College of Arts and Sciences News

UT, ORNL Scientists’ Discoveries Could Help Neutralize Chemical Weapons

Nerve agent sarin bound to bioscavenger enzyme.

Researchers at UT are a step closer to creating a prophylactic drug that would neutralize the deadly effects of the chemical weapons used in Syria and elsewhere. Jeremy Smith, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair and an expert in computational biology, is part of the team that is trying to engineer enzymes—called bioscavengers—so they work more efficiently against chemical weapons.

Art Professor’s Film Debuts Internationally at Prestigious Edinburgh Festival

Writer/director Paul Harrill, left, and cinematographer Kunitaro Ohi on the set of Something, Anything.

The film of a UT art professor will debut this month at he longest continually running film festival in the world. Something, Anything, a full-length feature film written and directed by Paul Harrill, will be shown June 19 and 21 at the United Kingdom-based Edinburgh International Film Festival. The movie is one of twelve selected from the United States for the festival’s American Dreams section.

Exhibit Featuring Historic Greenwood Mural, Other Works Opens June 6

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The twenty-eight-foot historic mural that has survived controversy, vandalism, and an impending demolition of its longtime home will be featured in an exhibit that opens June 6 at UT’s Downtown Gallery. The History of Tennessee painting will be on display along with eighteen other works by celebrated muralist Marion Greenwood. The summer exhibit will be available during three First Friday celebrations downtown and during the Downtown Gallery’s normal operating hours.

Two Doctoral Students Win NASA Fellowships to Further Their Studies

Two earth and planetary sciences doctoral students will be furthering their study of the cosmos with help from NASA. NASA Earth and Space Sciences Fellowships are awarded once a year “to ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines required to achieve NASA’s scientific goals.” The recipients, including UT’s Eric MacLennan, of Boston, Massachusetts, and Richard Cartwright, of Atlanta, Georgia, will each get $30,000 a year for three years.

Clarence Brown Theatre Honored for Production of Whipping Man

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The East Tennessee Historical Society has recognized UT’s Clarence Brown Theatre for its production of The Whipping Man, a haunting Civil War-era play that tackles difficult issues and the region’s history. The theater received the Award of Distinction this month from the historical society for its adaptation of the play.

Blackwell Wins Nabokov Prize for Book

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Stephen H. Blackwell, a professor of Russian, won the 2013 prize for the Best Scholarly Contribution in the area of Nabokov Studies with his 2009 book The Quill and the Scalpel: Nabokov’s Art and the Worlds of Science. He received the award from the Nabokov Online Journal during a special ceremony at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, France, in April. The award carries a $600 cash prize.

Check Out the Media Coverage of Spring Commencement

Graduation cap

More than 3,800 students graduated from the university last week. Many of our graduates, speakers, honorees, and programs captured widespread media attention. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Noble Wilford spoke to graduates from the College of Communication and Information, former NPR anchor Ann Taylor spoke to graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences, and financial guru Dave Ramsey spoke to graduates from the College of Business Administration. Read on for an overview of last week’s news.

Five Students Win NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

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Five graduate students have received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The recipients are Caroline Bryson, Mallory Ladd, Derek Mull, Alix Ann Pfennigwerth, and Su’ad Amatullah Yoon. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and provides financial support for outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions.

Former NPR Newscaster Ann Taylor Tells Grads ‘Be Smart but Take a Chance’

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Longtime NPR newscaster Ann Taylor urged graduates to “be smart, but also take a chance” in her commencement address at UT on Friday. Taylor, who graduated from UT with a degree in English in 1958, anchored NPR’s national newscasts within All Things Considered from 1989 until July of 2011. Taylor spoke at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement and offered graduates a laundry list of advice, which she called “Ann Taylor-isms.”

Graduate’s Leadership Curriculum to be Taught in Elementary Schools

Katherine Waxstein with Pond Gap student Samari Tyler.

When Katherine Waxstein graduates this week, she’ll leave behind some work for others to do. As part of a volunteer project, Waxstein developed a leadership program for elementary school students that’s been so successful it has been turned into a university course that will be taught in the fall. Waxstein has completed a double major in child and family studies and psychology.