President Starr's Weekly Update (12/1/21)

Dear Pomona College Community:

I hope everyone had a restful Thanksgiving break. We have reached the final weeks in a semester that brought both our first-year and sophomore classes to campus for the first time. Our community’s commitment to safety has helped make it possible, and last week we had no COVID-positive test results during the shortened holiday week.

While many of us were away, though, new developments in the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the news. Researchers and public health officials still have much to learn regarding the newly-discovered Omicron variant, but the World Health Organization has named it a variant of concern.

Let me once again stress the importance of vaccine boosters: I strongly urge everyone who is eligible to get one now. All adults are now eligible six months after their Moderna or Pfizer second dose, and two months after the single Johnson & Johnson shot. Boosters are free and easy to obtain in local pharmacies, with extensive information available from Los Angeles County.

As we work together to quell the pandemic, I want to acknowledge the latest work of Pomona scholars in this area. As noted in a recent Pomona web story, Chemistry Professor Matthew Sazinsky is part of a team of scientists developing a computer assessment procedure to predict the structure of antibodies that could neutralize a previously unknown antigen or a novel virus that might emerge in the future.

Sazinsky, Professors Animesh Ray and Jeniffer Hernandez of Keck Graduate Institute and Stefano Lonardi of UC Riverside received the 2021 National Institute of Health Director’s Transformative Research Award, which included a $3.2 million grant to support the project. This is just one example of how Pomona faculty members are taking on the grand challenges.

Finally, it is wonderful to see The New York Times today give much-deserved recognition to light and space artist and Trustee Emerita Helen Pashgian ’56. As a reminder, Pashgian’s work can be seen on campus at the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College.

For all who celebrate, I wish you a Happy Hanukkah, full of light.


All the best,