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A University of Virginia astronomer and a former Ph.D. student from U.Va.’s Department of Astronomy are playing key roles in an international effort to dramatically extend the reach of discovery for the next generation of “Extremely Large Telescopes.”
In late April, the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory’s team of university and research institute astronomers, which includes U.Va. astronomy professor Michael Skrutskie and former U.Va. graduate student Jarron Leisenring, announced milestone observations of a large lava lake on one of Jupiter’s moons.
Astronomers have known for decades that Io, the innermost of Jupiter’s four moons, is the most volcanically active object in the solar system, with perhaps hundreds of volcanoes. Voyager, Galileo and other spacecraft missions have captured images of Io’s volcanic features from space. Until the development of the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, however, the lava lake fed by the largest volcano on Io was too small to be observed with any detail from a ground-based telescope.
Loki, the largest volcanic feature on Io, has a diameter of 200 kilometers and is at least 600 million kilometers from Earth.
“In some sense, those previous spacecraft visits could be considered ‘snapshots,’” Skrutskie said. “With the Large Binocular Telescope, we can now settle down and watch things evolve, gaining insight into the mechanisms that drive the Loki eruptions and drawing parallels to lava lakes on Earth.”
The Large Binocular Telescope’s high-resolution images of the lava lake were made by combining the light from a pair of giant 8.4-meter mirrors separated by 14.4 meters – center-to-center – on a single mount. In essence, the light from two very large mirrors was combined to serve as a single mirror, allowing researchers to measure for the first time the brightness coming from different regions within the lava lake.
Achieving that level of resolution can be accomplished only by combining the light from the two telescopes while keeping the optical path between the two giant mirrors stable to 1/1000th the diameter of a human hair, Skrutskie said, all while correcting the “twinkling” effects of the Earth’s atmosphere nearly 1,000 times a second.
“The observations reported in this paper are scientifically valuable as they have enough spatial detail to provide the first Earth-based characterization of the physical structure of the active thermal emission from this large and constantly changing lava lake,” Skrutskie said. “Understanding the behavior of these volcanic structures requires more than single snapshots. Ultimately, one must construct the ‘movie’ over time. Having an Earth-based telescope capable of detailed imagery enables just such extended-time domain studies, and LBT is now the only telescope on the planet with this ability.”
The Large Binocular Telescope collaboration’s findings were published April 30 in the Astronomical Journal. As exhibited by these detailed observations, Skrutskie said, the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory has claimed a head start of several years over similar facilities under development in terms of its ability to conduct Extremely Large Telescope-class science.
The project’s Large Binocular Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Camera, or LMIRcam, used to combine the images into one, ultra-sharp picture, was designed and built in U.Va.’s Department of Astronomy under Skrutskie’s direction. Its construction served as the Ph.D. project of Leisenring, who now works for the James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera project at the University of Arizona. U.Va. research scientists John Wilson and Matt Nelson also played significant roles in the development of this imaging system and its electronics, Skrutskie said.
The primary scientific goals for LMIRcam range from achieving spacecraft-level imagery of solar system objects such as Jupiter’s moons to characterizing planetary systems around other stars and observing infrared-bright star-forming galaxies at vast, cosmological distances.
In a news release issued by the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, Leisenring said LMIRcam has already proven very productive the past few years.
“Now, interferometric combination provides the last step in harnessing LBTI’s full potential and enabling a whole host of new scientific opportunities,” Leisenring said.
The amount of technical collaboration required from the project’s partners proved critical in its success so far, Skrutskie said.
“There are so many things that have to work in concert to make this observation possible, from the basics of the mirror support and precision pointing of the giant machine that is the LBT, to the incredible adaptive secondary mirrors that correct for atmospheric distortion, to the beam combiner that pulls together the two light feeds to mind-bending precision that ultimately shines the exquisite image on the LMIRcam detector array,” he said. “Amazingly all of these subsystems were built and optimized by different (international) partner institutions in the LBT consortium.”
The Large Binocular Telescope is an international collaboration among institutions in the United States, Italy and Germany. The partners in the LBT Corporation are the University of Arizona; Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (Italy); LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft, representing the Max-Planck Society, the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam and Heidelberg University (Germany); The Ohio State University; and The Research Corporation, on behalf of the universities of Virginia, Notre Dame and Minnesota. U.Va.’s participation in the project was enabled by a gift from alumnus Frank Levinson via the Peninsula Community Foundation.
