Volume 16 - 2006
Saying "triangle" when seeing the shape of a triangle is a simple kind of relation many young children learn quickly. But for people with autism or a developmental disability, learning such responses often requires special types of interventions. To understand how those interventions alter brain activity is the focus of research in the Beatrice Barrett Laboratory on Neuro-Operant Relations at UNT, the only research program of its kind at a U.S. college or university.
Michael Schlund, research scientist, Manish Vaidya, assistant professor, and Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, associate professor, all in the Department of Behavior Analysis, are using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure changes in brain activity that occur during the learning process - from the first try to a completely learned skill.
In a typical intervention, children are presented with a picture (for example, a triangle shape) and two response choices ("triangle" or "dog"). A correct choice is followed by a reward such as music or praise. With practice, the child eventually learns that a triangle shape is a triangle and with further training learns to say "triangle." Increases in neural activity are noted throughout the learning process, providing information about the particular regions of the brain involved in interventions for individuals with cognitive dysfunction. That information will help researchers and clinicians design more effective interventions and drug regimens to enhance learning.
Photo by Scott Bauer
Students in the construction engineering technology program can test light-gauge steel in the Nuconsteel Structural Testing Lab at the UNT Research Park. Cheng Yu (center) is the coordinator of the program.
Light-gauge, cold-formed steel - a noncombustible building material stronger than wood and impermeable to termites, rot and shrinking - is the cornerstone of UNT's new construction engineering technology bachelor's degree program. Students in the program have the opportunity to work in designing and testing light-gauge steel at a new laboratory, the Nuconsteel Structural Testing Lab, in the College of Engineering at the UNT Research Park. Funding for the lab was provided by Nuconsteel, a Denton-based company owned by Nucor, America's largest steel producer.
The testing lab has a reaction frame 12 feet high and 16 feet wide for structural testing of steel, including compression, bending and shear wall tests.
In addition to the frame, a 22-foot-high, two-ton bridge crane was installed in the testing lab, and a 60- by 20-foot truss testing fixture is being built.
The goal is to grow the lab into a major research center for cold-formed, light-gauge steel structures as well as environmentally friendly "green" building systems. Cheng Yu, assistant professor of engineering technology, is the coordinator of the construction engineering technology program.
Donald Lyons studies industrial ecology, which focuses on closed-loop systems such as those at the Denton landfill, where the city sells compost made from yard waste.
Researchers in the emerging field of industrial ecology argue that the traditional industrial model - taking in raw materials and generating products to be sold and waste to be disposed of - should be transformed into a more environmentally friendly "closed-loop" system in which waste serves as the raw material for other production processes.
Donald Lyons, associate professor of geography, tracked the flow of materials into and out of such systems when he surveyed several hundred Texas recycling and remanufacturing firms. The assumption had been that "closing the loop" - feeding used products and materials back into the production system - tends to occur on a local or regional scale. For instance, when a city turns residential yard waste into compost that it then sells to residents, the loop is closed at the local level.
Lyons' research revealed, however, that while most materials and used products are collected locally, only some can be re-used locally. The type of material determines the geographic scale of the loop - for example, much of the scrap paper from Texas flows to Mexico, and markets for steel are scattered across the country. The research is helping to uncover fundamental principles of the new field. Lyons next plans to examine international flows of used materials such as scrap metals and wood pulp to evaluate their ecological efficiency and economic value.
Daechun An, assistant professor of journalism, is conducting some of the first original research investigating web advertising in conjunction with cultural theories. An conducted an exploratory study to examine how multinational brands use the "Glocalization" strategy - content intended for the global market but customized to suit the local culture - in their web advertising. He analyzed a sample of the Korean and U.S. local web advertising of 33 brands for use of creative strategy and information content.
Results indicate that differences in advertising content can be attributed to differences in cultural values between Korea and the United States. For instance, Korean ads tend to feature indirect, implicit messages with an emphasis on the needs of the group, in contrast to more direct U.S. ads targeted toward the individual. The findings, which can provide a useful guideline for international advertisers planning a global campaign with web advertising, were published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising in May.
Photo by NASA-GSFC
Donald Lyons studies industrial ecology, which focuses on closed-loop systems such as those at the Denton landfill, where the city sells compost made from yard waste.
