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How Spacetime is Like Italian Food: Dr. Robert Jantzen Explains

By Alexandra Edwards

Robert Jantzen, PhD, is the recipient of Villanova’s 2011 Outstanding Faculty Research Award. Dr. Jantzen will speak as part of the Scholarship@Villanova lecture series on Thursday, Apr. 19, at 1:00 p.m. in Speakers’ Corner.  His lecture, titled “General Relativity, Cosmology and Pasta? A Life of USA-Italy Academic Commuting,” will touch on his more than three decades of research, which garnered him this prestigious award.

We asked Dr. Jantzen, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, to give us some details about his transatlantic research, his upcoming talk, and why he’s brought his love of food into his academic research.

How did you end up researching and working in Italy?

I was an undergraduate at Princeton University during its “golden age of general relativity” and met an Italian physicist Remo Ruffini collaborating with John Wheeler (Feynman’s advisor) on black holes to do some independent work translating a long paper by Luigi Bianchi from 1898 on homogeneous spaces for use in mathematical cosmology. Some years later I then did a postdoc with Ruffini in Rome (1979-1980) and never stopped returning.

How would you explain relativity to a freshman?

Special relativity is relatively simple: the laws of physics show have the same form for any pair of observers which are each moving at constant velocity (inertial observers, as in inertial guidance systems for jets). For example, if a laser gun on a jet fighter is shot in the forward direction, the speed at which its beam arrives at the target should be the same as measured on the ground or as measured by the jet fighter instruments. General relativity is more complicated in that there are no preferred inertial observers moving at constant velocity due to the curvature of spacetime. I don’t have a short answer for this. The presence of matter and energy curves spacetime, and spacetime in turn tells matter how to move, in the rephrased words of John Wheeler. But in any region small enough compared to spacetime curvature, the laws of special relativity should apply.

Can you say a bit more about the pasta metaphor?  How did you come up with it?



Wanted: Website Testing Volunteers

We are looking for students who would like to participate in website usability testing. Commit 30 minutes of your time and help us improve the library’s website. A fun gift basket will be our gift to you. Please contact Melanie Wood if you are interested. Read the Usability Testing Flyer for more detailed information.


Quick Tip: "Check Out" a Group Study Room

The Library is a good place to find quiet study areas — but sometimes you need to work on ideas out loud. We can accommodate this too! Work on group projects or hold study sessions with your classmates in one of our group study rooms, located on the third and fourth floors.

Falvey has six study rooms available for groups of two or more. All rooms have network connections for laptop use and a chalk board.

To use a group study room, ask for a key at the Circulation Desk. You will need to present Villanova Wildcards from at least two group members. Rooms are available on a first come, first serve basis. Reservations are not taken.

The study room may be used for up to 2 hours per group while others are waiting. In consideration of others, we ask that you leave the room in good condition.

Priority for study room access is given to Villanova University students, staff or faculty. Please note that eight weeks prior to final exams, the Library adjusts the group study room policy to restrict use only to undergraduates and non-law graduate students.

For further information, contact Circulation Desk staff at 610-519-4271 or via e-mail.

Four of the 6 rooms are officially known as the Kolmer Group Study Rooms.  The family of John H. Kolmer, III, funded renovations of the rooms in honor of his memory.

Find other Quick Tips.


Announcing the Spaces & Places Video Contest Winner!

After viewing the videos and discussing the merits of each entry, a panel of library staff and students has chosen the winner of the Falvey Memorial Library Spaces & Places video contestKailash Choudary, Kartheek Reddy Chiluka and Shishir Kaushik submitted a video highlighting their favorite place in the library, the group study rooms. The winning group of students focused on the group study rooms, but also included the wider view of a typical day on campus, moving from Mendel field, to the Library, and then to the classroom where their group study efforts paid off.

Watch the winning video below! (Next week, look for the runner-up in the video contest.)

Disclaimer: This video is solely intended for the purposes of satire, parody, lampoonery, or spoof.  This constitutes ‘fair use’ of all such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of United States Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any such material is distributed without profit.


2 Permanent Positions at Essex (May 6 2012)

LECTURER/ SENIOR LECTURER/ READER IN PHILOSOPHY, School of Philosophy and Art History [2 Positions]
Ref.: ACR613
Salary:                     In the range £37,012-£52,706 per annum
Closing date:              06/05/12

The School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex seeks to appoint two full-time members of staff, either with permanency or with eligibility for permanency after a probationary period, to start on 1 September, 2012, or as soon as possible thereafter. One post will be at the rank of Lecturer; the second will be at the rank of Lecturer, Senior Lecturer or Reader, depending on the experience and qualifications of the applicant. We seek to make one appointment that will strengthen our teaching and research profile in moral and/or political philosophy, and a second that will either contribute to or suitably supplement our existing strengths in Continental European Philosophy.

