Professors’ Research Extends Beyond School Year
Trinity funds more than 50 faculty projects for the upcoming year
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
Students in the environmental wellbeing course stand in a circle in a field,

Laura Allen, Ph.D., Ellen Barnett, Ph.D., and Courtney Crim, Ed.D. aren’t just interested in the mental health of college students because of their profession – it’s personal. All have college-age children of their own. 

That’s why Allen and Crim proposed a new course called “Natural Environment and Well-Being,” which gets Trinity students out into nature while earning college credit at the same time. The course builds off an interdisciplinary collision grant from five years ago that brought together Allen, Barnett, and Crim, along with biology professor Jonathan King, Ph.D., who helps with biometric measures, and sociology professor Benjamin Sosnaud, Ph.D., who helps with data analysis. King and Sosnaud also contribute to the experiment design process. 

“We were really interested in helping our pre-service teachers develop some resilience skills for when they get into the classroom,” Allen says. We found that it’s great to tell people to go [outside], but you can’t tell an already stressed undergraduate to go make more time to do something that they already don’t have time for.” 

The Natural Environment and Well-Being students relax in Hardberger Park. 

This summer, they are studying qualitative and quantitative data from two specific course projects: photo stories and sit spot reflections. In each activity, students spent time in nature and recorded their feelings during and after. Additionally, students were surveyed throughout the semester about their mood, resilience, and rumination. Barnett, with the aid of undergraduate researcher Leah Marsh ’23, is analyzing the sit spot reflections. Crim is focusing on the photo stories, while Allen reviews the survey results. 

While Barnett and Marsh are using a Murchison grant for their work this summer, Allen and Crim are using faculty summer stipends. Each year, Trinity faculty can apply for summer stipends—monetary awards that allow faculty to devote the summer to a scholarly or creative project—and academic leaves—a semester or a year spent on an in-depth study. For the 2022-23 academic year, the University has selected 25 faculty to receive summer stipends and 26 to receive academic leave. 

See the list of project descriptions for the 2022-23 stipends and academic leaves below. 


Summer Stipends

Virtù Signaling: Michelangelo’s Drawings and Poetry for Tommaso Cavalieri

Agoston’s article reinterprets Michelangelo’s Cavalieri drawings and poems as a means for the artist to recast the public image of his virtù and virility as a tormented Petrarchan lover and to forge bonds within an expanded, illustrious social network.

Nature, Resilience, and College Student Mental Health

This study is designed to determine whether learning about the benefits of natural environments and participating in nature-based field work via a new course (EDUC/ENVI 3310: The Natural Environment and Well-Being) affects mood, rumination, and resilience, as has been indicated in the research literature.

Cocaine-induced changes of one excitatory input to target-defined dopaminergic neurons

Cocaine changes the strength of specific synapses onto neurons that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter critical for our learning how to obtain rewards. Beaudoin’s project examines these specific synapses onto three types of dopaminergic neurons, typified by where they release dopamine in the mouse brain.

How do children learn new verbs?

The Childers lab will collect data for studies examining how context affects noun and verb learning, and verb learning using comparisons of events in the US and Japan.  They will also design and create stimuli for a new study. Her focus is to better understand how children aged 2- to 5-years learn verbs.

Nature, Resilience, and College Student Mental Health

Continuing the work of Crim’s interdisciplinary team, this study expands on the original question: Can spending time in natural environments support student mental health, well-being, and resilience? Utilizing new data from their new course, the team is examining specific assignments to evaluate impact on student well-being.

Situation Comedies and the Re-imagining of Gender

This project examines changing depictions of gender and increased dismissal of toxic masculinity in popular contemporary sitcoms. Through industry and ideological analysis, this work explores the possibility of imagining, and ultimately creating, a more complex and flexible understanding of gender and gender roles via television.

The Motivation of Hospitals in Providing Community Benefits: A Supply and Demand

Although providing community benefits has been increasingly central for U.S. hospitals, little is known about the determinants of hospitals’ community benefit provision. This study examines factors that affect a healthcare organization’s decisions concerning the provision of community-oriented health practices by using a supply and demand model.

Belonging in Translation: Muslim Leadership and Multifaith Education in North America

“Belonging in Translation” examines the first accredited Islamic chaplaincy programs in North America, all of which are located in Protestant Christian seminaries. Jalalzai explores both Muslim and Christian rationales for these interfaith collaborations, along with their outcomes—both intended and unintended.

