Research Showcase Honors Eight CAS Scholars

Posted on: January 14, 2014

research-mattersThe College of Communication Arts & Sciences' research showcase on the main floor of the CAS Building has eight new honorees.

The college started the research showcase in 2012 as a way to recognize the outstanding work of our research faculty. Each semester, eight new honorees are selected from all departments and their portraits hung in the research showcase on the main floor of the CAS Building, serving as an inspiration for our students, as well as other faculty, staff, visiting alumni and friends.

Congratulations go out to the 2014 spring semester research showcase honorees for their outstanding research and scholarly achievements:

  • Daniel Bergan, Associate Professor, Communication
  • Shelia Cotten, Professor, Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media
  • Karl Gude, Graphics Editor in Residence, School of Journalism and Media Sandbox
  • Eric Hunter, Associate Professor, Communicative Sciences and Disorders
  • Anna McAlister, Assistant Professor, Advertising + Public Relations
  • Bruno Takahashi, Assistant Professor, Communication and School of Journalism
  • Brian Winn, Associate Professor, Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media
  • Susan Wyche, Assistant Professor, Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media
Daniel Bergan, Ph.D.

Dan BerganBergan's main research interests involve the influence of advocacy efforts on public policy. He has conducted field experiments evaluating the effectiveness of different advocacy efforts on public policy, and in particular, the influence of constituent contacts to policymakers on health policy outcomes.

In a recent study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Bergan, along with (then Ph.D. student) Genevieve Risner, tested the influence of issue ads about health reform on attitudes about reform. He also has explored public attitudes on tobacco policy and anti-bullying.

"My main results so far have shown that legislators' voting behavior is influenced when people contact their legislators. This is encouraging for people who have thought about contacting their legislator or for citizen groups that rely on their membership to influence public policy," Bergan said. "In future work, I will be trying to better understand these results by exploring when, and under what circumstances, constituent contacts and other forms of advocacy influence policy outcomes."

Shelia Cotten, Ph.D.

Sheila CottonCotten's research examines how people use information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the health, social and educational impacts of this use for people in varying generational groups. She also focuses on how larger scale social and digital inequalities affect ICT use and a range of health and quality of life outcomes.

One of her current projects, funded by the National Institute on Aging, examines how computer use impacts the quality of life for older adults. In this randomized controlled trial, approximately 300 older adults living in assisted and independent living communities have been trained to use computers and the Internet.

"We have found that using the Internet reduces depression, reduces loneliness, increases contact with social ties, and increases both the quality and the quantity of contact with friends and family members," Cotten said. "Participants in this study also have learned how to overcome social and spatial barriers that are present in the types of communities in which they reside."

Karl Gude

Karl GudeGude currently is working on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to disseminate understanding of phylogenesis, the evolutionary development and diversification of a species or group of organisms, and the tree of life that is used to visualize the various categories that all life falls into.

Working with students and outside professionals, Gude and his team are using a variety of social media to inform the public and scientific community about their educational site. They also are building awareness for a larger, connected project being conducted at other universities to build an online tool that scientists can work with to conduct and share phylogenetic research. Additionally, Gude is involved in building an educational website to engage and teach the public about the science behind the tree of life.

"There are a variety of online efforts to explain the evolutionary tree of life, but they fail to engage and inform the user because they use standard, text-heavy web designs. Very few contain interactive graphics that can pull the user in and explain the science, and those that exist are simple and don't go far enough," Gude said.

"Our site will be text-light and highly visual using interactive graphics that will compel the user to explore the content. Deeper explanations for the different parts of the tree will be revealed as you mouse over different parts of the graphics. This approach to science education is seldom used, and our site hopes to raise the standards for all science education sites, not just in the field of evolutionary biology."

Eric Hunter, Ph.D.

Eric HunterHunter's principal research area is on individuals who use their voice as a primary tool of the trade, or occupational voice users.

