New research from UT Dallas indicates that values should play a bigger role in the study of science in schools.
The research, which appears in the journal Science & Education, found that students typically do not explore predetermined values or evaluate whether they are appropriate to the particular issue they are examining.
Dr. Matthew Brown, an associate professor in the School of Arts and Humanities, and director of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology, said the research shows the importance of teaching science in a way that helps students engage their knowledge of science with social questions.
“You can get students to regurgitate facts, and you can get them to work problems. But getting them to connect what they know about the scientific method or particular areas of science to social issues or policy decision-making is rare,” he said.
Working with Dr. Eun Ah Lee MS’16, MA’16, the UT Dallas research associate who initiated the project, Brown built on arguments espoused by John Dewey, an American philosopher and psychologist who contended that scientific inquiry should include value judgments and that conducting inquiry can improve the ability to make good value judgments.
“What has been found is that when it comes to social issues, people make decisions based on their values,” he said. “So what we are arguing for — and this is what philosophers of science have been arguing for a while — is that there is actually an interaction between the science and the values.”
The UT Dallas Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies will welcome some of the world’s foremost Holocaust scholars, theologians and survivors for the 48th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches on March 3-5.
The collection of experts will share their findings in hopes that the lessons of the Holocaust will remain relevant. Dr. Nils Roemer, director of the Ackerman Center, said the conference focuses on being interfaith, interdisciplinary and international.
“It will be an open environment in which scholars and PhD students join in a conversation and create a community of like-minded individuals who pursue similar things,” said Roemer, the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies. “We also are bringing together people of various backgrounds to discuss the Holocaust from historical, philosophical and theological perspectives.”
This year’s conference will feature three tracks: The Holocaust: History and Pedagogy; Faith, Memory, and Responsibility; and Philosophy and Aesthetics. Roemer said the conference will include discussions about responsibility for the Holocaust.
The keynote speaker on Sunday, March 4, will be Dr. Irene Hasenberg Butter, a well-known peace activist and Holocaust survivor. Butter, professor emerita of public health at the University of Michigan, is a frequent inspirational speaker who shares her experience during World War II and stresses the importance of never being a bystander and that one person can make a difference.
To read the full article, as it appears in the Fall 2017 Edition of UTDallas Magazine, please visit blurred lines.
The excerpt appearing below has been sampled to feature only School of Arts & Humanities staff and faculty who appeared in the original article.
Blurred Lines: Artists and Scientists Are More Alike Than Different
While the traditions and audiences of scientists and artists may be diverse, the creative processes they use to achieve success are more alike than different, and they are motivated by the same shared goal — to understand and describe the world around them and to communicate that understanding and insight to others. At UT Dallas, researchers often blur the lines between science and the humanities, using concepts and tools from the arts to inspire or inform scientific inquiry, and vice versa.
Dr. Alexander Fleming was a Scottish bacteriologist and an amateur painter, mostly with watercolors. He also would paint faces and figures in another medium — bacteria — carefully placing microbes of different strains in a Petri dish so that as they matured, their various colors would form a scene. Fleming’s experience with pigments and painting may well have contributed to one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century — the first modern antibiotic, penicillin. That discovery resulted when he noticed the abnormal appearance of bacteria in a dish that had been invaded by the penicillin mold while he was away on holiday.
“We see quite often in the literature that people are able to take experience in one domain and by means of analogy, use that experience in another domain,” said Dr. Magdalena Grohman, associate director of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology in the School of Arts and Humanities at The University of Texas at Dallas. “That can broaden your possibility of inspiration and, later, a solution. If it weren’t for the fact that Fleming was using bacteria to paint, would he have recognized that something unusual had happened when he saw penicillin mold growing in a dish?”
Defining Creativity Across Disciplines
Since she was a high school student in her native Poland, Grohman has been interested in the psychology of creativity, creative thinking and the creative process. At UT Dallas she teaches courses on creativity, including how it is measured and defined. Students from a mix of majors take her survey class.
When asked whether creativity and inspiration are different among traditional artists versus scientists, she said the issue is complex.
What is known, she said, is that creative people across domains are good at defining a problem, as opposed to strictly solving a problem.
“In cognitive psychology it has been shown that people who spend more time on constructing the problem often come up with more novel, useful and unique solutions to the problem,” Grohman said. “In scientific inquiry, this will be trying to define the problem to solve, while in artistic domains, it may be choosing the right idea to convey.”
