book cover for Perpetua's Journey

Perpetua’s Journey

Jennifer Rea

Jennifer Rea, associate professor of classics, is the second Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty member to collaborate with illustrator Liz Clarke for a graphic history book. Examining issues of power, gender, and religion in the ancient world, Perpetua’s Journey: Faith, Gender, and Power in the Roman Empire is a graphic history set in Roman Africa in 203 CE that tells the story of the Christian martyr Perpetua.

Vibia Perpetua was a young mother who lived in Roman Africa and, at the age of 22, chose to publicly proclaim her Christian faith. She died as a result of her actions, though she did not die alone; she was part of a group of Christian martyrs, including several slaves, who were placed in prison and then executed in Carthage during the birthday celebrations of Emperor Septimius Severus’s son in 203 CE. Perpetua’s diary, which is the first extant diary of a Christian woman, contains her account of the days leading up to her martyrdom.

Says Rea, “I have always been intrigued by Vibia Perpetua’s story because her narrative differs from other tales of Christian martyrs. She writes about her feelings in a way that allows us to relate to her, as a young mother and daughter: she describes her fights with her father over the fact that she has become a Christian, she relates how frightened she is to be in prison, and she reveals her deep love for her son.

“When an editor at Oxford University Press (OUP), Charles Cavaliere, approached me about writing a text for OUP’s graphic history series, I saw an opportunity to write a book about Perpetua that could offer a unique and immersive way to learn about life in Roman Africa. I also immediately thought about how Perpetua recounts a series of visions she has before her martyrdom. Her visions are incredibly detailed and full of visual imagery that I knew would translate beautifully into sequential art. Making this text was a highly creative process; I had to research what daily life was like in ancient Carthage and write historical commentary on all aspects of it. I then worked with an OUP artist, Liz Clarke, to make Perpetua’s story relevant to a modern audience in the graphic portion of the book: I translated her diary from Latin into English, and then turned it into a storyboard, with text that accompanied Liz’s pictures.”

UF anthropologist studies the lives of Peruvians who provide transportation through a post-war terrain.

Richard Kernaghan, associate professor of anthropology, has received a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to pursue his new book project, Semblance in Terrain: On the Legal Topographies of Postwar, in Peru’s Upper Huallaga Valley. Expanding upon the work of his previous book, Coca’s Gone, Kernaghan focuses on a region historically linked to the Andean cocaine trade. Semblance in Terrain examines how, following the military defeat of the Maoist Shining Path insurgency, new relations between physical geography, territory, and rural transit emerge, while carrying forth traces of political violence. To tell a fuller story of the valley, Kernaghan combines the methods of ethnography, historical inquiry, and photography.

Kernaghan began his research on Peru in 1995 as part of his doctoral studies at Columbia University, and he’s been returning to the Huallaga Valley ever since to conduct fieldwork. “When I made my initial visit in the mid-1990s, the military conflict was still unfolding,” he says. “Early on, it was hard to travel in the countryside for more than very brief visits,” he recalls. On the main road, the likelihood of insurgent ambushes and the wide distribution of military checkpoints frequently interrupted transit. News spread through rumors swirling with flimsy accounts and unfettered hype, affirming the apparent danger.

During his ethnographic research for the book, Kernaghan accompanied people — transportistas — who have spent their lives shuttling others around the valley in rafts, canoes, pickup trucks or three-wheeled auto rickshaws. Despite its war-time military importance, the Huallaga Valley has not figured prominently in scholarly studies of Peru’s internal conflict. Kernaghan contends that the voices and accounts of transportistas not only deserve to be heard, but also that without them, territorial transformations of the post-war era cannot be understood.

Comprising almost 250 photographs and video clips, a new special digital collection at UF’s Smathers Libraries constitutes an important part of his ethnographic work. In a core practice of visual anthropology, Kernaghan is creating conversation between both the photographic memories and the verbal images transmitted through the accounts of transportistas. “By setting different kinds of images side by side, I show that war does not end by ending,” says Kernaghan.