With a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies conducted an interdisciplinary workshop to explore the environmental and societal challenges surrounding New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Topics discussed at the workshop, held in New Orleans in March, included the past and future of the lower Mississippi valley wetlands region, environmental justice, urban planning, and disaster preparation and response. The international journal Technology in Society plans to publish a special issue on Katrina and New Orleans with essays from participants.
The workshop is part of an ongoing research project, "New Directions: Science, Humanities, Policy," begun by Robert Frodeman, associate professor and chair of the department. The project's goal is to develop models for interdisciplinary collaboration in which physical scientists, social scientists and humanists work with public science agencies, the private sector and communities to better understand societal problems and develop effective responses to them.
A grant from the Communities Foundation of Texas has allowed UNT's College of Education to participate in the creation of three early college high schools, the first such schools in North Texas to help students from groups underrepresented on college campuses make a smooth transition to higher education. Early college high schools allow students to complete a high school diploma and a two-year college degree within four or five years. Students enter in ninth grade and start college work based on their performance.
Two of the three schools opened this fall in the Dallas County Community College District, and the third is slated to open next fall at Tarrant County College. With a focus on health services and teaching careers, the schools serve students in the Dallas, Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Fort Worth school districts who have not had access to the academic preparation needed for college, for whom college is cost prohibitive, who are ethnic minority students, whose primary language is not English or who are the first generation in their families to attend college.
UNT will provide professional development seminars for principals, faculty and student development staff, document results and develop accountability systems. V. Barbara Bush, assistant professor of higher education, and Mary Harris, professor and interim chair of the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, are in charge of the program.
Radio frequency identification - identifying objects through a tag embedded with a computer chip and an antenna that allows it to communicate with a transponder - has the potential to transform how business is conducted for retailers and their suppliers. Chang E. Koh, associate professor of information technology and decision sciences, and HaeJung Kim and Eun Young Kim, assistant professors of merchandising, are collaborating to study the impact of RFID on the retail industry with a grant from the International Council of Shopping Centers Educational Foundation Inc.
The researchers surveyed retailers to identify the perceived benefits and risks of RFID. Major benefits identified were improved inventory management, more efficient store operations, a faster cycle from design to retail sale, and better integration of operations with business partners. Perceived risks were the complexity of the technology, an uncertainty about standards for its use, and a lack of technical and organizational expertise for employing RFID. The project was published in the Journal of Shopping Center Research this year.
In Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the Supreme Court established procedural safeguards to protect Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. It gave citizens the right to silence and the right to counsel. Contrary to popular belief, it did not specify the language to be used.
With two grants from the National Science Foundation, Richard Rogers, professor of psychology, is conducting a national survey of Miranda warnings that evaluates reading levels, comprehension and complexity. In the first phase, which examined 560 Miranda warnings from across the United States, he found more than 500 different versions in current use. They ranged dramatically from 49 to 547 words, and the reading level required ranged from grade 2.8 to post-college. Because a large number of defendants have either limited education or learning disabilities, the study will determine the Miranda rights versions that are the easiest to understand for most defendants.
The College of Engineering has a partnership with Freescale Semiconductor, bringing state-of-the-art technology and equipment to students in the Department of Engineering Technology. Vijay Vaidyanathan, assistant professor and director of the electronics engineering technology program, says the partnership will enhance the department's curriculum and make students more competitive in today's job market.
Students in the Advanced Electronics Laboratory at the UNT Research Park work with microcontrollers donated by Freescale Semiconductor.
Donated HCS12 series microcontrollers (basically one-chip computers) are being used as an integral part of the introductory course on microcontrollers held in the Advanced Electronics Laboratory at the UNT Research Park. With this equipment, UNT students perform advanced-level operations in analog and digital electronics. Their work will become part of a database Freescale maintains of projects using the equipment. The company is recognized as a global leader in the design and manufacture of embedded semiconductors for automotive, consumer, industrial, networking and wireless markets.
A severe shortage of doctoral students in school librarianship isn't helped by increasing numbers of retiring faculty and the difficulty of leaving a library job to pursue a doctorate in residence. The shortage prompted Brian O'Connor, professor of library and information sciences and associate director of the information science doctoral program, to research recruitment and web-based course work for doctoral students from school and public libraries.