One of the newest honorary members of the Order of Australia is the University of Virginia’s Margo Smith, director and curator of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection.
Being appointed to the Order of Australia is the highest honor the Australian government bestows upon individuals who have contributed outstanding service in their field. Such appointments are usually conferred only to Australian citizens, making Smith’s honor both rare and highly esteemed.
Smith is being recognized “for significant service to Australia by promoting Australian indigenous art and culture in the United States of America,” the citation reads.
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, located on Pantops Mountain and opened to the public in 1999, is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to the exhibition of Australian Aboriginal art.
“This is a tremendous honor,” Smith said, “and, of course, reflects the efforts of many other people, foremost the indigenous artists who have so generously shared their art and culture with us, the staff at Kluge-Ruhe and all of our colleagues internationally who have worked with us for many years.”
Smith, a Staunton native, holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary and a master’s and Ph.D. in anthropology from U.Va. She conducted fieldwork in central Australia from 1991 to 1993 and became involved with the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in 1995, when it was the private collection of the late businessman and philanthropist John W. Kluge.
After helping to facilitate the transfer of the collection to U.Va., Smith and Howard Morphy co-edited the museum’s catalogue, “Art From the Land: Dialogues with the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of Australian Aboriginal Art,” published by the University to accompany the museum’s opening.
Since 2003, Smith has taught undergraduate courses on Aboriginal art and culture in the anthropology and art history departments. She has curated more than 60 exhibitions at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, some of which have traveled in the U.S. and abroad.
In 2006 she served as consulting curator on the exhibition “Dreaming Their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women Painters” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She currently serves on the curatorial team for an upcoming exhibition at the Musées de la Civilisation in Quebec City, Canada.
“I am thrilled to learn that Margo has been recognized and honored for her significant work in promoting the work of aboriginal artists and their culture here in the United States and for her leadership and vision as the director of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection,” Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa said. “The Kluge-Ruhe has thrived under her direction and we look forward to its future growth and expansion.”
For the past 16 years, Smith has shepherded the Kluge-Ruhe Collection into its current thriving state. Going beyond the traditional role of a museum director or curator, she has advocated for indigenous Australian people and has worked vigorously to promote Aboriginal art and culture in the U.S.
The museum’s mission is “to advance knowledge and understanding of Australia’s indigenous people and their art and culture worldwide,” its website says. Along with its extensive collection, the museum promotes living artists, international scholars and arts professionals through residencies, activities with students and public events, providing a wide range of learning experiences to the University community and the public.
The appointment to the Order of Australia begins with a nomination from a community member to the General Division of the Order. Once submitted, the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat at Government House in Canberra conducts further research on nominees; the nominations are also reviewed by the Council for the Order of Australia, which makes recommendations directly to the Governor-General.
Smith will receive a gold-plated silver medal, which is hung from the royal blue ribbon of the Order. The Australian ambassador to the U.S. will host a formal ceremony in Washington at a future date.
The Jefferson Scholars Foundation has announced the names of 35 young men and women who will commence their studies at the University of Virginia in August as the Jefferson Scholars Class of 2019.
Awarded on the basis of merit, the Jefferson Scholarship aims to attract to the University well-rounded students who exemplify three qualities that define the life and legacy of U.Va. founder Thomas Jefferson – leadership, scholarship and citizenship. Candidates undergo a highly competitive selection process and, if chosen, receive full financial support for four years of study at U.Va.
“In my 31-year tenure as president of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, what has struck me again and again about the individuals who become holders of our scholarships is they, to a person, do not take lightly the generosity that is given to them,” Jimmy Wright said. “I have observed them pay it forward to the U.Va. community in countless ways – not only in the leadership they offer as students, but also in their desire and willingness to give back as alumni.”
Hundreds of Jefferson Scholars have served in and led some of the most prominent student organizations at U.Va. over the years, including the University Judiciary Committee, Student Council, Madison House, the Honor Committee and The Cavalier Daily. Just as many have made their mark on the University by initiating and launching their own movements and organizations; Spectrum Theatre, Day of Silence, One in Four, Seriatim, Flash Seminars and the Alexander Hamilton Society are among some of the many initiatives started by Jefferson Scholars.
