Voices of the College

Doane wins book award

Molly Doane

Molly Doane. Photo: Paul Bick

Shining Rivers book cover

Stealing Shining Rivers.

Molly Doane, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, has received the 2012 prize for the best social science book on Mexico from the Latin American Studies Association. The recognition, which includes a monetary award, was for her work Stealing Shining Rivers: Agrarian Conflict, Market Logic, and Conservation in a Mexican Forest, published by University of Arizona Press. Doane was honored at the LASA Mexico Section meeting on May 30. In this case study of a Oaxacan rain forest appropriated by environmentalists intent on conserving biodiversity, Doane demonstrates that good intentions are not always enough to produce results that benefit both a habitat and its various inhabitants. The selection committee noted Doane’s “impressive interdisciplinary approach to the intersection of environmental and social concerns in contemporary Mexico.”

Doane is currently working on a book exploring the culture and politics of fair trade coffee. She also has begun research on organic agriculture, local food and the politics of scale in Wisconsin. She was a 2011-12 faculty fellow at the UIC Institute for the Humanities and is a member of the Institute’s Chicago Area Food Studies Working Group.

Fong and Srinivasan receive recognition

Paul Fong

Paul Fong. Photo by Steven Hurder

Bhama Srinivasan

Bhama Srinivasan. Photo by Steven Hurder

Professors Emeriti Paul Fong and Bhama Srinivasan of the Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science have been recognized by the Journal of Algebra for their paper, “Brauer Trees in Classical Groups.” The team for the first time computed decomposition matrices in non-defining characteristics for classical groups of arbitrary dimension. Together with papers by the same authors on blocks of classical groups, these results initiated the theory of representations of finite groups of Lie type in non-defining characteristics, now a substantial, well-established part of the general representation theory of finite groups. The “Brauer Trees” work was called “one of the most significant and impactful articles published in the Journal.” It originally appeared in Vol. 131/Issue 1, May 1990.

Gordon lands IES research award

Rachel Gordon

Rachel Gordon. Photo by UIC Photo Services

Rachel Gordon, professor in the Department of Sociology and the University of Illinois Institute for Government & Public Affairs, has received one of only 36 new research grants awarded for 2013 by the Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Research. She will investigate “Measuring Preschool Program Quality: Multiple Aspects of the Validity of Two Widely-Used Measures,” in collaboration with Professor Everett Smith of the UIC College of Education and Kerry Hofer and Sandra Wilson of Vanderbilt University. The project will study aspects of validity of two widely-used measures of preschool classroom quality: the Early Childhood Environment System Rating Scale-Revised and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System. Results of the project will provide important information for policy initiatives including Head Start recompetition regulations and the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. Funding, which was for more than $660,000, covers a two-year study period.

“With sequestration cuts, the federal funding environment is highly competitive,” said Gordon. “We anticipate that two factors helped our project stand out: the policy-relevance of our research questions and the strength of our study design, which includes rigorous methodology and replication.”

Johnston chosen as co-editor of history journal

Robert Johnston

Robert D. Johnston. Photo by UIC Photo Services

Robert D. Johnston, associate professor and director of the teaching of history program in the Department of History, will serve as co-editor of The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era with colleague Benjamin H. Johnson of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. The team was selected after a national search by a committee of member-scholars of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive EraJGAPE is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the society.

Johnston has contributed to the journal since its inaugural issue in 2002. In a joint statement, the new co-editors said: “We plan to follow the legacy of excellence laid down by the journal's first two editors, Maureen Flanagan and Alan Lessoff. The scholarship on the period from 1865 to 1920 has never been more interesting and eclectic, and we expect that the journal will continue to reflect the current vibrancy of the field. At the same time, both the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era have over the last decade become major contested icons in our public culture, with those on the left fighting against a second ‘Gilded Age,’ and those on the right contending that the roots of all American political evils stem from the reformers of ‘the Progressive Era.’ We welcome scholars to use JGAPE as a way to participate in these momentous civic discussions.” The team also plans to develop new features including sections on public history, visual media and K-12 teaching.

This summer, Johnston served as academic director for a K-12 teacher training institute, “Rethinking the Gilded Age and Progressive Era: Capitalism, Democracy and Progressivisms, 1877 to 1920.” The National Endowment for the Humanities-funded institute was developed in partnership with the Chicago Metro History Education Center and National Louis University. Professor Leon Fink and Associate Professor Jeffrey Sklansky of the history department served as two of the program scholars.

Ohlsson garners prestigious review

Stellan Ohlsson

Stellan Ohlsson. Photo courtesy of Ohlsson

Deep Learning book cover

Deep Learning.

