Educators take to the battlefields for a firsthand historical experience

By Sean Adams

Working as a historian keeps me in climate-controlled atmospheres — air-conditioned classrooms, comfortable offices, academic panels in staid hotel conference rooms and carefully maintained archives. In the summer of 2018, however, I purposely ventured out into the blast furnace that is western Florida and southern Alabama to see history firsthand, taking 36 teachers of elementary, middle and high school with me, plus a colleague.

The reason for this venture was a joint workshop by the Florida Humanities Council and the Alabama Humanities Foundation titled “The Civil War in the American South.” For the past five years, I’ve led teacher workshops that combine lectures and field trips to the site of the 1864 Battle of Olustee at Fort Clinch and the haunting slave cabins at Kingsley Plantation in Fernandina Beach.

The idea is to put teachers in the places where history happened so they can bring that experience back to their classrooms, where students might gain a new perspective on the past.

History professor Sean Adams speaks with educators during their historical tour through Florida and southern Alabama. (Keith Simmons)

It’s one thing to read about the historical significance of these sites and quite another to put yourself behind the thick masonry walls at Fort Clinch, or to see the way that the white plastered slave cabins at Kingsley form a semicircle around the big house once occupied by Zephaniah and Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley. While no visit can do justice to understanding Zephaniah’s relationship with Anna, his African American wife, the plantation grounds offer an excellent example of the architecture of slavery.

Thanks to a generous gift from the HTR Foundation (an organization devoted to preserving American Civil War sites), we were able to bring teachers to Civil War sites around Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida. Professor Lonnie Burnett, a Civil War historian, dean and associate provost at the University of Mobile, co-hosted this venture. Joined by teachers from Florida and Alabama, we began our exploration of the region in earnest with a trip to Fort Pickens, just south of Pensacola.

To get to Fort Pickens, we took a bus from downtown to Santa Rosa Island and landed at Pensacola Beach. As we passed the condos and rental houses that haunt every Florida shore, the dive bars and beachside attractions became scarce. Urban sprawl was replaced by barren, sandy dunes, and we wound our way to Fort Pickens on the far western edge of the barrier island.

“There is something about being in these locations where the history we teach actually happens.”

The fort is a historical park now, so the guns are silent, but when the park ranger described the process of loading and firing each piece so that a constant barrage could be maintained, we easily imagined the heat, noise and turmoil of battle. When you’re deep inside the casement wall next to a massive artillery piece, it’s hard not to think about the tough job of the Union soldiers that lived and worked there. These men labored in a deafening furnace in 1861 — their ears bled from the explosions and most were severely concussed from the shockwaves.

A half century later, the teachers and I felt a connection to them. From atop the wall you can see the immense distance between Fort Pickens and Pensacola. Although Union and Confederate batteries launched salvo after salvo at each other in the early days of the conflict, few shells reached their targets. More fish than men were hurt in the opening battle of Florida’s Civil War. We came away from the visit with a pretty clear understanding of why Fort Pickens was not considered a choice assignment for the Union Army in the 1860s.

Fort Pickens was among the Civil War sites where professor Sean Adams led a team of educators for a firsthand look at history. (Ralph T. Webb)

The following day, we took a walking tour of downtown Mobile, where the monuments to the city’s Mardi Gras traditions outnumber those to its Civil War past. Cars and trucks rumble down the same street where white Alabamans once celebrated the news that their state had seceded. Few structtures from that era remain, save some grand houses and churches. The modern city has overshadowed 19th century Mobile, and yet a glimpse of an old wooden balcony or a tall and weathered window pane reminds you that not every piece of the city’s history gave way to concrete and asphalt.

A visit to Historic Blakeley State Park on the east coast of the Mobile River delta capped off the workshop. At one point Blakeley sought to surpass its neighbor to the west, Mobile, as the premier city in South Alabama. In the early 1820s, Blakeley’s 4,000 or so residents could boast that they nearly doubled Mobile in size, and their deep-water port brought a consistent level of commerce. Yellow fever took its toll on the city, though, and eventually it became an abandoned ghost town.

A map of Pensacola Bay, home to Fort Pickens, the first site Adams and his group stopped at on their workshop.

Today, Blakeley is a state park, and the enthusiastic staff there is just beginning to embark on a reconstruction of its history. The town site itself is almost empty: Generations of thrifty Alabamans descended upon the depopulated buildings for free construction materials. The poor boomtown is now scattered in pieces across the region. Nature has reclaimed Blakeley — for now.

During the Civil War, however, the city’s fortunes were briefly revived as Confederates fortified Blakeley with 4,000 soldiers and extensive earthworks to protect the Mobile River. Fort Blakeley, like Fort Pickens, offers a great example of the significance of historical places. The Confederate lines are still visible, and the park has reconstructed some of the fortifications to look as they did during the 1860s.

The cheval de frise at Fort Blakeley, one of the sites visited by Adams and the group of educators, was used as an anti-cavalry device.(Courtesy of Historic Blakeley State Park)

The teachers and I marched up to the edge of the earthworks on a hot and muggy afternoon. It was probably cooler on April 9, 1865, when the 16,000 Union soldiers charged with capturing Fort Blakeley encountered its fortifications, but their immense task was still evident. Beginning about a thousand yards from the Confederate troops, Union forces first encountered roughly cut branches laid out to snag clothes and impede movement. They then passed between rows of sharpened sticks and slogged through water-filled trenches. After that, Confederate troops rolled out the cheval de frise — a defensive anti-cavalry device consisting of sharpened sticks radiating out from heavy logs — to further impede the Union forces. All the while, Confederate rifles and cannons raked the advance from behind thick walls of wood and earth.

We had a tame version of that advance in 2018, but after walking among these various impediments, we marveled at the courage of the average soldiers in 1865. And the fact that this battle took place on the same day as the Army of Northern Virginia’s surrender at Appomattox offers a somber reminder of the scope and severity of the Civil War. There’s really no substitute for seeing the spaces where history happened, and although it took some imagination and a great deal of sunscreen, the teachers and I saw the Civil War come alive in Florida and Alabama this summer.

“There is something about being in these locations where the history we teach actually happens,” one teacher wrote to us, “that makes it even more relevant to us and eventually our students.”

Photos and videos can’t re-create the stifling heat and humidity we faced in our various hikes, but we hope they can spark an interest in the past for a new generation of Floridians. To accomplish that, I’m more than happy to venture out from my everyday air-conditioned life as a professor at UF.

Sean Adams is the Hyatt and Cici Brown Professor of History at the University of Florida. He is the author of several books and specializes in the history of American capitalism and the history of energy.

