Research

Student achievement in the spotlight during SMU Engaged Learning Week, Feb. 8-12, 2016

SMU Engaged Learning Symposium program - photo by Clayton T. SmithSMU’s Engaged Learning Week expands its schedule for 2016 and features a growing undergraduate presence at the University’s annual Research Day as well as presentations from McNair Scholars and Summer Research Fellows.

This year’s event takes place Feb. 8-12 and will help students learn more about expanding their education outside the classroom, from undergraduate research and community service to professional internships and creative projects.

The week begins Monday, Feb. 8 with presentations by graduating Engaged Learning Fellows in Community Service and Internships at 12:30 p.m., followed by a Creative Projects panel at 3 p.m., both in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, Engaged Learning, Big iDeas and Clinton Global Initiative University students host an open house and luncheon 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Scholars’ Den, G11 Clements Hall. The event is open to the entire University community, and current EL Fellows and Big iDeas teams will discuss their projects and programs with visitors.

SMU Engaged Learning logo

On Research Day, Wednesday, Feb. 10 in the Hughes-Trigg Ballrooms, undergraduate researchers from the McNair Scholars and Summer Research Fellows will show their work at 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Engaged Learning Fellows in Undergraduate Research will present at 11:45 a.m.

Thursday, Feb. 11 will see presentations from the Lyle School of Engineering’s Senior Design Teams from 1:30-4 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Forum.

The week wraps up Friday, Feb. 12 with Undergraduate Research panels at 9 a.m. and from noon-2:30 p.m., with a buffet lunch at 11:30 a.m., followed by presentations from Big iDeas teams at 12:45 p.m.

Find a full schedule at the SMU Engaged Learning Week homepage

SMU NCAR publishes white paper on measuring strength, effectiveness of culturally specific arts organizations

SMU’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) has released a white paper that examines the distinguishing characteristics of arts organizations that primarily serve Asian American, African American, and Hispanic/Latino communities.

Andrea Louie

Andrea Louie

The study is designed to provide insights, based on measurable data, about the operating contexts and unique challenges that these organizations face. Co-authored with Andrea Louie, executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance, and Zenetta Drew, executive director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the goal of the white paper is to provide a more nuanced understanding of culturally specific organizations and to help establish a more equitable measure of their performance.

> Read the NCAR white paper: “Does ‘Strong and Effective’ Look Different for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations?”

Zenetta Drew

Zenetta Drew

Inspired by the DeVos Institute’s 2015 publication “Diversity in the Arts: The Past, Present and Future of African American and Latino Museums, Dance Companies, and Theater Companies,” NCAR’s paper responds to two key aspects of the DeVos Institute’s findings: first, that arts organizations of color are in general smaller and “far less secure” than their mainstream counterparts; and second, that funders might see greater results by providing larger grants to a smaller number of “effective” organizations, rather than continuing to fund a larger number of organizations through smaller grants.

Based on its research, NCAR found that culturally specific arts organizations are not disproportionately smaller than their mainstream peers. Taking into account their sector and age, the data shows that they are generally younger and therefore at a different stage in their evolution than mainstream organizations.

NCAR argues that the funding model proposed by DeVos would be detrimental to the cultural ecology, as it could effectively reduce the overall number of smaller organizations and therefore diminish the level of diversity, dynamism, and innovation in the field. NCAR calls for a deeper understanding of culturally specific organizations before significantly altering or abandoning their funding.

NCAR Report“We recognize that culturally specific organizations have particular characteristics that should be understood for what they are, neither good nor bad nor a sign of ineffectiveness but simply a different starting point,” said Zannie Voss, NCAR director. “With this study, we want to reframe how we assess the performance of these organizations by identifying the differences in their operating contexts and by establishing a more precise framework of what expected performance should look like, rooted in evidence-based research.”

— Victoria Winkelman

> Read the full story from SMU News

Research: SMU study shows intensive (and immediate) intervention is crucial in helping struggling readers succeed

SMU reading researcher Stephanie Al Otaiba

SMU reading researcher Stephanie Al Otaiba

Instructors who give struggling readers intensive and immediate help will enjoy “significantly” improved learning outcomes over those who adhere to the traditional “fail first” model, according to a new study by SMU researchers.

