Voices of the College: LAS Faculty Notes

Fink receives Stetin Award for labor history 

Leon Fink

Leon Fink. Photo by Matthew Kaplan

Leon Fink, UIC distinguished professor of history, has received the 2014 Sol Stetin Award for Labor History from The Sidney Hillman Foundation in recognition of his scholarship in the field. The Stetin Award was established by the Hillman Foundation in 2005 to honor the memory of Mr. Stetin, a labor leader who co-founded the American Labor Museum in Haledon, NJ. Fink received his award at a ceremony in New York City on May 6.

“The Stetin Award is a kind of career award and is, I suspect, connected in part to my 15-year role as editor of the leading labor history journal,” said Fink. “I am particularly honored to be linked, at least indirectly, to the lifelong project of Sidney Hillman himself, who in addition to leading Chicago's garment workers, attempted to build a progressive political alliance that joined intellectual activists like Jane Addams and Clarence Darrow with New Deal planners, as well as rank and file working people.” 

Fink is the author or editor of more than eight books on labor history as well as the journal Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas. Read more about Fink and his thoughts on labor issues in the Gilded Age/Progressive Era in the Spring 2014 issue of AtLAS magazine.

Gevorgyan wins NSF grant to research copper as sustainable catalyst 

Vladimir Gevorgyan

Vladimir Gevorgyan. Photo by Joshua Clark

LAS Distinguished Professor Vladimir Gevorgyan of the Department of Chemistry will lead the U.S. effort in a three-nation project to develop efficient catalytic methods that will replace rare metals with abundant and inexpensive metals. “Catalysis often uses very expensive and rare metals, many of which will be gone in 50 years,” said Gevorgyan, explaining that it is important to transition to the use of catalytic materials that are “abundant and cheap” because “we are polluting too much and using up resources.”

The project developed out of a competition sponsored by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry to encourage collaboration and further the goal of sustainable chemistry. Gevorgyan’s lab will focus on the use of copper complexes while collaborating labs in Germany will explore the use of iron as a catalyst. The Chinese effort will be to develop heterogeneous versions of these catalysts. The ultimate goal is to contribute to “a straightforward and environmentally benign synthetic chemistry” with applications in medicinal chemistry and material science. 

Goldbring and Sparber receive NSF CAREER awards

Isaac Goldbring

Isaac Goldbring.

Christop Sparber

Christof Sparber.

Isaac Goldbring and Christof Sparber, assistant professors in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, have received Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards from the National Science Foundation. The CAREER award is the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Goldbring’s research interests include model theory, applications of nonstandard analysis to Lie theory and group theory, model theory for metric structures, and operator algebras. Sparber focuses his work in the areas of mathematical physics, partial differential equations, analysis, and numerical simulation of multi-scale problems.

Klie and colleagues cook up graphene ‘sandwich’ to improve biomolecule imaging

Robert Klie and QuiQui

Robert Klie (left) and Qiao Qiao at the STEM ribbon cutting. Photo by Matthew Kaplan

By sandwiching a molecule of the protein ferritin between sheets of graphene, researchers in the Department of Physics have obtained atomic-level images of the molecule in its natural watery environment. These images will help scientists to better study the protein that stores and releases iron, critical in many body functions.

If ferritin is not working correctly, iron levels may dysfunction and thereby contribute to a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s and cancer, according to Tolou Shokuhfar, visiting assistant professor of physics in LAS and principal investigator of the study.

Robert Klie, associate professor of physics, served as senior investigator on the study. Canhui Wang, graduate student in physics and member of Klie’s Nanoscale Physics Group, was first author. Qiao Qiao, formerly a graduate student in Klie’s lab and now a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University, is a co-author on the study. Study results are published online in the journal Advanced Materials.

“We found a way to encapsulate a liquid sample of ferritin, in two very thin layers of graphene—sheets of carbon that are only one atom thick,” said Wang.

Klie noted that the thin layers of graphene in the new system are nearly transparent, allowing for better study of the molecule. “It’s like the difference between looking through Saran Wrap and thick crystal,” he said.

