Writing the Personal and the Profound

For most professors, writing and publishing in their disciplines is a regular extension of their scholarship. But when writing becomes personal—and passionate—it has a different impact on both the audience and the scholar. Recently, three Gordon professors saw such pieces published.

In the current issue of Commonweal Magazine, Agnes Howard, associate professor of English and history, explores the difficult but crucial topic of coping with miscarriage. Her article, “Comforting Rachel: How Christians Should Respond to Prenatal Death” provides an insightful guide on the profound emotions around losing a baby as well as a context for Christian communities.

Denise Frame Harlan, adjunct professor of English, takes on the many challenges of the writing life itself, from health and relational disruptions to how aging and physical space affect the very act of putting words to paper. Her essay entitled, The Swing,” appears in Ruminate Magazine.

And as a favor to an administrator, Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, had the difficult task of watching and reviewing a DVD series that addressed her passions: evangelical faith, science and truth. It wasn’t an easy writing project, given the contentious and often tense perspectives from within the various groups. This month, BioLogos posted her essays Science and The Truth Project, part one and two” on its web site.

Boorse Invited to Address National Leaders During Climate Week NYC

Invited as one of only 20 speakers to address an influential group of leaders, Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, will be making brief remarks at the opening ceremony of Climate Week NYC 2013 on Monday, September 24, at the Morgan Library & Museum, and participating in a panel discussion later. Because of her work on the NAE report, Loving the Least of These, that addresses, in part, the economic implications of climate change, Boorse was invited by a representative to the United Nations to address the group.

She reflected the voice of evangelicals concerned about climate change, especially noting why climate change is an issue evangelicals should care about, how perceptions are changing, what actions the U.S. could take to address climate change going forward and how evangelicals can be part of that. 

Climate Week NYC is the annual summit that convenes the world’s top government, business and thought-leaders to discuss the potential of innovation, clean energy and smart technologies to boost growth and create jobs. The Fifth Climate Week NYC addresses the theme: “Our low carbon future: Leadership. Opportunity. Security.”

The Opening Ceremony brings together a coalition of political, business and community leaders who will discuss their shared commitment to a Clean Revolution, and offer specific ideas on how American leaders can collaborate to invest in clean energy, efficiency, innovation and infrastructure for a better future.

Boorse will be joining other speakers such as: David Kenny, CEO, The Weather Channel;
 Deborah Fikes, Permanent Representative to the United Nations for World Evangelical Alliance;  Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank; Meg Whitman, CEO HP; Amy Davidsen, Executive Director, The Climate Group North America
Rt Hon Tony Blair (late arrival);
 Dr Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA; Bob Inglis, Executive Director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative;
 Sen. Timothy E. Wirth, Vice-chairman, UN Foundation, and
 Ted Turner, Founder and President, UN Foundation.

Public Scholarship: Faculty Lend Expertise to the News

July has been a busy media month for several Gordon professors as they’ve discussed their expertise with national and regional journalists, and offered unique perspectives for the public with their observations on current issues. Here are a few examples of how Gordon professors are helping shape public discussions:  

On July 19, Ruth Melkonian Hoover, chair and associate professor of political science and international affairs whose most recent scholarship focuses on evangelicals and immigration, discussed her perspective on the immigration reform efforts in Congress with a national reporter with the Religion News Service. The story also appeared on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog.

On July 18, Chemistry Professor Irv Levy discussed Gordon’s commitment to green chemistry and its inclusion with only a select few other colleges and universities in the nation for a story in GreenBiz.Com.

Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, was quoted July 10  in a Sojourners Magazine article regarding a recent letter sent to Congress from evangelical scientists on climate control.  

On July 8, Political Science Professor Timothy Sherratt wrote an opinion column on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on marriage that ran in the Salem News.

