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Still Looking For an Internship?

Spring break just bid adieu, leaving us with only about seven more weeks of classes. So naturally all that’s left for us to do is bite our nails, pull our hair, and constantly scroll through the OCS website worrying about summer plans. Since the start of this year, I’ve been polishing my resume, tweaking my cover letter template, and applying to more internships than I can remember. And yet, it’s almost the start of April and I have not yet received a single congratulatory email. Instead, all I have to relish are automated responses thanking me for applying.

The Veritas Project: The Story Behind Dean Pfister’s Fungi

UPDATED: July 30, 2014 at 2:55 p.m.

We met in the Herbarium, a large building at the end of Divinity Ave. that was once the Divinity School Library. Dean Pfister told me he wanted to meet in the space where he had spent his entire career. “My whole life at Harvard has been in this building, so it’s a place to reflect on how I got into studying fungi, and why I’ve done what I’ve done.”

Pfister spent his childhood amidst the beauty of plants, and loved the outdoors from a young age. “I grew up in a rural town in Ohio and my grandparents had a farm. So I was always attracted to being outside and tuned into gardening and plants; how they grow and what you can do with them.”

He first encountered fungi while exploring his grandparents’ farm. “Before I knew anything about fungi, I knew something about plant disease, by observing what was happening in the field. In some ways, I had a very free-ranging childhood: we were given freedom in ways kids these days aren’t.”

Grade school was never a highlight for Pfister. As we talked about it, he smiled, remembering “a lot of clumsiness” during years when schoolwork seemed purposeless. But that changed when he was an undergraduate botany major at Miami University in Ohio, and a professor introduced him to fungi.

One memory in particular comes to mind when he reflects on his growing interest in fungi during his college years. The Miami University campus has rural fringes. “One period in the spring, I had gone out. I went about along the trails, and found this absolutely beautiful large, red cup fungi. I was so excited and thought, ‘This is just wonderful! Nobody has ever seen anything quite like this ever before.’ So I took it back to my professor. He got out a field book, flipped to a page and there it was.”

Seeing the fungi he was holding on the page of that book sparked something in Dean Pfister. “It was kind of a combination of two thoughts. One was, ‘Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t this fungus really beautiful and fantastic?’ And the other part was, ‘Oh, somebody’s already figured this out. This isn’t unknown, it’s known.’” But there was so much to be discovered in the world of fungi: “I got hooked on this idea of the unknown.” Pfister continued studying this little-known organism as a graduate student at Cornell, and then as a botanist doing fieldwork in various parts of the world, from Patagonia to Iceland.

No matter where in the world Dean Pfister finds himself, there is something special about being out in the field. “To look at trees and think about them as architecture. All of nature is telling a story, and some of that is in the aesthetics. Some of it is the peace and quiet that you can find often in being out, and being away. And some of it is a sense of independence when you’re not tethered to a computer or a desk or a cell phone. You’re free in a different kind of way.”

Pfister believes that you can divide the world into the mushroom-lovers and the mushroom-haters. Mycophilic, mushroom-loving societies feel comfortable eating and collecting mushrooms, which leads to “a very different relationship than mycrophobic societies, where people are afraid of the mushrooms. They teach their kids to kick them over, and think, ‘Don’t touch it, because it might be poisonous.’”

In our mycophobic society, where some of us tend to regard fungus as just mold on bread, Pfister emerged as one of the mycophilic. Talking to him, it is clear that he is in such genuine awe of the beauty of nature, and the mystery of an organism we know so little about. He’s loves what he does, and cares about his work in a way that I really hope to one day. And with his years of fungi work, he has spread his wisdom to the College’s student body, whether it was reminding us why we had Yale beat before The Game had begun, or prompting us to look up into the trees to admire little wonders in the Yard.

When July 1st rolls around, we will all miss having him as our Dean. But Pfister will be able to return to the Herbarium, a place he calls his home at Harvard, where he can continue to study the mysterious, wonderful world of fungi.