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By Rachel Wayne

AMY GALLOWAY was determined from a young age to become a lawyer. But when she first enrolled at UF as an undergrad, she made sure her college education was more than just a steppingstone toward law school. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences made that easy for her.

Galloway fully embraced the college’s varied disciplines, taking courses in philosophy and Chaucerian English to complement her political science major. “It really made me think out of the box, and that’s what I love about our college,” she said.

The liberal arts’ breadth of offerings and approaches, she believes, inspired her commitment to a lifetime of learning — and set her on the path to a rich, rewarding career. While at UF, she saw the real-world relevance of tried-and-true techniques like the Socratic method, and the immersive classroom environments fueled a curiosity about the world that has guided her ever since.

A bachelor’s degree in political science, a law degree and 30 years of practice later, Galloway hopes to help future generations have the same revelatory experience on campus that she did.

She remains involved with the University of Florida and currently serves on the Dean’s Leadership Council for the college. In particular, Galloway is passionate about Beyond120 and its focus on empowering students.

“It’s this idea of really investing in our students from the very first year they’re here,” she said. “It’s about really starting to learn, ‘What am I good at? What do I naturally excel at?’”

Among her many points of involvement are her efforts to develop internships and mentoring opportunities, both of which connect alumni with current students, often across disciplinary or industry boundaries.

Bringing Gators together has long been one of Galloway’s passions. Years ago, she joined a task force in the Department of Political Science to connect alumni in the South Florida area. Galloway helped organize events that featured talks from Florida pollster Jim Kane and professor emeritus of political science Richard Scher. Today, she’s working on ways to bring internships to the students, rather than the other way around.

“It might be more of a challenge to actually relocate, let’s say, to Miami-Dade for a semester, so we’re going to be able to offer students some opportunities near Gainesville,” she said.

The impetus for all this is Dean Dave Richardson, she said. His initiatives are helping enhance the student experience to unprecedented levels.

She has been excited to see the Dean’s Leadership Council grow, making more alumni resources available to Richardson and his team. Galloway can’t wait to help students start their own lifetime of learning.

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UF linguist studies why we bicker with those closest to us

By Andrew Doerfler

At a typical Thanksgiving dinner, you can expect to find a few hallmarks: A golden brown roast turkey, globs of cranberry sauce and, of course, plenty of squabbling among family members.

Professor of Linguistics DIANA BOXER has put those holiday quarrels to good use in a new study focused on bickering. To collect data for the paper, students in her sociolinguistics course received an unusual assignment: Before they set off for Thanksgiving break in 2016, Boxer instructed them to take notes when they noticed anyone bickering — and when they participated in bickering themselves.

Bickering, by the Numbers

After repeating the assignment over the following semester’s spring break, Boxer ended up with 100 transcripts that detailed roommates spatting about unwashed dishes, siblings at odds over directions while driving, parents chiding their children for laziness and much more.

Bickering is usually defined as small, petty quarreling over trivial matters, but Boxer wanted to understand these arguments on a deeper level. The recorded exchanges offer a window into how these disputes crop up and play out between family members, romantic partners and close friends.

The subject of bickering is well within Boxer’s area of expertise: She often studies negative speech behaviors, previously taking on nagging, complaining, commiserating and boasting. By identifying the attributes that define each of these behaviors, she hopes to help people recognize them and head them off in their own lives.

“We can’t control much about what’s going on in the world around us,” she said. “But we can control what’s going on in our immediate environment by not participating in negative speech behaviors.”

Bickering, while usually short-lived and not very serious in the short-term, can end up eroding relationships when it accumulates.

“Over time, bickering can make people feel like a family member is a negative person who’s always picking on them,” Boxer said. “If we build more harmonious relationships we can be happier people.”

The Dance of Negotiation

In addition to analyzing her students’ field notes from their breaks, Boxer conducted a series of open-ended interviews with couples, pairs of coworkers and other subjects about their experiences with bickering. The aim of both parts of the study was to find what makes bickering distinct from similarly negative behaviors like complaining and arguing.

The resulting article was published in a special issue of the Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict, co-edited by Boxer, that focused specifically on conflict in close personal relationships. In the paper, Boxer determines that bickering relies on “close social distance” — the participants need to know each other well enough that they abandon the niceties that hold back snide remarks.

“You don’t usually bicker with someone you don’t know very well because you’re trying to build solidarity,” she said. “But with family members you don’t bother to do that dance of negotiation, that back and forth to establish a relationship. I’m advocating that we should.”

The study, which Boxer co-authored with graduate student JOSEPH RADICE, also identified common subjects that people bicker over (disputes over “household concerns,” such as cleaning the kitchen, made up over half of the examples), which relationships are most prone to bickering (perhaps unsurprisingly, romantic partners dominated at 38 percent), and the speech behaviors involved in bickering (accusations abounded, initiating 30 percent of the examples).

Boxer found that bickering has no benefits, as opposed to complaining, which can build solidarity among people in shared circumstances. People use bickering to air out “minor disagreements about relatively trivial topics,” the study concludes, but, unlike arguing, it “rarely escalates into verbal or physical violence.”

Conflict Begins at Home

So why study a type of conflict that is, by its very definition, trivial? While bickering might be insignificant on its own, minor conflicts in our close personal relationships set patterns for larger disputes throughout our lives.

“Conflict begins at home,” Boxer said. “If we are learning to be conflictive people with our families, that can translate into other spheres of life.”

Increasingly, she said, major conflicts with wide-ranging consequences — wars between nations, urgent political clashes or societal tensions — take precedence in research over studies about more intimate conflicts. Boxer thinks we shouldn’t overlook the small stuff.

“Family conflict has always interested me, and very little has been done about it,” she said.

The lack of such work motivated her to propose the special issue of the Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict, which featured several articles about family conflict.

Not being a psychologist, Boxer is hesitant to give others advice about how to avoid bickering — but she hopes her findings offer researchers in other disciplines a starting point to build upon. She has already found the research useful in her own life. “With everything I study,” she said, “I learn what I shouldn’t do.”

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Nothing to See HereNothing to See Here
By Kevin Wilson (Ecco/HarperCollins)

KEVIN WILSON, ’04 graduate of the UF creative writing program MFA@FLA, is lighting up the literary world with a new novel involving spontaneous combustion.

Nothing to See Here, released October 29, has earned rave reviews for its hilarious, surreal take on childrearing. In the book, narrator Lillian is a go-nowhere millennial who once took the fall for her well-off boarding school roommate after drugs were found in their dorm.

