Summer 2015

In the summer of 2015, dozens of graduate students from across the Division of Social Sciences put their ISS Summer Travel & Research Awards to good use. From excavating in Northern Mongolia to lecturing in Montreal, recipients conducted and presented research in a fascinating range of locations.

Anthropology | Communication | Economics | History | Linguistics | Philosophy | Political Science | Psychology | Sociology | Center for Regional Change


Roshanne Bakhtiary

This summer, Roshanne Bakhtiary used her award from the Institute of Social Sciences to travel to Mongolia, where she was a member of two archaeological expeditions. Firstly, Roshanne participated in a citizen science project with Earthwatch Institute in the Northern Gobi Desert. As a field manager, she worked closely with volunteers spanning all age groups and backgrounds, as they spent two weeks excavating a fallen Neolithic house structure.

After spending two weeks in the desert, she traveled up to the Taiga steppe of Northern Mongolia, where she spent six weeks on a Leakey-funded expedition with Dr. Nicolas Zwyns of UC Davis. She worked with a large crew to excavate three Upper Paleolithic sites in the Tolbor Valley, one of the few lowland passes that connects Eurasia with the upper reaches of Siberia. In addition to learning how to use total stations and their associated software, she gained knowledge in lithic analysis, geomorphology and site formation processes.

Roshanne plans to go back to Mongolia in April 2016, where she will use her isotopic knowledge to sample ostrich egg shell recovered from a newly discovered site she excavated in Tolbor Valley. With this isotopic information, she will be able to reconstruct the paleo-environments of the region over different periods during the Upper Paleolithic.

Grace Davis

Through funding provided by the ISS and HIA, I spent June-September studying group decision-making in white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. My days consisted of radio and GPS tracking monkey groups in the island tropical forest and collecting detailed behavioral data on foraging. Specifically, my project investigated group feedings on Attalea palm fruit clumps, or infructescences (Attalea butyracea).

During the summer months, capuchin groups frequently feed on the ripe fruits of Attalea palms. These fruits grow in large clumps, or infructesences, that suspend off a single stem of the palm plant. When monkey groups collectively encountered a palm, competition over the fruit clump often ensued, creating conflicts of interest among group-mates.

For instance, some individuals could monopolize the fruit and exclude other individuals from feeding. When conflicts of interest about when and where to feed exist in a cohesive group, some individuals must compromise their preferred patterns of behavior, presumably at a cost to themselves. How cohesive social groups, like capuchin monkeys, coordinate their actions is crucial to our understanding of the evolution and maintenance of sociality.

Together, my study captured important elements of group decision-making in social primates: where to move, when to go, and who decides. I also helped place GPS collars on several primates, to track foraging movements at a fine scale.

Anthropology Summer Travel & Research Awards were also presented to Susan Lagle, Josh Noyer, and Jason Miszaniec.



Meng Chen

I want to express my utmost gratitude to Institute for Social Sciences for funding my travel to the 24th Sunbelt Conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis in Brighton, UK, which took place from June 23rd to June 28th, 2015. With this support I was able to present my research regarding a semantic network analysis of online breast cancer forum to experts in different disciplines. While there I gave a paper presentation, received critical feedback, and connected with international network scholars, which will be very useful for my dissertation writing this coming year.

Communication Summer Travel & Research Awards were also presented to Ke Jiang and Catherine Huh, both of whom also attended the Sunbelt Conference.



Lester Lusher

My research centers on a program that was launched at UC Davis in January 2015 called CollegeBetter is intended to help students commit to their goals of improving their GPA. 

Lester LusherEvery term, CollegeBetter sets up a pool with a commitment challenge (e.g. raise your cumulative GPA by the end of the term). Students join the pool by chipping in the buy-in fee (e.g. $20). These buy-in fees are collected into one giant pot.

At the end of the term, everyone in the pool who completes the challenge gets to split the giant pot of money evenly. Those who fail to complete the challenge forfeit the buy-in fee. We are conducting a series of experiments in order to investigate two questions:

(i) Are students interested in this mechanism and if so, which ones and why, and

(ii) is CollegeBetter effective at motivating students to do better, and if so, why?

Thanks to the Institute for Social Sciences, we have been able to partially answer these questions, with many more experiments coming.

Economics Summer Travel & Research Awards were also presented to Jae Wook Jung, Dillon Carlos, Jaerim Choi, Ariel (Marek) Pihl, and Mingzhi Xu.



