Research Clusters

  • The Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute sponsors research clusters convened by various faculty across campus.
  • These clusters are open to participants from any and all disciplines and departments.
  • Those interested in participating should contact a convener of the cluster.
  • Clusters will meet a few times each semester to discuss common interests and collaborate in shared activities.

  • Research Clusters for AY 2020-2021

    Sondra N. Barringer, Department of Education Policy and Leadership; B. Kathleen Gallagher, Division of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship; Alicia C. Schortgen, Department of Sociology

    This research cluster focuses on the intersection of nonprofits, public administration, higher education, and sociology. We seek to expand understanding of the relationships between higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations in the DFW metroplex. Planned activities include four working group meetings, a symposium with guest speaker, and the development of exploratory research in this area.

    Alexander Lipert, Chemistry; Thomas Ritz, Psychology

    The Biopsychosocial Research Cluster brings together faculty from Psychology, Biology and Chemistry to use their combined expertise to discover molecular events linked to psychological, social, physical or medical challenges of humans. The biopsychosocial model of health incorporates, in its ideal conceptualization, processes on multiple levels, including biochemical and cellular processes, physiological function, psychological levels of behavior and experience of the individual, family and peer-group processes, as well as levels of the society, community and physical environment. The cluster has been active for a couple of years. The cluster research has been successful and resulted in several papers published over the last years, as well as in obtaining SMU a Dean’s Research Council grant to two of the members.

    Ben Voth, Communication Studies; Matthew Wilson, Political Science 

    This cluster will promote and facilitate interdisciplinary exploration of the Christian tradition as inspiration and paradigm for research and teaching. It will bring together scholars from a variety of fields to examine the role and value of Christian epistemology in a largely secular academy.

    Holly Bowen, Psychology; Philippe Chuard, Philosophy

    To foster a more integrated and interactive research environment and culture amongst specialists in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience at SMU and in the metroplex through the organization of public talks and research workshops, which will also help enrich and develop the new SMU minors in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience.


    Prof. Kathy Windrow, Meadows School of Arts; C.C. Harbour, DLS candidate, Simmons School; Sonia Jordan, DLS candidate; and Lilly Peña, MLS candidate.

    The Creativity, Identity, and the Power of Observation cluster addresses the question, “How does our identity shape our creativity?” This will be accomplished through coordination of virtual presentations and collaborative artwork via online platforms. The cluster seeks to enhance understanding and appreciation for the various ways communities and cultures express their creativity.

    Gizem Arslan, World Languages and Literatures; LaShonda Eaddy, Communication Studies; Megan Heuer, Central University Libraries

    The purpose of this cluster is to articulate precise critical terms and research methodologies in order to understand the critical literacies needed to address rapidly proliferating genres and evolving contexts in which texts, information, and misinformation are produced, disseminated and received in the digital age. The cluster will focus on literacies most pertinent to education and public discourse, namely information, media, and cross-cultural literacies.

    Bruce Levy, English/Writing and Reasoning; Kathleen Wellman, History

    Critical Reasoning, “Post-Truth” and the University examines the history of critical reasoning as an intellectual practice within the human sciences, historical and contemporary challenges to it, and its role within the era of “Post-Truth” and the emergence of unmediated social media. The Cluster will investigate the role of the university and the university in curriculum in fostering critical reasoning within the Post-Truth era.

    Jo Guldi and Kate Carte, Department of History

    The Digital Humanities Plus cluster seeks to facilitate ongoing learning about new research about subjects in the humanities or social sciences as they intersect with computational, geospatial, or statistical methods. We welcome participants with any level of familiarity with these topics.

    Marcus Butts, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Management and Organizations; Priscilla Lui, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology; Janille Smith-Colin, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

    This cluster provides a forum for interdisciplinary collaboration on topics and methodologies using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) or experience sampling. These approaches aim to capture accurate reports by asking about experiences close to the time and context in which they occur in people’s day-to-day lives. Furthermore, emerging technologies allow these approaches to integrate physiological and objective data (e.g., heart rate, UV exposure, GPS) with self-reports to provide an accurate momentary assessment of lived experiences. Because of frequent sampling (multiple times per day), these approaches help researchers understand complex interpersonal processes that unfold within-person and manifest differently across people over time.