Years later, the friend, now married to a fast-rising politician, reaches out with an offer for Lillian to work as a nanny to her 10-year-old twin stepchildren — who, it turns out, literally burst into flames when they’re upset. Lillian, while skeptical, takes the chance to escape her dreary home life and soon finds herself deeply entangled in this complicated family.

Told in deadpan prose, Nothing to See Here has delighted reviewers with its peculiar sensibility and moving story. A giddy notice in The New York Times Book Review called the book “wholly original” and “perfect.”

“You’re laughing so hard you don’t even realize that you’ve suddenly caught fire,” Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote in the review. The Washington Post’s write-up, meanwhile, said, “Paradoxically light and melancholy, it hews to the border of fantasy but stays in the land of realism.”

Potentially introducing the book to a wider audience, Jenna Bush Hager selected it as the November pick for the Today show’s book club, saying, “I don’t think any book has touched me about parenthood as much as Nothing to See Here.”

Wilson told Today that he has been long been obsessed with the idea of spontaneous combustion — and it would often come to mind when his own children would have tantrums.

“I started thinking about, ‘Oh, well, what would it be like if you had to take care of a kid who actually burst into flames?’” he said. “The novel just kind of spiraled out of that.”

The novel is the third from Wilson, who is an associate professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South. He has also published two short story collections. His 2011 debut novel, The Family Fang, became a 2015 film starring Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman and Christopher Walken. It appears that won’t be the last time his work makes it to the big screen: Deadline reported in November that a movie adaptation of Nothing to See Here is already in the works after the screen rights were purchased at auction.


The Body in Question
By Jill Ciment (Pantheon)

In her latest novel, The Body in Question, English and MFA@FLA professor JILL CIMENT devises a complicated romance under unusual circumstances.

The story follows two jurors as they embark on an affair while sequestered for a high-profile criminal trial. In a move that reflects the unorthodox setting, the pair are referred to by their jury numbers, C-2 and F-17. Their precarious relationship adds tension to an already fraught trial that has drawn media attention and spectators: The jury must decide the fate of a teenage girl with developmental delays who has been accused of murdering her toddler brother.

The novel is a gripping account of modern conflict, romance and tragedy. Kirkus called the book “an honest, mature look at life and love” that “adds to a growing body of evidence leading to a decisive verdict: Ciment is an author well worth reading.”

A gushing review in The New York Times Book Review stated, “Ciment writes with a mordant intelligence and, refreshingly, doesn’t belabor topics that in someone else’s novel might take up many pages.”

The author of several books and short stories, Ciment has received numerous grants and awards that include a National Endowment for the Arts Japan Fellowship Prize and a Guggenheim fellowship.

Her 2009 novel, Heroic Measures, a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize, was adapted into the film 5 Flights Up, starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman. Ciment also published a memoir, Half a Life, in 1996. Along with her career as an author, Ciment teaches graduate and undergraduate creative writing workshops at UF, using her expertise to prepare the next generation of writers.


Women at Work in Twenty-First-Century European Cinema
By Barbara Mennel (University of Illinois Press)

Associate Professor of German, Rothman Chair and Director of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere BARBARA MENNEL’S latest release explores the films of the 21st century through feminist critique. Women at Work focuses on the role of women in the workplace as portrayed by modern European cinema, taking into consideration the varying perspectives present in these movies and their impact on culture.

Through this investigation, Mennel finds the intersection between gender politics, socioeconomic disparities and entertainment. In her analysis, she addresses how a mix of forward thinking and regressive messages in modern workplace films combine with — and influence — the political, cultural and social thought of today. Mennel holds a joint appointment in the German Studies section in Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the Department of English. To read more about Mennel and the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, click here.


Oldest City: The History of Saint Augustine
Edited by Susan R. Parker
(St. Augustine Historical Society)

The latest release by the St. Augustine Historical Society, Oldest City: The History of Saint Augustine, is a comprehensive recounting of one of Florida’s most historic locales. The book, produced by several UF and CLAS alumni and dedicated to the late UF historian MICHAEL GANNON, begins with the story of the area’s original Native American tribes up until the arrival of the city’s founder, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, in 1565. The chronicle then traces the growth of the city over nearly 500 years. Spanning from St. Augustine’s inception as a Spanish colony to the tourist destination the city is today, Oldest City provides an extensive look at Florida’s past and the ways it affects our present.


One Lark, One Horse
By Michael Hofmann
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The most recent release from English professor and poet MICHAEL HOFMANN, One Lark, One Horse is full of the dynamic and thoughtful poetry for which he is known. His new work explores life in the modern world, providing relatable commentary on universal struggles and experiences.

The collection, Hofmann’s first in 20 years, has earned widespread praise. The LA Review of Books said that the “prodigious” work “heralds the return of one of British poetry’s most brilliant talents,” adding that Hofmann “attains a higher level of formal inventiveness and variety than in his previous volumes.”

An accomplished author, poet and translator, Hofmann has received honors including a Cholmondeley Award, an Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize and a PEN/Book-of-the-Month Translation Prize. Hofmann teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at UF.


Bringing Jessie Home: A Story of Canine Rescue, Human Redemption
By Dorothy Weik Smiljanich (Independently published)

In this heartwarming story, alumna DOROTHY WEIK SMILJANICH (English ’69, MA ’71) recounts her real-life experience with Jessie, the dog who unexpectedly entered her life and quickly made a home for herself. After taking Jessie in as a stray, Smiljanich and her family go on a series of adventures with their new pooch, learning valuable lessons along the way. Through thoughtful musings and detailed description, Smiljanich captures the special bond between dogs and their human companions.


Disasters in Paradise: Natural Hazards, Social Vulnerability, and Development Decisions
Edited by Amanda D. Concha-Holmes and Anthony Oliver-Smith
(Lexington Books)

In this new collection, anthropologists AMANDA CONCHA-HOLMES and ANTHONY OLIVER-SMITH present works that offer insight into the dangers Florida faces as a result of our changing planet. Known as “ground zero” for climate change in the U.S., the state is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.  This danger is deeply rooted in historical and cultural practices, which in turn affect public policy and actions in the private sector. Presented through ethnographic case studies, the book reveals how the combination of natural occurrences, social practices and official policies have altered the state’s climate, increasing the risk of hurricanes, floods, forest fires and other kinds of disasters.

Concha-Holmes received her PhD in anthropology from UF, and Oliver-Smith is a professor emeritus of anthropology. The book’s contributors include several UF alumni.


Campaigns of Knowledge: U.S. Pedagogies of Colonialism and Occupation in the Philippines and Japan
By Malini Johar Schueller (Temple University Press)

In her new book, English professor MALINI JOHAR SCHUELLER juxtaposes the school system instituted in the Philippines in 1898 with educational reforms imposed in occupied Japan to reveal how the United States has used schooling to strengthen its empire. Both systems, she argues, aimed to produce knowledgeable subjects who were nonetheless amenable to the United States’ imperial power. The work, supported by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, continues Schueller’s longtime study of colonialism, imperialism and race.


