Top 10 Scholarship Stories of 2020

Highlighting the wide-ranging impact of our faculty's work

December 18, 2020

It was a year like no other, and Colby’s faculty continued to produce a remarkable range of work spanning the effects of the pandemic to the intersection of art and artificial intelligence. We’ve put together a selection of stories from the year that showcases their groundbreaking scholarship.

Portraits of eight women

An Invisible Mental Trap

Using a simple but rarely employed method of data collection, Assistant Professor of Psychology Jin Goh is unearthing people’s perceptions of sexual harassment victims and the consequences of those mental images.

Data map of the world with colorful lines connecting countries

Big Questions

For students in Oak Professor of Biological Sciences Judy Stone’s advanced biology course, the evolution of COVID-19 prompted a scientific inquiry into the virus.

A cardinal perched on a tree branch

Dickinson in Pandemic Days

As we’ve stayed close to home during the pandemic, Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Sagaser reminds us of the lessons offered by the work of Emily Dickinson, whose poetry draws on close examination of the familiar that reveals simple and complex truths that are all around us, if we watch, read, and listen.

Juxtaposed images: a black and white photo of a medical worker during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and a photo of a modern medical worker during the COVID-19 outbreak

Minus the War

History repeating itself? From anti-mask sentiments to an infected U.S. president, GIbson Professor of History Raffael Scheck draws upon his research in European history and politics to discern striking similarities and telling differences between the 1918 Spanish flu and the COVID-19 pandemic.

An open sign in a storefront window

Road to Recovery

Herbert E. Wadsworth Professor of Economics Michael Donihue’s class employed models rarely used at the undergraduate level to forecast Maine’s economic outlook. Read more about their report and how they think Maine will fare coming out of the pandemic.

two people wearing face masks standing in front of an interactive art piece

Something Doesn’t Compute

Cacophonic Choir, which won Best in Show—Art Gallery at SIGGRAPH 2020, combines AI, marginalized voices, art, and undergraduate programming skills in an interactive art piece, imagined by Assistant Professor of Computer Science Hannen (Hannah) Wolfe.

Biblical art piece depicting crucification

Spinning the Passion Story

Professor of Art Véronique Plesch, Pulver Family Associate Professor of Jewish Studies David Freidenreich, and Anna Spencer ’16 merged their skills to discover that 13th-century Christians altered the Biblical Passion Story to their own ends in the Beam of the Passion, an 800-year-old painting that retells the story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion—with a twist.

Instructor Abby Pearson walking in the forest

The Past All Around Us

To be unaware of a landscape’s past “is like studying politics without any history.” Colby Environmental Studies Instructor Abby Pearson is uncovering clues on Mayflower Hill to solve centuries-old mysteries while teaching students to decipher the important themes they reveal.

Black and white photographs of African Americans

These Pictures Tell a Story

Tanya Sheehan, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art, has taught courses on race and representation throughout her career. Her latest work explores how Americans communicated ideas about race through photography and humor in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Jennifer Meredith in an aircraft flying above wetlands

Where the Rights Lead

With small-town communities in Alaska facing a number of immense economic threats and changes, Assistant Professor of Economics Jennifer Meredith is working to shed light on one of them: the salmon fishing permit system. Now, she’s working with Colby students to get her critical study to the communities that need it. “This is my research, but these are their lives.”