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Insight Archives
Cover Story Kahn Institute: Ideas at Play, Research in the Making

At the interdisciplinary Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, risky exploration is encouraged. Here, Smith students, alongside faculty scientists and literary scholars, philosophers and artists, explore elusive notions and research questions as far ranging as how the idea of “making” infuses our sense of the world or what makes the concept of “perception” an essential form of human experience. More...

Bringing Back Paradise

Video: Bringing Back Paradise

The drawdown of Paradise Pond has begun. It’s the first step in a multi-week experiment to send unwanted, heavy sediment accumulations on their way downstream—restoring the pond to a healthy ecosystem.

Studying Mammalian Reproduction? Don't Overlook the Female Perspective

Studying Mammalian Reproduction? Don’t Overlook the Female Perspective

The spotted hyena's unique physiology and mating patterns compel us to take a closer look at what we think we know about reproduction.

Hello, Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Goodbye Batteries

Denise McKahn has her sights set on creating hydrogen fuel cells that perform more efficiently and are safer for the environment than lithium-ion batteries for powering small portable devices.

When the Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

The dark underbelly of perfectionism and its crippling side effects can take a significant toll on the human mind, says Smith psychology professor Patricia DiBartolo.

Spring 2016

Field Notes: A True Story as Told by Ancient Rocks

Geosciences professor John Brady has made a life’s work of deciphering the stories that rocks have to tell about the world, including the fascinating story of the landscape of the Connecticut River Valley.

Clearing the Air in China

Though it is currently grappling with a catastrophic air pollution crisis, China hopes to redefine its economy and become a dominant player in the world’s green energy future.

Zebrafish: The Rising Superstars of Research

By transforming research into novel discoveries, Smith professor Michael Barresi’s study of zebrafish could shed new light on human ailments ranging from brain cancers to autism-spectrum disorders.

Fall 2015

Back From the Brink

It’s a long way from a Smith classroom in Massachusetts to a prestigious seat on the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council in Dublin, but professor Róisín O’Sullivan’s career as a macroeconomist has taken her to both places.

Modern Myth Makers

During the mid-20th century, they shared drinks and quips in carpeted Oxford rooms while gathering to discuss their scholarly and literary ideas. Ceative appetites were nurtured and works flourished.

A Guide to Research at MacLeish Field Station

Some 240 acres of patchwork forest and field provide the setting for Smith College’s Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station in West Whately, Massachusetts, about 11 miles from the Smith campus.

Smith College and the Case of the Peddled Painting

The Smith College Museum of Art recently purchased a painting by Lockwood de Forest—one that was originally owned by the college but deemed unimportant and sold in the 1940s.

Fall 2014

On Books: “Ignite Your Imagination”

There seems to be no need to justify the importance of books in an academic environment that prizes critical thinking. But is that still the case, at a time when reading is increasingly limited to tweets and texts?

Capitalism, Calamity and the Cultural Underground

What happens to those left out or subordinated by such dominant systems as capitalism? How do they communicate while resisting the established order? They may go underground, says Kevin Rozario.

How Plato Speaks to Contemporary Bioethics

By delving deeply into five of Plato’s dialogues, Professor of Philosophy Susan Levin’s latest book offers scholars, bioethicists, medical historians and others in the medical field a fresh look at untapped ancient wisdom that could help us resolve some of our most pressing modern-day debates.

Wild Collecting

Whether searching out seeds or rare plant specimens from the high pine forests of northern Mexico or a single swamp in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Rob Nicholson has many stories to tell.

Fall 2014

An Early Role for Smith College: Collecting
Great American Art

In the late 1870s, why did Smith begin aggressively collecting the works of a group of talented American artists who were still emerging in the art scene?

Kate Soper’s Musical Quest

On the surface, composer Kate Soper’s opera Here Be Sirens seeks to unlock the mystery of the siren myth, but it also explores enduring, complicated questions—the kind that compel us to dive deeper.

Beery’s Research Highlights Bias in Animal Studies

Male bias in biomedical studies will soon be erased, thanks to a new policy that the U.S. government’s medical research agency—the National Institutes of Health—is rolling out beginning October 1.

The Enchantment of Imagining

Andrea Hairston’s new book of essays, a novel and play all capitalize on the idea that our stories give us the power to envision, plan and create how we want to live in the future.

Spring 2014

It’s a Small, Small Biodiverse World

What happens when you get a group of testate amoebae together, after they’ve been filmed in a Smith professor’s lab, and “interview” the microbial actors?

A Personal Quest to Save Sudan

Using the power of the written word, English professor and human rights activist Eric Reeves has taken on the challenge of directing the world’s gaze toward the atrocities in Sudan.

Taking Stock of Feminism’s Enduring Lessons

Professor of Sociology Nancy Whittier says that today’s women’s rights activists need not stray too far from the course Gloria Steinem and other feminist leaders charted some 50 years ago.

Horses as Models for the Human Gut?

How can a study of what goes on in a horse’s gastrointestinal tract help us learn more about combating parasitic diseases that affect millions of people worldwide?

Despite the Contradictions, Ballet Is at Its Best in Cuba

A Smith professor is examining Cuba as a case study in what he sees as the globalization of ballet.

Fall 2013

A Passion for Mathematics, Its Abstractions and Its Truths

Mathematician Ruth Haas works on mathematical models and in particular the study of counting, which is called combinatorics.

What Is Gratitude?

Is gratitude an impulse hardwired in human nature? Is it a virtue or is it a practice? How does gratitude affect everything from the brain and the spirit, to the economy and the culture at large?

The Low Status of Teachers: A Global Epidemic?

Despite the vital role teachers play, actual public perceptions of teaching are eroding, even in countries like Japan where the profession was once venerated.

What’s That in the Sky? Is It a Balloon? Is It a Drone?

Are drones the new way of the future for research scientists? Smith engineering professor Paul Voss would like to think so.

The Power of Community

“Psychosocial capacity building” is now being put to practice by disaster responders and healthcare professionals being trained under the guidance of Smith College professors.

In Ancient Rock Mounds, Deposits From Tiny Worms Captivate Scientists

How and why did unusual rock mounds form near ancient Lake Enriquillo in a remote area of southwestern Dominican Republic?

Spring 2013

The History and Harmony of Live Music

What happens in a live music setting that doesn’t happen elsewhere? What relationships exist between performers and audiences? Music professor Steve Waksman wants to know.

Tales of the Third Dimension: Bringing 19th-Century India Into Wondrous Focus

A new collection of unique 3-D images depicting India in the 1890s can help us understand how cultures are created.

Climate Change: New Questions, New Concerns

When President Barack Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent pledge of his Inaugural Address, many environmental advocates cheered.

Understanding the Plague’s Past, Present and Future

Because of its global impact, its macabre history and its frightening potential, the disease known as the plague has inspired scholarship since the 14th century.