February 18, 2014 - Current Issue

Letter from Interim Dean Laura M. Argys

Research and Creative Activities

Research and Creative Activities

The role of a university is to unlock new discoveries and to promote dialogue and debate. Faculty at CLAS are well-known for their engagement in discovery and innovation in research and creative activities. Our successful researchers must be driven to ask questions and diligent enough to uncover the answers. Such discovery, and sharing it with colleagues and students is an exciting part of a career in the academy.

This issue of Pinnacle samples the wide-ranging research and creative activities conducted by faculty across the divisions in CLAS, and the path in life that led them to their research pursuits. Read about Anthropologist Julien Riel-Salvatore who discovered his research passion for early hominids as a nine-year old on a family visit to caves in southern France, and the field work of wildlife ecologist Mike Wunder studying the geographic patterns of migratory animals. Dan Rees followed in the footsteps of his father, a prominent labor economist, and using an economic framework, studies decision-making related to health and risky behaviors. Well-known historian Pam Laird traces the importance of collaborative relationships and networking and differences in patterns of networking for women and minorities.

These are but a few examples of the innovation of faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I hope you find their research, and the circumstances that led them to it, as intriguing as I do.  Best wishes for a wonderful spring.


February 18, 2014 | Archive: Letters from the Dean | 343 views

Feature Story

Wunder Explores Boundaries of Migration Research and Discovers New Territories
Wunder Explores Boundaries of Migration Research and Discovers New Territories

Living creatures store chemical signatures in tissue that create a record of where they have been and what they have been up to, and those who know how to read these signals can snoop into an individual's past and predict future behaviors. This isn't the machination of a National Security Agency plot, or a storyline for the next futuristic television crime drama; it's the research realm of Assistant Professor of Integrated Biology Michael Wunder. Wunder and students from his lab are tracking the migration patterns of animals all over North America by comparing these chemical signatures in isotopes of everyday elements like carbon, oxygen and hydrogen in migratory birds and animals. They collect and analyze samples of metabolically inert tissues made by animals (such as hair, nails, whiskers, feathers and scales) and use this data to reconstruct patterns of geography using complex models. Combining mathematical modeling, physical chemistry and variability patterns in biogeochemistry, Wunder is crossing boundaries of science, and heading into territories far from the traditional homeland of a population ecologist.

Read More -> | Issue: February 18, 2014 | Archive: Feature Stories | 134 Views

In This Issue

Rees' Research Challenging Conventional Wisdom
Frontlines - Rees' Research Challenging Conventional Wisdom

It all looks typical at first. Daniel Rees, Professor of Economics, hurries around an obstacle-strewn office in his biking gear, shuffling through piles of journal articles and student papers which smother his desk. This is not a particularly unusual scene around campus until one considers it is late December; the semester has been out for more than a week, the library is closed, and campus is a ghost town. One would think it the least favorable time for a professor to be coordinating research. Not Rees. He thrives on being unorthodox, perhaps intentionally challenging conventional wisdom. "There's definitely something to that. When working on topics like mine, there aren't a lot of places to publish. My articles aren't necessarily criminology or sociology. Sometimes it is frustrating. I've got something to prove: that it is economics, and it is relevant." What about research in traditional economic subjects, like inflation, trade agreements, or unemployment? "No. No," he says emphatically. "It bores the heck out of me."

Read More -> | Issue: February 18, 2014 | Archive: Profiles | 94 Views

Laird Research focuses on Collaboration, Networking, and the
Frontlines - Laird Research focuses on Collaboration, Networking, and the "Self-Made" Man

Pamela Laird, Chair and Professor of History, highlights sharing and collaboration as the connections between her teaching and her research. From collaboration comes a certain excitement that aids in the advancement of knowledge. Excitement gives people the energy to explore difficult questions including how the world is, how the world was, and what the world may become. This questioning can intrigue researchers during any stage of their lives, trigger them to work ceaselessly, and will inevitably pull them toward other intriguing questions. "Sometimes people are excited about a discipline because their goal is to share that excitement about their research and to explore those questions," says Laird.

Read More -> | Issue: February 18, 2014 | Archive: Profiles | 68 Views

Riel-Salvatore Setting the Record Straight on Neanderthals
Frontlines - Riel-Salvatore Setting the Record Straight on Neanderthals

In 1986, the Riel-Salvatore family took a trip to the Lascaux painted caves in southwestern France, and the future of Neanderthal research was impacted forever. "I was one of those really annoying people who knew what they wanted to do when they were nine years old, down to the specific subfield in my discipline," says Anthropology Assistant Professor Julien Riel-Salvatore. At the time, young Julien was obsessed with knights and medieval lore, so on that trip his mother, brother and Julien toured many castles and keeps; almost as an afterthought, they went to see the Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux. After seeing the caves, knights were out and early hominids were in. Upon returning home to Montreal, Canada, Julien prized a souvenir children's book showcasing the cave paintings and discussing the prehistoric artists. He keeps that book in his office to this day, next to tomes and textbooks full of the information archeologists, including Julien himself, have gathered on early modern humans.

Read More -> | Issue: February 18, 2014 | Archive: Profiles | 106 Views

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Tracy Kohm 303.556.6663