New Technology, Scholarly Discipline Help Advance World-Class Research
As a psychology professor here at The University of Texas at Austin for the past 35 years, I’ve spent much of my career studying how the human brain perceives speech and language. And as a former department chair, I’ve also spent years trying to support colleagues whose research examines how and why we think, feel and behave the way we do.
So it’s probably no surprise that one of my proudest accomplishments as dean so far has been to help our Imaging Research Center (IRC) take two giant steps forward. As you’ll read in this issue of Life & Letters, (page 4) the IRC recently hired Russ Poldrack, a world class neuroscientist from UCLA, as director and is now building lab space in the new Norman Hackerman Building at the heart of campus.
The IRC (which is affiliated with both the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences) is home to high-powered magnetic resonance imaging equipment that psychologists, neurobiologists and others use to study brain activity and conduct research that could ultimately help the mentally ill, recovering drug addicts or seniors, among others. Poldrack’s arrival last fall and the planned opening of the new space next year will help our faculty continue to explore the complex relationship between the human brain and mind.
In addition to the story about the IRC, this issue has several other fascinating articles about College of Liberal Arts initiatives that help us better understand the world around us. Our cover story highlights Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor David Oshinsky’s newest book on the history of capital punishment, which has special resonance here in Texas.
In particular, I invite you to read the feature story about English professors John Rumrich and Cole Hutchison, who have developed multimedia teaching tools that allow students to see, hear and better understand the works of John Milton and Walt Whitman. Rumrich says he wants his students to be in the place that Milton made for them; as you’ll see, his online audiotext helps get them there.
As you leaf through the issue, you may also notice that it looks different than previous editions of Life & Letters. We’ve redesigned the entire magazine — we have a cleaner layout, larger text, additional graphics and art — to make it more attractive and accessible and to give you a broader array of news about College faculty, students and alumni.
As always, I appreciate your ongoing support for the College and look forward to hearing from you with any ideas or questions you have.
Randy L. Diehl,
Dean, College of Liberal Arts