Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara on discovering world’s presumed largest dinosaur
Instead of enjoying the first spring-like afternoon of the season outside, dozens of students, faculty, children, and parents packed into Searles 315 to hear a world-famous paleontologist share the stories of exploration and discovery.
Professor of Paleontology at Rowan University Dr. Kenneth Lacovara visited Bowdoin on Wednesday to share the story of his unearthing of Dreadnoughtus schrani, a titanosaur widely considered to be one of the largest terrestrial vertebrates ever discovered.
After several years of excavation in Southern Argentina, Lacovara and his team produced a report examining the unusually complete set of Dreadnoughtus remains. The discovery of the estimated 65-ton dinosaur was widely reported by international media, contributing to an increasing global interest in paleontology and its application with new technology.
“When you get yourself in the right geological situation, you are going to find fossils—that’s a given. The question is will you find something that’s relatively complete and then did you find something that is significant to science, and that’s the thing that’s harder to predict,” said Lacovara. “I was first surprised by the size of the material we were finding—I expected we would find some big sauropod dinosaurs, but these were some of the biggest bones we had ever seen in the world—and then I was flabbergasted when we saw the completeness of the Dreadnoughtus skeleton.
Lacovara spent much of the talk discussing the integration of classic paleontological field techniques and cutting-edge lab techniques, including 3D scanning and printing, CT scanning, biomedical engineering, genome sequencing, and protein isolation. Lacovara, along with many of his coworkers, are pioneering the application of these methods based on the wealth of information made available by the discovery.
The international fame and success experienced by Lacovara and his team was not earned easily. He began working at the site of the eventual discovery—100km from the nearest power grid—in 2004, and was able to secure additional grant money following the excavation of a rare 2.2-meter femur fossil. One year later, he hit the jackpot, and spent the next four years excavating the now-famous set of fossils.
In 2009, the fossils were shipped to the United States, where three labs and more than one hundred fossil experts analyzed the samples for five years.
“There are a lot of paleontologists who would literally step over an animal like that. It’s too much work, it’s too much money, it takes too long,” said Lacovara. “On the other side is that it’s been very satisfying since we’ve published Dreadnoughtus. It achieved a lot of notoriety around the world.
A Drexel University service that tracks the audience an article gets estimated the audience reached by the Dreadnoughtus story was 4.3 billion people.
Lacovara started his career in paleontology in 2nd grade, with the submission of an essay comparing different types of rock. Through college, he took as many physical science and geography classes as he could, ultimately leading him to a PhD in Paleontology from the University of Delaware. His first big break came following a discussion with a lecturing paleontologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
“I went up and introduced myself and I said “I loved your talk Dr. Dodson, but your sedimentology was all wrong.”
We had a discussion and the gist of that discussion was basically “OK kid, if you think you can do a better job why don’t you come to Egypt with us.” By the end of that week I was on the team and two months later I was digging up dinosaurs in the oasis in the Sahara desert.”
For Lacovara, the best part of paleontology is the travel. This urge to explore lead him to Southern Patagonia, an extremely remote region of Argentina with the ideal combination of appropriately-aged sedimentary rock and the high rate of erosion typically found in deserts. His next project, however, allows him to remain much closer to home.
Lacovara has assumed the role of Director of Rowan Fossil Park, a facility at an active fossil site in New Jersey that seeks to perpetuate research and education in Paleontology.”
“The educational component of it is super important, but also I think we’re starting to unravel clues here that will lead to a much more complete understanding of the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago,” said Lacovara. “This, for some students, will be their first exposure to the STEM disciplines and for many it will their first exposure to a university setting. We’re immensely excited about this.”
While he doesn’t believe that everyone should be a paleontologist—joking about how there are enough of those already in the world—Lacovara emphasized the importance of teaching the scientific method and scientific method from a young age. Addressing a Searles classroom full of students of all ages, he hoped to inspire the next generation of scientists and explorers of all sorts.
“One of the things that I try to convey to my students is that comfort is way overrated,” said Lacovara. “When you’re comfortable nothing much happens really. Whether that is prospecting for dinosaurs in a desert or standing up in front of everyone you know and getting married or getting up on stage and performing, you’re uncomfortable in every one of those situations. Every one of those kinds of situations has the potential to lead to some of the most profound moments in your life.”
Dakota Griffin contributed to this report.
Students participate in second CBB Hackathon
Over the weekend, the David Saul Smith Union was packed with a small army of hackers. Instead of criminal activity, however, these hackers worked together to create new apps and websites and make connections outside the Bowdoin bubble.
