Junior Fellows Projects 2013-2014
Project Title: The Role of Categorization and Analogy in Sustainable Product Decision-Making
Description: Increased emphasis on corporate social responsibility leads to increased products with environmental claims. While some companies produce green, beneficial products, others “green wash” by spouting vague environmental claims while continuing harmful practices. Thus, consumers are faced with enormous quantities of green information, producing skepticism and subsequently reducing consumption of environmentally friendly goods. Effectively maximizing sustainable purchases requires reducing consumer skepticism of green products. I plan to study how consumers use categorization and analogy to make purchase decisions for sustainable products. I believe if companies better understand the consumer cognitive decision-making process, they can reduce the skepticism surrounding green products and hopefully increase the purchase of sustainable products.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Arthur Markman
Project title: Identifying and Developing Leadership
Description: Leadership development has become increasingly important in today's growing, competitive job market. Elementary school students are urged to participate, to run for class president; leadership experience is increasingly requisite to attending any major university. And yet, "historian" as a leadership position in high school extracurriculars is understood to be an empty title; meanwhile, Steve Jobs rose to become CEO of one of America's most profitable companies, but was certainly never class president. While the issue of the origins of leadership has been widely discussed, the ability to identify strong future leaders, is largely unstudied. My research will study the official and unofficial leadership capacities of today's most important leaders in order to validate processes of assessing and identifying leadership in university and career setting.
Faculty adviser: Sekou Bermiss
Project Title: Chinese Energy Security and Multilateral Diplomacy
Description: The Chinese refer to themselves as the Middle Kingdom, an indication of how important they have felt themselves to be throughout history. China’s reemergence has increasingly coincided with maneuvers on the international stage with its desire to secure energy resources, embarking on policies aimed at strategically partnering with energy rich regimes out of favor with the United States. As China increasingly engages in partnerships between its state-owned companies and energy producers worldwide, the nation creates opportunities for international cooperation and coordination. China’s grand energy security strategy will be critical to the United States’ overall Asian pivot as potential conflict in Southeast Asia is likely to be spurred by energy related disputes. The purpose of my research is to understand how China’s energy policy apparatus impacts the interconnected global system and its implications for international security and multilateral diplomacy. Central to my research is understanding the international system and how nations respond to each others interests. To do this, I plan to study abroad and research in Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations for two months. This program incorporates a 20 page research paper through over 120 hours of field research; I plan to use this research as a foundation for my Junior Fellows project.
Faculty Advisers: Admiral Bobby Inman and Robert M. Chesney
Project Title: Using Consumer Behavior Models to Evaluate Energy Efficient Technology Adoption
Description: In the United States, almost 40% of total energy consumption is swallowed up by residential and commercial buildings many of which could reduce energy consumption by 30% through energy efficiency investments. However, even after hundreds of millions of public dollar investments into efficiency incentives and workforce trainings, many homeowners have not been motivated to take action. To solve this problem, mandatory energy audits are becoming more common in an effort to reduce building energy usage, but recent surveys have indicated that most residential homeowners might not understand the energy audit results or be unwilling to install the upgrades that reduce home energy consumption. By studying different consumer decision making models developed by social scientists, I hope to identify the reasons why homeowners do not adopt the efficiency technologies.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Michael Webber
Project Title: Fighting an Unknown Enemy
Description: The world has entered a perpetual state of conflict. America’s military is currently in Afghanistan where the nation’s resources have been focused on counter insurgency tactics. However, at the same time we have also seen a constant rise in rhetoric and tensions amongst aspiring nuclear powers like North Korea and Iran. I question this shift in focus with looming powers on the horizon and due to this my research will consist of looking at the geo-political and military implications of tailoring the United States’ military and resources to engage stateless actors as opposed to major state actors.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Michael Mosser
Project Title: Election to the Texas Legislature
Description: My research focuses on Election to the Texas Legislature for competitive primary and general election races and how money affects the outcome. My thesis is that money has a positive correlation with the % of votes won. Money being broad will include money raised and spent by the candidates and those spent for and against the candidates by outside organizations. The amount of money spent in elections is an important issue in Texas as there is no donation limit. Besides seeking to find the correlation between money and election results, I also aim to propose potential campaign finance reform for Texas based on the result of my thesis.
