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Lehigh hosts celebration of research and scholarship



Students, faculty, and staff flocked to Zoellner Arts Center's Baker Hall for the 2009 Academic Symposium.

With leading experts sharing insights into topics as remote as the origin of stars and as intimate as handling defiant children, Lehigh’s 2009 Academic Symposium offered faculty, staff, and students the opportunity to engage in a celebration of research and scholarship.

“I find days like this to be an exhilarating reprieve from our day-to-day challenges,” Lehigh President Alice P. Gast said in her introductory remarks. “I find that these are excellent times to sit back and benefit from the insights and discoveries of others.”

The daylong event held on April 16 in Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall was the second academic symposium hosted by Lehigh under Gast. The first, held in 2007, honored Gast’s inauguration, and was so well-received that the university decided to hold one every other year.

This year’s symposium, titled “2009 Academic Symposium: A Tradition of Excellence,” covered a wide spectrum of academic interests, from astronomy to economics, while also touching on such ripped-from-the-headlines issues as parenting defiant children and the clash between religion and culture.

Following their presentations, the speakers were joined on stage by Lehigh scholars who engaged them in conversation about their mutual fields of research, leading to unexpected insights.

'Seek out and impart knowledge'

Thomas Hyclak, professor of economics, served as master of ceremonies and kept the full day of presentations moving smoothly. In between the lectures, attendees nibbled on snacks while surveying more than 40 posters of undergraduate and graduate research from all four colleges.

The students contributed to such diverse topics as the economic effects of universal healthcare coverage, Mayan hieroglyphics, postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities, and the behavior of electrons in semiconductors.

During the breaks, Timothy Schwarz, professor of practice in the music department, played two violin pieces composed by undergraduate students.

Following the final session, Bruce Koel, interim vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies, thanked all of those across the campus who helped make the "celebration of research and scholarship" a reality.

“These things don't happen spontaneously,” he said. “But this is what a university does every day: seek out and impart knowledge. This event allows us to share our common knowledge under one roof—students, our own faculty, and the invited speakers. With the academic symposium two years ago on the occasion of the inauguration of President Alice Gast, and this one today, we've launched a new tradition at Lehigh, and there is no doubt it will continue."


He concluded by sharing a quote from Ben Franklin that was selected by Lehigh Provost Mohamed S. El-Aasser—“The doors of wisdom are never shut”—and asked the attendees to bear that sentiment in mind as they reflect on what they heard.

For articles on each of the four speakers’ sessions, click on the links below:

Ghez: There is a supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy

Scott: Uncovered bodies are no more a guarantee of equality than covered ones

Kazdin: Science shows positive reinforcement works best for defiant children

Eichengreen: Light at end of financial crisis tunnel at least two years off

For more information on the symposium, please visit the Symposium Web site.

--Becky Straw and Bill Doherty

Photo by John Kish IV


Posted on Friday, April 17, 2009

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