UT professor

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An ornately designed logo printed on Shakespeare’s works suggests an earlier rise to prominence than previously thought, according to a UT professor.

English professor Douglas Bruster said his research shows that Shakespeare created a type of brand and gained recognition from his peers earlier in his career through an ornate design that Bruster refers to as “Lady 8.” The logo depicts a female face, birds and leaves and appears on the title pages of the poems “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece.”

The design previously appeared only on the inside pages of books and often accompanied the names of aristocrats, Bruster said.

“Getting such a sumptuous image on your title page may have said, to Elizabethan readers, that something quite elegant, and important, was inside these books,” Bruster said.

English sophomore Taylor Moore said Bruster’s findings confirm what she has always thought and heard about Shakespeare.

“He had to work extremely hard to overcome class and educational boundaries to situate himself as a respected writer within the Elizabethan era,” Moore said. “The discovery of an ornamental brand, used to signify prestige to readers, just further supports this idea.”

Richard Field, Shakespeare’s friend and publisher, was very deliberate in his use of ornaments and printed the design on the title page of each of Shakespeare’s poems, Bruster said.

Shakespeare lacked the educational background that other writers during his time had, but his poems “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece” cemented his reputation as a leading writer, Bruster said, and the Lady 8 ornament that embellished these poems added a visual luxury to his poetry and came to stand for his achievement.

“The Lady 8 ornament was employed for a few books earlier,” Bruster said. “But when it was used for his first publications, it came to stand for them, their success and eventually the era he represented. It stands as a long-neglected ‘brand’ for a writer who was much more famous — much earlier than we sometimes like to think.”

Moore said Bruster’s research may change the way society views Shakespeare’s rise as a poet.

“I think these findings will force modern readers to think even more about the impact class had on the reception of Shakespeare’s work,” Moore said.

English professor Mary Blockley said Bruster’s research offers new knowledge about the highly acclaimed poet.

“The forging of this link … does prove there is always more to be known about even this best-known of English authors,” Blockley said.

Lingustics professor Richard Meier co-authored a study with UT alumnus Aaron Shield that found deaf children with autism avoid the use of personal pronouns.
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A study conducted by a UT professor and a UT alumnus found deaf children with autism tend to avoid using pronouns, mirroring similar habits observed in their hearing counterparts.

“The major result was finding that deaf children with autism tended to refer to themselves with a name sign rather than a sign pronoun,” said Aaron Shield, a Boston University psychology professor who received his Ph.D. in linguistics at UT. 

UT linguistics professor Richard Meier and Boston University psychology professor Helen Tager-Flusberg a co-authored the study.

A name sign is unique to a deaf individual and is usually given by a deaf child’s parents, whereas pronoun signs require deaf individuals to point to themselves or other people with their index fingers, according to Shield.

Autistic children’s reluctance to use pronouns was previously believed to be a result of the arbitrary nature of pronouns in the English language, Shield said. 

“We speculate that something bigger and more basic, perhaps the way that people with autism experience the self, could be at work here,” Shield said. 

The fact that deaf children with autism also avoid pronouns challenges the previous perception, Shield said. 

“The study shows that linguistic arbitrariness, the lack of motivated relationship between a word’s form and its meaning, is not the cause of pronoun difficulties in the speech of children with autism,” Shield said.

The study’s authors had previously hypothesized that deaf children with autism would use pronouns at a more regular rate than hearing children with autism because of the nature of sign-language pronouns.

“Sign-language pronouns make their referents quite clear because they point at them,” Shield said. “We hypothesized that this transparent form-meaning relationship could help deaf children with autism learn pronouns.”

The results of the study provide more knowledge about the linguistic capabilities of children with autism, according to Meier.

“The research has great significance for the deaf community and for educators of deaf children,” Meier said. “It helps us to better understand linguistic markers of autism in all children, deaf or hearing, signing or speaking.”

Business freshman Darrell Sung, who has volunteered to help children with autism, said he had noticed that many frequently declined to use pronouns.

“Whenever I was playing board games with [the children] for volunteering, they always referred to me by my name even when it was unnecessary,” Sung said. “I remember because they used to jokingly mispronounce my name.”

