On December 1, UMass Boston cheered on its star researchers at the Annual Research Celebration.
In his opening remarks, Chancellor J. Keith Motley reminded the crowd how far UMass Boston’s research capacity had come since the university’s early days in Park Square. He credited the faculty and staff of the university for their efforts.
“Your contributions have made the research culture at this university shine,” Motley said.
Three faculty speakers represented dozens of their peers who have earned accolades and awards in the past year. As Vice Provost for Research Zong-Guo Xia put it, “We set new records every year and every semester.”
In 2015, research awards totaled $63,272,917, breaking last year’s record of $60 million in research funding. In addition to this growth, the university expects to invest another $30 million in research as a part of the $100 million Just Imagine capital campaign.
Alice Carter, professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts, spoke about her research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and disparities in diagnosis and care. Carter recently received a $3.9 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to examine the differences in how and when poor children and children of color are diagnosed with ASD.
“I want to thank Chancellor Motley for encouraging us to become a research university with a teaching soul – and actually a collaborative university with a teaching soul, because I think this is one of the few places where everyone is really encouraged to work together,” Carter said.
Kamaljit Bawa, distinguished professor of biology in the College of Science and Mathematics, and winner of numerous awards, including the MIDORI prize in biodiversity, discussed the past and future of UMass Boston research in environmental and life sciences. Bawa praised the university’s achievements, and recommended that even more emphasis be placed on sustainability – which he believes will be the prevailing theme of the next century of research.
“Our university has been at the forefront of social justice movements at the local, national, and international levels. Our university is now well placed to take a leading role in the development of sustainability studies to address the new and formidable social justice challenge of global sustainability,” Bawa said.
The final speaker at the luncheon was Arthur Eisenkraft, distinguished professor of science education and director of the Center of Science and Math in Context (COSMIC), a joint venture of the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education and Human Development. Eisenkraft asked the assembled researchers to think hard about the difference between investigation and information. He used his own experiences as an innovator in science education to discuss the difference between presenting the facts and giving students the tools to find out “how we know” about the world around us.
“The unacceptable answers in science are ‘it’s in the book’ and ‘the teacher told us,’” Eisenkraft said.
He encouraged his peers to make their research and teaching relevant to the lives of the students they teach.
Eisenkraft quoted education reformer John Dewey, “Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”