The current migrant crisis on the Texas border comes weeks after the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found that many Texans believe immigration and border security are the two most important problems facing the state.
The statewide poll, conducted in late May and early June before the situation on the border drew national attention, featured a battery of questions about Texans’ attitudes on border security and immigration.
The results show that most Texans — 54 percent — agreed that all undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should be deported immediately, compared with 30 percent who disagreed. The overall numbers reveal a deep partisan divide on immigration reform, says James Henson, co-director of the poll and director of the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin.
“The fact that immigration and border security lead the pack in Texans’ assessment of the most important problems facing the state is largely a result of intense Republican interest in those issues,” Henson said. “Those two issues were seen as the most important problems in the state by 51 percent of Republicans, but by only 9 percent of Democrats.”
The statewide poll, conducted May 30 to June 8, surveyed 1,200 registered Texas voters and had a margin of error of 3.28 percentage points. The poll was co-authored with Daron Shaw, professor of government, and Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project.
According to the findings:
- A large majority — 73 percent — believed that the U.S. government should restrict and control people coming to live in the U.S. more than it does now, while only 21 percent disagreed.
- A slimmer majority — 54 percent — agreed with the statement, “Undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should be deported immediately.” Forty percent disagreed with the statement.
- Asked which candidate for Texas governor they trusted more with respect to immigration reform, 45 percent of voters favored Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, and 32 percent favored Democrat state Sen. Wendy Davis. Twenty-four percent expressed no opinion.
As state and federal officials wrestle with ways to respond to the influx of mostly Central American migrants who are now being detained as they cross the U.S.-Mexican border into Texas, these poll results provide the context for how the public will likely view future policy decisions.
“Many Texans have been thinking about issues at the intersection of immigration and border security for some time now, according to the last several years of the UT/Texas Tribune polling,” Henson said, “and the political patterns in their attitudes are well known to the Texas political leaders now attempting to implement policy responses to the current situation.”
Graphics of Responses to Immigration Questions on the June 2014 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll:
These links also include crosstabs by party identification and selected demographic characteristics.
A team of researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin has developed a tiny, low-power device that mimics a fly’s hearing mechanism.
The new device could be used to build the next generation of hypersensitive hearing aids with intelligent microphones that adaptively focus only on those conversations or sounds that are of interest to the wearer.
The researchers drew inspiration for the device from the yellow-colored Ormia ochracea fly, which can pinpoint the location of a chirping cricket with remarkable accuracy because of its ultra-sensitive acute hearing. The fly relies upon a sophisticated sound-processing mechanism that resembles a teeter-totter to determine direction of sound within two degrees.
Using the fly’s ear structure as a model, Neal Hall, an assistant professor in the Cockrell School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his graduate students built a miniature pressure-sensitive device out of silicon that replicates the fly’s super-evolved hearing structure. The 2-millimeter-wide device is nearly identical in size to the fly’s hearing organ.
Other researchers have built fly-inspired hearing devices, but the UT Austin engineers are the first to apply piezoelectric materials. These materials turn mechanical pressure into electric signals, or voltage, and allow the device to operate with very little power.
The article detailing the device and research will be published in the journal Applied Physics Letters on July 22.
"Because hearing aids rely on batteries, minimizing power consumption is a critical consideration in moving hearing-aid device technology forward,” Hall said.
This technology may be a boon for people who are hearing impaired in the future. Currently, only 2 percent of Americans wear hearing aids, but as much as 10 percent of the population could benefit from wearing one, Hall said.
"Many believe that the major reason for this gap is patient dissatisfaction,” Hall added. "Turning up the volume to hear someone across from you also amplifies all of the surrounding background noise — resembling the sound of a cocktail party."
Humans and other mammals have the ability to pinpoint sound sources because of the finite speed of sound combined with the separation between our ears. Insects generally lack this ability because their bodies are so small that sound waves essentially hit both sides simultaneously.
O. ochracea is a notable exception. It can locate the direction of a cricket's chirp even though its ears are less than 2 millimeters apart. In the four millionths of a second between the sound entering one ear and the other, the sound phase shifts slightly. The teeter-totter-style structure in the fly’s ear effectively amplifies the time delay and allows the fly to locate its cricket prey with remarkable accuracy.
To replicate the fly’s hearing mechanism, the researchers developed a flexible beam and integrated the piezoelectric materials. The use of piezoelectric materials allowed them to simultaneously measure the flexing and the rotation of the beam, which in turn allowed them to replicate the fly’s hearing.
Hall credits the pioneering work of Ronald Miles at Binghamton University and Ronald Hoy at Cornell University, along with their teams, who discovered the fly's unusual hearing mechanism, for inspiring this research and device.
In addition to possibly improving hearing aids, the device could have military and defense applications as well. In dark environments, for instance, where visual cues are not available, localizing events using sound may be critical.
Hall's work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
This release was adapted from the American Institute of Physics’ original version, which can be found at www.aip.org.
The University of Texas at Austin is committed to transparency and disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. The university investigator who led this research, Neal A. Hall, has submitted required financial disclosure forms with the university. Hall has an equity partnership in Silicon Audio Inc., a firm with business interests in areas related to the technology described in Hall's paper. Hall has received research funding for other projects from Silicon Audio and from government funding agencies including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.
Hans Mark, center, with fellow aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics professor Wallace Fowler and a student at a system engineering design class fly-off.
Joined the University of Texas System as Chancellor
1988-1998 and 2001-2014
Served as Director of Defense Research and Engineering in the U.S. Department of Defense
Why do we explore space?
Hans Mark says it’s because “discovery is in our DNA.”
The legendary aerospace engineering professor knows a thing or two about discovery.
He was in mission control for the first moon landing (45 years ago on July 20) and the first space shuttle launch, taught Carl Sagan, pushed President Ronald Reagan to adopt the Space Station program and is still pushing to this day for a manned mission to Mars.
“To explore is an essential part of life, and a great nation has the obligation to explore,” Mark said in an in-depth story about his legacy on the Cockrell School of Engineering website.
After a distinguished career that spanned six decades and placed him on the front lines of technological revolutions, the beloved engineering professor will retire from the university this summer.
In honor of his extraordinary career, we’re looking back at 10 of his most monumental accomplishments.Hans Mark Scholars Endowment in Engineering Honors
Former students and friends are working to raise $1 million to establish the Hans Mark Scholars Endowment in Engineering Honors to provide full tuition to the best and brightest undergraduate students. Visit the endowment page for information about making a gift to the Hans Mark Scholars Endowment.Escaped Nazi Germany
Mark’s remarkable journey began long before he cracked open his first science textbook.