"I explore what environmental, physiological and social factors might increase the risk of vocal health issues in these population of workers. Using this information, we are developing strategies to reduce increased incidences of vocal health problems," Hunter said.

In one of his current projects, supported by the National Institute On Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health, he aims to quantify gender-specific voice accommodation strategies used by teachers and call center workers (as compared to non-occupational voice users) in occupational settings and acoustic environments.

Another area of his research explores how the voice changes with age.

"Traditional studies of the aging voice compares two populations of voice users (young, elderly). However, my research uses databases of speeches from single individuals, allowing me to examine how the voices of these individuals change over nearly 50 years of recordings," Hunter said. "Through longitudinal data, we can more accurately observe what are normal or abnormal changes."

Anna McAlister, Ph.D.

Anna McAlisterMcAlister's research focuses on consumer behavior, child development and public policy. She is especially interested in understanding how very young children (e.g., 3- to 5-year-olds) learn about food and beverage brands and subsequently develop taste preferences.

"My research is helping parents, teachers, caregivers and other child advocates to understand the ways in which children are targeted by advertisers and marketers. This provides a step in the right direction for leveling the playing field where marketing to kids is big business. Parents frequently express frustration about not knowing how their children come to be 'addicted' to brands at an early age," McAlister said. "Given the rapid expansion of technology, parents are raising kids whose access to commercial media is almost unlimited. The current generation of parents is struggling to understand marketing practices that barely existed during their childhoods."

One of McAlister's current projects, funded by Cornell's Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition, investigates children's responsiveness to a school lunchroom intervention program where healthy menu choices were promoted using child-friendly themes (e.g., in the dinosaur-themed week children saw a lunch menu on which the healthier items were listed as the "triceratops picks" for the week).

Bruno Takahashi, Ph.D.

BrunoTakahashi's research focuses on environmental communication, environmental journalism practices and international news.

"Most of my research has an international or intercultural component. For example, I have been analyzing climate change communication in Latin America, as well as comparative studies looking at media coverage of climate change between the U.S. and Canada, and about hydraulic fracturing between the U.S. and Spain," Takahashi said. "I think my research is helping to better understand how different groups (media, policy makers, public) in developing nations socially construct environmental issues, which allows these groups to better communicate such issues."

Takahashi currently is conducting research on news decision-making about environmental issues in Spanish language media in the United States and is starting work on crisis and risk communication of environmental issues through social media.

He also is completing a study that looks at New York farmers' risk perceptions related to climate change. That project is funded by a grant from the Environmental Finance Center with funds from the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development.

Brian Winn

Brian WinnWinn researches interactive media design, including game design, digital game-based learning and interactive health communication. His expertise is in designing engaging serious games that balancing learning, pedagogical and gameplay objectives.

"As a new media and game designer, my goal is to use the power and versatility of interactive media technologies to have a positive impact on the world. This is accomplished through both the entertainment and learning games that are created and played by various audiences around the world, and from the knowledge generated from my work that helps advance the field of game design and development," Winn said.

One of his current research projects, funded by a three-year, $1.2 million grant from NASA, aims at keeping astronauts motivated to exercise during space flight through use of virtual workout partners.

Susan Wyche, Ph.D.

Susan WycheWyche's research focuses on human-computer interaction, information and communication technologies and development.

The goal of her current research is to provide technology developers with an empirically accurate understanding of technology use in sub-Saharan Africa to improve design and to motivate other innovative and creative technological interventions. Wyche conducts fieldwork in Kenya, studying mobile phone and social media use in Nairobi's informal settlements, in rural cyber cafes and in off-grid villages.

Wyche aims to make understanding and designing effective information and communication technologies (ICT) in sub-Saharan Africa a more integral part of human-computer interaction.

"Understanding rural Africans' ICT needs and practices opens up possibilities for improving on existing initiatives and developing entirely new types of interventions that have the potential for widespread and long-term impact. This knowledge can also inform and motivate environmentally sustainable and innovative design for users in industrialized nations," Wyche wrote in her research statement.

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