The mission of the Center for Collaborative Knowledge (CCK) is to support LSU’s central function as a place where ideas, expertise, and wisdom arise through conversations across colleges and between generations. As an incubator of innovative and engaged scholarship, the CCK fosters the development of undergraduate and graduate courses, workshops, reading groups, conferences, exhibitions, and other creative activities that span disciplinary divides and promote deeper thinking. The intended outcome of these pursuits is to inspire students and teachers to become leaders in the cultivation of knowledge and the implementation of solutions to complex problems.
Stay tuned for more information about how the CCK is working to enhance intellectual collaboration throughout LSU. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our mailing list!
Director (July 2021-Present)
Check out Dr. Chakrabarty, On Par With the President!
Prosanta Chakrabarty, Professor/Curator of Fishes, LSU Museum of Natural Science, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Science
Prosanta's research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"I am a professor of ichthyology and a curator of fishes. My research is focused on the study of how fish are related to each other and how these relationships further explain our own evolutionary history. Until the CCK, I didn’t have a ton of experience working across disciplines, other than using artists for biological illustrations. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I collaborated with an artist (Brandon Ballengee) who made “wanted” posters for different missing species. I very much enjoyed his artistic take on the science of the oil spill, and this experience opened my eyes to the importance of connecting the humanities and sciences. The CCK has further broadened my perspectives by helping me to understand how scholars understand other disciplines – like how a religious studies professor explains evolution or a humanities professor thinks about Darwin."
As CCK Director:
"I am most looking forward to being with people in person. I want the CCK to be a physical place where people of different backgrounds can meet and talk about different ideas. As faculty, we are all people genuinely interested in understanding the world, and we communicate across disciplines far too rarely. The National Academies workshop in September (‘Thinking Like a University’ https://www.lsu.edu/cck/events.php) will be a great opportunity to showcase our respective research projects and have conversations with people with many different experiences and worldviews."
If Prosanta could choose a celebrity voice for his pet he indicates, "I would want my French bulldog to have the voice of the blues singer Bessie Smith (who she, Bessie, is sort of named after)."
Inessa Bazayev, Manship Professor of Music Theory, College of Music & Dramatic Arts
Inessa's research interests and experience working across disciplines.
"I am a music theorist specializing in Russian and Soviet music. I have always been very interested in interdisciplinary research because much of the music I study was written under immense political pressure and suppression. In discussing one of Shostakovich’s symphonies, for example, it is impossible not to consider the political climate of the time, as they were often written as reactions to the times, sometimes as protest pieces. I find it fascinating to study a particular piece from an interdisciplinary perspective, as doing so provides unique insight into both the music and the history of the work. I have taught interdisciplinary courses at the Honors College such as Music and Politics and Art and Music in the 20th Century, which I have found enchanting. Teaching such courses has exposed me to students with many different academic backgrounds, each of whom enhanced our discussion by contributing something new and exciting from their own disciplines."
On the value of the CCK mission:
"I think that the heart of the mission of the CCK is the generation of knowledge among all academic disciplines, which is vital to ensuring the type of holistic education I would wish for any student to receive. Students should go to college to become well-rounded human beings; they should know the life and work of Aristotle, de Beauvoir, du Bois, Shakespeare, and Shostakovich. The CCK will allow for a necessary exchange of ideas among scholars of different fields, which will help us all to gain a better understanding of our own disciplines in the process."
If Inessa could only listen to one piece of music for the rest of her life, it would be, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F minor. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEEtwq-04Is&ab_channel=MrPalika123)
Craig E. Colten, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography & Anthropology
Jonathan Earle, Dean, LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College, Professor, Department of History, College of Humanities & Social Sciences
Jonathan's research interests and experience working across disciplines.
