Meet Dean of Academic Affairs Stefano Arnone
Stefano Arnone is Associate Professor of Mathematics at John Cabot University. He holds a Laurea cum laude and a Dottorato di Ricerca in Physics from the University of Rome “La Sapienza.” He was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the SHEP Theory Group, the University of Southampton, U.K. from 2000 to 2003, and a research fellow at “La Sapienza” from 2003 to 2007. Professor Arnone’s main research area is Quantum Field Theory, the language in which all modern physics is formulated. Voted JCU Professor of the Year in 2017, Professor Arnone was appointed Dean of Academic Affairs in July 2022.
Congratulations on becoming the new Dean of Academic Affairs! How does it feel to move to university administration after teaching for 15 years?
I see it as a big challenge, as I need to learn all that is required to become a good administrator, and fast! At the same time, it is an excellent opportunity to grow and learn new skills and a great honor, both professionally and personally. I will do my best to serve the JCU community at large. Of course, I miss being in the classroom with students. This is why I will never stop teaching, and I hope I will be able to do it more in the coming years.
For those who may not know, what are the Dean of Academic Affairs’ responsibilities?
The Dean of Academics Affairs oversees all academic matters and procedures, from course scheduling to advising and mentoring students. The Dean’s Office also handles student petitions and disability accommodations. The Dean ensures that faculty bylaws are followed and that the delivery of academic programs meets the needs of all students. The Dean also supervises Academic Departments, the Tutoring and Learning Centers, the Library, the Registrar’s Office, and the Faculty Support Office.
What are some of your goals as Dean? What direction do you see the University going in the future?
As every dean would say, my goal is to ensure that our institution continues to thrive. In particular, during my time as Dean, I aim to nurture students’ linguistic skills – so, the study of English, of course, but also of mathematics, which is a language. I would love it if John Cabot could expand into STEM areas while retaining its liberal arts approach. Some may think that the two areas of study are incompatible, whereas I strongly believe they are intertwined. Why should a STEM class – or a quantitative class, for that matter – not be taught with an emphasis on critical thinking and expressing your thoughts clearly and logically?
You are the Dean of Academics of a liberal arts college while having a solid scientific background. Is this an asset or a liability in your job?
Hopefully, the former! I believe my analytical skills can be of some use when it comes to organizing and streamlining procedures.
Many parents are encouraging their sons and daughters to major in STEM subjects because they believe that the degree will be more useful and more remunerative. What is your stance on this issue?
Students should study what they are passionate about and not what they believe is remunerative, especially because what is very remunerative today might not be so in the near future. Of course, mastering quantitative skills is a plus, but I do not believe this is a good enough reason for students to major in something they do not like. Furthermore, as I said before, I believe a degree from a liberal arts college provides students with very valuable skills, which are becoming more and more appealing to employers.
Is an electron there when nobody is looking?
You saved the best question for last! When dealing with the microscopic world, some concepts and properties we are familiar with cease to apply. For example, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle tells us that it is impossible to measure a particle’s position and momentum with infinite precision. Therefore, the very concept of a trajectory no longer makes sense for an electron: we cannot say that an electron is there (i.e., at a fixed position) at a certain time. However, we can still describe the quantum state of an electron by introducing its wave function, which tells us how likely it is that the electron is found at some fixed location. To detect the electron, though, we need to measure its position, which will interfere with the electron’s quantum state.
So, if we do not detect the position of an electron, we can only know how likely it is that it be found in a certain microscopic region. To paraphrase your question, if nobody is detecting an electron, the electron is all over the place. Needless to say, if we are talking about macroscopic regions of space, there is no problem, and we can certainly say that it is there.