The University of Pittsburgh
School of Arts & Sciences Snapshot

June 2011, Issue 9

Portrait

Suzanne Townsend Martinez: Finding Balance Where Art and Science Meet

When Suzanne Martinez (A&S ’01), gives advice to current students in the Department of Studio Arts at the University of Pittsburgh, she gets straight to the point.

Don’t settle for what comes easily to you. Get out of your comfort zone.

Lest you think she’s spouting empty rhetoric, consider what Martinez learned firsthand during her time at Pitt. She entered the University with her future clearly outlined. She had chosen Pitt for both its location (far enough from home but not too far; in-state to help keep tuition bills in check) and its excellent pre-med program. Like her father, she planned to become a doctor. But, ironically enough, it was her physician father who convinced her to take the path less traveled.
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In Focus

Christina Das: Making a Difference, One Experience at a Time

Pitt’s First Experiences in Research program makes some basic assumptions about its student applicants. It assumes it will draw from a pool of highly motivated freshmen who want to do meaningful work, from day one.

Check.

It assumes that, by letting said freshmen get their feet wet doing research, it will help ensure a fruitful academic career.

Naturally.

And, lastly, as the name indicates, it assumes that this will be the first research experience a freshman will have.

Or not.
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Close Up

Bita Moghaddam: Uncovering New Insights into Mental Illness

To observers and casual acquaintances, Melissa* seemed to be a well-contented and sweet girl, if perhaps a little naïve. But, as she entered her teen years, family and close friends noticed that she felt things very deeply, perhaps too intensely. Typical boyfriend fights and breakups prompted days of sobbing; stressful school situations seemed more fraught than normal. Then, a string of tragedies hit, over the period of a few years. First, a romantic interest was killed in a tragic accident. Next, a classmate died in a head-on car crash. A close friend got involved with an internet sexual predator.
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Wide Angle

Inaugural Fellows Become Invaluable Colleagues

In January 2011, after an intensive three-month recruitment and screening process, the School of Arts and Sciences welcomed its inaugural cohort of postdoctoral fellows. These 11 outstanding scholars, selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 900 candidates, represent a diverse range of disciplines and research specializations, from African Art in Renaissance Europe, to American religious communities, to the linkages between public opinion and elite behavior.
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Flashes

John McDowell, Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy in the School of Arts and Sciences, has received a 2010 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. McDowell, whose major research interests are Greek philosophy, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology, and ethics, is a fellow of the British Academy and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Established in 2001, the Mellon achievement award, which comes with a $1.5 million grant, recognizes humanities professors who have had a lasting influence on their students and colleagues and supports ongoing work that promises to make a significant contribution to the recipient’s field and to overall humanistic inquiry.

A 2,300-year climate record recovered by University of Pittsburgh researchers from an Andes Mountains lake reveals that, as temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rise, the planet’s densely populated tropical regions will most likely experience severe water shortages as the crucial summer monsoons become drier. The Pitt team, led by faculty and alumni from the Department of Geology and Planetary Science, found that equatorial regions of South America already are receiving less rainfall than at any point in the past millennium. The researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that a nearly 6-foot-long sediment core from Laguna Pumacocha in Peru contains the most detailed geochemical record of tropical climate fluctuations yet uncovered.

The World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh will host the sixth biennial conference of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) November 3-6, 2011. The conference theme is “African Liberation and Black Power: The Challenges of Diasporic Encounters Across Time, Space, and Imagination.” Patrick Manning, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History and director of Pitt’s World History Center, serves on the ASWAD executive board of directors.

Be a part of the fun this fall when the University of Pittsburgh celebrates Homecoming 2011. Visit the Pitt Alumni Association Web site regularly for a full schedule of activities and events.

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