Faculty Advisers: Dr. Prindle and Dr. Shaw
Project Title: The Nakba and the Reformation of Palestinian Memory
Description: The year 1948 marks the independence of the State of Israel and the fulfillment of the Zionist dream; it was also the year of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe in which many Palestinians fled or were driven from the new Israeli state. Since then, while violent conflict periodically erupts, a constant battle between competing Zionist and Palestinian historical narratives has been waged. By engaging Palestinian histories, commentaries, literature, and art, I will explore trends in Palestinian historiography and the reformation of Palestinian victim narratives and memory after the Nakba.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Yoav Di-Capua
Project Title: Examining Aid Allocation and Effectiveness in HIV/AIDS Treatment in South Africa
Description: The HIV/AIDS epidemic presents one of the biggest challenges in health care and development today, affecting low and middle income countries disproportionately, especially those of Sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa is leading the fight against the virus in Africa and has had significant success, yet it still faces many challenges in treating the affected and at-risk populations. My research will focus on identifying the most effective allocation of both domestic and foreign aid funding in South Africa to combat this disease and prevent its transmission. This project will also look at the governmental, social, economic, and geographic barriers preventing access to treatment and optimally successful treatments of HIV/AIDS in underprivileged communities.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Joshua Busby
YOON HOO LEE
Project Title: Female representation in Republic of Korea: President Park's phenomenon
Description: Recently, South Korea's first female president, Park Geun-hye, was sworn into office, breaking barriers in the patriarchal East Asian nation. President Park has undeniably broken the oppressive boundaries of Confucian tradition. Her rise to power, then, raises questions on the future female representation in government. Does this breach in traditional concepts of gender roles indicate that the Korean society is ready to be open-minded and unbiased? Did President Park's status as an unmarried woman play a crucial role in convincing the public to vote? If yes, what does this mean for future female presidential candidates who are married and have families? My research will study the female leadership in modern South Korea and the change in society's perception. I will focus on the comparative analysis of the female leaders in Southeast Asia and tie it in with the President Park case.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Carol MacKay
Project Title: Philosophy and Science Policymaking
Description: Embryonic stem cell research, vaccinations, and the human genome project are three hotly debated issues in the political arena. Due to their far-reaching implications, each of these scientific topics has prompted passionate responses from both sides of the battlefield. The prevalence of some of history's great philosophers in these contemporary controversies, including John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant, is unclear. My research focuses on exposing their role in these case studies in an effort to analyze how philosophy underpins scientific controversies and related policy decisions. In order to accomplish this goal, I will examine each of these topics and their polarized sides through the lenses of utilitarian, Kantian, contractarian, and communitarian ethical frameworks.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sahotra Sarkar, Ph.D.
