At its most recent meeting, Davidson's Board of Trustees approved continuous tenure and promotion to associate professor (effective Aug. 1) for faculty members Jeffrey Myers of the chemistry department, Matt Samson of the anthropology department and Mark Sutch of the theatre department. We congratulate these three and offer the following biographical sketches of their academic interests and histories.
Jeffrey K. Myers was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and traces his life's vocation to an inspirational high school chemistry teacher. Myers earned his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University, then his doctorate in 1996 from Texas A&M University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University and a research assistant professor at Vanderbilt University before coming to Davidson in 2008.
Myers specializes in biochemistry, and teaches general chemistry, beginning and advanced biochemistry, and biophysical chemistry.
His research interests concern protein structure and stability, and thermodynamic and kinetic analysis of changes in protein shape. Adoption of incorrect shapes by certain proteins have been linked with many diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. He was attracted to this particular research interest in a graduate school course about large molecules, such as proteins, DNA and RNA. "Their size and complexity fascinated me," he said. "Though they are large molecules, there are relatively simple rules that govern their shapes."
Myers has teamed up with more than 20 students in laboratory research, and has published articles in journals such as Biochemistry, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Biophysical Journal, Journal of Molecular Biology, Nature Structural Biology and Protein Science. He regularly peer reviews articles for biochemical journals, and grant proposals for funding organizations, including the National Science Foundation.
He serves as a faculty advisor for the biochemistry minor, and serves on the committee that advises the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.
Myers will be on sabbatical during the 2014-2015 school year. He will spend one semester developing new laboratory experiments for general and biological chemistry labs, and plans to conduct off-campus research during the other semester.
In addition to teaching and research, he enjoys reading, foreign and independent movies, board and card games, chess, tennis, golf, hiking and trips to the mountains or the beach.
Matt Samson is a sociocultural anthropologist interested in indigenous culture and religious change in Latin America. Most of his academic research has been conducted in Guatemala and the wider cultural region of Mesoamerica on issues of Maya identity and evangelical religion.
Samson was born and raised in the small town of Clinton, La., north of Baton Rouge. His passion for Latin America's people and culture began when he participated in an exchange program to Guatemala at age 14. Then he made three trips to Mexico during high school with a teacher interested in that country and in Latin American culture more broadly. He also spent a semester in Belize during his college years at Louisiana State University (LSU).
Samson had a serious interest in ministry, and enrolled in Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1983. Four years after earning his bachelor's degree, he earned his master of divinity degree there, and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1987. During the next 14 years he served churches on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and in Albany, N.Y. He also worked to complete his doctorate in sociocultural anthropology.
While serving at University Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, he enrolled at LSU again, and pursued studies that blended his interests in religion and anthropology. He earned a master's degree in anthropology in 1994 at LSU, writing a thesis titled "Who Is My Hermano? The Word of God and Protestant Communal Identity in the Mexican Huasteca Potosina."
In 2004 he received a doctorate in cultural anthropology from SUNY Albany, writing a dissertation titled "Re-enchanting the World: Maya Identity and Protestantism in the Western Highlands of Guatemala." Most of his research now focuses on the growth of Protestantism in Mesoamerica and its interplay with Maya religion, as well as human rights, social justice and ethnicity in a post-conflict society, and in the U.S. South and Southwest.
Samson joined the Davidson anthropology department in 2006. He has led groups of Davidson students in travel to Guatemala three times over the years, and mentored several other individual students in their ventures there. This summer he will spend about three weeks in Guatemala and Mexico. Next fall semester he will for the first time lead the Davidson in Peru program.
He has developed courses in borderland studies of the U.S.-Mexico border, human rights and environmental justice, ethnographic methods and the anthropology of religion. Many of them count as credits for the new interdisciplinary majors in Latin American Studies and Environmental Studies.
Samson said that working in Latin America has helped him see the world through other eyes. Whites like himself were a significant minority in his public high school during the years of desegregation in the South, so he was confronted with ethnic differences and inequalities early on.
He said, "Both anthropology and field work in Latin America have help me better understand the range of social issues surrounding structural inequality and differences between groups of people. I experienced them myself as a young person, and am still trying to make sense of them as a teacher and scholar. Conversations around these issues grow out of the study of anthropology, and plenty of Davidson students seem interested in dialogue about these concerns."
Mark Sutch's career interest began as a youngster accompanying his mother to theatrical productions in the college town of Ames, Iowa, where they lived. He enjoyed the outings, and found from participation in grade school plays that he had talent for it. "I had the sense early on that acting, and making believable choices, was something I had a special instinct for," Sutch said.
By his junior year of high school, his involvement in school and community theatre convinced him to pursue a theatrical career. He stayed in Ames for college, enrolling across town at Iowa State University. The school offered plenty of theatre classes, but not a major, so Sutch graduated in communication studies rather than theatre. He decided to go on to graduate school, and to focus on directing rather than acting.
He was accepted at Trinity Rep Conservatory of Rhode Island College, and earned his MFA there in 2000. During that time he directed a half-dozen productions, and acted in three others. When he completed his degree, the artistic director hired him to stay on at the school. Sutch worked as Trinity's artistic associate and casting director for the next five years, a job that included managing the school's summer touring Shakespeare program.
A change in administration at Trinity prompted him to look for work elsewhere, so he decided to pursue his longtime interest in teaching theatre at the college level. He joined the Davidson faculty in 2006, and teaches all levels of the acting and directing curriculum, intro theatre, playwriting, and voice and movement. He also directs one play each school year. They have included Dark Ride, Women Beware Women, Reckless, Hamlet, Leading Ladies, Into the Woods, Romeo and Juliet, and A Month in the Country. Next fall he will direct the 18th century comedy She Stoops to Conquer.
While his focus is on directing, he has not abandoned acting. Notably, in 2012 Sutch produced, directed and starred in a highly acclaimed one-man play, Underneath the Lintel.
Sutch will participate in this coming summer's faculty group study trip to Russia, and plans to use the experience as inspiration for a new play in 2017 based on a silent Soviet film about the Revolution.
He loves to travel, has a professional affiliation with Actors' Equity Association and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and enjoys "all fruits of human creativity," including literature, arts and music.