The post-holders will be expected to make significant contributions to the research and teaching activities of the School, and to participate in the usual range of administrative duties. Essential qualifications include: a PhD in Philosophy or a related discipline; evidence of research excellence; experience of teaching in a higher education environment or the demonstrable potential to achieve this. Candidates for appointment to ranks beyond that of Lecturer will be expected to have a proven record of experience and accomplishment as detailed in the recruitment pack for these posts (see the link below). Ability to contribute teaching and/or research in the area of medical ethics may be an advantage.

Essex Philosophy is part of the School of Philosophy and Art History in the Faculty of Humanities and Comparative Studies at the University of Essex. We are internationally recognized for our unique combination of Anglo-American and Continental European Philosophy. We also have a long-standing research orientation in moral and political philosophy, and research strengths in the Philosophy of Psychiatry. We are committed to fostering a variety of philosophical approaches, and to developing links between philosophy and other disciplines. We offer a wide range of courses for undergraduates, taught postgraduates, and doctoral research students. We were rated among the top-ten research departments in Philosophy in the UK in the last Research Assessment Exercise; and are ranked in the top ten in the Guardian league table for philosophy (4th in 2010; 7th in 2011). We are currently ranked 4thnationally in philosophy for employability of our graduates. Applications for places have been steadily rising in recent years. The School offers a congenial environment for research and teaching, both of which are carried out with considerable emphasis on collegiality and collaboration. The School hosts the Essex Autonomy Project (http://autonomy.essex.ac.uk/). The work of the EAP is funded by two major grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, for investigation of the ideal of autonomy in human affairs.
Please use the link below for the jobpack containing a full job description, person specification and further information relating to this post: http://gs12.globalsuccessor.com/fe/tpl_essex01.asp?newms=jj&id=63784
If you have informal enquiries about this position, please contact Prof. Wayne Martin (Head of School) onwmartin@essex.ac.uk.


The Madonna on the Third Floor: A Gift from Alumnus Alan Fischer

by Alice Bampton

Have you noticed the small statue of a woman, her hands held together in prayer, standing inconspicuously in a niche on the third floor of Falvey? Who is she and why is she in the Library? Is she a patron saint of students or libraries? She is the only statue in Falvey; she must be important.

A closer look at the figure shows a plaque on the base of the sculpture: “Dedicated May 16, 1968, in honor of Mr. & [sic] Mrs. Albert K. Fischer on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary. For those I love so much in a place I love. Alan ‘68”   This tells us the first name of the person who donated the statue and the occasion, but there is more to discover.

With the help of the Alumni Office, this writer was able to contact Alan Fischer ’68, who generously shared the following information: “I have always had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and a deep love for my parents. Consequently I saved for four years at Villanova to purchase the statue as a way to thank them all for the help I received to get through Villanova.” Fischer’s graduation from Villanova University coincided with his parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, and they are the Mr. and Mrs. Albert K. Fischer named on the plaque at the base of the figure.



Write, Damnit

by Katy Meyers (via Inside Higher Ed)

During my first PhD anthropology theory course, it was suggested to us that we should start writing every single day. Our professor told us that we needed to sit down for an hour every single day, or most days of the week, and just write. We shouldn’t focus on a specific topic, or try to answer a question, but rather we should just write whatever is on our mind. Honestly, I’ve been a fairly good writer since high school, and I wrote a lot in undergrad, so I wasn’t concerned with it. I had to do half a dozen 25 page papers during my masters, and I had just finished writing my thesis. Practicing writing was the least of my worries.

However, writing was a slow process for me. I wrote out detailed outlines, took weeks to fill them in with perfect sentences and dozens of citations. For a final paper I had to begin the process of writing at least a month or two in advance so that I could carefully make my way through it. My thesis only took two months to write, but I spent nearly 8 months planning out every single detail.

Then I started writing my blog. It was literally a way for me to keep up to date with journal articles. I figured that twice a week I would read a journal article that had nothing to do with my own personal interests, but something broadly from archaeology. I would then writeup a summary of the article, add some of my own critiques and publish them online. Honestly, I didn’t even think that people would read it.

My first post was August 2010, and I’ve written almost two posts per week since then, coming to a grand total of 180 posts to date. The posts are about 600 to 800 words long depending on the length of the journal article or my opinion. It used to take me about two hours two write that many words. Now it’s about an hour, and the posts always range on the longer end of the spectrum. I honestly didn’t realize until recently the writing benefits that I had been getting from an activity I consider to be a hobby. I now have the power to sit down at my computer and pound out 800 words with little difficulty.

Since writing is a major part of graduate school, its important that we start developing this skill. That way when we get to the dissertation we’re not paralyzed by the writing. Here are some tips:

1. Write almost every day: My suggestion is not that everyone start writing a blog, but try writing more often. Try sitting down every other day and just writing for an hour or even a half hour. Emails and facebook messages don’t count. Writing isn’t a big deal if you’re doing it all the time.

