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Biologist Sarah Diamond wins early-career grant

Fall | Winter 2019


Sarah Diamond, a member of the biology faculty since 2014, conducts research on evolutionary ecology and global change biology. Photo by Keli Schimelpfenig.

Horace’s duskywing is a chocolate-brown butterfly that once rarely fluttered north of Columbus. But these days, lepidopterists frequently spot it in northern Ohio. Along with roughly half the species on Earth, this insect is on the move. From the blue-winged warbler to the barracuda, these organisms seek the sort of climate they evolved to thrive in. On a warming planet, that generally means heading up a mountain or toward one of the poles.

But what about the species that aren’t moving? The striking yellow-and-black Eastern tiger swallowtail, for instance, hasn’t budged. It was historically abundant throughout Ohio, and it remains so, despite the changing climate. Why are some species of butterfly shifting while others stay put?

“Species are moving at historically unprecedented rates, and that’s one of the key lines of evidence we have for climate change impacts on a whole range of species,” says Assistant Professor Sarah Diamond, who holds the George B. Mayer Chair in Urban and Environmental Studies in the Department of Biology. “But we don’t really think about the variation too much, or at least in the past we haven’t.”

It’s important to understand that variation because many species of butterfly are not doing well. A recent study in Ohio, for example, found that between 1996 and 2016, the state’s overall butterfly population declined by a third. Yet some species did not decline, and the populations of a few actually increased. Diamond wants to know whether species that have shifted their geographic range are doing better than those that have not.

She recently won a prestigious grant to explore this question. The National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) Program has awarded Diamond $725,000 to study the differences in butterfly response to climate change and, she hopes, help us predict the future of individual species in a warming world.

One key to making such predictions, Diamond says, is determining how much “phenotypic plasticity” a given species exhibits. Some butterflies are more tolerant of heat if they spend their early lives in warmer conditions. But members of other species exhibit the same heat tolerance regardless of the temperatures to which they are first exposed. The latter lack phenotypic plasticity, and thus may be more likely to seek a cooler home as the climate changes. Another factor that might determine whether or not a species moves northward is how rapidly it develops a higher heat tolerance over multiple generations through evolutionary adaptation. Diamond will study that question as well.

Eastern tiger swallowtail. Getty Images.

Diamond plans to recruit members of the public to assist with her research. The project will involve both lab and field work, and citizen scientists—from schoolchildren to retired butterfly enthusiasts—will take part every step of the way. The nonprofit Ohio Lepidopterists, which has some of the most extensive and detailed butterfly monitoring records in the country, will provide historical data. To comprehend something on the scale of climate change, scientists need all the help they can get, Diamond says.

She chose to focus on butterflies for this project in part because it relies heavily on public participation. “You need something people care about, and everybody loves butterflies,” she explains. “We’re experiencing a bit of a hurdle to get people on board with, say, monitoring flies. But hopefully people are recognizing the situation is becoming a bit dire when it comes to climate change, and we really need to get a sense of what the broader insect community is doing. If the insects go, we go.”

Honors announced for college faculty members

Gary Galbraith (CIT ‘86; GRS ‘88, dance), professor and artistic director in the Department of Dance, received a 2019 Faculty Distinguished Research Award. Established in 2013, the award recognizes individuals who build on the university’s history of innovation and who have established national and international reputations for their research or creative projects. Galbraith is the first faculty member in the performing arts selected for this honor.

A celebrated choreographer, Galbraith has integrated advanced technologies into a series of pioneering works. In Imagined Odyssey (2017), for example, dancers in a mythical landscape interact with three-dimensional, dynamic images created with Microsoft HoloLens.

Before joining the college faculty in 1999, Galbraith was a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company. He is the founding director of the Dancer Wellness Project, a consortium of modern dance and ballet companies, dance education programs and medical institutions promoting dancer health and wellness through education and research.

Philip Taylor, Distinguished University Professor and the Perkins Professor of Physics, received the 2019 Frank and Dorothy Humel Hovorka Prize. The award is presented each year to an active or emeritus faculty member whose achievements in teaching, research and scholarly service have benefited the community, nation and world.

A member of the physics faculty for more than 57 years, Taylor has won recognition for his contributions to condensed matter physics, his mentorship of more than 50 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and his efforts as a scientist, educator and citizen to advance public understanding of environmental issues and address climate change. (An art/sci profile of Taylor appeared last spring.)

Elina Gertsman, who was recently named the Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor in Catholic Studies II in the Department of Art History and Art, received a John S. Diekhoff Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring.

Brian Gran, professor in the Department of Sociology, and Maggie Vinter, associate professor in the Department of English, each received a John S. Diekhoff Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching.

