Works and Days



President's Summer Fellowship 2015: Nathan Martin - Part 2

An image of a tent and hammock set up in a clearing on a trail in Bryce Canyon.

My gloriously lazy hammock camp on a backpacking trip in Bryce Canyon - Riggs Spring Loop Trail.

Nate Martin '16, English Literature, is a President's Summer Fellow on a trip through the American Southwest with the goal of rewriting his connection to poetry by visiting areas where he first established that connection.

I was thinking about Sylvia Plath. I was reading The Colossus, and briefly read a poem called “Mushrooms.” I didn't like it much, and I started to wonder why. Why did Plath like it enough to include it in her collection? Does anyone like it? What makes one poem better than another? Why is one good, and another bad? Is it just relative, subjective? Is it about connections? Complexity? Simplicity? My mildly negative reaction to one poem brought me to questions about aesthetics, and, as sometimes happens when questions are piled up, I came up with some answers. But first I decided to try to write a really bad poem. Here it is:

This tree is like my heart.

Presidents Summer Fellowship 2015 - Orla O'Sullivan - Part 2

Visual art installation. Large sheets of white fabric draped on walls and floor stained with many colors.

yes no why later by Katharina Grosse, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow

Orla O'Sullivan '16, Russian major, is diving deep into the extensive collections at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, conducting research on visual culture and responses to controversial exhbitions for her President's Summer Fellowship.

I’ve held off on my second post, because I’ve been struggling with the realization that my project, which had originally aimed to document others’ responses to contemporary art at the Hermitage, has had to take a different track, one which has been both more personally difficult and fulfilling than I had expected.  

A few weeks into my internship, I realized that implementing my project per the original plan without going completely rogue was going to be nevozmozhno, impossible. What previously seemed like a fast-paced, ever-changing series of projects revealed itself as a series of events that should have been planned months ago, but were instead hastily assembled four days prior to their official presentation date. We could complain of a lack of helpers, but that would be inverting the truth. There’s no lack of helpers (the museum pumps out visas for students from impressive European universities like clockwork); there’s just no available record of them. So when some of the more determined volunteers do make an attempt to draft a project schedule or add a little logistical infrastructure, they usually become completely overwhelmed with the scale of their endeavor, the difficulty of contacting people, and the list of unfinished projects barreling toward their deadlines. 

Presidents Summer Fellowship - Art in Italy - Margaret MacLean - Part 2

A walkway between two buildings with plants on either side in partial sun.

The beautiful Cooperativa Barberi.

President's Summer Fellow Margaret MacLean '16, studio art major, is leading art classes for youth with intellectual and developmental challenges at the Cooperativa Barberi in Florence, Italy. Read on for her adventures:

The hardest part of my PSF experience so far has been wrestling with my expectations. The dreaming and planning I did to prepare for Italy was incredibly important but also left me with some lofty ideas about what my summer would look like. My views on all of the things I came here for have shifted. My project has taken a slightly new shape and is far less sparkly and neat than it was in my imagination. I suppose this is to be expected!

First of all, my relationship towards my photography has changed. Usually I feel like my camera gives me the power to enter into spaces and situations that I couldn’t ordinarily. As photographer Diane Arbus said, “the camera is a kind of a license” that allows you to ask more questions and look more carefully than is usually socially acceptable. But in Florence during peak tourist season, with a camera in hand I feel like a tourist, not an artist. When I click the shutter button I feel like I am a part of a tourist culture that takes-takes-takes and gives nothing back. Italy’s biggest industry is tourism and in Florence so many things are constructed purely for tourists to experience and photograph. I don’t know if what I am feeling is genuinely a dislike for this exploitative aspect of photography or simply a form of artistic self-consciousness. Probably a bit of both.

Final notes from a Paris biology lab

My practicum in the philosophic aspects of scientific research is technically over today. My internship at LBPA (Laboratoire de biologie et de pharmacologie applliquée) at ENS-Cachan was an amazing experience. I want to thank Bianca Sclavi and the teams at ENS-Cachan for being so kind and flexible to my non-scientific presence in their laboratories. I hope that I opened a few minds to the idea of the benefits of integrating the humanities with the physical sciences. I also want to thank Reed College for all of the support and aid that has made my summer such a grand success.

During my time as an embedded philosopher I have tried to ask questions that people somehow ignore in the lab. These questions attempt to expose the epistemic values that are hidden within the scientific method, and show how the physical sciences represent reality just as well as other disciplines. Due to the values embedded within research projects the physical sciences do not actually uncover "truths" of reality, but in fact the knowledge produced from a lab is similar to a fictional narrative. From deciding which graphs to choose for a report, which instruments to trust, or even the simple act of pipetting, there are always values that frame the scientific research. However, before I finish my summer project I would like to reintegrate the three themes of my practicum. One of my focuses was to look at the epistemological aspects of the scientific process.

I began by looking into how the research at LBPA is funded. It became clear that the process of applying for funding is completely flawed and it is now becoming more and more of a game of luck. The number of applicants grows every year, as does the need for labs to consider what they bring to society. This brought me to the second focus of my internship: broader impacts.

It is becoming necessary for research teams to consider the impacts of their research, and it is also becoming increasingly clear that the best way to accomplish this is through interdisciplinary (ID) and transdisciplinary (TD) research. Research teams who claim that their projects are only for the sake of science are losing funding. Researchers need to learn how to engage with other academics from different disciplines and with the citizens of their society in order to be competitive for grant money. My research on broader impacts led me to the third focus to my internship. Due to the importance of ID/TD I decided to investigate the state of ID/TD education and research in Paris.

It turns out that I’ve launched myself on a set of new adventures. I visited the Centre de Researche Interdisciplinaire (CRI) in Pairs, and learned a lot about their programs for ID/TD research and education. I met with their curriculum designer to find ways that I can become involved with their courses on the philosophy of science this fall. This might be in the form of a presentation describing my practicum, or I might lead a discussion group every week on science and society studies and the philosophical questions intrinsic to scientific research. This is all still in the planning stages, but I am looking forward to working with CRI this fall.

Maya at Work

So, all in all I would have to say this summer has been a success. My final report on my experiments at LBPA contests the current understanding of the structure of a cell, and hopefully further research on this area will lead to breakthroughs on how the inner structure of the cell effects DNA replication. To learn more, visit the link below to my final report. Also, one of my hopes for this internship was to establish relationships that could potentially being me back to Paris in the future, and I believe that there is a strong possibility of that happening.

I hope you all have a wonderful month of August! I will be off reading Adieux by De Beauvior on a beach in Greece. I am looking forward to a break from reading science and STS articles….

-Maya Frodeman, Reed College ‘15

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

I have been in Washington, DC since the beginning of June, and can hardly believe I am finishing my fourth week interning at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Thanks to the PSF, I was able to sublet a great place near a metro stop, in a quiet neighborhood, with a grocery store, a few restaurants and a park nearby. But, I don’t spend much time at home. During the week I leave my place by eight in the morning and usually don’t return until nine at night.

Recent Posts

Archive of Posts