Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Earth Sciences Faculty News

Dinosaurs once roamed the Arctic. What can they tell us about adapting to a changing climate?

Alaska Public Radio

Originally Posted: October 8, 2021

Scientists are learning more about how dinosaurs adapted to the climate in Alaska. Studying what these prehistoric giants left behind may reveal clues to help better adapt to warming temperatures brought on by climate change.

Lori Townsend discusses ongoing research with paleontologists Anthony Fiorillo and Patrick Druckenmiller. WATCH

Anthropology Biology Chemistry Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Earth Sciences Economics English Events History Institute for the Study of Earth and Man Jewish Studies Program Mathematics Philosophy Physics Political Science Psychology Religious Studies Sociology Statistical Science SW Center Tower Center UHP World Languages and Literatures

RSVP TODAY! Dedman College Community Mixer: Friday, November 5th

Dedman College Community Mixer

Date: Nov. 5, 2021
Time: 3-5 p.m.
Location: Dallas Hall Rotunda and Dallas Hall Front Steps

All Dedman College faculty, staff and students welcome.

Please RSVP by October 29, 2021:

Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Earth Sciences Political Science Tower Center Undergraduate News

Advocating For Conservation in Marseille

Tower Center Blog

Originally Posted: October 10, 2021

This post was written by Isabelle Galko ’22, a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar. She is majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Human Rights and Public Policy and International Affairs. She is also a President’s Scholar, a member of the University Honors Program and assistant editor of SMU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a global organization that works on nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Every four years, IUCN convenes a World Conservation Congress—a global meeting that serves as an assembly of leaders and decision-makers from government, academia, society, indigenous cultures, and industry working towards conserving the environment at a global level. After completing a project on marine pollution and coral reefs, I proposed a session at the Congress in 2019 about understanding how individuals interpret and respond to environmental communication as a predictor of future sustainable action. By showcasing community-based conservation projects, the session would present a model of practices that could be used to establish action plans for other communities, catalyze action, and build momentum for activating young female leaders. My proposal was accepted and I was invited to present at the 2020 IUCN World Conservation Congress. Due to COVID-19, traveling to Marseille became impossible in 2020 and the conference was rescheduled twice. I was overjoyed when I was able to attend the conference in person in September 2021!

My presentation for the forum at IUCN was converted into a virtual poster titled, “Preparing Families to Act as Stewards to Combat Climate Change and Restore Ocean Health.” The poster showcases three projects (including my own) that offer suggestions for activities designed to increase individual stewardship and mitigate climate change risks in local communities. The presentation specifically focused on young, female leadership in conservation and I spoke about the importance of mentorship networks and using the featured projects as models for future female- and youth-led community-based initiatives. While attending the conference in person, I was also able to present my project and work with the IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication over 10 days.

IUCN has six commissions: I am a member of the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC). The CEC has over 2,000 members, which include conservation organizations and educators across the globe. The Commission’s current focus is an initiative called #NatureForAll, which promotes equitable access to nature in order to cultivate love and appreciation for nature, with the goal to increase conservation of nature. The CEC has a specific focus on youth movements for nature and climate. When I arrived in Marseille, I immediately got to work setting up the CEC’s “Youth Oasis,” where I would be connecting with other young conservation leaders from around the world, helping put on interactive programs for the conference and sharing information about #NatureForAll.

The highlights of attending the IUCN conference were getting to attend sessions and even sit in on the Member’s Assembly. The first night, I got to see French President Macron and the actor Harrison Ford speak at the opening ceremony! All week, when I wasn’t at the Youth Oasis, I attended sessions on many different topics, including the blue economy, environmental law, sports and biodiversity, and amplifying indigenous voices in conservation. I had the opportunity to hear and learn from amazing experts, including the Prince of Monaco, environmental law professors, the United Nations Special Envoy for the Ocean, and National Geographic explorers. The conference ran from early morning to late at night. In the evenings, I talked and networked with CEC members, IUCN commissioners, and other university students about their work in conservation.

I learned so much in Marseille, but my biggest takeaway from IUCN is that future approaches to address environmental challenges must be transgenerational, intersectional, and inclusive. Ultimately, conservation must be recentered around people. That means putting local communities at the heart of nature and working towards greater collaboration with indigenous groups, the private sector, and young people. READ MORE

Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Events Mathematics

Event: October 28, Clements Scientific Computing Seminar

Time: 3:45pm, Thursday, October 28, 2021
Venue: Clements Hall 126
Title: Direct solvers for elliptic PDEs
Speaker: Gunnar Martinsson, Oden Institute, UT Austin

Abstract: That the linear systems arising upon the discretization of elliptic PDEs can be solved efficiently is well-known, and iterative solvers that often attain linear complexity (multigrid, Krylov methods, etc) have proven very successful. Interestingly, it has recently been demonstrated that it is often possible to directly compute an approximate inverse to the coefficient matrix in linear (or close to linear) time. The talk will describe some recent work in the field and will argue that direct solvers have several advantages, including improved stability and robustness, the ability to solve certain problems that have remained intractable to iterative methods, and dramatic improvements in speed in certain environments.

