Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey delivers poetry reading on background, identity

Natasha Trethewey, two-term 19th U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, gave a poetry reading focused on her identity and inspiration as a poet Wednesday night for the Notre Dame community.

“I think of myself as an elegiac poet as well as a poet concerned with remembrance and memorialization with the intersections between and often the contentions between public history and our personal history,” she said during the reading. 

The event, sponsored by the departments of Africana Studies, English, gender studies, American Studies, highlighted Trethewey’s main messages across her many literary works, with poetry serving as the central medium. 

She started the night by thanking the Notre Dame community and noting the shared intellectual curiosity. 

“It’s just so exciting how many things are going on, [on] campus and you’re still willing to come and spend a little bit of time with me,” she said. “In the short time that I’ve been on campus, I’ve witnessed the commitment to intellectual inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge. It’s palpable here.” 

She shared some of her most famous poems, “Mississippi” and “the pursuit of knowledge,” both of which focus on her complex upbringing, “Here, a passage underlined there / a single star on the page / as in a night sky, cloud-swept and hazy / where only the brightest appears / a tiny spark…,” she read. 

Trethewey went on to eplain how many interpretations of history are projected, and how poetry has the power to unveil the stories that have seemingly vanished. 

“For me, writing is also about recovering those lost, buried, forgotten [and] erased histories,” she said. 

When asked about her intricacies in researching for her intersectional works, Trethewey explained that, “we want to imagine that the muse will visit us. And part of that preparation has everything to do with research… I often have very specific historical things that I am researching. But research even extends to the way I use the OED [Oxford English Dictionary].” 

When the conversation shifted to an open Q&A for the audience, the topic of Trethewey’s poetry desensitizing violence arose. She explained that poetry can send an overlooked message in a distinct voice.

“I think it [poetry] can evoke in us a kind of empathy, that we may not get to each other in ordinary conversation,” Trethewey said. 

Additionally, a question arose about how to convey knowledge and combat false knowledge. Trethewey said that poetry can open the reader to a larger perspective, often a missing one. She then noted her parents’ — at the time illegal — miscegenation in Mississippi and its legal implications and how “facts can just roll over us.” 

Throughout the whole night, Trethewey repeatedly mentioned her formative childhood and it being a central muse in some of her most famous works. Particularly, her mother’s death and her father’s background had significant impacts on her.

With such complications in her life, poetry expresses not only Trethewey’s background but also her view on the world, she says. To Trethewey, poetry has a way of, “touching not only the intellect but also the heart.” 

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University receives grant for quantum sciences

The University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, Purdue University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) received a repeatable five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further research the applications of quantum technologies in private industries.

As a part of an Industry University Collaborative Research Center, the multi-campus research team of over 100 researchers aims to answer the problems of financial, pharmaceutical, high-tech and other industries with quantum technology.

 “It allows the University and the graduate students in particular to work with problems that really are of industry interest,” Peter Kogge, Ted H. McCourtney professor of computer science and engineering at Notre Dame, said.

Kogge mentioned the high demand in private industries for quantum studies, mainly to learn more about customer experience.

“We needed 12 sponsors and we got 16,” Kogge said. “We seem to have hit a good spot for industry.”

Gerardo Ortiz, an Indiana University physics professor, explained the array of campus strengths and interested organizations.

“What industry means is not just companies like IBM, Google or Amazon, but also [the] Air Force and government agencies,” Oritz said. “The kind of research in quantum technologies that we are proposing are those areas where these four universities are already some sense of world leaders.”

“[In early 2020], we submitted a planning grant to NSF, and then in May 2021 we got awarded the planning grant,” Sabre Kais, a distinguished chemistry professor at Purdue University, said. “And then they invited us to what they call the ‘bootcamp training’.”

Kais explained that in the training, they learned the expectations and the ways in which to collaborate with industries.

The research team then invited companies in the area of quantum information to a planning meeting.

“We got the industry to tell us more about the challenging problems in their industries, and the faculty from the four campuses gave a summary of their research, which was of interest to the different companies,” Kais said.

The companies then decided whether to provide additional financial support to the research team.

Kogge pointed to the cutting-edge new advancements in the field of quantum information.

“Quantum has this bizarre property, that if you have quantum bits and you untangle them and put one on one side of the universe and the other on the other side of the universe, their values will be the exact same,” he said.

Kogge additionally pointed to the lack of resources in the quantum field at the moment.

“There are not a lot of courses that people have developed. There’s not a lot of textbooks. And there’s a potential for just really things that will transform the way we think about solving problems,” he added. 

Despite a lack of precedent, research is projected to start early next year, according to Oritz. Additionally, he pointed to the potentially widespread effects

“We can have a big impact at the level of the United States and internationally, he said. “And in that regard, we need to be very strategic.”

One particular area Oritz pointed to was quantum communications.

“There are some industrial partners who are interested in quantum communications and developing smart fibers that can encode quantum components to perform secure communications,” he said.

Kogge stressed the impact that quantum technology can have on society.

“That [quantum information] offers the potential of communication without the ability to have it intercepted,” he concluded.

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‘We should be sympathetic toward snoozers’: Study finds unexpected effect of snoozing an alarm

To learn more about snoozing, professors and researchers from the Notre Dame department of computer science collected data from daily surveys that questioned the snoozing habits of 385 individuals. The team concluded that repeatedly snoozing alarms is linked to having a higher heart rate.

Postdoctoral researcher Stephen Mattingly said he was interested in the topic before he started collecting data.

“I was interested in how people hit the alarm multiple times in the morning. There’s very little tied to that topic in particular,” he said. 

Mattingly continued to explain the lack of information surrounding snoozing, saying that he could not find any literature on the topic.

“When I went to go consult the scientific literature, I didn’t see pretty much anything. Which means it was an open question. Right for research,” he said.

Aaron Striegel, computer science and engineering professor and program director for the computer science major, said the study was intended to be a measure of job performance using physiological data gathered over a year on white-collar professionals, but the data was inconclusive.

“If we just take a week at the end of the study to ask questions, we could actually try to quantify how often people snooze,” Striegel said. “Let’s get this data because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a really large cohort.”

When Striegel was asked to define “snoozing,” he said, “it’s where you have a primary alarm and a backup alarm, or you hit the snooze function.”

When gathering data, Mattingly noted that he was interested in stress rates.

“I was looking for evidence that the heart rate increases before you get out of bed, which is associated with the stress response,” he said.

At the conclusion of the week-long survey, researchers concluded that nearly 60% of individuals snooze. They also found average heart rates to be 3.35 beats per minute higher while snoozing.

Striegel noted that this number was higher than he originally thought.

Furthermore, Mattingly explained that he believes snoozing is tied to need.

Pointing to caffeine as an enemy of healthy sleep regulation, Mattingly said, “You’re still going to be tired when you get out of bed until you get your coffee and its other unintended consequences. So from our admittedly very first research study on the topic, it looks like people snooze at need.”

Striegel stressed the importance of not feeling guilty over those couple extra minutes in bed.

“Oftentimes, it’s kind of conflated with laziness,” Striegel said. “You shouldn’t feel guilty necessarily about snoozing unless it’s impacting your life. If you’re just snoozing and missing things, that’s much different.”

Mattingly said he was interested in how snoozing is stigmatized in modern society.

“It’s interesting how much of a stigma is tied to snoozing,” Mattingly said. “I think there might be a place for snoozing as a tool to deal with fatigue; it might be appropriate in some contexts”

Mattingly stressed the lack of resources and the need for more research to learn more about snoozing and its effects.

“We still have a lot to learn,” he said.

Redmond Bernhold

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