He was born in 1929 in Mannheim, Germany, and as a young boy he witnessed violent clashes between fascist and communist gangs and saw his Jewish father imprisoned for advocating Nazi resistance. A bribe and his father’s expertise in synthetic chemistry (he is now known as the father of polymer science) secured him and his family a home in the U.S.
Mark would later earn physics degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and MIT.Served as Director of NASA Ames Research Center
After an early career in academic nuclear research and teaching posts at Berkeley and MIT, Mark shifted to government aeronautics and space development.
At Ames Mark managed the center’s research and applications efforts in aeronautics, space science, life science and space technology and broadened the center’s influence within NASA and the wider aerospace community. The position also earned him a seat in the mission control room during Apollo 11′s historic moon landing.
Pioneer 10 was a space probe that the NASA Ames lab designed to fly past the asteroid belt, Jupiter and Saturn to collect data and images.
With a little help from famed astrophysicist and Mark’s former student, Carl Sagan, Mark secretly attached a message onto Pioneer 10 to introduce the human race to any extraterrestrials that may encounter the probe.
Listen to Hans Mark tell the story of the plaque he and Sagan sneaked onto the Pioneer 10.Elected to the National Academy of Engineering
Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions bestowed upon an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education.Named Secretary of the U.S. Air Force by President Jimmy Carter
“I had some misgivings because my [previous] job as under secretary permitted me to exert considerable influence on the management of the nation’s space program,” Mark wrote in his autobiography, “The Space Station: A Personal Journey.” He decided to accept because “the opportunity to learn something about the broader issues related to our national security was enough to override my doubts. In addition, as secretary, I would have greater influence on the development of the appropriate organizations within the Air Force concerned with the development and operation of space systems.”Served as Deputy Administrator of NASA
In addition to being a key player in the push to develop the Space Station, Mark oversaw 14 space shuttle flights.Hans Mark in NASA’s Mission Operations Control Center at the Johnson Space Center.
Joined the University of Texas System as Chancellor
Chancellor Mark had three big goals: to increase research funding, attract economically lucrative technology companies to Austin, and reach out to Texas’ booming Hispanic population. By the time he left the position in 1992, Mark had doubled the UT System’s research budget, helped bring microchip consortium SEMATECH to Austin and established The University of Texas-Pan American on the Texas-Mexico border.Became Professor of Aerospace Engineering at UT Austin
1988-1998 and 2001-2014
Mark divided most of his remaining career between teaching and consulting in Washington, D.C. Since 2001 he has been a consistent part of UT’s aerospace undergraduate experience, having made teaching an introductory aerospace class his main objective. It’s many students’ first taste of the field.
“I teach them aerospace and then I tell them jokes,” Mark says.
In honor of his retirement, former students and friends have launched an effort to raise $1 million to establish the Hans Mark Scholars Endowment in Engineering Honors, which will provide full tuition to the best and brightest undergraduate engineering students.Mark in his office.
Served as Director of Defense Research and Engineering in the U.S. Department of Defense
During his time at the Pentagon, Mark was responsible for developing policies, providing guidance and managing atomic energy, chemical, and biological defense plans and programs.Inducted into Air Force Space and Missile Pioneer Hall of Fame
Mark was recognized for his advocacy of the establishment of an Air Force major command for space operations, initiating plans for a new military control facility and fostering military orbital missions using the space shuttle.
Reporting contributed by Monica Kortsha and Cockrell School of Engineering staff.
Sunday, July 20, marked 45 years since the United States put the first two astronauts safely on the moon. The cost for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs was more than $25 billion at the time — more like $110 billion in today’s world. The ensuing U.S. space efforts have cost an additional $196 billion for the shuttle and $50 billion for the space station. NASA’s total inflation-adjusted costs have been more than $900 billion since its creation in 1958 through 2014 (more than $16 billion per year). Looking back, have we gotten our money’s worth from the investment? I say yes.
Some argue that spending money on space is not a good investment, or that it is a luxury that we cannot afford. I believe that space exploration is a very sound investment. NASA’s 2015 budget is $17.5 billion. It is estimated that the total economic benefit of each dollar spent on the space program has been between $8 and $10. Compare that to Americans spending more than $35 billion a year on pizza or the national total annual economic cost of tobacco exceeding $250 billion and you can see that our return on our NASA investment is rather high.
The space race was technological focus that accelerated advances in multiple areas of science, technology and medicine without a shooting war. This is almost without precedent in history. We have recently created a unique international research facility, the International Space Station. It’s hard to put a monetary value on international cooperation, but the space station has recently been the focus of a nomination campaign for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Technologies have been driven by space exploration as well. For space equipment, mass is paramount. Putting a kilogram of payload (instruments, astronauts, supplies) in Earth orbit is costly, and sending it beyond Earth orbit is even more expensive. In the 1960s, there were two options, miniaturize or create huge boosters. The U.S. chose to miniaturize wherever possible while the Russians focused on huge boosters. The Apollo guidance computer was the great grandfather of the microcomputer. It weighed 70 pounds, required 55 watts of power, and had less than 40 KB of memory in a day when most computers weighed tons, filled rooms and needed their own air-conditioning systems. It had less capability than many of today’s electronic wristwatches, but it took us to the moon and back. Its descendants are today’s laptops, tablets, GPS receivers and cellphones. Today, the trend for such devices is to make them ever smaller, ever more capable — a trend driven by the space program.
Almost every area of technology has benefitted from space research. Clothes and vehicle interiors are more fire resistant because of research after the Apollo fire. Weather forecasting is much more accurate because of satellite monitoring. Monitoring from space can detect forest fires, oil spills, aquifer depletion, downed aircraft, etc. We have recently watched the World Cup matches from Brazil in near real-time via satellite feed. We can surf the Internet with laptop or tablet while flying in an airplane almost anywhere in the world. We are more connected than ever, both in our everyday activities and in emergency situations.
Medicine has been revolutionized by the space program. We learned to monitor orbiting astronauts — pioneering telemedicine and leading to unprecedented improvements in patient monitoring, in and out of hospitals. Research into astronaut bone calcium loss has led to better understanding and treatment of osteoporosis. Digital mammography is a direct application of space data reduction processes. Baby foods are more healthful because of astronaut food research.
There are few other public activities with such a sustained level of performance and impact. Why? Because the space race was a unique event in history. However, in order to remain relevant, NASA needs to have a driving focus — a mission. The space around Earth contains a huge number of asteroids. We are very much overdue, at least statistically, for a large asteroid to strike the planet. The last large asteroid killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Would protecting Earth and saving civilization be a sufficiently important mission?
Wallace Fowler is the director of the Texas Space Grant Consortium and a professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.
