Research

Four SMU professors honored with 2014 Ford Research Fellowships

SMU named four 2014 Ford Research Fellows at a meeting of its Board of Trustees Thursday, May 8 (l to r): Alexis McCrossen, Dieter Cremer, Alyce McKenzie and Anthony Colangelo. Photo credit: SMU/Hillsman S. Jackson.

SMU named four 2014 Ford Research Fellows at a meeting of its Board of Trustees Thursday, May 8 (l to r): Alexis McCrossen, Dieter Cremer, Alyce McKenzie and Anthony Colangelo. Photo: Hillsman S. Jackson

Four distinguished SMU professors were named 2014 Ford Research Fellows at the meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees Thursday, May 8. This year’s recipients are Anthony Colangelo, Dedman School of Law; Dieter Cremer, Chemistry, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Alexis McCrossen, History, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Alyce McKenzie, Preaching and Worship, Perkins School of Theology.

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.

Learn more about the new Fellows under the link.

(more…)

By | 2014-05-23T13:43:17+00:00 May 15, 2014|Categories: For the Record, News, Research, Year of the Faculty|

Volcano research shows link between ground deformation and eruption potential

InSAR image of volcanic uplift in Africa's Great Rift Valley

InSAR image shows volcanic uplift in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. (Credit: Study authors)

Using satellite imagery to monitor which volcanoes are deforming provides statistical evidence of their eruption potential, according to a new study in Nature Communications.

The European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, launched from French Guiana in April 3, 2014, should allow scientists to test this link in greater detail. Its satellite interferometric synthetic aperture radar – InSAR for short – is a spaceborne imaging technology that will help scientists understand how volcanoes work, according to study co-author and geophysicist Zhong Lu, Shuler-Foscue Chair of geophysics in SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College.

Volcano deformation – especially uplift – is often considered to be caused by magma moving or pressurizing underground. Magma rising towards the surface could be a sign of an imminent eruption. On the other hand, many other factors influence volcano deformation, and even if magma is rising, it may stop short rather than erupting.

InSAR technology will eventually help scientists develop a forecast system for all volcanoes, including those that are remote and inaccessible. “InSAR will aid in the prediction of future eruptions,” Lu said. “At SMU, we are developing and applying this technique to track motions of volcanic activities, landslide movements, land subsidence and building stability, among other events.”

Juliet Biggs of the University of Bristol in England led the study. Biggs looked at the archive of satellite data covering more than 500 volcanoes worldwide, many of which have been systematically observed for more than 18 years.

Satellite radar can provide high-resolution maps of deformation, allowing the detection of unrest at many volcanoes that might otherwise go unrecognized. Such satellite data is often the only source of information for remote or inaccessible volcanoes.

The researchers, who included scientists from Cornell University and Oxford University, applied statistical methods more traditionally used for medical diagnostic testing and found that many deforming volcanoes also erupted (46 percent). Together with the very high proportion of non-deforming volcanoes that did not erupt (94 percent), these jointly represent a strong indicator of a volcano’s long-term eruptive potential.

“The findings suggest that satellite radar is the perfect tool to identify volcanic unrest on a regional or global scale and target ground-based monitoring,” Biggs said.

Courtesy of the University of Bristol

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

SMU welcomes its new supercomputer: ManeFrame

ManeFrame with R Gerald Turner, James Quick, Chase Harker, Chase Leinberger and Paul Ludden

At the ManeFrame ceremony were (l. to r.) SMU President R. Gerald Turner; James E. Quick, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies; Chase Harker, finalist in the naming competition; Chase Leinberger, who suggested the winning name; and Paul Ludden, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

SMU unveiled its new supercomputer, the ManeFrame, during ceremonies Wednesday, March 19, and award a Dell laptop computer to the student who named it – sophomore Chase Leinberger.

SMU students, faculty and staff selected the name from entries in a contest sponsored by SMU Provost and Vice President Paul Ludden.

With ManeFrame’s addition to its new data center at the southeastern end of campus, the University now has one of the top academic supercomputers in the nation. ManeFrame – named in honor of SMU’s mustang mascot, Peruna – will be opened to the campus in May, expanding the reach of faculty and student research into subjects ranging from particle physics, to human behavior, to water quality and drug discovery.