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Although American alcohol advertising campaigns are closely monitored and regulated, they do not actually have a significant impact on alcohol consumption, according to research by a UT professor.  

Gary Wilcox, advertising and public relations professor, found that per-capita consumption of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. remained relatively constant between 1971 and 2011 , as did the size of the market for alcohol advertising.

Though there were some major changes in alcohol advertising, they were largely about the focus of those ads — adapting to new trends in liquor, wine and beer sales. But the overall alcohol market did not grow significantly over the 40-year period, so brands are largely competing for a bigger slice of a largely pre-established market, Wilcox said.

Alcohol advertisements are closely regulated in the United States. In Los Angeles and Philadelphia, the advertisements are banned from appearing on most public property. In San Francisco, alcohol can’t be advertised on public transportation. Wilcox said he believes regulating advertising is a convenient and easy target
for policymakers.

“Generally speaking, there has been a lot of criticism of advertising, even to the extent that advertising has been banned for the purpose of reducing alcohol consumption,” Wilcox said. “[The results of the study found that] advertising was not a factor in the amount of alcohol people would drink. Instead, the implications were that advertising is there to help you decide what to drink.”

Advertising sophomore Julie Nguyen said it made sense to her that alcohol advertisements might only affect those who already drink alcohol.

“I believe people’s morals are already set when it comes to making decisions about alcohol. Alcohol advertising truly just excites people’s desires, and they want to drink alcohol because they already do it,” Nguyen said. “It’s so easy to just picture your life with the product and then finally have it trigger your desires. And that’s what advertising is — desire.”

Understanding the dangers of drinking too much alcohol is the real issue most people face when it comes to alcohol consumption, according to corporate communication sophomore Ashley Na.

“People should be able to take control of their own lives. Completely banning alcohol ads alone takes away from our freedom of speech,“ Na said. “People should be an adult and take responsibility of their own mistakes, instead of blaming it on third-party things such as alcohol ads.”

Many alcohol companies don’t allow ads that show drunk people, abusive behavior or people driving because that’s not the intention of the product, according to Wilcox. He said this tight regulation sometimes limits the companies’ freedom of expression.

“Firms are allowed to compete for the consumer’s choice, and if you restrict that, then you kind of hobble the economy a little bit and also hobble people’s freedoms of receiving truthful information about legal products,” Wilcox said. “There are wonderful organizations that look into problems with abusive alcohol behavior, and those things need to be encouraged, not restricting the advertisement messages.”

A UT professor and a postdoctoral fellow said in a letter published in The Lancet medical journal Tuesday that Ebola could be silently infecting people through contact with bodily fluids without displaying any symptoms and making them immune to the disease.

Steven Bellan, postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, and integrative biology professor Lauren Meyers hypothesized in their letter that, while the disease may be infecting people silently, it is not enough to be harmful. Furthermore, they reported that it could potentially render anyone affected immune to future infection.

“This is a hypothesis that, if true, could help us improve our projection for what is going to happen in the outbreak,” Meyers said. “It also might help us improve the control effort to help save more lives with the limited resources.”

Other diseases have shown that infection can result in immunity, but research has not confirmed whether this is true for Ebola as well, according to Bellan.

“Immunity is very complicated and varies a lot between different diseases,” Bellan said. “What is known from previous outbreaks is that people do get infected with Ebola without ever getting sick. … What we don’t know is if the immune response will result in protective immunity.”

There have been a total of three confirmed cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reports, since the beginning of the outbreak, which started in West Africa, there have been a total of 8,997 confirmed cases and 4,493 deaths. Bellan said this outbreak is bigger than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined.

“The question is, ‘Why did this one get so big?’” Bellan said. “The hypothesis that most people think is most possible is the fact that it’s spread to more dense populations than it ever has before, in an area that there is a lot more movement between cities.”

Meyers hopes her and Bellan’s published letter will bring light to their hypothesis, which she says can help contain the disease in all regions of the world.

“The reason for the publication is to call the hypothesis to the attention of the public health community and discuss what can be done to test these ideas,” Meyers said. “To determine if silent infection is actually immunizing, we’ll have to do studies on the ground in the midst of an outbreak.”