The new technique will allow researchers to better compare ferritin taken from diseased tissue with healthy ferritin and may allow for new insights into illness at the molecular level, which could lead to new treatments. The technique, once perfected, could also be applied to the study of other proteins.

The work was funded by Michigan Technological University—where Shokuhfar is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics—and a grant to UIC from the National Science Foundation.

LSRI to lead development of assessments for new science standards

James Pellegrino

James Pellegrino. Photo by Kathryn Marchetti

Researchers from the Learning Sciences Research Institute will lead a group of investigators from four institutions to develop a new system of classroom assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards under a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The four-year collaborative grant includes investigators from LSRI, the CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University, the Center for Learning in Technology at SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif., and the Concord Consortium of Concord, Mass.

The Next Generation Science Standards make science classes more closely resemble the way scientists work and think. They are based on current research about the learning process that emphasizes building coherent understandings over time.

To help students succeed under the new standards, the development group aims to provide educators with the latest task templates, assessment items, and lesson rubrics that utilize technology and advanced psychometric models to measure student performance. Researchers believe that new assessment standards are important because the Next Generation Science Standards drastically change the way K-12 science is taught in school, as well as what is expected of students at each grade level.

An evaluation system created by the collaborators will first focus on the new middle school chemistry curriculum and will be piloted in classrooms in Illinois, Florida, and Wisconsin.

A recent report from the National Research Council on the development of science assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards argues that states will no longer be able to rely on single, end-of-the-year tests to monitor student progress in science. The report recommends teachers use a variety of assessments throughout the academic year.

“What we have proposed to develop and implement, with its focus on teachers’ use of assessment to support learning within the classroom, is precisely what has been recommended,” said James W. Pellegrino, co-director of LSRI and distinguished professor of psychology and education.

Markowski receives European Union funding for national identity project 

Michal Markowski

Michal Markowski. Photo by UIC Photo Services

Michal Markowski, head of the Department of Slavic and Baltic Languages and Literatures, will serve as a principal investigator for the international project, “Social Practice, Cultural Trauma, and Reestablishing Solid Sovereignties” (SPeCTReSS), which has received $735,000 in funding from the European Union. The four-year project aims to build upon, solidify, formalize, and condense the recently initiated but as yet informal relationships between leading research institutions representing different regions and historical traditions. The goal is to conduct joint research and participate in knowledge exchange to identify new paradigms for understanding how national identities are disrupted and formed by the traumas of history.

Markowski will examine “the new subjectivities that emerged in Polish culture—and more specifically literature—after the trauma of WWII had been inflicted upon the national consciousness.” His research will be shared with colleagues in a series of international conferences and short-term fellowships. Markowski was invited to participate by project partner Jagiellonian University (Kraków). The full consortium includes project coordinator Trinity College (Dublin) as well as Ruhr-Universität (Bochum), University of Zagreb, University of Tartu, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), University of São Paolo, Yale University, and University of Tokyo.

Reeves named Hodder Fellow, lands Levis Prize

Roger Reeves

Roger Reeves. Photo by Chris Strong

Roger Reeves, assistant professor in the Department of English and award-winning poet, has been named a Mary MacKall Gwinn Hodder Fellow. The announcement was made by the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, where the prize was established to support individuals who have begun to build a respected body of work, but have not yet received widespread recognition.

As a 2014-15 Hodder Fellow, Reeves will continue work on his new poetry collection The Last American Minstrel. He will engage in a year of what Mrs. Hodder “called ‘studious leisure’ during which the fellows would have the time to move their work to the next level,” explained Lewis Center Chair Michael Cadden. “Hodder Fellows do not teach. Their only obligation is to their work,” he said. Other 2014-15 Hodder Fellows are choreographer Nora Chipaurmire, playwright/screenwriter Gabriel Jason Dean, and visual artist Miko Veldkamp.

