Faculty Book Authors’ Research Contributes to Classroom Experience

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You expect to see professors at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, inside classrooms sharing their knowledge with students. But away from the public eye, hundreds of faculty members are conducting research, growing the knowledge in their field and penning books about their findings to share with the world.

“They are creative, tenacious, diligent,” said Molly Royse, head of Research Collections at UT Libraries, of the faculty book authors. “They are often thinking outside of the box, trying to come up with new approaches to things.”

One of these professors is Devon Burr in the earth and planetary sciences department. Her book “Megaflooding on Earth and Mars,” published by Cambridge University Press, shares her findings about flooding on Earth and on Mars.

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“This book is a synthesis of flood science from a variety of perspectives. It was exciting to have them approach me,” Burr said.

Burr’s research shows that Mars, now a cold, dry desert, wasn’t always that way. Burr points to evidence that Mars once had rivers and large bodies of water and, consequently, possibly even life.

“The thought is that Mars was warm and wet early on, around the time that earth was seeing the rise of life, and that maybe life was emerging on Mars,” Burr explained.

At UT Knoxville, Burr does not have to choose between teaching and conducting research. The university allows her to do both.

“I really love both of those aspects of being a professor at UT. I love the teaching and I love the research,” Burr said. “It is what I love to do, to find out new things in science, and UT supports me and my research in a number of ways, one of which is allowing me to go back every summer to use planetary wind tunnels at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California where I go to do wind tunnel experiments.”

Burr’s research allows her to expand her knowledge. And the more she knows, the more she can teach to her students.

“If we help them with the research, we know that will translate down to the classroom and they will have a good educational experience,” Royse said.

Burr is one of about 90 faculty members who have published books in the just the past year. These books span all disciplines from veterinarian practices to advanced physics.

The authors and their hard work were celebrated at a reception inside John C. Hodges Library on April 8. Seventy UT faculty members shared their research and scholarship with the world.

Speakers at the event remarked on the commitment and persistence required to publish a book. “Obviously, we in the library have a special affection for the book,” said Barbara Dewey, dean of libraries. “As a librarian, I want to thank each of you for your love of learning and your determination to share your expertise and insights with the world.”

Royse said the publishing of a book can represent months, if not years, of dedication and hard work, and it is important they be recognized for that.

As the university continues on its path to being a top 25 institution, it is UT Knoxville’s goal to have more faculty like these, doing research and sharing their findings with their students and the world.

“We are better professionals because of the research we are engaged in,” Royse said. “And the publishing ventures we are engaged in make us better professionals. So our students and our public benefit from that.”

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