Rebecca Callahan, assistant professor in the College of Education, has analyzed the eco- nomical advantages of being bilingual in today’s job market.

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There can be economic benefits to learning a second language, according to a UT professor.

Education assistant professor Rebecca Callahan and UCLA professor Patricia Gándara conducted research for a book, “The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy and the U.S. Labor Market,” that claims there is a negative economic effect to losing bilingualism.

“Bilingual instruction has been [in] decline,” Callahan said. “Our research showed us that there is an economic cost to people that lose their bilingualism.”

According to Callahan, learning a second language could also have psychological and social benefits, and evidence suggests that bilinguals perform better academically.

“Bilinguals tend to be better problem solvers, and they have different perspectives into new ideas,” Callahan said. “They are also less likely to drop out [of high school], more likely to enroll in college, and they are more employable.”

According to Iliana Alanis, associate professor at the College of Education and Human Development at UTSA, Callahan’s research could be used to prove the value of foreign language education.

“This book is timely in the Texas education and politics,” Alanis said. “When we visit legislators, they want to see research and data and the book provides this.”

The research for the book, which will be published in October, was conducted over the span of two years, and included the work of other scholars.

Callahan said the goal of the book was to bring to light the economic advantage of knowing two languages. Callahan said she hopes the findings stand out to politicians, who may then support the teaching of a second language in schools.

“All children need to have their opportunity to develop their bilingual skills,” Alanis said. “This gives them an opportunity to do better in schools.”

According to Callahan, the book presents evidence that bilinguals tend to be more successful in the labor market and are more likely to finish a four-year degree than English monolinguals. One theory for the cause of this is larger social networks.

Coffee growth worldwide is shifting from the shade grown coffee toward the more intensive style of farming e.g. sun grown coffee, which could have damaging effects on the environment.

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If you drink one type of sustainable coffee, your next caffeine buzz may be in short supply, according to research by one UT professor.

Biology assistant professor Shalene Jha found that the proportion of land used for shade-grown coffee, or coffee grown below the canopy of a forest, has decreased worldwide by 20 percent since 1996. 

“The way coffee is grown across the globe has changed a lot in the last 20 years,” Jha said. “[It’s] shifting more towards sun style, with open trees.”

According to Jha, who studies conservation biology, shade-grown coffee provides a diverse habitat and resources for native animals. Jha said the growing alternative, sun-grown coffee, involves an intensive form of farming in which forests are cleared to make room for coffee cultivation, which could have damaging environmental effects.

“Shade-grown coffee supports a lot of biodiversity — it allows the soil to replenish nutrients,” Jha said. “It provides natural pest control and a habitat for birds. The thing about [sun-grown coffee] is it’s a form of short-term production [that] doesn’t last long, and it tends to lead to deforestation.”

Jha said the shift in coffee growth is a result of large drops in the price of coffee worldwide. Since growing sun-grown coffee is less expensive and does not require certification, many growers have shifted to the more intensive style of farming to keep costs down.

Beth Beall, president of Texas Coffee Traders, an Austin roasting company that has several coffee shops on campus, said, despite the decrease in shade-grown farming, sales of the coffee in the U.S. and locally have increased over the past few years. According to Beall, the company’s sales of organic shade-grown coffee have increased by 25 percent each year for the past two years, but there is often a trade-off consumers face between quality coffee and lower prices.

“People come into Coffee Traders daily asking for organic and fair trade coffees,” Beall said in an email. “From the consumer side, our sales are up, but there is a push back when prices rise due to the higher costs associated with an organic or small farm coffee.”

Beall said one reason for the decline in shade grown production is the cost of certification for farmers.

“Once an organic farm is approved, the farmer must pay the certification fee, the fertilizers used must be organic, and an inspector must be paid to inspect the farm annually,” Beall said. “All of this is on the gamble that the coffee will sell at a higher price in the market.”

English senior Cara Shaffer said, although price matters when she buys coffee, ultimately, she would go with the more environmentally friendly brand.

“I’m a poor college student, so I care about the price, but I do like trees and the environment, so I think, honestly, I’d pay a little more [for shade-grown coffee],” Shaffer said.

