The academic cluster initiative—designed to amplify Dartmouth’s existing strengths in order to tackle some of humanity’s greatest challenges—is creating a total of 30 new faculty positions across the arts and sciences and the professional schools. Dartmouth is making progress toward the formation of 10 interdisciplinary academic clusters: Nine world-class scholars have begun work on campus since the program’s inception in 2014, and 15 searches are underway.
Of the nine already hired to launch the clusters, four have arrived in the past academic year, filling positions in globalization studies, decision science, digital humanities and social engagement, and computational science.
“The academic cluster initiative is drawing some of the most creative interdisciplinary scholars in the world to Dartmouth,” says Provost Joseph Helble. “They’re coming because they see a collaborative intellectual community in which Dartmouth faculty colleagues are deeply engaged in the questions they care about and receptive to creative ideas that build on existing work here, and cross disciplinary boundaries.
“I look forward to seeing the innovative partnerships these newest members of the faculty will inspire around enormously complex challenges the clusters are designed to tackle,” he says.
The four new members of the academic clusters:
Associate Professor, Tuck School of Business Economics Group
Where he was before Dartmouth: National University of Singapore
Cluster: The Challenges and Opportunities of Globalization (chair)
I come from Singapore—a classic example of a small economy where an embrace of globalization has been integral to economic prosperity. I’ve thus always seen globalization and economic development as deeply intertwined, and found it in my intellectual DNA to want to better understand the drivers of international trade and global production. In recent years, rich global datasets have become available. It has been fascinating to sift through this data—not just to test academic theories of global production and trade flows, but also as a springboard for thinking about the broader consequences of globalization patterns for workers, firms, and domestic political outcomes around the world.
What does the globalization cluster bring to this study?
Globalization has become increasingly complex in recent decades. To gain a holistic understanding, I’m convinced that we need to broaden the analytic tools and disciplinary perspectives we bring to bear as researchers. Take, for example, the rise in protectionism that has been threatening the world trade regime over the past two years. These developments show the urgent need for more conversations between trade economists and political scientists. As a member of this academic cluster, I look forward to participating in such conversations to generate ideas to seed future research.
The intellectual environment at Dartmouth was a decisive factor for me. Dartmouth has a vibrant group of colleagues in international trade. Already, I have had stimulating conversations that have opened up avenues for new research collaborations. It wasn’t an easy decision to uproot our family, but so far life in the Upper Valley has been an exciting new experience. My Tuck colleagues have been generous with their advice, which has greatly eased the process of settling in. I now look forward each morning to being greeted by the fog and woods, ready to dive in to a new day of research.
Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine
Where he was before Dartmouth: Postdoctoral student at Harvard Medical School
Cluster: The William H. Neukom Academic Cluster in Computational Science
What are your research interests?
I study how cells evolve responses to signals from the environment, with a particular focus on how bacteria deploy resistance mechanisms efficiently against antibiotics. I was always fascinated with bacteria for their simplicity—they are the simplest life forms there are. Yet they are capable of complex behavior. Bacteria have a social life, communicating with each other, and they can adopt different lifestyles. Antibiotic resistance mechanisms are one of the tools they have at their disposal to adapt to new environments, and this is now a major health problem. I like that my work both serves to understand life at the smallest scale and has clinical relevance.
How will the Neukom cluster inform your work?
The cluster in computational science has the ambitious goal of simulating processes from an atomic scale to a cellular scale, developing a deep understanding of the mechanisms that support life. I come from a physics background originally, developing theories to describe the networks of genes that control cellular processes, and later I started to design experiments to test these concepts. I really enjoy multidisciplinary environments that bridge theory and experiments.
The bold ideas of the cluster were attractive to me, and I was impressed with the science being done here. There is a critical mass of talented researchers here, but without all the barriers between departments that one usually sees in larger institutions. I am very happy with my first year here, and I enjoy the sense of community. New Hampshire is a pleasant place to live.
Jack Byrne Distinguished Professor in Decision Science, Tuck School of Business
Where he was before Dartmouth: Duke University
The Jack Byrne Academic Cluster in Mathematics and Decision Science
What do you study?
My primary research area is decision analysis, studying mathematical models of decision problems where uncertainty plays a key role. Much of my recent work has focused on dynamic problems where we learn (e.g., uncertainties are resolved) and decisions are made over long time horizons. In applied work, I have often studied applications in energy, particularly in oil and gas exploration and occasionally in energy efficiency or environmental issues.
Why decision science?
The world is complicated, and mathematical models can help us understand how our decisions affect what we care about. We need to be clear and honest about what we know and don’t know and understand the implications of these uncertainties when making decisions. I am particularly interested in problems related to energy, but similar issues arise in health care decisions—both at a personal and a policy level—and in many other settings, including manufacturing and financial sectors.
I am excited to be among people interested in developing and applying mathematical thinking to some of society’s major challenges. Dartmouth has a wonderful collegial environment with great students, faculty, and facilities. I am excited to be at Tuck. My colleagues are passionate teachers and researchers and fully engaged in what they do. This fall I have been busy teaching the MBA core course in decision science. I taught similar courses for many years, but Tuck has a unique hands-on approach where the classroom is viewed more as a lab than a traditional lecture environment. I have long admired this approach and am learning a lot from my colleagues and students as I teach.
Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities and Social Engagement and Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Where she was before Dartmouth: Arizona State University
Cluster: Digital Humanities and Social Engagement
What do you study, and why?
I write about how and why we count human life and death, using the tools of feminist and anti-racist cultural theory, history of science, and media studies to understand how different media technologies shape how we understand and live our lives and remember our deaths. I’m also interested in how archives shape what we can know about history. We have a lot to learn from history about how and why our media and our scientific tools enable certain people to have the privilege of good lives, while limiting the life possibilities of other people.
What is your vision for the Digital Humanities and Social Engagement cluster?
There is no data without bodies. I’m interested in how data and people interact, and I will use a number of modalities to explore those interactions through my Digital Justice Lab. The cluster will also be shaped by future hires, who will have social engagement—and social justice—at the core of their research and creative production. I am delighted by the opportunity to connect this work to my home department—women’s, gender, and sexuality studies—because it signals the centrality of feminist, anti-racist, and queer paradigms for digital humanities and justice work within our connected cultures.
How do you approach teaching and mentoring?
I love teaching at the undergraduate level. There is so much cross-fertilization when students are taking classes across a range of disciplines. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I love getting to foster student creativity and curiosity. Teaching and research are best understood as work to develop a community of practice and I approach both in that spirit.
I value the emphasis on teaching and scholarship at Dartmouth. This position is an opportunity to get that teaching element back in my academic career while maintaining and expanding my research. I am also drawn to the social engagement features of this position, which have always been at the heart of my academic interests.
A Growing Initiative
The clusters have been funded by an anonymous gift of $100 million—then the largest gift in College history—half of which was allocated to match an additional $100 million in philanthropy for the initiative. Another gift from an anonymous donor is funding professorships. The 10 clusters are organized around the following themes:
- Breaking the Neural Code: This academic cluster will advance understanding of how the mind is encoded in patterns of activity among billions of individual cells, leading to the neurological equivalent of decoding the human genome.
- The Challenges and Opportunities of Globalization: As the world financial crisis of 2008 and its after-effects illustrate, the current forces of globalization have a profound effect on our present and future. This cluster will study the far-reaching repercussions of globalization on world markets, governments, trade, and society.
- Digital Humanities and Social Engagement: Digital humanities delve into complex issues of the social and ethical dimension of digital technologies, including exploring questions such as how to address the digital class divide, and what is the definition of "human" in an age of implantable and wearable computer devices.
- Global Poverty Alleviation and Human Development: Nearly half of the world's population lives on less than $2 per day. Faculty in this cluster will focus on the causes and consequences of extreme poverty, and develop solutions—particularly in hunger alleviation and public health—to benefit impoverished people around the world.
- The Jack Byrne Academic Cluster in Mathematics and Decision Science: This cluster will focus on developing and applying mathematical thinking to some of society's major challenges in fields such as health care, transportation, and manufacturing.
- The Susan J. and Richard M. Levy 1960 Academic Cluster in Health Care Delivery: Delivering high-quality, affordable health care represents one of the most pressing social challenges confronting societies in the U.S. and abroad. This cluster will extend Dartmouth's groundbreaking work in health care delivery science.
- The William H. Neukom Academic Cluster in Computational Science: This cluster focuses on using advanced computational techniques to address questions across the academic landscape, including analyzing complex social interactions and exploring the nature of intelligence.
- Meeting New Challenges of Cybersecurity: A rapidly increasing number of everyday objects—including automobiles, home appliances, phones, and wearable health devices—connect to the Internet, potentially exposing more and more of our lives to information security risks. This cluster will address the challenge of securing our cyber future by focusing on information technology security, privacy, and usability.
- Personalized Treatments for Cystic Fibrosis: This cluster will direct the development of cutting-edge, personalized medicine and treatments for cystic fibrosis and other fungal and bacterial lung infections.
- Arctic Engineering in a Period of Climate Change: Capitalizing on Dartmouth's strengths in engineering and polar studies, this cluster will focus on the societal and environmental impacts of climate change and increased energy production in Arctic regions and beyond.
The four new faculty members of the academic clusters, profiled above, join five others: Treb Allen, distinguished associate professor of economics and globalization; Amber Barnato, the Susan J. and Richard M. Levy 1960 Distinguished Professor in Health Care Delivery; James Bliska, distinguished professor in microbiology and immunology and senior lead faculty of the Personalized Treatments for Cystic Fibrosis cluster; Rahul Sarpeshkar, the Thomas E. Kurtz Chair in the William H. Neukom Academic Cluster in Computational Science; and V.S. Subrahmanian, Dartmouth College Distinguished Professor in Cybersecurity, Technology, and Society.
An additional nine cluster faculty members are expected to be hired by the end of June 2019.
Hannah Silverstein can be reached at [email protected].