Adventures in Franchise Ownership: 4 Pillars to Strengthen, Protect and Grow Your Business
By Christy Wilson Delk
(Morgan James)

In 1996, CHRISTY WILSON DELK (psychology ’80) risked it all to purchase a franchise. Through years of hard work, the alumna’s business flourished, allowing her to later sell it for a substantial profit. In Adventures in Franchise Ownership, Delk recounts her experience as a business owner, imparting the lessons she has learned to readers. She details her “Four Pillars of Successful Franchise Ownership” to help would-be franchisees run their prospective businesses efficiently and successfully. Delk’s guidance, along with advice from other successful franchisees, assists readers in making their experience owning a business both profitable and enjoyable. In addition to her work as a writer and speaker, Delk works as an adjunct professor of business at Rollins College.

Living on AutomaticLiving on Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships
by Homer B. Martin, MD and Christine B. L. Adams, MD
(Independently Published)

Have you ever wondered what causes problems in your most important relationships, whether it be with your children, in marriages or even while dating? Living in Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships aims to provide you with a deeper understanding of yourself and others to help you improve relationships and lead a richer life.

Cowritten by psychiatrists CHRISTINE B.L. ADAMS ’76 and Homer B. Martin, Living in Automatic explores how we can often have difficulty with relationships later in life due to our emotional conditioning during childhood. This book draws upon the authors’ combined 80 years of experience treating patients to help readers break the emotional patterns that are passed from generation to generation and create healthier relationships.

The book has been honored with a gold medal in the Psychology/Mental Health category at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Hãy nhay cùng em – Dance with me
By Andrea Hoa Pham and Lola Haskins
(Danang Publishing House)

ANDREA HOA PHAM, professor of Vietnamese language and linguistics, teamed up with Gainesville resident and poet Lola Haskins for a new bilingual poetry collection. In a “conversation between cultures,” each author shared her poems with the other, with Pham translating Haskins’ work into Vietnamese and Haskins adapting the feelings and imagery of Pham’s poems into English free verse. The result highlights the differences in poetic conventions between the languages while finding ways to bridge the divide. Along with writing poetry, Pham researches Vietnamese phonology and has previously studied gender and language, language change and second language acquisition.


Fishing, Gone?: Saving the Ocean through Sportfishing
By Sid Dobrin (Texas A&M University Press)

For English professor and department chair SID DOBRIN, saltwater fishing is more than just a hobby. Those who enjoy the ocean’s bounty for sport, he believes, have a responsibility to be mindful of its fate in the face of economic and environmental challenges. In his new book Fishing, Gone?, Dobrin calls for sustainable fishing practices that don’t simply reflect the interests of commercial harvesters. As the chair of the American Sportfishing Association’s Advocacy Committee, Dobrin believes that, with a new approach, anglers can help preserve the joys of saltwater fishing for generations to come. Doug Olander, the editor of Sport Fishing magazine, called the book “a thoughtful and provocative amalgamation of all things fish and fishing — saltwater-angling lore, politics, wisdom, and existential meditations. Dobrin’s work is completely unlike any fishing book I’ve ever read.” Along with his work as a professor, Dobrin founded UF’s Trace Innovation Initiative.

By Peyton McElaney

UF professor RICHARD YOST was inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame on September 20, 2019, for his outstanding achievements in mass spectrometry and analytical chemistry. Yost is head of the Analytical Division of the Department of Chemistry at UF as well as the director of the Southeast Center for Integrated Metabolomics.

Yost was recognized primarily for his most prominent invention: the triple quadrupole mass spectrometer.

By measuring the weight of molecules, the tool provides crucial information used in research settings, medical procedures and more. It has been employed in everything from environmental research to Olympic drug testing. Medical applications, including testing for diseases in newborns, have been instrumental in saving lives around the world.

A quadrupole itself consists of four metal poles arranged in a square. As the name suggests, the triple quadrupole mass spectrometer comprises three quadrupoles linked together. After voltages are applied, creating an electric field, ions move through the center of the arrangement toward the device. This is like a filter, allowing the parts of the molecule to be separated and analyzed.

The triple quadrupole mass spectrometer was officially invented in 1978, but work began several years prior. Yost, a graduate student at the time, worked with a professor at Michigan State University, Christie Enke, to create the device.

Yost’s primary goal when joining the project was to streamline processes that were previously done manually and required painstaking precision. “At this time, mass spectrometers were large, clunky instruments that were not computerized, and were typically not used for analytical chemistry,” he said. “But the quadrupole mass filter offered solutions to these problems.”

“It is a great honor to be recognized alongside these other great inventors. And it’s a remarkable opportunity for celebrating the tools that advance science.” — Richard Yost

After their proposal for the project was rejected by the National Science Foundation, Yost and Enke needed to find a new source of funding.

“Fortunately, the Office of Naval Research funded the grant,” Yost said, “and I bought a couple thousand pounds of stainless steel and electronics and started building. It’s become the world’s most common mass spectrometer. Not bad for an instrument that ‘wouldn’t work.’”

The instrument was promptly put on the market and is now sold around the world, with an annual yield of over $1 billion. In the decades since its invention, it has remained an important part of the research process in multiple fields.

Today, Yost is recognized as a world leader in analytical chemistry and a pioneer in the field of mass spectrometry. With 13 U.S. patents under his belt, Yost continues to push the boundaries for what is possible in the field of chemistry.

“It is a great honor to be recognized alongside these other great inventors,” Yost said, “And it’s a remarkable opportunity for celebrating the tools that advance science.”

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The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences lost a friend and champion when DAVID R. COLBURN, former director of the Bob Graham Center, a beloved professor of history and Provost Emeritus, passed away in September.

“David was a colleague, a mentor and a friend to many at the university, and he was a tireless advocate for the college since joining the faculty of the Department of History in 1972,” said Dean David Richardson.

“I knew David Colburn as one of the great administrative leaders of the university who contributed to its rise in reputation as a top public institution. His scholarship and leadership reflected his commitment to honoring the lessons of the past while we build a better future.”

Colburn, 76, died due to complications from an extended illness. He served UF for nearly 50 years in nearly every administrative role: He was the university’s provost and senior vice president from 1999–2005; vice provost and dean of the International Center from 1997–1999; and chair of the Department of History from 1981–1989.

“For nearly a decade, David Colburn was the inspiration and an admired director for the Bob Graham Center for Public Service,” former Governor Bob Graham said.

