Historical Pathophysiology of Starvation, or simply the starvation project
Through the lens of physiology, this project explores the human face of starvation and the severe stress accompanying it. The context is World War II, especially the Warsaw Ghetto and the Leningrad Blockade, but the lessons and insights apply broadly, from the wasting in anorexia and cachexia to the suffering in modern-day sieges (e.g., Aleppo) and famines (e.g., South Sudan).
Additionally, the project seeks to provide intellectual cross-training, about which the distinguished biochemist Thomas Cech (a Grinnell alumnus) notes:
One learns to distill the critical elements from the irrelevant, synthesize seemingly discordant observations, and develop a strong argument… Scientists need the same skills as humanists to cut through misleading observations and arrive at a defensible interpretation, and intellectual cross-training in the humanities exercises relevant portions of the brain.
(p. 210 of T.R. Cech, Science at liberal arts colleges: a better education? Daedalus 128: 195-216, 1999)
From this cross-training, the project is meant to offer a space for creative thought, especially in the sense of making connections, synthesizing ideas, and arriving at new insights and perspectives.
-Taylor Allen, professor of Biology