Santanu Roy, Chair, Economics, appointed University Distinguished Professor

Paul Ludden, SMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs announced the appointment of three new University Distinguished Professors. Congratulations to the following:

Professor Randall Griffin, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts
Professor Suku Nair, Chair, Computer Science and Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering
Professor Santanu Roy, Chair, Economics, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences

These individuals were nominated by their Deans and recommended for appointment by a Selection Committee comprised of current endowed chairs and UDP’s.

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Brian D. Zoltowski, Chemistry, Study funded by NIH is decoding blue light’s mysterious ability to alter body’s natural clock

Blue light from artificial lighting and electronic devices knocks circadian rhythms off-kilter, resulting in health problems, sleep, cancer development, mood disorders, drug addiction, crop disease and even confused migratory animals

Arabidopsis thaliana is a small flowering plant that is widely used as a model organism in plant biology.

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health is unraveling the mystery of how blue light from residential and commercial lighting, electronic devices and outdoor lights can throw off-kilter the natural body clock of humans, plants and animals, leading to disease.

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Exposure to blue light is on the increase, says chemist Brian D. Zoltowski, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, who leads the study, “Protein : Protein interaction networks in the circadian clock.”

At the right time of day, blue light is a good thing. It talks to our 24-hour circadian clock, telling our bodies, for example, when to wake up, eat and carry out specific metabolic functions.

In plants, blue light signals them to leaf out, grow, blossom and bloom. In animals, it aids migratory patterns, sleep and wake cycles, regulation of metabolism, as well as mood and the immune system.

But too much blue light — especially at the wrong time — throws biological signaling out of whack.

“As a society, we are using more technology, and there’s increasing evidence that artificial light has had a negative consequence on our health,” said Zoltowski, an assistant professor in SMU’s Department of Chemistry. READ MORE

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Timothy Myer, Earth Sciences, Jurassic climate for part of western U.S. more complex

The climate 150 million years ago of a large swath of the western United States was more complex than previously known, according to new research from Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

It’s been held that the climate during the Jurassic was fairly dry in New Mexico, then gradually transitioned to a wetter climate northward to Montana.

But based on new evidence, the theory of a gradual transition from a dry climate to a wetter one during the Jurassic doesn’t tell the whole story, says SMU paleontologist Timothy S. Myers, lead author on the study.

Geochemical analysis of ancient soils, called paleosols, revealed an unexpected and mysterious abrupt transition from dry to wet even though some of the samples came from two nearby locales, Myers said.

Myers discovered the abrupt transition through geochemical analysis of more than 40 ancient soil samples. READ MORE

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Kathleen Wellman, History, Texas State Board of Education allows conservatives to decide content in textbooks

The Atlantic

Originally posted: Nov. 25, 2014

Last Tuesday, the Texas State Board of Education held a public hearing to choose which new social studies textbooks will be recommend to school districts in the state. The board was expected to vote to approve the majority of proposed textbooks and smooth the way for what should have been a final procedural vote on Friday. Instead, complaints by right-wing groups torpedoed the adoption process. The board didn’t approve a single textbook and left the door open to 11th-hour political meddling.

Because the 15-member board voted not to adopt any books, publishers were forced to ignore historical fact and make last minute changes to their books to cater to the conservative activists. When the board voted on Friday, many board members (and the public) couldn’t respond to the final changes made to the textbooks they were approving. They hadn’t even seen them—changes that totaled hundreds of pages.

The problems with this textbook adoption process began in 2010, when the education board passed new history standards that require students to “identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses,” and establish how “biblical law” was a major influence on America’s founding.

“Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have.”
Other standards also placed states’ rights and sectionalism ahead of slavery as a cause of the Civil War; claimed that Joseph McCarthy’s blacklists of Americans were justified because communists had infiltrated the government during the Cold War; and in a section on the influence of art, music, and literature on American society, hip hop was removed for being culturally irrelevant and replaced instead with country music. (An aside: Despite disliking hip hop, Board Member Pat Hardy argued that it should be included because, “These people (hip hop artists) are multi-millionaires … There are not enough black people to buy that. There are white people buying this.”)