The second annual Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) Hackathon brought 36 students and mentors from around Maine for a 36-hour brainstorming and collaboration session.
The Hackathon began with a networking reception, where students met mentors and found like-minded potential teammates. Then, the clock started. With state-of-the-art hardware and professional guidance, students began to brainstorm and develop their projects.
The Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC) organized the event in partnership with Bowdoin’s IT department. ITAC leader Andrew Haeger ’16 led the charge, with Alex Gentle ’18, James Boyle ’17 and Bella Tumaneng ’17 helping as well.
“A lot of people were really nervous about signing up because they may not have the depth of computer science experience, but there are a lot of ways for people to contribute, and you can learn a lot along the way,” said Andrew Haeger ’16, a leader of the Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC) who helped organize the event.
“People were building apps and websites in languages they had never used before,” said Haeger. “While that can be tricky and challenging, you have a lot of time to do it and you have all the help you could possibly ask for. It’s worth trying.”
Teams chose a wide variety of projects, from mapping Twitter data to using virtual reality hardware.
One team, “Debuggin’” began to develop a security and shuttle app that addresses recent concerns over student safety. The app, “Nightbear,” allows users to request a shuttle from their smartphone and alert security in any bad situation. Cory Alini ’18, Sophie Ardell ’17, and Vianney Gomezgil Yaspik ’18 brought different skills to the table to work on the project.
“Our original idea was to make it much bigger and basically make it Uber for SafeRide, but that’s a lot to do in 36 hours. So we worked on something that didn’t exist for Bowdoin already,” said Ardell.
“Depending on how uncomfortable you’re feeling, there are three parts,” said Alini. “Green is like ‘I’m walking home alone and I just want security to know where I am.’ Yellow is similar to green, but it has a counter and it will count down for 10 minutes. Then it would switch to red mode, which goes right to security.”
Another team worked with the Myo Armband, which enables the wearer to control computer programs through movement of a wireless armband. Boyle, Franco Sasieta ’16 and Noah Finberg ‘16 met at the networking event and had never worked together on a project before.
The group’s goal was to set up the armband so that the user’s arm could act as the cursor on a computer screen. Although they didn’t complete the project, it was a valuable chance to work with new technology.
“Instead of having an idea and picking how we were going to make that idea come to be, we picked the hardware and then were like ‘what can we do with this?’ We got the hardware components working, but we didn’t finish the website functionality,” said Boyle.
The Hackathon at Bowdoin started last year, and is modeled on similar and larger versions of the event at schools such as Harvard and MIT. One of the most logistically challenging elements of the event, according to Haeger, was inviting several outside sponsors to offer hardware and mentors for the student hackers. LL Bean and Microsoft provided the bulk of these services, along with Major League Hacking, which governs student hackathons around the country.
“One of the things that makes Hackathons possible is the sponsors, because they’re expensive events. You’re bringing in people, you’re feeding people. Stuff like that. So, we needed to find some sort of funding,” said Haeger. “President Rose decided that he really liked this idea, and he was interested in looking back at the sponsorship policies. Ultimately what we worked out was that IT department would be the sponsor behind the hackathon.”
In the future, team members and organizers alike hope to see more students for more schools participate in the event.
“The biggest thing is growth. It would be really cool to get 100 people in the event. It’s ambitious, and it may take a couple years to get there. But that would be the ultimate experience, to get more sponsors in here with more backgrounds, more students participating from different schools and different regions,” Haeger said. “You may have more connections and more job opportunities as well.”
Ardell agreed, mentioning how the capacity for student involvement was much larger than the actual participation.
“I want to see more people who aren’t computer science majors there,” she said.” Everyone was like ‘I don’t know comp sci, I can’t go.” Yes you can. I didn’t know how to do anything this weekend before I got there.”
The Globalist moves online
At a time when many news publications on college campuses nationwide are moving toward online content, it has become increasingly hard to sustain print production. In response to this pressure, the Bowdoin Globalist has decided to transition to entirely online publication.
Founded as a magazine in 2011, The Bowdoin Globalist publishes long-form articles that cover topics ranging from international affairs to pop culture. Student writers are free to engage with topics of their choice.
“We didn’t want to just be an ‘Economist.’ Fundamentally, if we’re trying to be an ‘Economist’ and we’re students, we have few contacts and less experience. Why would anyone read us if they can just read the ‘Economist?’” said Globalist Editor-in-Chief Mark Pizzi ’16. “It doesn’t really make sense.”
In its new form, The Globalist is able to publish articles as they’re written, rather than waiting for the quarterly print release, and can stay more relevant in the age of the 24-hour news cycle. Additionally, the online model allows for a far greater degree of control over article length, multimedia and interactive content.