Kernaghan will finish the book, which is about halfway done, over the next year with support from the fellowship. It will be published by Stanford University Press, which also published Coca’s Gone.


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Gators join together for mindfulness.

On April 4, 2017, two remarkable UF alumni spoke to a packed room about how the practice of mindfulness can promote personal wellness and stoke one’s career. They spoke from experience: Michael “Mickey” Singer BA ’69, MBA’70 is a multi-industry entrepreneur who transformed his career setbacks into success, with two bestselling books on mindfulness. Trish Ring MS’93, PHD’96 felt stifled in her career as a clinical psychologist and so pursued a new line of work as a life coach and the proprietor of an equine life coaching ranch.

Against a backdrop of warm coral tones, on adjacent chairs befitting a heart-to-heart, Singer and Ring shared how self-reflection and a sense of acceptance helped them recover from professional grief. Singer offered a philosophical perspective, framing mindfulness as a crucial mental activity, while Ring used her trademark approach of blunt self-inquiry, couched in her psychology education and experience, to advise listeners on how to shake up their preconceptions.

friendly older man holds mic while smiling Mickey Singer BA ’69, MBA’70 UF Photography

 

“How would you be if you loved every moment in front of you?”

Singer, who studied economics at UF, launched enterprises in construction, teaching, and programming. His 2007 No. 1 bestseller The Untethered Soul, featured on Oprah in 2012, describes the lessons in inner peace he learned after his software company failed. Singer bounced back from the loss by exploring what it meant to accept all of life, good or bad, and turning his findings into a New York Times Best Seller. “How would you be if you loved every moment in front of you?” he asked the audience. “You’d be good at everything you do.” Singer founded the Temple of the Universe, which offers morning meditation sessions, topical talks twice a week, and well-attended Sunday services. The non-denominational spiritual organization, based in Alachua, Fla., invites people of all faiths to participate in activities that promote inner peace.

blond woman gestures as she holds mic Trish Ring MS’93, PHD’96 UF Photography

“When there’s a 2,000-pound animal in the ring with you, it shakes up your framework a bit.”

Ring draws a distinction between “sorrow and suffering,” believing the first is part of life and the second is unnecessary. She’s a Certified Equus Coach who has her clients talk through their concerns in a round pen with horses, which are very sensitive to human emotions. “When there’s a 2,000-pound animal in the ring with you, it shakes up your framework a bit,” she explains. Her program takes place at Blue Star Ranch, which she and her husband Carl created out of “several derelict plots of land” to create a refuge for people to enjoy nature and seek self-improvement. The ranch is the largest equine coaching facility in the Southeast.

Blue Star Ranch has a small herd, just seven horses, and Ring says each of them has a unique personality. She is deliberate about pairing guests with horses both for their skill level but also for their emotional needs.

“For generations and generations, people have healed with horses,” says Ring. “With horses, it’s like a Rorschach.”


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UF’s beloved historian Michael Gannon passed in April.

Michael Gannon PhD’62, who taught at UF for more than 30 years, passed away on April 10 at age 89. Gannon was nationally recognized for his research into the establishment of colonial Spanish Florida, including the introduction of Catholicism — and Christianity as a whole — to the United States through St. Augustine.

He began his career while still in high school, as a sports writer for the St. Augustine Record. At 18, he enlisted, but before he could begin training, the war was over. He decided to try his hand at radio and spent the next four years giving play-by-plays of Southern college football.

black and white portrait of Michael Gannon looking distinguished Michael Gannon was well regarded as a priest, professor, and journalist. Randy Batista

“I’d like to be remembered as a good person. Actually, I’d like to be remembered as a good writer.”

