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CAS - Compass E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

August 2017

Dean Lauren BentonDear Arts & Science community,

The first day of a new academic year is always exciting. This year, the day was truly extraordinary.

On the morning of August 21, I joined with colleagues and upperclassmen in welcoming the talented members of the class of 2021. A few hours later, we were gathering with the rest of the university community to watch the full solar eclipse, beautifully visible from the center of campus. The sense of shared awe was palpable.

The day ended with a celebration of our new faculty. As academically diverse as the college they are joining, our new colleagues include chemists, scholars of literature, artists, historians, economists and anthropologists, among others. Like the students they come to teach, they moved to Nashville from around the country and from other countries to join our common academic enterprise.

While the day was celebratory, it also occasioned moments of somber reflection. We begin the year thinking about our colleagues and peers at the University of Virginia and their recent close encounter with violence and open expressions of racism, anti-semitism and hate. I affirm Provost Susan Wente’s message about the importance of our shared commitment to values of respect, civility, tolerance and equality.

That same imperative guides our solidarity with members of our community whose homes and families have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.

With pride in the college and Vanderbilt community, I look forward to the new discoveries and academic milestones this year will bring.


Best regards,

Dean Benton Signature

Lauren Benton
Dean, College of Arts and Science
Nelson O. Tyrone, Jr. Professor of History

A&S in the news

Science Magazine (AAAS): Traces of some of South America’s earliest people found under ancient dirt pyramid
About 600 kilometers north of Lima, Peru, an imposing earthen mound looms over the sea. People began building the ceremonial structure, called Huaca Prieta, about 7,800 years ago. But according to a new study from a Vanderbilt University-led team of researchers, the true surprise lies buried deep beneath the 30-meter-tall mound: stone tools, animal bones and plant remains — evidence containing telltale signs of early human occupation. Lead researcher Tom Dillehay,  Rebecca Webb Wilson University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, is quoted. Related articles were published by International Business TimesScience DailySci News and Futurity.

Brazzil: Brazil’s teen pregnancy study suggests issue needs a different approach
Efforts to reduce teen pregnancy rates in Brazil have shown mixed results, and new research from Vanderbilt University suggests that the recent growth of psychological approaches to teen pregnancy prevention may have detrimental effects. Study author Dominique Pareja Béhague, associate professor of medicine, health and society, is quoted.

The Washington Post: If you’ve noticed many seeming human traits in animals, you’ll want to read this
This overview of Scientific American’s new “Secret Lives of Animals” special collector’s edition quotes Ken Catania, Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences, about his research regarding the star-nosed mole.

Psychology Today: MRI scans to choose depression treatment?
One day, doctors may have a new tool to advise patients on how to fight depression: a brain scan. Research now suggests that certain patterns of brain activity provide clues to whether medication or therapy will work better, and even to which type of antidepressant or therapy, moving between them or combining them. A review of existing research led by Steven Hollon, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology, is mentioned.

Seeing the world through an ant’s nose

Teach for America service leads to empathy

Sugars in mother’s milk protect babies from infectious diseases

Professor Holly Tucker shares her process of bringing history to life on ‘The Zeppos Report’

Maymester course combines students’ creative research visions and multimedia analysis

Professor Keivan Stassun
Astronomers discover exoplanet hotter than most stars

Celebrating the impact of giving at Vanderbilt

A&S notable achievements

  • Dennis Osin, professor of mathematics, was invited to be an International Congress of Mathematicians speaker.
  • Sean Polyn, associate professor of psychology, has been elected to be a Fellow in the Association for Psychological Science.
  • The American Sociological Association has named Laura Stark, associate professor of medicine, health and society, the winner of the prestigious Star-Nelkin Award.
  • Jennifer Trueblood, assistant professor of psychology, is the 2017 winner of the William Estes Award. The Society for Mathematical Psychology presents this award annually for exceptional published research in the field of mathematical psychology by an early career investigator.
  • Erika Grundstrom, senior lecturer in physics and astronomy, has been awarded the Summit Ascent Teaching Award.
  • Julian F. Hillyer, associate professor of biological sciences and Chancellor Faculty Fellow, was elected vice-president of the American Society of Parasitologists.

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