Global Cinematography in the Age of Art Cinema

Keating’s goal is to write a book about five canonical cinematographers who developed new styles of photography during the 1940s and 1950s: Figueroa, Graziati, Miyagawa, Almendros, and Mitra. Each one rejected the conventions of Hollywood cinema to create images that were more attuned to the nuances of light in historically specific milieus.

Synaptic Plasticity: A Discrete Dynamic Approach

In this project, Kwessi plans to study synaptic plasticity using discrete dynamical systems with a focus on the dynamics of the length of the connection intensities between neurons in order to reduce the curse of dimensionality.

Let’s ‘see’ San Antonio: A visual comparison of tourism images shared on Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr

This research will compare tourism images of downtown San Antonio shared across the image-based social networking sites of Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr. The goal is to determine how different social networking sites vary in their visual communication of a tourist destination.

Scaling Laws for Ultracold Molecular Collision Lifetimes

During the collision of two ultracold diatomic molecules, a long-lived metastable tetramer may form. The lifetime of the tetramer is related to the density of tetramer states available at the collision energy. Mehta’s goal is to derive certain scaling laws that govern the lifetime.

Legal protections and the making of transgender counter-publics in contemporary Pakistan

This project examines new forms of legal awareness and political activism among members of Pakistan’s transgender female community in the wake of the passage of the 2018 Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Act.

The Politics of Post-truth in Germany: Anti-Muslim and Anti-Western Discourses in Cyberspace

Despite their mutually expressed antipathy for one another, Islamophobes and Europhobes use similar strategies in the production and dissemination of their hateful propaganda. Both rely, in particular, on the postmodern strategy of “othering,” that is, on reductionist demonizing and scapegoating of their alleged mortal enemies.

A Latin Commentary on Book 11 of Apuleius’ Golden Ass

This project will result in the publication of a book-length commentary on the Latin of Apuleius’ Golden Ass, Book 11. The book will be published in collaboration with Trinity undergraduates and will be the first student-focused commentary on this Latin text.

Undine: An Ancient Naiad in the 21st Century

This essay examines the reception of ancient myth in Christian Petzold’s 2020 film Undine, focusing on the ways in which the director incorporates myth through the use of visual cues connecting the world of 21st-century Berlin with the ancient world of Greco-Roman myth.

Trinity remembers Corinne Pache, who died on July 20, 2022. 

Performing Social Change: Changing Narratives

This project uses Theatre for Social Change techniques to help the inhabitants of Catania and Torretta, in Sicily, Italy, to change  narratives  from those  defined by the stereotype of mafia to the one informed by the deep cultural roots and honest lives of its inhabitants. In Catania the project culminates with a public performance created with the Comunità di Sant’Egidio.

Animal, Android, Alien, Ghost

Literary representations of emerging creatures such as androids, AI, artificial humans, and imaginary creatures such as vampires, ghosts, aliens, and the alien offer fresh and creative resources for reimagining the ways in which we share the world with nonhuman animals.

In the Garden

A series of new works in sculpture and drawing devoted to the theme of the garden.

Visual Documentation for Barnett Newman’s Curatorial Projects, 1944-1946

The project provides new visual documentation and analysis for Barnett Newman’s curatorial projects of the mid-1940s concerning so-called “primitive” art (mainly Indigenous American archaic art and Northwest Coast Indian painting). The work will present new archival material related to these activities and critically evaluate their significance for understanding Newman’s concept of symbolism in abstract art.

Development of a passive logic NOT gate using microwave-area frequency domain techniques

This project explores a novel technique to create a logic gate (a building block of electronics) that is high-speed and does not require a power source. Schwartz’s proposal builds on a recent demonstration using light waves and fiber-optics by using the same principles in an electrical circuit.

Project Title: CUREing the Museum of the Bible

Spigel will create and implement a Course-embedded Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) that will investigate whether the Museum of the Bible follows its own mission statement. The CURE will take place in his Hebrew Bible/Old Testament course, utilizing research methods and approaches students learn in the course.

The Religious Writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe

This project entails the preparation of a scholarly edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s religious writings to be included in Oxford University Press’ Collected Works of Harriet Beecher Stowe. During the summer stipend period, Stokes will focus in particular on editing Stowe's book Woman in Sacred History (1874).

Traveling Plants in the Age of Exploration: Forster, Humboldt, Chamisso

In this environmental humanities project, Sullivan studies the cultural and ecological impact of vegetal colonization occurring with the journeys of 19th-century European explorers. Focusing on travel texts by Adelbert von Chamisso, Georg Foster, and Alexander von Humboldt, she traces plant travel and disruptions across oceans.