After graduating from Université de Louvain in Belgium, he was ordained in 1959. His first assignment: chaplain of the brand-new St. Augustine Catholic Church and Student Center in Gainesville. Gannon’s reach stretched beyond his church’s walls. For 12 years at the Catholic Student Center post — through the Kennedy assassinations, the Vietnam War, and integration — Gannon was a sounding board for students of all faiths on a host of issues. He joined UF’s faculty in history in 1962 and in religion in 1967. In 1976, Gannon left the priesthood and married.

priest stands over makeshift altar while soldiers sit in the grass before himWhile on a monthlong tour of Vietnam in 1968, Gannon offered this impromptu religious service on the back of a vehicle in Go-Noi. Every single member of Golf company came up to take communion because they didn’t know if they’d live the day. Courtesy of Michael Gannon

In the 1960s, Gannon questioned whether the Vietnam War was a just war. Armed with a press pass from the national Catholic journal, America, Gannon spent a month in 1968 traveling the war-torn country. More than once, he administered Last Rites to dying soldiers. Not long after he returned to UF, war protests arrived on campus. Gannon asked that the protestors be allowed to do so peacefully. “That’s just what happened,” he said.

man in priest attire rubs his head as he walks between armed police and feisty protestorsAt this 1970 protest, Gannon asked police to let students march peacefully. Eventually, police allowed him to handle — and ultimately defuse — the situation. Courtesy of UF Special Collections Library

Gannon asked that the protestors be allowed to do so peacefully.

President John F. Kennedy was scheduled to visit MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa on Nov. 18, 1963. Gannon presented him with a framed copy of the oldest written record of American origin, dated 1565.

Gannon was close to his students, teaching 16,000 in 36 years at UF. He retired as a professor emeritus of history in 1998, but continued teaching until 2003. “I’d like to be remembered as a good person,” he once said. “Actually, I’d like to be remembered as a good writer.”

This story was adapted from a piece by Steve Orlando that appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Florida.


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Going for the Gold Anniversary

This year, Mary Hough Fisher ’67 celebrates her 50th UF graduation anniversary. In honor of this golden date, her family is creating a $50,000 endowment, the James F. Hough Family Scholarship, primarily named after her father but also for her and her three brothers, Jim, John, and Tom Hough ’75. Fisher’s father spent his entire career working at Bell South and strongly encouraged each of his children to get an education.

smiling grey-haired woman shows book with embossed alligator on cover Mary Hough Fisher says the family endowment honors education. Coe Sweet

 

“I absolutely can’t tell you how valuable my liberal arts degree was to me. I used it as a platform to jump onto different things.”

Fisher took her father’s advice to heart and majored in English at UF. “At that time, women were not prominent in the business world,” she says. “But I turned my English degree into a job doing technical writing, which became my entry into business.” From there, her career developed, and she became adept at logistics, inventory management, supply-chain transfer, and IT management. “I absolutely can’t tell you how valuable my liberal arts degree was to me,” she says. “I used it as a platform to jump onto different things.” She later received an MBA from the University of Miami.

Fisher’s father passed away in February at the age of 97. Around the same time, Fisher received a visit from UF development officer Miranda McCown. “Our father had purchased land in Marion County,” explains Fisher. “As a family, we were struggling with what to do with this property. We also were discussing ways of giving to the university. Miranda’s visit was fortuitous.” The family soon learned that the process of gifting Florida property to a Florida institution was fiscally beneficial to both her family and UF. Plus, in doing so, Fisher says, “This is an honor for our father because of the way he raised us. He would love to know that he is continuing to help others get an education.”

Fisher plans to enhance the endowment with funds from her IRA: “The money goes directly to the university, so there’s no tax.” Though the endowment is a family affair, it will be used to support graduate fellowships in the English department. “My brother Tom was a grad assistant when he was at UF,” she says. “He always said he would have enjoyed having more money in college.”


