Faculty of arts and sciences

Africa scholar to lead Whitney Center

Cajetan Iheka, professor of English and author of two landmark books on African literature and media, will be the next director of the Whitney Humanities Center. Iheka also leads the Council on African Studies and the Africa Initiative at the MacMillan Center. As acting FAS dean Kathryn Lofton explains, Iheka’s work “is a landmark effort to consider how narrative participates in human beings’ relationship to climate change.” Iheka succeeds Sterling Professor of French Alice Kaplan ’81PhD as director of the WHC. Lofton praised Kaplan’s leadership, writing that “throughout this epoch of dramatic change, Kaplan brought to her leadership intellectual cosmopolitanism and a powerful humanistic voice on campus.”

Professors awarded fellowships

Three FAS assistant professors received 2023 Sloan Research Fellowships. These awards honor field-defining work by early-career scientists. Roy Lederman ’14PhD (statistics and data science) was recognized for his innovative applications of cryo-electron microscopy; Lidya Tarhan (Earth and planetary sciences) was recognized for new discoveries about early life forms on Earth; and Jing Yan was recognized for illuminating the nature of biofilms.

Teaching in the era of ChatGPT

With the introduction of ChatGPT, artificial intelligence is in the headlines, and FAS faculty are leading conversations about its implications for teaching. At a recent Poorvu Center event, Laura Wexler (American studies) and Noreen Khawaja (religious studies) reflected on how instructors can respond to and incorporate AI tools. At a Connection and Collaboration Dinner hosted by Alan Gerber ’86 (political science), a group spanning the FAS divisions met to discuss new research collaborations on AI. In the classroom, FAS faculty invite students to explore how artificial intelligence affects us. In Spring 2023, courses on this topic included The Limits of the Human, taught by Steven Shoemaker (English); Minds, Brains, and Machines, taught by Julian Jara-Ettinger (psychology and cognitive science); Anne Aronsson’s (’05, ’12PhD; anthropology) course on artificial intelligence and robotics in East Asia; and Victor Batista’s (chemistry) graduate course exploring how chemists might use machine learning.

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