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Interdisciplinary Faculty Research


Faculty across the College of Arts and Sciences are engaged in exciting, thought-provoking, paradigm-shifting research and creative work. In the Faculty Research Initiative video series, we invite scientists and scholars to summarize their work to promote engagement and understanding with a wider audience, break down disciplinary divides and find unexpected collaborators.

Andrea Williams

How did singleness — especially for Black women authors — become a viable long-term lifestyle over the first half of the 20th century? Andreá Williams, associate professor of English and director of The Women's Place in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, noticed a pattern of single women writing about marriage in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her research examines this trend’s origins, what it meant for Black women at the time and its impact in the present.

Katra Byram

What is narrative theory? How does the structure of a story actually affect what that story means? Professor Katra Byram from the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures discusses her interest in how stories work as well as her current research into memoirs and novels about mothers and grandmothers of the World War II era.

Miranda Martinez

Miranda Martinez, an associate professor in the Department of Comparative Studies, is an urban sociologist who studies issues of inequality, community-based politics and gentrification. Her current research into "financial citizenship" is uncovering how minority community members relied on informal, often predatory sources of credit in order to finance houses and start businesses.

Nandini Trivedi

How is a collection of electrons like a society? Nandini Trivedi, professor of physics, says in both cases, individuals act differently in a group than they do alone. She studies these interactions in electrons, with an eye to their beneficial practical applications, such as the dissipationless transmission of electricity through superconductivity.

Elizabeth Hewitt

Historians, political scientists and economists have all studied Alexander Hamilton’s financial policy essays from their own disciplinary perspectives. Elizabeth Hewitt, a professor of English, wants us to consider them instead from a literary vantage point, paying particular attention to Hamilton’s rhetoric and analogies. Where many of his contemporaries complained that his writing was unnecessarily complicated, Hewitt argues that it was necessarily so.


Ying Zhang

Ying Zhang, an associate professor of history, studies pre-modern Chinese political culture. In her most recent work, she translates and analyzes poems written by prisoners, exploring what those works reveal about not only the art of the period but also law, government, society and family.


Richard Samuels

Describing himself as a philosopher of cognitive science, Richard Samuels, a professor of philosophy, is primarily interested in the structure and organization of the human mind and where our ideas and concepts come from. He is particularly intrigued by mathematics. What sorts of number-concepts do we possess and how is it we acquire them.


Laura Dugan

Laura Dugan, professor of sociology and Ralph D. Mershon Professor of Human Security, studies governments’ responses to extremist violence. Her research shows that treating it as we do crime — by imposing harsh penalties and deterrents — is actually counter-productive. Using a multidisciplinary approach, she hopes to determine which governmental policies are most effective in curbing terrorist violence over the long term.


Bart Elmore

What is environmental history? As Bart Elmore, an associate professor of history, describes, it combines environmental science with history and examines how humans and nature interact. What is the relationship between Coca-Cola and chemical company Monsanto? Elmore explains.



E.J. Westlake

Chair of the Department of Theatre, Film and Media ArtsE.J. Westlake is especially interested in the performance of collective identity — in plays, parades and other public events such as pageants and politic demonstrations. She is currently writing a book on El Gueguense, the national dance-drama of Nicaragua. Focusing on the title character, a bilingual trickster, Westlake explores not only the role he plays within the traditional drama but also the various interpretations of and comparisons to el Gueguense that are common even today.


Nick Kawa

Environmental anthropologist Nick Kawa, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, studies how human culture mediates our relation to nature and the environment. Currently, he studies our relation to human excrement and examines ways in which we might come to see our waste as not being “waste” at all.


Erin Lin

Erin Lin, assistant professor of in the Department of Political Science, studies the effects of war — and especially of unexploded bombs — on agricultural development. Concentrating on the jungle villages along the Cambodia-Vietnam border, Lin has used her skills in ethnography, geocoding and econometric analysis, as well as data mined from soil fertility maps, the Cambodian census and payload drop coordinates from declassified U.S. Air Force records from the Vietnam War, to gauge the effects on farming and locate where remaining unexploded ordnance might be.


John Beacom

Neutrinos, almost-massless subatomic particles, zip through matter all the time. John Beacom, the Henry L. Cox Professor of Physics and Astronomy, researches neutrinos and how they interact with other forms of matter. From this, he can tell the temperature of the core of the sun and whether a nuclear reactor on Earth is functioning.


Kendra McSweeney

People shape the environment, and the environment shapes people, says Kendra McSweeney, professor of geography. Her latest research examines the devastating impact of U.S. drug policies on Indigenous people in Central America, which has pushed organized drug traffickers into increasingly remote areas, displacing populations native to those regions.


Anita Hopper

What are tRNAs and what do they have to do with protein synthesis in the cytoplasm? Anita Hopper, a professor of molecular genetics, tells us while also discussing the surprising phenomenon of tRNA retrograde nuclear import in which tRNA travels back from the cytoplasm to the nucleus. Her lab works to better understand that process and the role it plays in numerous biological functions.