“We can actually have content that is not weirdly behind the news cycle. We’re not trying to have headlines and breaking news, but we want to be relevant and interesting to the readers,” said Globalist Editor-in-Chief Nick Tonckens ‘16.
In its first few years, the magazine went through multiple policy changes, and encountered challenges of funding and distribution. Above all, however, was the need to ensure that members of the Bowdoin community were reading and enjoying their content.
“As a publication, you always need to be concerned about momentum. You lose your best people every single year,” said Tonckens. “You lose a quarter of potential viewership every single year. Keeping momentum is an existential challenge for the publication. We were very concerned about that.”
Student organizations are required to secure funding through the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC), which reviews and approves proposed budgets. An overwhelming majority of the magazine’s expenses involved printing and distribution, which made it difficult to justify the print model.
In August, Pizzi, Tonckens and Globalist Editor-in-Chief Drew van Kuiken ’17 decided to move The Globalist to the web.
“I realized that I was reading more Orient articles than I was reading of anything else, because they were on my Facebook feed and my friends were writing them and saying ‘here’s what I said about this issue,’” said Pizzi. “Why are we not taking advantage of this?”
“First, [the website] would take away the time-of-publishing element. We could publish instantly,” said Tonckens. “Secondly, it costs $100 per year instead of $3,000. That means Bowdoin is paying a fraction of the cost, and we don’t have to do quite as much work to get the funding. The third issue is distribution. We can now publish individual articles by Facebook and Twitter and instantly get exposure.”
Less than a month into its online presence, The Globalist has already experienced the benefits of social media exposure. In the past, 300 copies of the magazine were distributed around campus. One recently-published article has accumulated almost 900 views, highlighting the power of likes, shares and retweets.
Transitioning from a completely-print to completely-digital publication isn’t as easy as creating a Blogspot account and choosing a flashy default theme. Web Architect Jack Ward ’19, with Pizzi’s design input, developed the website after a series of unforeseen challenges and total re-boots.
“We were sold on a certain framework for [the site] by someone in Bowdoin IT, assuming we’d be able to host it through Bowdoin. That was not the case, but we had to stick to this framework because of time,” said Ward.
Ward and Pizzi eventually decided on using WordPress, allowing simultaneous work on the site’s structure and creative design.
“One of the things I wanted to ensure was that it didn’t look like other WordPress sites,” said Ward. “In a lot of ways, it was harder than doing it from scratch, because I had to fight the framework that we were sold on so much.”
In the future, the site will include more video and interactive content.
Ultimately, The Globalist allows student writers to look outside the Bowdoin bubble, analyze what they find and improve their writing abilities in the process. Many members of the Globalist staff hope to develop a strong portfolio of long-form journalism and apply these skills beyond their four years on campus. Diversifying from the original international relations-focused model, according to Tonckens, aids this process.
“The writing gets better when you’re not just writing international relations pieces all the time,” he said. “There’s some format or template that a lot of people tend towards. It’s a bit academic, dry, and formulaic—less interesting to write as well as read. When you cover topics that are less covered and are not as strictly IR-focused, you do get more interesting writing. Your writers grow as a result.”
Talk of the Quad: Bubble vision
“Topsham Fire stand-by for a page,” hails the omnipotent voice of dispatch, bringing to life the pager on my bedside table. Time to go save the world. I pull on the closest pair of pants as the tones go off, ending my post-dinner, pre-homework Netflix session a little earlier than planned.
“Sagadahoc County dispatch for Topsham Fire, respond to 33 Redacted Avenue for a water leak and ceiling collapse. Time 19:48.” I jog down to my car—passing roommates now accustomed to routine emergencies—and speed off to the station.
I became an EMT after my first year at Bowdoin, and joined Topsham Fire-Rescue shortly thereafter. Although I’ve never really figured out why, it seems like a natural combination of vague pre-med aspirations, repressed urges to drive quickly and loudly through traffic and—as observed by a friend—a persistent hero-complex. Whatever that means.
In two years, I’ve gone through additional EMT training and Basic Fire School. I now function as one of the youngest and least experienced members of the 50-person department. Everyone should spend some time on the lowest rung of the ladder for a while—it’s a remarkably humbling experience.