Jonathan Sadowsky, the Theodore J. Castele Professor in the Department of History, received a Jessica Melton Perry Award for Distinguished Teaching in Disciplinary and Professional Writing.

Scott Dill, lecturer in the Department of English, received the Richard A. Bloom, MD, Award for Teaching Excellence in the SAGES Program.

Eric Chilton and Kristine Kelly each received a SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award, and Anthony Wexler received the Writing Resource Center Excellence in Consulting Award. All three are lecturers in the English department.

Geologist Beverly Saylor Helps Rewrite Human Evolutionary History


Beverly Saylor has participated in fossil-hunting expeditions in Ethiopia since 2005. Photo by Mike Sands.

It’s pretty tough to know what humankind’s oldest ancestors looked like—especially ones that lived 3.8 million years ago. Fossils from that era are rare, and those that have been found are largely limited to bone fragments. Figuring out ancient hominids’ environments, food sources and other details of their lives is an even more elusive task.

That hasn’t stopped Beverly Saylor from trying. Saylor, the Armington Professor in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, is a geologist and sedimentologist who has been a lead scientist in a search for early human fossils in Worenso-Mille, Ethiopia. She’s part of a team coordinated by Yohannes Haile-Selassie, head of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and adjunct professor in Case Western Reserve’s anthropology department.

In summer 2016, the group made an unprecedented find: a full cranium fossil of Australopithecus anamensis, a species that was previously known only by bits of jawbones and teeth. After Saylor helped date the fossil, it turned out to be the earliest cranium ever discovered of an australopithecine—a key early human ancestor that lived between 1.5 and 4 million years ago. The find was announced this past August with the publication of two studies in the prestigious journal Nature—one led by Haile-Selassie, the other by Saylor.

As striking as it was to uncover an ancient human fossil like this, however, Saylor says she was more interested in the layers of rock that encased it. By analyzing telltale layers of volcanic ash nearby, she and her fellow geologists were able to pinpoint the age of the find and obtain clues to the rough topography of the area in A. anamensis’ time. Although the region is relatively flat and arid today, Saylor says the species may have once roamed a landscape filled with rolling hills, steep bluffs and a fast-growing river delta.

“To really understand the lives of early humans, you actually need much more than a fossil and an age,” Saylor explains. “You want to understand, ‘What was the world like where that ancestor was walking around? What was the landscape like? What were they eating?’ Those are questions that we geologists are helping to answer.”

Finding hominid fossils from 3.5 to 3.8 million years ago is unusual in part because of the way the landscape itself has evolved, Saylor says. Sediment is usually laid down like a layer cake: The deeper you dig, the further back in time you’ll go. But in the rift zone of Africa, where Worenso-Mille is located, those layers are constantly lifted and stretched by tectonic movement and eroded by weather, re-exposing surfaces from some time periods while hiding others deep underground.

“It’s amazing to think about how unlikely it is that we’d find a fossil like this,” says Stephanie Melillo (CWR ’05), a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who took part in the 2016 expedition. “The fact that a living animal happened to die in the right spot, and was quickly buried in just the right sediments, is already unlikely. That it also happened in a place where the sediment was re-exposed on the Earth’s surface millions of years later is pretty incredible.” Melillo should know: She first joined Haile-Selassie on expeditions to the site as an undergraduate more than a decade ago, and has returned every year since.

“To me, the interesting puzzle is, why are we finding this older species preserved only here?” Saylor says. “It may be a matter of just finding the right rocks to uncover those fossils, but maybe some of it is due to a longer persistence of A. anamensis in this specific area. The environment could have given it a sort of niche that let it survive better here than in other places.”

When paired with her research about the fossil’s age and environment, the new cranium is offering a fresh look at how early humans evolved. It was once thought that A. anamensis gradually changed into another well-studied species, A. afarensis. But the latest finds suggest that the two groups split off from one another, and may even have coexisted, Saylor says—meaning that the human family tree may have a few extra branches.

Historian Jonathan Sadowsky Wins Baker-Nord Center Award

Jonathan Sadowsky, the Theodore J. Castele Professor in the Department of History, is this year’s winner of the Baker-Nord Center Award for Distinguished Scholarship in the Humanities. Established in 2016 by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, the award has previously honored faculty members in art history, classics and religious studies.

Center director Peter Knox, the Eric and Jane Nord Family Professor, offers this tribute to Sadowsky’s record of achievement.

While he was completing his third book, a history of depression, Jonathan Sadowsky learned that he had received the 2019 Baker-Nord Center Award for Distinguished Scholarship in the Humanities. Photo by Mike Sands.

