Natasha Heller headshot
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

The best part of my job is getting to learn new things and discovering alternative ways of looking at the world. That’s what motivated me to study medieval Chinese Buddhism (my primary area of research) and what excites me about teaching in the Engagements. I am at the beginning of a new research project examining the role of trees in Buddhist history, and I am trying to better understand how humans have thought about and lived with trees. For my own research, I’m curious about what Buddhist monks knew about the flora in their surroundings as well as the plants and trees that they read about in scriptures. I wonder how they related to the trees that shaded their monasteries, sometimes for centuries, and whether they thought trees were part of the same spiritual continuum as human beings. Closer to home, I’m always eager to learn more about where I live and I look forward to exploring our arboreal surroundings with students. (The photo is from a pre-pandemic summer hike in the mountains in Taiwan.)