“It is inspiring to see the virtuous cycle that is created from bringing these diverse, driven and community-minded leaders to U.Va.,” said Ben Skipper, director of the foundation’s undergraduate and graduate programs. “They come to Grounds with the desire to contribute and they go on to make a notable impact while they are here. Ultimately, they graduate fully invested in the notion that, even as alumni, they can continue to make the University a better place.”
The Class of 2019 Jefferson Scholars come from 13 states and three foreign countries and join a community of 97 current Jefferson Scholars.
For a complete list of the incoming Jefferson Scholars click here.
An unprecedented number of University of Virginia scholars will pursue their work on foreign shores with the help of Fulbright Scholarships this year.
Fourteen U.Va. alumni and graduate students have been offered the grants, presented by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. This puts them among 1,900 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2015-16 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.
The U.Va. scholars will be teaching English in foreign countries such as India or pursuing their research in international academic centers.
“This is exciting news for the University and given the diversity among this group of students, I hope that it is also clear that Fulbright is an award for any student at U.Va., regardless of their field of study, interests or age,” said Andrus G. Ashoo, associate director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, which helped students through the application process. “I am already looking forward to more applicants from our students and alumni in the years to come. More than anything, I can’t wait to hear the stories from our students while they are abroad next year.”
The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Its primary source of funding is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the U.S. also provide support. The program operates in more than 160 countries and is administered by the Institute of International Education.
Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright program has given approximately 360,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
This year’s recipients are:
• Sarah Hansen, 22, of Pittsford, New York, who graduated this month with a degree in biomedical engineering and will continue her cardiovascular and targeted gene delivery research at the Swiss Institute of Experimental Cancer Research at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne.
“I will be researching the tumor microenvironment, studying the interplay of tumor-associated macrophages and the tumor vasculature,” she said. “I was interested in pursuing research in an international setting – biomedical research increasingly involves interdisciplinary and international collaborations. Switzerland is a fascinating country, merging high-tech and tradition.”
• Janet Rafner, 22, of Richmond, who graduated this month with a bachelor’s degree in physics, and will work in the iNANO Visualization Lab at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center at Aarhus University in Denmark.
“Working with an international team of scientists, science communicators, artists and animation experts, I will pursue a master’s in science in nanoscience with a concentration in visual communication from Aarhus University,” she said. “Through this project I will seek to advance public and academic understanding of the forces at play in the nanoworld – forces of electromagnetic or quantum nature that bond together or manipulate atoms or make it possible to visualize them with atomic microscopes. These interactions are crucial to understanding nanotechnology, polymer sciences, surface sciences, structural biology and condensed-matter physics.”
“It’s such an awesome opportunity to live and work in a place where the language, history and culture are so different from what I am used to, learn by fully immersing myself in that unfamiliarity, and at the same time get to represent my own country and participate in an important cultural exchange,” said Lim, who has previously traveled in China, but will be visiting Taiwan for the first time.
• Anna Boynton, 22, of Lynchburg, who graduated this month with a dual major in global development and religious studies and will teach English in Sri Lanka. Boynton researched forced refugee repatriation in Rwanda and how post-genocide reconciliation and development policies made return to Rwanda difficult for refugees.
“Going to Sri Lanka to teach is an incredible opportunity to live and work in another post-conflict country,” she said. “It will give me invaluable on-the-ground experience in a place still recovering from conflict. I look forward to learning about their reconciliation process and comparing it to the two other post-conflict countries I have lived in: Rwanda and Cambodia.”
• Erik Pomrenke, 23, of Manassas, who graduated in 2014 with a degree in German literature and will teach English in Saxony, in the former East Germany, while performing research.
“The former East Germany is often cited as one of the most secular societies in the world, not only with the amount of people who have fallen out of the church, but specifically for those who have never been practicing members of a religion,” he said. “I wanted to pursue a part-research project/part-community engagement where I see which institutions have risen to take the place of the community-building that was once provided by the church.”
• Adam Newman, 33, of Escondido, California, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in Hinduism in the religious studies department, who will explore the relationship between religion, identity and historical memory by examining the history and current conditions of the Eklingji temple complex near Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.
“My research will explore the relationship between modernity, tradition and ritual at this important temple site, and will examine in detail what this relationship can tell us about the connection between memory, history and regional identity,” Newman said.