Elizabeth Grennan Browning

Elizabeth Grennan Browning’s dissertation, “Nature’s Laboratory: Chicago and the Rise of a New Aesthetics of Labor, 1880-1930,” is an intellectual and environmental justice history of Chicago, focusing on how the expansion of modern industrial capitalism fundamentally changed the way humans interacted with and perceived the natural world. She investigates how a diverse group of Chicago reformers, academics, and artists conceptualized Chicago as a laboratory for the testing of industrial relations with the goal of reducing the threat of labor radicalism.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 marked the creation of this laboratory of industrial relations where capitalists, laborers, and labor advocates projected their often conflicting plans for a harmonious urban social order. With the generous support of the ISS Summer Travel Grant, Elizabeth traveled to the Chicago History Museum’s archives to research how Chicagoans responded to the catastrophic event, which razed three and a half square miles of the city’s center and destroyed the homes of one-third of the city’s residents. Elizabeth explored Chicagoans’ experiences of the inferno through the archives’ extensive collection of fire narratives.

The records of the Chicago Relief and Aid Society—the group designated by the mayor as the official distributor of relief—provided perspective on how the poor and working classes fared in the aftermath. Although the rebuilding process established Chicago’s reputation as a place of opportunity, later labor disputes—including the Haymarket Affair and Pullman Strike—indicated the precarious relationship between labor and capital. 

Cori Knudten

This summer I traveled to the far-flung locale of the East Bay to do research for my dissertation, which explores how gender shaped the modern city in the 1920s and 1930s. I examined collections at the Bancroft Library, the Institute for Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, materials at the Oakland Public Library’s history room, and the Richmond History Museum.

Highlights included records and letters from the Berkeley Police Department, which was at the forefront of efforts to professionalize police departments in this period. August Vollmer, chief of the Berkeley Police, argued that policemen should function as social workers, not just crime fighters, a view that challenged the prevailing working-class masculinities of policemen and also provided opportunities for women to enter police departments.

I also spent time locating various buildings constructed by women’s clubs. These clubs played an important role in shaping the urban built environment of the East Bay.

Jessica Ordaz

This past summer, Jessica Ordaz, a PhD Candidate in the History Department, got the opportunity to travel to Mexico City with financial assistance from the UC Davis Institute for Social Sciences. She conducted primary source dissertation research at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an archive that holds government correspondence between the United States and Mexico.

Jessica’s dissertation, “Making Invisible Carceral Spaces Visible: Migration, State Violence, and Activism at the El Centro Immigration Detention Center, 1947-2014,” historicizes the development of Americas modern immigration system and the prioritization of immigrant detention by centering the experiences and protests of detained noncitizens. She analyzes the history of immigrant detention centers by examining transformations inside the El Centro INS facility, a camp built in the Imperial Valley of California in 1947 to hold immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The research that Jessica collected in Mexico City will help her frame the dissertation in a transnational lens. She found significant sources such as complaint files written by detainees and the families of detainees and addressed to Mexican consulates. These sources will allow Jessica to explore how noncitizens have historically sought to work with immigrant rights activists to influence immigrant detention policy.

Stacy Roberts

The summer travel grant I received from the UC Davis Institute for Social Sciences funded travel to conduct exploratory research in rural Western Kentucky in July 2015. From July 7th-July 12th I conducted oral interviews with fourteen different people on two separate topics: how production and consumption of food has changed and how their interactions with regional coal mines has changed over their lifetimes.

Many of the interviewees were elderly (several were over ninety years old) and often shared very intimate details of their life with a complete stranger. I used and plan to make use of the information collected in these interviews in several different forums: the Southern Foodways Alliance 2015 Oral History Workshop at the University of Mississippi, July 13-17, 2015; the Filson Historical Society’s New Paths in the Environmental History of North America and the Ohio Valley Conference, University of Louisville, Kentucky, October 8-10, 2015; and in abstracts submitted to the Historians of the Twentieth Century U.S. 2016 Conference in Middleburg, Netherlands as well as future Southern Historical Association and Southern Foodways Alliance conferences.

History Summer Travel & Research Awards were also presented to Jessica Blake (who traveled to New Orleans), Justin Clement (New York), Andrew Higgins (Los Angeles), Lily Hodges (Haiti), Nick Perrone (Boston), and Pablo Silva (Mexico City).