“It was my honor to work with him and experience his scholarship and values,” added Graham. “He was a loving husband to Marion and devoted to his three children and grandchildren. Contributing five decades of service to the University of Florida and to our state, his wisdom, grace and friendship, will be sorely missed. His achievements and contributions to the University and to the Bob Graham Center for Public Service are a source of strength for the future.”

David Colburn with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.

“The University of Florida mourns the loss of one of its greatest leaders,” President Kent Fuchs said. “Dr. Colburn served our campus, our students and our state with steady, selfless dedication for nearly a half a century. He will be greatly missed.”

Colburn was born September 29, 1942, in Providence, Rhode Island — and he never lost his Ocean State accent despite leaving at age 24. He earned his AB and MA in history from Providence College, where he was a member of the Army ROTC. He was called to Vietnam in 1966, and served a year in the Signal Corps, promoted to captain in that time.

When he returned to the states, he entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received his PhD in 1971. After teaching at UNC and East Carolina University, Colburn came to UF in 1972, where his teaching and research specialized on topics like the American presidency, politics of the American South and civil rights.

Even amid writing or editing 14 books and some 25 book chapters, he was focused most keenly on his students. He was a master at inspiring, motivating and guiding them. He sent a generation of public leaders across Florida and the nation in a range of professions, and they often called to seek his counsel and returned to visit him. Colburn was named teacher of the year on three occasions.

He was also a trusted counselor to elected officials including the late Florida Governor Reubin O’Donovan Askew and Governor Graham. Colburn helped bring to light many of the uncovered racial stories of Florida, including in his book Racial Change and Community Crisis: St. Augustine, Florida, 1877-1980. He served as one of the authors of Florida’s Rosewood Report in 1993, part of an inquiry into the 1923 destruction of the town of Rosewood that helped push Florida to approve unprecedented reparations for racial violence. 

His most recent books were From Yellow Dog Democrats to Red State Republicans: Florida and Its Politics Since 1940 (2007) and Florida’s Megatrends with Lance deHaven-Smith (2010). Other books included African-American Mayors: Race, Politics, and the American City (2001) with Jeffrey S. Adler; Government in the Sunshine State: Florida Since Statehood (1999) with deHaven-Smith; and The African American Heritage of Florida (1994) with Jane Landers, which won the Rembert W. Patrick Book Prize for best book on Florida history and a special commendation from the Association of State and Local History in 1996.

He was also founder and director of the Askew Institute on Politics and Society at UF, which presented public programs to civic leaders and citizens on critical issues confronting Florida and the nation. In 2013, the Institute merged into the Graham Center, where its mission lives on through the Askew Scholarship program.

Colburn was a true public scholar and often spoke and wrote on diversity as America and Florida’s exceptional strength. “The nation and Florida have been greatly enriched by the nation’s multiplicity of people, a resultant diverse and dynamic economy,” he wrote in an essay earlier this year, “and an advancement, not a diminishment, of the nation’s liberties.”

Colburn wrote more than 200 essays on state, national and international politics. He appeared on many news programs to discuss civil rights; race relations; and state, national and international politics. He was a regular contributor to the Orlando Sentinel for 20 years and more recently wrote for the Tampa Bay Times, The Miami Herald, The Florida Times-Union, The Gainesville Sun and the Ocala Star-Banner.

He was a champion of the humanities who had served as past chair of the Florida Humanities Council and the U.S. Federation of State Humanities Councils. He was set to receive the Florida Humanities Lifetime Achievement Award from the Board of the Florida Humanities Council the week he passed away, only the second time in the Council’s history the award has been given. The other recipient was UF’s Michael Gannon.

“His commitment to humanities education at the state and national level was unprecedented,” said Steve Seibert, executive director of the Florida Humanities Council. “No one has done more to support the humanities, in deed and in cause. We will miss his wisdom, friendship, and leadership; we loved David and will remember him always.”

Colburn was past president of the Florida Historical Society, served as a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, a professional organization of more than 8,000 members, and as a Road Scholar for the Florida Humanities Council, speaking internationally, nationally and statewide on history and politics. He served as a Fellow in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 1997, where he worked on national and international issues.

Colburn is survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Marion Faircloth Colburn; his children Margaret Cauthon (Ray), David Colburn (Michelle), Katherine Fulmer (Jamie); his grandchildren Claire Cauthon, Caroline Cauthon, James Fulmer, Ali Colburn, Ben Fulmer, Kate Colburn, and Maclean Fulmer; and his brother and sister Paul Colburn and Lynn Dyson (Tom).

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be made in the form of donations to the Graham Center’s David Colburn Student Advancement Fund, c/o the UF Foundation, P.O. Box 14425, Gainesville, 32604-2425, or to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 100 NE 1st Street, Gainesville 32601.

A classicist chases down the origins of early anatomical description in Homer’s Iliad.

By Barbara Drake

On a Friday afternoon in February, Kenneth Silverman, a PhD student in UF’s Department of Classics, stands in front of an audience of medical doctors and historians at the Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science in Augusta, Ga., speculating on a gruesome battlefield injury reported to have taken place in Asia Minor more than 3,000 years ago. The victim of the injury was a Trojan soldier named Amphiklos who had charged at an enemy commander, Meges Phyleides, only to be skewered in the thigh by a spear.

As described in lines 313-16 of the Iliad, things didn’t end so well for Amphiklos:
And Phyleides, when he’d spotted Amphiklos running towards him,
was the first to strike, reaching out his spear towards the upper-part of Amphiklos’ leg,
where the thickest human muscle lies: and his tendons (artery?) [νεῦρα] were completely
severed by the point of the spear, and darkness covered his eyes.

Silverman, reads the lines aloud in the thrilling meter of Greek epic poetry, dactylic hexameter, and pauses. He focuses on the bard’s detailed descriptions of anatomy and on a single, telling word: νεῦρα, or neura. Elsewhere in the Iliad, this plural noun is used to mean “tendons,” but in this passage, neura most likely refers to the femoral artery, whose severing brings death within minutes (“darkness covered his eyes”). What did Homer’s apparent confusion of “tendons” and “artery” signify?

etching of soldier bandaging another soldier's arm
Medicine was known and practiced as early as the 4th century BCE. Here, Achilles bandages Patroklos’ arm in the Theban Army.

