PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century
Roger L. Easton, Jr.
F21 Class of 1994 Statements Revisited
Question: What are the current challenges you are facing in your professional life?
Answer: At this point, 12 years after my original statement, my primary challenge still is the need to balance my activities properly, though now the choices and the selection criteria have changed. I still have to choose among activities devoted to students, including teaching, mentoring, advising, etc., and those for research, but I am more aware now of the need to consider my personal life in these decisions, which too often was ignored earlier in my career.
Question: What do you view as your most promising options and opportunities for the future?
Answer: My main research effort is a collaboration with colleagues at several other institutions to apply modern imaging technologies to help read historical manuscripts. Recently, this work has concentrated on the so-called Archimedes palimpsest, which includes the oldest known copies of seven treatises of Archimedes, of which two exist only in this manuscript. I also have been very fortunate to be invited to image the only remaining copy of an important philosophical manuscript in India that was written on palm leaves. I am hopeful that the successful results from these projects will lead to new opportunities to work on other important manuscripts.
Other than this effort, I am now thinking more seriously about my next career, since I am approaching a time when I will be able retire from academia. I would like to continue the manuscript imaging, but also would like to work in K-12 schools to help impress all students with the importance of understanding basic science and mathematics, whether or not they are planning to work in a scientific or technical field themselves.
Question: What will undergraduate STEM be like in 2016, given the urgency of new challenges and opportunities facing our nation?
Answer: I am also becoming increasingly concerned about the preparation of students in science, mathematics, and communications (writing) when they arrive at college. This challenge must be addressed aggressively if the United States is to remain in, or even near, the lead in scientific and technical progress.
We somehow have to change the attitude that the work is too hard and that the benefits are too distant to be attractive. I believe that this change can be made most effectively by personal interactions between K-12 (or perhaps, more realistically, 6-12) students with people either in STEM careers or those who appreciate the value of STEM to the country. In my younger post-Sputnik days, most of the parents of my friends worked in the general area of science and technology, and most other parents recognized its importance. It seemingly was easier then to convince students of the benefits of the work. Today's students seem to be harder sells about the benefits and also seem to be less interested in the preparatory work required to succeed in these fields.