Adventures in Academia

The six faculty members who received tenure in 2013 tell us about new developments in their fields.


Ken-Abrams.jpgKen Abrams
associate professor of psychology
“In the field of psychopathology, researchers are examining—under carefully controlled conditions—the potential therapeutic value of illicit drugs. For example, preliminary studies show that Ecstasy may be useful in treating individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, LSD may improve the symptoms of chronic depression, and psilocybin mushrooms may help people overcome addictions. These findings may rattle some nerves, but I appreciate the possibility that science may trump politics with respect to potential new treatments for mental disorders.”


Arnad-Chaklader.jpgArnab Chakladar
associate professor of English
“The world of South Asian fiction is expanding dramatically. Every year more writers are being published and more English translations are available. I am constantly challenged to keep up with the writers, evaluate whether existing paradigms of critical thought remain viable, and examine how literature manages to remain relevant (if it does) in a region—and world—that is driven by newer media.”


Pierre-Hecker.jpgPierre Hecker
associate professor of English
“You’d think there wouldn’t be much new to discover about Shakespeare, who’s been dead for four centuries, but hardly a month goes by without something coming to light. Last winter as I was teaching Richard III, archaeologists confirmed that remains found under a parking lot in Leicester were Richard’s. DNA tests of descendants living in Canada were a match. The consensus used to be that Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard’s deformities was Tudor propaganda, but the king’s skeleton shows that he had severe scoliosis, so at least that much was true. It also shows that he suffered a dozen wounds from different weapons, so he went down fighting. It’s CSI: Shakespeare!”


Judith-Howard.jpgJudith Howard
associate professor of dance
“Contemporary dance places the body at the center of learning and creating across disciplines. Current influences are somatics and technology. Somatics is an approach that focuses on developing and researching the awareness of the body and mind through movement. The cutting-edge partnership between technology and dance today is demonstrated by the work of choreographers such as William Forsythe and members of Troika Ranch, a company that combines dance, theater, and interactive digital media in live performances. Scientists and choreographers are combining research and art to form new expressions of our contemporary world, as in Liz Lerman’s Ferocious Beauty: Genome project. The definition of dance is continually expanding. I love being part of its tradition as well as its evolution.”


Tsegaye-Nega.jpgTsegaye Nega
associate professor of environmental studies
“The growing field of surface metrology [the science of measuring small-scale features on surfaces] is providing new metrics for quantifying landscape variables that change gradually over space (such as elevation and temperature). Developed by researchers in microscopy and molecular physics, these metrics are still relatively unknown and rarely used by landscape ecologists. However, when it comes to quantifying gradual changes in landscapes, surface metrics can provide better results than more commonly used models that analyze landscapes as mosaics of discrete patches. I am currently applying surface metrics to analyze the road traffic noise surface model I created for the Twin Cities metro region.”


George-Vrtis.jpgGeorge Vrtis
associate professor of environmental studies and history
“The field of environmental history is burgeoning with innovative ideas, approaches, and programs. Environmental historians are investigating issues that promise a deeper understanding of contemporary environmental problems, such as research on the complex interplay of culture and fossil fuels, disease and health, agriculture and food, and the wilderness movement. I love the richness of this field—its vitality and relevance, its creativity and interdisciplinarity, and its global character and ambitions.”


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