The answer, Silverman explains, was in the Iliad’s historical context. It was written hundreds of years before Hippocrates and the Hellenistic philosophers who laid the groundwork for the scientific method. In fact, he says, “a lack of discrimination in Homer among terms referring to arteries, veins, sinews, and the spinal cord reflects an early stage of Greek anatomical knowledge.” Although Homer lacked separate terms for tendon and artery, his meticulous descriptions of battle wounds, stabbings, and even beheadings reveal a keen eye for how the human body works — and shed light on the mysteries of pre-Hippocratic thinking.“On balance, Homer is probably simply describing torn tendons,” says Silverman. “Amphiklos’ neura were snapped, and he died.” And that error in identifying the cause of the warrior’s death represents a key stage in early Western thought: “In ancient medicine and popular belief, leading up to early modern times, tendons and nerves were associated with each other,” says Silverman, “both described with the same Greek and Latin word [neuron/nervus], and both thought to contain a person’s ‘life force’ — the vigorous tautness that holds a person together.”Homer’s concept of the neura “was used for centuries before Hellenistic physicians discovered the nervous system and borrowed the term to describe its constituents,” says Silverman. In turn, “many modern medical terms still owe their roots to words that first appear in the Iliad and Odyssey, earning Homer a place in the early history of science and medicine.”

photograph of sculpture of fallen Grecian soldier holding shield
A sculpture of a fallen warrior at the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek island of Aigina.


A sculpture of a fallen warrior at the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek island of Aigina.

Silverman is interested in the bard’s shaping of the ancient Greek language, which was in a molten state in the 8th century BCE, much like English was at the time of Shakespeare. Homer’s keen sense of delight in the physical world was transmitted directly to listeners through vivid descriptions and onomatopoeia (words that sound like the things they describe).

One of Silverman’s favorite Homeric words refers to movement and translates to “trembling with leaves.” Another is a complex color word — the “deep blue of depth” — to describe water. And, of course, there is the famous Homeric reference to the “wine-dark sea,” a hard-to-visualize color that Silverman translates as “wine-faced.”

Silverman’s father is a microbiologist at the Cleveland Research Institute, a connection that led to Silverman working as a research student in the mid-2000s at the Cleveland Clinic, where he witnessed a laminectomy surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis (removing plaque from around the dura of the spine). Although he wasn’t thinking of the Iliad then, that experience came in handy for translating some of the epic poem’s “excruciating lessons in anatomy.”

photograph of Grecian vase
The Mycenaean Warrior Vase, recovered from the acropolis of Mycenae and dated to the 13th century BCE, is one of the most valued treasures of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

As a final example, Silverman recites a passage in which Achilles rampages through the Trojan army and beheads the warrior Deucalion. The lines swell and fall over themselves as Deucalion’s head and helmet fly off together, (de)capped by this arresting detail: “marrow splashed [or, “spurted”] out from the vertebrae / and he lay splayed out on the ground.”

Silverman smiles: “Well, I know from having witnessed a spinal surgery that spinal fluid does not splash out. The medical doctors at the Augusta conference confirmed this. However, doctors have told me that blood from a beheading would gush out — perhaps even twelve feet in the air. Splashed conveys the effect.”

Neuron, nerve, phlebitis: these are some of the established medical terms that have their origins in Homeric verse. As Silverman observes, Homer may not have thought of human anatomy and injuries in a scientific way, “but in his ability to find just the right words to describe these phenomena, he took a first step towards explaining them.”

All of the poems in this article were translated by Kenneth Silverman.

How Comics of the Congo Came to the Libraries of UF

In a locked room at Smathers Library on the UF campus, rows of manila folders and stacks of cardboard boxes are filled with polyester sleeves and simple copy paper, among which hide one of Smathers’ — and the world’s — most unique collections. The work of Papa Mfumu’eto, a comic artist and illustrator from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, encompasses thousands of comic books, zines, and advertisements that tackle democratization, gender roles and sociopolitical change, and Congolese mythology and spirituality.

Nancy Rose Hunt, professor of African history, usually focuses on medical and gender issues in Africa, but a request from a Yale colleague to study the sociocultural impact of Tintin au Congo in then-Zaire piqued her interest in comics produced in this central African country, formerly the Belgian Congo. After collaborating on an enormous archive of comics from the 1920s through the ’80s, Hunt discovered Papa Mfumu’eto, one of the most prolific and admired comic artists of the “zine era” running from the late 1970s into the mid-1990s. In 2001, while in Kinshasa for other research, Hunt decided to meet the larger-than-life artist, whose self-portraits permeate the collection. “When I arrived at his door, it was a very affluent period for him. He’d just come off some nice contracts,” she says, remembering his fancy stuffed chairs and couch. (The artist frequently does commission work for advertisements, many of which blend in motifs and recurring characters from his comics, beloved by Kinshasans.) “His work was coming off the ceiling and under the chairs, just everywhere. I have a background as an archivist before I became a historian, so my instincts were to preserve it and conserve it,” she recalls. “He’d never heard the word ‘archive’ before, but he was happy to hear it.” Hunt persuaded him to entrust the collection to her. It was crucial to find a secure home for what she calls a “gold mine” for any Africanist.

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A comic with Mobutu Sese Seko asking, “Is my face about to disappear from Congo?”

Getting the archive to America was not a seamless endeavor. However, more than 15 years later, Hunt is pleased with the outcome, as is Smathers’ African Studies curator, Daniel Reboussin. “I wasn’t sure it would all happen as easily and beautifully as it did,” Hunt says. She returned to Kinshasa in 2007 to read some of the comics with Papa Mfumu’eto, while working on her Lingala, the language in which the bulk of the text is written. Hunt knew she wanted a repository for the collection in the United States or Europe, although some warned her that no American institution would be interested, because this kind of comic art was better known in Europe. Pitching and moving the collection would be risky. Hunt focused her scouting in France and Belgium during 2014 and 2015 when she had a research year in Paris. To her delight, Paris’ Fondation Cartier included examples from the archive in a 2015 exhibit on Congolese art; this inclusion thrilled both Hunt and Papa Mfumu’eto, who produced an essay and several interviews, respectively, that signal-boosted the collection. Intrigued, Paris’ Quai Branly Museum made a bid for the collection to be stored and exhibited there.


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Zombies, mermaids, and more appear throughout the collection, as do creatures of superstition such as chameleons.
comic book cover

Zombies, mermaids, and more appear throughout the collection, as do creatures of superstition such as chameleons.


Yet in the end, Gainesville seemed to be the pre-destined home of the Papa Mfumu’eto archive. The University of Florida was recruiting Hunt, who also struck up a friendship with Reboussin, to whom archiving the work was especially important. Many of the comics were created during the period of transition from the Mobutu regime to democracy. “It was a time where people weren’t free to speak about politics, about opposition,” he says. “Some of [the comics’] themes might not be overt political speech, but are referring to political conditions.” He and his team have spent close to 100 hours processing the archive and expect many more to go, with an anticipated completion date in 2019 or 2020. This dedication is aimed to protect and preserve for posterity. “We should make sure that things are available to scholars a hundred or more years later. I’m sure that 100 years from now, people will be interested in that transition point in Congolese history.”

