Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Science Newsletter Fall 2015

Dear Colleagues,

As we close out the calendar year and look forward to winter break, I would like to encourage a moment of focus on a key piece of our mission as scholars: our collective project of building the foundational science that provides us with a better understanding of humanity and the universe in which we live, and laying the framework for the solutions to the problems facing the world today. I believe that this privilege and responsibility that we hold as the creators of new knowledge is too often overlooked. Too obvious to ourselves to warrant particular attention, and too technically specialized for many outside our disciplines to understand, we are increasingly allowing our role as scholars to be communicated almost exclusively in pedagogical terms.

Our world needs the intellectual strength and the research infrastructure of our universities more now than ever before. Within our science division here at Columbia, in collaboration with the other divisions and schools, and with our colleagues at other great research institutions, we are building foundational science that will shape the future. It is heartening to see the passage of the 2016 spending bill increasing Federal appropriations for research at agencies crucial for our research programs. This announcement followed rapidly on the heels of the Paris climate talks at which Bill Gates announced $100B for energy innovation and 19 nations pledging to double their investment in renewable energy technology. While these specific energy investments will only directly affect a small number of us, I believe that in addition to helping to address a major global problem, they also serve as an important reminder to policy makers and the public of the need for research and innovation.

We need more such reminders. In October, we took time to celebrate our faculty’s outstanding accomplishments at our annual Faculty Distinction Event. Winners of medals and fellowships, new members of prestigious academies, and a wide range of award recipients were feted by Arts & Science’s leadership. In the short time between that event and now, our faculty has continued to receive recognition for their outstanding work, and our newsletter notes several of these recent honorees. I am proud to call all of you my colleagues. There is nothing more one could ask in terms of dedication, creativity, and ingenuity. I would like to ask one thing though. I ask that we together look for more ways – large and small – to remind the world that what we are doing matters not just to the education of the next generation of students, but to the sustainability of our planet, the health of our populations, and the basic knowledge that feeds our human imagination and creativity.

This will be one of our primary projects of 2016, and I encourage you to get involved. Please begin by reading the newsletter and visiting and making use of the resources on both our Division’s and the Science Initiative’s webpages. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Enjoy this holiday season, and warm wishes for a happy and productive new year.

Amber Miller
Professor of Physics
Dean of Science
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Initiative Updates

Learn more about activities in the Division of Science and progress toward the Science Initiative’s goals, including recent and upcoming workshops, the status of major facilities projects, and an update on science development. « MORE » 


Columbia Science News 

Amid Storm of Debate, Columbia Climate Change Experts Stay Focused on Science

Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has signed a $35 million, five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to manage scientific support services for U.S. scientists studying the world's ocean floors. Lamont will use the award to manage U.S. scientific support services for the IODP. « MORE »

Local Students and Teachers See the Stars Through Eyes of Columbia Experts

Over the last seven years, Columbia graduate students have worked alongside more than a dozen high school and middle school teachers in the five boroughs and Westchester in a program called Rooftop Variables, a reference to the celestial bodies visible from local rooftops. The young people gain an opportunity to peer at the heavens with experts to guide them, and the graduate students hone their teaching skills and share their passion for science. « MORE »
Blended Learning: The Stockwells Test
Teaching Methods

A few years ago biochemist Brent Stockwell became concerned that his traditional methods of teaching — comprised of textbook readings, in-class lectures and tests — weren't effectively reaching his students. So the professor of biological sciences and chemistry began tweaking his undergraduate course called "Structure and Metabolism."  « MORE »


Awards and Honors

Throughout this academic year our outstanding faculty within the Division of Science have received numerous awards and honors, including academic medals, fellowships, keynote lectureships, and elections to prestigious academies. A few particularly notable awards include:

Luis Campos (Chemistry) — 2016 American Chemistry Society Cope Scholar Award

Cory Dean (Physics) — Packard Foundation Fellowship for Science & Engineering

Jon Owen (Chemistry) — 2016 American Chemical Society's Award in Pure Chemistry

In October, Arts and Sciences held its annual Faculty Distinction Reception, honoring the awards and honors received over the previous year. A full listing of honorees may be found in the 2015 Faculty Distinction Event Program Guide



Dec 7, 2015
Paul Olsen (DEES):

Dinosaurs Evolved Much Faster Than Previously Thought 

The New Republic
Nov. 29, 2015 
Peter Eisenberger (DEES): 

How to Invent Our Way Out of Climate Change 

The New York Times
Nov. 24, 2015 
Brian Greene (PHYS):

A Century Ago, Einstein's Theory of Relativity Changed Everythng 

The Huffington Post 
Nov. 23, 2015 
Mark Cane (DEES):
How Tackling Climate Change Could Help the World Fight Terrorism 

The Economist 
Nov. 14, 2015 
Rafael Yuste (BIOS):
What is the Best Way to Study the Brain? Big Labs or Small? 

The New York Times
Nov. 6, 2015 
Andrew Gelman (STAT):
More Details on Rising Mortality Among Middle-Aged Whites 

New Scientist
Nov. 4, 2015 
Peter deMenocal (DEES):
Did Climate Change Jump-Start Human Evolution in Africa?

« In the News Archive »



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