    Andrea Laurent-Simpson, Lecturer, Sociology; Anna Lovatt, Assistant Professor, Art History

    This cluster will cover topics including chosen families; human-nonhuman animal relationships; intergenerational caregiving; the intersection of race, gender and family law; family separation; and transgenerational trauma. The cluster will consider the impact of COVID-19 on family relationships and the reconfiguration of kinship by new communication technologies.

    Klaus Desmet, Economics; Mark McCoy, Anthropology; Jessie Zarazaga, Lyle School of Engineering

    This Research Cluster brings together faculty, graduate students, and staff who are interested in GIS (Geographic Information Systems, for mapping and spatial analysis). In recent years the greater availability of spatial data has led to a growing interest in GIS across a variety of fields, including anthropology, art, earth sciences, economics, engineering, human rights and the humanities. The goals of the cluster include 1) connecting SMU faculty and students who may be working independently in the area of spatial analysis, and sharing the different uses and potentials of GIS across their fields; 2) identifying specific needs for SMU faculty training in GIS tools; and 3) helping the library and the Ford Building in setting up facilities and support strategies for GIS at SMU

    Paola Buckley, World Languages and Literatures, Senior Lecturer of French, director of SMU-in-France; Aria Cabot, World Languages and Literatures, Teaching and Technology Center Director, co-director of SMU-in-Tuscany

    This research cluster unites faculty from a range of academic and professional disciplines to discuss and define a set of shared goals and best practices to provide students with real-world, global perspectives and transferable skills aligned with skills employers seek in the contemporary workplace. Topics of discussion include curricular innovation, academic and corporate partnerships for internships and field work abroad and at home, and the assessment of and integration with SMU’s Common Curriculum requirements with a focus on the integration of world languages and cultures for professional purposes across the curriculum.

    Eric G Bing, Professor of Global Health; Anthony Cuevas, Simmons School of Education and Human Development; Ernest Jouriles, Psychology; Elizabeth Stringer, SMU Guildhall

    The Health Simulations cluster seeks to bring together a diverse group of SMU faculty to explore the benefits of health education and training through virtual reality.

    Leticia T. McDoniel, World Languages and Literatures; Jessica Martinez, MBA Candidate, Cox School of Business

    The cluster’s purpose is to Develop relationships across departments, schools in order to create collaborative and research programs of study across disciplines.

    Alejandro Aceves, Mathematics; Chul Moon, Statistics; Minh-Binh Tran, Mathematics 

    Multilayer neural networks have been shown to be the most powerful models in machine learning. However, the fundamental reasons for this success remains not well understood and for that it will require mathematical tools and expertise. One of the most important mathematical tools that can be used to study neural networks is Control/Mean Field theory that deals with the behavior of dynamical systems with inputs, and how their behavior is modified by feedback. By this cluster, we would like to create a forum for faculties and researchers at  regional universities and companies working on this important topic.

    Dr. Rick Halperin, Director, Embrey Human Rights Program; Edward Gray, DLS candidate, Simmons School; Jennifer McNabb, DLS candidate, Simmons School

    According to Michael Philips in his book, White Metropolis, Dallas has created a series of false narratives around its history, leading to an obfuscation of human rights abuses, especially where race is concerned. Dallas has not come to terms with its true history, which has had repercussions into the present and recent past, from the Kennedy assassination to current injustices in racial and economic inequality to Dallas’s part in the incarceration epidemic. All over Dallas there are sites redolent of an untold past. We propose a project to map the human rights sites in Dallas through an interdisciplinary approach with a prominent educational component. This proposal envisions partnerships with the new Dallas Holocaust Museum, as well as area high schools (especially Booker T. Washington), and community colleges.

    Shira Lander, Religious Studies/Director of Jewish Studies; Bonnie Wheeler, English

    The “Medieval Matters” Research Cluster plans a year-long initiative to reinvigorate the strong, diverse, and engaged community of medievalists among the faculty and students at SMU and in the metroplex area. As a working group, we will examine fresh methodological approaches to the study of the Middle Ages with the goal of generating opportunities for new collaborative teaching and research across disciplinary boundaries. Among other possibilities, we envision a fully vetted book and digital project (with national and international contributors) that advances current understandings of the uses and limits of transdisciplinary teaching/research in the Middle Ages.