In addition, King Me (2013, Copper Canyon Press), Reeves’ debut volume, has won the Larry Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University. The Levis prize is awarded for the best first or second book of poetry each year. King Me also made the list of top 20 poetry works in the 2013 readers’ survey from The Believer magazine and Reeves was recently named one of Newcity magazine's "Lit 50." Read more about Reeves and his work.

Sedgwick awarded Fulbright for research on Hegel

Sally Sedgewick

Sally Sedgwick. Photo by Matthew Kaplan

Sally Sedgwick, LAS distinguished professor of philosophy and affiliated professor of Germanic studies, will be conducting research for a book on philosopher G.W.F. Hegel from January to June 2015. Sedgwick will be affiliated with the Freie Universität Berlin while working on her new book project examining Hegel’s view of the relation between human reason and history.

“Contrary to those who hold that Hegel’s interest in history has no significant implications for his philosophical system, I'll be defending the thesis that human reason is dependent on history, according to Hegel, for its very nature,” said Sedgwick. “I consider the role he awards history in the generation of our agency. In addition, I argue that history for Hegel has a causal role to play in accounting for the conceptual progressions in his most abstract work, the Science of Logic. I suggest that, in his view, we can only explain the plastic nature of these abstract concepts—the generation of new concepts from old ones—with reference to human reason’s responses to real events in time.” The book is tentatively titled Fate, Necessity, Contingency: Hegel and the Historical Nature of Reason

Stauter-Halsted moderates panel commemorating Polish hero Karski

Keely Stauter-Halsted

Keely Stauter-Halsted. Photo by Matthew Kaplan

Keely Stauter-Halsted, professor of history and Hejna Family Chair in Polish Studies, moderated a panel discussing the history and legacy of Jan Karski on Thursday, April 24, the centennial of his birth. The commemoration of Karski, a Polish diplomat who alerted the world about the Nazi extermination of the Jews, took place at the Polish Consulate. The event was attended by 200 people including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, members of the Chicago Consular Corps, and members of the Polish American and Jewish American communities, including Holocaust survivors and participants in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Karski died in 2000 and President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.’s highest civilian honor. For his efforts to save Jews, the State of Israel awarded Karski the Yad Vashem medal of Righteous Among the Nations. Governor Quinn proclaimed April 24, “Jan Karski Day in the State of Illinois.”

“The Karski discussion provided a welcome opportunity for members of local Polish and Jewish communities to rediscover their shared synergies and common histories,” said Stauter-Halsted. “Public fora about Polish-Jewish issues have also become increasingly common within Poland itself and have prompted a reevaluation of important moments in the shared past of the two cultures. Chicago area experts are working to facilitate a dialogue with the broader public that helps to move this conversation forward. Jan Karski’s biography offers a perfect focus for shaping this dialogue." 

Stauter-Halsted’s participation in this program was one of a growing number of public events sponsored or co-sponsored by the Polish Studies program in the Departments of History and Slavic and Baltic Languages. In April, the program sponsored a performance of the play Our Class, about the 1941 massacre of Jews in the town of Jedwabne, Poland by fellow citizens. The performance was followed by a discussion with the playwright. In January 2014, Stauter-Halsted, along with a local Catholic priest, provided commentary after a screening of Aftermath, a film on the same subject.

Stephanov elected to APS

Misha Stephanov

Misha Stephanov. Photo by Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Misha Stephanov, professor and co-director of undergraduate studies in the physics department, has been elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society for his outstanding contributions to the field of physics. Stephanov, who researches the theory of strong interactions of atomic nuclei, has been chosen for this honor for his “seminal contributions to the theory of high energy density strongly interacting matter, and to the understanding of strong interactions in the strong coupling limit and for being among the first to propose the use of fluctuations to search for phase transitions in heavy ion collisions, for which there is now an active experimental program at the RHIC accelerator.” Stephanov’s research has been funded by the Department of Energy, the RIKEN-BNL Research Center, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

VOICES includes material adapted from articles written by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy and Brian Flood for UIC News.