Michael J. O’Brien, Professor of Anthropology, Director of the Museum of Anthropology, and Dean of the College of Arts and Science, studies culture through the lens of evolutionary theory. His research interests range from the tangible Indian arrowhead to more abstract theories of social influence on consumer choices. The common denominator is that evolutionary theory can be applied not only to the biological sciences but the social as well. He explains, “If humans evolved—descended from other humans—the information that they carry has evolved as well. We’re interested in those paths of transmission of cultural information.” Dean O’Brien’s study of human interconnectedness also fosters it; he maintains that collaborative scholarship, or “wired brains,” produces scholarship more rigorous and expansive than does individual work.
For Associate Professor of Biology Lori Eggert, collaboration is at the heart of everything she does. From local to international projects, and even within her lab, collaboration is invaluable. Dr. Eggert’s life and research are a testament to the amazing feats that can be accomplished with coordinated, hard work from many different, devoted sources.
Ever since the third grade, when an assistant principal generously offered to teach him and two classmates French, John Miles Foley has been curious about how languages work. Starting with the early epiphany that language is always embedded in culture, Foley followed this line of thinking until it led to oral tradition, which the MU Professor of Classical Studies and English has now been researching for over three decades. It will surely be a lifelong journey, for the field far outstrips written literature in size, diversity, and social function. In fact, all the written literature we have, Foley is fond of saying, “is dwarfed by oral traditions.”
Ever since Enos Inniss came to MU as an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering a short time ago, he has kept remarkably busy on various research projects involving water quality and safety.
Shubhra Gangopadhyay is the one of the few female faculty at MU’s Center for Micro/Nano Systems and Nanotechnology. She’s also the one in charge of developing the center. In the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, of which Gangopadhyay is the LaPierre Endowed Chair Professor, she is one of three women. “There is a shortage of female scientists and female professors, in general,” Gangopadhyay says. “And in engineering, it is really not good.”
He calls it “fire in the gut.” It’s the excitement, the burning drive to work through a problem and see the solution. It’s staying up at night, turning something over and over in your head and feeling exhilarated when you finally come up with an answer, says Chris Hardin, Professor and Chair of the Nutritional Sciences Department.
Alex Barker wears several different hats in MU’s Department of Anthropology and the Museum of Art and Archaeology. One of these hats involves his research and fieldwork on the European Bronze Age and the ancient American southeast. The other involves the directorship of MU’s Museum of Art and Archaeology. Standing at the crossroads of several disciplinary fields, most of Barker’s field research has in recent years dealt with a single broad question: how social complexity grows out of egalitarian societies. His fieldwork in North America and the Old World follows this transition over different periods and regions.
The fact that Nancy M. West finds herself focusing so heavily on the visual in her research and teaching may at first seem to be “a sort of a curious thing,” but for the associate professor of English this fascination for the visual extends all the way back to a childhood devoid of photographs. “I love thinking about what photography means to people. Having grown up with very few photographs in my household, I’ve always been drawn to them,” she admits. It was no surprise, therefore, that West stumbled upon her first book project while scrounging through the bargain bin of an antique store: “I came across all of these old Kodak ads from the turn of the century, and I thought they were amazing. The images were just breathtakingly beautiful. The captions were unlike those we see now in ads. They were much more elaborate, much more descriptive. They addressed the consumer in very interesting, clever ways, and I just fell in love with them.” And at that serendipitous moment, the idea for Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia (2000) was conceived.
José Garcia puts on and takes off many hats during the average week, owing to the extension, teaching, and research dimensions of his work as Extension Assistant Professor in Rural Sociology. For instance, as Coordinator of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program at MU (CFSSA), Garcia spends most of his time doing outreach with rural communities throughout the state. A common misunderstanding some people have about the term “sustainable agriculture” is that it rejects technology, harkening back to an earlier time when people worked mainly with their hands. Quite the contrary, Garcia clarifies: sustainable agriculture uses the most recent technology in its approach to farming (and to food itself), in which economic viability and environmental impact, along with social responsibility, are at the center of every decision. In relation to this last dimension, approaches to sustainable agriculture ask such questions as the following: “How socially responsible are farmers? What is the impact of their operations on communities, families, and workers? And how connected to the community are they? ” Garcia explains the complexity of the situation: “All of those kinds of things need to be taken into consideration when making decisions because food and agriculture are totally connected to people, to communities, and to laborers.” Thus Garcia provides information and training to people about various aspects of agriculture – whether that involves farms, factories, schools, or other community organizations. He hopes to see a ripple effect, with the information he gives to various community educators in Missouri being spread throughout the state.
