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Adding Some Pep To Academia

Adding Some Pep To AcademiaTuftsgraduate Steve Nowicki may be dean of Duke's natural sciencesdepartment, but he's also an enthusiastic trombonist for the school'spep band.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.04.05] D-E-A-N! What does it spell? While respected and admired,university deans do not typically evoke wild cheers – except,maybe, when they're rolling around on the gym floor with a surfboard.Such is the case of Tufts graduate SteveNowicki, who not only heads Duke University's natural sciencesdepartment but also plays trombone in the pep band.

"It'sa great way, a sustained way, to meet students on their own turf,"he told the Raleigh News and Observer. "They dokind of treat me as an older kid along for the ride."

After joking with a drum major who works in his lab about joiningthe band, Nowicki said "what the heck" and ended uptaking the plunge.

Nowicki hasplayed the trombone since the fourth grade, continuing his studyof the instrument while at Tufts.

"Thisisn't really hard music," Nowicki said of the songs playedby the band, such as "Wipeout,""Rock Lobster"and the Duke fight song. "And it's a heck of a lot of fun."

While hisscientific research focuses on the evolution of behavior –with emphasis on animal communications such as birdsong –his behavior at basketball games is regarded with more amusement.

One of thehallmark antics of the Duke pep band is for the trombone sectionto run out on the basketball court with a surfboard and then fallto the floor, rolling back and forth as the Duke Blue Devil mascotjumps up and "surfs" on top of them.

"If hewants to go out and roll on the floor with the kids, that's finewith me," Duke's band director Neil Boumpani told the Newsand Observer. "I have no problem with that. He's a braverman than I."

Before joiningthe band, Nowicki wanted to be certain the move was appropriate.

"I knewthe answer, but I wanted to make sure," Nowicki told theAssociated Press. "This really is a great researchuniversity, but if you can't kind of let your hair down once ina while, then you've gotten kind of stuffy."

After receivinghis undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tufts, Nowicki obtaineda doctorate in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell. He cameto Duke in 1989 and became dean of natural sciences last year.

The same irreverencehe exhibits courtside can be found in one particular "requirement"for the Ph.D. in his program – graduates must perform a"circus trick" like unicycle-riding or fire-juggling.

Still, Nowickirealizes that his double life must be perplexing to some.

"I'msure I look very out of place to [the band students] when theysee me on campus in my suit and tie," he told the AssociatedPress.

"WhenSteve is out there, it doesn't seem like he's that much olderthan the rest of us," Duke junior and fellow band trombonistCharlie Suwankosai told the News and Observer. "We'venever had to push him to get him energized. He's over there dancingand moving."

Nowicki'stenure in the Duke band may expire with the Blue Devils' NCAAtourney chances this spring.

"Thisis my year to do this," he told the Associated Press."I know I couldn't survive doing this too long."

But he doesnot regret shaking up the concept of what a university dean canand can't do.

"Whoin their right mind wouldn't want this opportunity?" Nowickisaid to the Associated Press. "This is a uniqueopportunity for me to see this side of Duke."






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