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This post has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

CORRECTION: March 25, 2014

An earlier version of this post misquoted Interim College Dean Donald H. Pfister as having described certain societies as microphobic, meaning they are afraid of small things. In fact, Pfister used the term mycophobic, meaning that the societies in question are afraid of mushrooms.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: July 30, 2014

An earlier version of a photograph accompanying this article was incorrectly attributed. In fact, the photograph was taken by Sue Brown, the College's associate director of advising programs.

Should We 'Ban Bossy'?

When I was eight years old, my parents took me to one of those living-history towns. You know, the kind of place where you watch costumed tour guides churn butter, and when you ask where the bathroom is they say something like “Well here in colonial Something-town, public toilets haven’t yet been invented—we use chamber pots!” It’s great and all until you really have to go to the bathroom.

Harvard Men's Basketball's 38% Chance

What are the chances that Harvard men’s basketball can win again and beat no. 4-seed Michigan State at 8:40 p.m. tonight?

John L. Ezekowitz '13 has a number: 38 percent, approximately.

So, Crimson fans who had never heard of Spokane before this week, there's hope of Harvard advancing past the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32 into the Sweet Sixteen.

Ezekowitz, whose predictions have been published in the Wall Street Journal three years running, wrote in an e-mailed statement that the model's outputs are based on "factors like offensive and defensive efficiency, strength of the schedule, consistency, NCAA tournament experience (NCAA games played in the prior season times returning minutes), and the number of NCAA tournament teams the team has beaten this season." Translation: You would have wanted him as your partner for your Stat 104 final project while he was an undergrad.

Ezekowitz added, "Michigan State is a tough matchup for Harvard. They are experienced, talented, and well-coached. Harvard will have to limit transition opportunities and play strong defense against Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson inside."

For anyone whose dreams of a perfect bracket are still going strong after this year’s upsets, Professor Carl N. Morris's statistical take will ground your hopes.

"Winning requires guessing at 63 games and getting them all right," Morris, the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective faculty advisor, wrote in an e-mailed statement. Do the math and the odds of a perfect bracket are about one in 100 billion.

Morris's final advice on the billion dollar perfect bracket challenge: It's "not worth taking the time to enter."

Click to read more Crimson coverage about March Madness and the creation of a Harvard basketball dynasty.

Best Views of Boston

On campus and looking for something to do in the last days of spring break? Want to be an aspiring photographer or looking for a great way to get acquainted with the Hub? Boston is a beautiful city, with more than three centuries of architecture and a spectacular natural setting. Here are some of the best views of the city:

Harvard's Very Own Wikipedian

For seniors who have been slow on the uptake, it’s probably time to get a job. The cash flow from your bank account has slowed to a trickle and the care packages from your parents are no more. Luckily, to supplement your lavish Harvard lifestyle of sushi in Lamont and midnight Tasty Burger, there’s a perfect job opening for you.

Drunk in Southie: St. Patrick's Day Recap

If you weren’t in the Boston for St. Paddy’s Day, you missed out—that is, if you weren’t in South Boston for its annual parade the day before St. Patrick’s Day.

I was lucky enough to make it to Irish Pride central last Sunday for the parade, so if you couldn’t make it to Southie, here’s a little play-by-play of what you missed.

Where You Should Eat for Boston's Restaurant Week

Got a big date this week and lack sufficient funds to go to a good restaurant? Go to a school that closes dining halls during Spring Break despite the large number of students who stay on campus (who would do that?!?!)? Flyby’s got you covered. It’s Restaurant Week...or weeks… from March 12-21 and March 23-28—we wonder what March 22 did to get kicked out. Here are some places in the Boston and Cambridge areas where you can get quality food for a (relatively) low cost.

House Rankings 2014: Housing Day Videos

It’s spring break, but you know you miss the excitement of Housing Day. And in spite of the Kirkland Controversy, the Battle of the Beyoncé’s, the Battle of the “Adele Dazeems,” and the face-off between what the Moose says and what the Tree says, Harvard’s twelve houses got creative with their housing day videos this year. If The 2014 Housing Market or the Roving Reporter: Which is the Best House? did not give freshmen a full glimpse of which house is best, here’s a Housing Day videos ranking:

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