"I am an Antebellum US Historian, which means I study the United States before the Civil War. Specifically, I am a political historian of the sectional crisis that led to all sorts of problems in the 1850s and 1860s, and I am particularly interested in why the United States couldn’t remain united when confronted with the expansion of slavery. In my academic career, I have always been interested in engaging with scholars across disciplines, including political theorists, African American studies scholars, and LGBTQ scholars. Hearing their different approaches to the same problems I study as a historian always enhances my own research and has exposed me to entirely new methodologies and ways of looking at the world."
On the value of the CCK mission:
"Modern universities are designed to put students into narrow shoots right from the beginning, and I fear that we have lost sight of what makes a university a university and what makes knowledge acquisition and research fun. I certainly don’t think that scholars or students desire or intend to not know anything about other disciplines, and the CCK seeks to break down the artificial barriers between disciplines and allow for more cross-disciplinary conversation and collaboration."
If Jonathan could interview any historical figure, it would be Abraham Lincoln as a presidential candidate. "I am currently working on a book on the Election of 1860, and I am very interested in the idea of historical contingency: had Lincoln not won this election, the Civil War would have obviously played out quite differently. I would ask candidate Lincoln how he planned to score the Republican nomination and ultimately win the election as a relative unknown. When historians present the past as “it had to happen this way” they’re doing a great disservice!"
Emily Elliott, Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Humanities & Social Sciences
Emily's research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"I am a cognitive psychologist by training, and my research is focused on the development of memory and its close relationship with attention. I study individual differences in adults and how individual patterns of skills or experiences might make someone’s cognitive performance different than someone else’s. One example of an individual difference I study is musical expertise, as there is a very clear interplay between music and memory. Working across disciplines with trained musicians who spend hours memorizing content has broadened my thinking tremendously and allowed for a much deeper understanding of memory."
On the value of the CCK mission:
"As researchers, we obviously tend to get very specialized. This is great in that we gain expertise in our respective domains, but it can be negative if we lack the ability to approach problems from different angles. One of the most wonderful things about the CCK is that it connects us researchers with other highly specialized, highly intelligent people with whom we might not normally interact. It is a beautiful thing to sit around with other people who are just intrinsically curious and want answers, and the CCK brings these people together."
If everything in Emily's house had to be one color, "A deep, beautiful, inspiring purple. That would bring me joy!"
Deborah Goldgaber, Associate Professor and Section Head, Philosophy, College of Humanities & Social Sciences and Director, LSU Ethics Insitute
Dr. Goldgaber received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Northwestern University in 2014, following an M.A. in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research (NYC). She also holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Vanderbilt University.
Dr. Goldgaber's teaching focuses on contemporary Continental philosophy, feminist philosophy and critical theory. She also has teaching interests in ethics and social cognition, particularly in areas of cognitive bias and the epistemology of ignorance. She is the Director of the LSU Ethics Institute.
Her current research divides into three streams: 1) the significance of Derridean deconstruction (particularly grammatology) for issues in continental metaphysics and materialisms; 2) the various ways that feminist philosophy motivates us to rethink the distinction between nature/culture; and 3) the role of ascetiscism in critical theory.
Vincent J. LiCata, Louis S. Flowers Professor, Biological Sciences, College of Science
Our laboratory studies proteins: most particularly protein-DNA and protein-ligand interactions, protein folding and stability, and protein structure and conformation in solution.
Our work is primarily focused on the Type I DNA polymerases from Thermus aquaticus (Taq/Klentaq) and E. coli (Pol I/Klenow). The DNA polymerases from E. coli and T. aquaticus are a homologous mesophilic-thermophilic pair of proteins. Their molecular structures and basic catalytic functions are highly homologous, yet the Taq enzyme works near the boiling point of water, while the E. coli enzyme is irreversibly destroyed by exposure to 50oC. We directly and comparatively examine the DNA binding, protein folding, and global structural characteristics of these two species of DNA polymerases with the goal of delineating the exact differences and similarities between the two proteins in order to understand what features are necessary to achieve high temperature stability and activity for a DNA polymerase. These studies include characterizations of DNA binding using fluorescence anisotropy and titration calorimetry, characterizations of stability using thermal and chemical denaturation methods, and characterization of structural and conformational changes using small angle X-ray scattering, and analytical ultracentrifugation.