While some psychologists contend that creativity is domain specific — it’s different for a mathematician and a poet, for example — others say it is domain general, she said. The debate is open.
“But what we do know from the areas of cognitive psychology and personality research is that there is strong evidence that creative people across domains share one trait: They are open to experience,” she said.
This characteristic includes being imaginative, inquisitive and curious, and having the propensity to hold two mutually exclusive thoughts, Grohman said. It’s also being open to “weird associations” and recognizing atypical analogies or connections in the world around us.
Can Music Make You Smarter?
Whether it’s the physicist who plays the guitar or the sculptor who does backyard astronomy, from a psychological standpoint it’s tricky to prove that experience in one domain can make someone actually perform better in another domain.
“This kind of transfer is hard to prove,” Grohman said. “We still don’t know if that happens or not.”
Dr. Kathryn Evans is on a mission to find out.
Evans started out wanting to be a mathematician. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math and taught the subject. But she also has always had a passion for music, so she got a master’s in performance and has toured the world as a vocalist and conductor. In the 1990s, she came to UT Dallas to help restart the campus’s music and arts programs. She currently teaches vocal and choral performance in the School of Arts and Humanities and is working on developing curriculum across the arts, sciences and humanities with colleagues in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication. In the spring of 2018, she will teach a class called Music, Science and Technology, open to students in any major.
With both math and music constantly in her thoughts, Evans began wondering why certain people pursue both the arts and science, and why those in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — often are also good musicians.
For her doctoral dissertation in the ATEC program, Evans surveyed UT Dallas students about their experience studying music, performing music and in sound design, and how those experiences related to their academic performance in other areas. The student population offered a unique pool: About three-quarters of UT Dallas students major in a STEM field.
“We found there was something about studying music theory that was the No. 1 indicator of academic success,” said Evans, who earned her PhD in 2016.
Music theory involves analyzing the structure of musical pieces, including drilling down to smaller and smaller bits like individual notes, measures and phrases, which leads to a greater understanding of the whole.
“Having to break a big piece down into little pieces — and practice it over and over again — well, that’s how you learn stuff,” Evans said. “That’s how you learn biochemistry, or how to move your fingers on the violin. That’s how you learn the Krebs cycle, which is how we digest our food to get energy.
“That’s what these students said music had taught them.”
The next step for Evans will be trying to test whether experience in one domain actually improves performance in another.
“It’s not as clean as saying, ‘If you can do this, you can do that.’ This type of skills transfer is diffuse and hard to prove,” she said, echoing Grohman’s perspective. “It’s not as simple as saying, if your kid takes music theory and can identify the key of A major, then they’ll be able to figure out stochastic chemistry. It’s not that clean and simple.”
What is clear is that in both the creative and the scientific realms, it takes multiple steps — and sweat — to reach that “Aha!” moment, Grohman said. Innovators who are passionate about their pursuits will spend hour upon hour in the most boring aspects of that pursuit before reaching a final product, she said.
“Success comes only after you go through a certain process,” Evans added. “Whether it’s music or drawing or sculpture or particle physics, the process has a lot to do with breaking the subject down into smaller pieces that are manageable, until your mind puts all those pieces together in a whole that makes sense.”
The Big Picture
As UT Dallas researchers and students practice creativity and inspiration in artistic and scientific endeavors — and often both — Evans cautions that universities and educators should keep their eyes on the big picture.
“One of the takeaways from my time at UT Dallas and my research is that having experience in those two domains, what some consider very disparate areas, is really valuable,” she said. “This is why I worry about us losing one or the other as kids come into college. We have a creeping major problem, where departments keep adding requirements to the point where they essentially lock out everything else that a student could do. Some students take only one course in the arts, or maybe only one science elective, and then they work on their major. And I think that’s terrible. To experience all the other things in life that also matter, that maybe make us human, is also important.
“It’s clear that we need both/and, not either/or.”
The fall 2018 semester will welcome the first students admitted to the master’s program in the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History (EODIAH). The curriculum is tailored around faculty members’ varied backgrounds and access to extensive catalogs, collections and institutions throughout the Dallas area.
The new degree, offered through UT Dallas’ School of Arts and Humanities, is a major milestone in a plan first laid out by Mrs. Edith O’Donnell when she provided the initial gift that led to the institute’s creation in 2014. Prospective students have until Jan. 15 to apply for the inaugural class.
