December 14, 2010

The "Snap Talk" series highlighted Bucknell's academic excellence.

By Tom Evelyn

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Ready, go. In six minutes or less, explain how "big lasers" are shining new light on the "tiniest stars." Describe the "philosophy of waiting." Or, tell us how your research became "a matter of life or death."

Bucknell faculty members from across disciplines discussed a range of such topics during a two-night set of quick and engaging "Snap Talks" that kicked off a series of events celebrating and leading up to the inauguration of John Bravman as Bucknell University's 17th president on Nov. 14. (Videos of the talks have been posted at Snap Talks.)

In planning the inauguration, Bravman asked a committee of faculty to design several events that would highlight Bucknell's academic excellence and the talents of its students and faculty. These included a panel discussion on the role of liberal arts in higher education, a student-faculty scholarship and research poster session, performances by students and faculty in music, theater and dance, and a display of student art.

Six-minute talks
For the snap talks, faculty were asked to present, in lay language, on pedagogy — the teacher-scholar model, specifically — or on their scholarship and research and to do so in six minutes each, said Tom Solomon, professor of physics and astronomy and chair of the academic subcommittee that helped plan the inauguration. The 17 talks, including one by Bravman, were followed by lively question-and-answer sessions.

On the first night, for example, John Hunter, associate professor of comparative humanities, used clips from Chuck Jones' cartoon masterpiece, "Rabbit Seasoning," to illustrate the benefits of the pedagogic techniques that scholarly engagement makes possible in a talk titled "'Teacher!' 'Scholar!' - 'Rabbit Season!' 'Duck Season!'"

In another talk, "Engineering Design outside the Bubble," Charles Kim, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, shared how student projects designed to help those struggling "to meet basic human needs" fostered deeper learning and a greater sense of civic responsibility.

Second set
During the second set, Harold Schweizer, professor of English, explained in "A Philosophy of Waiting," based on his book, On Waiting, that "waiting is an essential condition for ethical and aesthetic insight" and "therefore an integral part of a liberal arts education."

In "Using BIG Lasers to Study the tiniest Stars," Katelyn Allers, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, described how such technology was helping with the discovery and understanding of brown dwarf star "twins."

And Tom Cassidy, associate professor of mathematics, talked about how his research evolved from studying abstract structures called non-commutative rings to analyzing something more tangible - demographics on mortality and population growth. Thus his talk's title: "How My Research Became a Matter of Life and Death."

Learn more and see all of the talks at Snap Talks.

Contact: Division of Communications

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