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Oxford Bound

To study something as complex as the human brain, one certainly needs a well-rounded education, and Phillip Dmitriev ’17, has immersed himself in an interdisciplinary program at UF to do just that. A budding physician-scientist majoring in microbiology and neurobiological sciences in Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dmitriev’s research interests revolve around cognitive disorders, particularly schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease, and this passion for research has taken him all over campus.

“I don’t want to limit myself to one state or country.”

He completed his microbiological research and internships under the guidance of Professor Monika Oli in the Department of Microbiology and Cell Science in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. He crossed over to the College of Engineering to complete his thesis, which examined how brain volume affects cognitive symptoms in Parkinson’s, and worked in the lab of Mingzhou Ding, professor of biomedical engineering. As an exemplar of student research, he served on the Center for Undergraduate Research Board of Students.

Armed with this robust interdisciplinary background, Dmitriev has been awarded a Frost Scholarship, a program that offers exceptional Floridian students an opportunity for Masters study at the University of Oxford. Starting October 2017, he will spend a year at Oxford studying in its renowned pharmacology program, a great asset to his research interests. He then intends to apply to the competitive Oxford-Cambridge Scholars program offered by the National Institutes of Health. The “Oxcam” program emphasizes the development of physician-scientists through four years of study in the US and four years in Oxford. Dmitriev hopes the Frost program will make him a more competitive candidate for Oxcam.

Dmitriev is the eighth student in UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to be named a Frost Scholar. He’s also looking forward to the cross-cultural experience. “I’m really interested in having the opportunity to go abroad and experience how different science is elsewhere,” says the Russian-born Dmitriev. “Sometimes we’re in a bubble thinking of the U.S. only.” He pursued the program largely for the international aspect. “It will be a good thing for my career,” he says. “I don’t want to limit myself to one state or country.” Nor, apparently, to one discipline.


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Mathematical Biologist

As the daughter of biologists, Professor Maia Martcheva grew up in an academic environment in Bulgaria. “I spent my childhood in labs, going to conferences, listening to talks,” she says. She also knew what she wanted to study by age 16. She remembers studying models for chemistry and physics and asked her teacher why there were no models for biology. “She said biology was too complex for mathematical models,” she says. “I knew then exactly what I wanted to do in my life.”

proud-looking woman standing in hi-tech lab Maia Martcheva is a pioneer in creating biological models based on mathematics. Patrick Kolts

“I really enjoy the human element. There is something magical about being in the classroom.”

Martcheva calls herself a “mathematical biologist” and holds a primary position in the Department of Mathematics and is affiliated with the Department of Biology. She recalls that her father reacted to her desire to apply math to biological models with skepticism. She was in her sophomore year of college, just beginning to apply numerical methods to data. “He gave me data and a biological question and asked me to address it with my methods.” Much to his surprise, she was able to forecast accurately the life cycle of cells. She and her father eventually co-published a paper on the experiment to fit models to data in 1987, the year before she graduated from the University of Sofia in Bulgaria.

In 1989, the year after she received her master’s degree, the Berlin Wall fell. “Life became very difficult,” she says. “There was very little to eat. My advisor left for the States. Then my second advisor left for the States. I thought if I could come to the States, I could keep an advisor.” In 1998, she received her PhD from Purdue and has been teaching and researching at UF since 2003.

Martcheva studies the epidemic models of Rift Valley fever (which has not hit the United States), Zika, and other communicable diseases. She says that teaching is the “most relaxing component of a very busy job” and is impressed with the provocative questions posed by her students. In fact, a paper she just finished on Ebola was inspired and co-authored by Chindu Mohanakumar ’17 and Samuel Swanson ’18. She encouraged Swanson to write a paper of his own on HIV transmission, which was accepted by the SIAM Undergraduate Research Online journal (SIURO). She encourages her students to be open-minded, think for themselves, and discover their own research interests, which she has found to be a fruitful process both for the professor and the students. “I really enjoy the human element,” she says. “There is something magical about being in the classroom.”


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David Reitze gives back to UF Physics.