That same day in the Salem News, English Professor Mark Stevick was the focus of a front page story regarding the two decades success of his play “Cry Innocent” and its adaptation to film, which the paper also endorsed later that week in its own editorial page. Stevick’s new play, “Good Night, Captain White,” an historic comedy of one of Salem’s most notorious murders, opens this weekend July 26 at the Griffen Theatre and has also received positive press, including this prominent story in the July 25 edition of the Salem News. 

Six Faculty + Summer Grant = Interesting Scholarship

Each summer at Gordon, the Provost’s Office invites applications for small grants that Faculty can use toward ongoing research and scholarship in between academic years. This summer, six were awarded stipends, ranging in projects from screenwriting and data reviews to humanitarian logistics and fiction writing. Here are two recipients, with the others to follow:

For his project called,”Impacts of habitat fragmentation on small-mammal carriers of Lyme Borreliosis, Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis,” Greg Keller, associate professor of biology  and curator of birds and Mammals, says his summer research will include: “1) an increase in efforts to study small mammals and tick-borne diseases; and 2) an application to the National Science Foundation Research in Undergraduate Institution program for grant support. Habitat fragmentation may impact small mammals and transmission of parasitic diseases they carry. Students and I will live-trap small mammals, collect tissue samples, and collect ticks to analyze for infectious agents of Lyme borreliosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. We will compare four habitats to identify specific types of fragmentation that affect these measures. This project will yield considerable data, incorporate student assistance, result in publication, and foster collaboration.”

For her research entitled, “Ritualized Interpretations: A Hermeneutic Account of Social Identities,” Lauren Barthold, associate professor of philosophy and coordinator of gender studies minor, describes her abstract this way: “Most contemporary feminist theories of identity tend toward either gender realism, with its untenable metaphysical assumptions, or post-structuralist gender deflationism, with its danger of political quietism. In an attempt to move beyond this polarizing and paralyzing dilemma, my manuscript draws on the resources of the hermeneutic tradition in philosophy, specifically that of Hans-Georg Gadamer, and argues that identities are like interpretations. Conceiving of identities as interpretations affirms their plural, dialogic and ritualized nature and shows how their main function is not to express the essence and meaning of an individual but to foster community creation.”

Writing the Textbook for the Environment

Dick Wright and Dorothy Boorse recently celebrated the release of their co-authored text with students at Gordon.

These past several months, Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, hasn’t been in the thick of the marshes as much as usual. Instead, she’s been in the thick of words, writing and editing a new edition of a textbook on the environment.  Boorse co-authored the environmental science text with her own former Gordon professor and mentor, Dick Wright, who has worked on several editions of the text for the past twenty years. This was his last as he passed on the baton to Boorse. One conference colleague once told Boorse that, “Dick Wright is the best marine scientist I’ve ever known.” Boorse said she’s always found it “a joy and an honor” to work with Wright.

Here’s how the publisher (Pearson Higher Ed) describes the text: “With dramatically revised illustrations, the Twelfth Edition of Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future is even more student-friendly while retaining the currency and accuracy that has made Wright/Boorse a best seller. The text and media program continue to help students understand the science behind environmental issues and what they can do to build a more sustainable future, with further exploration of the hallmark core themes: Science, Sustainability, and Stewardship.”

Story/Topp Win Grant to Help Pastors Gain Scientific Literacy

Craig Story (l) and Justin Topp

Clergy and pastors are not always informed on scientific issues, in part because religion and science have traditionally seemed at odds. But two biology professors hope to change that, thanks to a $200,000 grant from the BioLogos Foundation.

The project, “Moving Pastors Toward Scientific Literacy,” is the work of Craig Story, associate professor of biology and director of pre-health professions, and Justin Topp, associate professor of biology. With funding distributed over the next three years, the grant includes weeklong intensive courses for approximately 20 nominated church leaders from throughout the U.S. and Korea, and will be taught at Gordon cooperatively by Gordon science professors and faculty from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Though the grant will also help fund resource materials for a general audience book as well as scholarly articles, the program’s goal is to provide pastors the tools they need to “approach issues of science and faith with greater confidence.”

