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Collegiate Lectures

The LSA Collegiate Professorship is the college’s highest faculty honor. It is awarded to those who demonstrate a sustained record of excellence in research and scholarship, in teaching, in service, and in other contributions to the university. Collegiate Lectures commemorate this significant milestone in a professor’s career. Lectures are free and open to the public.


Professor Gregory Dowd, the Helen Hornbeck Tanner Collegiate Professorship in American Culture and History, Inaugural Lecture

“Fake News” at the Founding of America: How Deception and Ambiguity Shaped U.S. Independence, Denigrated Native Americans, and Serve as Weapons of War

April 13, 2021

Two iconic documents mark the achievement of formal independence for the United States: The Declaration of Independence (1776), in which the thirteen colonies manifested their determination to be free of Great Britain, and the Treaty of Paris (1783), in which the British Crown finally recognized that freedom. This paper approaches the Declaration and the treaty negotiations from the standpoint of both rumor and Native American history. The Declaration defames Native Americans. The Treaty claims vast Native lands for the United States without indigenous consent. Among the forces that produced these outcomes were deliberate anti-indigenous—and anti-British—deceptions, or hoaxes, or what we might call today “fake news.” Benjamin Franklin, signer of The Declaration and a leading treaty negotiator, understood the workings of rumor and the power of misinformation; he lied actively in his war-time efforts for the United States. This paper examines two hoaxes, one the invention of settlers in the Smoky Mountains, the other the invention of Franklin, suggesting that "fake news" helped shape the two documents. What’s more, this fake news, and its circulation, though aimed largely at the Crown, profoundly reveals the deep colonial and imperial contempt for indigeneity.

Note: The lecture quotes anti-indigenous slurs. It references a Pennsylvania militia attack on an indigenous community, arguably the greatest atrocity of the Revolutionary War.


Professor Vincent Hutchings, the Hanes Walton Jr. Collegiate Professorship in Political Science and Afroamerican and African Studies, Inaugural Lecture

“If They Only Knew”: Informing Blacks and Whites about the Racial Wealth Gap

March 31, 2021

Even after the historic demonstrations against racially biased policing in the summer of 2020, most White Americans continue to oppose racially liberal policies such as affirmative action. Social scientists dating back at least as far as Gunnar Myrdal have argued that support for egalitarian policies would increase substantially if Whites only knew about the plight of African Americans. Similarly, Black support for policies of racial redistribution is also less than monolithic. For example, some surveys find only tepid support among Blacks for affirmative action or efforts to “defund the police.” Would this support increase if White and Black Americans were informed about the enormous racial wealth gap? We examine this question with two survey experiments fielded online by CloudResearch. Study 1 (N=1,908) was fielded at the height of the George Floyd demonstrations in June of 2020. Subjects were randomly assigned either to a control condition, where they were merely provided a definition of the racial wealth gap, or to one of two treatment conditions that provided a defintion of the racial wealth gap. They were also provided with textual and visual information on the current size of the Black/White racial wealth gap based on information from the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. In general, we find that the treatment conditions do increase information levels on the perceived size of the racial wealth gap, but they do not increase support for racially redistributive policy proposals. In a second experiment, scheduled for February of 2021, we seek to replicate the results of the 2020 experiment and add two additional treatment conditions highlighting the fact that the median household headed by a Black college graduate has less wealth than the median household headed by a White high school dropout. This Study 2 experiment represents an even stronger test of the hypthesis that public support for racially redistributive policies would increase if Americans only knew the truth. We discuss the implications of our findings for the prospects of racial reconciliation in our conclusion.



Professor Steven Cundiff, the Harrison M. Randall Collegiate Professorship in Physics, Inaugural Lecture

Optical Frequency Combs

March 4, 2021

Just over 20 years ago, the demonstration of self-referenced optical frequency combs solved a long-standing problem of linking radio- and light-frequencies. This breakthrough allowed direct measurement of the frequency of light and enabled optical atomic clocks with exquisite precision. The development of dual-comb techniques led to a second wave of activity over the last ten years. Dual comb techniques enable rapid, high-resolution spectroscopy that can be used for applications such as atmospheric monitoring or breath analysis. I will explain what an optical frequency comb is, how they are generated and used, and present some of our recent work on them.


Professor Jeffrey Veidlinger, the Joseph Brodsky Collegiate Professor of History and Judaic Studies, Inaugural Lecture

Anti-Jewish Pogroms and the Origins of Multiculturalism

November 19, 2020

As the tsarist empire collapsed in 1917, liberal intellectuals and political leaders in the newly-independent states of Poland and Ukraine offered new models for integrating ethnic and religious minorities into the nation-state. But they were confronted instead with another brutal reality, as some one hundred thousand Jews were murdered in a wave of violence and pogroms, followed twenty years later by the Holocaust and the murder of millions more. Yet, these ideas of interethnic existence were revived decades later by immigrants from that region, who sought to build new multicultural societies on American shores. This talk asks what these violent origins of multiculturalism can offer us today.


Professor Bing Zhou, Donald A. Glaser Collegiate Professorship in Physics, Inaugural Lecture

Build The World’s Most Powerful Microscopes for Discoveries

November 17, 2020

Advances in physics research rely heavily on innovations of new technology and detector development. Invention of the bubble chamber by Donald A. Glaser, a Michigan faculty who won the 1960 Nobel Prize in physics, enabled discoveries of many new particles (resonances), which set the experimental foundation of building the quark model. Over the past five decades from bubble chamber to wire chamber, the particle detector size grew from a table-top box to a football field, such as the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). In modern particle experiments, thousands of physicists and engineers worldwide work together to build the most powerful microscopes to study particle physics at the most fundamental level to unlock the mysteries in nature. With an outstanding Michigan team, we designed, built, and operated the largest precision muon detector for the ATLAS experiment at the LHC over the past twenty years. This detector is crucial for the Higgs boson discovery in 2012, which was regarded as a scientific breakthrough in particle physics. The discovery opened a new window for research into the properties of the Higgs boson and the electroweak symmetry breaking mechanism, which has unique significance for the dynamics of the Standard Model of particle physics and stretches the horizons of even the most ambitious future-collider proposal. 



Professor Adam Matzger, Charles G. Overberger Collegiate Professorship in Chemistry, Inaugural Lecture

From Better Health to Improved Lethality: Controlling Crystallization of Pharmaceuticals and Explosives

November 12, 2020

Crystalline materials play a pivotal role in a broad range of technologies that are central to a modern society. Crystalline silicon enabled the computer revolution, for example, and studies of protein crystals have advanced our current understanding of human disease. I will discuss our work with the crystallization of small organic molecules with particular emphasis on how controlling crystallization can create better therapeutics and more powerful energetic materials. Much of the work hinges on the approach of manipulating multicomponent crystallization and several of the unique properties of crystallization relative to other synthetic techniques.

For a lecture recording please contact the Department of Chemistry at

Professor Webb Keane, George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professorship in Anthropology Inaugural Lecture

Can Ethical Critique Change Society? Lessons from Ethnography

October 29, 2020

We often say the purpose of the liberal arts is to foster critical thinking. This rather vague expression allows a wide diversity of scholarly disciplines and pedagogical styles to cohabit more or less peacefully. But what about the world beyond the academy? Drawing on anthropology’s “ethical turn,” this talk looks at how social interaction prompts people to reflect critically on their ethical intuitions and bring them into a public realm. It considers examples from American feminism, eighteenth century Mongolia, and Vietnam’s anti-colonial struggle to show the ethical underpinnings of political thought.


Collegiate Lectures:

Events: Collegiate Lectures

For questions, contact Julie Sparkman or 734.615.6667