“This program will be part of our young but already flourishing research institute,” said Dr. Sarah K. Kozlowski, assistant director of EODIAH. “We are looking for strong undergraduate applicants with a background in art history who want to take the next steps in either their professional or academic career.”
Dr. Paul Galvez, research fellow and curriculum coordinator for the master’s program, stressed the value of their “object-based program.” Students can look forward to accessing the expansive galleries and collections on the UT Dallas campus, along with others housed at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and The Warehouse.
The intensive 16-month program also has a unique approach to curriculum. A student’s first year will cover foundational skills and knowledge taught by faculty, and will include critical curatorial skills.
“If you’re interested in art history but don’t want to spend all of your time in a library, we offer training for students who want to be in the reserves or our galleries,” Galvez said. “This training normally happens informally, but we are making it part of the curriculum for all our students.”
Students also will take 15 hours of master’s seminars covering a range of topics beyond what comparable programs offer, such as architecture and photography.
EODIAH faculty and staff are most excited about the final year practicum.
“Traditionally, the MA thesis has been exactly that — a long research paper,” Galvez said. “And that’s certainly one route, but what we are offering — which is unique — is a practicum that doesn’t have to just be writing.”
Examples of alternative projects include a catalog of interviews with a studio artist, developing an exhibition proposal, or refining curatorial skills.
“There’s a conservation project where we can hook the interested student up with a conservationist in the area so that they can study the process and learn from a professional,” said Lauren LaRocca, coordinator of special programs.
Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities, was awarded the Confucius Institute Individual Performance Excellence Award at a ceremony held in China during the 11th Confucius Institute Conference. The award was presented by China’s vice premier, Liu Yandong, on behalf of the Confucius Institute headquarters.
The award, given to 30 individuals selected from over 500 Confucius institutes worldwide, recognizes efforts to develop cultural ties with China. The Confucius Institute at UT Dallas has nominated Kratz twice.
“This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Kratz, who has nurtured the Confucius Institute into an institution which has been recognized with a number of awards, including the Award for the Confucius Institute of the Year in 2014,” said Dr. Ming Dong Gu, director of UT Dallas’ institute.
Under Kratz’s leadership, the school established the Confucius Institute at UT Dallas in 2007. Since then, the program has expanded, offering courses on Chinese language and culture, Chinese teacher-training workshops and public lectures, and serving as a testing site for Chinese proficiency exams and a center for China studies in North Texas.
“Although presented to me, this award truly honors the dedicated service of professor Gu and associate director Sharon Yang,” Kratz said. “They are responsible for the continuing success and the bright future of our Confucius Institute.”
Michelangelo’s complex, revolutionary frescoes in the vault of theSistine Chapel remain the standard by which artistic difficulty and accomplishment are measured. Featuring 380 individual figures covering 2,400 square feet of painted surface, the ceiling itself emblematizes its very subject: the power of creation.
For those who cannot make the trip to Rome, Rome has come to Dallas — in virtual form. “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition,”currently on view at The Women’s Museum Building in Fair Park and recently extended through Jan. 8, features full-scale photographic reproductions of Michelangelo’s vault frescoes (1508-12) and his 40-foot-high Last Judgment (1534-41) from the altar wall.
In CentralTrak’s final in a series of MFA graduate exhibitions this summer, Caleb Shafer’s video and sculpture installation opens August 20th from 8-10pm. The artist’s experiments with video and sound culminate in this brief opportunity for patrons to immerse themselves in an orchestrated multi-media experience.
In a discussion with fellow artist and CentralTrak graduate-student-in-residence Clayton Harper, Shafer reveals details about his practice and methodology.
Harper: Many of your works render motion at an almost uncomfortably glacial pace, which to me seems like a deliberate contrast with the fluid, fast manner through which we interface with technology today. What about this sense of time and motion interests you? Is it something you’re attempting to impose on the viewer, or is it rooted in purely formal concerns?
Shafer: The primary function of the motion is to capture the feeling of expectation. That feeling of uncomfortableness, not being able to “understand” what is happening. The extended length and “slowness” gives the viewer time to move past that expectation, revealing the screen itself along with the imagery on the screen.