Jonathan Sadowsky had just finished his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University when he joined Case Western Reserve’s history faculty in 1993. Since then, he has established himself as one of the nation’s preeminent historians of medicine and psychiatry. It is a special privilege for the Baker-Nord Center to honor Jonathan as he marks his 26th year at the university.

Jonathan’s research on medical topics is enriched by his expertise in other disciplines and historical fields, including comparative world history, African history and cultural anthropology. His skill at integrating insights from all these areas is displayed in his first book, Institutions of Madness in Colonial Southwest Nigeria (1999). Jonathan’s study begins in the early 20th century, when British imperial administrators confined Africans diagnosed as “lunatics” to asylums. By comparing Western psychiatrists’ beliefs about madness with those of the Yoruba people of the region, Jonathan revealed the mutual incomprehension of colonizers and colonized with respect to mental illness.

More recently, Jonathan has turned his attention to historical questions surrounding depression. His book Electroconvulsive Therapy in America: The Anatomy of a Medical Controversy (2016) analyzes the ongoing, impassioned debate over a treatment that proponents hail for its effectiveness and that critics regard as barbaric. Jonathan became fascinated by the philosophical and cultural questions at the heart of this debate—questions about the authority of medical professionals, for example, and the point at which a society decides that a treatment’s adverse effects outweigh its benefits. Jonathan is now completing a comprehensive history of depression, to be published in 2020.

While pursuing his scholarship, Jonathan has made major contributions to our academic and educational community. He served as chair of the Department of History from 2006 to 2015 and has formally mentored several junior faculty members in history and other disciplines. He helped create, and co-directs, the concentration in Medicine, Society and Culture for students pursuing a master’s degree in Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the CWRU School of Medicine. Since 1999, he has been an instructor in the history of psychiatry in the Psychiatry Residency Program at University Hospitals.

Jonathan’s presence on our faculty has enhanced the university’s national and international reputation, and I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate the significance of his accomplished and growing body of work.

Jonathan Sadowsky will accept his award and deliver a public lecture, “Depression: Medical Science and Medical Humanities,”
on April 16, 2020, at 4:00 p.m., in the Wolstein Research Building Auditorium.

Celebrating the 2019 Alumni Award Winners

Interim Dean Sandra Russ presented 2019 Distinguished Alumni Awards to eight graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and its predecessor institutions during Homecoming and Reunion Weekend this fall. The awards ceremony, held at the Frank N. and Jocelyne K. Linsalata Alumni Center, was moderated by Jeffrey Verespej (CWR ’07, MGT ’11), past president of Case Western Reserve University’s Alumni Association.

Front row, from left: Kathryn Karipides (GRS ’59) and Joie A. Gregor (GRS ’74), Distinguished
Graduate Alumnae; Cung Khac Vu (ADL ’69) and Mariam C. Noland (FSM ’69), Distinguished Undergraduate Alumni. Second row, from left: John Knific (CWR ’09) and Esther Erb Atkins (CWR ’08), Distinguished Young Alumni; Interim Dean Sandra Russ; Judy Strauss-Schwartz (WRC ’74) and Dennis A. Block (ADL ’69), Distinguished Service Alumni. Photo by Rob Wetzler.

Profiles of the winners appeared in our Spring/Summer 2019 issue.

To submit nominations for the 2020 Alumni Awards, please visit Next year’s Homecoming will take place Oct. 8–11, 2020.

A New Director for the Schubert Center

Anastasia Dimotropoulos, the new director of the Schubert Center, has been a member of the psychology faculty since 2005. Photo by Keli Schimelpfenig.

Anastasia Dimitropoulos, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, has been named director of the Schubert Center for Child Studies. She succeeds Associate Dean Jill Korbin, the Lucy Adams Leffingwell Professor in the Department of Anthropology, who stepped down this fall after almost 20 years of leadership.

The Schubert Center promotes and disseminates research on child development and well-being, and works to enhance the impact of this research on institutions and policies affecting children. Interdisciplinary in nature, the center has 90 Faculty Associates across the university. Its Childhood Studies and Mann Externship programs provide academic and experiential learning opportunities to CWRU undergraduates, who benefit from the center’s ties to community organizations and public agencies addressing children’s needs.

A longtime Faculty Associate herself, Dimitropoulos is a developmental psychologist who studies behavior and cognition in children with Prader-Willi Syndrome (a genetic disorder) and children on the autism spectrum. Before assuming her new role, she served as the center’s research director.