2. Break it down: Writing a ten page paper isn’t daunting, but writing a 200 page dissertation is. Don’t think about the ultimate goal, think about the proximate ones. Instead of listing ‘finish thesis’ on your to do list, write down each chapter, or even sections within the chapter. If you’re practice writing a thousand words a week, getting out a section won’t seem so scary.

3. Strive for progress, not perfection: The writing doesn’t have to be perfect. We’ve got computers so we can write really rough drafts and edit them later. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time, just get it out! I think of it as doing a ‘mind vomit’. Just get the ideas down on the screen and make them pretty later.

4. Take a break: After you’ve finished your brain dump at the computer, and the words are roughly strewn across your screen, walk away. Take a breather, go for a run, maybe even close the document down for a few days. When you come back to it you’ll be refreshed and ready to make those rough ideas into a document you’ll be happy with.

So just do it. Sit down. And Write, Damnit! I promise it’ll hurt less the more you do it.





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Scholarly Research Sharing Aided by Open Access Publishing

Falvey Memorial Library announces its institutional membership to Hindawi Publishing Corporation. Launched in 1997, Hindawi publishes a growing number of open access journals in engineering, medicine and the sciences, and now includes Nursing Research and Practice, as well as social sciences titles such as Journal of Anthropology and Urban Studies Research.

Read more about Hindawi and open access publishing on Barbara Quintiliano’s recent blog post.


DALHOUSIE Visiting Asst. Prof (5/1/12)

The Department of Philosophy at Dalhousie University invites
applications for a Two-Year Limited Term Appointment at the Assistant
Professor/Lecturer level, effective July 1, 2012.  This position is
subject to budgetary approval.  Area of specialization: Moral
Psychology and/or Philosophy of Law and/or Feminism. Areas of
competence: Philosophy of Sex and Love, Environmental Ethics.
Expertise in some aspect of the History of Philosophy is an asset.

The successful applicant will teach courses at introductory,
intermediate and advanced undergraduate/graduate levels, with some
limited graduate student supervision and committee work. Excellence in
teaching and research is required. Applicants must hold (or be about
to receive) a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Salary will depend upon
qualifications and experience. Course load will be the equivalent of 3
and 3.

Applications should include: a complete curriculum vitae, transcripts
(undergraduate and graduate), writing sample, teaching dossier
(including evidence of teaching effectiveness),  a statement of
research and teaching interests and philosophies, and three
confidential letters of recommendation (in hard copy, forwarded
separately by the referees). A record of publication will be an asset.

Applications should be sent to Duncan MacIntosh, Chair, Department of
Philosophy, Dalhousie University, 6135 University Avenue, PO Box
15000, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 4R2. (Please use dalphil@dal.ca for
correspondence).  The closing date for applications is May 1, 2012.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians
and permanent residents will be given priority. Dalhousie University
is an Employment Equity/Affirmative Action employer. The University
encourages applications from qualified Aboriginal people, persons with
a disability, racially visible persons and women.


Villanova history comes alive in the pages of The Villanovan

Falvey Memorial Library recently completed a major digitization project to make available online all 1,713 issues of the campus newspaper, The Villanovan, published between 1893 and 1995. On Feb. 23, the Library hosted a program to celebrate this accomplishment. The celebration was dedicated to the memory of longtime Villanovan faculty adviser, June Lytel-Murphy.

The program began with introductory remarks by University Librarian Joseph Lucia and University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA., PhD, ’75 A&S, who characterized the project as a history of “the voice of the student body.” Special Collections and Digital Library Coordinator Michael Foight, Library Technology Development Specialist Demian Katz and Research Support Librarian Susan Ottignon each addressed various aspects of the project.

Prior to 2011, The Villanovan was available only through bound volumes of issues or microfilm—neither providing an especially pleasurable experience for casual perusal….

The above paragraphs were excerpted from David Burke’s article about the event on the main library news blog. Click here to read his full article.

Since the event, we’ve seen a huge increase in use of this collection. Michael Foight reported that we had a record 1009 unique visitors to the Digital Library in the week following the event and most of those visitors were browsing the Villanovan collection.

We’ve written about the Villanovan digitization project previously. Michael Foight wrote about the initial phase of this digitization effort in December 2008. Cathleen Lu, Digital Library Intern in Fall 2010, wrote about some of the more eye-catching advertisements she found in the papers while working to improve the PDF files. And last year Laura Bang wrote about the 10,000th item to be added to the Digital Library, which happened to be the April 4, 1944 issue of the Villanovan.

These papers provide a fascinating look at not just the University’s history, but also the historical context around the University and how world events affected life at Villanova. Take a look and see what you discover!


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Last Modified: April 2, 2012