Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Roma Vivas
PORTALES—Currently an associate professor in physics at Oakland University in Michigan, Dr. Alberto Rojo, a native of Argentina, is the second professor to serve in the Jack William Endowed Chair in Science and the Humanities. This position was founded and funded by the late science fiction writer and ENMU emeritus professor Jack Williamson to facilitate discussions and reflections by students, faculty and the community about the interaction of science and the humanities.
The idea of coming to ENMU for a semester was presented to him by Dr. Mary Ayala, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, when they met in a conference in Albuquerque. "Dr. Rojo is like a walking definition of the ‘Renaissance Man'; he's fascinating and talented, and you'd be hard-pressed to find something that he's not really good at. We're very fortunate to have someone of this caliber on campus as a visiting professor," said Ayala. "His course on Twentieth Century Concepts of Time, Space, and Matter is engaging and fun, as well as challenging. We are lucky to have students from a wide range of disciplines in the class, so we're all looking at the topics from different perspectives and that adds an extra level of interest for me."
The idea of coming to New Mexico and teaching a course about the connection between science and the humanities was very appealing to him because the purpose of the chair and his philosophy matched perfectly.
"The class is for everyone interested in the conceptual development of physics, a little bit of math is involved but not that much; I am putting an emphasis in the conceptual development of the revolutions that science has brought to our concept of space, time and matter," Rojo said.
His class has a variety of students from different majors, including biology, theater and music. Rojo explained that in music there is math involved, the grammar of music, the rules of scale building and harmony can be expressed in numbers. When writing a music composition, one has to incorporate some math concepts, and in theater the concept of "suspension of disbelief" is similar to the acceptance in physics of abstract concepts, with no connection with our everyday experience, as real.
Like the class he teaches at ENMU, Rojo, an accomplished guitarist, combines the arts and sciences in his own life; his work was profiled in the New York Times, Popular Science and Daily Telegraph (in London) to name a few. He has collaborated on many articles with scientists like Gerald Mahan and Anthony Leggett (2003 Nobel Prize winner in physics) and his book on the "Principle of Least Action" will be published this year by Cambridge University Press.
His artistic career does not have to envy his scientific one; he started playing the piano when he was six and the guitar in his teen years. Rojo, with his guitar and voice, has collaborated with the legendary Mercedes Sosa and Argentinean rock icon Charly García, to name a few. Rojo also has a couple of solo albums under his sleeve and has collaborated on many others, enhancing Argentinean folkloric music. Mercedes Sosa's album Corazon Libre, in which Rojo plays two songs, has won the 2007 Latin Grammy for best folkloric album. Rojo's work has even been reviewed by Rolling Stone magazine.
"There is a distinction between science and humanities, but if you look at the broader picture they are parts of the same thing," Rojo said.