“I have watched Jill Korbin direct the center toward meaningful action and conversation around the well-being of children,” Dimitropoulos says. “I look forward to continuing and extending her wonderful work. Our vision is to increase our community-based research efforts, continue and increase our initiatives with CWRU students and actively participate in policy discussions at the state and local level.”

art/sci, etc.

Karen Beckwith, the Flora Stone Mather Professor and chair in the Department of Political Science, is a co-author (with Claire Annesley and Susan Franceschet) of Cabinets, Ministers, and Gender.

Christopher A. Cullis, the Francis Hobart Herrick Professor of Biology, is the editor of Genetics and Genomics of Linum, a book to which he contributed several chapters.

Melvyn C. Goldstein, the John Reynolds Harkness Professor in the Department of Anthropology, is the author of A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 4: In the Eye of the Storm, 19571959, the culmination of 40 years of research and writing.

Lisa Huisman Koops, professor and head of the Music Education Program in the Department of Music, is the author of Parenting Musically.

Elizabeth S. Meckes, professor in the Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, was named a 2019 Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. She is the author, most recently, of The Random Matrix Theory of the Classical Compact Groups.

Charles Rosenblatt, Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor in the Department of Physics, has been awarded a $497,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a project titled “Liquid Crystals as a Paradigm for Chirality and Topological Defects.” When the grant expires in 2022, Rosenblatt will have received single-investigator NSF support for nearly 36 years.

Elisabeth Werner, professor in the Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, was awarded the Caroline-Herschel Visiting Professorship at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany for the Summer 2020 semester.

Cheryl Toman, the Eirik Børve Professor in Modern Languages and chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, is the editor of Capital Culture: Perspectives in Ethnic Studies II, a volume of essays by 13 scholars, with a foreword by Associate Professor Gilbert Doho.

Joy Bostic, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies and founding director of the university’s African and African American Studies minor, has been appointed interim vice president for the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity.

Mary Grimm, associate professor in the Department of English, is the author of “Back Then,” a short story published in
The New Yorker this summer.

Emmitt Jolly, associate professor in the Department of Biology, has been elected to the board of education in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Vera Tobin, associate professor in the Department of Cognitive Science, is one of five authors on this year’s short list for the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Christian Gauss Award, which celebrates outstanding books of literary scholarship or criticism. Tobin made the list with her first book, Elements of Surprise: Our Mental Limits and the Satisfactions of Plot.

Maggie Vinter, associate professor in the Department of English, is the author of Last Acts: The Art of Dying on the Early Modern Stage.

Tim Shuckerow (GRS ’76, art education), director of CWRU’s art education and art studio programs, was the subject of a retrospective at Ursuline College’s Wasmer Gallery this fall. The exhibition featured more than 100 of his works.

Mano Singham, adjunct associate professor of physics and retired director of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education, is the author of The Great Paradox of Science: Why Its Conclusions Can Be Relied Upon Even Though They Cannot Be Proven.

James Aldridge and Taylor McClaskie, doctoral students in the Department of Music, were summer 2019 interns in the Music Division of the Library of Congress.

Dominique DeLuca and Angelica Verduci, doctoral students in art history, have been named Andrew W. Mellon curatorial fellows at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

William “Sam” Nutt, a fourth-year student majoring in biochemistry and Chinese, has been named a 2019 Goldwater Scholar.

For the second consecutive year, the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House Master of Fine Arts Program in Acting made The Hollywood Reporter’s list of the world’s top 25 graduate acting programs, ranking 12th—up six slots from 2018.

Alumni Notes

Robert P. Madison (ARC ’48; HON ‘04), founder and long-time managing principal of the architectural firm Robert P. Madison International, has been named the 2019 Legacy Award honoree by Engineering News-Record Midwest.

James C. Wyant (CIT ’65), chair of Case Western Reserve’s board of trustees, received the AccountabilIT Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation in Phoenix, Ariz., this fall. The award recognizes leaders who “demonstrate a lifetime of success in growing and advocating for the state’s technology ecosystem.” Wyant, a teacher, inventor and entrepreneur, is professor emeritus and founding dean of the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences.

William Heath (GRS ’66, ’71, American Studies) is the author of Night Moves in Ohio, a poetry collection published this fall.

Joseph Maskasky (GRS ’72, chemistry) received the 2019 Outstanding Alumnus Award from Case Western Reserve’s Department of Chemistry.

Don Thomas (CIT ’77) served as grand marshal for the Apollo 11 50th anniversary parade in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Neil Armstrong’s hometown. An astronaut himself, Thomas flew four space shuttle missions during his 20-year career with NASA.

Lois J. Geist (GRS ‘80, biology; MED ‘84) has been named associate provost for faculty in the University of Iowa’s Office
of the Provost.