Despite the title, modern firefighters spend very little of their time actually fighting fires. Most of our work involves car accidents, various cleanups and medical emergencies. Chicago Fire and Grey’s Anatomy don’t do reality justice—it’s far less glamorous and far more predictable.I arrive at the station just in time to pull on my turnout gear and climb onto Ladder three before we go screaming down the snowy road. We arrive at a thoroughly ordinary and uninteresting house, the lieutenant starts assigning roles and we get to work. As we enter the house, one of my co-workers ahead of me instinctively withdraws and gags before continuing inside. Never a good sign. Sure enough, the house is straight out of “Hoarders.” We’ve discovered a domestic jungle of unknown plastic objects, food waste and piles of garbage. What A&E fails to capture about these situations, of course, is the smell. The horror, the horror.
Compounding these problems is the fact that a second-floor water leak has caused the entire living room ceiling to collapse onto detritus mountain, leaving behind eight inches of greyish water, a lot of dry wall and an especially offensive odor. Tasked with finding and stopping the leak, my partner and I trudge up the stairs only to find more of the same situation. We eventually attribute the flow of water to a leaking heating pipe that’s buried under about five feet of trash and debris. It’s time to start digging.
Afterwards, we chatted mindlessly as we loaded the overhaul equipment back onto the truck. It turned out that the owners hadn’t been able to pay the heating bill, so the pipes had frozen and burst.
“Not the kind of place you’re used to seeing at Bowdoin, I imagine,” said the lieutenant as we drove away.
I made an off-hand joke about the first- year dorms, but he was absolutely right. It’s hard to imagine abject poverty anywhere within a 10-minute drive of Thorne Hall.
The one element of my job that I’ve never quite gotten used to is the abrupt and unexpected transitions between the Bowdoin bubble and the “outside world.” This world, for me at least, offers a sharp contrast between the liberal arts minded and the vocational minded. In general, Bowdoin students are blissfully unaware of the hard work, stress and logistics that go into public safety, and how an entire community of people in our area devotes their lives to this field.
“Do you have EMT friends too? Is that even a thing?” asked one concerned teammate.On the other hand, the work environment is completely detached from academically rigorous and socially progressive Bowdoin that we all know and love. At any given time, this can be a welcomed break from the intensity of school, or a valuable source of thoroughly non-Bowdoin perspectives.
I’m not trying to make a value judgment on either community—hard work and compassion are the common themes here. Their manifestations are completely different, however, which can be a little jarring when you experience both worlds multiple times per day.
I drive home from the station, pondering how I can put off homework for just a little longer. And then it hits me: ping pong and milkshakes. Never have I been luckier to have a friend like Katherine, who is invariably down for pong and shakes.
Hoping I don’t still smell like work, I navigate the crowded Union to the beacon of procrastination—the Café. After chatting for a while about classes and parties and how abroad stress is “objectively the worst,” Katherine and I proceed to the game room and prepare for battle. We’re mutually unskilled. It’s perfect.
“I’ve never actually asked you this,” said Katherine, returning a mediocre volley wide right of the table, “but what’s, like, the worst thing you’ve seen while EMTing?”
I get this question a lot. As much as I want to be honest and forthcoming, discussing tragedy and death has never seemed like it fits into Bowdoin’s nurturing and comfortable environment. I don’t want to burden my friends with all the nasty stuff, and I definitely don’t want to fish for sympathy.
“Well, I’ll tell you about some of the funniest things.” I reply, hitting the net for the third consecutive time. We talk about the old drunk guy who thought it would be a good idea to fire up the grill in his closed garage and the car accident where the uninjured kids were—to their parents’ dismay—exposed to their Christmas presents one month early. These are the easier stories.
The ball sails over me and rolls under the mountain of furniture, jackets and backpacks we’ve left in the corner. Katherine’s finger immediately finds her nose, and I turn to the pile.After three years, I still haven’t come up with a good definition for the Bowdoin bubble.
Beyond the obvious ideological and financial differences between the average Bowdoin student and the average Midcoast resident, what gives us such a strong sense of enclosure? I have no answer. I’ve noticed, however, that there’s a camaraderie of determination and hard work in both groups. If nothing else, having one foot firmly on either side of the bubble has demonstrated how artificial it really is. Superficial differences ultimately keep us apart.
Facing the pile, under which our precious ball is trapped, I ponder questions like “Why did I pick the furniture side of the table again?” and “Who decided to buy this heavy-ass coach?” Regardless, it’s getting late and there’s work to be done. It’s time to start digging.
President’s annual science symposium to promote student work
Science students will bring their hard work out of the lab and into the public eye this Friday afternoon, filling Morrell Gymnasium with presentations depicting their science research.This event is part of the President’s Science Symposium, an annual celebration of the research conducted on and off campus by Bowdoin students.
