Sharing Research, Broadening Minds
On Thursday, January 30, the LSU Honors College kicked off its Spring 2014 Faculty Research Series.
This bi-annual series of talks is an Honors College tradition and gives LSU faculty the opportunity to present their research to students in an informal and intimate setting. The talks are held on four consecutive Thursdays, beginning at 6PM (food is provided), in the West Laville Library. This spring’s series began on January 30 with a talk from Prosanta Chakrabarty, Assistant Professor and Curator of Fishes with the LSU Museum of Natural Science. His talk, titled “Fishing for Answers to the History of Life,” discussed what initially drew him to studying Ichthyology, and how this interest led him to become a scientist and a professor. He also shared details about his fieldwork in various parts of the world, such as Madagascar, Australia, and Central America, and how the relationships of fishes can reveal facts about the Earth’s history.
“I want students to know that professors at LSU are also researchers that are passionate about science and education,” Chakrabarty said. “I want them to know that professors also have a lot of fun doing this kind of research and are discovering new things in exotic places—but that there are also exotic things right here in Louisiana.”
On February 6, Sarah Becker, Assistant Professor of Sociology, will give a talk titled “The Zimmerman Context.” Using the George Zimmerman trial as a case study, she will examine how perceptions of race influence perceptions of neighborhood safety. Becker will draw on a three-year ethnographic study of a Neighborhood Watch program to explore how conceptions of race shape crime control strategies, and how crime control then affects community dynamics and pre-existing structural inequalities.
Stephen Andes, Assistant Professor of History, will speak on February 13. His talk, titled “A Radical Papacy?,” will discuss the recentlyelected Pope Francis, the first pope from Latin America, and his potential impact on the future of global Catholicism.
Finally, Assistant Professor of Psychology Julia Buckner will give a talk titled “Anxiety and Addictive Behaviors” on February 20. She will examine the nature and treatment of co-occurring anxiety and addiction. Buckner will also discuss the development of evaluation and therapeutic techniques, including treatment projects conducted in her own lab.
“Anxiety and substance use tend to co-occur at very high rates,” Buckner explained. “When anxious people use substances they are much more likely to experience problems related to their use but continue to use despite these problems. Unfortunately, anxious individuals tend to also have worse substance abuse treatment outcomes.”
Granger Babcock, Associate Dean and Rector of the Laville Honors House, organizes the Faculty Research Series. He spoke briefly on how the research series emphasizes the themes of the Honors College experience, and is particularly integral to encouraging Honors students to pursue their own research.
“The research series is an attempt to get people who are doing cutting-edge research in front of Honors College students so they can be exposed to cutting-edge research, and so they also might develop mentors through the process of going to see somebody and then interacting with them after the presentation,” Babcock said. “They might be drawn to something, some type of research that they didn’t even know they were interested in by coming to these presentations.”
Babcock also mentioned that this semester the Honors College reached out to new faculty to present their research.
“This semester we made a conscious decision to focus on new faculty, assistant professors,” Babcock said. “And the response from the assistant professors that we’ve asked has been really enthusiastic and positive.”
Babcock noted that engaging in an interactive learning environment is critical to the Honors College experience, and that this kind of interaction with different faculty and research supports a well-rounded education.
“Students are learning something new," Babcock said. "The learning can be completely unintentional, it can catch them by surprise, but it’s important for them to sit down and expose themselves to stuff that they might not necessarily think they’re interested in.
Story by Jacqueline DeRobertis, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831.