Assistant Professor of Archaeology William Saturno excavates a house in the ruins of the Maya city of Xultún in Guatemala.
In the 2011/12 academic year, the total dollar amount of new grants and contracts awarded to CAS was $85,092,305, an increase of $8,697,474 (10.2%) over the previous year. The departments and programs that received the largest awards were Psychology ($16.4M), the Center for Space Physics ($7.8M), Physics ($7.1M), Chemistry ($6.9M), and Biology ($6.6M).
One example of the kind of investment CAS faculty are attracting for their work is the MacArthur Foundation grant of $500,000 to support the scientific understanding of water and fisheries resource use in the Tonle Sap region of Cambodia. Under the direction of Professor of Biology Les Kaufman, the grant will support the emerging discipline of Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS) at Boston University. CHANS is the interdisciplinary study of the relationship between people and nature that shapes the human condition.
Assistant Professor of Archaeology William Saturno uncovered the only mural ever found in an ancient Maya house in the last-known, largely unexcavated Maya megacity in Guatemala. The excavation, funded by a grant from the National Geographic Society, revealed the skeletal remains of six people who researchers believe lived during the Classic period of ancient Maya civilization, between 250 and 950 AD, and are believed to be the remains of the figures depicted in a mural at the same location. Along with the mural, Saturno found a strange series of calendric calculations in what he believes was the workplace of a Maya scribe. Saturno’s study of this and other Maya calendars debunked claims by some that the calendars portended the end of the world in 2012. Saturno’s findings were published in the journal Science and in National Geographic.
Boston University regularly makes strategic investments to build a framework for future research breakthroughs. The most important of these during 2011/12 was the decision to invest $10 million to become the only partner with a permanent share in the new Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT), a 4.3-meter telescope built at a total cost of $53 million. The DCT is the product of a visionary effort by the private, nonprofit Lowell Observatory, with which the CAS Astronomy Department has had a long and very productive relationship, and Discovery Communications. Access to the DCT will make a huge difference in the Astronomy Department’s research and educational programs. Until now, BU had the only freestanding astronomy department at a major U.S. university without guaranteed access to a telescope of this caliber; the new telescope will allow BU astronomers to see 14 times more stars than were visible through the best telescope previously available to the department. The DCT agreement also improves the chances that BU research projects will be funded by agencies such as NASA. In addition to Boston University, the DCT partnership also includes the University of Maryland and the University of Toledo.
The College of Arts & Sciences also made moves that will build critical infrastructure for continued excellence in research in the humanities. For example, the Boston University Humanities Foundation this year reorganized itself, adopting a new name in the process: the Boston University Center for the Humanities (BUCH). These changes represent a renewed commitment to promoting and serving the needs of humanities-focused scholarship across the University. BUCH defines the humanities not as a finite list of departments, but as an expansive and flexible mode of inquiry. While the Humanities Foundation was known as a source of funding for humanities research, BUCH extends that function by granting research fellowships to junior and senior faculty, enabling them to complete scholarly projects. BUCH funds special library acquisitions, covers costs associated with publications, and awards prizes to outstanding undergraduates and graduate students. BUCH also will bring distinguished scholars to the University to participate in departmental and interdisciplinary programs, including seminars, lecture series, exhibitions, and performances.
Annual Report 2011/12
- From the Dean
Thanks to the commitment of CAS faculty and staff, great strides were made during academic year 2011/12 toward achieving the College’s fundamental strategic goals.
- New Structures for Organizing Discovery and Education
Three new programmatic developments have been introduced to leverage the special strengths of the research and educational expertise of the CAS faculty.
- Strengthening the Quality of the Faculty
The College reaches the halfway point in its goal to increase the faculty by 100 new positions, while the latest cohort of faculty members continues to demonstrate superb research and teaching skills.
- Strengthening the Quality of Undergraduate Education
This year, the College focused on making sure CAS undergraduates had the best possible start to their academic careers through the First-Year Experience (FYE).
- Strengthening the Quality of Graduate Education
Work conducted this year to change the structure of funding for PhD programs will have a major impact on the future of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
- Strengthening Our Research and Scholarship
Thanks to strong support from the University and public and private sponsors, BU researchers continue to break new ground—literally and figuratively—at the frontiers of knowledge.
- Finances and Development
In academic year 2011/12, the College of Arts & Sciences effectively managed its fiscal resources to attract and retain the best undergraduate and graduate students, recruit outstanding academics, and support its research initiatives.
- The Class of 2012
After encouraging words from Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences confers more than 2,000 hard-earned diplomas to this year’s graduates.