When biology professors aren’t lecturing on the evolution of the species, and music professors are finished helping students use muscles in their bodies beside the vocal chords to sing their best, they spend their time researching the effects of chemotherapy on the human body or recording their own CDs.
A number of professors across all departments presented their ongoing research projects on Tuesday, Oct. 27, in the Cavalla Room. The following is a sample of those who presented at the AAUP-sponsored event.
Fine Arts professor plays with architect’s themes
Fine Arts Professor Deborah Rosenthal usually focuses on her painting, but her most recent work is different.
“My latest project is an artist’s book,” Rosenthal said. “It consists of prints that I created and texts by a writer named Jed Perl.”
According to Rosenthal, the book takes ideas and motifs inspired by 17th-century Roman architect Borromini. Both Rosenthal and Perl spent time in Rome and were fascinated by Borromini’s work. The book includes two types of prints — intaglio and linoleum cuts — both of which Rosenthal teaches her students.
Rosenthal takes the themes of Borromini’s architecture and plays with them in her prints. Themes that can be found in Borromini’s architecture and, as a result, in Rosenthal’s prints, include heads as related to other forms, such as fruit or seashells; columns; repeated patterns; curves that look as though they were made by a lathe; cross forms and geometric patterns; and the window frame as related to the head or face.
This experience was different and interesting for Rosenthal.
“There was an interchange of ideas between Jed and me,” she said. “Sometimes Jed wrote something and I responded. Sometimes I created something and Jed responded.”
Rosenthal and Perl’s work was also published in the Yale Review, the literary magazine.
Philosophy, politics impact music education
A Westminster Choir College professor of music education, Patrick Schmidt, researches “conceptual theoretical work inside music and education.”
“I look at issues in philosophy and politics and the implications they have for music and education,” he said. “I try to bridge the issues connected to music and education.”
According to Schmidt, in the early 1990s, guidelines were developed for music education following standards from other disciplines. These guidelines are known as the National Standards for the Arts, and Schmidt says they haven’t been reviewed since 1994.
“I want to see what we can do to think about broadening these standards,” he said. “We have to look at whether these practices are still useful and what we can do to improve them.”
Schmidt is in favor of broadening these guidelines.
“[Adopting the guidelines] was voluntary, but it was really because of the standards in the other disciplines that made it happen,” he said.
Chemistry prof eyes human-drug interaction
Take two hands. Two hands look alike, have the same number of fingers and each looks like the other. When a person puts those two hands together, they become mirror images, but you can’t put them on top of one another and still have the two hands looking the same.
Drugs have the “same exact handedness because this causes them to react in different ways in the human body,” according to Dr. Danielle Jacobs of the Department of Chemistry and Physics.
“So one drug could react really well and have a beneficial effect and the other drug could have a really poor effect,” she said.
This topic has been an area of interest to Jacobs since graduate school, but Rider allowed her to put her interest to use.
In May 2009, Jacobs and two students began their research.
“We just jumped in the lab,” Jacobs said. “They set up everything; they did all of the research. So I came up with the ideas and I helped them, but they executed absolutely everything.”
As science can have its ups and downs, Jacobs feels the best part of any project is a good result.
“Everything is really bound in science; we have rules we have to follow,” she said. “When I get a result that’s negative, I can’t interpret it in a positive way.All I can do is branch off from that or learn from it and move on to a different direction. Ninety-nine percent of things in science are a step back and the 1 percent that moves you forward is so encouraging and so exhilarating, and they come so few and far between that you just get so excited.”
‘Other side of the world’ fascinates across ages
The other side of the world can seem mysterious, whether you lived in ancient Greece or in present-day America.
Dr. Matthew Goldie’s new book, The Idea of the Antipodes, is a historical study on the concepts of the places and people on the other side of the world, from ancient Greece through the Middle Ages, Early Modern period, and age of exploration, to present day literature and digital media.
“So who is on the other side of the world?” Goldie questions. “Is there land down there? How might we be in contact with them?”
He began this research four years ago.
“People have thought about the other side of the earth for millennia,” Goldie said. “And it seems a lot of the way we think about the earth today has retained those features of how they were thinking about it from the first time, from Plato basically.”
He was able to explore new possibilities in areas of literature.
“It allowed me to bring together two interests of mine, the Middle Ages and ancient material, and post-colonial literature from around the world,”Goldie said.
He will continue with more projects as he plans to possibly write about food, as well as a book on islands.
Creativity and talent can bridge disciplines
Careful examination of theories, philosophical perspectives and research findings from divergent fields can help to challenge current theories about creative intelligence, according to a professor of graduate education.
Dr. Donald Ambrose is trying to expand the way people look at creativity, talent and intelligence by making connections between separate fields. He said that academics often focus too much on specific disciplines, at the expense of insights that can be gained by looking at a bigger picture.
“I like to say that academics often drill samples from one ‘tree’ to see what’s inside, at the expense of others,” said Ambrose. “What I want to do is step back and try to look at the whole forest. I want to be able to spot the big patterns.”
One example he gave was a connection between business and politics. In American politics, he said, leaders are driven by the desire for power and prominence, and will shift blame when something goes wrong to avoid losing this. He noted that, the way the business world works, selfless behavior generally results in failure, while more individualistic behavior yields more profitable results. He affirmed that perhaps people are subconsciously influenced to devote their efforts to a different area, building different skills than they would have in a different culture. Perhaps, he said, the same person would have developed different talents in a Native American community, where there is a more communal focus and leaders only step out from behind the scenes to accept blame for failures.
– Kristie Kahl, Dalton Karwacki and Emily Landgraf