October 24, 2012

Shared Discovery

Faculty and students engage in collaborative research year-round

Our students and faculty don’t shy away from difficult issues and research questions. Whether they’re engaged in classroom discussion, continuing conversations during office hours, or collaborating in the lab or field, students and faculty share an intellectual curiosity and desire to find meaningful solutions to real-world problems.

Recent student-faculty collaborative projects exemplify the rich academic experiences Lewis & Clark offers: high-level research opportunities, relationships with nationally recognized professors, and life-changing overseas programs.

Collecting Huangyuan Oral History

Neil Murray ’13 and Associate Professor of Chinese Keith Dede

Broadly trained in the liberal arts, Neil—a physics major—was able to acquire new skills and information quickly as he adapted to a challenging environment.Keith Dede

What is the purpose of your research?

To gather oral histories from elderly residents of Huangyuan County in Qinghai, China. Huangyuan sits at the northeastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, at the crossroads of Han Chinese, Tibetan, and Mongolian ethno-linguistic civilizations. We hope to share stories of how people in two townships survived and prospered through the socioeconomic transformations that enveloped China in the latter half of the 20th century. Our recordings will also serve as a record of a rapidly changing rural culture, one in which fewer people know the particulars of local rituals and festivals.

Keith was always available to help me answer a question and provide feedback on my work but also encouraged personal exploration of the subjects we were researching and of the area we were in.Neil Murray

Where will your research be shared?

The results of our research, based on data from over 30 hours of interviews, will be made freely available on the Web through the auspices of Asian Highland Perspectives, an international journal devoted to the study of the cultures of the Tibetan Plateau.

What’s next for the project?

We are currently finalizing our English translations and annotation of the recorded interviews. Then, we will combine the stories with Keith’s translation of a 1909 gazetteer from Huangyuan County and distribute these materials as sources for further study of the county’s history. 


Exploring the Intersection Between Art and Neuroscience

Frances Li ’13 and Associate Professor of Art, Studio Head of Painting, and Art Chair Cara Tomlinson

What is the purpose of your research?

Frances and Cara To investigate the ways in which neuroscientific discoveries are illuminating how we understand vision and to explore how artists are uniquely suited to bringing phenomenological considerations to this scientific conversation.

Where will your research be shared?

On campus in a two-person exhibit in January 2013. As creative researchers, Frances and I will be sharing our findings in visual form rather than in papers. We have spent the summer perfecting this model, which we believe will help strengthen emerging capabilities of the art department to address the interdisciplinary concerns of our studio students.

Our students are not afraid to take risks intellectually and formally. They know how to think creatively as well as analyze texts.Cara Tomlinson

How did you go about your research?

We began by surveying literature on art and neuroscience. We found that the more brain-centered, computational models of vision, cognition, and aesthetics left a lot to be desired from the perspective of art practitioners. Focusing only on the brain’s perception and visual system—as many neuroscientists do to explain art—leaves out the quality of feeling, body, environment, and full sensory input. So, we added readings from philosophy, cognitive science, anthropology, and psychology.

What are the outcomes of your project?

I thought the experience was particularly rewarding. The collaboration enhanced my critical abilities and allowed me independence as an artist that I’ve never had before.Frances Li

Our additional reading opened a new direction of research: embodiment and extended mind theory. These theories rely less on specific biological, brain-centered research and more on synthesizing and analyzing experiential data coupled with biology. With this series of theories, I believe art gains a parallel and equal foothold to the sciences as a testing site for understanding what it means to be a self. Artists create propositions, extend physical boundaries, and create through materials exterior to their bodies—all ways of testing, thinking, and creating a holistic emergent understanding using feedback loops in the environment. 


Lewis & Clark faculty and students are engaged in collaborative research year-round. Learn about some other recent projects:


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