    Mike Adler, AnthropologySteven Denson, Director MBA Diversity Initiatives; Neil Foley, History; Kacy Hollenback, Anthropology

    This research cluster brings together faculty, staff, and graduate students with interests in indigenous studies. The focus will be on traditional and contemporary indigenous forms of culture, language, art, knowledge, economy, ecology, politics, and identity, as well as contemporary issues surrounding sovereignty, tradition, human rights, intellectual property rights, heritage, health, environmental justice, and development. Our year-long goals involve (1) creating and fostering a viable campus community at SMU, (2) identifying areas for collaborative research, and (3) defining existing and future teaching needs. 

    Lolita Buckner Inniss, Dedman School of Law; Crista DeLuzio, History; Susanne Scholz, Theology; Bonnie Wheeler, English

    Feminism has once again become a culturally approved term, but the connection between feminist scholarship and social change has thinned in the past decade. A group of eighteen SMU faculty and graduate students came together on May 5 with philanthropist/feminist scholar Helen LaKelly Hunt and long-time activist Vivian Castleberry to talk about Hunt’s new book on the religious roots of American feminism in the abolitionist movement. During that conversation, we realized that SMU’s feminist community could itself benefit from revitalization. As scholars and teachers, we use the tools of feminist analysis but we remain uncertain about “correct” relations between our scholarly and reformist agendas.

    We’d like to think through this question, among others, in a cluster next year that would have six notable speakers and several small discussion sections. We would also engage the Women and Gender Studies Program in this project. Our goal is to produce an edited set of essays that poses questions about the place of feminist visibility in the academy. We want to develop the field of feminist thought further as we engage in both an embodiment of and conscious reflection upon feminist discourse. Can we see feminist theory in the service of social change?

    Jill Kelly, Associate Professor of History and Joan Gosnell, University Archivist

    The Oral History @ SMU Cluster will gather SMU scholars who are embarking on oral history projects, discuss recent theoretical and practical work, and come up with a road map of best practices for SMU.

    Lourdes Molina, Spanish; Kristina Nielsen, Meadows; and Matt Hornbach, Earth Sciences

    Society and Environment in the Global South at SMU fosters a conversation about the interconnectedness of the humanities and science/engineering. We seek to develop an interdisciplinary, experiential curriculum at SMU that examines the socio-cultural experience of Global South communities to support the design of culturally and environmentally sensitive scientific study and innovation.

    Professor Maryann Cairns, Department of Anthropology, Dedman College; Dr. Eric Godat, Office of Information Technology; Professor Myles Ethan Lascity, Department of Journalism, Meadows School of the Arts; With Dr. Michael Hites, Dr. Sreekumar Bhaksaran, Rosanne Hart, Guillermo Vazquez

    The apparel industry is a major global polluter, and clothing waste presents one of the most pressing environmental and human health challenges of our time. This research cluster seeks to connect innovations in big data, citizen science, critical making, and ethnography in order to empower communities and companies to co-create a more sustainable world by addressing the problem of environmental impact from waste in the fashion industry.

    Kenneth Daley, Philosophy; Robert Howell, Philosophy; Sukumaran Nair, Computer Science and Engineering

    The DCII “Technology, Society and Value” Research Cluster provides a forum for interdisciplinary collaboration on ethical issues raised by emerging technologies.  The past several years have made it painfully clear that new technologies—from social media to artificial intelligence—will change the way we interact as a society and will raise new ethical issues in the process.  This research cluster will provide an opportunity for scholars and industry professionals across various domains to connect and learn from each other’s perspective on these issues, with a goal of determining some of the more promising avenues for future research.

    Bonnie Etter, PhD Student, Anthropology; Gwen Bakke, PhD Student, Anthropology; Timothy Seiter, PhD Student History

    For the faculty and students at Southern Methodist University, there is a personal connection to the state of Texas that has led to examinations of the history, people, and environment of their own backyard. The topics covered by this research cluster will range from the earliest indigenous populations of the regions to 20th century politics. The goal of this will be to connect the seemingly disparate pieces of modern-day Texas with its historical roots.

    Tom Fomby, Economics; Jo Guldi, History; Tim McDonough, Cox School of Business; Aren Cambre, Director of the Web Application Services Team; Eric Godat, Office of Information and Technology

    This cluster intends to convene during the 2019-2020 academic year involving presentations by researchers and practitioners in the areas of text analytics and sentiment analysis.  Text analytics and sentiment analysis (TASA) have become increasingly popular tools in the areas of digital humanities and business and economic applications. Given this, we thought that a research cluster would start introducing the ideas and methods used in this field to the broader SMU community.