The Winter Research Meet + Greet event took place on March 5 at the Loop Library in the Collaboratory. The event featured a keynote presentation by Ted Anton–a professor of English at DePaul and a notable non-fiction writer–as well as five lightning talks by Jim Fairhall (English), Randall Honold (LAS Office of the Dean), Caitlin Karver (Chemistry & Biochemistry), Elizabeth Millan (Philosophy), and Molly Seeley, (Institute of Global Homelessness office at DePaul).
Providing a brief albeit fascinating insight into the research, creative and service work of DePaul faculty and staff, this event allowed me also to observe a few connecting threads between six seemingly disparate talks. Ted Anton’s presentation, for example, titled “I didn’t set out to be a science writer,” outlined the path that led him from being a non-fiction writer who explored the death of the University of Chicago Divinity School professor, Ioan Culianu, to becoming a writer with a scientific bent. In the background of his talk was a deep concern for journalists and the real threat that journalistic work still poses in many parts of the world but also for the proliferation of fake news in recent past and its consequences.
Connected to issues of censorship and freedom of speech is Millán’s presentation on Alexander von Humboldt’s views on nature but also slavery–a direct opposition to liberty–and the omission of a chapter from the Island of Cuba, “On Slavery,” from the English language translation of the work.
This thread continued with Karver’s presentation of the work that she and the students in her group are conducting on inhibitors of inflammatory caspases. Caspases are a “family of genes important for maintaining homeostasis through regulating cell death and inflammation.” Their dysregulation underlies human diseases including cancer and other inflammatory disorders. The connecting thread in this case represents the presentation of a danger—be it a danger signal and the associated immune response to it, or a menace in the form of threats to journalists or to anybody who dares express dissatisfaction with, for example, the state of affairs in Romania after the Ceaușescus’ execution — or indeed with the ideology that upheld slavery in the US in the decades prior to the Civil War.
At the end of the lightning talk session, Molly Seeley presented on the work and goals of the Institute of Global Homelessness. One fact from her presentation particularly stands out: although we have a clear definition of what homelessness is, we don’t have a standard way of measuring homelessness in different parts of the world. The presentation of danger in this instance is the experience of homelessness and its consequences. Any homelessness statistic brings with it far-reaching consequences. What gives me hope is the commitment of the Institute to eradicating homelessness both in the United States and around the world.
As for other threads, Honold’s lightning talk on his collection of photographs that promenently features images of nature and landscape presented an effective segue into Humboldt’s views of nature as presented by Millán. Jim Fairhall’s reading from a book he is currently completing, which centers on the Vietnam War era, comprised a frame for the talks that followed.
Spring Research Meet + Greet
If this brief overview of the Winter Research Meet + Greet talks leaves you wanting to learn more, we invite you to the Spring Research Meet + Greet on April 1 in the John T. Richardson Library, Idea Lab 2, 3:30-5:30. The April 1st event will feature a presentation by Sheena Erete–an Assistant Professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University and co-director of the Technology for Social Good Research and Design Lab– entitled:
“Designing Counter Structures: Taking an Assets-based Approach to Designing Technologies with Resource-Constrained Communities”
Sheena’s talk will center on how she and her group identify and leverage local assets in resourced-constrained communities when designing technologies, practices, and policies. More particularly, the talk will present how this group takes an asset-based approach to understanding the ways in which neighborhoods use technology to address crime and how they design technologies to support violence prevention in Chicago.
Following the featured presentation, Lisa Dush, an Associate Professor in the Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse Department and Director of Studio χ, will give a lightning talk entitled:
“A Learning Platform for the Margins, Not the Masses: The Case of Gather”
Lisa’s talk will focus on her research into the nearly seven-year-long development process for an innovative learning platform Gather, the outcomes from the 2018 pilot Gather cohort, and the ways that “little” learning technologies like Gather—those designed not for mass-adoption by enterprise clients like colleges and universities, but rather for those on the margins—can help us to both critique and reimagine learning technologies.
Research Reception will follow. To sign up for a lightning talk: https://bit.ly/DePaulMeetGreet.