Contradicting earlier claims, “The Family That Walks on All Fours,” a group of quadrupedal humans made famous by a 2006 BBC documentary, have simply adapted to their inability to walk upright and do not represent an example of backward evolution, according to new research by Liza Shapiro, an anthropologist at The University of Texas at Austin.
Five siblings in the family, who live in a remote corner of Turkey, walk exclusively on their hands and feet. Since they were discovered in 2005, scientists have debated the nature of their disability, with speculation they represent a backward stage of evolution.
Shapiro’s study, published online this month in PLOS One, shows that contrary to previous claims, people with the family members’ condition, called Uner Tan Syndrome (UTS), do not walk in the diagonal pattern characteristic of nonhuman primates such as apes and monkeys.
According to a theory developed by Uner Tan of Cukurova University in Turkey, people with UTS are a human model for reverse evolution, or “devolution,” offering new insights into the human transition from four-legged to two-legged walking. Previous research countering this view has proposed that the quadrupedalism associated with UTS is simply an adaptive response to the impaired ability to walk bipedally in individuals with a genetic mutation, but this is the first study that disproves claims that this form of walking resembles that of nonhuman primates.
The study’s co-authors are Jesse Young of Northeast Ohio Medical University; David Raichlen of the University of Arizona; and Whitney Cole, Scott Robinson and Karen Adolph of New York University.
As part of the study, the researchers analyzed 518 quadrupedal walking strides from several videos of people with various forms of UTS, including footage from the BBC2 documentary of the five Turkish siblings, “The Family That Walks on All Fours.” They compared these walking strides to previous studies of the walking patterns of healthy adults who were asked to move around a laboratory on all fours.
According to the findings, nearly all human subjects (in 98 percent of the total strides) walked in lateral sequences, meaning they placed a foot down and then a hand on the same side and then moved in the same sequence on the other side. Apes and other nonhuman primates, however, walk in a diagonal sequence, in which they put down a foot on one side and then a hand on the other side, continuing that pattern as they move along.
“Although it’s unusual that humans with UTS habitually walk on four limbs, this form of quadrupedalism resembles that of healthy adults and is thus not at all unexpected,” Shapiro says. “As we have shown, quadrupedalism in healthy adults or those with a physical disability can be explained using biomechanical principles rather than evolutionary assumptions.”
The study also shows that Tan and his colleagues appeared to have misidentified the walking patterns among people with UTS as primate-like by confusing diagonal sequence with diagonal couplets. Sequence refers to the order in which the limbs touch the ground, while couplets (independent of sequence) indicate the timing of movement between pairs of limbs. People with UTS more frequently use diagonal couplets than lateral couplets, but the sequence associated with the couplets is almost exclusively lateral.
“Each type of couplet has biomechanical advantages, with lateral couplets serving to avoid limb interference, and diagonal couplets providing stability,” Shapiro says. “The use of diagonal couplets in adult humans walking quadrupedally can thus be explained on the basis of biomechanical considerations, not reverse evolution.”
Neuroscientists at The University of Texas at Austin have generated mutant worms that do not get intoxicated by alcohol, a result that could lead to new drugs to treat the symptoms of people going through alcohol withdrawal.
The scientists accomplished this feat by inserting a modified human alcohol target into the worms, as reported this week in The Journal of Neuroscience.
“This is the first example of altering a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal,” says corresponding author Jon Pierce-Shimomura, assistant professor in the university’s College of Natural Sciences and Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research.
An alcohol target is any neuronal molecule that binds alcohol, of which there are many.
One important aspect of this modified alcohol target, a neuronal channel called the BK channel, is that the mutation only affects its response to alcohol. The BK channel typically regulates many important functions including activity of neurons, blood vessels, the respiratory tract and bladder. The alcohol-insensitive mutation does not disrupt these functions at all.
“We got pretty lucky and found a way to make the channel insensitive to alcohol without affecting its normal function,” says Pierce-Shimomura.
The scientists believe the research has potential applications for treating people addicted to alcohol.
“Our findings provide exciting evidence that future pharmaceuticals might aim at this portion of the alcohol target to prevent problems in alcohol abuse disorders,” says Pierce-Shimomura. “However, it remains to be seen which aspects of these disorders would benefit.”
Unlike drugs such as cocaine, which has a specific target in the nervous system, the effects of alcohol on the body are complex and have many targets across the brain. The various other aspects of alcohol addiction, such as tolerance, craving and the symptoms of withdrawal, may be influenced by different alcohol targets.
The worms used in the study, Caenorhabditis elegans, model intoxication well. Alcohol causes the worms to slow their crawling and exhibit less wriggling from side to side. The intoxicated worms also stop laying eggs, which build up in their bodies and can be easily counted.
Unfortunately, C. elegans are not as ideal for studying the other areas of alcohol addiction, but mice make an excellent model. The modified human BK channel used in the study, which is based on a mutation discovered by lead author and graduate student Scott Davis, could be inserted into mice. These modified mice would allow scientists to investigate whether this particular alcohol target also affects tolerance, craving and other symptoms relevant to humans.
Pierce-Shimomura speculated that their research could even be used to develop a “James Bond” drug someday that would enable a spy to drink his opponent under the table without getting drunk himself. Such a drug could potentially be used to treat alcoholics because it would counteract the intoxicating and potentially addicting effects of the alcohol.
Davis and Pierce-Shimomura’s co-authors at The University of Texas at Austin were research associate Luisa Scott and undergraduate student Kevin Hu.
This research was funded by the ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research at The University of Texas at Austin.
You can access the original paper in The Journal of Neuroscience here.
This afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit announced its decision in the case of Fisher vs. the University of Texas at Austin, which had been remanded to the Fifth Circuit by the Supreme Court last summer. In a 2-1 decision, the Fifth Circuit found in favor of UT Austin. I am very gratified that the Court’s ruling recognizes the constitutionality of the University’s admission policy under the Supreme Court’s recent guidance.
In its decision, the majority wrote, “It is equally settled that universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity.” The court continued, “This interest is compelled by the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts — the classic assertion of the humanities.”
We remain committed to assembling a student body at The University of Texas at Austin that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students. This ruling ensures that our campus, our state, and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events, and in all aspects of campus life.
Like the 19th Century Orphan Trains that carried abandoned and homeless children out of Eastern cities west to waiting adoptive families in America’s heartland, today’s Orphan Trains are ferrying tens of thousands of children up from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border. And like that earlier great migration of children, these Central American children are coming out of impoverished, violence-riven communities in hopes of a better life. However, the analogy breaks down quickly beyond this point. Most of the Central American children are not orphans at all; typically they are children whose parents are already in the U.S., long rendered inaccessible to them by distance and their parents’ illegal status. The present humanitarian crisis on our border is only the most recent indication that the nation can ill afford to turn a blind eye on comprehensive immigration reform. Indeed, the crisis is directly rooted in Congress’ failure to take action.