Biography: Gunnar Martinsson is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also holds the W.A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Chair in Simulation-Based Engineering and Sciences in the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Prior to joining UT Austin, Martinsson served as a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, and he has previously held faculty positions at the University of Colorado at Boulder and at Yale University. He earned his Ph.D. in computational and applied mathematics in 2002 from UT Austin. He received a M.Sc. degree in Engineering Physics in 1996 and a “Licentiate” degree in Mathematics in 1998, both from the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Martinsson was the recipient of the SIAM 2017 Germund Dahlquist Prize, and was named a Fellow of SIAM in 2021.

Martinsson’s research concerns the development of faster algorithms for ubiquitous computational tasks in scientific computing and data sciences. Recent work has focused on randomized methods in linear algebra, fast solvers for elliptic PDEs, O(N) complexity direct solvers, structured matrix computations, and high order accurate methods for scattering and fluid problems

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Pennsylvania Humanities Council Celebrates Playwright August Wilson In New Initiative

Pennsylvania Humanities Council

Originally Posted: October 8, 2021

Brittany Levingston is a 2014 graduate in the SMU Department of English

Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) is pleased to announce its partnership with Dr. Brittany Levingston, one of the 41 newest Leading Edge Fellows, who will develop a series of statewide programs centered on the renowned works of Pennsylvania playwright August Wilson.

The Leading Edge Fellowship is an initiative of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) that aims to demonstrate the potential of people with advanced degrees in the humanities and humanistic social sciences to solve problems outside the academy. It recently underwent a major expansion with the support of a $3.6 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The fellowship program features outstanding PhDs in the humanities that have been placed with nonprofits to support initiatives advancing social justice and equity in communities across the United States. Fellows receive an annual stipend, as well as health insurance and professional development support.

“As we look forward with hope to our emergence from the pandemic, we also feel a sense of urgency in helping humanistic scholars work with others to create a better, more inclusive future,” said ACLS President Joy Connolly. “This impressive group reflects our commitment to supporting early career scholars and recognizing the power humanistic knowledge and inquiry have to help shape the world beyond campus.”

Levingston’s work will focus on the ten plays of August Wilson’s Century Cycle, which chronicles the collective memory, history, and dreams of African American families across the twentieth century. She will collaborate with PHC on a slate of community engagement programs exploring themes from the plays in conjunction with the rich history of African American communities across the state.

“I am overjoyed to be working with PHC on this exciting project that will celebrate the work of August Wilson and the stories of African American communities in Pennsylvania,” said Levingston. “I look forward to collaborating with partners across the state to bring inspiring and engaging programming to local communities.”

Levingston recently received a PhD in English and African American Studies from Yale University. She began her work with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council as a Leading Edge Fellow in September, 2021. Public programs are expected to be announced in Summer 2022. READ MORE

Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences

2022 Faculty Letter of Recommendation

2022 Faculty Letter of Recommendation

Students must have two letters of recommendation from faculty for the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Departmental Merit Scholarship. Recommendations must be submitted by faculty below.

All application materials are due by 11:59pm CT on Friday, March 11, 2022.

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Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences

2022-2023 Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Departmental Merit Scholarship Application

2022-2023 Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Departmental Merit Scholarship Application

Scholarship Requirements: Applicants must be a full-time undergraduate student who has declared a major or a minor (minors only apply to a select few departmental scholarships) in Dedman College. At the time of application, applicant must be in good academic standing with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and plans to enroll full- time (12+ hours) for the semester for which the application is being submitted.

You must submit the completed application along with an SMU transcript for all completed semesters and an essay of 500 words or less describing your short and long-range goals, both academic and professional. Applicants must also have two letters of recommendation from faculty. Faculty can submit letters of recommendation here:

All application materials are due by 11:59pm CT on Friday, March 11, 2022.