Project Title: Structure and Implications and the Growing Student Debt
Description: National student debt is rapidly approaching $1 trillion dollars and has almost triple over the last decade. While most loans have some underlying collateral, student loan debt is inherently risky since it has no asset to back it. This risk is exacerbated by the recent practice of securitizing these loans and reselling them to other investors. Amidst the danger of federal budget cuts and criticisms of predatory student loan lending, the future of student debt is increasingly uncertain. I want to study the socioeconomic impact of questionable student lending and the financial implications of student debt on the federal and bank balance sheets.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. John Griffin
Project Title: Plebeian Secession and Historiographical Retrojection in Livy
Description: The plebeians, the commoners of Rome, protest against the aristocratic government several times throughout antiquity by secession, separating themselves from the city. Titus Livius, or Livy, the main historian covering the Early Roman period, narrates several instances of secession. By analyzing Livy’s artistic historiography, I strive to understand the viewpoints of the author and to show that he is using the secession of the plebeians to speak metaphorically about more recent events. Historiographical Retrojection is the practice by historians to overlay the details of more recent events onto past episodes, either for some rhetorical or aesthetic reason or simply to color the historical record where it remains dark. My research will present the evidence for the use of retrojection in the various instances of plebeian secession and analyze the possible intentions in so doing based on Livy’s own patterns of historiography and the contrasting treatment of the same events by other historians such as Dionysius of Halicarnassus. My conclusion will specifically focus on the message that Livy sought to bequeath to posterity regarding the March of Sulla and the Roman Civil Wars.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Andrew Riggsby
Project Title: Development of a Spacecraft Deployable System for Application in Small Satellites
Description: A deployable system is any spacecraft hardware that branches off from the main body of the craft after the craft has launched into space. Deployables allow more functionality and capability for small satellites, which, by their size, are inherently limited in their range of operational capabilities. The problem with implementing a deployable design in small satellites is that traditional setups like a mechanical boom typically require more mass and volume than is practically available in a nanosatellite. For this reason, a creative solution that minimizes volume and mass must be devised. Furthermore, a modular system would allow more flexibility between different missions or objectives that a small satellite might perform. Developing the system and assessing its viability could involve work in a variety of areas, including structural design and analysis, materials analysis, thermodynamics, and more; the outcome could likewise be applied to a number of different space missions and objectives. The preliminary research would likely involve mechanical/structural design and analysis, before fabricating an engineering design unit, and analyzing other aspects of this problem. Small spacecraft technology presents a compromise between the need for effective space research and the demands to minimize the high costs of space missions. In this way, developing small spacecraft technologies like a compact deployable system offer both an opportunity and a challenge.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Glenn Lightsey
Project Title: A Progressive Compilation of Archaeological Data
Description: Within archaeology most will readily agree that accessibility to knowledge is a pressing endeavor. The data that emerges from the Programme for Belize Archaeological Project may best be organized in a manner that is beneficial for both researchers and students. In order to do so, I suggest a method that allows researchers to continuously contribute to an online database that is simultaneously intuitively accessible to students. With the help of Amanda Steinwedel, a programmer and fellow longhorn, we will be designing an interactive archaeological records database to improve research collaboration and intellectual accessibility. To enhance the ability of data attainment and learning ability of the site, we will format an interactive layout of the site and the data collected from the Programme for Belize Archaeological Project with an emphasis on visualization and patterning.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Fred Valdez
Project Title: Black Faces, Brown Spaces: The Black El Paso Experience
Description: Black faces, Brown Spaces will be an ethnographic project about African Americans in El Paso. I plan to interview and research individuals who grew up in the area, moved to the area or spent a significant amount of time there. In these interviews, I will ask them about their experiences in that environment and how their experiences shaped their identity. This project is a part of a greater performance piece about my findings.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Joni Jones
Project Title: “Fuego y lluvia” (Fire and Rain) Classical Guitar Music from the Southwest United States.
Description: My research will explore the classical guitar music of contemporary composers from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and California through the creation of a CD of their music and a treatise on both the intramusical and extramusical themes that characterize this music. The CD will include between 60 and 75 minutes of music, and the composers will be Christina Avila, Timothy Callobre, Mark Cruz, Carlos Rios, Andrew Rohwedder, and Joseph Williams. After brief biographical sketches of the composers, extramusical themes such as the relation of their music to physical geography, history, and myth will be explored. Exploration of intramusical themes will include the composers’ harmonic languages, the composers’ use of physical characteristics of the guitar in shaping their musical languages, and formal musical structure. The summation of intramusical and extramusical characteristics of each composer’s music will be considered in order to draw conclusions about the musical culture of this region. Preliminary observation has led to the hypothesis that naturalistic spiritualism is a prevalent extramusical theme in this music and that the campanella effect, in which strings ring over each other between notes of a musical line, is central to the musical language of many of these composers.
