University will confer honorary degrees on three scholars

    University will confer honorary degrees on three scholars

    The University will confer honorary degrees on three distinguished scholars—Carlos Bustamante, Roy D’Andrade and Lila Gleitman—in recognition of their significant contributions to their fields of study through research and scholarship. The honorary degrees will be presented to the scholars at Session II of the University’s Friday, June 10 Convocation ceremony.

    Carlos Bustamante, who will receive a Doctor of Science honorary degree, is the Luis Alvarez professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Nominated by the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, Bustamante is a pioneer in single molecule studies of nucleic acids and proteins. He is the author of nearly 200 scientific papers, most of which have been published in the journals Science and Nature.

    In the early 1980s, he began collaborating with I. Tinoco to probe the structure and organization of macromolecules and supramolecular particles using sophisticated optical techniques.

    During his tenure on the faculty of the University of New Mexico, he broadened and deepened this approach, with increasing focus on probing the physical properties of DNA. During the 1990s, while at the University of Oregon, Bustamante became an innovator in the emerging area of single molecule biophysics—the quantitative analysis of the mechano-chemical properties of macromolecules, such as DNA, taken one at a time.

    He later extended this approach to systems as diverse as the action of DNA-binding enzymes, such as polymerases and topoisomerases; the forces underlying the folding of RNA molecules; the energy-driven and conformational movements of cytoskeletal motor proteins; and the elasticity of cytoskeletal elements. In the process, Bustamante made fundamental contributions to both the instrumentation and the statistical mechanical tools underlying such analyses.

    Bustamante is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Roy D’Andrade, a professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He is a psychological anthropologist, culture theorist and interdisciplinary social cognitive scientist. Nominated by the Department of Comparative Human Development, D’Andrade pioneered the schema theory of culture. As the field of cognitive psychology developed during the 1970s, D’Andrade and other scientists began to recognize that human cognition is more complex than had been assumed, and that human cognition involves structures, which they called “schemas.”

    Schemas are highly complex representations of regularities that operate below the threshold of conscious awareness. The important scientific point about schemas is that they are schematic: they do not specify all the features of an object, they do not have simple rejection criteria and they are not sufficient to explain cognitive processing.

    D’Andrade and others who have worked with him have produced some of the best-known research on schemas as culture. The resulting work has established that cultural knowledge is not transmitted from one generation to another, whole and simple, but instead consists of unspecified and implicit schemas that are learned slowly, in the context of social engagement and limited by ordinary psychological constraints. This work contributes equally to both anthropology and psychology.

    D’Andrade continues to develop this work and to publish actively. He is currently working out a model of the psyche in which he will attempt to specify the particular ways that social context enters the cognitive process.

    In a new book, he will publish one of the first major analyses completed in 50 years on the problems with values. He is developing both a quantitative means to identify cultural values and a theoretical structure that explains some of today’s central puzzles of cultural psychology and psychological anthropology.

    Lila Gleitman, the Steven and Marcia Roth professor in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and a preeminent leader in the fields of psychology and linguistics, will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

    Her research has helped to define current investigations into language learning, and she has taught and mentored many students who now occupy positions in leading American colleges and universities.

    Two themes run through Gleitman’s research. She has a deep appreciation for the fact that the language-learning process is not unconstrained, and much of her work is designed to discover the boundaries of the process. Gleitman’s research has been characterized by empirical studies of the language-learning process itself. While not denying that children may come to the language-learning situation predisposed to learn a system compatible with human language, she bases her claims on careful and thorough empirical investigations into how the inherent endowments children bring to the language-learning situation interact with the input they receive.

    Another theme characterizing her research is the exploration of the mechanisms that drive the process of language learning. In her work, she looks for the biases children bring to the learning situation and the processes through which children extract units and meanings from the input they receive. The notion that children can “bootstrap” their way into the linguistic system they must learn, either on the basis of the sound patterns or syntactic patterns they hear, is a notion Gleitman has pursued in her writings for over a decade. The idea provides the child with a way of entering the linguistic system without assuming the child already knows that system.

    The Department of Psychology nominated Gleitman for the honorary degree and the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Comparative Human Development supported the nomination.

    Gleitman has served as president of the Linguistic Society of America and is a fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists and the National Academy of Sciences. She co-founded the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. It is devoted to pursuing an interdisciplinary approach to language and cognition.