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Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Diversity and Inclusion History

Event: October 8, Documentary Screening and Open Discussion of Asian Americans


Originally Posted: Sept. 30, 2021

RSVP by Oct. 6:

Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Earth Sciences Faculty News

New landslides on US West Coast detected by SMU scientists

SMU News

Originally Posted: September 27, 2021

Team of Dallas-based university researchers use satellite radar imagery to reveal hundreds of unseen landslides occurring in western states

SMU geophysicists have used satellite imagery to identify more than 600 slow-moving landslides occurring near the U.S. West Coast.

Fewer than 5% of these landslides in California, Oregon and Washington state had previously been identified.

Geophysics professor Zhong Lu and his team at SMU (Southern Methodist University) were awarded nearly $1 million over the past 4 years from the NASA Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science Program and the NASA Earth Surface and Interior Focus Area to study landslides on the West Coast.

Most of the large landslides they found were in the mountain ranges of western Washington, southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. In some cases, the identified landslides were within 0.5 to 5 kilometers of multiple towns and roads.

“These landslides are currently moving slowly. But they’re already in a state of force imbalance. So some other external forces, like earthquakes or rainfall, could shift them into a disaster,” said Yuankun Xu, a postdoctoral researcher who works in Lu’s SMU Radar Laboratory and lead author of a study published in the journal Landslides.

Co-author Lu, Shuler-Foscue Chair at SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, said, “We don’t want to give the impression that these landslides are in trouble tomorrow. No, these landslides have a life expectancy ranging from years to a thousand years.”

Still, the researchers urged policymakers in these western states to monitor the movement of the now-identified landslides so they can prevent a catastrophe from happening.

“I would be very concerned if living, working or commuting upon or near any of the landslides,” said study co-author William H. Schulz, a research geologist in the USGS’ Landslide Hazards Program. “However, humans can and have successfully dealt with individual landslides and potentially unstable slopes in the past. Detailed studies performed by professionals involving engineering geologic characterization and modeling are needed for any landslide to accurately estimate and mitigate potential future hazards.”

Other scientists who helped with this study were Jinwoo Kim, SAR/InSAR Research Scientist at the SMU Radar Laboratory and Kelli Baxstrom, a research geologist in the USGS’ Landslide Hazards Program.

Landslides kill thousands of people every year worldwide

Landslides occur when masses of rock, soil or earth fall down a slope because of gravity. They cause thousands of deaths each year around the world, and in the United States alone, damage exceeds $2 billion annually from these slides.

Yet, landslides can be hard to spot before they become a danger, when heavy rainfall suddenly causes the land to shift quickly.

Of the 617 landslides detected in western US states, only 29 of them were already included in the national landslide database. These landslides are typically found through human-reported events and geological maps.

“The landslides that we previously knew about are ones that people can easily spot from the highway or in city areas,” Lu said. “Those are very rapid-moving landslides.”

Other landslides, however, are harder to identify due to tree cover or because there is no obvious crack in the topography, he explained.

Xu, Lu and the rest of the research team used radar satellite images to unravel previously unidentified landslides from space. These images, taken from 2007 to 2011 and 2015 to 2019, came from radar instruments called Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR) mounted on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Advanced Land Observing Satellites.

With this interferometric synthetic aperture radar technology (called InSAR, for short) the satellite images allow scientists to detect changes that aren’t visible to the naked eye. The satellite technology can capture ground motion with a precision of sub-inches or better, at a spatial resolution of a few yards over thousands of miles, say the researchers.

Essentially, any movement of the ground surface toward or away from the satellite can be measured and depicted as a “picture.” This picture shows how much the surface has moved or deformed during the time between images. READ MORE

Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Faculty News Mathematics

SMU-RTG Selected to Present at American Mathematical Society Conference

Dedman College News

Originally Posted: September 29, 2021

Southern Methodist University Research Training Group (SMU-RTG) Principal Investigator and Department of Mathematics professor Alejandro Aceves will present at the annual American Mathematical Society Committee on Education conference October 1. The presentation will highlight the activities and accomplishments of SMU-RTG Fellows.

The SMU Department of Mathematics was awarded a $2.3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in 2019 to build the SMU-RTG—a collection of interdisciplinary teams made up of mathematicians, engineers, chemists, and neuroscientists that collaborate with junior scholars and provide training in modeling and computation. The long-range goal of the RTG programs is to strengthen the nation’s scientific competitiveness by increasing the number of well-prepared U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents who pursue careers in the mathematical sciences.

Aceves will also participate in a conference panel discussion on how to establish inter-institutional collaborations to impact diversity, equity, and inclusion intentionally and positively. Additional panelists include experts from Institut des Sciences Mathematiques, NSF, and representatives from sister societies and disciplines.

For more information about the conference visit: