Volume 16 - 2006

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Student Researchers

Brian Calfano

American Protestant clergy

Brian Calfano

Photo by Brady Creel

Brian Calfano, a doctoral student in political science, received grants from the Religious Research Association and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion for research on his dissertation, "Strategic Saints? Rational Choice and the Political Positions of Religious Elites." He is examining the institutional forces that affect the political attitudes and behavior of the American mainline Protestant clergy.

Preliminary findings from his surveys suggest that clergy members often modify their behavior as institutional leaders in order not to go against the predominant political or theological viewpoints of their parishioners. Much of the literature in American and comparative politics rests on the assumption that "elites" are the primary generators of mass opinion and behavior. Calfano's research may suggest instead that the masses signal the boundaries of acceptable behavior to elites, who are institutionally dependent on pleasing them to preserve their authority.

Calfano continues work on his dissertation and joined Texas A&M University this fall as a lecturer in political science.

Katherine Davis

Computer interfaces and robotics

Katherine Davis

Katherine Davis did research at the Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake over the summer. She is a student at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at UNT, a two-year residential program allowing students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while earning their high school diplomas. Davis helped design a simulation for the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery that tested procedures for heat shield repairs, which the crew accomplished while in space in July. TAMS' Summer Research Program provides stipends for 10 weeks of research to students who are chosen based on grade point average and career goals, among other criteria.

Davis says she was 7 when she decided her career goal was to work for NASA. She is interested in robotics in space and plans to design the next robotic arm. She received a Caltech Signature Award this fall, given to select high school students by the California Institute of Technology Alumni Association. The award recognizes innovative and creative thinking in mathematics or science.

Evan Gawlik

Quantum mechanics

Evan Gawlik

Photo by Robert Paz

Evan Gawlik won a 2006 Barry Goldwater Scholarship, considered one of the country's most prestigious scholarships for students planning careers in mathematics, science and engineering, and placed ninth out of 40 finalists in the 2006 Intel Science Talent Search, the nation's premier program to recognize high school student research in science, mathematics and engineering. Gawlik was the only Intel finalist from a Texas school and was selected from more than 1,500 applicants.

His winning project, "A Computational Study on New Krypton- and Argon-Bonded Molecules," was a result of his work in the computational chemistry laboratory of Angela Wilson, associate professor of chemistry. He studied noble gas bonding and used a quantum mechanics approach to project the existence and stability of six new potential compounds. He expects them to have potential value in medicine, laser technology and the cosmetics industry.

Gawlik was also named a semifinalist in the 2005 Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology for his research. He is now attending the California Institute of Technology after graduating from TAMS in May. He plans to become a researcher and professor in mathematics, eventually working at a national laboratory to develop algorithms for software used in research.

Jack Lindamood
Michael Mohler
John Rizzo

Computer programming

Jack Lindamood

Jack Lindamood

The Texas Codeboys, a three-person computer programming team from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, qualified as one of only 30 teams from around the world and the only U.S. team to advance to the final round of the sixth International 24-Hour Programming Contest this April.

The team - Jack Lindamood, who earned his bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering in May; Michael Mohler, graduate student in computer science and engineering; and John Rizzo, senior computer science and mathematics major - placed 14th at the final round at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in Hungary. The students were accompanied by their teaching coach and mentor, David Keathly, lecturer in computer science and engineering.

Michael Mohler

John Rizzo

Finalist teams were given a 50-page problem set developed by doctoral students from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. During the 24 hours of the contest, the competing programmers performed tasks that ranged from managing a virtual country within the frames of a three-dimensional computer game to programming artificial intelligences for a four-round toy car race. Participants were not allowed to access the Internet or use any communication equipment during the competition.

John Rizzo

Michael Mohler

Out of 309 teams, including five other U.S. teams, that registered to participate in the contest, 150 entered the preliminary electronic qualifying event in February. Each team was allotted five hours to solve six programming tasks with variable difficulty. The UNT team was among the 27 teams with the best scores in the qualifier who, along with the three top teams from the 2005 competition, were invited to take part in the final round in Budapest. The UNT team was the first U.S. finalist in the contest's six-year history.

Pradyumna 'Preet' Gurusamy

Gene mutations

Pradyumna 'Preet' Gurusamy

Pradyumna "Preet" Gurusamy, a TAMS student, spent the summer in a UNT research laboratory. Working under Douglas Root, associate professor of biological sciences, he studied an epitope, or binding site, for antibodies. Gurusamy attempted to pinpoint the exact sequence of amino acids comprising the epitope, since the site is known for mutations in genes of proteins responsible for heart muscle contraction. The mutations lead to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that is the most common cause of heart-related sudden death in people under 30.

Gurusamy plans to study neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania after graduating from TAMS and attend medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

W. Max Jones

Mathematical modeling

W. Max Jones

Photo by Robert Paz

W. Max Jones won a 2006 Barry Goldwater Scholarship for his research to determine what brittle materials such as aerogels look like microscopically.

Many techniques for analyzing the microstructure of aerogels destroy them in the process. Jones, under the direction of John Quintanilla, associate professor of mathematics, used a less destructive method, analyzing data from low-angle neutron scattering of the material. The researchers measure the angles at which neutrons fired at the aerogel bounce off and then use the data to mathematically model the composition of the sample without destroying the sample itself. Aerogels have commercial potential as insulators, sensor materials and catalysts with biomedical and optical applications. Uncovering the details of their composition should lead to improved understanding of their performance.

Jones, who graduated from TAMS in May, is attending the California Institute of Technology. His long-term plans are to earn a doctoral degree in physics and become a researcher in theoretical physics.

Monica Lu

Brain response

Monica Lu

TAMS student Monica Lu spent part of her summer doing research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Research Science Institute. Working in the Department of Psychiatry, she studied what happens in the brain's frontal eye field during antisaccade, or suppression of automatic eye movement responses. The research may one day help patients with schizophrenia or autism.

During the fall semester at UNT, Lu is researching neuronal cilia in the laboratory of Jannon Fuchs, professor of biological sciences. Lu plans to earn a doctoral degree as well as a medical degree.

Rumana Rahman

Health care needs

Rumana Rahman

Rumana Rahman worked under Susan Brown Eve, professor of sociology and applied gerontology and associate dean of the Honors College, on a study of health care needs of the medically indigent of Grayson County. Rahman investigated the problems faced by uninsured residents of the North Texas county in obtaining medical care. She interviewed a random sample of Grayson County residents who had problems getting health care the year before.

Twenty percent reported not being able to get needed medical or surgical care. Those most likely to report problems were respondents age 18 to 44, unmarried, in poor health, and with competing needs of food, clothing and housing. Results of her research support the need for an indigent health care clinic in Grayson County.

Rahman is now a senior in UNT's Honors College.

Candace Sibley

Ethnic identity and healing

Candace Sibley

Candace Sibley, a senior anthropology major and scholar in the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program, was selected as an intern for Project IMHOTEP this summer. The project is a cooperative program between Morehouse College and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where interns conduct research and data analysis with experts.

UNT's federally funded McNair program - designed to encourage low-income, first-generation or underrepresented undergraduates to consider college teaching careers and prepare for doctoral study - provides participants with research opportunities and mentors. Sibley's McNair project will focus on African American women and other understudied populations living with HIV/AIDS, emphasizing ethnic identity and alternative methods of healing. She is working under the guidance of Mariela Nuņez-Janes and Beverly Davenport, assistant professors of anthropology. Sibley plans to pursue a dual public health/applied anthropology master's degree and a Ph.D. in public health or medical anthropology.

Melody Trowell

Linguistic profiling

Melody Trowell

Melody Trowell, a master's student in linguistics, is investigating the hypothesis that children acquire stereotypical attitudes toward certain ethnic groups based on characters' accented English in animated films. Examples range from unhappy apes in The Jungle Book who speak African American Vernacular English to evil foreign-accented Arab characters in Aladdin (when American-accented characters are heroes).

Conducting her thesis research with Patricia Cukor-Avila, associate professor of linguistics, Trowell is using a web-based survey designed to test the language attitudes of a random sample of children in the third through fifth grades. Results from a pilot study conducted in 2004 suggest a correlation between accent and character/personality judgments. The correlation is being further investigated through the web-based survey administered to respondents this fall at several Texas elementary schools. (Check out a demonstration of the survey created by Brent Wiethoff, 2002 communication design graduate. Log in with username: demo and password: demo.)

More Features

Geographer Harry Williams who studies sediments to uncover the patterns of ancient tsunamis

Core Studies

Coastal sediments reveal ancient tsunamis and hurricane storm surges.
- By Sara LaJeunesse

PATHS supports a health science club that introduces students to professionals in health care.

Health Science Careers

PATHS project creates interest in health fields for Hispanic students.
- By Cass Bruton

A new array of high-powered microscopes at the University of North Texas affords researchers a combination of tools nearly unique in the world.

High-Powered Combination

Few places on the planet have the lineup of microscopes available at UNT.
By James Naples

Cover Story - How much energy does it take to break apart a molecule?

Predicting Energies

UNT scientists reach the Holy Grail of computational chemistry.
- By Sally Bell

Eileen M. Hayes explores race, politics, popular culture, African American music and gender theories in the context of women-only music festivals in the United States.

In Cultural Context

Ethnomusicology research covers women's music festivals and African healing practices.
- By Cass Bruton

About 1,300 of 8,000 original works missing from the Iraqi Museum of Modern 
			Art in Baghdad have been retrieved and are being stored.

Lost Treasures

An art historian's quest for missing Iraqi art will help preserve a culture.
- By Ellen Rossetti

Edward Dzialowski's work may help explain how smoking or 
			certain drugs affect a developing human fetus.

Modeling Human Development

Zebrafish and chicken embryos shed light on hemophilia and heart defects.
- By Kim MacQueen

As a TAMS student at UNT, Desh Mohan placed fourth among the 
			individual finalists in the 2005 Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

Oxygen Deprivation

Student's award-winning research with nematodes may help treat cell damage.
- By Nancy Kolsti


President's Note

Research at UNT is student centered, broad based and far reaching.

News Briefs

UNT research ranges from brain tracking to eye tracking, RFID to VoIP, early college high schools to early music.

Student Researchers

Student research includes quantum mechanics, mathematical modeling, computer programming and linguistic profiling.

Alumni Researchers

Cultural health beliefs, computational perception of motion, space station hardware and genetics occupy these former UNT students.

Faculty Books

UNT authors write on emergency management, multiphase flows, structural equation modeling and entrepreneurship.

End Note

Miguel Acevedo's research makes environmental issues clear.