In 2008, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Humanitarian organizations working with unaccompanied minors considered it a victory because it directed the Border Patrol to transfer immigrant children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement if they came from countries whose borders were not contiguous with the United States. The vast majority of these children were released into the care of a parent, relative or family friend while they awaited their legal proceedings, whereas unaccompanied children from Mexico (Canada has never been a factor) were typically deported immediately. The Orphan Trains from Central America are carrying children whose families have become aware of this provision. In 2008, unaccompanied children from Central American countries were a mere trickle. Now, nearly 50,000 minors have been detained in the last eight months alone resulting in a significant humanitarian crisis. Guided by their understanding of the laws, they turn themselves in to U.S. authorities at the first opportunity after crossing the border. According to the Border Patrol, three out of four of the current unaccompanied children are from three countries: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The wave of these unaccompanied children have overwhelmed our resources. Border Patrol stations typically accustomed to processing detainees within 12-48 hours are presently holding them for as long as ten days in cramped, overcrowded facilities that lack basic necessities such as showers, recreation areas, and adequate bedding. In fact, military installations are being marshaled to help provide temporary shelters for unaccompanied minors. President Obama recently described the circumstance as an “urgent humanitarian situation,” deploying the Federal Emergency Management Administration to orchestrate the multi-agency response.
The new Orphan Trains (they typically make their way over land to the Guatemala-Mexico border, where they catch the trains heading north) are carrying minors who come from poor communities, where gangs are predatory and violence a staple of daily life. These are the same conditions that drove their parents to migrate to the U.S., often catching the same trains that are now ferrying their children north, victimized by the same criminals along the way. For many of these children, the experience is both harrowing and profoundly traumatizing. Weeks of uncertainty and brutalizing danger are the defining features on the new Orphan Trains.
Dangers notwithstanding, the majority of these parents believe this to be their only hope for reuniting with their children; they’ve made the calculus that the risks are worth it. As a result, the wave of unaccompanied children continues unabated for the present and the humanitarian crisis that they represent becomes more acute with every day that passes. President Obama is asking Congress to provide $2 billion in new funds to manage the influx as well as expanded powers to accelerate the deportations of unaccompanied children. But these are stopgap measures. What the nation needs more than ever is well thought out, comprehensive immigration reform.
Ricardo Ainslie is a professor of educational psychology in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin. He is an expert in the psychological experience of immigration.
The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing has received a two-year $703,000 grant from the St. David’s Foundation to fund services at the UT School of Nursing Wellness Center, which provides health care for low-income, uninsured residents of Central Texas.
Located at two sites — the Family Wellness Clinic in East Austin and the Children’s Wellness Clinic in Del Valle — the center also furnishes valuable clinical training programs for nursing graduate students to master skills in management of chronic disease, acute conditions and preventative medicine.
In addition to primary care, the community can obtain a variety of services at both sites that are not available at most other health care facilities, including walk-in immunization clinics, health education classes and community health outreach.
Since 1998, the School of Nursing has received more than $6 million from the St. David’s Foundation to be used for public health services and outreach.
“The generous support from the foundation helps us to provide high-quality, comprehensive health care to thousands of Central Texans without private health insurance,” said Elizabeth Loika, director of the School of Nursing wellness centers. “Our clinics help cut down on expensive, inefficient emergency room visits and improve quality of life for patients and their families. We appreciate the St. David’s Foundation’s ongoing support of our efforts to make health care accessible to so many in our community.”
The Austin-based St. David’s Foundation invests in a healthy community through funding and initiatives to better care for the underserved and uninsured.
The FIFA World Cup is a monthlong celebration of fútbol, rituals and even international geopolitical relations. As the Brazil World Cup draws to a close, we’ve got a couple of experts to help us navigate what’s happening off the field. To start, the FIFA World Cup, perhaps more than any other sporting event except the Olympic Games, is rife with rituals. From the way the teams walk on to the field holding the hands of children to the post-game shirt exchange, international soccer is as much ceremony as sport. Psychology professor Cristine Legare explains how today’s soccer customs tie to a long history of ritual in sport. As part of international soccer tradition, schoolchildren escort the players onto the field before each match of the World Cup. Here, the Argentine national soccer team lines up with their little buddies on the field to sing their national anthem before a match at the 2014 World Cup. “Soccer is a game of theater and pageantry as much as any other sport. And ritual,” former U.S. national team defender Alexi Lalas said in an Associated Press story in 2010. [Image courtesy FIFA World Cup.]
The 2014 World Cup isn’t just an outlet for showcasing national pride, indulging in international competition, and showcasing athletic talent. It also illustrates one of the most curious and pervasive aspects of human behavior — ritual. Even the best soccer player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, performs pre-game rituals. Not only does he insist on being the first member of the Portuguese national team to enter the field, he also insists on getting his hair cut right before every game.
If the illusion of control rituals provide give athletes more confidence and reduces anxiety, they may provide a competitive edge.
It may be hard to imagine why either of these behaviors has any bearing on whether Portugal defeats their opponents, but the lack of a transparent cause-and-effect explanation simply doesn’t prevent people from engaging in rituals. In fact, the lack of a logical rationale behind these odd, seemingly idiosyncratic behaviors is part of the point. Rituals provide a socially sanctioned opportunity to exert personal control in the face of uncertainty.
The curious pre-game rituals in sport culture are nothing new. Anthropologists have long noted that the use of rituals is often linked to conditions of risk and uncertainty, conditions that high stakes, highly competitive World Cup matches meet. When anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski visited the Trobriand Islands of New Guinea, he observed that Trobrianders rarely relied on ritual when fishing in a reliable and safe lagoon; they described their successes and failures in terms of skill. In contrast, extensive ritual preceded the uncertain and dangerous conditions of deep-sea fishing.Cristine Legare
The Trobriand fishermen are not alone in their use of ritual to restore feelings of control when confronted with uncertainty. On college campuses, for instance, up to 70 percent of students employ such strategies to assist with performance on exams and in athletic competitions.
Rituals provide a means for coping with the negative feelings caused by uncertainty due to the belief that there is a relationship between the behavior (Ronaldo’s pre-game haircut) and the desired outcome (Portugal’s victory in the World Cup).
In 2012, my colleague Andre Souza and I studied Brazilian ‘simpatias,‘ ritualistic remedies that are meant to ward off bad luck and solve problems. We found that the more people perceived randomness or lack of control, the more effective they expected the simpatia rituals to be.
From a psychological perspective, whether or not there is evidence that rituals actually result in a desired outcome isn’t driving the behavior. Confidence is often the single most important factor in winning a closely matched game. And if the illusion of control rituals provide give athletes more confidence and reduces anxiety, they may provide a competitive edge.