With the help of colleagues, one UT professor is attempting to alleviate waiting room times when patients do not show up for their appointments.

Kumar Muthuraman, associate information, risk and operations management professor, along with two professors from Purdue University produced an algorithm that computes variables such as the probability a patient may not show up to an appointment based on past history, as well as weather conditions and day of the week, according to Muthuraman. Those variables will allow schedulers to suggest to patients the best available appointment times.

“The algorithm minimizes the chances of extremely large waiting times, nobody waiting in the waiting room and it minimizes the chances of physician’s status of the feeling,” Muthuraman said. “So it tries to be intelligent about the utilization with all the knowledge to rescue the total amount of time people wait and the total amount of time that physicians have no patients in the waiting room.”

Muthuraman said this specific algorithm typically applies to clinics with one physician. He said with the Dell Medical School being built, his team is working on scheduling mechanisms that would work in complex networks such as larger clinics and even hospitals.

Assistant nursing professor Terry Jones said scheduling is challenging because schedulers must predict how long certain visits will take and schedule visits at times convenient for the patients. Jones said most clinics have some idea of what their no-show rate is, and when clinics overbook their schedules, it is in response to no-show rates.

“If I know that I have 100 spots open in my practice or clinic, and I know that on average 20 percent of the patients don’t show up, then I’m probably going to overbook by 20 percent counting on the fact that some people are not going to show up or cancelation, and that my schedule is still going to be OK,” Jones said. “If, on the other hand, nobody canceled that day, then you really are overbooked, and so patient dwell times then are going to get larger because we are backed up.”

Mark Lawley, biomedical engineering professor at Purdue University, said his main role was to work in the field to understand and clearly define the problems health care workers expressed with scheduling.

“We wanted to develop methods to create optimal outpatient schedules that balance patient access and patient satisfaction with clinic revenue and clinic costs such as overtime and patient waiting,” Lawley said. “Our models do a very good job of balancing these things and increasing the number of patients you can see.”

Jones said she believes more health care-efficient innovations will continue in the future, but one aspect will remain the same. 

“At the end of the day, we deal with humans, and you can never, with 100 percent [accuracy], predict what some people are going to do,” Jones said.

At a National Book Critics Circle ceremony in New York City last Thursday, a UT professor was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his 42 years of writing and publishing.

English professor Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, whose writings mostly deal with stories of the Rio Grande Valley, was the recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime
Achievement Award. Hinojosa-Smith was awarded by the group alongside six other writers and poets from around the country.

In his acceptance speech, Hinojosa-Smith said he appreciated the recognition from esteemed professionals in his field.

“What you’re looking at here is a very lucky man,” Hinojosa-Smith said. “To receive this award means a culmination of one’s life work, recognized by men and women who know what they’re doing about their job.”

The National Book Critics Circle is comprised of nearly 600 critics and editors from literary newspapers and magazines. The association, founded in 1974, recognizes achievements in poetry, criticism, biography, autobiography, fiction and nonfiction.

Dagoberto Gilb, writer-in-residence at the University of Houston–Victoria and the author who gave the award to Hinojosa-Smith at the ceremony, said he respected the faithfulness of Hinojosa-Smith’s writing to the Chicano culture.

“[Hinojosa-Smith] tells the common stories of us, not the predictable cliches and stereotypes,” Gilb said. “He does it in a language that is ours. He tells stories not just about where we once came from, but where we have been and still are.”

English professor emeritus William Scheick said Hinojosa-Smith’s novels contain a substantial amount of material that might not be obvious at first glance.  

“[Hinojosa-Smith’s] writings present a collage of multiple narrative viewpoints, different cultural identities, various generational time periods and miscellaneous anecdotal stories — both comic and serious,” Scheick said. “The ideal reader of his work will dig for treasure buried beneath the welter of the small talk and everyday episodes constituting the author’s narrative surface.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree from UT in 1953 and beginning teaching at the University in 1981, Hinojosa-Smith said he and his family feel a strong connection to the 40 Acres.

