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Art Professor Jennifer Parker's project What Makes Us Human: An Art + Genomics Convergence featured in Inquiry@UC Santa Cruz Research Magazine, Issue 7 2021-22

Adaptable academics

Amid pandemic upheaval, flexibility finds opportunity

In March 2020, just after the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly turned the world upside down, Music Department lecturer Brian Baumbusch spent a sleepless night alternating between attending to his baby and anxiously pondering how he would manage during lockdown as a musician, composer, and leader of UCSC’s two Balinese gamelan ensembles (beginner and advanced). By the morning, he had devised a plan that would allow him to pursue his passion for composing polytempo music while supporting the Wind Ensemble at the same time.

Meanwhile, Ari Friedlaender, an associate researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences and associate adjunct professor of ocean sciences and ecology and evolutionary biology, his research in Antarctica canceled, sat trapped on a cruise ship, desperate to get home to his pregnant wife. When he finally made it back to California, he was struck by the absence of boat traffic on the Monterey Bay. How might this newly quiet environment, he wondered, be affecting the humpback whales?

About the same time, Jennifer Parker, professor of digital arts and new media, was scrapping her plans to bring visiting artists to campus to brainstorm potential collaborations with faculty at the Genomics Institute. With everyone stuck at home, she started thinking, “How can we be alone together?” Drawing on her longstanding interests in new media and facilitating community, she decided to create a whole new world.

These faculty and others not only found resourceful ways to continue their scholarship, in many cases they created work and conducted research that the pandemic compelled and made possible. “People have learned a lot about their ability to be resilient,” said John MacMillan, then associate, now interim vice chancellor for research and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Mon, Oct 25, 2021