O'Connor and the team of faculty and staff working on the project have received multiple grants from the U.S. Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. For students who enter the program, about half of which is web-based, the grants cover tuition for two years, travel to campus for face-to-face meetings, computer hardware and broadband connectivity. The first cohort, which began classes in summer 2004, includes 10 students from eight states. The majority of the students are now working on their dissertations. A second cohort began the program last year.
UNT music students have the opportunity to perform in a major work on period instruments alongside experienced professionals with a seasoned conductor, thanks to a collaboration between the UNT College of Music and Graeme Jenkins, Dallas Opera music director.
Music professors Lenora McCroskey and Lyle Nordstrom lead the ongoing collaboration, which combines the resources of the UNT early music program with professionals to bring to life Handel's oratorios. The works are performed on replicas of the Baroque instruments of Handel's time. UNT has one of the largest early music programs in the country, with a collection of more than 200 instruments representing the 16th to 18th centuries.
Performances of Samson, the most recent production in the Handel series, took place in February on the UNT campus and in Dallas. With funding from the UNT Fine Arts Series and the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity, the production involved students and alumni from Southern Methodist University as well as UNT performers. The Handel collaboration has been featured in Early Music America, the publication of the premier North American early music organization.
Photo by Jonathan Reynolds
The Family Connections Project of the North Texas Autism Project focuses on enhancing the quality of relationships within families who have toddlers with autism. Pictured are NTAP Director Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (left) and graduate student Lisa Falke.
The North Texas Autism Project, directed by Shahla Ala'i-Rosales, assistant professor of behavior analysis, was created in response to a growing local and national need for qualified behavior analysts working in autism early intervention. The cause of autism - a disorder said to affect one in 500 children - is not known, but an early diagnosis provides a better chance of helping children achieve their fullest potential. Autism can now accurately be diagnosed as early as 12 to 18 months, but because detection that early is a recent development, few models exist for programs for that age group or their families.
NTAP's Family Connections Project focuses on enhancing the quality of relationships within families who have toddlers with autism. Parents are taught to identify key social routines and opportunities throughout the day - such as during meal times, play times, community outings or bed times - that can help develop their child's skills and enhance family life. Parents learn to set goals for their children and monitor progress. The project also provides training for siblings and extended family members.
Photo by Jonathan Reynolds
As researchers attempt to discern why some residents of nursing homes receive a high quality of care while others do not, new management strategies that recognize the value of employee empowerment are being explored. Some nursing home administrators have suggested that the use of empowered work teams - organized teams that make decisions about their daily duties and responsibilities - is a logical next step toward improving resident care and nurse aide job attitudes and performance.
With a grant from the Commonwealth Fund, Dale E. Yeatts, professor of sociology, and Cynthia M. Cready, assistant professor of sociology, have conducted an investigation of empowered work teams in nursing homes to determine their effects on nurse aide attitudes toward work and care of residents. Preliminary results of the four-year study show that empowered work teams significantly improve employee performance and may reduce turnover. As nursing homes focus less on strictly medical services and more on better care and quality of life, the data suggest that the establishment of empowered work teams will help.
Oliver Chyan is researching new diffusion barriers for copper in integrated circuits.
Copper, when used as an interconnect material in integrated circuits, can lead to chips that operate at high temperatures with less power and more speed. But because copper diffuses easily into silicon, degrading its properties, diffusion barriers are necessary. Oliver Chyan, professor of chemistry, and his research team have been developing a new ruthenium-based diffusion barrier that shows promise. But corrosion originating from dissimilar metallic contacts - such as copper with ruthenium - is expected to be a serious issue, especially under the conditions encountered in the chip-making process.
The researchers, with support from Texas Instruments and the Semiconductor Research Corp., are studying the corrosion tendency of copper in contact with ruthenium. They are identifying defects such as holes, cracks or voids at the early stage of bimetallic corrosion as well as factors in the chip-making process such as pH levels and chemical environments that can cause or accelerate corrosion. The information from their research should help the microelectronics industry avoid losses due to copper corrosion.