We also examine similar questions in other protein systems, including HIV reverse transcriptase, Deinococcus radiodurans Pol I polymerase, Rec A, the mammalian adipocyte lipid binding protein (ALBP), and aspartate transcarbamylase
Suzanne Marchand, LSU Systems Boyd Professor of History, College of Humanities & Social Sciences
Suzanne's research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"Most of the work that I have done up until recently is on the history of the humanities, arts, and sciences in Germany and Austria in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. My studies have taken me across many different disciplines, including archaeology, anthropology, philology, art history, and history of the natural sciences. More recently, I started a project on the history of the porcelain industry in central Europe, which brought me into contact with historians of business and material culture. I have met many interesting people, including fellow CCK board members, who have given me great insight into how their disciplines work and how their research techniques differ from mine. This has given me a deeper appreciation for what the human spirit is capable of…we really are remarkable beings who can do extraordinary things!"
On the value of the CCK mission:
"I believe that a university should function as a symphonic assemblage of scholars rather than a collection of people who live in their own rabbit holes. The CCK was created to foster conversations across disciplines and create community among scholars, which will encourage an environment where knowledge and ideas can be exchanged and appreciated. We can, and should, make great ‘music’ together."
If Suzanne was a car she "would want to be a school bus full of kids doing wacky stuff! Throwing things out the window, pushing each other around, bouncing on the seats, singing --a nerd in the back reading a book. It just seems like it would fit my personality…all kinds of weird stuff going on."
Michael Pasquier, Jaak Seynaeve Professor of Christian Studies, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies; Director of Master of Arts in Liberal Arts Program, College of Humanities & Social Sciences
Michael's research interests and experience working across disciplines.
"My research takes two parallel paths. One is the history of religion in the United States from the colonial period to the present, and within that larger category, the history of Catholicism in the United States. The other is the environmental and cultural history of coastal Louisiana, looking at the cultural impacts of environmental changes to the Gulf Coast and the Lower Mississippi River Valley."
On the value of the CCK mission:
"The mission of the university is to cultivate and disseminate knowledge – to ourselves, to our students, to the LSU community, and to the public at large. The CCK recognizes that we cannot do this alone. We must work together, not on specific research problems, but in finding ways to enable or empower each other to do the work we’re already good at. If we want to think about big, complex questions, either historical or current, we must rely on each other across disciplines to provide perspective and expertise. The fun part is putting these perspectives together into a cohesive understanding."
Is a hot dog a sandwich? Michael says, "Absolutely not. We can talk about the Earl of Sandwich and go back to the historical record. We can read the dictionary definition that a sandwich is two pieces of bread with meat in the middle. Fine. But I want to look into the eyes of these arbiters of definitions. And I want to ask them, “What does your gut say?” And if their gut says that a wiener in a hinged piece of bread belongs in the same category as a roast beef sandwich…number one, they’re wrong, and number two, we’re never going to be friends."
John A. Pojman, Professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Science
John's research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"I work in polymer chemistry, and I am particularly interested in cure-on demand polymerization. In my research lab at LSU, I am currently developing material for the Navy – a coating that hardens very quickly but doesn’t require any mixing of components or involve any evaporation. I also have my own company, Pojman Polymer Products (I am the 3P CEO!), for the purpose of developing and distributing cure-on demand art and wood repair materials. I now offer a course called The Materials of Art, in which we study art from a scientific lens by discussing the advantages and limitations of different art materials. I have even hired some Art and Design students to work in my lab and help me to develop new art materials."
On the value of the CCK mission:
"I hope that we can get more faculty aware and involved. Interdisciplinary research can be a challenge for faculty because we are so narrowly focused (and busy), but the CCK has introduced me to plenty of faculty members across disciplines. Meeting professors and students from other disciplines has been both exciting and rewarding, and I now teach classes with professors from the College of Art and Design. I think that students are naturally inclined to want to work across disciplines, and I hope that the CCK can provide more opportunities for them to do so."
