late October, 2009

December 23rd, 2009

Faculty Bulletin Editor: Graham Harman, Associate Vice Provost for Research Editorial Assistant: Samah Abdel-Geleel, Graduate Studies and Faculty Research Coordinator LETTER FROM THE EDITOR We are grateful to all those who wrote to express their appreciation for the new design of the Faculty Bulletin. Please keep sending your publications and other news to Samah at samah@aucegypt.edu. For general suggestions, or to nominate someone to be the subject of a faculty profile, please contact Dr. Harman at gharman@aucegypt.edu. But the Bulletin is just one piece of the puzzle as we try to make faculty research more internally prominent within the AUC community. If you have ever been curious about the work of your AUC colleagues, this year is a good time to ask them about it. Even if your Department has become preoccupied with other business, try to make some this year for faculty to present their research. If you have not been a regular attendee of the plays, concerts, and art shows sponsored by our Department of Performing and Visual Arts— try it, and you'll like it. In addition, further efforts are underway to establish a more official faculty lecture series (details forthcoming). At this time I would especially encourage AUC faculty members who have not regularly submitted their research activities to the Bulletin to begin to do so. In building a new research culture at AUC, mutual visibility is one of our most important tools. Ideally, I would like to see every School at AUC have some contributions in every issue of the Bulletin. FACULTY PROFILE For this week's profile, we have a story of "local boy makes good": Adham Ramadan, Associate Professor of Chemistry. Adham is a 1991 graduate of AUC, and was the winner of the President's Cup for the highest overall GPA in his graduating class. Thereafter he traveled to England, where he earned his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at Cambridge University. In 2003 he returned to AUC as a member of the Department of Chemistry; his former advisor, our own Professor Jehane Regai, is now his colleague and research collaborator. Among Adham's areas of expertise are the handling of hazardous wastes and the industrial applications of titanium and zirconium (which he explains very clearly in the interview below). A popular and effective teacher, he received the 2008 AUC Excellence in Teaching Award for the Core Curriculum. He is also unusually well liked as a colleague on campus, with a deserved reputation as a hard worker and an optimistic and upbeat person. Finally, I would like to add that he is a hard-working member of AUC's Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects (IRB). In the following interview we asked Adham about his history at AUC and the exact details of his chemical research. Q: It would be safe to say that you are a great success story of AUC undergraduate education. You received your B.S. degree from our University in 1991, and even won the President's Cup as the highest-ranking member of your graduating class. Later you flourished at Cambridge University and elsewhere in Europe, and surely could have found work at an elite institution abroad. Could you tell us what drew you back to AUC? A: Being at AUC today is a bit of a coincidence. As I was finishing my postgraduate studies at Cambridge, I was considering a professional technical career, in industry, consulting etc., and not in academia. After obtaining my PhD, I decided to return to Egypt for while, and just after my return, some family circumstances necessitated that I stay in Egypt. While working professionally, I realized that I did miss teaching and research. It was only normal then to turn to AUC and explore possibilities, as I had kept in contact with my professors. I ended up being involved in some teaching and research activities on a part time basis while still working professionally. The decision to work full time in academia only came years later, in 2003, as I joined the Chemistry Department. Q: As an AUC student you minored in Computer Science. Have you stayed up to date with the latest computing technology? And is it somehow especially central to your research in chemistry? A: My minor in computer science primarily entailed programming and database structures. It proved very useful during the course of my postgraduate studies, and I spent about 10 months of my PhD work carrying out programming for the control of equipment that I built. Later on, database structures proved very useful in my professional work, even though I was not carrying out programming myself. Currently in research, I believe that the basic skills of problem analysis and solution design, which I acquired while programming, significantly assist me in experimental design. Q: Presumably you always had interests and skills in the sciences. But what makes a person veer toward chemistry as opposed to biology or physics? In your opinion are there certain personality types that are drawn toward each of these fields, or is it more a matter of random chance– such as liking one particular class as a student? A: I am not sure if we can profile personalities as “physicists”, “biologists” or “chemists”, but looking at Chemistry as a discipline, one would realize it does include aspects of Physics, as well a Biology: physical chemistry on the one hand, biochemistry on the other. Sometimes this mixture might appear daunting to some: those who might not have an aptitude or liking for mathematical calculations and applications would be discouraged by physical chemistry, while others, with little interest in biological systems, might not be very excited by biochemistry. Generally, I believe being a “chemist”, and enjoying it, is about reaching a state of mind where fundamental concepts are clear and at hand’s reach for understanding observations, and making predictions. Personally, Chemistry was not my favourite science subject in high school, as it was taught in a manner which was primarily factual, and not conceptual enough. It was only during my first year at university, and an inspirational course with Dr. Pakinam Askalani, that I realized what Chemistry was truly about. Q: Many of your former AUC professors are now your colleagues and personal friends. How difficult is it to adjust to people when the nature of your relations with them changes so greatly? A: In my case, it was not difficult at all. As a student, my relation with