High-performance computing makes it possible for researchers to study complex problems involving massive amounts of data using sophisticated software and step-by-step recipes for calculations. At its peak, ManeFrame is expected to be capable of more than 120 trillion mathematical operations a second.

“High-performance computing has become an indispensible tool in the 21st century,” said Jim Quick, associate vice president of research and dean of graduate studies. “The incredible computational power provided by high-performance computing is widely used in science, engineering, business and the arts.  ManeFrame brings this capability to Dallas.”

Research: To spank or not to spank? SMU studies show research can change minds about corporal punishment

Some parents who spank their children believe it’s an effective form of discipline. But decades of studies have found that spanking is linked to short- and long-term child behavior problems.

Is there any way to get parents to change their minds and stop spanking? Child psychologist George Holden, a professor in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, wanted to see if parents’ positive views toward spanking could be reversed if they were made aware of the research.

Holden and three colleagues in the Department of Psychology used a simple, fast, inexpensive method to briefly expose subjects to short research summaries that detailed spanking’s negative impact. With Professor Alan Brown, Assistant Professor Austin Baldwin and graduate student Kathryn Croft Caderao, he carried out two studies: one with non-parents and one with parents. They found that attitudes were significantly altered.

“Parents spank with good intentions – they believe it will promote good behavior, and they don’t intend to harm the child. But research increasingly indicates that spanking is actually a harmful practice,” said Holden, lead author on the study. “These studies demonstrate that a brief exposure to research findings can reduce positive corporal punishment attitudes in parents and non-parents.”

The findings, “Research findings can change attitudes about corporal punishment,” have been published in the international journal Child Abuse & Neglect. The researchers believe the study is the first of its kind to find that brief exposure to spanking research can alter people’s views toward spanking. Previous studies in the field have relied on more intensive, time-consuming and costly methods to attempt to change attitudes toward spanking.

Research has found that parents who spank believe spanking can make children behave or respect them. That belief drives parental behavior, more so than their level of anger, the seriousness of the child’s misbehavior or the parent’s perceived intent of the child’s misbehavior.

In the first SMU study, the subjects were 118 non-parent college students divided into two groups: one that actively processed web-based information about spanking research; and one that passively read web summaries.

The summary consisted of several sentences describing the link between spanking and short- and long-term child behavior problems, including aggressive and delinquent acts, poor quality of parent-child relationships and an increased risk of child physical abuse.

The majority of the participants in the study, 74.6 percent, thought less favorably of spanking after reading the summary. Unexpectedly, the researchers said, attitude change was significant for both active and passive participants.

A second study replicated the first study, but with 263 parent participants, predominantly white mothers. The researchers suspected parents might be more resistant to change their attitudes. Parents already have established disciplinary practices, are more invested in their current practices and have sought advice from trusted individuals.

But the results indicated otherwise. After reading brief research statements on the web, 46.7 percent of the parents changed their attitudes and expressed less approval of spanking.

“If we can educate people about this issue of corporal punishment, these studies show that we can in a very quick way begin changing attitudes,” said Holden.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

Provost Ludden asks students to name SMU’s new supercomputer

The December 2013 arrival of a new supercomputer at SMU expands the University’s high-performance computing capacity to weigh in among the top academic computers in the United States.

SMU's supercomputer, delivered in December 2013“High-performance computing is a transformative technology that impacts many fields across the intellectual landscape, including physics and finance, chemistry and computing, engineering and economics, digital art, computer gaming, biology, data science, and many more fields,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden in a letter e-mailed to students.

“We are calling for SMU students to submit recommendations for a name for SMU’s powerful new computing equipment,” Ludden wrote.

The new supercomputer was known by the name “MANA” at its previous home at the Maui High-Performance Computing Center, one of the five U.S. Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Centers, said Professor of Mathematics Thomas Hagstrom, director of SMU’s Center for Scientific Computation.

“When installed in Maui its throughput capacity was 103 teraflops, which ranked among the top 500 fastest supercomputers in the world. That is 103 trillion arithmetic operations per second,” Hagstrom said.

Joe Gargiulo, SMU chief information officer, anticipates that “the peak theoretical performance of MANA combined with SMU’s current system would exceed 120 teraflops.” MANA is being installed at SMU’s new data center.

The top 5 entries in the naming contest will each receive an iPad mini, and the winning name will be selected via e-mail vote by SMU faculty, staff and students, Ludden said. The first-place entry will be announced at the dedication of the new supercomputer, and the winning student will receive a new laptop.