“There’s a lot of misinformation about science in the Christian community,” Story said. “Pastors are often conflicted on what to think about science. So we wanted to open up a dialogue where people can talk through the issues that might seem controversial. When we talk about them, they might turn out not to be as controversial as first imagined.” Continue reading

Center for Faith & Inquiry Honors Faculty Scholarship: Part II

In an effort to promote outstanding scholarship that can reach both professional and public/church audiences, the Center for Faith and Inquiry recently announced its inaugural Fellows for the 2013-14 academic year. Congratulations to the follow faculty!

David Lumsdaine

Professor of Political Science, David Lumsdaine will explore the implications of “Biblical and Ethical Perspectives on International Affairs”:

“As Christians, and simply as citizens concerned with our ethical responsibilities, we must weigh what kinds of international policies, practices, and institutions are just and good. As Christians we believe that all creation is God’s, and all we do – publically and governmentally, as privately, should be governed by God’s principles and commands, which are right and good, and thus can alone help bring about a better world. However, many students, church members, and citizens, arrive at conclusions with at best a rather cursory understanding—and often one-sided—of the background and issues.  Explicit consideration of ethical considerations—and theological or biblical considerations—is well off the beaten track in the study of International Relations. This project aims to help remedy that situation, by developing a short book which will discuss international affairs from an ethical and  a theological point of view, in a balanced, historical, and accessible way to Gordon students and the general reading public.”

Brian Glenney

Craig Story

And conducting collaborative and interdisciplinary research around the project topic, “A New Approach to Theistic Evolution: Determinate Outcomes of Random Processes,” will be Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, Craig Story, associate professor of biology, and Mike Veatch, professor of mathematics and chair of the mathematics and computer science department:

Mike Veatch

Philosopher Michael Ruse presents a fundamental problem for theistic evolution: according to many religious beliefs, human beings had to exist, because God directly created them as intelligent and moral beings. But according to the random and contingent processes of evolutionary theory, these beings need not have existed. The most popular form of reconciling these views is to consider the process of random species modification itself to be guided by bottom up causal influence from God’s careful manipulation of quantum states or some other as-of-yet-unknown strategy. We offer another theory: well-defined genetic mechanisms, while random at the lowest level, may still be determinate in that they give rise to defined higher-level functional outcomes—including traits such as intelligence and morality . . . Our project will consider and popularize the claim that the evolutionary mechanisms, though random in the individual modifications produced, operate on such a large scale that the overall outcome is, in important respects, determinate.”

The Superbowl of Birding, Really

Greg Keller

Instead of a helmet, Greg Keller, associate professor of conservation biology, grabbed his binoculars to compete in the tenth annual “Superbowl of Birding” on January 26, 2013, at the Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport, MA. Held in Pennsylvania and Delaware in years past, this year’s birdwatching competition took place during New England’s arctic season and invited participates to spot as many species as possible in the course of a 12-hour (frigid!) day. Keller—who is also the curator of Gordon’s bird and mammal exhibittook along four students to compete in the day’s various categories: from greatest number of species tallied from a fixed point to the highest number counted of new life birds. Keller expected to see a variety of warblers, sparrows and finches. In all over 300 species have been spotted on the North Shore. 

After the competition, Keller offered these highlights:

“The final tally for the total number of species was 121 for all teams combined. We found over half, and finished tied for 7th, with 62 species (20 species behind the winners). As a group, we had the most life birds (birds not ever seen by our participants), with a total of 106 new species.  Sam Mason (biology major) won the Lifer Award with 38 new species that he had never seen before.

The species that were really great finds for us included Razorbills at Plum Island (flying penguin-like birds of the north), two Peregrine Falcons in Gloucester, Pine Grosbeaks in Newbury (really rare finch that shows up from the north only about every 7 to 8 years), six different gull species, and a Merlin zipping around Appleton Farms (a small falcon). We had two 5-point species (the rare ones that we have to call in if we see them), including the Pine Grosbeaks and a Western Grebe at Plum Island (a very rare western bird that showed up a few weeks ago and stayed around for the competition).

