2023-2024 Research & Creative Grants Awarded to Nine Faculty Projects

Nine faculty projects representing a variety of disciplines and eight colleges across campus were selected as recipients of the 2023-2024 Research & Creative Grants administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research, Scholarship and Creative Endeavors.

The Research and Creative Grants (RCG) program supports specific projects of individual tenured and tenure-track faculty members. The program’s overall objectives are to promote research, outreach and creative activities in all disciplines that will result in publications, patents, recognition, awards or exhibitions/performances appropriate to the researcher’s discipline, and/or will improve competitiveness for external funding.

The projects will receive up to $10,000 in support and are represented by ten faculty:

Manuela AngelucciManuela Angelucci, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, College of Liberal Arts, Improving Parental Mental Health and Children’s Outcomes in High-Poverty Areas through a Low-Cost Scalable Program

Nearly 970 million people worldwide experience a mental disorder, and 82% of them live in low or middle-income countries (Dinarte-Diaz, 2023). Mental disorders not only inflict suffering upon those who endure them, but they can also decrease employment, income, and investments, and consequently lead to poverty (Baranov et al., 2020; Ridley et al., 2020; Angelucci and Bennett., 2023). Evidence also correlates parental depression with impaired child development (Claessens et al. 2015, Shen et al., 2016). However, evidence of a causal link between parental depression and child outcomes is scarce, and the mechanisms remain poorly understood. We seek funding to support a pilot to inform a large-scale field experiment in Mexico. The project will investigate how a low-cost scalable mental health program targeting low-income parents improves their mental health, well-being, and labor market outcomes, benefits children’s well-being, educational, and socio-emotional outcomes, and the channels through which these effects may occur.

Circe SturmCraig CampbellCraig Campbell and Circe Sturm, Associate Professor and Professor, Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts, Mapping Indigenous Texas

The primary goal of the Mapping Indigenous Texas project is to work with Indigenous cartographers, colleagues, and community stakeholders to research and produce digital content for an interactive website. The Mapping Indigenous Texas website will contextualize important locations, histories, and living communities that showcase Texas as an Indigenous place and to counter narratives of Indigenous disappearance and extinction. This project is grounded in decolonial research methodologies from Native American and Indigenous Studies and Anthropology. Our research focuses on archives and oral histories. The audience for this work is broad. We aim to address the general public with appealing interactive maps and content that highlights the endurance of Indigenous peoples in Texas. The website, grounded in rigorous academic research, will also serve scholars and students.

Lauren GulbasLauren Gulbas, Associate Professor, Department and School of Social Work, Shifting Resiliency in the College Classroom

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in many challenges for college students, including increases in alcohol and substance use and reductions in mental health. The college classroom has remained an untapped resource for prevention. In this project, researchers will implement and examine the effectiveness of the Shifting Resiliency in the Classroom Program with the aim of promoting the mental and behavioral health of college students.

David HeymannDavid Heymann, Professor, Department and School of Architecture, Towards Local Wood Use for Environmentally Sustainable Architecture in the Galapagos

This grant request is to help fund the design study portion of a larger investigation on the architectural potential of ten appropriate endemic and common invasive wood species in the Galapagos islands. Undertaken by a trans-disciplinary, multi-national research team of environmentalists, botanists, architects, engineers and economists, the overall study addresses pressing environmental problems exacerbated by the lack of local building materials in the face of explosive urban growth in the archipelago, where concrete – all of it imported, all of it environmentally problematic – is the primary building material. The overall project’s primary aim is to produce a practical usage and sustainable architectural design guide. Its collateral goals are to foster the development of an environmentally responsible architecture specific to the Galapagos, to study (and suggest) local methods of re-forestation, and to help start a sustainable local circular construction material economy. This grant request is to cover the cost of hiring Graduate Research Assistants to assist in creating the design guide portion of that work.

Yan LengYan Leng, Assistant Professor, Department of Information, Risk, & Operations Management (IROM), McCombs School of Business, Can LLM complement agent-based modeling and multi-agent lab experiments?