The 5 finalists will be selected by an SMU panel consisting of Jim Quick, associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies; Patty Alvey, director of assessment and accreditation and Richards Creative Professor of Advertising; Rick Briesch, associate professor of marketing; Hagstrom; Jingbo Ye, professor of physics; Ramon Trespalacios, student body president; and Katherine Ladner, student body secretary.

SMU’s National Center for Arts Research issues first report

SMU Meadows School of the ArtsSMU’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) has released its inaugural report assessing the health of the nonprofit arts industry.

The report, available online at smu.edu/artsresearch, is built on the most comprehensive set of arts organization data ever compiled, integrating organizational  and market-level data, and assesses the industry from multiple perspectives, including sector/art form, geography, and size of the organization.

The NCAR report is the first of its kind for the arts, creating a data-driven assessment of organizations’ performances industry-wide and identifying drivers of performance.

NCAR is led by faculty at the University’s Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business in collaboration with the Cultural Data Project (CDP) and other national partners. The vision of NCAR, the first of its kind in the nation, is to act as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community. In its first study, researchers were able to determine the extent to which managerial and artistic experience and decision-making impact an organization’s performance.

“NCAR is the first organization in the country to examine the performance of the arts industry from a statistical, data-driven perspective,” said Meadows Dean José Bowen. “Not only have we assembled the most comprehensive database and conducted the most in-depth analysis of the industry ever undertaken, but we are sharing these findings freely with the entire industry and providing tools for individual organizations to understand themselves and make changes to improve their performance. This is what makes the project unique – we are not just producing another index of how arts organizations are doing. The ultimate goal of NCAR is to improve the health of both individual organizations and the entire arts and culture ecosystem in the United States.”

To create the inaugural report, NCAR researchers integrated and analyzed data from the CDP and other national and government sources such as the Theatre Communications Group, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Census Bureau, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics. In doing so they created a spatial model of the arts and culture ecosystem of the United States.  The report measures performance on 8 different indices: contributed revenue, earned revenue, expenses, marketing impact, bottom line, balance sheet, community engagement, and program activity.

For each index, overall averages were calculated, as well as averages by sector, by organizational size, and by geographic area. These were broken down into 9 different market clusters, including 5 cities identified as stand-alone markets (New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago).

SMU Meadows School of the ArtsBeyond simply reporting on performance, the NCAR study evaluated specific drivers of performance and then, controlling for these drivers, NCAR was able to create a level playing field for all organizations in order to compare performance across organizations. From this, NCAR estimated how much of the remaining performance variation is attributable to intangible, difficult-to-observe-and-measure characteristics such as good decision-making and managerial or artistic expertise and how much is simply random variation.

NCAR draws on the academic expertise of Meadows and Cox faculty in the fields of arts management, marketing, and statistics. Zannie Voss, chair and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in the Meadows and Cox schools, serves as NCAR’s director and Glenn Voss, the Marilyn R. and Leo F. Corrigan, Jr. Endowed Professor of Marketing at Cox, serves as research director.

“In this first report we took a deep dive into eight of the areas of performance identified, and by studying these averages, tried to answer the question ‘all else being equal, what makes one arts organization more successful than another?’ Some of the findings were as one would expect, but we did find some surprises,” said Zannie Voss. “Perhaps more than any other industry, arts organizations are driven by managerial and artistic expertise. Being able to estimate the value of this expertise in an organization’s performance is the single most valuable result of our first study.”

In 2014, NCAR will launch an interactive dashboard, created in partnership with IBM, which will be accessible to arts organizations nationwide. Arts leaders will be able to enter information about their organizations and see how they compare to the highest performance standards in each of the eight indices for similar organizations. The website will also foster public discussion of best practices and solutions and offer a dedicated YouTube channel for video responses, as well as an online resource library with helpful tools and templates.

Written by Victoria Winkelman

> Read more, including report highlights, at SMU News

Research: Fossil supervolcano discovered by SMU-led team
now part of new UNESCO Geopark

geopark“It is a rare event that geology is a catalyst of public cooperation and celebration,” says geologist and volcano expert Jim Quick, SMU’s associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies.

The new Sesia-Val Grande Geopark is an example of just that, says Quick, whose international team in 2009 discovered a fossil supervolcano that now sits at the heart of the new geopark. The discovery sparked worldwide scientific interest and a regional geotourism industry.

