Exploring Knowledge

We asked faculty who received tenure this year to answer the question: What has been the idea you've spent your career investigating or exploring, and why?

Here are their responses.


Gabriella D'Angelo, Associate Professor of Art and Architecture
Architecture's ability to empower all people, to confront issues, to elicit conversations and to move beyond ego in playful overtures in order to realize new opportunities for our built environment are key driving forces within my design work, as well as within my teaching. Given the uncertainties of our future world and the current problems we face, there is an opportunity and obligation to design more ethically, intentionally and, at times, radically. Questioning the traditional boundaries that have defined architecture with an experimental, interdisciplinary, collaborative and socially conscious approach inspires a momentum for me to conceive of an architecture that is interactive, playful, adaptive and democratic. Architecture should afford spaces of joy, renewal, protection, knowledge building and sharing. Focusing much of my efforts on community-engaged projects in addition to experimental architectural performances and poetics, I hope to continue to challenge architectural discourse while making good design accessible to all.


David Finkelstein, Associate Professor of Geoscience
Modern lakes and ancient lake deposits have fascinated me for more than 35 years. Did the earliest microbes evolve in lakes and ponds? What role did fire play in Cretaceous lake ecosystems? What do the minerals in ancient lake deposits reveal about the paleo-water chemistry? I use geochemical, biogeochemical and sedimentological information recorded in lacustrine archives (rocks and sediments) to answer these questions. Over the last six years, I have successfully built a research program with Hobart and William Smith students, faculty from HWS and colleagues from other institutions. My recent scholarship focuses on investigating rapid climate change during the Holocene, Pleistocene, and Cretaceous; lake environments conducive for harboring early terrestrial life; characterization of the early geochemical evolution of lake and pond waters in the New York Finger Lakes; and the modern chemical and stable isotopic signatures of precipitation in Geneva, N.Y.


Keoka Grayson, Associate Professor of Economics
I have spent my career thinking about inequalities and inequities. Why? I think it's necessary. And I owe the universe.


Leslie Hebb, Associate Professor of Physics
I have spent my career measuring the fundamental properties of stars other than the sun and the extra-solar planets that orbit them. A star's mass, radius, temperature, chemical composition, luminosity and age are the basic properties that define it, and these change over time as a star evolves throughout its lifetime. One reason why this is important has to do with our desire to know whether we are alone in the universe. Over the past 30 years, this has become more than a philosophical question; it has become a scientific one. Scientists are working to detect life on planets around other stars, but the subtle signals from biological organisms must be made in the presence of the host star's overwhelming brightness. Furthermore, just detecting the presence of the planet itself is only made by its indirect gravitational or other influence on the star itself. Therefore, in order to detect planets around other stars and any life that may exist on them, we must first know the stars and their properties extremely well.


Christina Houseworth, Associate Professor of Economics
I examine the factors that influence the decision to work, including marital decisions, as well as wages and other determinants that influence employment outcomes such as education. More specifically, I'm interested in inequalities in the labor market. I study measures of wage inequality, the determinants that help to explain why individuals earn different wages and the underlying factors that influence those determinants. I make connections between outcomes and the factors that influence those outcomes, while paying close attention to the underlying factors that affect those determinants. Broadly defined, I am interested in the many connections between marital outcomes, education and wages and how those factors differ by race, gender and nativity.


Christopher Lemelin, Associate Professor of Russian Area Studies
My research interests encompass a range of subjects, but there is one constant in all of them: my fascination with language. My love of languages started with French in high school and continued in college with Russian, when I engaged language directly. Then, when I started studying linguistics in college and graduate school, I became fascinated not only with how languages work as systems, but also with how language is used to express our reality and even to shape it. My research addresses these issues in several ways: How does a poet capture what a painter expresses in her canvases? How does a composer interpret in music what a poet writes in words? How does an ©migr© writer use language not only to express homesickness, but also to assuage that sorrow and reestablish his identity in a culture not his own? Languages - verbal, musical and painterly - are tools with which we understand and shape our worlds and how they achieve this has fascinated me from the beginning of my academic career.


Liliana Leopardi, Associate Professor of Art and Architecture
For the past seven years, I have been interested in researching magic and the renaissance belief in the occult virtues of precious and semi-precious stones. Most elite class individuals of that period, in fact, owned and/or wore on their person such stones in order to protect themselves from an illness or cure themselves from one. Many were also treated with potions made of ground precious and semi-precious stones. While this might at first appear like a rather unusual area of research for an art historian, my interest in the subject arose from an earlier project that focused on reframing the use of ornament in Renaissance paintings. It was that research that allowed me to realize that what often appears as ornamental and symbolic to our eyes was instead highly meaningful and functional to the early modern individual. I am currently finishing a book project on this same subject.


Justin Rose, Associate Professor of Political Science
I've spent my career seeking to find the best means by which I can use my perch within higher education to effect structural change. I firmly believe that higher education is a source of structural injustice, but also a potential antidote.


Katherine Walker, Associate Professor of Music
Frank Harte was quoted as saying, "Winners write the history, losers write the songs." The basic idea captured in this statement underwrites all of my professional work, namely that music provides an alternate - and too often unexamined - lens for examining our world and its history. Music history often resides in the cracks of our geopolitical fault lines and, as such, it can be used to make visible and interrogate some of our biggest assumptions about who we are.