This research aims to explore the untapped potential of Large Language Models (LLMs)
like GPT in simulating human-like decision-making in multi-agent environments. Traditional approaches in social sciences often rely on lab-based experiments that are costly and time-consuming. Our project will examine if LLMs can act as a complementary tool by mimicking rational decision-making and complex social behaviors such as cooperation and competition. By complementing existing methodologies like Multi-Agent Lab Experiments and Agent-Based Modeling with LLM, we hope to create a more scalable and nuanced tool for studying social interactions and human decision-making. This research could revolutionize how we approach social science experiments, making them more efficient while potentially offering new insights into human behavior.

Rosemary Anne Lester-SmithRosemary Anne Lester-Smith, Assistant Professor, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Moody College of Communication, Efficacy of Voice Therapy for Essential Vocal Tremor

Essential tremor (ET) is the most common movement disorder and causes vocal tremor (VT) in up to 62% of patients. Speakers with VT report that their voice is shaky, weak, and hoarse and that they experience increased effort, neck discomfort, and breathing difficulty when speaking. VT negatively impacts speakers’ participation in their daily communication activities and their quality of life. Because current approaches for medical treatment of VT have inconsistent effects on voice and often have adverse effects, there is a critical need for systematic research on voice therapy for VT. The goal of this Phase 1 treatment study is to evaluate the efficacy of a voice therapy program for VT using a single-case experimental design across participants with acoustical and perceptual outcome measures. The findings of this study may provide speech-language pathologists with a systematic voice therapy program for speakers with VT to improve communication and quality of life.

Ryosuke OkunoRyosuke Okuno, Associate Professor, Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering, Surface Active Amine for CO2 Capture as Bicarbonate

The purpose of this project is to investigate a novel class of advanced solvents, also known as surface-active amines, for CO2 capture as bicarbonate as a revolutionary alternative within the carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies. This one-year term project is focused on two practical aspects of CO2 capture as bicarbonate using surface-active amines: (1) bicarbonate product separation from the capture solution, and (2) the regeneration capabilities of the surface-active amines considering their chemical stability and long-term performance. The results from this project will allow us to integrate the bicarbonate product derived from the CO2 capture reaction with an electrochemical conversion step (ongoing parallel research) to generate green chemicals and fuels, with particular interest in formate/formic acid used as a carbon-bearing product. This project will generate proof-of-concept validation that impacts and accelerates research at UT Austin regarding carbon value chain management toward the global energy transition.

Miguel PinedoMiguel Pinedo, Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, College of Education, The long-term implications of parental deportations on U.S.-born Latino adults

Despite the continued high rates of deportations, there has been little research on the long-term socio-economic implications of parental deportations on US-born Latinos, leaving several important research and policy questions unanswered. It is estimated that one in every four immigrants that is deported from the United States leaves behind a US-born child. Given the continued high rates of deportations makes this project timely and critical. This study will consist of two phases. Phase I will entail recruiting a national sample of 1,200 young Latinos to complete a structured questionnaire. In Phase II, we will recruit a subset of 25 young Latinos from Phase I who had their father deported in childhood for an in-depth qualitative telephone interview. Findings will produce high-quality data to inform future policies aim at reducing socio-economic inequities.

David SteinDavid Stein, Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences, College of Natural Sciences, Elucidation of a Mechanism for Spatially-Restricted Activation of a Receptor Tyrosine Kinase during Embryonic Development

Receptor Tyrosine Kinases (RTKs) participate in a wide variety of developmental and physiological processes whose dysfunction or dysregulation is associated with numerous pathological states. My laboratory has been investigating mechanisms controlling activation and function of the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) RTK Torso to better understand the operation of RTKs in humans. Torso is distributed throughout the plasma membrane of the early, single-cell Drosophila embryo but only activated at the two ends of the cell. By a mechanism that remains poorly understood, Torso’ spatially-restricted activation by its ligand Trunk is controlled by the protein Torsolike (Tsl), the only Drosophila member of the Membrane Attack Complex/Perforin (MACPF) domain-containing class of proteins. Here, I propose to use a recently developed technology, proximity labeling, to identify proteins that co-localize or interact with Tsl, then examine their roles in Torso activation. The results will provide insight into the molecular mechanism mediating localized activation of Torso.

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