• Rosa Waters, 22, of Richmond, who graduated this month with a double major in political and social thought and Latin American studies and will teach English in Brazil.
“This scholarship will afford me the opportunity to continue learning about Brazil, explore personal career interests and improve my Portuguese,” she said. “I am eager to return and take part in a cross-cultural exchange between the U.S. and Brazil.”
• Mary Elizabeth Pancoast, 31, of Pittsburgh, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in anthropology, who will continue her research on migration and life under legal categories of citizenship in Jordan, a topic in which she became interested while working as an attorney in public interest law.
“I had also long been interested in the Middle Eastern region, studying the archaeology of the region in undergrad and writing a thesis on Islamic human rights systems in law school,” she said.
“It will make a huge difference to allow me to gain global perspective and experience a very different culture,” he said. “I hope to bring this knowledge back to the U.S. to be an ambassador for Vietnam back here and an ambassador for the U.S. while I’m there.”
“I wanted to broaden my life experiences before continuing my education and career path,” she said. “The Fulbright grant offers me the opportunity to apply my love of language and of teaching, while strengthening bilateral ties and gaining a deeper understanding of the world’s diversity. This experience will allow me to study and immerse myself in the Polish culture, history and language.”
• Katherine Alyssa Huang, 22, of Arlington, who graduated this month with a degree in linguistics and East Asian studies and will teach English in Peru.
“I applied for this scholarship to gain international experience in ESL teaching, to learn more about indigenous relations with Peru, the Chinese communities in Peru, and to serve as a cultural ambassador for the United States through positive cultural exchange,” she said. “I hope to pursue a career in international development and communication, and I believe this award will allow me to do something really meaningful for the community in which I’m placed.”
• Mathilda Shepard, 22, of McLean, who graduated this month with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature and culture and plans to return to U.Va. for a master’s degree in Spanish. She will teach English in Colombia.
“As a future Spanish language instructor, having the opportunity to live in a Spanish-speaking country for a year is invaluable,” she said. “Colombia – which is home to multiple Shi’i communities formed by local converts – is also a great place to begin research for what I hope could turn into a dissertation project.”
• Julia Jong Haines, 29, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a rising fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in anthropology, who will conduct archaeological research in what had been an 18th- and 19th-century sugar plantation on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
“I’m focusing my research on the households and living spaces of enslaved and indentured laborers who worked on the plantation to better understand their experiences as migrant and coerced laborers,” she said.
• Caroline Louise Parker, 22, of Littleton, Colorado, who graduated this month with a double major in political and social thought and history and will teach English in South Africa.
“Upon returning, I plan to pursue work with immigrant communities in the United States, either as a teacher, college counselor or in the nonprofit sector,” she said.
Richard Handler says nearly every one of his University of Virginia students asks the same question: “What kind of job can I get with a degree in global studies?”
His answer: “Take your pick.”
“Some of them go into the business field. They get these consulting jobs with Deloitte, McKinsey, Bain and Goldman Sachs,” said Handler, director of the Global Development Studies Program and a professor of anthropology. “Others get master’s degrees in things like public health, public policy, business, law or journalism. The third route students take is development, starting with an internship and then a paid job with an NGO.”
Handler’s point is that a U.Va. degree is highly reputable and graduates will get jobs. Because of its interdisciplinary nature and the world shrinking in so many ways, global studies provides useful preparation that can be applied to a range of jobs, he said.
About 110 students graduated from the global development studies major in its first four years. Twenty-five went into or are going into graduate programs. Seven went to Teach for America and two to the Peace Corps. Twenty-five went into business and 20 went into development work, either with NGOs or nonprofits, and most of them started with paid positions.
Of 18 students who graduated from the global public health track in 2013 and 2014, nine went on to master’s programs, mostly in public health. Of those, two will go on to medical school. Some of the others went right into development work.
Take some examples from the class of 2015, U.Va.’s fifth class of global studies majors in the global development studies and global public health tracks, which graduated earlier this month.
Jewel Crosswell is headed to Washington, D.C., to work for Deloitte’s federal consulting branch, working in its strategy and operations department. “I came into global development studies pretty set on moving straight to a small village or city to do development work, or at least straight to a non-profit in the United States,” she said. “I figured Deloitte would be much more capable of funding basic training in hard skills in the corporate world, that if applied to the public sector or public service arena, would be incredibly helpful and enable me to better serve the place where I end up working long-term.”