“It was always my desire to return to my alma mater as a professor,” Hinojosa-Smith said. “We’re a UT family: my two daughters, my brother and I, our two brothers-in-law, two nephews, a grandnephew and his sister. With that background, who couldn’t be happier to be here?”

The Academy of Athens, a research academy established in 1926, announced the election of a native Greek UT professor to its list of members Thursday night.

Nicholas Peppas, born in Athens, Greece, moved to Boston in August 1971 and earned his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in biomedical and chemical engineering, receiving the degree in two years. Peppas said he appreciated the recognition from his home country.

“I was humbled and at the same time very happy for the election,” Peppas said. “It is a dream of all Greeks to be recognized by the highest recognition of the country where they were born.”

The Academy of Athens attributes Peppas’ multidisciplinary work with biomaterials, drug delivery and pharmaceutical bioengineering as well as his 37 medical product patents to his nomination. Peppas said around 760 students, visiting scientists and postdoctoral students have passed through his lab in his 11 years working at the University, including 150 graduate students. Peppas has spent a total of 38 years in research, including a stint at Purdue University.

William Liechty, a former graduate student who worked with the professor, said Peppas’ commitment put him above others in his field. Liechty, who now works in research and development at Dow Pharmaceutical Sciences, said he appreciated the individual attention from Peppas.

“What sets him above nearly every professor I’ve known — what makes him a cut above — is the time and dedication he has to make sure that we can personally succeed in our own careers,” Liechty said. “I think that’s really uncommon and rare for a professor of his stature. I just wonder if there are any awards left to give this guy.”

Peppas, the chair of the biomedical engineering department and a professor in chemical and biomedical engineering, has been elected into several research academies including the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the National Academy of Engineering and the French Academy of Pharmacy.

Surya Mallapragada, also a former graduate student who worked with Peppas and now a biological engineering professor at Iowa State University, said she has always been impressed by the hours Peppas spent in his office working on his research.

“He was always one of the first to arrive at work and one of the last to leave, despite the fact that he lived 60 miles from campus, and we lived a few miles away from campus,” Mallapragada said. “He is still a wonderful mentor and friend to me, after all these years.”

Correction: This article has been corrected since its original posting. Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated the people who have passed through Nicholas Peppas' lab. It includes students, postdoctoral students and visiting scientists. The story also misstated Peppas' position at UT. He is the chair of the biomedical engineering department.

Planned Parenthood will use research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, headed by UT professor Joseph Potter, to justify a request for a preliminary injunction against a set of new abortion restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature in July.

Renee Paradis, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, said her client is challenging two provisions of the bill: strengthened restrictions on medication-induced abortions and new requirements for doctors who perform abortions to acquire admitting privileges from hospitals.

Potter’s research — which used information provided by the plaintiff — culminated in an expert report showing how the bill would affect Texas women. 

“Dr. Potter’s research has been extremely helpful,” Paradis said. “It has allowed [the plaintiff] to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of the bill in its infringement upon the rights of women in Texas.”

Planned Parenthood’s official request for a preliminary injunction against the new bill included several citations of Potter’s research with the project. Referencing the “Potter Declaration” — a term the plaintiff uses to cite Potter’s research — the injunction states, “Out of the approximately 68,900 women who are expected to seek an abortion annually in Texas, a full 22,286 will not be able to do so because of the privileges law.” 

Danielle Wells, representative of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said the state of care for Texas women is already in jeopardy because the legislature cut funding for family planning programs by two-thirds in 2011. 

Wells said the decrease caused more than 70 female care centers to close and more than 130,000 women to lose access to basic preventative care such as cervical cancer screenings and birth control in addition to abortion services.

“I think it’s important to recognize that if this bill goes into effect, it will harm the women who are already suffering the most,” Wells said. 

Rachel Renier, Plan II Honors freshman, said she thinks there will always be a demand for abortions and closing clinics would lead to women turning to the “black market.” 

“At a certain socioeconomic level, I think abortions should be available and adding regulations isn’t the best way to prevent women from having abortions if they are really desperate,” Renier said. “I’m glad to see the research from UT contribute to the effort to fix the issues caused by these regulations.”

The project used a team of researchers from UT’s Population Research Center, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Ibis Reproductive Health, an international women’s health organization.