~ By Kaitlin C. Meier, student writer for the College of Arts and Humanities

Fresno State is continually searching for new methods of learning to engage students in furthering their education in innovative ways. One way of accomplishing this task is the incorporation of professors teaching in areas that explore forms of study that are new to the university and create intersections between fields.

This year, Assistant Professor Dr. Vadim Keyser joined the College of Arts and Humanities, bringing an area of study that is new to the Department of Philosophy.

Coming to Fresno State from UC Davis, Keyser’s research is in the philosophy of science, specifically focusing on scientific methodology. In his research, Keyser
shows how to make uncertain and unreliable measurement information reliable by using multiple independent sources. This form of research offers a cross-disciplinary connection within the Philosophy Department through his involvement with
STEM — the intertwining of the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Dr. Vadim Keyser“My scholarship aim is to engage diverse fields,” Keyser said. “When we ask a simple question like, how do we ‘make sense’ of unreliable information in modern technology, we are asking a question that requires both a methodological-descriptive component and also a normative component. We need to engage both the humanities and STEM fields to answer such questions.”

The initial inspiration to focus on methodological questions began during Keyser’s undergraduate studies as he developed an interest in an unresolved measurement puzzle in biology that dealt with why ecological-developmental measurements on reptiles produce different results in the lab versus the field. He then went on to a graduate study program that focused on complex modelling and methodology in the applied sciences.

Keyser’s research interests involve models for reliable measurement in biology, ecology, biophysics and the social sciences, as well as how to systematically make sense of producing new phenomena in science and technology. For a more in-depth look at some of his research, click here.

This cross-disciplinary aspect of Keyser’s research is an important part of what the College of Arts and Humanities represents:

“Dr. Keyser’s research clearly illustrates the symbiotic relationship inherent in art, humanities and science — all fields fueled by the need to understand in order to benefit society,” said Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

The combination of these fields has provided Keyser with the ability to further engage his philosophy students in a multitude of areas that they can apply in their own work:

“Not only do we discuss traditional measurement theory in the context of the physical sciences, but we also discuss complex/emerging systems in the biological and social sciences,” said Keyser. “Students are exposed to a full spectrum of empirical applications, but they also generate new applications when they make projects and presentations.”

This area of research has been highly beneficial for the program and the university in furthering the educational experience for students:

“Dr. Keyser’s appointment is fantastic for both the Department of Philosophy and for Fresno State,” said Dr. Sergio LaPorta, chair of the Philosophy Department. “He brings with him not only a profound understanding of the methods and benefits of science, but also a highly engaging teaching style that integrates the arts with science. It is especially important for the students of Fresno State to gain an appreciation for how the arts and sciences complement each other, and Dr. Keyser is in a critical position to bridge the apparent gap between the two.”

The collaboration in his first year at Fresno State has been equally beneficial for Keyser in progressing his study and academic endeavors:

“When I work with the Philosophy Department, the College and other folks in the larger university community, my work is catalyzed,” said Keyser. “The constant collaboration and support have kept me active and there has been really strong collaboration between the College of Arts and Humanities and STEM this year, which has resulted in successful grants, course development and progress in technological opportunities for faculty and students.”

Another unique aspect of Keyser’s teaching is his interest in creating cross-disciplinary projects, not only in the fields of STEM, but also in using art as a form of teaching the difficult concepts that arise in these fields:

“I’ve been working on a three-year grant-funded project on how to use visual modes of learning to teach scientific methodology,” Keyser said. “Recently, I wrote a piece titled ‘Engaging Science, Artistically‘ on how to use art to teach abstract concepts like ‘indeterminacy’ in quantum measurement.”

For a video of Keyser’s engagement of science through art, click here.

The Philosophy Department has multiple offerings within their program including the philosophy major, a pre-law option and a religious studies option; as well as minors in philosophy, Peace and Conflict Studies and Middle East Studies. The various philosophy options incorporate elements of cross-disciplinary study that blend well with Keyser’s research.

Dr. Jiménez-Sandoval expressed the importance of the influence that Keyser’s research and teaching style have brought to our College:

“Dr. Keyser’s research draws from multiple sources, all informing our understanding of the world. His exciting research points towards a holistic approach to learning, one that is not bound by disciplines, modalities or conventions. His fusion of art, philosophy and science encapsulates an exciting and liberating mode of producing, and understanding, knowledge.”