Callie Jacobs is moving to Milan, Italy, to work as a student ambassador in the U.S. Pavilion at the Expo Milano 2015. “The theme of this year’s expo is sustainable food, and along with 60 other student ambassadors, I will be responsible for guiding visitors from around the world through the pavilion.”
Peter Nance is doing a summer internship with an energy management company called Novel Energy. “Novel works with public and private organizations to increase the use of clean energy while also cutting down energy bills,” he said. “After the conclusion of the internship, I am planning on serving for 10 months in AmeriCorps in the National Civilian Community Corps.”
Kelly McDonald is staying in Charlottesville. “I will be working as an associate at Skeo Solutions, an environmental consulting firm whose mission is to pursue environmental stewardship, social equity and economic opportunity,” she said.
She will be working on projects with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the progress of Superfund remediation sites.
Handler said these students are on a path to success and he’s glad they did not let worries over job prospects influence the majors they chose during their second years.
“I understand the students’ anxieties about getting a job after graduation, but U.Va. kids are at the top of the pecking order,” he said.
“They’ve worked so hard to get to U.Va.” Handler said he tells students, “Now, enjoy the place and make the most of it and don’t let your choices be dictated by your fears.”
At the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, $10 million of the school’s endowment is not managed by investment firms, faculty or administrators. It is managed by MBA students.
The student-run Darden Capital Management club makes all investing decisions for five funds with assets totaling more than $10 million. Students research and pitch stocks to second-year MBA portfolio managers who determine which to buy and sell. In total, each student team, consisting of one senior portfolio manager and three portfolio managers, is responsible for about $2 million of the school’s endowment.
Many other business schools have capital management clubs, but the vast majority do not grant students the type of investment decision-making autonomy granted by Darden Capital Management, said Associate Professor of Business Administration Richard Evans, the faculty adviser for Darden Capital Management. While other clubs require faculty approval for stock purchases, Evans does not have authority over purchasing decisions – and does not want to.
“We want this to be entirely student-run,” Evans said. “I think it has been a very good investment for the school. Pedagogically, it is a superb program and in terms of the $10 million, the students have done a great job.”
Over the past 10 years, Darden Capital Management has outperformed each fund’s benchmarks by about 2 percent each year. Academic research suggests that most mutual fund managers, on average, underperform their benchmarks substantially, according to Evans.
“I’m not surprised by their performance,” Evans said. “It’s a labor of love and they are really passionate about it.”
“Having the opportunity to invest the [Darden] endowment and grow it is one of a kind,” said second-year Darden student Marci Stewart, chief operations officer of Darden Capital Management. “Everyone in Darden Capital Management really cares about their decisions and thinks through what is best for each fund.”
Stewart joined the club with an interest in investing, but little experience outside of her personal finances. Picking stocks and learning from classmates’ investing strategies helped her to secure an internship with Fidelity Investments this summer, she said.
Other club leaders report that the investing experience has given them an edge in the very competitive MBA recruiting process.
“These companies ask their analysts to make decisions on billions of dollars and it is very difficult to predict how someone is going to react with that amount of pressure on the line,” said Jake DuBois, the club’s chief executive officer. “Seeing Darden Capital Management on a student’s resume […] tells employers that this student has made decisions with real money, sometimes with hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on the line. That experience is irreplaceable.”
James Franco, the club’s director of research, agrees. “When you begin interviewing with companies, you can talk about what has worked and has not worked on your stock pitches,” he said. “That is very valuable for credibility with investment professionals.”
Darden students join the club and begin evaluating stocks during their first year. Through a competitive application process, 24 students are selected to enroll in Evans’ second-year Darden Capital Management course, where they are evaluated for their investing performance. Twice a year, the group presents their investments to Darden’s Board of Trustees, who, Evans said, “grill the students” about investment decisions.
“It is a real honor to be able to manage such a significant amount of money on behalf of Darden and to have the confidence of the faculty and the Board of Trustees,” said Claire Lewis, the club’s chief investment officer. “Having full accountability for our mistakes and our successes really makes us better prepared for careers in investment management going forward.”
