Faculty publications

Posted on October 29, 2010 by Staff Writer

Rob Granger

Linus Books recently released two textbooks by professor of chemistry Rob Granger, entitled “Chemistry: A Decidedly Pre-Organic Approach” and “Chemistry: An Introduction to Advanced Topics.” The set is designed for an emerging curricular trend in college chemistry, which splits the general chemistry curriculum in two with organic chemistry sandwiched in between. The first volume prepares students for success in organic chemistry, while the second, taught after the organic sequence, acts as a foundation for advanced topics.

“We switched to teaching the one-two-one sequence in the fall of 2006,” Rob says, “but there wasn’t a book on the market that fit our style. I began by trying to modify an existing textbook, and eventually wrote my own. Students will be using the two-volume set this fall.”

At Sweet Briar, Rob not only enjoys teaching, but is dedicated to his research on improving cancer drugs. He’s working with a selective cancer fighting drug, enhancing its ability to preserve healthy cells as it attacks harmful ones. He’s also designing a catalyst that mimics photosynthesis; in essence, he’s working toward designing electrochemical cells that can recycle air, similarly to trees and plants.

Rob has been at Sweet Briar since 1999 and has been published most notably in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Inorganic Chemistry, the Journal of undergraduate Chemistry Research and the Virginia Journal of Science.

John Casteen

In Spring 2011, the University of Georgia Press will release “For the Mountain Laurel,” a collection of poems by visiting assistant professor John Casteen. Poems from the manuscript have appeared in the Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah and other literary magazines.

“My poems tend to start in the outside world and then to move inward,” John says. “I’m interested in the associative moves that link abstract thought, which is private, to the outside world, which is public: history, culture, religion, economics and art. I write less and less about family and work, more and more about recovery and perseverance. I
like people who are resilient and resourceful, and I want to write poems that emulate those qualities.”

Over the past several years, John has found a home at Sweet Briar, a place of natural beauty filled with a supportive group of people where he can teach and write. He says people’s openness has been a tremendous gift.

Of writing, John says, “What I enjoy most is the feeling of preparing to do justice to the creative impulse, and the occasional confidence that I’ve done it well. When I find out from other people that they find pleasure in the poems, that’s pretty much the best. Writers ought to please themselves first and foremost, but they can’t do it in a vacuum. The point is other people.”

Celeste Delgado-Librero

The first English translation of Jaume Roig’s “The Mirror” will be released this fall by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, featuring Sweet Briar’s Junior Year in Spain director, Celeste Delgado-Librero, as translator. “The Mirror,” a canonical work of Catalan literature, is a 15th-century narrative poem originally written in the Valencian dialect. The text is extremely challenging, even for native Catalan speakers. Its 16,247 pentasyllabic lines integrate many European and Eastern traditions and motifs including Mariology and the Bible, misogyny, the sermon, the dream and more.

“Transcribing and translating ‘The Mirror,’ and writing the introduction and notes was an exhilarating and exasperating undertaking,” Celeste says. “I learned a great deal about all kinds of topics: medicine, law, religion, history, science, agriculture, languages, even fishing! Not being a native speaker of either the original or the target language — my native tongue is Spanish — the translation process was quite challenging.”

But Celeste considers herself, as she puts it, an old-fashioned philologist, a lover and lifetime learner of all languages. She has been affiliated with Sweet Briar since 1990, first as an exchange student and now as a Spanish professor and director of JYS.

Stephen R. Wassell

Steve Wassell, professor of mathematical sciences, celebrates the release of “The Mathematical Works of Leon Battista Alberti,” which he edited with two other scholars, Kim Williams and Lionel March.

The book delves into four mathematical treatises of Leon Battista Alberti (1404 to 1472), whose prolific and more widely known contributions to architecture, art and literature earned him a place in history. Steve’s book provides new English translations of Alberti’s works, along with expert commentaries, making the content accessible for all levels of interest.

Steve’s previous book, published in 2006, “Andrea Palladio: Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese” surveyed one of Palladio’s most famous and influential architectural works and included 14 fold-out architectural drawings. The connections between art, architecture and mathematics have intrigued Steve since he began his professional career.

“The aim of my research into the relationships between architecture and mathematics is to explore the mathematics of beauty and to extol the beauty of mathematics,” Steve says.