Communists at Twilight: East Germany’s Older Generation of Writers in the 1960s

Swope’s project explores how older writers in East Germany dealt with the social changes of the 1960s. He offers a new interpretation of 1960s East German culture by viewing it through the lens of intellectuals who had survived the great traumas of the 20th century


Academic Leaves

Manufacturing Memories - Narratives of Migrants’ Journeys and Deaths

Spring 2023

This project analyzes the narrative about migrants’ stories, the memorialization of their journeys, and loss of lives in the local communities impacted by migration flows. It investigates whether there is a link between the narrative of stories, the memorialization, and local communities’ perception of migrants.

A Loving Hatred: The Embattled Friendship of D.H. Lawrence and J. Middleton Murry

Spring 2023

A study of the literary and biographical ramifications of the intense and conflicted relationship between D.H. Lawrence and J. Middleton Murry, involving issues of marital infidelity, personal betrayal, sexual identity, roman a’clef, oedipal and bisexual repression, postwar alienation, and the province of male friendship.

Eating Disorders and Food Insecurity

Spring 2023

The aim of this project is to further advance understanding of the relationship between food insecurity and eating disorders by analyzing and publishing results from three studies that include 2400 individuals living with food insecurity.

Varāṅgacarita: The Deeds of Prince Varāṅga

Spring 2023

Clines will spend his academic leave completing an English translation of the Jain author Jaṭāsiṃhanandi’s Sanskrit Varāṅgacarita (The Deeds of Prince Varāṅga), with accompanying critical introduction, glossary, and explanatory notes.

The Shape of a Megalopolis: Revolution, Planning, and Informality in 20th Century Mexico City

Fall 2022

De Antuñano’s project describes Mexico City’s 20th-century transformation from a midsize city to a megalopolis. It focuses on Mexico City’s working-class, “informal” peripheries, a crucible where public officials, developers, political brokers, and thousands of families built and laid claims to a new kind of city.

Beyond the Library: Campus Information Collections, Contexts, and Practices

Spring 2023

The library is a central campus provider of information resources and collections needed for teaching, learning, and research. Yet, individuals and units across campus also create and maintain collections of needed information resources. This project will explore how people create and interact with non-library collections.

The Case of Trinity University: What Factors Influence Academic Performance in Gateway Courses between the Fall 2015-Spring 2020 Academic Terms?

Fall 2022

In this article, Hermann seeks to answer three research questions: 1) Do Trinity’s first-generation, underrepresented students (FGUS) have a disproportionately high deficient grade (D/F/W) rate compared to non-FGUS students? 2) Does the timing (first semester vs. the other three subsequent semesters) of taking gateway classes influence student performance? And, 3) Does taking two or more gateway classes the same semester increase the D/F/W rates for students?

Two shipwrecks from the era of Tutankhamen

Full Academic Year, 2022-23

Hirschfeld will conduct studies of the cargoes from two shipwrecks that sank approximately 100 years and 100 kilometers apart, at the beginning and end of the 13th century BC, along the southwestern coast of modern Turkey.

Understanding the respiration process at the molecular level

Full Academic Year, 2022-23

Respiration is the utilization of the oxygen we breathe to produce energy. Work in the Hunsicker-Wang lab will focus on disseminating studies of proteins involved in this process and the start of a new project that will study a full complex involved in respiration.

Antiquity Tomorrow: The Classical World and America’s Future

Fall 2022

This project will demonstrate the continued vitality of the classical world as a touchstone (and occasionally lightning rod) for contemporary American debates concerning environment, sexuality, and race.

Petitions of Gay Men in Cold War East Berlin, 1968-1990

Fall 2022

This project looks at petitions (“Eingaben”) written by Cold War East Berlin gay men to the communist East German dictatorial government, investigating what these valuable archival sources can tell us about the evolving relationship between the government and these citizens to help create a more comprehensive historical narrative.

Seeing the Light and Feeling the Heat: Impacts of Our Changing Environment on the Neurobiology of Lizard Behavior

Full Academic Year, 2022-23

This project will explore the impacts of environmental change on lizard brain and behavior by studying how artificial light at night influences daily changes in the lizard brain and how warmer incubation temperatures impact juvenile development.

The moral evaluation of music

Full Academic Year, 2022-23

A philosophical investigation of the nature of “music alone” as a medium and genre, and the question of whether such music may express moral attitudes and thus be morally evaluable.

Mokuhanga Residency – Traditional Japanese Woodblock Printing

Fall 2022

MI-LAB (Mokuhanga Innovation Lab) is the only artist-in-residence program for  Mokuhanga (Traditional Japanese Woodblock Printing) in the world. Attending their advanced residency will enable Lee to increase his technical skills in the field, learn from masters and other advanced practitioners, make international connections, and meet traditional tool-makers.

