researcher

Arnulf Grubler, researcher at Yale University and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, talks about maximizing energy efficiency as a better alternative to renewable energy sources at an energy symposium in the O’Donnell Jr. Building on Monday evening 

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

Major cities should not rely on renewable sources of energy but should, instead, focus on maximizing energy efficiency, according to Arnulf Grubler, researcher at Yale University and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

In an energy symposium Monday, Grubler said renewable sources of energy are sufficient for rural areas because they require large amounts of open space to produce enough energy. Because of the limited space available in cities, however, renewables are not sufficient enough to prioritize.

“The largest improvements are when we change systems instead of individual components in systems,” Grubler said. “Locally generated renewables can, at best, provide 1 percent of the energy of cities. … Even if you were to use all the area of London, you could, at maximum, provide 15 percent of the energy used in London.”

Varun Rai, event organizer and assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said the complexity of cities causes their energy needs to be much more demanding.

“In the city, it’s not only that you’re running the building,” Rai said. “You’re also doing management and industrial processes, and that uses a lot of energy. It’s not that renewables cannot do the job; it’s that they can’t when confined. We need to focus on building efficiency. We have to think about things like public transport and urban forming.”

Grubler said there is great room for improvement in the development of systems that are more efficient, such as Vienna, Austria, which has a system with 50 percent efficiency.

Thomas Anderson, a first-year MBA student who attended the symposium, said he believes more should be done to encourage a focus on energy efficiency.

“People need to come up with more clever financial measures to push energy efficiency,” Anderson said.

Carson Stones, global policy studies graduate student and an organizer of the energy symposium, said he agrees with Grubler’s notion that focusing on efficiency in cities is the most important step forward in the urbanization of energy.

“It’s astounding how much more you can get from efficiency than anything else,” Stones said.

Students are shedding light on previously unstudied motivation behind college binge drinking in new research conducted through the Department of Advertising and Public Relations Research Club.

In a survey of 286 UT students, the study investigated four predictors of binge drinking, including drinking norms, and the perceived positive and negative consequences of drinking. The study additionally considered academic norms, which is the perception of pressure to perform well in school, according to Ming-Ching Liang, an advertising graduate student and researcher on the project.

“We are focusing especially on the academic norms, because these three: drinking norms and positive and negative consequences, previous research has already documented,” Liang said. 

This new approach to binge drinking research is an effort to view binge drinking from the perspective of students, according to Lee Ann Kahlor, associate advertising professor and sponsor of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations Research Club.

“What the students figured out was, no one had ever looked at what it’s like to be a student,” Kahlor said. “What does it mean in terms of blowing off steam? Or feeling so stressed throughout the week that the weekend comes and they’re like, ‘Man, I need a drink?’”

Karen Han, an advertising graduate student and researcher on the project, said the study concludes that academic pressure contributes to binge drinking. 

“If students feel pressured in their schoolwork, then they’ll drink more,” Han said. 

Kahlor also said the study is a new insight into binge drinking behavior.

“All of [the variables] contributed significantly to the students’ likelihood to drink more,” Kahlor said. “And that’s really exciting because as far as we know, we’re the only researchers who have looked at those academic norms and how they contribute along with those other pressures or expectations.”

A UT professor’s research in management information systems earned him the top spot on a list of 130 researchers whose work ranks among the most influential in their field, according to a study that measured the publicity of the researchers’ published work. Two professors — from the University of Arizona and the University of Utah — rated business professor Andrew Whinston’s achievements using a system called the h-index for management information systems, which evaluates professors based on how many scholarly articles they have published and how many times those articles have been cited by other scholarly publications. “Whinston has long been one of the research powerhouses here at the school,” said David Wenger, a director for the McCombs School of Business. “The thing that is distinctive is that, despite the fact that he’s a long-time researcher and a very senior member of the faculty, his research is very cutting-edge.” Currently, Whinston is researching social networking platforms such as Twitter. Whinston’s current research is on how the use of Twitter relates to businesses. To test this, Whinston and his research associates examined how much the public tweeted about three summer blockbusters released in 2009 and compared that to how well the movies did at the box office. In addition to receiving this recognition, Whinston was also the first person to publish a book about electronic commerce, and in 2009, he received the Career Award for Outstanding Research Contributions at UT. The study recognized the achievements of a total of 130 researchers, including two other UT business professors, Anitesh Barua and Sirkka Jarvenpaa, who have researched outsourcing and business strategies respectively. “Whinston is in a different league altogether, and we are privileged to have someone like him as a colleague here,” Barua said. “He is just so far out in terms of what he sees coming that the rest of the world kind of sees 10 years late, so it’s wonderful.”

Strong family and ethnic identification can motivate students from Latino and Asian immigrant backgrounds to try to succeed academically despite many challenges, said Andrew Fuligni, a University of California, Los Angeles researcher, in a speech Monday. The Department of Human Development and Family Sciences sponsored the event because the Latino and Asian populations are growing in the U.S., said Su Yeong Kim, UT assistant professor in the department. The Latino population increased from 12.5 to 15.1 percent of the total U.S. population between 2000 and 2009, according to the American Community Survey. The Asian population increased from 3.6 to 4.4 percent in the same period. She said this trend is particularly relevant in Texas. “Texas is one of the top six destinations for new immigrants, so we’re definitely impacted by the issues he talked about,” she said. Fuligni said children from immigrant backgrounds face challenges including economic distress, substandard schools, health care, cultural differences and negative stereotypes. He said these challenges could harm these children psychologically and reduce their resources. “If you are feeling as if you are being excluded or devalued, that’s perhaps one of the most threatening consequential social stressors that has significant implications for physical health, mental health and one’s ability to engage productively in institutions,” he said. Fuligni said students from Chinese and Mexican backgrounds had a stronger identification with their ethnicity than their European-American counterparts across three generations. He said immigrants from Asian and Latin American backgrounds had stronger feelings of obligation to assist their families as adults and spent more time helping their families than their European-American counterparts, even when economic differences were controlled for. He said a high sense of family obligation was correlated with a stronger belief in the usefulness of education. However, strong family identification did not erase disparities in achievement and could create academic problems. He showed a diary entry from a 14-year-old Mexican-American student who had to watch her younger siblings and was forced to do her homework the morning before class. “She still is doing her homework,” Fuligni said. “She’s still trying to make it work, but the question is, can she do that, how long can she keep doing that?” Cyndy Karras, a UT graduate student in human development and family sciences, said she attended the talk because she knew the department was considering hiring Fuligni. She said his research reflected her experiences as a Mexican-American. “I can understand what it’s like to have to juggle both being Mexican and American and how to input those two identities together,” she said. “I think it’s important to understand how youth from these [immigrant] backgrounds can excel academically and personally in face of challenges.”