Three students are selected by the faculty to present their work at the symposium in front of their peers, and an outside keynote speaker is invited to share their work and note how it applies in life.
Lecturer in Chemistry Michael Danahy has helped coordinate the event for the past several years.
“The symposium is really meant to highlight the research that’s happening on campus,” said Danahy. “There’s always posters in Druck and in Searles about stuff that goes on here, but there isn’t always a time to see in one place and at one time everything that’s going on around campus.”
This year’s keynote speaker is Professor Chad Mirkin, director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University. Mirkin’s talk is titled “Nanotechnology: A Small World with Big Potential.” The speech aims to address the various biological, chemical and medical applications of nanotechnology and how they relate to the outside world.
After Mirkin’s talk, the faculty-nominated speakers will present their research. This year’s student speakers are Julia Maine ’16 of the Earth and Oceanographic Science Department, Cody Woods ’16 of the Biology Department and James Sullivan ’16 of the Chemistry Department.
“They are nominated by their departments as students who are doing good research, and also being able to convey that research to others,” said Danahy.
Maine is excited to present.“It’s a really fun challenge to make things that are pretty complicated more understandable to people,” she said. “Hopefully I achieved that. I really hate jargony talks where only experts can understand them. That’s the wrong way to do things.”
Maine’s research at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay focused on the effects of ocean acidification on a type of phytoplankton, Emiliania huxleyi, and how these effects could influence the broader ocean ecosystem.
“Basically, what I want to do with my life is help fishermen and the fishing industry in the Gulf of Maine respond and adapt to climate change. I’m really interested in how the biology of the Gulf of Maine will respond,” said Maine.
Maine’s research is just one example of the roughly 200 student research projects conducted each year at Bowdoin across nearly every department. In addition to preparing students for graduate school and beyond, this research can supplement class work and lectures to give students a more complete perspective on science.
“You really get to see what science is like when you actually do it,” said Danahy.
“You go off read the literature, find a way to do it, and it ends up working. You’ve solved a problem that maybe no one else has ever done before. That’s something that’s kind of cool at a place like Bowdoin where it’s undergraduates who are running all the labs here.”
Student research at small liberal arts schools like Bowdoin is becoming increasingly popular among incoming students. The beauty of research at Bowdoin, according to Danahy, is the independence that’s associated with small, undergraduate-only labs.
“I know from my own experience that when you go to graduate school, coming out of a place like Bowdoin, you’ve got a leg up on a lot of students who might not have the independence of thought that you have, because you’re the one who’s driving that research project forward,” he said.
The schedule of events can be found here.
Associate Professor Crystal Hall explores humanities with digital techniques
From her newly renovated office, Associate Professor in the Digital Humanities Crystal Hall has a vantage point over the entire campus. The Visual Arts Center’s former third floor studio has taken on an updated role as the home of Bowdoin’s newest academic program.
Hall is the co-director of Bowdoin’s Digital and Computational Studies (DCS) program. Now in its third academic year, this interdisciplinary initiative allows students to merge digital technology with the humanities. So far, this work has included studying space and social networks as they’re represented in literature and plays and merging these ideas with digital technology and computer science.
“These ideas have since blossomed into a series of courses that are asking those questions. So I’ve been involved with design and teaching and I’ve been consulting with faculty who are interested in doing the same thing,” said Hall. “Program development, activities and extracurricular—a little bit of everything.”
Originally from Oakland, Maine, Hall came to Bowdoin three years ago after studying at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania and spending time teaching and researching in Italy.
“My field of research is Galileo. I honestly don’t want to spend the rest of my life reading all of the books that Galileo may or may not have read,” said Hall. “But I would like a better understanding of what those books can tell us about libraries as artifacts, about Galileo’s intellectual development, about the ways that provocative thinkers work with established culture.”
So far, students have worked on analyzing stump speeches, studying Twitter data as text, exploring representations of urban space in literature compared to actual maps and surveying the history of diabetes in medical literature.
Hall views DCS as an important branch of the liberal arts curriculum in the 21st century. In her introductory class, she gave students a reading that considers the intersection of the programming language XML with philosophy, which was well-received by the class.
“This is why I’m here—because XML is worthy of Derrida, and we should be deconstructing XML to see what results,” Hall said. “XML should be pushing back and seeing where it might resist Derrida, where it resists Kant. That’s what we’re doing. This is the liberal arts.”
Sabina Hartnett ’18 worked with Hall this summer, investigating how social media and technology change our conception of identity, both of ourselves and of mass groups. She used a technique called “Twitter scraping,” which allowed her to study social media information as literature.