The study found that reading skills improve very little when schools follow current standard practice of waiting for struggling readers to fail before providing them with additional help. In contrast, a dynamic intervention in which at-risk readers received the most intensive help immediately enabled these students to significantly outperform their peers who had to wait for additional help, says the study’s lead author, SMU’s Stephanie Al Otaiba.

“We studied how well struggling readers respond to generally effective standard protocols of intervention to help them improve. We found that how those interventions are provided within a school — how immediately they are provided — makes an important difference,” says Al Otaiba, professor of teaching and learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Proficient reading is critical, and early intervention is imperative, says co-author and academic skills measurement expert Paul Yovanoff, also a professor of teaching and learning in the Simmons School. About 40 percent of U.S. children in fourth grade do not read at a proficient level, Yovanoff adds.

“We’re not talking about a small group of children,” he says. “We’re talking about a large group. And the number is higher in urban areas and higher among minority students. How can these kids grow up and participate in society as moms and dads in the economy unless they’re literate? Reading is a bottleneck for their success in school and in life.”

A wait-to-fail system can be the unintended consequence of response to intervention as it’s currently practiced in U.S. schools, the researchers say. “If you have to wait a certain time to demonstrate that you need more help, then it’s a wait-to-fail system,” Yovanoff says. “Good teaching would collect frequent information about the student’s performance and adjust help appropriately.”

The study, initiated in 2011, followed 522 first-grade public school students for three years through third grade. At the start of the study, the children were young beginning readers with the poorest initial reading skills, who were struggling and at risk for developing reading disabilities.

“We contrasted the multi-tier model with what we call a dynamic model, where we gave kids with the weakest initial skills the strongest intervention right away,” Al Otaiba says. “The kids in the dynamic system outperformed the kids who got help later.”

The researchers followed up on the students in third grade, and found that those that had received the immediate intensive intervention continued to outperform the children who had to wait, Al Otaiba says.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. The study’s co-author is Jeanne Wanzek of the Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University.

The researchers reported the findings in their article “Response to Intervention” in the European Scientific Journal.

— Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research website

Research: Computer model of key protein helps predict how cancer drugs will work

Drugs important in the battle against cancer behaved according to predictions when tested in a computer-generated model of P-glycoprotein, one of the cell’s key molecular pumps.

The new model allows researchers to dock nearly any drug in the P-gp protein and see how it will actually behave in P-gp’s pump, said Associate Professor John G. Wise, lead author on the journal article announcing the advancement and a faculty member in SMU’s Department of Biological Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

SMU biologists developed the computer generated model to overcome the problem of relying on only static images for the structure of P-gp. The protein is the cellular pump that protects cells by pumping out toxins.

But that’s a problem when P-gp targets chemotherapy drugs as toxic, preventing chemo from killing cancer cells. Scientists are searching for ways to inhibit P-gp’s pumping action.

“The value of this fundamental research is that it generates dynamic mechanisms that let us understand something in biochemistry, in biology,” Wise said. “And by understanding P-gp in such detail, we can now think of ways to better and more specifically inhibit it.”

The SMU researchers tested Tariquidar, a new P-gp inhibitor still in clinical trials. Inhibitors offer hope for stopping P-gp’s rejection of chemotherapeutics by stalling the protein’s pumping action. Pharmacology researchers disagree, however, on where exactly Tariquidar binds in P-gp.

When run through the SMU model, Tariquidar behaved as expected: It wasn’t effectively pumped from the cell and the researchers observed that it prefers to bind high in the protein.

“Now we have more details on how Tariquidar inhibits P-gp, where it inhibits and what it’s actually binding to,” Wise said.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

Four named 2015 SMU Ford Research Fellows

SMU Ford Research Fellows 2015

Ping (Peggy) Gui, Robert Howell, Lisa Siraganian and Nathan Cortez were named SMU’s 2015 Ford Research Fellows during the University’s Board of Trustees meeting in May.

Four distinguished SMU professors were named 2015 Ford Research Fellows during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 7.

This year’s recipients are Nathan Cortez, Dedman School of Law; Ping (Peggy) Gui, Electrical Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering; Robert Howell, Philosophy, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Lisa Siraganian, English, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help SMU retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

(more…)

Load More Posts