The most interesting things John has eaten would be, "either a beaver tail or a three-toed amphiuma."
Darius A. Spieth, Professor of Art History, School of Art, College of Art & Design
Darius' research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"I have a PhD in Art History and an MBA in Finance, so I am interested in studying the economies of art through a historical perspective. Much of my research is focused on art markets and auctions. I am currently writing a book on the intellectual history of art markets from classical antiquity, through the Renaissance, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries into the present day. I also study technological changes in the creation and reproduction of art and historical attempts to evaluate art in numerical terms. The overlap of the arts and the sciences is certainly an overriding theme in my research."
On the value of the CCK mission:
"I think that interdisciplinarity is very natural for any intellectually curious or creative person. I would like for the CCK to become a gateway for students to discover the many ways the arts, sciences, and humanities overlap, draw them into the world of interdisciplinary research, and even open their minds to career possibilities."
If Darius could interview a historical figure, it would be "Ludovico Manin, the last Doge of Venice. Upon receiving an ultimatum from Napoleon Bonaparte, Manin chose to surrender to the French troops, abdicate, and spare Venice, suggesting his preference of beauty over his own power and self-interest."
James R. Stoner, Jr., Hermann Moyse, Jr. Professor of Political Science and Director, The Eric Voegelin Institute for American Renaissance Studies, College of Humanities & Social Sciences
Jim's research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"I have always studied political theory and American constitutionalism, and I am currently focusing on the origin of the legislative power. I am also in the early stages of a larger project on the comprehensiveness of Aristotle’s thought and the extent to which it is still operative in the contemporary world. This topic is certainly very interdisciplinary, as Aristotle laid the foundation for almost every academic discipline nearly 2400 years ago. Actually, a seminar I’ve organized bringing faculty and graduate students from across campus to read Aristotle together is one of the first projects sponsored by the CCK. The first year we read excerpts from seven different works of Aristotle; last year we read Aristotle’s De Anima (On the Soul) and Darwin’s Origin of Species; this coming year we’ll read Darwin’s Descent of Man and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics."
On the value of cross-disciplinary research:
"Aristotle was the first to separate the disciplines, or at least to have the insight that we can learn more about a particular thing when we study it in isolation from other things. Unlike Plato, who wrote dialogues that move somewhat seamlessly from topic to topic, Aristotle treats the sciences as separable. For example, he separates the study of political science into two distinct parts – ethics, which focuses on the characteristic actions of a single human being, and politics, which focuses on human beings living together in an organized unit of some sort. By doing so, Aristotle demonstrates how we cannot fully understand one discipline without the other."
If Jim could only listen to one piece of music for the rest of his life, he says, "this might be cheating because it is over an hour long…but Bach’s Mass in B Minor."
Eugene Turner, LSU Systems Boyd Professor, Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, College of the Coast & Environment
Eugene's research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"I am interested in wetlands, particularly coastal wetlands. Presently, I am working with three tribes on the Gulf Coast to help restore the health of the wetlands. These tribes depend directly on the wetlands for harvesting fish and shrimp, so, of course, my research has led me across disciplines. Almost all environmental issues have human dimensions. Humans use, abuse, nurture, and neglect the planet, but Mother Nature bats last. You might say humans are between heaven and earth, touching both the aspirations above and the ground below. Our value choices can be done with humility, hubris, arrogance, or openness, and these choices affect everyone else, whether we recognize this or not. The humanities teach and illuminate such nuances of human nature."
On the value of the CCK mission:
"Thousands of people are involved in this university. The CCK is trying to bridge the gap between the individual and the group and encourage appreciation for all disciplines, starting from the bottom up. I’m glad to support the bottom-up approach; that’s the way organizations develop themselves, whether people like it or not."
Eugene's obscure talent is Kyūdō – Japanese archery.
