Contact: Ellen Sterner 214-768-7650

February 26, 2004


DALLAS (SMU) — Five SMU faculty members, representing outstanding scholarship in diverse fields, are the recipients of the 2004 Gerald J. Ford Research Fellowships. The new Ford Research Fellows are Michael A. Adler, anthropology; Thomas M. Chen, electrical engineering; Peter Beasecker, art; Zhangxin John Chen, mathematics; and Sherry L. Smith, history.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from Gerald Ford, chair of SMU’s Board of Trustees, the Ford Research Fellowships are available to current SMU faculty members on a competitive basis. The purpose of the fellowships is to help the university retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives $15,000 in research support for the year.

“We are grateful to Mr. Ford for his generosity and foresight in providing funding for the Ford Fellowships. For SMU to continue to grow in quality and reputation, it is essential that we support faculty research that will advance knowledge in many fields, as well as contribute to society, ” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Along with other funding programs that reward outstanding teaching, the Ford Fellowships support SMU’s progress as a distinguished university in both teaching and research.”

Michael Adler, Anthropology
Research directed by Michael Adler, associate professor of anthropology in Dedman College, focuses on the essential role that cultural landscape plays in the ongoing negotiation of cultural identities in the Southwest. Adler’s goal is to pursue nontraditional research avenues to better understand how archaeologists and Native Americans struggle with the concept of cultural affiliation. Studies documenting links between contemporary groups and past cultural remains are the most important challenge in Adler’s research, because ancestry and cultural links to the past frame many current social and political issues. Repatriation of cultural properties, land and water claims, and traditional use rights of native groups all hinge on the determination of cultural affiliation between living groups and ancestral remains.

Thomas Chen, Electrical Engineering
The work of Thomas Chen, associate professor of electrical engineering at the School of Engineering, involves the emerging field of computer epidemiology. He aims to bridge the fields of biological epidemiology and computer virology to catalyze a new field of computer epidemiology. The main obstacle to bridging biological epidemiology and computer virology is the lack of common ground between the two fields. To overcome this barrier, Chen has pursued a promising multidisciplinary collaboration between medical researchers and computer networking researchers. With the results of the collaboration, Chen hopes to work on this new field of computer epidemiology and catalyze research to improve the security of the Internet and networked computers.

Peter Beasecker, Art
Peter Beasecker, associate professor of art in Meadows School of the Arts, has been recognized nationally as a utilitarian potter. Beasecker’s work involves the dynamics of a utilitarian object juxtaposed with a personal expression of beauty. This has motivated him to create porcelain vessels, intimate in scale, reflecting an elegant sensibility. He began to question the viewer’s physical engagement with a functional piece and realized that this could be challenged to a greater degree in a more sculptural context. Now, his interest is in pursuing an object demanding more interaction with the viewer, while projecting a clearer sculptural identity. With the Ford Fellowship, he can attain the help of lab and studio assistants, a computer controlled test kiln and other materials to begin to successfully transition his work and career into this competitive and challenging arena.

John Chen, Mathematics
Research interests of Zhangxin John Chen, professor of mathematics in Dedman College, include numerical methods, scientific computing, mathematical modeling and numerical reservoir simulation. The numerical simulation of petroleum reservoirs is one of the most important approaches in oil field exploration, development and management. His publications include four books and more than 120 journal articles. In 2000, Chen spearheaded the establishment of the Center for Scientific Computation in the Department of Mathematics, and he has guided its research activities as its director. He is currently writing two textbooks for graduate students, which will serve as references for scientists and engineers as well. “Finite Element Methods and Their Applications” is a sole author book, and “Finite Element Simulation of Multiphase Flows in Porus Media” is co-authored with his research collaborators. Chen hopes that the financial resources made available by the Ford Fellowship will help him complete these books in 2004.

Sherry Smith, History
Sherry L. Smith, professor of history in Dedman College, specializes in the West and Native Americans and has authored four books and 17 other publications. Smith is working on two other book projects and a book on the relationship between C.E.S. Wood and Sara Bard Field, two early 20th-century West Coast-based radicals and bohemians. Their story emerges out of letters they wrote to each other about their love affair and their philosophies relating to free love, radical politics, art and life itself. Through this study, she plans to provide insight into a West Coast version of American Modernism in the early 20th century.

“The Ford Fellowship provides recipients with the necessary funding to pursue their research, as well as position SMU as a research institution,” says Narayan Bhat, dean of Research and Graduate Studies.