H: The colors you employ also have this purely synthetic quality, reminiscent at times with Cory Arcangel’s Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations, but where Arcangel’s hues are sterile and austere your compositions seem ethereal, procedural, out of focus. Artificial, but somehow mystical. What are you pushing toward with these interactions between colors? Are they influenced by nature, technology, psychology, or something else entirely?
S: The colors I use become a representation of what could be on the screen or what has happened on the screen. They are the remnants of past media and work, a reflection of what “used to be” there. Using your words mystical and ethereal, they could be seen as ghosts of past media. They reveal how we view and interact with the screen. This is where my interest lies, how we choose what to believe and how we react to different ideas. What about the screen, and the imagery on it, becomes controversial, endearing, important, boring? If the screen’s “content” is reduced down to its basic forms (color, movement, time, shape), that content becomes a different presence, a presence that is invites personal interpretation. This is the space that I like to transform, uncovering something that may not have been seen before while revealing that the screen is an active mediator between you and the content, not just a passive technology in the exchange.
H: Sound is also a central component in your work and, as with your manipulation of color, it feels neither natural nor composed but radiated by unconscious technological phenomena. What kind of synthesis are you trying to produce between sound and image? Are they separate, competing, or synonymous forces?
S: The sound is what can bring the experience of the light and color to the viewing. The image exists as light exiting the screen. Sound resonates all around you, giving you an awareness of the image as light and not just a feature of the screen.
H: What kind of dialogue are you trying to create between hardware (monitor, screen) and software (video, image) in your work? In No Violence and Earth Delete for instance, you employ clusters of small, rugged monitors, a far cry from the sleek, weightless forms we might expect from work in the new media genre. As someone who works with digital media, how do you want these forms to be presented to the viewer?
S: The hardware is part of the video itself; it is not separate from the video. The video cannot exist in the physical world without a screen. The hardware is there as a reminder that the media only exists as physical object when something else is showing it. It is reliant on technology and that’s interesting to me because all current sources of media focus on the content while ignoring how it is to be seen. In very few instances are we able to see a film or other media the way it was created or meant to be seen. By giving each work its own hardware, the piece has its own way of being seen and becomes a finished work. As to the use of older, more industrial hardware rather than a flat screen TV, I believed the works needed a more physical presence instead of trying simulate that they existed outside of screen.
H: The viewer is not merely a hypothetical object in your work, either—in several of your pieces, they are incorporated both actively and passively into the images generated by the work. What kind of power dynamic are you trying to create between the viewer and the image, and would you describe these works as interactive or reactive? Where are you positioning the viewer?
S: In the actively putting the viewer’s image on the screen through video cameras, I am further implicating the viewer a part of the work, increasing awareness to their presence and involvement.
“Efficient Degradation of Contaminants” by Caleb Shafer will be at CentralTrak Aug. 20 – Sept. 3. The opening reception will take place Saturday, Aug. 20 from 8 – 10 p.m.
Sarah Larson, (214) 830-6429
While sorting through old documents in the U.S. National Archives, a UT Dallas historian stumbled upon thousands of pages detailing the destruction and subsequent reconstruction of an Ecuadorian coastal province in the 1940s.
The story, Dr. Monica Rankin would later realize, was one that has remained relatively unfamiliar to both U.S. and Ecuadorian historians until now.
The Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology at UT Dallas will welcome guest speaker Dr. Joan Slonczewski on March 23 to discuss “good viruses” and how they might enhance our health.
Her talk at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Jonsson Performance Hall will dive into reasons why viruses in the blood and gut offer innumerable health benefits that scientists are just beginning to understand.
“Viruses that cause disease are a small fraction of all the viruses in nature,” Slonczewski said. “Some viruses exist normally in our blood. Other viruses became part of our own DNA, where they evolved into essential human genes.”
Slonczewski, who studies the evolution of bacteria and viruses as a biology professor at Kenyon College in Ohio, originated the concept of the Mitochondrial Singularity — the idea that humans are gradually becoming “the mitochondria of their own machines.”
She is also a successful science-fiction author, having written novels such as A Door Into Ocean and, most recently, The Highest Frontier. Her work explores microbes, ecological disasters, feminism and genetic engineering, among other topics.
“We’re very pleased to have Joan Slonczewski as our next speaker in our series of lectures on ‘Viruses, Vectors, and Values’,” said Dr. Matthew Brown, director of the Center for Values. “Professor Slonczewski continues the goal of the series, to explore the social values and cultural meanings associated with viruses, disease, epidemics, vaccinations and public health. She brings a unique perspective that comes from her melding of natural science and literature. In her own work, she represents the mixing of the “two cultures” that is central to the mission of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology.”