The collection stayed in Paris in a safety-deposit box for about 18 months while Hunt discussed possible homes for it with Parisian curators. Yet Smathers Library, along with the Harn Museum of Art’s history of curating Congolese art with Belgian institutions, the Center for African Studies, and the local comics school, the Sequential Artists Workshop, collectively whispered to the appropriateness of a Gainesville home, and Hunt, listening with intrigue, accepted the job offer from UF. Finally, the time had come to bring the collection to Gainesville. Hunt and Amy Vigilante of University Galleries personally traveled to Paris to retrieve the collection, puzzling on the flight how to best wrap them. The return journey was successful, and Hunt and Reboussin opened the packages on March 9, 2017, at a small round table in the locked room at Library East. Now, Reboussin and the Smathers archival team are carefully processing the pages, some of which are original paintings and sketches, some of which are printed on paper that time has reduced to mere wisps. There was very little organization to the collection when it first arrived; due to the many fragments and condition of the materials and without a familiarity with the sequential art form, archivists met new challenges in processing the collection.

comic book page
The adventures of Papa Mfumu’eto’s frequent heroine, Princess D’Or.

Thankfully, Hunt had pinpointed the Sequential Artists Workshop while eyeing Gainesville, and its founder, Tom Hart, was happy to come on board the project. When he’s not using the comics for public outreach on campus and in local schools — “Tom is a beautiful ambassador for African studies,” says Hunt — he’s using his expertise in comic layout, illustration, and production to help the archivists know how to process the collection.

“We don’t have but maybe a dozen complete comic books,” says Reboussin. Hart is able to match pages that were likely in the same spread and extrapolate from the layout off cells how large the complete comic book would have been. “He knows immediately if it was a 16-, 12-, or 8-page comic book. He sees how the text and the image fit together physically within the cells. It’s a different level of insight than someone who’s looking at the imagery itself or other themes in Congolese society. It was wonderful to have these conversations.”

The conversations continued at the 2018 Gwendolen M. Carter Conference hosted by the Center for African Studies. Hunt co-organized the conference with Alioune Sow, professor of French and African studies at UF; the Sequential Artists Workshop remained deeply involved, and the creative dialogue between image and text expanded into special appearances by Congolese novelist Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Australian writer David Carlin, and Didier Viodé, a performing artist from Benin. Through connections made at the conference, Hunt and Reboussin anticipate further exhibition of the archive, notably a Belgian museum in Ostend in 2020.

Papa Mfumu’eto is unique in that he produced comics for so long using a non-colonial language, says Hunt, and she hopes to introduce Lingala studies to UF. Reboussin too sees a world of possibility in the collection. “It’s just great working with a diverse group of people,” he says. “Everyone sees something different, especially in a collection that’s really rich. The more you look, it just gets deeper and deeper.”

“There is a very strong religious imagination inside this archive, full of things about the relationship between the visible world and the invisible world — the visible world being the concrete material world that we live in, the invisible world being a world of spirits and witches and ghosts, and also the relationship between the living and the world of the dead. Many American students are kinda shocked at first sight, because there are a lot of strange beings that are floating through it, images of cemeteries and graves. There’s something a little spooky about this collection.” — Nancy Rose Hunt

comic book cover


Political leaders such as the infamous dictator Mobutu Sese Seko; the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo’s first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba; the unpopular president Laurent-Désiré Kabila; and King Leopold II of DRC’s Belgian-colonial past appear frequently in Papa Mfumu’eto’s work.

“There is a lot of stuff about domestic struggles between female rivals, i.e. co-wives or co-lovers in the same household. Some of these intimate themes burst out into things that are more metaphorically political, e.g. a man who turns into a snake, devours a sexy woman, and then turns that sexy woman into dollar bills. As soon as that image appeared on the Kinshasa streets, people understand he was talking about Mobutu.” — Nancy Rose Hunt

comic book cover

Ask the Experts

UF experts explain how research can address school and interpersonal violence.

UF faculty members Maddy Coy, Dorothy Espelage, Abigail Fagan, and Bonnie Moradi all tackle social issues from their respective academic discipline, and each has a remarkably interdisciplinary background. Fagan combines sociology and criminology to study how communities can prevent violence. Coy is a women’s studies scholar with community-based research and public policy expertise. Espelage is a psychologist with extensive knowledge of child development. Moradi uses her background in psychology and women’s studies to direct UF’s Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research. All four are core or affiliate faculty in the Center. Their areas of study — bullying, discrimination and inequalities, violence against women, and youth violence — have been trending topics for years, and the researchers aim to find the best ways to merge theory with data, knowledge with practice, and policy with results.

Not only are you all based in an educational institution, but much of your work revolves around using research to make campuses safer. What does and doesn’t work?

Fagan: Historically, and even today still, the first response is what we call “deterrence” — a very reactive response that is meant to punish criminals, make more arrests, and put them away for longer years. The problem is that that doesn’t get at the root causes. What does work are skills-building programs that teach kids how to make better decisions.

Espelage: Not all kids who bully are rejected. It’s not just “bad kids” who do bad things. And so, zero-tolerance approaches have been shown not to work, because these behaviors aren’t occurring in a vacuum. The approach I publish quite a bit on is a social-emotional learning program that teaches kids effective communication and conflict resolution skills.

Fagan: Similarly, what we have learned is that when you just try to scare kids into not using drugs or breaking the law, it’s another one of those deterrence tactics that doesn’t work. Effective programs focus on building skills, teaching kids how to make better decisions, how to think about what they want to achieve in the future, and resist peer pressures to use drugs or commit crimes.

Many of you have done applied work, that is, using your research to effect real change or in collaboration with community groups. What are some of your successes?

Fagan: I have done a lot of hands-on work in this area. Before I came to UF, I spent five years at the University of Washington. I was involved in a randomized controlled trial that was a scientific evaluation of a community-based crime and drug intervention strategy. I was a trainer who went out to communities and talked to them about their concerns regarding youth delinquency, violence, and drug use. What we were testing was a structured process of mobilizing community members — educating them about the causes of crime, gauging which causes of the crime were prevalent in their community, and then putting into place effective prevention strategies that targeted those causes. Getting the whole community involved was important to show youth that the community cared about them.