Clint Willson, Mike N. Dooley, P.E. Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Director of River Studies Center, College of Engineering
Clint's research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"I teach Civil and Environmental Engineering, and my research is primarily focused on the Mississippi River. My aim is to understand how we can optimize the river for its sediment for coastal restoration purposes. I also study river flooding, and I pay special attention to socioeconomic consequences of floods, including health and well-being. As the director of the Center for River Studies, one of my main objectives is to educate others on the importance of the coast from a scientific, economic, and social perspective. This has led me to work with wetland scientists and coastal ecologists, landscape architects, and sociologists. I have found that having the ability to effectively communicate – whether with another scholar across disciplines, a congresswoman from North Louisiana, an oyster fisherman, or a student – is imperative."
On the mission of the CCK:
"I would like to encourage more faculty to think a bit broader about their research – to pick their heads up from their own research and look around, occasionally. Additionally, we should provide more opportunities for students (and ourselves!) to widen their understanding of the world’s issues by exploring other disciplines."
If Clint had the opportunity to interveiw a historical figure, it would be "James Buchanan Eads, a self-made engineer who figured out and self-financed a way to keep the mouth of the Mississippi River open for trade in the mid-1800s."
Michelle Zerba, Maggie B. Martin Professor of Rhetoric and Classical Studies, College of Humanities & Social Sciences
Michelle's research interests and experience working across disciplines:
"Most of my teaching and research interests come from a deep, abiding love for and lifelong engagement with Ancient Greece. I am interested in why we continue to reinvent Ancient Greece and how it continues to illuminate our contemporary lives. A book I published a short time ago was called Doubt and Skepticism in Antiquity and the Renaissance, in which I engage a basic question with which we all grapple: how we deal with doubt. Writing this book took me across plenty of disciplines, from psychology to 20th existential philosophy to Renaissance political theory. I am currently working on a book about the relation of ancient mystery cults and modern neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Thinking across disciplines comes quite naturally to me; in fact, I am not sure I would be able to attach myself to one field if I tried. Literature only comes alive for me if I am also thinking about science, and I am far more interested in art if I can think about from psychological perspective."
On the mission of the CCK:
"One of the most difficult parts of establishing a new center is ensuring that it has a common thread that can be pulled through year after year so that a coherent mission is present. Currently, I think we should aim to develop a narrative about why collaborative practice is so vital today, not only on LSU’s campus, but on university campuses around the country. I am excited about the upcoming visit of the National Academy of Sciences, which will be an enormous boost in the direction of bringing the various sciences, humanities, and arts together. I think that it is important that we continue to sponsor events that reach a large population and pull in a wide variety of people from across campus. The CCK is all about finding new and exciting ways of discovering knowledge and putting it to work, and I am very optimistic that we will be able to do more of that this year."
If Michelle could interview one historical figure, it would be "Sappho. She’s one of the most gifted and beautiful poets who has ever written, but we really have no idea who she was and what kind of life she lived. The interview would take place on the shores of the Mediterranean, by the way."
2023 CCK Fellow, David Walters, School of Music Graduate Student: https://www.dwaltersmusic.com/about.html
1. CCK Fellows can be nominated by a member of the CCK Advisory Board. Nominees must be a graduate student or postdoc working on interdisciplinary research.
2. Nominations should include the CV of the candidate and a letter of nomination.
3. Nominations will be approved with majority support from the CCK Advisory Board.
4. The CCK Grants Committee will review the nomination and approve a $1,000 spending allowance for the CCK Fellow.
5. The nominator will notify the awardee and stipulate the following: CCK Fellows will be granted access to $1,000 for use in their ongoing creative and scholarly work during their tenure at LSU. Funds will not be paid to the Fellow. The Fellow is also expected to participate, perform, or present in at least one CCK sponsored/co-sponsored or related event within two years of being awarded the $1,000. These activities should be planned in consultation with the CCK Advisory Board.
Former CCK Directors
(2018-2021) - Michael Pasquier, Jaak Seynaeve Professor of Christian Studies, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies; Director of Master of Arts in Liberal Arts Program, College of Humanities and Social Sciences