my Chemistry professors was excellent, and they provided valuable advice and support when I was deciding on my postgraduate studies. Contact continued during my studies, and later when I returned to Egypt. After joining the Department in 2003, the first few minutes of the first departmental meeting felt a bit odd to me, as I was not sure how things would go. However, within minutes, I felt very much at home. The environment was, and still continues to be, a very nurturing, encouraging and supportive one, and I do cherish this tremendously. I am of course particularly indebted to Dr. Jehane Ragai, who was my undergraduate supervisor, and who has been a source of inspiration for me over the years. Q: Other than the new campus, what are some of the biggest differences between AUC today and the AUC you remember as a student? A: Of course, AUC in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a smaller institution. For example, one Department of Science included all the different science programs as units, all of them housed in the Science Building together with the Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science Departments. Other than size, I believe that AUC today offers far more opportunities to students with regards to disciplines of study, exchange programs, and student activities. In addition, student services are noticeably more extensive. The teaching/learning environment in class, both in terms of hardware and equipment, as well as pedagogies, has also evolved significantly. Q: In 2008 you won the AUC Excellence in Teaching Award for the Core Curriculum. Could you share some of your thoughts about teaching methods and strategies? A: I believe that the primary role of a teacher is to assist students in becoming independent learners. This can be achieved by a variety of pedagogies which focus on active learning and learning from peers. In addition, putting an emphasis on the interdisciplinarity of subject matters, as well as the complementarity between teaching/learning on one hand and research on the other can be very useful in developing students’ interest in the subject matter at hand. Of course, in the technological age we are in, information technologies offer valuable tools and resources for drawing students into the learning process, and retaining their interest in it. Q: Just a quick personal question… Anyone meeting you on campus probably notices that you seem unusually friendly, optimistic, and helpful in your approach to work. Don't you ever have grumpy days when it's hard to work? It doesn't seem like it! A: I do have my moments like everyone else. However I realized a while back that they just consume energy, and are not very productive…. So I do try and keep “them” under control as much as possible. Q: Let's turn now to your research. Chemistry is one of those fields that can be a bit intimidating for the non-specialist, but perhaps you can explain your work in terms understandable to everyone. The best place to start might be with your experience in studying hazardous waste management, since everyone understands that the issue is an important one. How did you become interested in this topic? And why did you go specifically to Denmark and Spain to pursue it? A: My involvement with hazardous substances and wastes management started when I was working at the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, and I have been involved in this field ever since. It is a field of significant environmental impact, and it is an interdisciplinary field where management systems, together with fundamental science, primarily chemistry, strongly interrelate. The “study” visits to Denmark and later on Spain, came within the context of different initiatives I was involved in, and primarily entailed capacity building in different aspects of the field. Q: What is the most hazardous material produced or used at AUC, and how do we make sure to dispose of it safely? A: The hazards of materials can differ significantly, and it is quite difficult to specify a “most hazardous” substance. At AUC, substances that represent different types of hazards are used/generated in the different science laboratories. Each such material would have associated with it a Material Safety Data Sheet, which specifies the hazard(s), the risks associated with the different uses of the material, best practices and precautions for storage, handling and disposal, safe exposure levels, etc. These practices and precautions must be strictly adhered to. In my opinion, materials with no immediate and obvious hazards (such as flammability, or risk of explosion, or toxicity) can actually be the most detrimental. For example, chlorinated organic solvents represent significant negative impacts on the environment, as they negatively affect different parameters in ecosystems. However, they do not necessarily present eminent risks while being used, and generally users can be lax about disposal requirements. In the Chemistry labs, we are very strict about this, and these substances have a specific collection and disposal scheme. Generally at AUC, different departments coordinate with the Health and Safety Office for the collection of hazardous wastes produced, and service contracts with specialized companies ensure that these wastes are collected from AUC for safe disposal. Q: In your opinion, how well is Egypt is doing on the issue of hazardous waste these days? Is there something we should be worried about? A: Hazardous substances and waste management is a recognized priority in Egypt. Moreover, Egypt is actively involved in different international conventions and initiatives in this respect. However, there are of course challenges which need to be continuously addressed. These primarily entail awareness issues (generators of hazardous wastes, for example, might not be technically competent to identify these wastes, or know how best to handle them), as well as resource issues. Handling, treating and disposing of hazardous wastes necessitate financial resources which are more significant than those needed for other types of wastes. Q: You seem to have done a lot of work with zirconium and titanium. What is the greatest impact these materials have on the life of the average person? A: Zirconium and titanium are transition metals, and their oxides are recognized catalysts. These are agents which have the overall effect of speeding up chemical reactions. In this respect, zirconium and titanium