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Four Faculty Summer Scholars Receive Grants for Research

Providence College’s School of Arts & Sciences has selected four professors as Summer Scholars in 2013. 

Now in its second year, the Arts & Sciences Summer Scholars Program provides stipends to support research by faculty members. Chosen professors give a presentation on their research in the fall.

Last year’s inaugural class of three Summer Scholars achieved so much that Dr. Sheila Adamus Liotta, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences and associate professor of chemistry, said she wanted to increase the number of professors who receive the stipends.

“As we ask our faculty to be active scholars, I think it is important for the School to support arts and sciences faculty in their scholarly work in any way possible,” Liotta said. “I am pleased to expand this program to help faculty to meet their professional goals.”

Dr. Holly Taylor Coolman, assistant professor of theology, is reviewing the study of law in theology. The topic is addressed in specific ways in biblical theology, in moral theology when considering natural law, and in theological reflection on political life, but has not been considered on a more comprehensive level in the modern period, she said.

“The immediate project is to step back from different applications to ask why is it that, broadly, law is not currently a category for theological reflection, although at one time it was,” she said.

Coolman will rely on the major work of St. Thomas Aquinas — and especially his Summa Theologica — for her research. She plans to write an essay that would set out the parameters for further research in this area.

Dr. Anthony K. Jensen, associate professor of philosophy, will be finalizing edits on a collection of essays on Friedrich Nietzsche’s work as a scholar of antiquities.

Many philosophers have addressed the topic of philosophy of history, Jensen said. However, “out of all those philosophers, Nietzsche is the only one who was trained as a professional historian,” Jensen said. 

Dr. Despina D. Prassas, associate professor of theology, will translate a work by Maximus the Confessor, a Byzantine theologian, from seventh century Greek to English. She expects to complete the translation of "The Ascetical Life," a dialogue between an elder monk and a novice, by the end of the year, she said. If so, it could be published by the end of 2014.

“It’s wonderful when you have the freedom to just sit and do your research. It’s a luxury, actually,” Prassas said. “I consider myself very fortunate.”

Dr. Joseph L. Shomberg, assistant professor of mathematics, will work to update some classic models for describing the evolution of heat transfer in a physical system.

“If you apply a heat source to a substance, we know how heat flows inside the substance,” Shomberg said. “In general, we don’t know how heat flows on the surface of the substance.”

Right now most theoretical models assume that the surface temperature doesn’t change. However, there are a number of variables that affect heat transfers on surfaces, some of which may be explained with “dynamic boundary conditions”.

His stipend will support research with other experts in the field of material science.

“It’s hard to keep research going, but this program will certainly help me keep the projects I have moving forward,” Shomberg said.

— Liz F. Kay

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