Celebrating Connectedness

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

By Blake Cole

As the fall semester concludes, we are reminded of how vibrant the Penn Arts & Sciences community is—a shining example of how scholars come together to produce pioneering research and thoughtful perspectives on important issues. In our cover story, “The Future of History” (p. 14), we speak with three historians with differing areas of expertise to get their nuanced take on how we can understand our past through the lens of the present—whether we are exploring culture, or navigating the politics of the day. And “Connecting the Celestial Dots” (p. 24) details the exciting process of how a doctoral candidate in physics and astronomy and his academic mentor discovered the largest comet on record.

Many academic leaders in Penn Arts & Sciences have committed their careers to acting as a beacon for their fellow students and scholars. In “Dwelling in Possibility” (p. 46), we trace one such career of a teacher and writer who has brought the gift of poetry and literature to a dedicated on-campus community, as well as to tens of thousands around the world. And “Política, Activismo, y Academia” (p. 34) tells the story of how a professor’s career in political science grew from activism as a student in a newly democratic Argentina, and how her role as the Director of the newly established Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies will allow her to continue building community.

Scholars in all disciplines are exploring complex issues, and in this season of the OMNIA podcast, “In These Times: Fear and Loathing and Science,” we’re drilling down on the challenges of helping people understand complex science, which is even more difficult due to problems of politicization and misrepresentation of scientific information. In this vein, “Better Living … Through Chemistry?” (p. 40), an adaptation of one of the episodes, delves into chemistry’s public relations problem in contrast to its potential to solve big problems.

In fostering a space for discourse, our students’ perspectives are essential. In “Forgetting Doesn’t Heal” (p. 53), a doctoral candidate in the history of art reflects on monuments of trauma in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Black Atlantic. In the realm of student discovery, “Unconscious Memory” (p. 54) relays how a College of Liberal & Professional Studies student may have discovered a new type of memory, and “A Fieldwork Experience, No Travel Required” (p. 56) tells the story of a two-week, in-person bootcamp at Penn Museum, during which undergrads learned basic archaeological skills in subjects from ceramics and sample-taking to archaeobotany.

And if you’re in a mood to stream an informative hit show, “Explained, Explained” (p. 64) features a physicist reflecting on his involvement in an episode about the nature of time.

Much more awaits in the pages ahead. Thanks, as always, for reading, and stay safe.