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Baker welcomes new RAs for new academic year

By Rohini Sigireddi     4/21/11 7:00pm

Aysha Pollnitz and Stephen Bradshaw will begin their term at Baker College as Resident Associates in the fall. The Thresher talked to them to get more insight on the new RAs.

The Rice Thresher: What department do you work for at Rice?

Aysha Pollnitz: History, member of the Medieval and Early Modern Workshop.

Stephen Bradshaw: Physics and Astronomy: Astrophysics

RT: How long have you been at Rice?

AP: 1 year (1st of July 2010)

SB: 1 year (1st of July 2010)

RT: Have you been a Master or RA before?

AP: I have not.

SB: At Imperial College in London, I held a postdoctoral position and had a similar live-in role in a hall of college residents.

AP: His key achievement there was throwing a beach party with two tons of sand, leaving sand behind for nearly four years and destroying two Hoover vacuum cleaners in attempts to remove the sand.

RT: What is your favorite Rice tradition or holiday?

AP: We will be seeing our first graduation, so much is new to us. We've been associates at Martel College, and they had a wonderful talent night where students performed musical numbers. We had good fun at Beer Bike and had never seen anything like it before. I want to see mountain bikes at next year's race. The tradition I like best, though, is that the students are self-governed. I am continually impressed that they run their lives and their collective communities.

SB: Having only been here a few months, we haven't seen all of the traditions, though we certainly enjoyed Beer Bike, just the sheer spectacle of the thing!

RT: What brought you to Rice in the first place?

AP: For Stephen, this is the opportunity to assist in creating a world-leading solar optical center. For me ,it is a fantastic opportunity to build undergrad interest in early modern European history.

SB: Work; when we left the UK at the beginning of 2009, I initially had a postdoctoral position at NASA in Maryland. The faculty position in my field became available at Rice, and they offered me the job. Additionally, Aysha could offer some courses in early modern European history initially not offered at Rice, she really slotted nicely into the department.

RT: What attracted you to Baker?

AP: I am an early modern historian and very much like old things and Baker is the oldest college on campus.

SB: We heard really great things about it. Also, being from the United Kingdom, I very much enjoyed the servery's curries and sausage and mash.

RT: Are there any college traditions at your new college you are particularly looking forward to?

AP: I have heard of Keenan May Day, a new tradition that has evolved to celebrate the current chief justice; the second one is this Thursday. We are excited to see what this day could be.

SB: I would like to implement Commonwealth traditions. The current masters are English so they may have begun to Anglicize the college.

RT: What is your favorite building at Rice?

AP: The Humanities Building; I live and work here and enjoy the good company and intellect of those who occupy the building.

SB: The new Brockman Hall for physics; the new campus observatory is on the roof and I am teaching Introduction to Astronomy. I would like to organize an observing experience.

RT: What is your favorite type of rice?

AP: Arborio rice. I love making risotto.

SB: Egg fried rice.

RT: Who is your favorite historical figure and why?

AP: Erasmus of Rotterdam, an early 16th century translator, satirist and humanist. He wrote a marvelous book, The Praise of Folly, and shows what you can achieve socially, culturally and politically by having a good sense of humor.

SB: Issac Newton, for his sheer devotion to science. He put a needle in his eye to change the shape of the lens to change how he viewed things. His sheer devotion and possibly insanity.

RT: What's the best part of the residential college system?

AP: When students arrive at a university, a residential college gives them a sense of belonging. By the time they leave, the college really belongs to them, and lets them find kindred spirits and become part of a community that is socially, academically and culturally fantastic.

SB: I agree, we have had wonderful experience at residential colleges while at Cambridge and we are excited to have the chance to give back to the residential college community.

RT: Anything else?

AP: We are looking forward to KilimanjarO-week. Bring it on!

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