Undergraduate students in the McIntire School of Commerce enjoy similarly realistic experiences through the student-run McIntire Investment Institute. Students manage a portfolio valued at approximately $670,000, grown from a $100,000 endowment established in 1994 by John Griffin, president of Blue Ridge Capital and a member of U.Va.’s Board of Visitors. As with Darden Capital Management, McIntire students research and execute all investments, with faculty serving in an advisory capacity.
Since its inception, the institute has donated $150,000 back to the school and pledged another $100,000 donation for the coming year. The money has been used for new technology, building renovations and other improvements.
Fourth-year student Kevin Wang, president of the institute, joined the organization as a first-year student to learn more about finance before applying to the Commerce School. The learning experience of managing so much capital at such a young age exceeded his expectations.
“Investing is just a way of thinking. It’s more an art than a science, and when intelligent students from diverse backgrounds share their investing ideas, it is startling how much you can learn,” Wang said.
For student investors at both Darden and the Commerce School, these investment clubs step outside the boundaries of academia, leaving behind simulations for real-time results.
“The portfolio doesn’t sleep while you are away for holiday break,” Evans said. “The stocks are still going up and down and it is still your responsibility.”
While they study and socialize, these students monitor the stock market with a careful eye, diligently looking out for the future of their school even as they absorb its present.
The items in the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library span four millennia, from Babylonian clay tablets dating to around 2000 BCE to poetry published this spring using a 3-D printer.
But there’s been a real gap in the library’s holdings: It hasn’t owned a manuscript written in the three-millennium period between the library’s clay tablets and its earliest parchment manuscript fragments.
Until now, that is.
This month, the Special Collections Library purchased its first original manuscript from classical antiquity, a papyrus document from Egypt tentatively dated to the third century CE.
Although not complete, the document – designated as P. [for papyrus] Virginia 1 and measuring 16.5 x 8 cm. – is a good representative example of its kind. Probably originating in a region southwest of Cairo, the Greek text may be a receipt or tax document concerning grain.
“A papyrus document has long been a desideratum for us,” said David Whitesell, curator of the Special Collections Library and faculty member at the Rare Book School, where he teaches courses in pre-1800 printed books and descriptive bibliography. “This example will be useful in helping us to interpret the early history of the book and the history of the Greco-Roman world to U.Va. students, faculty and the general public.”
According to Whitesell, faculty members in U.Va.’s Department of Classics are already studying the text and planning student practicums around it for the coming academic year.
Papyrus was employed as a writing surface in Egypt by 2500 BCE. It was widely used throughout the Mediterranean and Near East from around 500 BCE up to around 1000 CE, when it was replaced by parchment and paper.
Papyrus sheets were formed from the stem of the papyrus plant; after polishing, the sheets were either pasted together to form a scroll or used individually. Employing a reed pen, scribes would typically write on the “recto” side, or the front side, which was usually smoother.
Few of the many millions of papyrus documents written over the millennia have survived to the present day.
Nevertheless, over the past 125 years, an impressive corpus of papyrus texts has been published. Tens of thousands of such texts have been digitized and placed online at Papyri.info, furnishing papyrologists with tools for comparing texts and readings, as well as for locating fragments of the same document scattered in collections around the globe.
The majority of surviving papyrus documents have either come from the desert areas in Egypt, where many had been buried by sand until they began to be excavated in the late 19th century, or from mummy wrappings (papyrus documents were frequently recycled, and therefore preserved, in this fashion).
According to Whitesell, most surviving papyrus documents are fragmentary in nature, having been torn, crumpled, nibbled or otherwise damaged at various points over the centuries.
“Even in fragmentary state, papyrus documents have a great deal to tell us about the cultural, economic, political and social history of the Ancient World,” he said.
Papyrologists receive specialized training in the skills necessary for working with and deciphering these documents. To begin that process, the papyrus pieces must be cleaned and flattened, with fibers straightened and fragments aligned before the texts can be studied in full. Sealing them between two panes of glass greatly facilitates their handling, study and long-term preservation.
According to Whitesell, in transcribing and translating the documents, papyrologists face the problems of missing text, poor handwriting, faded or flaking ink, variable spelling and grammar, unfamiliar vocabulary and local dialects.
But now, with an actual papyrus document held in the Special Collections Library, such hands-on textual work can be incorporated into the U.Va. classroom experience. “As a representative example of its kind – and of the challenges these documents pose for papyrologists – P. Virginia 1 will help U.Va. students develop the skills necessary for studying these texts,” Whitesell said.
