Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

College of Liberal Arts News

Mathematics Professor Wins National Science Foundation Award


Peter Otto, assistant professor of mathematics, recently won a National Science Foundation Research Opportunity Award, which allows faculty at predominantly undergraduate institutions to pursue research as visiting scientists with NSF-supported investigators at other institutions.

With his award of $23,870, Otto will collaborate with Professor Richard S. Ellis at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to complete a paper titled “Asymptotic Behavior of the Finite-Size Magnetization as a Function of the Speed of Approach to Criticality” and a sequel publication on a related topic. The papers are the results of their continued investigations of the phase transitions of physical systems.

“The classic example of a phase transition is when water turns into gas as temperature rises,” Otto says. “While it is known how the system behaves on both sides of the transition, exactly what happens right at the point of transition is not well understood. Professor Ellis and I are examining what happens close to the transition point for a class of theoretical mathematical models in statistical mechanics.”

The goal of the Research Opportunity Award is to enhance the research productivity and professional development of science faculty at undergraduate institutions through research activities that enable them to explore the emerging frontiers of science.

National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Creates New Course

Jennifer Jopp, Assistant Professor of History

Jennifer Jopp, assistant professor of history, won a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a new undergraduate course at Willamette, "What is a Just Society?"

Jopp received an "Enduring Questions" education program award, which supports new undergraduate humanities courses that engage life's "great questions."

The NEH announced grants and awards for 154 high quality humanities projects nationwide. The awards went to an array of organizations, including libraries, historical societies, universities, museums and state humanities councils.

"These important projects encourage the exchange of ideas and represent the best of humanities scholarship," NEH Acting Chairman Carole M. Watson said.

Jopp plans to debut her new course next fall. The course will ask students to consider the role of justice in the construction of polities. Students will explore questions of what a just society means, and how justice might be measured, attained and maintained. They will study philosophers and thinkers from across many centuries - including Plato, Saint Augustine, Christine de Pizan, William Godwin and John Rawls - who have pondered how best to construct a society that fosters justice.

"Questions about justice and fairness are among the most central human questions," Jopp says. "I believe it is imperative that we allow our students the opportunity afforded by such a grant to grapple with these questions alone, together and in the larger community of which Willamette is a part."

Jopp also plans to develop a campus-wide program of round-table discussions that will include the outside Salem community in addressing justice-related issues.

For more about the NEH grant winners, visit www.neh.gov/news/archive/20n090615.html.

Biology Professor Featured in Bird Watcher’s Digest


The September/October cover article in Bird Watcher's Digest features the Caspian tern -- and the work of Willamette biology Professor David Craig.

The author discussed Craig's experience working with the birds around the globe and quoted a Willamette student who participated in Craig's research. Craig has conducted his own research in addition to advising students' work on terns since 1993. One of his research sites is the world's largest tern colony, at the mouth of the Columbia River, where 9,000 pairs nest.

Read more about Craig's research in the Spring 2006 issue of The Scene: www.willamette.edu/scene/2006/spring/32/.

For more about the Bird Watcher's Digest article, visit www.birdwatchersdigest.com/site/publications/so09-caspian.aspx.