Becoming a geologist was not the original aspiration for Mian Liu, Professor of Geological Sciences. The Chinese government assigned him to the discipline when he was 17 years old, a course of study he later followed at Nanjing University. His initial lack of interest in geology had much to do with the way the subject was taught. “The focus was not on understanding the processes; we were forced to memorize lots of facts,” he explains. Instead, Liu’s earliest interest was in physics, which “just seemed more intuitive.” He began sitting in on a variety of lectures and found that he preferred learning about geophysics, the physics of the Earth, eventually earning a Ph.D. in that area from the University of Arizona.
What a society counts as moral or immoral is subject to the particular zeitgeist—the spirit of the times. “At the time of the slave trade, for example, most people who were slave owners thought it was moral. Even a few blacks, once they were freed, had slaves,” explains Sharon Welch, Professor of Religious Studies. As a social ethicist, Welch researches not just the way individuals make moral choices, but how a whole society begins to decide “what counts as moral.” To that effect, all of her projects coalesce around such issues of social morality.
After thirty years of research focused mainly on exploring biochemical and genetic questions in the laboratory, William Folk, Professor of Biochemistry at MU, has been pushing himself outside of the comfort and controlled environment of the lab with his newest project. As co-investigator on this nascent initiative, Folk explains its significance for him in moral and political terms—that is, how the reign of South Africa’s apartheid government contributed to the rapid and devastating spread of HIV in Africa, the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic. In South Africa, where an estimated 5 million people are infected by the disease, Folk feels an obligation to do what he can to help remedy this devastating statistic. With this call in mind, Folk and Professor Quinton Johnson of the University of the Western Cape have orchestrated a large collaboration of over a dozen colleagues from universities in South Africa and the United States, generously funded by a $4.4 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Creating a virtual center, which they’ve named The International Center for Indigenous Phytotherapy Studies (TICIPS—pronounced “Tee-Sips”), the center seeks to understand traditional healing practices in South Africa in terms of their safety and usefulness in treating infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS and the conditions associated with them.
In her twelve years as a nursing home director, Professor Marilyn Rantz says that she has never once met an individual who wanted to be in the facility. Most view the idea of entering a nursing home as a dreadful specter that they would be happy to avoid. As a professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing, Rantz has developed a collaborative project designed to change that attitude from dread into anticipation and even excitement.
We see that as humans we are different from other modern primates, although we don't know exactly how that came to be. Unlocking this mystery has been Anthropology professor Carol Ward's life's work. While the fossil record is sketchy at times, it is crucial in estimating the chronology of certain key acquisitions of modern humans, be it walking on two feet, developing big brains, changing their diet, or changing their tool-making behavior. Working with fossils, Ward seeks to answer the bigger question—why did those changes occur?
Dr. Shonekan tells us about her collaborative work with African American Opera singer Camilla Williams. This collaboration served as the field work for Dr. Shonekan’s dissertation, and later culminated in her full-length biography The Life of Camilla Williams, African American Classical Singer and Opera Diva .
Stealey explains the purpose of interactive art, as exemplified by sculptural books.
Historically, humans have used images and writing to “wire their brains together for collective intelligence.” Today, the Internet allows an even greater breadth and depth of interconnectivity.
Dean O’Brien appreciates the model of research that is standard in the sciences, where multiple scholars work together on a project.
Glascock defines the field of archaeometry, and then details his personal approach to the field. He also notes his attempts to reach out to the archaeometric community in order to further the science.
Sometimes its hard to see beyond the white coats and beakers. Dr. Eggert describes how the work in her lab affects the world outside, including influencing legislature and building public knowledge about local wildlife.
With the kind of scale that Dr. Eggert’s projects involve, collaboration is essential. Here she describes some of those collaborations and how they work.
Will describes his research on food addiction, explaining “it’s becoming very commonplace and accepted that food is addictive, and that we need to study it just like we study drugs of abuse.”
Binge eating, it turns out, is parallel to exercise addiction like the “runner’s high." Through his collaboration in exercise physiology, Will began looking at exercise as a treatment plan for both drug and food addictions.
Foley is grateful to have had fruitful collaboration with other scholars. Early in his career he carried on formative fieldwork with Barbara Kerewsky-Halpern and Joel Halpern (University of Massachusetts-Amherst), and studied with Albert Lord (Harvard University) at the Parry Collection of Oral Literature. Walter Ong (Saint Louis University) was a crucial mentor for 20 years. More recent collaborators have included Paolu Zedda, an ethnomusicology professor from Sardinia and a performer of oral poetry; Chao Gejin, Director of the Institute of Ethnic Literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Lauri Harvilahti, Director of the Folklore Archive at the Finnish Literature Society; and Bertsozale Elkartea, a group of scholars committed to the study of Basque oral traditions.