Recently designated a geopark by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Sesia-Val Grande Geopark encompasses more than 80 communities in the Italian Alps.

The communities joined forces more than two years ago to promote the park’s creation, which UNESCO made official in September. The geopark spans tens of thousands of acres and has at its center the massive, 282 million-year-old fossil supervolcano.

“Sesia Valley is unique,” said Quick. “The base of the Earth’s crust is turned up on edge, exposing the volcano’s plumbing — which normally extends deep into the Earth and out of sight. The uplift was created when Africa and Europe began colliding about 30 million years ago and the crust of Italy was turned on end. We call this fossil the ‘Rosetta Stone’ for supervolcanoes because the depth to which rocks are exposed will aid scientific understanding of one of nature’s most massive and violent events and help us to link the geologic and geophysical data.”

The fossil supervolcano was discovered by Quick’s scientific team, which included scientists from Italy’s University of Trieste. The supervolcano has an unprecedented 15 miles of volcano plumbing exposed from the surface to the source of the magma deep within the Earth. Previously, the discovery record for exposed plumbing was about three miles, said Quick.

Only a handful of locations worldwide are chosen annually for UNESCO’s coveted geopark designation, which supports national geological heritage initiatives.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog
> Visit the SMU Research and Graduate Studies homepage at smu.edu/research

Ten SMU professors receive 2013-14 Sam Taylor Fellowships

Ten SMU faculty members have received 2013-14 Sam Taylor Fellowships from the Sam Taylor Fellowship Fund of the Division of Higher Education, United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

The Fellowships, funded by income from a portion of Taylor’s estate, award up to $2,000 for full-time faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Texas. Any full-time faculty member is eligible to apply for the Fellowships, which support research “advancing the intellectual, social or religious life of Texas and the nation.”

Applications are evaluated on the significance of the project, clarity of the proposal, professional development of the applicant, value of the project to the community or nation, and the project’s sensitivity to value questions confronting higher education and society.

The winning professors for this academic year, and their projects:

• Tim Cassedy, English, Dedman College, for research at the Library of Congress for his book Language Makes the Difference, a history of ideas about language and identity at the turn of the 19th century.

• Michael Chmielewski, Psychology, Dedman College, to study the appropriateness of commonly used psychological tests and measures for diverse populations.

• Michael Corris, Art, Meadows School of the Arts, for interviews and illustration reproductions for his book The Armchair in the Studio: The Engagement of Art and Philosophy Since the 1960s.

• Benard Cummings, Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts, for a theatre adaptation of Babette’s Feast set during the Civil War.

• Kate Engel, Religious Studies, Dedman College, for archival research in Great Britain and Germany on international Protestantism at the time of the American Revolution.

• Blake Hackler, Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts, to take part in advanced training with the SITI Theatre ensemble and conduct research on embodied actor training methodologies.

• Andrea Meltzer, Psychology, Dedman College,  for a study of newlywed couples and weight-maintenance motivations.

• Lisa Pon, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, to support reproduction of images for her upcoming book on the Madonna of the Fire.

• Candace Walkington, Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, to build a website containing mathematics problems that are personalized to middle and high school students’ interests.

• Eric White, Special Collections, Bridwell Library, to complete the first comprehensive documentary history of every surviving copy of the Gutenberg Bible, encompassing their discovery, changing ownership and rise in cultural significance.

Gerald J. Ford gives $15 million for new SMU research center

Confetti streamers fly at the announcement of Gerald J. Ford’s $15 million gift to establish a new research center at SMU. Ford’s new commitment brings to $800 million the total raised to date by the University’s Second Century Campaign.

Business leader and banker Gerald J. Ford has committed a $15 million lead gift for a campus research center that will help expand advanced computing and interdisciplinary research throughout the University.

The new state-of-the-art building will support research facilitated by SMU’s high-performance computing capabilities, among other projects. It also will be the home of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, established in May 2012 through a gift from the Dedman family and Foundation. The building will be located on SMU’s main campus at the corner of McFarlin Boulevard and Airline Road.

The Gerald J. Ford Research Center joins other advancements SMU is implementing to support its accelerated research push. Among them is completion of a new University data center in a companion building under construction on SMU property south of Mockingbird Lane. Technology in the new building will enable SMU’s high-performance computing capacity to grow from 2,000 to more than 10,000 CPU’s.