Stellan Ohlsson, professor in the Department of Psychology, has received a glowing review in the summer 2013 issue of the American Journal of Psychology for his book  Deep Learning: How the Mind Overrides Experience, published in 2011 by Cambridge University Press. In Deep Learning Ohlsson examines the ability of the human mind to adapt to changing circumstances through non-monotonic cognitive change. Reviewer Manuel London calls the study a “landmark book,” “erudite yet elegant,” “brilliant scholarship,” and “seminal reading for doctoral students and researchers in cognitive psychology and for advanced readers in disciplines such as education, decision science, artificial intelligence and group dynamics.” In August, Ohlsson traveled to Finland to present a seminar on Deep Learning for faculty and students at the University of Helsinki. Ohlsson holds his academic appointment in the psychology department and also teaches in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering. He has published extensively on computational models of cognition, creative insight and the design of instructional software. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.

“With the current emphasis on conceptual understanding in education, and creativity and innovation in business, I’m glad that my efforts to penetrate the inner workings of non-monotonic cognitive change are reaching a variety of readers,” said Ohlsson. “Extremely positive reviews, like the one that appears in the American Journal of Psychology, are very encouraging, and I look forward to continuing to develop the concept of deep learning to become a useful tool for researchers across the cognitive sciences.”

Plotnick named Fellow of the Geological Society of America

Roy Plotnick

Roy Plotnick. Photo by Kathryn Marchetti

Roy Plotnick, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has been named a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. His election occurred at the spring 2013 GSA Council meeting. The honor was bestowed in recognition of his leadership in the field of geosciences. This latest honor follows his 2012 election as a Fellow of The Paleontological Society. Election as a Fellow of the GSA is based on a scholar’s contributions to the field through avenues including publications, applied research, teaching and contributions to the public awareness of geology.

“The geological sciences touch on nearly every aspect of human life. We rely on earth scientists to find vital resources, including water; to prepare us for natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and superstorms; and to explain the causes and consequences of human impacts on the environment, notably global climate change and local environmental contamination,” said Plotnick. “As a paleontologist, one of my main goals is to put the modern loss of biodiversity in the context of life’s long history, including ancient mass extinctions. I am honored to join my distinguished departmental colleague Carol Stein in being named this year as a Fellow of the 125-year-old Geological Society of America.”

Varelas and Wink selected as University Scholars

Two LAS faculty members have been selected as 2013 University Scholars by the University of Illinois. Nikos Varelas, professor in the Department of Physics, and Donald Wink, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Chemistry and director of graduate studies at the Learning Sciences Research Institute, were each informed of the honor early this summer in a letter of congratulations from University of Illinois President Robert A. Easter and Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre.

Nikos Varelas

Nikos Valeras. Photo by Joshua Clark

Varelas is internationally renowned for his work in high energy particle physics, specifically his contributions to the search for the Higgs boson. Varelas and physics colleagues Mark Adams, Cecilia Gerber and Richard Cavanaugh were honored for their work at the 2012 LAS Recognition Dinner at which they received the Dean’s Outstanding Faculty Award. In 2012, Varelas was also the recipient of the LAS Faculty Service Award.

"I am truly honored to be named a University Scholar. It is my 16th year at UIC and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with a team of gifted postdocs and students trying to understand the fundamental workings of our universe,” said Varelas. “Over the last two decades the focus of my research at the D-Zero experiment at Fermilab and at the CMS  experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN has been on studies of the strong interaction that binds quarks together into protons and neutrons, along with searches for new fundamental building blocks of matter and for the Higgs boson. Last year’s discovery of the Higgs boson represents a monumental milestone for particle physics, and one of the most important discoveries of all time. I am thrilled to have been a part of this discovery, which may hold the key to the deepest secrets of our universe.”

Donald Wink

Donald Wink. Photo by Micki Leventhal

Wink’s work in the area of chemical education has contributed significantly to the advancement of the quality of education for students of chemistry from grade and secondary school through undergraduate studies. For more than 20 years, Wink has collaborated with colleagues across the university and in the community to improve science education. A profile of Professor Wink and his work appears in this edition of AtLAS.

“Receiving the University Scholar award is an incredible honor and an indication of how UIC scholarship can arise from non-traditional sources,” said Wink. “In my case, many hundreds of hours spent in support of K-12 teachers and students in schools provide important opportunities to translate knowledge, including fundamental knowledge of science, into effective teaching and learning activities in actual school settings. At the same time, the environment of UIC itself remains, as it has always been for me, a tremendous location for studying how learning is done by our exciting, dynamic student body.”

Selection as a University Scholar is made through a process of nomination by peers and the designation carries with it a generous monetary award over three years. The award can be used at the scholar’s discretion to fund travel, equipment, research assistants, scholarly materials or other activities to support university-related teaching or research.