Several groups of people are involved in Inniss’ water plant research: the regulatory agency, the treatment facility, the consultants, and MU. “There are several entities responsible for water quality, and for improvements to the water quality," he notes. “We work with them, and we feel like we’re a component in that whole structure.”
For Gangopadhyay, collaboration is one of the most important parts of scientific research. “If you don’t have the right collaborators,” she remarks, “it’s impossible to move your field to the next level.” Many of the collaborations with which she is involved are possible only on the MU campus.
The Nutritional Sciences department is a part of three colleges, and is collaborating with three departments to create a metabolic kitchen. Hardin is overseeing the project, which he hopes will work to combat the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
Hardin gives a tour of what will become MU’s state-of-the-art metabolic kitchen. Although the space in the basement of the Nutritional Sciences building is currently full of old rat cages and unusable lab equipment, Hardin envisions shiny countertops and places to package food. He also hopes to be able to record cooking demonstrations and investigate the way children select their food.
“Collaboration is necessary for someone like me because I don’t have a field,” says Barker. “Am I an anthropological archaeologist or am I a museum director? I’m both. We often talk about interdisciplinary research; by necessity, mine is completely interdisciplinary. It is always sitting between and spanning multiple disciplines.” He collaborates, for example, with other museums and research centers, for example with Michael D. Glascock of the Missouri Reactor Center’s Archaeometry Laboratory.
Most of Yoon’s projects are collaborative in nature. She works with specialists from computer programming, data-base design, and hotel and restaurant management. “Collaboration is essential in this field,” she observes. Her colleagues are in fact scattered across the nation: “It doesn’t really matter these days because we can use live chat or GoToMeeting. This kind of technology allows us to actually work together quite seamlessly without meeting face-to-face.”
Collaboration has been at the forefront of West’s research from the beginning. Although collaboration is said to take twice a long as working on something by yourself, West reports “I’ve always thought it was really sad in some ways to be an academic, working so much in isolation. Questions arise, such as ‘whom am I writing this for, how many people are going to read it, and what social good am I doing?’ For me collaboration helps alleviate some of those anxieties about the usefulness of the work. Whenever I get anxious, I can turn to my co-author and ask, ‘Why are we doing this project again, and why is it important?’ We can sort of borrow each other’s energies at different times. There is truly that spirit of doing it together—a joint venture.” In this spirit, West has collaborated on a number of conference papers and articles with graduate students and other colleagues because she finds that collaboration pushes her in different ways. For example, working with Pelizzon, with whom she wrote From Celluloid to Tabloid, challenged West to be a better writer. “She is a wonderful stylist,” says West of her poet collaborator, so that “whenever I write a sentence and revise it, I wonder if it is a sentence she would like, or how I could make it better. She also tells great narratives, knows how to tweak anecdotes really well, and knows how to make a critical book read like a narrative, which is a real gift.”
The Center has been working with the School of Nursing and the College of Education at MU to provide mental health training for nurses, teachers, principals, and school counselors. Thanks to the collaboration with Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Health, the national centers on mental health, and other federal agencies, they have been able to do outreach, sharing, collaboration, and program development. “That’s the only way we’re going to be able to surmount some of these issues,” Koller remarks. “Without that collaboration, we would not be where we are today.”
Garcia describes a few projects within the realm of sustainable agriculture. For example, Garcia trains extension educators on various sustainability issues. The educators may then go back to their communities and work directly with farmers and workers, “so that those farmers are more exposed to sustainable agriculture issues, including, for example, sustainable agriculture practices, natural resources, conservation issues, and funding opportunities for sustainable agriculture projects for their farms.” Garcia works as well with MU’s community of students, staff, and faculty, offering a monthly seminar called, “What’s New in Sustainable Food and Farming.”
Some of the collaborative efforts Henry has been a part of include research with pharmaceutical companies, the MU Research Reactor, and the Veterinary Cancer Society.
In collaboration with another colleague at MU, Peter Nabelek, Liu has been studying metamorphism, “the change in mineral composition of rocks when the pressure and temperature conditions change.”
Welch has been working for the past six years with Suzanne Burgoyne of MU’s theatre department to employ an interactive theatre technique in classrooms and workshops that teaches conflict resolution skills. This research and pedagogical approach is on-going. Recently it morphed into something called the Difficult Dialogues Project—an interdisciplinary initiative involving MU and 42 other institutions to address the threats to academic freedom at the university. The project is designed “to empower students to express opposing views respectfully and in the spirit of open-mindedness.”