David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) at Caltech, is one of three winners of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Discovery, a prize comprising $50,000 cash and $50,000 to support the recipients’ research. Now, Reitze has given back part of his share of the award to UF, one of the original institutions involved with LIGO and where he is professor of physics.

distinguished academic leans on column in shadowy hallway
David Reitze Lance Hayashida/Caltech

“The physics department is one of UF’s premier academic departments, and I benefitted greatly both professionally and personally from my affiliation with it.”

At a ceremony on April 20, 2017, NAS recognized Reitze for his leadership at LIGO, which has detected three chirps of gravitational waves from colliding black holes. These discoveries are significant because they demonstrate that the fabric of space-time is rippled by enormous outputs of energy, as Albert Einstein predicted in 1916. LIGO’s successes herald a new era of multi-messenger astronomy, or the study of waves and particles to understand cosmic objects.

Reitze was instrumental in LIGO’s growth into a state-of-the-art project capable of precise detection of faraway, long-ago cosmic events. He built an interdisciplinary team of scientists, several of whom continue to work at UF on its LIGO team. “It’s amazing that Reitze was able to coordinate all these people,” says Guido Mueller of the UF LIGO team, who designed the input optics (IO) for the interferometer, as well as the algorithm, Coherent WaveBurst, that enabled the detection of the gravitational waves. After leading UF’s input optics program beginning in 1996, Reitze relocated to Caltech in 2011 to serve as executive director of LIGO. “The IO was in such a good shape and the entire IO team at UF was so strong that finishing the $5 million project turned out to be fairly straightforward,” says Mueller.

Looking back over a project more than 20 years in the making, Reitze reflects on how UF made that possible. “The physics department is one of UF’s premier academic departments, and I benefitted greatly both professionally and personally from my affiliation with it,” says Reitze, whose donation will benefit the department directly. “I continue to maintain a deep bond to my colleagues and friends in the department. Giving back is an obvious thing for me to do!”


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UF scientists awarded NAS membership.

Besides a passion for research and a sense of humor, UF physicist Art Hebard and UF plant biologist Doug Soltis share one other thing: membership in the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy recognizes top achievement in and devotion to one’s field in selecting its members, who are scientific consultants to the U.S. government. More than 2,000 esteemed scientists compose the Academy, and the University of Florida now has provided 29 of them.

“In our profession, it’s the highest honor you can get for your science.”

“In our profession, it’s the highest honor you can get for your science,” says Soltis, who was honored for his integral role in the Tree of Life, a phylogenetic project aiming to catalogue all living species on Earth. UF’s genetics initiative — now the Genetics Institute — appealed to Soltis, and he arrived at UF with joint appointments in the Florida Museum and the Department of Biology’s new evolutionary biology program in 2002. UF helped provide “a perfect storm of technology, the ability to see snippets of DNA, and the necessary computer power and algorithms” for the Tree of Life, he says. “It’s something I dreamed about for 25 to 30 years.” Now, this first-generation college graduate is looking forward to having a broader platform to discuss his work and its policy implications. “I’m concerned about biodiversity and its fate in the world,” he says. “[NAS] is a way to do more messaging.” Much like the Tree of Life, Soltis considers the scientific community to be an interconnected web of knowledge. “It takes a village,” he says.

Hebard agrees. “Science is a pyramid and you build it with the help of your colleagues and associates,” he says. As a childhood engineer turned humanities student turned industrial physicist, he finally found fulfillment in academia, specializing in condensed-matter physics. “A friend said you don’t age gracefully in industrial research, so I came to the academic world,” he says. He arrived at UF in 1996. Now, working in his custom lab in UF’s physics building, Hebard says that every day is an unexpected journey — it’s the nature of his field of inquiry. At UF, “I’m associating with people I really enjoy,” he says. “[NAS] really does include a lot of people I’ve worked with. For that, I’m thankful.” The Academy’s feeling is mutual.


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