Her talk is part of the annual lecture series presented by the Center for Values. In April, Maya Goldenberg from the University of Guelph in Ontario will discuss vaccine education and psychology in light of the anti-vaccine movement.
The Center for Values is one of UT Dallas’ more than thirty research centers and promotes public understanding of the role that technology and scientific discovery play in shaping contemporary culture.
Edith O’Donnell, longtime visionary and patroness of the arts and education, has made a contribution of $17 million to create the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History. The purpose of the investment is to elevate art history at UT Dallas to a nationally pre-eminent stature.
“UT Dallas excels in science and engineering. The moment is right to build a program of the same quality and rigor in art history,” O’Donnell said. “There is a natural affinity between science and the arts. UT Dallas founders Erik Jonsson, Eugene McDermott and Cecil Green actively supported the arts. Now, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for art history, UTD-style.”
Dr. David E. Daniel, president of UT Dallas, said, “The University extends its sincerest thanks and grateful appreciation to Edith O’Donnell. Her dedication to preserving and expanding the knowledge of art throughout the world inspires the creation of this institute.”
Dr. Richard R. Brettell will lead the stand-alone institute as the first Director and Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair. He will also serve as a vice provost, reporting to Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president and provost.
Brettell, a professor of art and aesthetic studies who also holds the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies in the School of Arts and Humanities, said, “Mrs. O’Donnell has made it clear that what interested her about funding art history at UT Dallas was our strength in the sciences, technology and management, thus creating the conditions that could foster a wholly new kind of art history.
“With art historians on campus who study the intersections between art and cartography, art and biology, and art history in the context of big data, UT Dallas has demonstrated a willingness to think about art and about history in new ways,” Brettell said.
O’Donnell said she recognizes that outstanding faculty and students are critical to the institute’s success. Her $17 million lead gift will endow Brettell’s position at the institute, four O’Donnell Distinguished Chairs, 10 O’Donnell Graduate Research Fellowships, and a research and program fund. The institute will provide support for conferences, research travel, and visiting faculty and lecturers.
The institute’s campus offices will be in the new Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, a 155,000-square-foot facility that houses programs in arts and technology, visual arts, emerging media and communications, as well as a 1,200-seat lecture hall.
“The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History will be the first such institute formed in the digital age,” Brettell said. “It will work with the distinguished older institutes” in New York (The Institute of Fine Arts), London (The Courtauld Institute of Art History) and Munich (The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte) as well as the research institutes at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Clark Art Institute and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and “will add a truly 21st-century dimension to the study of art history.”
The institute also will strengthen UT Dallas’ ties to area art museums. The Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art are working with UT Dallas on a partnership in conservation science. This partnership provides the museums with an opportunity to collaborate with UT Dallas scientists. Using state-of-the-art equipment, they will undertake long-term research projects focused on new scientific techniques and technologies to study artists’ materials. One of the new Edith O’Donnell Chairs will be dedicated to conservation science.
“We are very excited by the opportunity to collaborate with the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and its director, Dr. Rick Brettell, to foster a better understanding of the creativity and history embedded in the visual arts,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art.
“The 22,000 works of art in our city’s encyclopedic museum will provide a laboratory for scholars from around the world participating in the life of this new institute. The DMA’s emerging strengths in both technology platforms and scientific research of our collections will also prove to be a fitting complement to the compelling vision articulated by Mrs. O’Donnell and by Dr. Brettell.”
Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, said that the gift “represents a major step in advancing Dallas as an international center for the visual arts.
“Cementing existing programs, bringing new art historical talent to Dallas and fostering interdisciplinary research and institutional collaborations, the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History promises to be transformative not only of the arts in Dallas, but also of the field of art historical studies,” he said.
Existing programs that will be affiliated with the institute include the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Museums, the Conservation Science Initiatives in partnership with the DMA and Amon Carter Museum, the DFW Art History Network and the Texas Fund for Curatorial Research.
Other affiliated museums and projects include the Census of French Sculpture in American Collections, the Crow Collection of Asian Art,Gauguin Catalogue Raisonné, James Magee: The Hill, the DMA, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and the Yale Series of Books on the History and Theory of Art Museums.
The institute will open this fall with events and activities to be announced soon.