But we also had some significant misses.  We couldn’t find a Wild Turkey to save our lives, even though I had seen two flocks the day before.  And over the course of 12 hours, we didn’t see a single White-throated Sparrow, one of the most common birds in the winter here!  Embarrassing! Considering the temperatures never went above 20 degrees, and the wind was a steady 15 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph, it was brutal. 

Our first bird, which took us 1.5 hours of darkness to find, was an American Crow.  The last bird, after 11 hours in the field, was a Mourning Dove. What a day!”

The Benefits of E. coli, and Other Collaborative Efforts

No one does science alone. In fact, Justin Topp, associate professor of biology, is proof, having watched many opportunities present themselves as a result of his involvement in the formation of the North Shore Biotechnology Consortium. Topp believes the Consortium will benefit both faculty and staff in the sciences across the North Shore.  Here’s a glimpse of the partnerships and projects Topp is involved in:

Justin Topp

“One Consortium project in particular that I am involved in is to create a ‘Google Map’ of protein expression in one of the most well studied organisms on this planet, E. coli.  Although most of the general public thinks E. coli is something to be scared of, there is actually  ‘good’ (beneficial) and ‘bad’ (pathogenic, i.e. cause disease) strains.  And unfortunately, as is common with humans, the ‘bad’ strains are the ones that get all the attention!  In reality, you are quite happy to have one of the ‘good’ strains in your gut making vitamin K for you as we speak. 

“The ‘Google Map’ project is a collaborative proteomics effort with scientists at Cell Signaling, Sage Science, and Waters (all companies on the North Shore) to make a visual and interactive database of all of the proteins expressed by a common laboratory (non-pathogenic strain) of E. coli.  This tool will be of great use for other scientists as it could serve as a living reference for many other studies, including making it easier to compare, characterize, and even better treat novel pathogenic strains that cause severe disease in humans.

“The Consortium has also helped create additional opportunities for our students. Continue reading

Zheng Elected President of New England Society for Microscopy

Ming Zheng

Ming Zheng, professor of biology, might be on sabbatical this semester, but he’s as busy as ever with his scholarship and professional contributions. In fact, on Friday, November 30th, Zheng will help lead Gordon in hosting the 46th Annual Fall Symposium & Business Meeting of the New England Society of Microscopy (NESM). Founded in 1967, the NESM’s purpose is to “increase, disseminate, and promote the interchange of microscopy and its applications in New England.”

Zheng—whose most recent research interests include ethical, legal, social, and economic impacts of genetic engineering—has been a member of NESM since 2003, which is also when Gordon began hosting the symposium. From 2008 through 2011, he  served on the Board as one of three biological directors. Last fall, he was elected president and will begin in that role January 1, 2013. As president, Zheng will plan monthly Board meetings, organize spring, fall and February conferences as well as the fall symposium and business meeting held annually on the Gordon campus. NESM members and speakers represent a wide variety of research institutions such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Harvard University, and  Zelenograd, Moscow. Here’s what Zheng said about his involvement in NESM:

“In a way, I see myself as a small fish swimming in a big pond, considering many of our members and speakers are researchers from strong research institutions like Harvard, MIT, Wellsley, etc. But our participation in the NESM provides a window for the wider academy to see the quality of our institution. It also allows some of our students to showcase their research and ability. For instance, Tiffany Hurlbut, ’07, presented her research with me in 2006 at Gordon and connected with a Harvard professor as a result. She then went to, and graduated from, Harvard’s graduate school. Other students have won first and second-place poster competitions. It’s rewarding to be a part of NESM because of the opportunities it provides our students to learn, and to contribute their outstanding work to a wider academic audience, which often leads to post-graduate opportunities. And it has affected my own scholarship by providing me with wonderful opportunities for enrichment, professional development and academic networking.”