Project Title: Grade Retention and Academic Self-Concept in Middle School
Description: In middle school, grade retention, or holding students back, often leads to negative effects socially and academically. Specifically, my research will explore the relationship between grade retention and students’ lowered academic self-concepts, or their perceptions of their own academic abilities. Through observations, surveys, and interviews at KIPP Austin College Prep (KACP), I hope to address the question of how the culture of a specific school might minimize the negative effects of grade retention. I will ask what measures KACP is taking to assist retained students and whether or not these measures address academic self-concept.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Robert Crosnoe
ALEXANDRA VAN BRUMMEN
Project Title: Inhibiting Synuclein Aggregation to Increase Spinal Cord Recovery after Injury
Description: In the United States, it is predicted that there are nearly 40 million new cases of spinal injury per year per million people, with costs for recovery extending into the millions of dollars, thereby demonstrating the importance of resolving this problem. The purpose of this research is to find a way to increase the ability of neurons in the spinal cords of lampreys to regenerate after injury.The lampreys would act as an ideal model organism for actual human neurons, seeing as that like humans they are vertebrates, their spines regenerate, thereby allowing simple observation of recovery after injury, and finally they only have 30 giant reticulospinal (RS) neurons that are very easy to observe. By studying the lampreys, the ultimate goal of my project is to find a substance that could also increase spinal chord regeneration in humans.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Jennifer Morgan
Project Title: “A Question of Liberties: American Captivity in North Africa and Early American Abolitionism”
Description: Between 1785 and 1815 the North African Ottoman regencies, Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers, captured over 700 American sailors in order to ransom them back to the United States. During this period, America significantly developed its navy and laid the foundations for a foreign policy that would be more or less followed for the next 100 years. However, these captivities affected the early American abolitionist movement in addition to the development of the American military and the country’s foreign policy. I intend to research how Americans, especially abolitionists, responded to the “enslavement” of American citizens in North Africa and how they utilized the situation to achieve their own abolitionist agendas.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Brower
ANDREW T. WILSON
Project Title: After Empire - Expressions of Identity in Post-Colonial British and French Immigrant Literature
Description: Following the conclusion of WWII and the subsequent decline of the British and French empires, capital cities like London and Paris saw a mass influx of immigrants haling from the former colonies. Government policies funneled these formerly colonized peoples into often dilapidated and low-income immigrant communities. The physical isolation of these neighborhoods from mainstream society and the social tensions that inevitably followed the arrival of these immigrants led to the emergence of a new genre of literature. Post-colonial immigrant literature explores multiple social and physical dimensions of these neighborhoods, shedding light on the depth of the difficulties this sub-class of society faced. My research will explore expressions of identity through the literature and the importance of physical space, comparing the British and French experiences. More importantly, I will use the intimate lens of the literature to better understand the social issues present in modern day.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Alexandra K. Wettlaufer
SADIE (SARAH) WITKOWSKI
Project Title: Social Media Effects on Circadian Patterns and Mood Regulation
Description: new technologies such as texting and social websites like Facebook. I am particularly interested in social networking Americans’ sleep patterns.My research will focus on how texting and online interactions circadian patterns, and whether this in turn mood.
Faculty Adviser: Dr. David Schnyer
Project Title: Teen Moms and the College Experience
Description: Despite a consistent decline in teen pregnancies over the past few decades, the United States possesses the highest teen birth rate among comparable nations. With lower educational attainment and higher rates of single motherhood, teen and young mothers typically face lifelong economic catastrophe. As the value and price of a college degree continues to rise, it is important to assess how accessible higher education is to marginal populations such as young, single mothers. My research explores a small population of teen moms who have obtained or are working toward their college degrees. Through examining their life circumstances, I hope to identify common factors that lead to their educational successes. Additionally, I will look at their socio-emotional functioning and child achievement levels to better understand how the stresses of balancing motherhood and school affect mental health, parental involvement, and child academic performance.
Faculty Advisers: Dr. Robert Crosnoe, Dr. Penny Green