One of Welch’s projects involves the Center for Religion, the Professions, and the Public: “As the professions become aware of the different religious traditions with which people work, it raises questions about what constitutes ethical behavior. People have different meanings of what counts as ethical. How do we learn to adjudicate these in a better way?” CRPP’s ethics consortium brings people from multiple disciplines together to look at deep ethical issues. Another project with which Welch is active is MU’s Difficult Dialogues Project, a collaborative initiative that joins the forces of various administrative, faculty, and student groups. Using interactive theater, the project aims to address difficult multicultural issues in “an environment in which differing views are defended, heard, and considered by those who hold conflicting ideas and values across cultures.”
“We know fire ignores country boundaries. We know insects and disease cross country boundaries. However, as human beings we have to get a visa to go to another country.” He insists, “I find science really doesn’t have a boundary.”
“In my field, the individual is very limited,” reflects He. Thus he finds himself involved in a number of collaborations with other people – from other MU faculty to the U.S. Forest Service, the USDA, and international landscape ecology experts.
Wells’ current project involves collaboration with co-authors Ron Krotoszynski, Steven Gey, Lyrissa Lidsky on a law casebook called First Amendment: Cases and Theory (forthcoming 2008, Aspen Publishing).
The team has completed phase one of the project, which involved establishing the administrative structure for TICIPS and conducting a small-scale clinical trial of the safety of the South African plant Sutherlandia in healthy adults. The next step will involve trying to find scientific evidence about the plant’s safety.
William Folk and Quinton Johnson (of the University of the Western Cape) have orchestrated a large collaboration of over a dozen colleagues from universities in South Africa and the United States to create a virtual center that seeks to understand traditional healing practices in South Africa.
In its second year, TICIPS has three out of four projects underway. The highest priority is a human clinical trial that will take place in a hospital outside of Durbin, South Africa.
Langen describes the rewards of two collaborative projects: Eight Twentieth-Century Russian Plays (2000) is an anthology of Russian plays that he translated and edited with Justin Weir. He also worked with his brother, Jesse Langen, examining how the music by Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich drew upon the poems of Alexander Blok.
At first, when asked about collaborative research, Larsen joked that cultural geographers “usually fly solo,” because the projects are so time- and field-intensive. Yet Larsen has been involved in a number of collaborations. He worked closely with the Cheslatta people in British Columbia on various projects. At the Colorado field school he shares ideas with a cultural geographer, a GIS specialist, and a physical geographer. And he also collaborates with Matt Foulkes, a population geographer from MU’s Geography department, and Ann Bettencourt, a social psychologist from the Psychology department. Larsen has recently begun collaborating with Jason Dittmer, a geography colleague at Georgia Southern University, to compare the U.S.-based Captain America books with those of Captain Canuck, its Canadian parallel. Using content analysis, they have found these comics shed light on matters of nationalism, national identity, and cultural values, as well as responses to cultural change.
Chandrasekhar’s research simply could not be accomplished without a good deal of collaboration with other people.
Johnsons discusses the growing interest in the philosophy of biology at Mizzou.
Gompper and his team work with parasitologists at the School of Veterinary Sciences to learn more about the effects of various diseases on wildlife and how wildlife can act a resevoir for diseases that humans may contract. Gompper discusses many other collaborations as well.
In order to raise awareness of their research, Gompper and his team work closely with a number of agencies, including the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Arkansas Fishing Game Commission, and the U.S. Forest Services.
Devlin discusses work he is doing with others on campus, including his joint appointment in the Theatre department.
Perna found herself drawn to viola performance, and especially chamber music, because of the collaborative and democratic nature of the music-making process.
The Esterhàzy Quartet, the string quartet with whom Perna performs chamber music, focuses particularly on work from contemporary living composers. The Esterhàzy Quartet established residency at the Berklee College of Music in Boston six years ago, where they experience the magic of the collaborative process while working with the best student composers.
The TigerPlace project is a collaboration across multiple departments of the MU campus. Listen to different team members introduce themselves and explain their involvement in the project.
Continuation of the research team introductions.
The potential at MU to create profoundly innovative and viable research collaborations, for example, with MU’s Veterinary School, Medical School, College of Engineering, and Department of Anthropology. More specifically, Ward discusses the exciting joint project to examine the effect of exercise and mechanical load (weight) on joint and bone growth, with implications for arthritis treatment.
Hawley’s newest teaching project in collaboration with other TAM faculty: Laurel Wilson, Lynn Boorady, and Pam Norum.
The challenges and benefits of interdisciplinary research; trying to figure out how to speak the same language with collaborators from other disciplines.
Another interdisciplinary project involving cognitive psychology, computer science, and engineering. Robotics applications of fuzzy logic and simulating human “working memory” in computers.
Interdisciplinary and collaborative projects on technology for elder care at TigerPlace, especially applying “fuzzy logic” to these problems.