“The Twitter scraping was really cool. That was probably my favorite work to do,” said Hartnett. “Basically, you can run a code on all public tweets, and it’ll bring back anything that you search for. Another student was studying Black Lives Matter, and you can see words that come up in conjunction with one another frequently in the tweets. Time frequencies, geotags. It’s really cool stuff.”
One of the strengths of the digital humanities program is its open-ended and interdisciplinary nature. Students from any academic field can find ways to explore seemingly unrelated intersections between traditional study and digital technology.
“Every discipline is using text, but the questions that they’re asking about it are different,” Hall said. “If we start taking those objects as our thing in common, we get all these different perspectives, and we all learn something.”
Outside the digital world, Hall likes to engage in more tangible hobbies.
“I’m a car buff. I’m restoring a ’34 Dodge pickup truck with my dad as a hot rod,” said Hall. “It’s a great way to get out of the life of the mind and build something, craft something and see it come to life.”
Hartnett recalled an impromptu lesson Hall gave in tire replacement over the summer, after another summer researcher had an unfortunate incident on the highway.
“When I heard about this tire experience, I was like, ‘Come to the house!’ and I taught them how to change a tire. It’s something I never really thought I’d be teaching students how to do,” Hall said.
Over the next few years, Hall plans to expand the course offerings and resources of DCS and continue to explore new applications of digital technology in the humanities. Although she doesn’t know exactly where the program will be in five years, both Hall and the whole DCS faculty of contributing professors are excited about the opportunity to grow.
Hartnett is equally excited about Bowdoin’s new approach to the humanities under Professor Hall.
“Scholars have been interpreting humanities in the same ways for so long, and this is just such a new perspective on it. It’s really cool,” said Hartnett.
Although some may doubt the practical value of a liberal arts education in today’s society, Hall is confident that DCS prepares students for the outside world as critical and creative thinkers.“If we were just teaching the skills, you might be able to get a job as soon as you graduate, but you wouldn’t be able to keep that job,” she said. “You need to be able to read what’s going on outside. See trends. See change. Be adaptive. Be critical. Be creative.”
Professors release books on women in history
On Wednesday afternoon, two recently published professors celebrated the release of their new books with faculty and students. Both books focus on written representations and cultural views of women in specific historical contexts.
Associate Professor of German Jill Smith has written “Berlin Coquette: Prostitution and the New German Woman,” and Assistant Professor of Romance Languages Margaret Boyle recently published “Unruly Women: Performance, Penitence, and Punishment in Early Modern Spain.” Both books have been on shelves for several months.
“Berlin Coquette” focuses on the prostitution industry in the growing city of Berlin between 1890 and 1930 while examining the concept of the New Woman, a feminist ideal originating in the 19th century that promoted education, independence and autonomy for women.
“My real question is what is the relationship between how prostitutes were represented and how New Women were represented,” Smith said. “And if they wind up getting intertwined, does that necessarily mean that it’s a bad thing for both parties—especially New Women.”
Smith was building on previous work in her field, which criticized any material that compared prostitutes and New Women on the ground of misogyny without further exploring the cultural context or the relationship between the two historical character types.
“It was a really long trajectory to get to this book,” she said. “I was inspired in graduate school by this question of how prostitutes get represented in German-language literature.”
After graduating from Amherst, Smith received her PhD in Germanic Studies from Indiana University, where research leading up to her dissertation became more focused on Berlin. While writing “Berlin Coquette,” however, Smith was able to expand on her previous work.“I really had a chance to delve into a lot of archival research, and to look at a broader cross-section of texts, broadly construed, when I was working on the text,” Smith said.
Research that eventually ended up in “Berlin Coquette” was featured in a first-year seminar Smith offered in the fall of 2012: From Flowers of Evil to Pretty Woman: Prostitutes in Modern Western Europe. Smith said the course was very gratifying to teach, and she tries to integrate as much of her work into classes at Bowdoin as possible.
Professor Boyle’s book, “Unruly Women,” also inquires into the historical standing of women and potential contradictions in how women are represented by society. The setting for her book is early modern Spain.
“I became hooked on early modern Spanish literature during my time as an undergraduate at Reed College, where the close-knit and engaging seminar classes allowed me to deeply explore the period’s culture and its theater,” said Boyle in an interview to the University of Toronto Press. “My engagement as a feminist scholar was prompted by my first encounters with representations of women, and violence against women, in early modern Spanish texts.”
“Unruly Women” explores the relationship between public theater, custodial institutions and women, specifically focusing on representations of deviance and rehabilitation both on and off stage in early modern Spanish culture.