Cristine Legare is an assistant professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. She is the director of the Cognition, Culture, and Development Lab, where she studies cognitive development, cultural learning and cognitive evolution.The Hook: The Other Football Next up, John Hoberman, professor of Germanic Studies, offers his take on the political and economic implications of international sporting competitions. (And you thought it was all just a soccer tournament!) Hoberman appears on The Hook, the weekly news show produced by the Texas Exes.
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The country rounded a new and dangerous corner with the recent Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. By holding that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) excuses for-profit employers from providing contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the court has given businesses a presumptive right to disregard laws that conflict with their religious beliefs.
For 125 years the court has resisted the notion that religious individuals are entitled to disobey laws that everyone else is obligated to follow. The court has taken a “hands off” approach to churches and other religious congregations, and sometimes used broad language in its effort to protect minority faiths; but in the end, the court has emphatically affirmed what good sense, constitutional tradition and justice among a religiously diverse people, unite in demanding: Religious conviction does not entitle believers to disobey democratically enacted laws that bind the rest of society.
RFRA overturns this understanding, giving “any person” a right of exemption from any law that “substantially burdens” that person’s exercise of religion, unless the government can prove that the law “is in furtherance of a compelling government interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.” The court has now employed RFRA to give for-profit businesses such as Hobby Lobby the right to deny insurance to employees for medical prescriptions and procedures that offend the owners’ religious convictions. For the first time in U.S. history, the Supreme Court has endorsed the principle that for-profit businesses may be excused from obeying laws and regulations to which they or their owners object on religious grounds.
The majority opinion principally relies on an existing accommodation created for nonprofit religious employers such as religious hospitals and universities that relieves them of the obligation to cover contraceptives to which they object and imposes it instead on their health-plan insurer or administrator. The court determined that this narrow accommodation of indisputably religious organizations can simply be extended to for-profit employers such as Hobby Lobby, with little cost to the government and no cost to anyone else. It gave no serious consideration to cost or feasibility, let alone to the many current lawsuits contending that this accommodation also violates RFRA.
Although the court gestures at limiting its decision to the facts at hand, its opinion will reach far beyond Hobby Lobby’s opposition to a few contraceptives. Religious business owners who object to all contraception can now successfully seek relief under RFRA. Likely to follow are religious objections to covering other prescriptions, treatments and procedures such as mandatory immunizations. Some state courts will undoubtedly be influenced by the court’s expansive interpretation of federal RFRA in applying the “little RFRAs” that many states have adopted. In fact, lawsuits have already been brought by closely held for-profit businesses claiming that their religious beliefs require discrimination against employees or customers on grounds of sexual orientation in violation of state law. Nothing in the majority opinion explains why these claims are materially different from the RFRA exemption it has granted to Hobby Lobby, and the lower courts will soon be bogged down in the impossible task of weighing when the religious owners of closely held businesses must be excused from obeying laws that bind everyone else in the workplace.
The Supreme Court did not “restore” religious liberty by granting Hobby Lobby an RFRA exception, but dealt it an unprecedented blow in a 5-4 decision with uncertain ramifications. After Hobby Lobby, believers and unbelievers alike must bear the workplace costs of someone else’s religious convictions. Protecting the liberty of all Americans requires the limitation or repudiation of this approach.
Lawrence Sager is Alice Jane Drysdale Sheffield Regents Chair in Law at The University of Texas; Frederick Mark Gedicks is Guy Anderson Chair and Professor of Law at Brigham Young University. The opinions expressed above are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their respective institutions.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Austin American Statesman.
Beginning Monday, July 14, the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin will host the nation’s two biggest collegiate solar car races — the Formula Sun Grand Prix and the American Solar Challenge.
About 20 student solar car teams from universities around the world including UT Austin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences will be in Austin to compete in the two back-to-back competitions.
The student teams design solar vehicles that use photovoltaic panels to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. These solar-powered cars can reach speeds of 40-50 miles per hour using only 1,200 watts of power — about two-thirds the amount of power it takes to run a hair dryer.
“We are thrilled to host students and faculty from across the world as they participate in these competitions,” said Sharon L. Wood, interim dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “These races reinforce the skills and knowledge our engineering students gain throughout the year and offer them an exciting opportunity to design, build and test their technologies.”
For the second consecutive year, the Cockrell School and its Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will host the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Formula One racetrack July 14-19. The Formula Sun Grand Prix begins with a series of qualifying events and inspections, called scrutineering. Only teams that successfully pass scrutineering can move forward to compete in a three-day endurance race on the COTA track. The team that logs the most laps after the three-day racing period wins.
In order to qualify for the next competition, teams competing in the Formula Sun event must complete a minimum number of laps at a minimum speed. This is so the team’s solar cars demonstrate that they can safely function on the highway during the American Solar Challenge.
After Formula Sun, the teams will have a one-day break to gear up before embarking on the more than 1,100-mile drive from Austin to St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the American Solar Challenge, July 21-28.
A cross-country road race, the American Solar Challenge is intended to test the reliability and endurance of the solar cars’ systems in real-world driving conditions and weather. The team with the fastest elapsed time for completing the route is the winner.
The UT Solar Vehicles Team sponsors are COTA, Freescale Semiconductor, General Motors, Plantronics, SunPower, Texas Motor Sports, Union Pacific and the University Co-op.
Before the teams begin their journey for the American Solar Challenge, there will be several events open to the public, both at the COTA track and on the UT Austin campus:
July 19: Formula Sun Grand PrixPublic Day at COTA
The public is invited to COTA to view the race, see sponsor booths and participate in activities for children, including building solar cars, solar radio control car racing and more.
Location: COTA, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
July 20: Public Display Day
The public can view cars up close and talk to teams.
Location: UT Campus Parking Lot 104
Time: noon to 4 p.m.
July 21: American Solar Challenge Starting Line
The public can watch the beginning of the cross-country race.
Location: UT Campus, outside F. Loren Winship Drama Building, 300 E. 23rd St.
Time: 6-9:30 a.m.
For more information, visit ece.utexas.edu/utsvt
I’m delighted to inform you that I will be serving as president of The University of Texas at Austin through the 2014-2015 academic year and the coming legislative session, after which I will return to teaching and my faculty position in the Law School.
I am deeply grateful to Chairman Foster and Chancellor Cigarroa for their leadership of The University of Texas System and for working together on this plan. It is truly in the best interest of the university, our students, faculty, staff and alumni. It will allow me to continue to build on our student success initiatives, complete our $3 billion capital campaign, and bring the Dell Medical School closer to reality over the next year while ensuring a smooth transition to my successor. It will also allow me to work with elected officials in the 84th Texas Legislature.
