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A message from the Vice Provost for Research

With the publication of this issue of Baylor Research, we celebrate a significant milestone. Fifteen years ago, Baylor established audacious goals as part of Baylor 2012, and then embarked on a journey to reach those goals. At that time, I accepted the position of Vice Provost for Research and did so with the commitment to press forward toward establishing Baylor as a Christian research university. I must admit that in 2002, this seemed a nearly impossible task.

Today I am amazed to see how far Baylor has come. At the same time, I continually wonder if our efforts are worthy of the extraordinary calling established in Baylor 2012 and its successor Pro Futuris. Are our eyes on the mission? Are we doing all we can to further Baylor’s voice in an increasingly secular world? Are we running the race with perseverance?

Looking back over the intervening years, we find answers to these questions. Faculty scholarship in the liberal arts, sciences, mathematics, engineering and the professional schools continues to deepen. The Honors College—built on the strong foundation established by longstanding liberal arts programs at Baylor—has become a powerful hub attracting influential scholars and a new generation of students pursuing their studies within the context of the centuries-old tradition of the classics.

The Baylor Sciences Building, opened and dedicated in 2004, is a beautiful and functional monument to the pursuit of excellence in science and scientific research. The Baylor Research & Innovation Collaborative (the BRIC), only a dream in 2004, has taken its place across the river and is succeeding in the daunting effort to integrate research, industry, workforce development, and business incubation, establishing partnerships that connect Baylor to our city, our region and our state. More importantly, both the Baylor Sciences Building and the BRIC are filled with remarkable scientists and engineers offering Baylor undergraduate and graduate students research opportunities in environments that make possible entirely new ways to work, learn, and collaborate.

Each of these achievements represents a significant step forward. Viewed together, they demonstrate Baylor’s unwavering commitment to the goals delineated in Baylor 2012 and Pro Futuris.

Albert Einstein once described study as “the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit, for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later works belong.”

In this issue of Research, you’ll read about the philosophers, social scientists, theologians and others in Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, bringing their varied perspectives to bear on the issue of persecution of religious groups around the world. These Baylor scholars are part of the Religious Freedom Project, the nation’s only university-based program for the analysis of religious freedom, led by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Baylor students work alongside scholars at Georgetown as they study the state of religious freedom around the world and the costs to society when those liberties are not maintained. These are Baylor’s “later works,” shot through with the beauty of discovery and the power to change human lives.

You’ll also meet faculty working collaboratively across disciplinary boundaries within Baylor interdisciplinary centers and institutes. In the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research, mathematicians and physicists work together to share knowledge about the localization of electrons in crystal structures— an important process to the materials and electronics industries. In Baylor’s Center for Spatial Research and the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research, faculty members partner to develop “bioinspired” solutions that will lead to advances in water-based renewable energy systems like hydroturbines. And you’ll learn about a Baylor faculty member who was recently selected for a leadership role in one of the groups that manage the operation of the Compact Muon Solenoid—a major piece of instrumentation used by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Researchers in each of these groups are engaged in international collaborations, teaming with colleagues around the globe to address issues of worldwide significance. More importantly, they are introducing Baylor students to their guild, including them in international conversations about some of the most fundamental and enigmatic concepts in the universe. Again, Baylor’s “later works” are benefiting both the research community and our students.

C. S. Lewis once said, “In Science w e have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.” From a somewhat different viewpoint, Ray Bradbury offers these words in Fahrenheit 451: “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made . . . . It doesn ’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” One of the great differences in how research occurs at Baylor should be in the way our hands touch the garden we are tending. As we continue to make research a priority, the harvest will continue for generations to come.

Those of you who have known me for any time at all know that the pursuit of a Christian research university—establishing a city on a hill—resonates with me. In Ecclesiastes 9:10, we find this observation: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” Baylor faculty are indeed doing their work “with all their might,” and increasingly the Baylor voice is being heard in academic and government venues across America and around the world.

In the first issue of Research, published in 2004, I wrote the following words, and I believe they still hold true today:

“The idea of a Christian research university and the accompanying tension between faith and intellect is nothing new to the academy. C. S. Lewis, who fought for the restoration of a vital C hristian voice in the highest levels of academic lif e, went straight to the heart of the matter when he said in ‘The W eight of Glory:’ “A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the micr ophone of his o wn age.’”

As I have done in so many issues of Research over the years, I’ll close with the following: In these pages, you’ll find the merging of faith and intellect well underway within the laboratories and offices and classrooms across the Baylor campus and the Baylor voice at home and abroad stronger than it has ever been.

Please feel free to contact me to learn more or visit Baylor’s Research website at www.baylor.edu/research.