In the novel Metamorphoses, also known as The Golden Ass, a Roman amed Lucius has an insatiable curiosity about magic. While attempting to transform himself
into a bird, he accidentally changes
himself into a donkey. Throughout his
time as a donkey, Lucius, retaining his
human mind, experiences the darker side
of life in the Roman-ruled Greek world.
Professor Ashli Baker, classics &
ancient Mediterranean studies, focuses
her research on this novel, written
by the Roman North African author
Apuleius in the second century AD. “It’s
interesting as a study of the question of
sociopolitical identity,” she says. The
novel is also one of the first “conversion
narratives,” according to Baker. Lucius
joins the cult of the goddess Isis as a
condition of his transformation back
to human form. Apuleius, she says,
was an accomplished orator who found
himself accused of witchcraft, a capital
charge in the Roman world. She studies
his orations and defense speech in
addition to his fiction.
Baker includes Metamorphoses in her
seminar on the ancient novel as a way
to encourage students to discuss the
intersection between fiction and lived
reality. “Metamorphoses and other novels
of the period are less familiar to under-
graduates than more canonical texts,
but it’s important for students to be
introduced to these surprisingly modern
— and fun — stories that can help us
reflect on both the ancient world and
our own,” says Baker.
Baker, who also teaches Latin, heroic
epic and Roman history, sees her work
as a “multidirectional conversation
between students and teacher.
“I have high expectations for active,
informed student participation,” she
says. This classroom dynamic is vital
to her work on Apuleius and other
ancient writers, because every class
contributes to her research. “My
research in turn contributes to student
learning,” Baker says.
By Jason Snyder ’95, M’98
When Professor Daniel Cavanagh came to Bucknell in 1999,
there were only about 45 undergraduate biomedical engineering programs in the country, and most were associated
with sprawling research institutions. He started with a nearly
blank slate to design a program steeped in excellence.
“Our goal was to provide every student with a baseline
experience that was designed to be above the norm, from
hands-on experience to research opportunities to connections
with external groups,” Cavanagh says.
Cavanagh holds the William C. & Gertrude B. Emmitt
Memorial Chair in Biomedical Engineering, which helped fund
development of the major and provides opportunities for
Cavanagh and students, including medical-device design
projects and summer internships with Geisinger Health System
in Danville, Pa. Working with
professors and Geisinger
clinicians, students tackle
real-world health-care needs
by designing medical-device
prototypes. That’s where great
ideas are born, says Cavanagh,
who adds that some of the most exceptional have had their
ingenuity recognized with patents.
The Geisinger collaboration challenges students in authentic,
hands-on settings crucial for learning to solve problems.
“We also want to be sure promising ideas and inventions
are driven by the ultimate goal of improving patient care,”
Cavanagh says. — Susan Lindt
Ashli Baker goes beyond the classics canon to find the modern and fun in stories.