Most of all, I want to thank all of you for your tireless support of our university. Serving as president of The University of Texas at Austin has been the highest honor of my life. Even more, the friendship and support of alumni and friends has been a great blessing for me, Kim, and our family.
Thank you and Hook ’em!
Below is a selection of recent news coverage about the leadership dispute at UT Austin. Stories are listed in reverse chronological order.News Coverage
University of Texas Board Asks President to Step Down
Wall Street Journal, July 8
House Committee Wants UT Regents To Hold Off On Any Action Against Pres. Bill Powers
Texas Public Radio, July 8
Venomous language in UT president kerfuffle seems to come from the Powers side
Watchdog.org, July 8
As Fight Over U. of Texas President Comes to a Head, Everyone Wonders, Why Now?
Chronicle of Higher Education, July7
TXExplainer: The Latest on the ‘July 4th Coup’
Alcalde, July 7
Cigarroa: Communication Problems Led to Powers Decision
Texas Tribune, July 7
Battle for Texas
Inside Higher Ed, July 7
Supporters rally behind UT president, urge him to stay
Associated Press, Longview News-Journal, July 7
Powers asks for 1 more year as University of Texas president
Dallas Morning News, July 7
UT President Powers Proposes Graceful Exit
Associated Press (Syndicated): http://bit.ly/1rMncBo
Austin American-Statesman: http://ow.ly/yRe6N
Letter from president to chancellor: http://ow.ly/yRelZ
Power struggle at UT could hurt its reputation, observers say
Houston Chronicle, San Antonio-Express News, July 7
Petition Supporting Powers Hits 10,000 Signature Goal in Three Days
The Horn, July 7
University of Texas feud threatens president's job
Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, July 7
Powers to Cigarroa: Stepping Down would be 'Enormously Disruptive'
Time Warner Austin, July 7
Transparency Committee to Remind UT System of Directive
Texas Tribune, July 7
Supporters Rally Behind UT Austin President
Houston Chronicle, July 6
Powers’ exit would be 'travesty' for UT, says Alumni Board chief Hutchison
Dallas Morning News, July 6
Pressed to resign, UT’s Bill Powers backed by faculty, alumni, students
Austin American-Statesman, July 5
UT President Bill Powers told to resign or be fired, sources say
Dallas Morning News, July 4
Cigarroa Tells Powers to Resign or Be Fired
Texas Tribune, July 4
Sources: Whistleblower Forcing Out UT President
Breitbart, July 4
A critical decision: UT-Austin's leaders need to put aside politics and personality differences and do right
Editorial Board, Houston Chronicle, July 8
Editorial: UT chancellor needs to explain why he wants to oust Powers
Editorial Board, Dallas Morning News, July 8
POINT: Facts prove Powers good for university
John Curtiss, Texas Ex, for the Houston Chronicle, July 8
COUNTERPOINT: Litany of troubles at UT-Austin underscores the need for a new president
Charles Miller, former UT System Regent, for the Houston Chronicle, July 8
UT ouster of president is not wise - Powers should be allowed to step down in 2015
Editorial Board, McAllen Monitor, July 8
Texas politicians smarten up, ditch UT pres this time around
Jon Cassidy for Watchdog.org, July 8
Gavin: Why UT President Powers is the best at what he does
MIT Professor Frances Gavin for the Dallas Morning News, July 7
Block the July 4 Coup
Andrea C. Gore, Hillary Hart and William Beckner for Inside Higher Ed, July 7
Sound reasons are needed for Powers' dismissal
Editorial Board, Austin American-Statesman, July 7
News of Powers 'ultimatum' shows disrespect to able president
Daily Texan, July 7
Following the economic difficulties of 2001-2009, Texas has provided a fertile atmosphere for business prosperity and overall economic growth. As researchers who are close to the entrepreneurial process and have owned businesses ourselves, we understand that developing entrepreneurial firms, and the perceptions of their owners, may not be in synch with the larger economic picture. The priorities of entrepreneurs are often more fundamental, the urgency is often greater, and the observable opportunities differ based on the lens through which a business owner sees the world. We wondered how the black business community views the Texas business landscape overall today. To find out, we surveyed Texas black-owned businesses, including many in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and asked owners about themselves, their businesses and their perceptions of other firms in their industries. What became clear is that black owners perceive significant hurdles in growing their businesses and achieving the profitability levels of their industry peers.
Among the survey responses, we observed many of the same issues entrepreneurial businesses generally face, as well as a number of challenges to growth previously identified in the research literature on minority-owned small businesses and the overall research literature on all firms. Our survey, sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin, in cooperation with the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce, polled 914 black-owned businesses across Texas about a variety of business-related issues.
We found that most Texas black-owned businesses in our survey are similar to the businesses we ourselves have owned: firms that provide a professional service and are owned by an individual with at least a bachelor’s degree and who started that business himself or herself. Furthermore, the vast majority of these black-owned businesses have no paid employees other than the owner. The median age of the firms among our respondents is 10 years, a healthy number that points to significant longevity in business. Overwhelmingly, these business owners assess themselves as proficient at a range of professional skills, including analysis and problem solving, written and oral communications, team building and management, the ability to motivate, and the ability to develop relationships.
And yet, despite confidence in their skills as business people and relatively high levels of educational attainment, black owners of businesses in our survey still perceive significant barriers. More specifically, a majority of the business owners responding to the survey agreed that black-owned businesses, in general, have less access than other firms to government decision makers for the purposes of procurement opportunities and that black-owned businesses are unfairly excluded from participating in both government and private-sector contracting opportunities. In addition, when we asked them an open-ended question about their top three training needs and to rank these training needs in order of importance, survey respondents identified accounting/finance topics more often than any other response (16 percent), followed by technology (10 percent) and management/leadership training (10 percent). Similarly, when we asked survey respondents to list the top three major challenges facing their businesses, the most frequently mentioned topic was funding/cash flow/finance (26 percent). Fully half of the survey respondents had never applied for a business loan.
To overcome these challenges and address these training needs, and to ensure that entrepreneurial opportunities are shared across the board as the Texas recovery strengthens, policymakers and business leaders should focus on improving access to financial capital and financial training for black entrepreneurs. In addition, because research on black business has shown that firms that start with employees are more likely to grow faster and survive longer than those that are sole proprietorships, more should be done to encourage black entrepreneurs planning new businesses to start with a level of capitalization and scope that allows them to start their businesses with employees, if they chose to do so.
John Sibley Butler is the Herb Kelleher Chair in Entrepreneurship and the J. Marion West Chair for Constructive Capitalism in the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, where he holds joint appointments in the Departments of Management and Sociology. He is on the Board of Glofish, where he was the first investor. Matt Kerwick is a research scientist at the Bureau of Business Research, IC2 Institute, The University of Texas at Austin. He is also founder and president of Visionary Research Inc., a research and strategy consultancy.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Dallas Morning News.
