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UT 225 Faculty Research Highlights

cabanaGraciela Cabana is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology. Her research focuses on understanding the effects recent trends in genetic ancestry research has on public perspectives of race, ethnicity, and national belonging in Argentina.

People can learn about where their ancestors originated through genetic ancestry tests. Cabana and other researchers use these tests to figure out what it means have a national identity, such as Argentine.

“It is truly interdisciplinary and has the goal of marrying social science with genomic science,” Cabana said. “We are lighting the way to understanding the social dimensions of genomic research in an integrative way.”

ChilesKaty Chiles is an associate professor in the Department of English. Her focus is on sharing creative work and allowing students to interact with history. Chiles organizes Douglass Day, which commemorates Frederick Douglass and offers students the chance to learn and participate in transcribing and digitizing African American history.

“I have a strong interest in organizing events that engage our students and provide them with new opportunities to experience an essential part of our American past – the enslavement of African Americans,” Chiles said. “Students who have a solid grasp of our nation’s history will be more informed to speak on the issues of racism and injustice.”

darbyErin Darby is an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies. Her work focuses on an international excavation project at the site of ‘Ayn Gharandal in southern Jordan. Alongside a team of students and researchers, she and her husband, Robert Darby, are excavating a Roman military site and an early Christian church.

“The project brings together researchers from across the US and the world with our partners in the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan, to excavate, protect, and preserve Jordan’s cultural heritage,” Darby said. “UT students learn research skills and cultural competency alongside a team of local Bedouin who work at the site every field season, providing both employment for the village and opportunities for cultural engagement.”

Since 2013, this project has been the only UT faculty-led study abroad program in the Middle East.

“Students affiliated with the program have received thousands of dollars in scholarship money and research awards,” Darby said. “Most students credit their experience in Jordan as one of the most formative of their college experience.”

lloydKaren Lloyd is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology. Lloyd’s research team uses cutting-edge bioinformatics techniques and combinations of geothermal and biological measurements to study co-evolution of biology and geology on Earth.

“One place we study is subduction zones, where one tectonic plate is pushed underneath another, causing hot springs and volcanoes to emerge on the other side,” Lloyd said. “These zones offer an opportunity to connect novel types of deep subsurface life to the chemical and geological transformations they perform.”

Lloyd also researches deeply-buried permafrost in the Arctic to learn the effects of climate change on microbial communities living beneath the surface and the effects it might have on the environment.

“We hope that our work inspires people to learn about the abundant, but totally uncharacterized life on Earth,” Lloyd said. “We have only scratched the surface of what role microbial life plays on Earth, and with enough interest and drive, we can start to fill in these gaps.”

toledoRosa Toledo is a senior lecturer of Spanish studies in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures. In her classes, she aims to provide students with hands-on experience and learning.

“Research has shown that hands-on, experiential learning not only makes students feel more engaged, but also helps them retain the material because they connect what they are learning to real life,” Toledo said. “Experience learning is a very important part of higher education.”

Toledo challenges students to participate in hands-on experiences through courses like her Intermediate Spanish Honors class, giving students the opportunity to interview and tell the stories of the people who live in Hispanic communities.

“When we have the freedom to be creative and implement our vision of what higher education should be, we can instill in our students the desire to learn, and be better global citizens,” Toledo said.