oxides are widely used in a significant number of industrial applications as catalysts, generally allowing a more economic production of a wide variety of chemicals which are used in manufacturing. Moreover, titanium oxide is photosensitive, and is used in pigments, sunscreen lotions, and as a photocatalyst (its action as a catalyst is affected by light). Recently it has been used in photovoltaic cells. Q: Like others at AUC, you have also done research at the "nano" scale. And I want to ask all of our nano-researchers this question when I speak with them… Sometimes the public reads frightening things about the possible harmful uses of nanotechnology, such as terrifying futuristic weapons. How legitimate are those fears? A: Some of the structures at the nanoscale always existed. Our ability to detect them has been significantly enhanced since the 1980’s with the development of different specific measurement techniques. Subsequent developments allowed the manipulation of these structures, which opened the field to the synthesis of a much wider range of structures at this scale. The health and safety issues related to nanostructures are still a subject of debate internationally. With the rapid development in the field, nanotechnology offers exciting potentials for positively affecting our daily lives. Nevertheless, as has been the case for the development of other fields of science and technology, malicious usages cannot be ruled out. I believe that terrifying futuristic weapons, however, are for the time being in the realm of science fiction. Q: Finally, readers might like to know about your other interests aside from chemistry. What else do you do with your time? A: I do travel extensively for pleasure, and I read for relaxation in Arabic, French and English. The majority of what I read for pleasure is non-science, with particular interest in history, sociology and architecture. FACULTY NEWS Stancil Campbell, Chair of the Department of Performing and Visual Arts, participated in a Habitat for Humanity construction project during August 2009 in the area of Huehuetenango in Guatemala. The 18-person team of volunteers worked on the construction of two houses during the project and saw them to near completion before departing Central America. For information on volunteering with Habitat for Humanity projects in Egypt, please contact Stancil by email: stancil@aucegypt.edu. Kathleen Saville, Senior Instructor in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition, has been invited to the Vermont Studio Center, USA where she will spend January and February 2010 as a writing resident. The "Vermont Studio Center is the largest international artists' and writers' residency program in the US…" (source: http://www.vermontstudiocenter.org/) FACULTY RESEARCH BY SCHOOL (as reported by the faculty members) In this issue of the Bulletin, we have: 2 books 1 edited volume 1 book chapter 2 journal articles 2 creative works 6 conference presentations 1 conference panel organized School of Business (SoB) Hamid E. Ali, Assistant Professor, Department of Management •Journal article, Eric Lin & Hamid E. Ali, "Military Spending and Inequality in Middle East and North Africa: Panel Granger Causality Test." Journal of Peace Research. 2009:46, pages 671-685. Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) Belle Gironda, Assistant Professor, Department of Rhetoric and Composition •Book, Building Codes, a collection of poetry. (Stockport Flats Press, 2009.) •Conference presentation, "The Posthuman Body from Virtual Community to Social Network." Session on the Rhetoric of Embodiment, joint conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric and the International Society for the History of Rhetoric held at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. July 20-26, 2009. •Conference presentation, "Local Composition/Global Composition in Post-Colonial Egypt." Seminar entitled "Writing at the Edge of the Empire: Composition and Postcolonial Studies." The annual American Comparative Literature Association Conference. Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. March 26-29, 2009. Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology (Dept. of SAPE) •Conference presentation, "Recent Discoveries Along the Darb Ain Amur." VIth Dakhla Oasis Project conference. Lecce, Italy. September 2009. Bernard O'Kane, Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture (Dept. of ARIC) •Edited Volume, Creswell Photographs Re-examined: New Perspectives on Islamic Architecture. (Cairo: AUC Press, 2009.) •Book chapter, “The Great Mosque of Hama Redux,” in Creswell Photographs Re-examined: New Perspectives on Islamic Architecture, B. O'Kane ed. (Cairo: AUC Press, 2009). Pages 219-246. •Conference presentation, “A New Source for the Mosque of Bashtak.” The Arts of the Mamluk Conference. School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. September 23-26, 2009. Kathleen Saville, Senior Instructor, Department of Rhetoric and Composition •Creative work, "A Cairo Commuter in Ramadan 2007" (short story). Log Cabin Chronicles. Posted September 5, 2009, at http://www.tomifobia.com/lcc1.html. •Creative work, "A Row on the Nile" (short story). Log Cabin Chronicles. Posted August 21, 2009, at http://www.tomifobia.com/lcc1.html. Sherene Seikaly, Assistant Professor, Department of History •Conference Presentation, "Free Trade and Democracy: Palestinian Businessmen Imagine the Nation." Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting. November 2009. Boston, USA. •Conference Presentation, "Collaborator/Nationalist: Palestinian Businessmen and the 1936 Strike." Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting. November 2009. Boston, USA. •Conference Panel Organizer, "A Material Nahda." Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting. November 2009. Boston, USA. School of Public Affairs (SPA) Rasha A. Abdulla, Assistant Professor and Graduate Director, Department of Journalism and Mass Communications •Book, Policing the Internet: Online Freedom of Expression in the Arab World. The Emirates Occasional Papers series. (Abu Dhabi: The Emirates Center for Strategic Study and Research, 2009.) Justin D. Martin, Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism and Mass Communications •Journal article, “Global Journalism Research: Theories, Methods, Findings, Future.” Journal of Communication, 60 (1), forthcoming.

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