UMass Amherst Announces Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series for 2001-02

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts has announced its 2001-02 Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series. All lectures are at 4 p.m. in Memorial Hall, and are free and open to the public.

The participants in this year''s series and the dates of their lectures are:

* William E.Bemis, professor of biology, Tues. Oct. 16;

* Madeleine Helena Blais, professor of journalism, Tues. Nov. 27;

* Donald F.Towsley, professor of computer science, Wed. March 27;

* N.J. Demerath, professor of sociology, Wed. April 17.

A reception follows each talk. All faculty members in the series receive a Chancellor''s Medal following their lectures. The Chancellor''s Medal is the highest honor bestowed on individuals for exemplary and extraordinary service to the University.

Faculty Profiles

William E. Bemis is a renowned ichthyologist, an expert in fish anatomy and evolution. Much of his work has centered on recognizing broad patterns of vertebrate evolution using the analysis of the skeletons of living and extinct species. Among the vertebrates whose evolution remains most mysterious to biologists are ray-finned fishes. Bemis has spent 17 years studying them, and is embarking on new research on evolutionary patterns within the 40,000 species of higher ray-finned fishes, or teleosts. Bemis is director of the University''s biological collections, and has spearheaded an effort to bring these six collections together in a museum on campus. He has pursued opportunities to preserve skeletons of whales and other marine mammals in addition to fishes. "It is important to accept responsibility for collecting and curating zoological specimens whenever possible, for there is no guarantee that such opportunities will occur again," Bemis says. He has conducted research with the University of Chicago, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the Field Museum of Natural History. His work has been detailed in the New Yorker magazine, in an article written by literary journalist John McPhee. Bemis received his degrees from the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Michigan, and Cornell University. He has been at UMass since 1984.

Madeleine Blais is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Her most recent book, "Uphill Walkers: A Memoir of a Family," is a memoir of her childhood in Granby, Mass., where her mother raised six children after the unexpected death of Blais''s father. Blais is also the author of "In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle" (1995), which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in nonfiction; "The Heart Is an Instrument"; and "Portraits in Journalism" (1992). She has held staff positions at various publications including the Boston Globe, the Trenton Times, and the Miami Herald''s Tropic Magazine. She has also written for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Northeast Magazine in the Hartford Courant, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, Nieman Reports, the Detroit Free Press, and the San Jose Mercury News. Blais joined the University''s journalism faculty in 1987 and teaches courses in the literature of journalism, memoir, and advanced nonfiction writing. Her attraction to journalism, she explains, is rooted in its "power to capture ... what was real, the music of what happens, and to impound all those details that defy embellishment." She received a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1986. Blais received a master''s degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and completed her undergraduate work at the College of New Rochelle.

Donald F. Towsley is considered a pioneer and a leading scholar in the areas of computer systems and networking. Throughout his career, he has focused on two specific areas: the development of mathematical techniques for analyzing the performance of complex systems, including networking; and the development of control mechanisms for these complex systems. Much of his work has focused on "multicasting," a highly efficient way of sending information via computer to more than one recipient. His most recent research has been exploring the use of multicasting to automatically monitor how well a network is operating. There is great room for improvement in network performance, according to Towsley. "Often data gets delayed or thrown away," he said. One of his aims is to create tools that will enable people to identify where in the network a problem has occurred. Towsley has been elected a fellow of both the Association of Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, two major technical societies in the field of computer science and engineering.

N.J. Demerath joined the UMass faculty as chair of the department of sociology in 1972. He held that position until 1977, and again, from 1981-86. The recipient of degrees from Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, Demerath was a member of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin for 10 years, and executive officer of the American Sociological Association for two years prior to his arrival at UMass. He is currently the immediate past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the world''s most eminent association of social scientists researching religion. His lecture next spring will focus on the topic "Cross and Double-Cross: Religion and Politics at Home and Abroad." Two of his most recent books pivot around that topic, "A Bridging of Faiths: Religion and Politics in a New England City" (1992), and the newly released "Crossing the Gods: World Religions and Worldly Politics." The latter concerns religious conflict and violence in 14 countries around the world visited by Demerath, including Guatemala, India, Israel, Indonesia, and Northern Ireland.