New Thinking About an Old World
Our relationship with nature has long been a complicated one. We are biological organisms wholly dependent upon the Earth to sustain us. Yet we are also a species that, through centuries of industrial development and resource consumption, may have placed in jeopardy our planet’s ability to support those who will succeed us.
The work of Alexis Callender, the faculty artist featured on Illumination’s cover, speaks to this complex reality in a way that evokes both an elegiac appreciation of our preindustrial past and a sophisticated appraisal of humanity’s need to better understand, embrace and improve the fragile ecosystems we have so altered. This latter sentiment is one that is already familiar to
research scientists and scholars here at the University of Missouri, faculty who are working every day to use the power of discovery and innovation to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
In this issue of Illumination, for example, you will learn how agroforestry experts Ranjith Udawatta and Shibu Jose are helping Midwestern farmers, the world’s most successful producers of food crops, develop strategies for maintaining harvests while reducing the environmental effects of fertilizer runoff. In a related story, you’ll encounter a renowned MU biochemist, Gary Stacey, who is complementing their efforts by exploring ways to render the use of such fertilizers unnecessary in the first place. You will also meet Susan Nagel, a scientist with the MU School of Medicine, who has uncovered potential health risks related to one of the nation’s most important new forms of fossil fuel extraction; Gavin King, a physicist who is using an innovative technological tool to peer into cells’behavior at the atomic level; and Johanna Kramer, a medievalist scholar whose work with Anglo Saxon texts is helping to illuminate an aspect of humanity’s deepest religious yearnings.
Since becoming MU’s senior vice chancellor for research and graduate studies earlier this year, I have already had the pleasure of meeting dozens of similarly impressive faculty and students. After reading this issue of Illumination, I think you’ll agree with my conclusion that, despite the very real difficulties facing our world, their search for solutions offers great hope for a brighter, more prosperous future.
Hank C. Foley,
Senior Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies