Research Excellence

The College of Arts & Sciences continued to build on its vibrant research tradition this past year, with new discoveries in the fields of sub-atomic physics, Alzheimer’s research, classical studies, and developmental psychology, to name just a few. We created new annual events to engage undergraduate students in research and installed a new director at the helm of the BU Center for the Humanities—a CAS entity providing critical research support to humanities faculty members. Professor of English Literature Susan Mizruchi brings a bold vision to expand the center’s reach, including connecting the humanities with other disciplines like public health, disseminating research in innovative ways, and sharing BU’s humanities expertise with the broader public.

One of the best ways to engage students in the research process is to bring them together for fun but challenging events to tackle real-world problems. This past March, students with an interest in computer science and data science—two very popular fields in recent years—had the opportunity to participate in the third annual Global Appathon, with the goal of developing free mobile apps for nonprofit groups. In February, BU’s Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering hosted Data Science Day, with over 200 participants, 12 faculty panelists, and 26 students presenting original research. The fruits of our faculty and students’ research labor are the discoveries and primary research that enable academia, industry, government, nonprofits, and individual citizens around the world to innovate and acquire new knowledge, new technologies, and new ways of understanding the problems and opportunities they face. While this is the best way for us to measure our success, it helps when those responsible for academic rankings also acknowledge our research strength.

In October 2016, BU was ranked 32nd on the U.S. News & World Report list of top global universities, a measurement based mainly on research accomplishment. In April 2016, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranked many CAS departments among the top 100 in the world in their disciplines for research strength: economics was number 35, psychological & brain sciences was 45, and also in the top 100 were archaeology, biological sciences, English, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, physics, sociology, and statistics. CAS researchers play a major role in this rising status, as the college is responsible for much of the primary research conducted at BU.

As we look to the near future, more opportunities to enhance our research efforts are on the horizon. This coming year, BU will open the doors to the Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering on Commonwealth Avenue. The new nine-story building will house neuroscience research, systems and synthetic biology research, and other research endeavors. It will provide shared, flexible lab space, meeting rooms, and other common areas to enable collaboration, and will bring some of the most important research done at CAS into a 21st-century facility.

Research Highlights

The following are some prominent examples of impactful research going on at CAS:

African Studies: The African Studies Center (ASC) was awarded a Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad grant by the US Department of Education to take 16 professors to Senegal for a month-long study trip. The theme of the seminar, led by Fallou Ngom, director of the African Language Program, and Timothy Longman, director of the ASC, was “Religion and Diversity in West Africa.”

Astronomy: Assistant Professor of Astronomy Catherine Espaillat received the 2016 Sloan Research Fellowship, an honor for early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as the next generation of scientific leaders. Read more

Chemistry: Assistant Professor of Chemistry Aaron Beeler was awarded a five-year early investigator award from the NSF CAREER grant program, the most prestigious NSF award in support of junior faculty. Read more

Classical Studies: Five Classical Studies faculty members published books with major presses over the past year and a half, each book representing many years of thorough research, insight, and analysis. Read more

English: Joseph Rezek, assistant professor of English, received a National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Fellowship for research in residence at the Library Company of Philadelphia during the Fall 2016 semester. He will spend the fellowship working on his next book, Early Black Writing and the Politics of Print.

Mathematics & Statistics: The Simons Foundation named Professor of Mathematics Robert Pollack a 2016–17 Simons Fellow in Mathematics. He will conduct research in number theory at the Max Planck Institute in Germany on his project, “Slopes of Modular Forms and the Ghost Conjecture.”

Mathematics & Statistics: Assistant Professor of Mathematics & Statistics Konstantinos Spiliopoulos received a 2016 NSF CAREER Award in Mathematics. He will investigate problems related to multi-scale systems, rare events, and Monte Carlo simulation methods.

Physics: BU researchers Ed Kearns, Lawrence Sulak, and James Stone were among the 16 past or current BU physicists who won a portion of a $3 million Breakthrough Prize for their neutrinos research projects, K2K/T2K and Super-Kamiokande. Read more

Physics: Plamen Ivanov, a physics research professor, was awarded a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to develop a theoretical framework and establish quantitatively how organ systems coordinate their functions and integrate as a network. Read more

Physics: Alex Sushkov, assistant professor of physics, received the 2016 Sloan Research Fellowship for his development of quantum tools for precision measurements to address key problems in fundamental and applied science. Read more

World Languages & Literatures: Margaret Litvin, associate professor of Arabic & comparative literature, received the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers. This prestigious grant brings scholars from around the world in all academic disciplines to conduct research in Germany.

Annual Report 2015/2016

  • From the Dean The Difference a Year Makes
    From enhancing research excellence to recruiting ever-better faculty and students, academic year 2015/16—the first under Dean Ann Cudd’s leadership—saw CAS continue to grow its capacities.
  • Improving Undergraduate Education Improving Undergraduate Education
    Providing a world-class undergraduate education is the core of what we do at CAS. In 2015/16, we made curricular improvements, launched new career preparation programs, and welcomed a tremendous class of 2019 that will benefit from our ongoing efforts.
  • Strengthening Graduate Education Strengthening Graduate Education
    The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ continued evolution in and out of the classroom has resulted in a 5.6% increase in master’s applications in 2015/16, as well as an affirmation of the strength of its humanities and social science PhD programs, with more than half of students accepting their offers.
  • Enhancing a World-Class Faculty Enhancing a World-Class Faculty
    The quality of CAS’ academics and research depends on the quality of its faculty, and so we work hard to hire the best and brightest. In 2015/16, CAS hired 28 new professors across the humanities, mathematics, and the social, natural, and computational sciences.
  • Conducting Pathbreaking Research Conducting Pathbreaking Research
    Discoveries and innovations at CAS helped make BU one of U.S. News & World Report’s top 35 research universities in the world. Faculty received nearly $61 million in funding this past year, advancing understanding in the fields of subatomic physics, Alzheimer’s disease, and classical studies, to name a few.
  • Growing Our Capacity and Stewarding Our Resources Building Our Future Together
    In 2015/16, the sixth year of the Campaign for Boston University, we achieved our initial goal of raising $100 million for CAS—and we reached that goal a year early. More than 26,000 alumni, friends, and parents have generously made gifts of $106,636,751 to the college via the ongoing campaign.
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