Pair of USD faculty members receive prestigious awards
It may seem a long reach across the academic spectrum from modernist Eastern European architecture to organometallic chemical reactions, but Juliana Maxim and Timothy Clark, two young University of San Diego faculty members specializing in these disparate disciplines, share the distinction of having recently received prestigious awards for their scholarly work.
Maxim, an assistant professor in the Department of Art, Architecture + Art History, is one of three recipients of the 2012 Fellowship for Postdoctoral Research in East European Studies sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a group dedicated to advancing the humanities.
The $25,000 fellowship stipend will enable her to take a year-long sabbatical and complete her forthcoming book, The Socialist Life of Modern Architecture: Bucharest, 1947-1965. Maxim credits USD College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mary Boyd and Provost Julie Sullivan with supporting her hiatus from teaching to implement the fellowship.
Maxim’s book, an extension of her dissertation, explores the interplay between architectural expression and the communist political regime in post-war Bucharest, Romania.
“The aim is to show specific ways the city and its architecture were shaped by politics and how architecture shaped politics in return,” Maxim says, “and also to show that socialist aesthetics, long understood as anti-modernist, are in fact key to a new, expanded definition of modernism.”
Maxim herself grew up in Bucharest, living in one of the communist-era mass-housing buildings she now studies, before moving with her family to Canada at age 12. She studied art history at Quebec’s Laval University and completed her PhD in the history of art and architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006.
Her research topic crystallized soon after she realized the utilitarian concrete architecture that emerged in post-war Europe under socialist regimes — although not as eye-catching as the concurrent work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and other great 20th-century architects — deserved attention for other reasons.
“I think the whole artistic legacy of the socialist regimes in Europe during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s has been completely understudied,” says Maxim, who counts herself among a group of young scholars who have recently begun to reverse that deficiency.
“These gray housing buildings seem quite banal, but they’re really politically and socially rich with messages. They represent a very different world view in which domestic architecture was supposed to transform inhabitants into collectively minded participants in a utopian socialist society. I’m arguing that when talking about modernism, one should also make this part of the picture.”
Clark, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is the winner of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, designed to foster the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who effectively integrate research and education.
Clark received a five-year, $400,000 grant to fund the development of metal catalysts that can simplify the synthesis of organic compounds which could be useful in a number of medicinal applications including diabetes testing. His project, which began last July, also provides hands-on research experience for 15 USD undergraduates and two high school teachers, while also introducing high school students to careers in chemistry.
A 2001 USD graduate, Clark returned to Alcalá Park as a faculty member last year. He completed his PhD at the University of California, Irvine, in 2006. His research focuses on organometallic chemistry as applied to organic synthesis; in other words, using metals as catalysts in organic reactions that otherwise could not occur as easily, if at all.
Clark’s primary research goal is to develop catalysts capable of streamlining the development of new pharmaceutical products. But equally important, he hopes to provide extraordinary learning experiences for his undergraduate students.
“I enjoy seeing students really get it; I love seeing the light go on,” Clark says. “Participating in research gives them insights that are hard to translate in the classroom.”
Clark’s passion for providing undergraduate research opportunities also stems from his own experiences.
“I was a first-generation college student,” he says. “When I came to USD, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I had great instructors who involved me in their research and got me excited about science. I want to have the same influence on today’s students that my professors had on me. I want to give them a good sense of how science can contribute to society.”