For several students at the University of Virginia, the Rotunda is a classroom – even as it is closed for renovation.
The iconic centerpiece of the U.Va. Grounds, the Rotunda is undergoing two years of extensive renovations. When it reopens in the summer of 2016, among its new features will be additional classroom and study space for students.
But for three students, the renovation site itself has been a classroom.
For the past two years, civil engineering major Grace Zammitti worked with Facilities Management project managers at the Rotunda, shadowing them, studying them, emulating them. Zachary Robinette, another civil engineering student, has been working for Facilities Management for about a year, and now, with Grace graduating, Katharine Graham, a rising third-year architecture student, has joined the team.
“They are support staff for our side and it gives them a chance to learn the real-world side of the business,” said Sarita Herman, a project manager on the Rotunda renovation. “Their main job is to pay attention and learn. And they can assist in small ways.”
They attend meetings, study plans and work with the U.Va. personnel overseeing the project. They don’t drive nails, but they contribute in other ways.
Zammitti, 22, of Ramsey, New Jersey, printed a small, three-dimensional replica of one of the recently installed marble capitals of the Rotunda. Workers from Pedrini’s Sculpture Studio of Carrara had laser-scanned parts of an original Jeffersonian capital and created a three-dimensional computer program for the computer-controlled lathe that carved most of the marble block to make the capital. Zammitti fed Pedrini’s program into the three-dimensional printer at the Engineering School and produced an exact small replica of the three-ton marble piece to prove that it could be done.
“I thought that was pretty cool, and they were really pretty excited about it,” said Zammitti, who has explored a lot of areas within the Rotunda, areas most people don’t even get close to.
“Steve Ratliff, a senior construction manager for Facilities Management, took me up on Phase I to the roof, which was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had, to stand on the roof of the Rotunda and look down on the Lawn. It totally changes your perspective of the Lawn, which was really, really neat.
“I feel like I have been in all the nooks and crannies of the Rotunda,” she said. “I’ve been on the upper level of the Dome Room; I got to watch them install the oculus. I went up on the scaffolding and so I was pretty much touching the Dome Room ceiling.”
Zammitti’s experience was a complement to her education. While she majored in engineering, she had minors in architecture and business, so she was able to follow the project from design through execution and finance. She now has a job with Rotunda contractor Whiting-Turner in its Washington D.C. office.
Not all of the students’ work is as dramatic as installing three-ton capitals and poking around the corners of the Rotunda. The interns sit in on meetings, and are also helping to catalog about 7,000 photographs and 50 to 75 banker’s boxes of notes and papers left behind by the late Murray Howard, who served for two decades as the University’s architectural historian. He died in 2007.
“These papers have been gone through, but not with the intensity necessary,” Herman said. “It’s a huge project and then when it’s done, we have to turn to Facilities Management’s records of the Academical Village.”
Robinette, 22, of Springfield, Missouri and Charlottesville, an Air Force ROTC cadet raised in a military family, is in his second year with Facilities. He worked on the last months of the New Cabell Hall renovation. Once that was completed, he transitioned to the Academical Village, and data management, cataloging the Howard papers.
“We’re trying to put Murray Howard’s slides in the database and add information as needed,” Robinette said.
His work at the Rotunda and Academical Village has put a practical patina on the work he has been doing in the classroom.
“It allows me to take what I’ve learned and put it to real-world engineering practice,” he said. “Also, U.Va. is an extraordinarily unique place in terms of history and architecture, and the Rotunda is the centerpiece of Grounds.”
Graham, 20, of Richmond, also enjoys being more connected to the University through its history.
“I am learning more about U.Va. and feeling more a part of it,” she said. “I have a deeper connection to my surroundings.”
Her connection to the Rotunda is also family-based. Her mother and her sister both worked at the Rotunda when they were students at the University, and when Graham thought about it as a first-year student, operations there were winding down in preparation for the building’s two-year closure.
“They suggested I work on the construction and I realized that would be more to my interest,” she said.
Graham is spending most of her time working with Howard’s records, but said there are other aspects of the Rotunda and Academical Village on which she will be working.
As an architecture student, she looks at the work at the Rotunda in terms of what needs to be done to a building to keep it alive and occupied and useful.
“I’m learning to do what is best for the building,” she said.