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Emerson Series Asks, “What Are YOU Working On?”

Associate professor Ruth Grossman demonstrates facial tracking technology at a FACE Lab open house in April 2014. Grossman will present some of her research on children with autsim at a Faculty Research Colloquium on March 2. File photo

The faculty down the hall from you is working on something really interesting. Too bad it’s so hard to learn what it is.

Or is it?

For the past four semesters, the School of Communication has been holding Faculty Research Colloquia for faculty to share their research with colleagues, students, and staff and form connections among faculty and departments within the school.

On Wednesday, March 2, 12:00–1:00 pm, in Room 208 in the Ansin Building, Ruth Grossman, associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, will present her research on adults’ perceptions of teens with autism in “What Are YOU Looking At?” The talk is open to the entire Emerson community and is first come, first seated.

Mary Eberhardinger, a lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies and a co-founder of the series, said she is planning two more talks for later in the semester, and is hoping to get a good turnout.

“It started very small, and now we’re excited more people are attending; we think more people should attend, because otherwise, you just don’t know the fascinating research that’s being done by the person next door,” she said.

Eberhardinger said she and Assistant Professor Vincent Raynauld started the series two years ago as a grassroots initiative within the Communication Studies Department, but since then, she and her co-organizer, Assistant Professor Roxana Maiorescu, have extended invitations to all departments within the School of Communication.

She said the talks look to “build a stronger research culture” at Emerson, which, unlike larger research institutions, doesn’t have many internal outlets for faculty and graduate students to present their work.

“I have no idea what these people are doing,” Eberhardinger said. “I have no idea what they’re working on. And then if they respond to my blanket email inviting them [to present]…they say, ‘Yes, I’d love to share what it is that I’m doing with the community.’”

Grossman is director of the Emerson FACE Lab, where she studies the perception and production of nonverbal expression in children with autism spectrum disorder. Her presentation on March 2 will include findings from one published study, “Judgments of Social Awkwardness from Brief Exposure to Children with High-Functioning Autism” (June 2014), and two other studies that have not yet been published.

The Colloquium series falls in line with a number of initiatives that the College is pursuing to open up communication across departments and schools.

“People are busy and you don’t necessarily have opportunities for meaningful interactions with people from other fields, so it’s nice to have a forum where you can talk about your work to a broader audience on campus…[and for] students to get exposure to all the exciting work going on,” Grossman said.

Eberhardinger said while it would be “ideal” to open up the series to the School of the Arts, faculty are stretched too thin to make that happen right now.

She said there are so many ways in which departments can cross-pollinate, if they just know who and what is out there to work with.

“Definitely one of the goals Dr. Raynauld and I were thinking about is that people could seek collaboration across departments after hearing a research talk and realizing potential, realizing opportunity, realizing common ground,” Eberhardinger said.

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