Even the conservative Fordham Institute called Texas’ standards “a politicized distortion of history.” Distortion or not, textbook publishers must abide by these standards if they want to secure board approval. For example, McGraw-Hill’s U.S. Government textbook says Moses and the Covenant “contributed to our Constitutional structure.”

Beyond crediting Moses with inspiring the American Constitution, some books mislead students about the scientific consensus on climate change, while others undermine the separation of church and state. Pearson’s American Government textbook originally contained two racist cartoons about affirmative action, including a picture of two aliens (ostensibly from outer space) and the caption, “Relax, we’ll be fine—they’ve got affirmative action.” The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog organization, hired scholars who catalogued all the problems with the different books.

Political meddling by the Board of Education doesn’t just affect Texas. Because Texas buys nearly 50 million textbooks each year, it has a huge impact on the textbook market at large. School districts all around the country, including some in Louisiana, buy books that were written to meet Texas’ standards, flaws included. Former board Chairman Don McLeroy, who was instrumental in passing many of these standards, once said, “Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have.” McLeroy hadn’t seen the current textbooks, but after reading an article in Politico about their references to the “Christian heritage,” he said he was “thrilled” because that was the goal of his standards.

This entire process is about politics, not history.
In September, the Board held its first meeting to allow the public to comment on the content of the proposed textbooks. (I’ve testified at multiple hearings in opposition to these textbooks on behalf of Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Houston Chapter.) Public criticism of the books mounted, including from more than 100,000 people who signed petitions calling for climate science denial to be removed from the textbooks. Southern Methodist University history professor Kathleen Wellman testified that these books would cause students to believe “that Moses was the first American.” READ MORE

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Jewish Studies Newsletter- The ShMUz

READ THE LATEST JEWISH STUDIES NEWSLETTER

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Seismologist Brian Stump named AAAS Fellow

Seismologist Brian Stump has been named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow for distinguished contributions to his field, particularly in the area of seismic monitoring in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Professor Brian Stump AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Stump, Albritton Chair of Geological Sciences in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in SMU’s Dedman College, is the fifth professor at SMU (Southern Methodist University) to be recognized as an AAAS Fellow.

“Dr. Stump is a scientist of the first rank and brings the results of his outstanding research into the classroom, where his students benefit from his example and insights as a scholar,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “He richly deserves the AAAS recognition by his peers and we are proud that he calls SMU home.” READ MORE

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Seismologist Brian Stump joins four Dedman College faculty members as the newest AAAS Fellow

Congratulations to seismologist Brian Stump who has been named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow for distinguished contributions to his field, particularly in the area of seismic monitoring in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.

Stump joins four other Dedman College faculty members who have previously been named as AAAS Fellows. The Fellows are volcanologist and research dean Quick, who was named a Fellow in 2013; environmental biochemistry scholar Paul W. Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs and a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, who was named a Fellow in 2003; anthropologist David J. Meltzer, Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in the Department of Anthropology who was named a Fellow in 1998; and James E. Brooks, provost emeritus and professor emeritus in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, who was named a Fellow in 1966.

READ SMU’S OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE HERE

READ MORE ON BRIAN STUMP

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English Doctoral Lecture Series featuring Julianne Sandberg

EVENT: December 5, 2014

Doctoral Lecture Series featuring Julianne Sandberg. On December 5 Julianne Sandberg will give a talk on “John Donne’s Body and Eucharistic Allegory.” The lecture will be at 3:30pm in 101 Dallas Hall

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College is it good for you?

EVENT: December 4, 2014

College is it good for you? An honest question and an open conversation with panelists: Preston Hutcherson (SMU Senior) and Thomas August (NYU Professor). This event will be moderated by Tim Cassedy (SMU Professor) at 6:30pm in Dedman Life Sciences 110.

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Department of Psychology congratulates new Phi Beta Kappa members

The Department of Psychology congratulates 3 of its undergraduate majors for being chosen for membership in Phi Beta Kappa. The 3 students are:

Jiani Zhu
Ashley Schneider
Emaan Rangoonwala

This is an outstanding achievement and the highest academic honor one can receive as an undergraduate.

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