Despite the years of work involved with writing and publishing a book, both Boyle and Smith love the process of academic scholarship.
“I love archival research. It can be tedious to leaf through 16th and 17th century manuscripts,” said Boyle in an email to the Orient. “But it’s the closest physical contact I have with the true materiality of my period, knowing that the people I study hand-wrote or owned the letters, records and books I study.”
Smith said the most difficult part was transitioning from research to writing on the blank page, something many students might empathize with.
“It’s so fun to gather and take notes and read for hours on end,” said Smith. “But once I’m in it, I love the writing process.”
Coming from liberal arts backgrounds, Smith and Boyle both value the emphasis on writing and personalized learning opportunities at schools like Bowdoin.
“The small liberal arts college fosters this cross-disciplinary inquiry. It was automatically clear to me that I wanted history to be a part of this book. I wanted art history to be part. It’s grounded in German but it’s also an urban studies, gender studies, film studies [book],” Smith said. “It’s a very interdisciplinary book.”
Smith and Boyle encourage Bowdoin students to use a variety of disciplinary lenses to their advantage when venturing into research, dissertations and possibly books of their own.
“Find a subject that you’re really passionate about and a community of peers and mentors that can support and invigorate your research and writing process,” Boyle said.
Motion to compete: Mock Trial team makes debut on campus
Over the past several weeks, Bowdoin students have been preparing for court battles. The proceedings, however, are not real, but the simulations and practices of the new Mock Trial team.Jacob Russell ’17 and Allisen Haggard ’17—along with a few other first years—joined forces at a social science talk during orientation. Their interest in Mock Trial and Bowdoin’s lack of an organized team led to the creation of the new club.
After recruiting the remaining founding members at the Student Activities Fair, the young team began preparing for competition.
“We got a booth, about 50 people signed up, and then not a lot of them showed up to auditions,” said Russell. “We, from the beginning, realized that we want to have about 20 people in the end, but we didn’t want to take them all this year. Now we have seven.”
Bowdoin Organic Garden grows to include new plot of land
Until this year, aspiring farmers at Bowdoin have trekked almost three miles down the road to work on the crops at the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Their walk will get shorter this spring, with the Bowdoin Organic Garden’s new plot of land right next to campus on Harpswell Road.
The College acquired the former Stevens Retirement Home property at 52 Harpswell Road last year, and has allotted the half-acre backyard and barn to the Bowdoin Organic Garden.
Farm Manager Sara Cawthon has overseen the process of converting the lot into usable farmland.“Last August or September, we put in a cover crop to start improving the soil for growing this year,” said Cawthon. “It’s super skimpy. All of Brunswick is on really sandy soil.”
Behind the Name tag: Catalogs and chords: library assistant Cook rocks ’n rolls
Students who frequent Hatch Science Library, whether they’re staffing the circulation desk or powering through a lab report, are probably familiar with Science Library Assistant Jeff Cook.
Now in his eighth year working at Bowdoin, Cook oversees many of the day-to-day operations of the library and is responsible for hiring, training and scheduling a staff of 20 to 25 students every semester.
Outside the library, Cook devotes a great deal of time to music. He plays drums and guitar for various bands in the area and has a small recording studio at his house that he claims to utilize often.
Robbins’ new app Tamber recommends local concerts
Most Bowdoin students likely don’t find themselves overwhelmed by the Brunswick music scene. However, once graduate school in Boston or the big internship in New York City begins, the live music options grow. Tamber, the concert recommendation app created by Alexi Robbins ’14 to help concert-deprived students find the best show in town.
Robbins wanted to create a system with which users could receive the best personalized recommendations as possible. Robbins’ dream became a reality in summer 2012 when he began collaborating with coder and Berkeley student Mark Canning and childhood friend Geoffrey Lee.“It was about two years ago when we were tossing [the idea] around. We were fleshing it out, and it wasn’t something where we were like ‘That’s an idea. We’re doing it now.’ But that’s what it turned into,” Robbins said. “Getting to where we are now with the app was a long process with some failures along the way.”
After downloading Tamber for free from the App Store, users can select their favorite genres and artists, and have the option of signing into Facebook for additional data. Using this information, Tamber suggests concerts in the user’s geographic area.
Student-designed website offers new opportunities to socialize
Have you ever yearned for caramel sea salt gelato from Gelato Fiasco or craved Honolulu Tofu night at Thorne without anyone willing to share the experience? You’re not alone. Ruben Martinez ’15 is trying a new approach to eliminate this dilemma. Bowdoin’s new Dining With Strangers website allows students with common interests to meet in a variety of different settings, from a casual dinner on campus, to the newest movie at Eveningstar, to the highly coveted 4 a.m. Frosty’s date.