Coy: I am a feminist scholar who is interested in how we connect up the knowledge from practice — working with victims/survivors of violence — with theories and concepts about inequalities. I previously was Deputy Director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit of London Metropolitan University, and before that, I worked in organizations such as women’s shelters with women in the sex industry. Now, what I hope is that my students go out and have these conversations with their peers. I think one of the greatest things in the classroom is to hear them say, “You know, I was having this conversation with my roommate just last night!” You can hear that they’ve taken what we’ve discussed in class and begun to challenge things they think are problematic.

Espelage: All my work happens in schools and with community groups that have direct impact on bully prevention and promoting positive school climate. Also, my scholarship has been directly used by nonprofit organizations to advocate for state and federal legislation aimed at protecting sexual and gender minority youth, advocating for students with disabilities, and greater resources for school prevention efforts.

These topics are trending in the news and on social media, as well as in popular culture. What do you think of the portrayal of and dialogue surrounding these topics?

Fagan: The biggest myth is always that crime is out of control, worse than it’s ever been, but in fact we know that crime rates have decreased significantly since the ’80s. But we focus so much attention on heinous crimes that it promotes the idea there’s so much of it going on. Or it’s the idea that we don’t know why it happens, and we can’t prevent it. There’s always this sentiment about teenagers — “kids will be kids,” they’re going to drink alcohol, get into fights, and no one really gets hurt — but the reality is that some of those kids go on to become pretty serious offenders or have problems with drug use and drug addiction. We know that if we can build better schools, create healthier families, and support a stronger community, we can actually reduce delinquency.

Espelage: I’ve done work with the Ad Council developing media guidelines for reporters because they don’t always cover bullying events and laws accurately. Sometimes this can have the effect of justifying punitive responses to bullying or even glamorizing the suicides of bullying victims. Eighty percent of the news coverage on bullying is on bullying-related suicide. Ten percent is about legislation. Only ten percent is about prevention.

Coy: Anything that starts a conversation about sexual violence and sexual harassment is a good thing, in particular, the way social media enables different voices to be heard. I think that the gains of #MeToo are in enabling women to name their experiences. What I was really happy to see is the shift toward #TimesUp and the follow-up of making connections with the actions of perpetrators — asking why they did that rather than what the victims did. I think that was a very important shift.

Moradi: In the media, there are subtle framings that are just so ubiquitous that we don’t see them anymore, and when you do bring them to light, there’s a lot of resistance to viewing them as problematic because they have been so ubiquitous — part of how we do things. The challenge in moving from not seeing to seeing is that when you question the thing that has not been questioned, you are accused of being biased. Yet the thing — a song, for example — represents an unspoken particular set of values, but it’s viewed as neutral.

How does an interdisciplinary approach help your work?

Coy: We have academic subjects that provide the theoretical tools that enable students to engage with the decades of thinking that’s been going on. Activism comes out of those ideas, then feeds back into those ideas. We need to recognize the value of the scholarship that does that.

Fagan: There’s still more work to be done to uncover more evidence about what leads to these behaviors, so that we can then design interventions that are actually going to change those factors, and so that we can better identify the kids who are at risk and get them the services that they need early on. Violence has many causes, including psychological, social, and structural factors. So, it’s important for social scientists to collaborate with others and play a role in both types of research about youth problems, both the traditional science about what causes delinquency, violence, and drug use, and also designing interventions and testing them out to see if they’re actually effective in preventing these behaviors.

Espelage: Youth violence is a complex public health issue that needs all disciplines on board and working together rather than in isolation. My intervention studies and evaluations involve working with other researchers in public health, education, sociology, social work, school psychology, and criminology. Translation of my research is achieved as I work with teachers, school administrators, etc.

Moradi: We can’t conceptualize, say, sexism in isolation — it’s interconnected with racism and heterosexism and class inequality and all of these systems of inequality.

Coy: — and for discussion of that, we create those spaces in our classroom.

UF professor uses mathematical models to explain viral dynamics and drug resistance.

There are six major genotypes of Hepatitis C infections. In the U.S., 70 percent of cases are caused by genotype 1. In an infected person, about 1012 virus particles are produced each day. There is no vaccine, but chronic infection can be cured 95 percent of the time with new anti-viral medications. Having so many numbers to wrangle, UF applied mathematician Libin Rong is eager to tackle the problems facing healthcare providers, pharmaceutical developers, and epidemiologists. How quickly do viruses reproduce, and how does that rate change after drug treatment? How much drug treatment is needed to be effective?

Rong was born in a small village in China, where he became interested in math at a young age. He went to college in Shanghai to study pure mathematics, but he soon delved into the applied realm by modeling neural networks for artificial intelligence. In a postdoc position in mathematical biology at Los Alamos National Laboratory, he shifted further toward a fusion of the natural and mathematical sciences. Intrigued by the many collaborative opportunities at UF, he left his previous position at Oakland University to join UF’s Department of Mathematics and work with researchers at UF’s College of Medicine and the Emerging Pathogens Institute. He also is thrilled to have a large pool of graduate students from which to choose as his mentees. “I enjoy supervising students,” he says.

man standing in front of chalkboard
Libin Rong

Rong develops mathematical models to predict the numbers of diseases at each point: spread among a population, infection and onset of symptoms, response to drugs, and emergence of drug resistance. “We use differential equation systems to describe a biological process, then we compare the modeling projection with the real data” — which he obtains from colleagues in health sciences — “so that we can determine or test different mechanisms underlying those biological data. We can also quantify the drug effectiveness,” he says.

Recently, Rong has been focusing on Hepatitis C. “A lot of drugs have become available, but the virus can mutate, and if a drug is used as a mono-therapy — if we just use one drug — drug resistance can emerge very quickly,” says Rong. “I developed a mathematical model to explain why drug resistance is expected so rapidly after the mono-therapy, and then to estimate how many drugs would be needed to overcome the resistance.” Currently, he is collaborating with researchers at UF’s medical school to determine which combination of drugs is an optimal therapy for Hepatitis C. He also is looking at how Hepatitis C treatments might apply to Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease with no approved drug therapies.

Rong’s other primary focus is HIV. Particular characteristics of HIV make its eradication challenging. In particular, latent reservoirs of the virus can reemerge after years of treatment, even after the initial dormancy period. “We don’t know why this pool is so stable even after continuous therapy for many years,” he says. Patients experience “blips,” or temporary surges in the viral load (the amount of virus in the blood). Whether the blip is just a blip, or a sign of failing treatment or drug resistance, can be addressed through mathematical modeling. “We proposed a few mechanisms to try to explain this blip and the stability of the latent reservoir, and we have one mechanism confirmed by data,” Rong says. With continued collaborations among UF’s colleges, Rong hopes that a solution can be found.