The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship?

Biologists and humanities scholars explore digital partnerships

Biologists and Humanities Scholars Break the Code on Digital Partnerships 1

Fabrizio Costantini for The Chronicle

Sean Pue, a scholar of South Asian literature at Michigan State U., and Tracy Teal, a postdoc in microbial ecology there, worked together on a computational analysis of Urdu poetry.

Sean Pue had an Urdu problem. An assistant professor of South Asian literature at Michigan State University, Mr. Pue was searching for a way to automate his analysis of classical Urdu's internal meter. As an adherent of the small but growing digital humanities movement, he had some coding proficiency, but not enough: Urdu poetry is not based on stress, but on contextual patterns of syllables. His program ran slow, and the problem proved to be, in computational argot, "combinatorially