Steven Rayesky | Staff Writer
On Tuesday, March 27th, Chancellor Wendell Pritchett held a symposium highlighting Rutgers’ faculty and their recent research. Six presenters took ten minutes to explain their work and findings to an audience of over 100 people.
The lone representative from the English department was Dr. Fitzgerald, whose work often focuses on rhetoric and how it is adapting in the digital age.
“There are digital apps for prayer,” said Fitzgerald, who went on to discuss how the act of prayer has changed in the digital age and how it can be found being expressed in modern forms of communication. With the advent of Facebook and Twitter, the ease of communicating and the audience size has increased. Prayer has made the transition as well, with athletes using Twitter to communicate directly to God, as well as to all of their followers.
“In this age of new media it becomes very interesting to see what aspects of a scene of prayer and an act of communicating with the divine carry over to new technologies,” said Fitzgerald.
Professor Alison Nissen, Director of Academic Success at the law school, gave a presentation exploring her work in providing students with learning disabilities strategies to improve their outlining skills. She noted the importance of outlining for law students, and how it is an effective tool for students who want to absorb and comprehend information well. Nissen’s strategies are designed to help students with attention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, but would be profitable to any student who wishes to improve their outlining skills.
“These strategies are designed to make documents more organized and more readable,” said Nissen, “which leads to greater comprehension, retention, and recall of the material.”
Dr. Chester Spell, a professor of management, gave a presentation on the efforts of employers to influence and be knowledgeable of their employees’ health. Health care is in the news as the Affordable Care Act is before the U.S. Supreme Court, and its constitutionality is being determined.
While the issue before the Supreme Court is one of whether all should be required to have health care, Dr. Spell discussed how far employers can go in influencing the decisions that their employees make regarding their health.
“We don’t know what combination is right or wrong for different employers, or if there is any systematic approach,” said Spell.
Spell mentioned a story where potential employees were asked to give access to their Facebook accounts, which sparked discussion over where the line should be drawn concerning employee privacy.
Sports became the focus during Professor John Smith’s presentation; well, sort of.
“White Men Can’t Jump, But Would You Bet On It?” is the title of a paper that he and two colleagues published that uses data collected over more than a decade to show how in basketball, racial stereotypes affect market outcomes.
“What we do find is that there are racially biased point spreads,” said Smith, who teaches economics.
Smith’s research is based on how point spreads are related to the number of black players on a given team. What his findings show is that the spread is greater when a team has more black players on it.
“The point spread is a market based estimate of the outcome,” said Smith. Particular factors are going to affect how a sportsbook sets the spread, and Smith argues that race appears to be one of those factors.
From there the topic of research shifted from the economics in sports betting to the issue over same-sex marriage. Law Professor Perry Dane argued that the supporters of same-sex marriage need to shift their focus from one of liberty and equality to that of fraternity.
“We can keep the thick meaning of marriage, including the thickly heterosexual paradigm of marriage, and still believe that it is good, just, fair, morally necessary for same-sex couples to be able to get married,” said Dane.
During the presentation the tension in the room was palpable. The issue of same-sex marriage is relevant and controversial and stirs strong feelings wherever it is discussed.
The final presenter was Nir Yakoby, a biologist who is researching the morphology of flies.
“We are especially interested in understanding the underlying mechanisms governing the formation of novel morphologies,” said Yakoby.
What Yakoby means is that there are a number of differences in how fly species develop, and Yakoby and his team are conducting experiments to discover what causes these differences to occur.
The event highlighted just a number of projects that are being conducted in a wide range of fields, as Rutgers continues to be on the forefront of academic research.