Learning about the work of our colleagues

learning about the work of our colleagues

How many of us really know about the scholarly efforts of our colleagues in departments and disciplines that are not part of our immediate sphere? We work at a university and as a result, we know what huge contributions are made through the scholarly activities of our faculty, staff and students. We know how important it is to see issues from different lens in order to learn new things. Yet, we often stay fairly siloed in our content areas. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) is trying to break down those silos and expose us to the work of our colleagues across disciplines.

CLAS Brown Bag Seminars
I have now attended two of the Faculty Research Brown Bag Seminars that the CLAS Dean, Karen Marrongelle, started in December. These informal sessions serve as an opportunity for faculty to share their research with colleagues, staff, and students from across the College and the University. The sessions are casual and collegial, allowing for presenter and audience to engage in lively discussion.

The brown bags are in a flexible format, occurring monthly during the noon hour. The sessions are open to the entire campus community and attendees are invited to eat their lunch as they participate.

The most recent presentation was by Jen Morse. Jen is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science Management. She received her Ph.D. in Ecology from Duke University and conducted her postdoctoral training at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.  Her work is firmly embedded in the biogeochemistry of forested and urban watersheds, agricultural systems, and restored ecosystems.

She focuses on the ecosystem functions that affect water quality, climate regulation, and carbon sequestration in natural and human-modified ecosystems. These essential processes are often adversely affected by human activities at local and global scales. Her presentation gave us an insight into how ecosystems, for example, the movement of nutrients (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) are supported by ecofunctions (the production of greenhouse gases).

Jen’s research is certainly exciting, and I have learned much about ecosystems, which is why the seminar series that CLAS has created to enhance the intellectual campus environment for all of us beyond the classroom is important. It is a way to promote and celebrate the scholarly activity of our faculty.

I recognize that everyone is busy and sometimes it is hard to find time in our schedules for anything beyond the day to day tasks at hand. However, taking the time to learn of each other’s research and scholarly activities has such benefits. (1) It gives us an understanding and appreciation of how different faculty and disciplines approach issues. (2) It allows researchers to find potential collaborators – Jen mentioned in her presentation how great it would be for her to connect with someone who does modelling for some of the analyses she dreams of doing.

I know there are other opportunities around campus, in addition to the series CLAS has started, that allow us to share and learn about each other’s work. Many are posted at the PSU events calendar website. The Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships has dozens of faculty research profiles and publishes the Quarterly Review. PDXScholar, mentioned in a recent blog on Supporting New Faculty, provides open access to a diverse collection of academic, scholarly, scientific and creative content produced by faculty, students and staff.

I encourage you to take the time to learn about each other’s work and to appreciate the benefits of working at a place that values both the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

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