management’s new executive MBA program was redesigned with a process called rapid prototyping. One result is the number of women enrolled jumped to 41 percent of the class.

UC-Riverside dean's mission is to create more physicians who will work locally

The Desert Sun, Oct. 25, 2010
Richard Olds, MD, a Case Western Reserve School of Medicine graduate  and former professor at Case Western Reserve, is developing the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, the first new medical school in California in more than 40 years.

Higher Ed News

So Far, So Good

Inside Higher Ed, Oct. 25, 2010
Predictions of chaos and disaster in the wake of legislation that ended the origination of student loans by banks have not materialized, say college officials. The transition to a direct federal loan program has been relatively trouble-free.

Program Cuts Loom
at 4 Public Universities

Chronicle of Higher Ed, Oct. 24, 2010
Illinois, Missouri, New York and Louisiana are among states facing budget cuts for their public universities, which could result in the elimination of some academic programs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated this month that state governments will face a total budget shortfall of $160 billion in the 2011 fiscal year.