We asked Dr. Darlene Smucny, UMUC Collegiate Professor and Academic Director for Social Sciences, five questions about libraries, books, research, and academic success. We hope you enjoy reading Dr. Smucny's interview. It's a great pleasure for the library to have Dr. Smucny appear on our blog.
1. What is your earliest library memory?
My parents encouraged my twin sister and me to read. Every summer Debbie and I enthusiastically would take part in the Summer Reading Club at our neighborhood branch of the Cleveland Public Library (in Cleveland, OH). I was about 6 years old when I first took part in this special summer library program. In the Summer Reading Program, each week, you reported to a librarian on a book. If you read 10 books per summer, you would be invited to a special event later that summer at the library (e.g., puppet show, movie, etc).
During the summer months, the library posted a chart with all the children's names on it, with stickers (dots) indicating the number of books each child had read (so far) that summer. Instead of reading one book per week, my sister and I often read 5 or more books (each) per week! The librarians had to layer the dots on the library chart to accommodate the numbers of books we read in a summer. We just loved to read! One librarian was particularly skeptical that I had read so many books, and sat me down and quizzed me on particular passages and very specific details from the books that I "said" I had read that week. I easily passed her interrogation! (It was good preparation for my future doctoral exams.)
I have fond memories of that library: the smell of the books, the sound of the wooden chairs shuffling across the tile floor in the reading room, and the sound of the librarians shushing patrons to be quiet.
2. Read any good books lately, either scholarly or recreational?
I recommend two books by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game. Both books feature libraries, actually, a clandestine library called "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books." Zafon mixes romance, mystery, historical novel and crime novel, to create an engaging reading experience. I've enthusiastically recommended Zafon's books to everyone, including friends and colleagues at UMUC.
3. Please describe an "aha," eureka moment in your research, when you had an important breakthrough or insight in your scholarly work.
For my doctoral research, I studied patterns of post-conflict affiliative behaviors (also known as "reconciliation") in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). According to my hypothesis, I predicted that monkeys would be "nice" to each other (i.e., engage in affiliative behaviors) after aggression with each other, as compared to control (i.e., non-aggressive) periods.
I had reviewed all the literature on "reconciliation" before undertaking my observations, and I was familiar with the data for chimpanzees, as well as for various monkey species. Chimpanzees, for example, demonstrate unique "reconciliation" behaviors, such as embracing and kissing. According to the literature, most monkey species tend to be more subtle in their postconflict affiliative behaviors.
My aha experience was when I identified "reconciliation" in my monkeys. It was exciting to see former opponents, sitting there side-by-side, within a short time of the end of the conflict, peacefully grooming each other! Another aha experience in my project occurred when I examined the data, and the analysis revealed that "third parties" (i.e., animals not involved in the aggressive conflicts) often would be involved in peaceful post-conflict interactions with former opponents. Such observations provide evidence for the sophisticated social networks of monkey groups.
This photo shows Dr. Smucny at the Hase-dera Temple in Hase, Kamakura, Japan. The Hase-dera Temple is often visited by students awaiting their exam results!
4. Given unlimited time, money, travel, and other resources, what would be your dream research project?
I would love to explore the socioecology of parenting in monkeys, particularly studying monkeys in the wild. The callitrichids (marmosets and tamarins) of Central and South America are fantastic species in which to study parenting, since (a) moms produce twins or triplets regularly; and (b) the help of dads and siblings is critical to infant care and survival. In most nonhuman primates, dads and siblings don't play a role in infant care. In callitrichids, parenting would then include the entire "family." It would be fascinating to see how these family relationships vary with different environmental conditions (e.g., amount of predation, food availability).
Given unlimited time, money, travel and field assistants, I would establish multiple field sites to study callitrichids throughout Central and South America. Studying primates in their natural habitats is awe-inspiring! In addition to studying these primates, I also would create educational and outreach programs to inform people (throughout the world) about the importance of conservation of these, and other, nonhuman primates.
5. What advice would you give to UMUC students, to help them achieve academic success?
My advice: Never give up your dreams and enthusiasm for education! Don't let others discourage you from your passion for learning. Find something everyday in your studies that truly fascinates you.
Darlene Smucny is Collegiate Professor and Academic Director for Social Sciences in the School of Undergraduate Studies at University of Maryland University College. As Academic Director for the Social Sciences, Dr. Smucny manages the academic program, courses and faculty in Anthropology (ANTH), Geography (GEOG), and Sociology (SOCY). Darlene brings an interdisciplinary perspective to her work at UMUC, being trained as an anthropologist, biologist and ethologist.
She received her BA from Lake Erie College (Ohio) with studies in Biology, Psychology and German. She then received a German Academic Exchange Service Grant for postbaccalaureate study in Zoology at the University of Munich (Germany), where she also pursued research in human ethology at the Max-Planck-Institute for Behavioral Physiology. Darlene received her MS degree in Biology from Cleveland State University (Ohio); her thesis project studied thermal ecology and behavioral thermoregulation by garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis). Her doctorate (Ph.D. in Anthropology) was completed at UCLA; her dissertation examined reconciliation and post-conflict behaviors in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Postdoctoral research included projects at the National Institute on Aging in Maryland, and the Southwest National Primate Research Center in Texas.
As an academic, teacher and researcher, Darlene is interested in many areas of anthropology and biology, including primatology, behavioral ecology, social behavior, population biology, human biology, and forensic anthropology. As an administrator, Darlene is very involved in curriculum development in the social sciences, and faculty staffing, development, and management. In terms of UMUC student support, she has worked to establish a chapter of Pi Gamma Mu (the international honor society for the social science) at UMUC. The Maryland Theta Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu now inducts new members each Spring, and is one of the largest chapters in the nation.
Darlene also is active in volunteer efforts about science education. She has been a volunteer docent at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.; and she has lead workshops for middle-school children at Sally Ride Science Festivals.
Thank you, Dr. Smucny!