National Science Foundation grants are funding a multi-university project led by Ram Dantu, assistant professor of computer science and engineering. The three-year project is examining the vulnerability of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to computer spammers and hackers. The technology turns audio signals (like telephone calls) into digital information that can be transmitted via the Internet. It's estimated that 24 million U.S. households will be using VoIP by 2008.
UNT is the lead research institution on the project, which also includes researchers and facilities at Columbia University, Purdue University and the University of California at Davis. Dantu is supervising students at UNT, the University of Texas at Dallas and George Mason University who are working on the project. The research was named to Network World's list of 10 most interesting projects upon which it has reported this year.
America noviter delineate, a 1633 map of North and South America by Matthaeus Merian, is one of the digital images accessible through UNT's Portal to Texas History. The map is from UNT's Rare Book and Texana collections.
Two projects of the UNT libraries headed up by Cathy Hartman, assistant dean of libraries for digital and information technologies, are helping current and future researchers - the first by making Texas history accessible online and the other by preserving political and government web materials.
Pieces of Texas history from every corner of the state are being incorporated into the Portal to Texas History, which is bringing together searchable digital images of Texas-related documents, artifacts and photos. The portal includes curriculum study guides that map materials from its collections to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements for fourth- and seventh-graders studying Texas history. The libraries' digital projects department designed software and an archiving system for the portal, which has received federal, state and private support.
In the second project, the UNT libraries, in partnership with the California Digital Library and New York University, have received funding to identify and preserve digital materials through the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program sponsored by the Library of Congress.
Researchers in the Web-at-Risk project are developing a web archiving service that enables curators to build collections of web-published materials, chiefly political and government information. UNT is leading the assessment area of the project. The university is also building collections of web sites of government agencies that have closed operations. The sites are preserved in the CyberCemetery for future researchers.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the power of states to prohibit municipalities from providing telecommunications services. Janice A. Hauge, assistant professor of economics, and Todd Jewell, associate professor of economics, are analyzing the effects of municipal provision of such services at both the state and national levels, focusing on the effects on competition and consumer welfare.
The study forms a part of a broader research initiative that analyzes the performance of municipals and private firms. The researchers are testing the assertion that private firms are more efficient than public entities, using the municipal telecommunications sector as the representative public unit. They will consider whether public or private entities are better able to manage risk and which market participant (the provider or the citizens of the municipality) absorbs the risk when municipalities enter the telecommunications sector.
Photo by Li Fan
Eye tracking - recording eye movements using specially designed hardware and software - enables researchers to study how people visually move through a web site. By studying those patterns, researchers can learn where on a screen people are apt to look for specific information and what parts of the screen they avoid. In a departure from existing eye tracking research, Lynne Cooke, assistant professor of English, collects both eye movement data and behavioral data from study participants. She uses surveys and "think-aloud" protocols to collect data about web users' preferences and rationale for taking particular actions. As a result, she is able to study relationships between eye movements and cognitive processing.
In April she conducted an eye tracking study at the University of Washington's Laboratory for Usability Testing and Evaluation that explored how the allocation of white space on web pages affects search and scan patterns. In a June study, funded by a grant from the Society for Technical Communication, she investigated how web navigation menu placement and topic organization influences search of web pages. Her ultimate goal is to improve web site design so that web users may locate information more quickly.
The research of political science faculty members Andrew Enterline, associate professor, and Michael Greig, assistant professor, couldn't be more timely. Drawing upon current U.S. efforts to cultivate democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Enterline and Greig are developing a better understanding of the conditions associated with the successful imposition of democracy. They are studying conditions that keep insurgencies from developing to challenge imposed regimes, and they are examining the effects imposed regimes have on peace, prosperity and democracy in the regions they occupy.
Not only has the research attracted the attention of scholars - it was published in one of the top political science journals, the Journal of Politics - but it has also attracted the attention of policymakers. Enterline and Greig were invited to present their research in 2005 at a meeting arranged by the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., which brought together leading scholars, senior military officials, members of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, U.S. State Department officials and representatives from the U.S. Institute of Peace. Their research has also been presented at an international conference sponsored by the Turkish National Police in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as at leading political science conferences.
Creating a venue for graduate students in music education to present and discuss research issues, collaborate and network with other students from throughout the country and receive guidance from scholars in the field is the purpose of the North Texas Symposium on Research in Music Education, directed by Donna Emmanuel, assistant professor of music.
The first symposium, sponsored by the Federation of North Texas Area Colleges and Universities, the College of Music and its division of music education, was held on campus in April 2005. It brought together participating master's and doctoral students from a dozen universities as well as keynote speakers who are well-known scholars in the music education field. Planned to be held biennially, the symposium is unique in its focus on graduate student work and its inclusion of master's students in addition to doctoral students. The 2007 conference is scheduled for April.
Mitty Plummer won the 2006 Glenn Murphy Award from the American Society for Engineering Education
Mitty Plummer, associate professor of engineering technology, received the 2006 Glenn Murphy Award from the American Society for Engineering Education. The award is made annually to a distinguished nuclear engineering educator in recognition of outstanding professional contributions to the teaching of undergraduate or graduate nuclear engineering students.
Plummer has been the coordinator of UNT's nuclear engineering technology program, taught at the TXU Comanche Peak Steam Electric Station, since 1992. He is an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Nuclear Society and is currently a commissioner for the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology. The award committee noted that Plummer coordinates the first program accredited by the commission and is the first person from an engineering technology program to receive the award.
Water issues - including water scarcity, the quality and quantity of reserves, and cultural perceptions of water - are the focus of ongoing research by Irene Klaver, associate professor of philosophy. The Philosophy of Water Project, with support from the Dixon Water Foundation of Dallas, includes classes and a conference designed to offer new approaches for understanding the relationship between humans and water.
The WaterWays 2005 conference brought together scientists, philosophers, politicians, artists and specialists from the public and private sectors to consider water issues in cultural, social-political, philosophic and scientific contexts. The conference included an art exhibit of works on water, a film series, multimedia presentations and poetry readings, in addition to workshops and lectures on watershed management, water quantity and quality issues, and indigenous water rights. WaterWays 2007, scheduled for March, will include talks by Robert Kennedy, director of Riverkeeper, and a UNT Art Gallery exhibit.
Researchers in Mohammad Omary's lab use a nitrogen-pulsed dye laser to determine the phosphorescent lifetimes of compounds they've synthesized. OLEDs require phosphors with short lifetimes - measured in microseconds. The dyes in the flasks are used to change the laser's wavelength.
Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are considered a long-term solution for researchers working to develop solid-state lighting that is longer lasting and more energy efficient with less environmental impact than incandescent and fluorescent lighting. But their long-term stability remains a challenge.
Mohammad Omary, associate professor of chemistry, and his research team are working to design bright phosphors for efficient OLEDs, incorporating fundamental principles of chemistry, physics and materials science. The team is also designing new emitters for ultra-thin OLEDs with light weights and simple device structures, ideal for flexible displays. The Omary group research in solid-state lighting is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and a grant from the Robert A. Welch Foundation. Omary received this year's Young Investigator Award from the Inter-American Photochemical Society for his contributions to the field.
Coastal sediments reveal ancient tsunamis and hurricane storm surges.
- By Sara LaJeunesse
PATHS project creates interest in health fields for Hispanic students.
- By Cass Bruton
Few places on the planet have the lineup of microscopes available at UNT.
By James Naples
UNT scientists reach the Holy Grail of computational chemistry.
- By Sally Bell
Ethnomusicology research covers women's music festivals and African healing practices.
- By Cass Bruton
An art historian's quest for missing Iraqi art will help preserve a culture.
- By Ellen Rossetti
Zebrafish and chicken embryos shed light on hemophilia and heart defects.
- By Kim MacQueen
Student's award-winning research with nematodes may help treat cell damage.
- By Nancy Kolsti
Research at UNT is student centered, broad based and far reaching.
UNT research ranges from brain tracking to eye tracking, RFID to VoIP, early college high schools to early music.
Student research includes quantum mechanics, mathematical modeling, computer programming and linguistic profiling.
Cultural health beliefs, computational perception of motion, space station hardware and genetics occupy these former UNT students.
UNT authors write on emergency management, multiphase flows, structural equation modeling and entrepreneurship.
Miguel Acevedo's research makes environmental issues clear.