If you have ever ridden a crowded subway or bus at rush hour, you have likely noticed that when strangers encounter each other, they briefly exchange eye contact before looking away. In densely shared spaces, choosing to look away is neither rude nor unusual. Rather, such looking away respects people’s need for space and anonymity in public. Erving Goffman, a prominent sociologist, referred to such behavior as civil inattention.
These days, people do a lot of important things online. Certainly, unimportant things can happen when we get sucked into the Internet’s vortex. But the Internet is the place where we stay connected with friends and family who often live far away. It is where we find romantic partners. Where we get support in times of crisis. Where we share our expertise. The Internet is where we grow up and try on new identities. Where we advocate for particular political parties and platforms. And perhaps, it is where we find a place to finally belong. In other words, the Internet does more than help us get ahead in our careers. For most of us, what we do online affects many — and perhaps all — aspects of our lives.
So what happens if most of us — or enough of us — focus our digital energies on maintaining our ideal work persona online? What if most of us take the common career advice to manage each piece of online information as if future employers might see it? We may lose more than we will gain.
Certainly there could be short-term gain for early masters of online professionalism. But if more and more people brand and polish their online personas to meet these new expectations, such information will no longer give promised access to “the real person.” What then? Employers will still expect us to keep up with our professional personas online. It will become the new normal. Yet it will cost us in terms of the other life goals we pursue online — goals that are not just about work.
Although employers may have good reasons for looking online, like people sharing a crowded subway, they should choose to look away in order to respect people’s online lives. Let’s find alternate ways to fulfill our organizational obligations without exploiting the information made visible by growing up, learning, engaging, debating and connecting online.
Choosing to look away is not new to business contexts. This is one of the things professional standards and ethics are about: Even though we are able to do something, we choose not to do it. Or we choose to do it in a different way that serves the greater good. Take insider trading for example. Insider trading happens when people use access to confidential or nonpublic information to trade a company’s stock to their advantage. Many countries prohibit insider trading because it is considered unfair. Insider trading shows how we establish rules for what information we collect, and whether and how we can use that information. It shows that even when we have the privilege of knowing something, we may choose not to use it for our own gain because of a higher standard.
Such looking away is not always legislated. For example, when human resource personnel in the United States receive an application with a personal photo on it, they often remove the photo or discard the application. They do so because even though the applicant made the information available, removing the information helps human resource personnel avoid the chance of unintended bias by the managers and others reviewing résumés.
So let us be intentional in where we look and where we don’t look. Let us not allow our organizational need to identify red flags to undermine people’s online lives. Let us find ways to fulfill our organizational due diligence while also respecting that people — including ourselves — have lives outside of work.
Brenda Berkelaar is an assistant professor in communication studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Her expertise is in the ways technology affects work, careers and personnel selection.
On Civil Rights Anniversary, Educational Opportunity Gap for Young Men of Color Needs More Attention
This week, we celebrate 50 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Since that time, we certainly have overcome many hurdles in our effort to achieve equality, but gaps remain, particularly when it comes to education. The opportunity gap for young men of color is one of the biggest crises of our time.
Only 5.4 percent of students enrolled at two- and four-year colleges and universities in Texas in the fall of 2012 were African American males; 4.1 percent were Hispanic males. If we are to increase the number of African American and Latino males entering college, we must increase high school graduation rates first. It is up to all of us to make sure that happens, because raising graduation rates and improving educational attainment must begin on a local level in elementary and secondary schools. As the vice president of diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin, I can assure we are willing leaders in this effort.
At UT Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, we fund initiatives that address the unique problem of young men of color to the tune of $750,000 annually. Like the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative recently launched by the White House, our commitment involves academic initiatives and partnerships with community and philanthropic organizations in order to reach out to young men beyond our university. In doing so, we are able to engage men of color across the entire educational spectrum, from pre-K through graduate school.
Two programs key to our work are Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success) and the African American Male Research Initiative. Project MALES conducts research about male educational experiences and includes a mentoring program for male students of color across Texas. The program has spawned the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color, which includes six community college districts, five universities and three school districts in the state (Austin, La Joya and El Paso ISDs) committed to enhancing Latino and African American male student success.
The faculty-led African American Male Research Initiative (AAMRI) is designed to increase the four-year graduation rate for African American males. AAMRI faculty members and staffers also mentor young black men through graduate school and research the best practices for them to achieve excellence. Mentoring is essential to these programs to ensure young men graduate from high school and college.
Mentoring initiatives, with the opportunity for young men to develop relationships with professionals and men of color already in college, will help break the school-to-prison cycle and keep young men on the path toward high school graduation. At its most basic level, the school-to-prison cycle removes students from classrooms and sets them on a path leading into the criminal justice system. The African American Youth Harvest Foundation, which started as one of our community incubator projects, heavily supports in-school suspension programs in order to break that cycle. Youth Court, a program through another one of our partners — The University of Texas Law School — has been successful in turning around students at risk of being suspended. Law students and staff members from the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law run the program, training the middle school students to serve in a number of roles.
In order to circumvent the school-to-prison pipeline, the students at the greatest risk need the opportunity to see themselves as something other than troublemakers or bad kids; they need to see themselves in mentors who have successfully navigated the education system and who are on a path of excellence. The African American Youth Harvest Foundation and Youth Court provide students the opportunity to transcend those negative labels, as do mentoring programs such as Communities in Schools’ X-Y Zone and our cascade mentoring programs through Project MALES and AAMRI.
As the Texas population becomes more diverse, we cannot continue to waste the incredible talent of millions of young Texans by allowing them to remain academically unsuccessful and on a path to poverty, prison or both.
Gregory J. Vincent is vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.
One of UT Austin’s premier research units is the Texas Advanced Computing Center. I’m proud to announce that Dan C. Stanzione Jr. has been named executive director of TACC. Dan has served as deputy director since June 2009 and assumed his new post July 1.
UT Austin has become a global leader in supercomputing thanks to TACC and the research it supports. Under Dan’s leadership, I believe our computers will become even more powerful and our research even more world-changing.
Dan is the principal investigator for several leading projects including a multimillion-dollar National Science Foundation grant to deploy and support TACC’s Stampede supercomputer over four years. In Stampede’s first year of operation, 3,500 researchers nationwide used it to further their science and engineering research projects. He is also principle investigator of TACC’s upcoming Wrangler system, a supercomputer designed specifically for data-focused applications.
Dan will preside over the construction of a new office facility adjacent to the research complex at the Pickle Research Campus in North Austin. This facility will allow TACC to expand its visualization capabilities and provide new spaces for training, collaboration, and public events.