“The new Gerald J. Ford Research Center will help to transform the research and educational landscape of the University,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Students must be prepared for a world in which data analyses, modeling and visualization are critical decision-making tools, while faculty continue to push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation. Gerald Ford’s new gift continues his tradition of strong support for faculty research. We are extremely grateful to him for this major boost to SMU’s academic aspirations and impact.”

In 2003 Ford established the Gerald J. Ford Research Fellows program at SMU, which annually honors outstanding faculty members with funding to support their research and creative endeavors. To date 48 professors have been named Ford Research Fellows.

“I believe it is important that SMU alumni and friends support all areas of the University – academic programs, scholarships, athletics and campus development,” Ford said. “SMU is known for the breadth of the educational experience it provides, and this campaign is strengthening every critical component of the campus environment for our students.”

The surprise announcement of Ford’s new commitment was made Friday, Oct. 25 at a meeting of leaders and volunteers for SMU’s Second Century Campaign. The Volunteer Summit attracted more than 200 participants and coincided with the University’s Homecoming Week.

Ford’s new commitment brings to $800 million the total raised to date by SMU’s Second Century Campaign. The University announced in September that it was raising its original monetary goal from $750 million to $1 billion, based on the campaign’s rapid progress ahead of schedule. Seeking resources for scholarships, faculty positions, academic programs, facilities and the campus experience, the campaign was publicly launched in 2008.

Based on continuing campaign momentum and expansion of the goal to $1 billion, SMU has adopted ambitious new goals to:

  • Increase the number of endowed scholarships to 500 by the end of the campaign, December 31, 2015.
  • Increase the number of endowed faculty positions to 110, up from the original goal of 100. To date 96 such positions have been established, 34 through The Second Century Campaign.
  • Complete funding for 10 major capital projects, beyond the five already completed since the start of the campaign, for a total of 15.

> Read more about the Ford Research Center from SMU News

SMU scientists celebrate Nobel Prize for Higgs discovery

Particle collision from the ATLAS ExperimentSMU’s experimental physics group played a pivotal role in discovering the Higgs boson — the particle that proves the theory for which two scientists have received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today awarded the Nobel Prize to theorists Peter W. Higgs and François Englert to recognize their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass. U.S. scientists played a significant role in advancing the theory and in discovering the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field, the Higgs boson.

The Nobel citation recognizes Higgs and Englert “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.”

“A scientist may test out a thousand different ideas over the course of a career. If you’re fortunate, you get to experiment with one that works,” says SMU physicist Ryszard Stroynowski, a principal investigator in the search for the Higgs boson. As the leader of an SMU Department of Physics team working on the experiment, Stroynowski served as U.S. coordinator for the ATLAS Experiment’s Liquid Argon Calorimeter, which measures energy from the particles created by proton collisions.

The University’s experimental physics group has been involved since 1994 and is a major contributor to the research, the heart of which is the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator on the border with Switzerland and France.

Preliminary discovery results were announced July 4, 2012 at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland, and at the International Conference of High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia.

• Several contributors from SMU have made their mark on the project at various stages, including current Department of Physics faculty members Ryszard Stroynowski, Jingbo Ye, Robert Kehoe and Stephen Sekula. Faculty members Pavel Nadolsky and Fred Olness performed theoretical calculations used in various aspects of data analysis.

• University postdoctoral fellows on the ATLAS Experiment have included Julia Hoffmann, David Joffe, Ana Firan, Haleh Hadavand, Peter Renkel, Aidan Randle-Conde, Daniel Goldin and Sami Kama.

• SMU has awarded eight Ph.D. and seven M.S. degrees to students who performed advanced work on ATLAS, including Ryan Rios, Rozmin Daya, Renat Ishmukhametov, Tingting Cao, Kamile Dindar, Pavel Zarzhitsky and Azzedin Kasmi.

• Significant contributions to ATLAS have also been made by SMU faculty members in the Department of Physics’ Optoelectronics Lab, including Tiankuan Liu, Annie Xiang and Datao Gong.

“The discovery of the Higgs is a great achievement, confirming an idea that will require rewriting of the textbooks,” Stroynowski says. “But there is much more to be learned from the LHC and from ATLAS data in the next few years. We look forward to continuing this work.”

> Read the full story from SMU News

Load More Posts