Arts|Science Initiative Collaborations Inspire New Directions, Approaches to Research

This article originally appeared in UChicago News on 16 June.

In a hall full of scientists and artists, Qin Xu, Ivo Peters and Iddo Aharony were the ones who broke the ice at the May 14 presentations of the 2014 graduate collaboration grant projects sponsored by the Arts|Science Initiative

The trio of graduate students kicked off the evening at the Logan Center for the Arts by introducing "Breaking Ice," the literal focus of their project. Xu and Peters, graduate students in physics, and Aharony, a graduate student in music, crushed and melted ice in the laboratory, recording the entire process. Next, they used their data and video to create a multimedia composition that incorporated live cello, interactive electronics, and video.

“This collaboration was an incredible opportunity to open up a whole new dimension to my creative work,” said Aharony. “Together, we were able to brainstorm and ultimately create a distinct artwork that would never have been conceived in any other way. I have no doubt that this collaboration and its fruits will continue to inspire my creative work moving forward.”

The composition attempts to evoke the thawing and shattering of glaciers as a result of global warming by studying reduced-scale models of these enormous structures. They crushed ice in a viselike device, applying pressures equivalent to a car’s weight before the pieces shattered. They videotaped at 6,000 frames per second the impact of ice dropped on the lab’s concrete floor. They also constructed a hollow, thumb-sized house of ice in remarkable detail—with well-defined roof, chimney, shutters and door. A slow-motion video of the house dropping to the floor shows it exploding slowly into slabs and splinters.

“It was hollow,” said Anthony at the presentation, “because real houses are hollow.”

Making Disability Matter: English Grad Student Recognized with Bridge Builder Award

Stephen Pannuto, a graduate student in the Department of English Language and Literatures, was awarded the 2014 Bridge Builder Award for his role in “Disability Matters,” a series of public lectures and workshops focused on building a community interested in disability as a lived experience and a critical category.

Mellon Foundation grant to support art history initiative with UChicago, Northwestern, Art Institute

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Chicago Objects Study Initiative, an unprecedented, four-year, inter-institutional pilot effort, will provide graduate students from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University with new or significantly enhanced coursework and training in object-based art history research.

French Foreign Minister Presents Robert Morrissey with Legion of Honor

Laurent Fabius awards Robert Morrissey the Legion of Honor

This article originally appeared in UChicago News on 9 May.

Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, bestowed the French Legion of Honor upon Prof. Robert Morrissey during a special ceremony May 11 hosted by President Robert J. Zimmer. The ceremony took place at the Quadrangle Club in the presence of François Delattre, French ambassador to the U.S., and Morrissey’s colleagues and students.

Created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to reward extraordinary accomplishments and outstanding services rendered to France, the Legion of Honor is France’s highest distinction and one of the most prized in the world.

“I am deeply honored to have been awarded the Légion d’honneur,” said Morrissey. “I have devoted my career to understanding the specific nature of French culture as it has unfolded over time, and this recognition is profoundly gratifying.”

Morrissey, the Benjamin Franklin Professor in Romance Languages and Literatures, also serves as executive director of the France Chicago Center. He is a senior fellow in the Computation Institute and is the director of the Project for American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL)

Morrissey earned his PhD with honors in French literature from UChicago and began teaching at UChicago in 1981. Morrissey specializes in 18th- and 19th-century French literature, history and culture. His work concentrates on themes and cultural currents over the longue durée and includes The Economy of Glory: From Ancien Régime France to the Fall of Napoleon, published this year by the University of Chicago Press.

Fabius is the former prime minister of France (1984-86) and the author of six books. He is a specialist in economic and financial issues, European affairs, international relations as well as paintings and sculpture. In 2004, Fabius was a visiting senior lecturer at the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies.

Chicago Linguistics Society Celebrates 50th Annual Conference

CLS 50

The Chicago Linguistic Society’s annual conference has occupied an important role in the field of linguistics from the very first conference in 1965. “It was the place to be in the 60s and 70s,” observed second-year Linguistics PhD student Adam Singerman. “When you look at the old proceedings it’s striking how many important papers were discussed here.” 

Decades later, the conference—now the oldest graduate student-run linguistics conference in the country—continues to attract new generations of scholars. On April 10-12, graduate students from the Department of Linguistics celebrated the 50th version of the conference, dubbed “CLS 50,” hosting hundreds of linguists in Ida Noyes Hall for plenary sessions, invited lectures, and a panel discussion on the history of the Chicago Linguistics Society (CLS). 

CLS 50

In contrast to many graduate student conferences, said Singerman, one of the eleven organizers of the event, the CLS “is run by graduate students but not exclusively for graduate students.”

Panelists from distinguished professors to early career graduate students presented on the linguistic structures of languages ranging from the familiar (English and German) to the less familiar (Mongolian and Arapaho), and the extinct (Cupeño, an extinct Uto-Aztecan language of California) to the unspoken (American Sign Language).

The final day’s proceedings included a panel discussion on the history of the CLS. The CLS “has accumulated a lot of lore and a culture of its own,” said Singerman. “The panel was a celebration of that.” Moderated by John A. Goldsmith, Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science, the panelists included Jerrold Sadock, the Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, and alumni Donka Farkas, PhD’81, professor of linguistics at University of California, Santa Cruz, and Anthony C. Woodbury, AB’75, AM’75, professor of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin.


For co-organizer Natalia Pavlou, the history of the CLS is “a history book for both the department and the field of linguistics.”