Dan earned three degrees from Clemson University, where he later directed the supercomputing laboratory and served as an assistant research professor of electrical and computer engineering. He previously served as the founding director of the Fulton High Performance Computing Initiative at Arizona State University and served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy Fellow in the NSF’s Division of Graduate Education.
I’m looking forward to watching TACC’s growth under Dan’s leadership.
Researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have created a new nonlinear metasurface, or meta mirror, that could one day enable the miniaturization of laser systems.
The invention, called a “nonlinear mirror” by the researchers, could help advance nonlinear laser systems that are used for chemical sensing, explosives detection, biomedical research and potentially many other applications. The researchers’ study will be published in the July 3 issue of Nature.
The metamaterials were created with nonlinear optical response a million times as strong as traditional nonlinear materials and demonstrated frequency conversion in films 100 times as thin as human hair using light intensity comparable with that of a laser pointer.
Nonlinear optical effects are widely used by engineers and scientists to generate new light frequencies, perform laser diagnostics and advance quantum computing. Due to the small extent of optical nonlinearity in naturally occurring materials, high light intensities and long propagation distances in nonlinear crystals are typically required to produce detectable nonlinear optical effects.
The research team led by UT Austin’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering professors Mikhail Belkin and Andrea Alu, in collaboration with colleagues from the Technical University of Munich, has created thin-film nonlinear metamaterials with optical response many orders of magnitude larger than that of traditional nonlinear materials. The scientists demonstrated this functionality by realizing a 400-nanometer-thick nonlinear mirror that reflects radiation at twice the input light frequency. For the given input intensity and structure thickness, the new nonlinear metamaterial produces approximately 1 million times larger frequency-doubled output, compared with similar structures based on conventional materials.
“This work opens a new paradigm in nonlinear optics by exploiting the unique combination of exotic wave interaction in metamaterials and of quantum engineering in semiconductors,” said Professor Andrea Alu.
The metamaterial at the basis of this unusual optical response consists of a sequence of thin layers made of indium, gallium and arsenic on the one hand and aluminum, indium and arsenic on the other. The researchers stacked approximately 100 of these layers, each between 1 nanometer and 12 nanometers thick, and sandwiched them between a layer of gold at the bottom and a pattern of asymmetric gold nanocrosses on top. The thin semiconductor layers confine electrons into desired quantum states, and gold nanocrosses resonate at input and output frequencies to enable the the nonlinear optical response of the mirror.
The realized mirror converts light from a wavelength of 8 micrometers to 4 micrometers; however, the structures can be tailored to work at other wavelengths, from near-infrared to mid-infrared to terahertz.
“Alongside frequency doubling, our structures may be designed for sum- or difference-frequency generation, as well as a variety of four-wave mixing processes,” said UT Austin graduate student Jongwon Lee, the lead author on the paper.
“Our work unveils a pathway towards the development of ultrathin, highly nonlinear optical elements for efficient frequency conversion that will operate without stringent phase-matching constraints of bulk nonlinear crystals,” said Professor Mikhail Belkin.
Belkin and Alu led a team of researchers that included electrical and computer engineering graduate students Jongwon Lee, Mykhailo Tymchenko and Feng Lu. Pai-Yen Chen and Christos Argyropoulos, who graduated from the Cockrell School in 2013, also contributed to the paper. The semiconductor material was grown at the Walter Schottky Institute, Technical University of Munich.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research, as well as the German Research Foundation.
The University of Texas at Austin is committed to transparency and disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. All UT investigators involved with this research have filed their required financial disclosure forms with the university. Alu and Belkin have both received research funding for other projects from the National Science Foundation and other major public science foundations. Belkin has also received research funding for other projects from the companies Omega Optics, Anasys Instruments and Hamamatsu Photonics, and Alu from the AEgis Technologies Group. An alumnus and former doctoral student who worked on the project, Pai-Yen Chen, now works for Intellectual Ventures Inc.
AUSTIN, Texas — Dan C. Stanzione Jr. has been named executive director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin. A nationally recognized leader in high performance computing, Stanzione has served as deputy director since June 2009 and will assume the new post July 1.
“The University of Texas at Austin has become a global leader in supercomputing thanks to TACC and the research it supports,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “Under Dan’s leadership, I believe our computers will become even more powerful and our research even more world-changing.”
TACC is a national leader in providing high-end advanced computing resources and services to researchers, conducting leading research and development projects, and providing training and education for the local and national scientific community. The center provides a comprehensive portfolio for virtually every mode of computational research and runs some of the world's largest computing and data systems, with thousands of users from hundreds of institutions investigating such issues as gene sequencing, biofuel production, and weather and climate modeling.
“As deputy director of TACC, Dan has demonstrated his ability to manage the organization and deliver on its commitments to provide world-class computational facilities, research and support to benefit the nation, state and university,” said Juan M. Sanchez, vice president for research at UT Austin. “I am confident that under his new role, TACC will continue to be an internationally recognized center of excellence in advanced computing, offering our faculty, students and researchers the computational tools and technical support needed to sustain our world-class research enterprise.”
Stanzione is the principal investigator (PI) for several leading projects including a multimillion-dollar National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to deploy and support TACC’s Stampede supercomputer over four years. In Stampede’s first year of operation, 3,500 researchers nationwide used it to further their science and engineering research projects. Stanzione is also the PI of TACC’s upcoming Wrangler system, a supercomputer designed specifically for data-focused applications. He served for six years as the co-director of the iPlant Collaborative, a large-scale NSF life sciences cyberinfrastructure in which TACC is a major partner. In addition, Stanzione was a co-principal investigator for TACC’s Ranger and Lonestar supercomputers, large-scale NSF systems previously deployed at UT Austin.
“It is an honor to lead an organization with the tradition of excellence we have at TACC,” Stanzione said. “It’s a fascinating time in supercomputing, with the underlying technology changing rapidly, and the rise of ‘big data’ and cloud computing changing the marketplace. Computing and data are becoming pervasive in many fields of academic inquiry, including medicine. TACC is poised to capitalize on all of these trends and to help even more researchers make new discoveries in the years to come.”
TACC is also preparing a new office facility adjacent to its research complex at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in North Austin, which will allow TACC to expand its visualization capabilities and provide new spaces for training, collaboration and events for the public.
Stanzione previously served as the founding director of the Fulton High Performance Computing Initiative at Arizona State University and served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy Fellow in the NSF’s Division of Graduate Education. He has served as acting director of TACC since January.
Stanzione received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and his master’s degree and doctorate in computer engineering from Clemson University, where he later directed the supercomputing laboratory and served as an assistant research professor of electrical and computer engineering.