Martinez is one of several recent student entrepreneurs who seek to make the lives of fellow Bowdoin students a little easier through technology, both on campus and beyond.
Martinez sat down with the Orient to discuss Dining With Strangers and student entrepreneurship at Bowdoin.
BSG aims to bring clarity to College's hazing policy
Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) discussed the College’s hazing policy and the recent punishment of the men’s tennis team at its Wednesday night meeting.
David Levine ’16 lead the discussion by presenting a report that included hazing policies at peer colleges, expert opinions on the subject, and an interview with a member of the Meddiebempsters who experienced a hazing incident in 2011.
“Students should have a role in adjudicating hazing,” said Levine.
Women’s track falls to third at Springfield
The women’s track and field team brought home nine first-place finishes from a cold, windy tri-meet against Springfield and Middlebury in Massachusetts over the weekend. The meet was a high-level competition between three of the top seven teams in New England D-III track. Middlebury won the meet with 143 points, followed by Springfield with 134 points and Bowdoin with 108 points.
Bowdoin thrower Katherine Harmon ’14 had an impressive day, sweeping the discus (37.51m), hammer throw (46.79m) and shot put (9.68m) events.
“Katherine’s got fantastic work ethic and she has made herself into one of the best throwers in New England by a combination of hard work and intelligence,” said Head Coach Peter Slovenski. “She’s really smart about her training and her technique, and her performance Saturday was a big boost to the team.”
Men’s track takes second place at Springfield Invitational
Last Saturday in Springfield, Mass., the men’s track and field team competed with Middlebury in a high-intensity meet between three of New England’s top D-III track programs.
The Polar Bears racked up six first-place finishes and a total of 143.5 points, but weren’t able to overcome Middlebury’s 181-point finish. Springfield ended the meet in last place with 87.5 points.
First-year throwers Thomas Rehnquist and Andrew Murowchick picked up wins in the discus (39.78m) and the javelin (51.98m), respectively.
Mills moderates panel of professors, administrators on climate change
Professor of English and Gay and Lesbian Studies David Collings has a simple suggestion for members of the Bowdoin community who are looking to lower their own carbon footprint.
“Don’t have children,” he said.“Population is way beyond carrying capacity.” He also recommended that the audience buy as many carbon offsets as possible.
President Barry Mills and a panel of seven Bowdoin professors and administrators addressed a packed Beam Classroom on Tuesday evening, The panel assembled to discuss the issue of climate change and sustainability in the college community.
Yongfang Chen ’10’s second book to educate Chinese on liberal arts
A second book by Yongfang Chen ’10 will hit shelves in Hong Kong this spring, and will provide insight about liberal arts education for a Chinese audience. “Traverse the Ivory Tower: My Academic Journey at Bowdoin” is a selection of Chen’s undergraduate essays and interviews he conducted with College administrators.
“In the most recent decade, the concept of the liberal arts education has gained a greater popularity among China’s high school students and parents,” Chen wrote in an email to the Orient.
“While a lot of them struggle to gain admission into institutions like Bowdoin, they often have no idea what kind of life they will experience in college. This book will answer this question precisely,” he wrote.
Lewiston Youth Advisory Council presents in panel at Bowdoin
Six students from the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) spoke about the harsh realities of youth homelessness in Lewiston to students and Brunswick community members in Hubbard Conference Room West last Monday night.
Lewiston High School (LHS) senior Kon Maiwan and the chairman of LYAC began the presentation by holding half a cup of water in front of the crowd.“If you hold it here for a minute, not a problem,” Maiwan said. “If you hold it for an hour, it starts to be a problem. If you hold it for a day, then it becomes unbearable. That’s how burdens in life work.”
The presentation, sponsored by Bowdoin’s McKeen Center for the Common Good and Upward Bound, included a short documentary produced by LYAC, “Homeless Youth in Lewiston.” The film first debuted on January 17, and local and state government officials, including Governor Paul LePage, attended the premiere.
IT Advisory Council brings iPad to Thorne, seeks student involvement
Every week, the Information Technolovy Advisory Council (ITAC) meets with Chief Information Officer Mitch Davis to discuss solutions to students' information technology related concerns. Completed projects include the online package notification system, free copies of Apple’s Mountain Lion operating system for students, and student-friendly Blackboard maintenance hours. Many projects, however, are still in the works. An online ordering system for the Pub, which would be more convenient for customers and staff, is one of ITAC's top priorities.