Goal Focused Leadership, Goal Orientations, and Employee Creativity and Job Satisfaction

Fall 2022

This study examines the effects of goal focused leadership on employee creativity and job satisfaction in conjunction with employee goal orientations.

Relationships and Mental Health: Examining the Role of Self-Expansion in Depression Using an Experience Sampling Approach

Full Academic Year, 2022-23

Self-expansion describes the increase in positive self-concept content that occurs when individuals form and maintain romantic relationships. Extending prior research showing that self-expansion is beneficial for individuals in romantic relationships, this project uses experience sampling to examine whether self-expansion is associated with reduced depression symptomology.

Evaluating the Effects of Hyaluronic Acid Concentration and Molecular Weight on the Differentiation and Inflammatory Response of Human Neural Stem Cells Using Multi-Interpenetrating Polymer Networks (mIPNs)

Fall 2022

Using a new generation of engineered 3D-scaffolds, this research will evaluate the effects of hyaluronic acid (HA) concentration and molecular weight on the progression of neuron-like cell lineages and the regulation of the inflammatory response of neural stem cells.

Do juveniles pay to stay (at home) for the winter? The evolutionary benefits of sociality in the titmouse (bird)

Fall 2022

Why be social and not be a loner? This question is central to understanding the evolutionary pressures that lead to all forms of complex social interactions. The bird, the Black-crested Titmouse, forms unusual groups composed of adult territory owners and multiple juveniles. These groups act together to defend territories with mob-based aggression. This project explores the benefits associated with this unusual form of social mobbing—a topic that remains largely unexplored in non-humans.

Math Models of Bacterial Motility in Viscoelastic Fluids near a Boundary

Spring 2023

Bacterial motility depends on the flagellar kinematics and the complex fluid properties. This proposed project will simulate the fluid-bacterium interactions in a viscoelastic fluid to understand how the fluid microstructure and flagellar dynamics affect bacterial motility in a non-linear manner near a boundary.

Archaism and Liberalism in Modern Architecture 

Spring 2023

Archaism and Liberalism in Modern Architecture explores the uses of formal “archaism,” in major works of modern architecture from the 1930s through the 1960s. Examining thematically paired, international case studies, the book argues that archaism constituted a major current of 20th-century modernism and reflected architects’ engagements with questions at the core of international liberalism.

Holocaust Space as Sacred: Bearing Witness in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Spring 2023 

By analyzing with theoretical tools applied to religious ritual, pilgrimage, and Holocaust memorials, this project examines the construction of sacred space at the interfaith gathering founded by Zen Buddhist teacher Bernie Glassman in 1996 held annually at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

Champions League, Bosman Rule, and Competitive Balance in Domestic European Football Leagues

Fall 2022

This is a project about competitive balance. Santos addresses the effects of the Champions League and the Bosman Rule in Competitive Balance of Domestic European Football Leagues. While sports data is being used, the structural model and competitive measures we propose have a broad application to economics, specifically to industrial organization settings where measuring market concentration is important.

Studying the dynamics of FRET paired fluorescent molecules near gold nanogratings

Spring 2023

Nanoscale metal patterns can be engineered with optical resonances that enhance light signals from fluorescent molecules. This project explores this enhancement for pairs of fluorescent molecules that transfer light energy between the two. Enhancing this transfer has applications in photovoltaics and biological systems.

Computer-Mediated Communication and Personal Relationships

Fall 2022

Predicting Biological Age by DNA Methylation in Neural Networks

Fall 2022

Aging is a biological process during an organism’s lifespan. The accumulation of mutations and damages lowers the fitness of those at older ages and increases hazards to their survival. Zhang’s project will study how aging is affected by DNA markers by using neural networks.

Not All Profitability is Created Equal: The Longitudinal Economic Effects of Big Data and Analytics Implementation

Fall 2022

This research aims to conduct a longitudinal study that looks into how the characteristics of big data and analytics (BDA) implementation affects the business value of BDA. Specifically, it focuses on two characteristics of enterprise BDA implementation: BDA implementation scope (function wide vs. enterprise wide) and objective (cost focus vs. revenue focus vs. mixed focus). Through constructing a panel dataset that is sourced from Nexis Uni and Compustat databases, this study examines how these BDA implementation characteristics influence firm profitability over time.

The header photo depicts the students in the Natural Environment and Well-Being course at Guadalupe River State Park with Allen and King. 

Matilda Krell '23 helps tell Trinity's story as a writing intern for Trinity University Strategic Communications and Marketing.

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