Jeffrey Gershowitz (WRC ’86) has been named general counsel at Exela Technologies, a business process automation firm.

John Ransom (GRS ’92, history) has been named head librarian at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums in Fremont, Ohio.

Jennifer Finkel (GRS ’98, ’05, art history) has been named curator of collections at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

David Eshelman (CWR ’99), professor of communication and theatre director at Arkansas Tech University, won the 2019 Faculty Award of Excellence in the category of scholarship and creative activity.

Michael Smith (CWR ’99, MED ’03), medical director of the Ochsner Health System’s Clinical Simulation and Patient Safety Center in New Orleans, has received the Emergency Medicine Distinguished Educator Award from the College of Residency Directors.

Kate Brown (GRS ’03, ’10, physics), a faculty member at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., has been awarded tenure.

Rahul Ravi (CWR ’04) has been named director of client management at Vcheck, a provider of business-to-business due diligence background checks.

Adam Light (CWR ’05) has accepted a tenure-track faculty position in physics at Colorado College.

Meghan Olis (GRS ’05, art history and museum studies) has joined the North Carolina Museum of Art as director of collections and exhibitions management.

Tim Koenig (CWR ’06) has been named men’s head basketball coach at Fairmont State University in West Virginia. In addition, he was selected as the 2019 Mountain East Conference Coach of the Year.

Vivek Kartha (CWR ’10) has joined Alpine Investors as an operating executive for its software group and as a member of its CEOs-in-Training program.

Andrew Gorell (GRS ’12, acting) was featured this fall in a production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio. Gorell shared the stage with Christopher Bohan, instructor in the Department of Theater and one of his former teachers in the Case Western Reserve/Cleveland Play House MFA Program in Acting.

Ryan Kowalski (CWR ’13) has joined C. W. Brabender Instruments, a provider of equipment to the food and chemical industries, as a food extrusion specialist.

Jasmin Bhangu (CWR ’19) and Anna Sklenar (CWR ’19) are recipients of Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants. Bhangu was selected as an English teaching assistant at a Polish university, while Sklenar was awarded a research grant to pursue a history project in Russia.

School and Degree Abbreviations

ARC School of Architecture
CIT Case Institute of Technology
CWR Undergraduates, 1989 and after
GRS School of Graduate Studies
HON Honorary Degree
MED School of Medicine
WRC Western Reserve College

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In Memoriam

James E. Zull belonged to the faculty of Case Western Reserve and its predecessor institutions for almost 50 years. Photo courtesy of University Marketing and Communications.

James E. Zull, professor emeritus in the biology department, died Oct. 27, at age 80. Among his many contributions during his 48 years on the faculty (1966–2014), Zull explored what brain science reveals about the nature of learning, and he made his conclusions accessible to educators in two influential books.

Zull, who held secondary appointments in biochemistry and cognitive science, spent the first half of his highly productive career studying biology at the level of cells and their biochemical properties.

A turning point occurred, however, in 1994, when he became the founding director of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education (UCITE). For the next 10 years, he helped faculty members across the university enhance student learning in their classes. This experience—combined, he once said, with his earlier research on cell-cell communication and “the increasing knowledge about the human brain”—led him to write The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning, which appeared in 2002.

“Jim changed my thinking about education in deep and profound ways,” says Mano Singham, whom Zull recruited to UCITE as associate director in 1994. “One major insight I got from him was that knowledge is not something tenuous but is tangible and consists of physical neural networks in the brain. It cannot simply be transmitted to students by clear expositions by the teacher.”

For Singham, who succeeded Zull as UCITE director, the implications of this idea were clear: “We should pay less attention to what the teacher says and more to what students are doing, because that is what influences their neural connections and determines what they learn.”

Barbara Kuemerle, senior instructor in the biology department, worked with Zull  when he led an undergraduate seminar based on The Art of Changing the Brain and his second book, From Brain to Mind: Using Neuroscience to Guide Change in Education.

“His depth of knowledge was profound,” says Kuemerle, who took over the seminar after Zull retired. “He was also highly skilled at engaging, guiding and actively challenging students to deepen their understanding by encouraging questions and discussion.”
His students and colleagues, she adds, “not only had a great respect for his scholarship, but also relished his thoughtful manner, his warm disposition, his humor and his lightheartedness.”

Zull is survived by his wife, Susan; a son and daughter, Ramsey Zull and Paige Bassett; stepdaughters Judith Weiss and Elizabeth Weiss; and three grandchildren. A memorial ceremony was held in Amasa Stone Chapel on Nov. 21.


Page last modified: November 9, 2020