Miranda Morris and Ying Liu attended the 2015 Linguistics Summer Institute on “Linguistics Theory in a World of Big Data” at the University of Chicago on July 6-31.



Shawn Miller

The Institute for Social Sciences summer travel funds enabled me to attend the week-long conference of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) in Montreal, where I presented dissertation research on a panel on causality, conservation, and citizen science. My research focuses on the intersection of computer hardware and simulation sciences, and my talk at ISHPSSB looked in particular at the distributed computing project Folding@Home.

The interdisciplinary and experimental character of ISHPSSB provided an ideal forum to present my work in a somewhat non-standard way by running a Folding@Home simulation during my talk in lieu of a stack of slides.

Besides that, I met two historians in my session who investigate the role of aquariums in species conservation, an area of research of which I was previously wholly unaware. Those are the sorts of fruitful discoveries that are only likely to happen by traveling to far flung destinations.

Michael Hunter 

The Institute for Social Sciences summer travel funds enabled me to attend the British Postgraduate Philosophy Association (BPPA) annual conference. The 3-day conference was held at the University of Southampton (UK), where I presented a talk titled Philosophers Behaving Badly: The Systemic Failures of "Experimental Philosophy.”

My presentation focused on the methodology used by the "experimental philosophy" movement. The problem that I identified was that their purported empirical findings were flawed, due to the limiting number of relevant social-scientific categories that participants had for self-identification. The lack of basic categories generated data that were much too coarse, and my work highlighted this by doing a content-analysis of published research papers in "experimental philosophy" over the last 9 years. The second part of my presentation was focused on the public policy implications of the "experimental philosophy" movement: The attempt to branch out into policy debates, including ones on how to better deal with under-representation in academic philosophy departments (undergraduate students, graduate students, professors) relies on sound social scientific research. My work highlighted that the efforts to improve academic philosophy along these axes has the potential to do great harm since the empirical work was highly flawed. I concluded by providing policy recommendations and methodological changes in order to improve future work done by those in the movement. 

The BPPA conference was an ideal place for me to present my work. The "experimental philosophy" movement is growing, and presenting this work has helped me to make inroads with philosophers who are interested in using methodology from the social sciences to explore questions of both practical and philosophical interest. I have made a number of connections with international scholars who are interested in avoiding the past mistakes that my research has highlighted and who are interested in work that is both philosophically interesting, empirically robust, and deeply informed by contemporary methodology of the social sciences.

Rick Morris

In the summer of 2015, Institute for Social Sciences summer travel funds enabled me to attend the biennial conference of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) in Montreal. As a PhD student two years into the program, this gave me an opportunity to meet a number of key scholars in my discipline, and to start building connections with my peers in other departments around the world. 

I presented the beginnings of my intended dissertation, which will focus on analysis of the concept of "evolutionary mismatch", used by scientists and clinicians in evolutionary explanations of contemporary human health outcomes. The talk I gave focused on developing standards of evidence which could be used to evaluate claims of an evolutionary mismatch between a person's biology and her environment. 

These funds also enabled me to travel to the conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association in Dusseldorf, Germany, to present the same research---another excellent opportunity to meet other scholars, particularly scholars from Europe. 

Finally, I had the opportunity to present some ethics research of mine at the Northwest Student Philosophy Conference (NSPC) at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. My research in this project focuses on some traditional problems for the ethical theory of consequentialism, and presenting at the NSPC gave me the opportunity to meet a number of peers at programs up and down the west coast of North America.

A Philosophy Summer Travel & Research Award was also presented to Chris Healow, who attended the SEP International Workshop in Paris, France.


Political Science


Political Science Summer Travel & Research Awards were presented in the form of Summer Collaboratives, comprising support for collaborative research with a department faculty member. Summer Collaboratives were awarded to Michael Nash, Fan Lu, Nathan Rexford, and Marisella Rodriguez.


The largest award went to Roi Zur. With his faculty collaborator James Adams, Roi is currently conducting a study of how German citizens infer parties’ policy positions - and also how these perceptions in turn influence citizens’ own policy views and party support - in response to the composition of state-level coalition governments, which are a feature of the German federal system.



Liv Hoversten

To function in a single target language, bilinguals need to attend to the target language while ignoring or inhibiting potentially active nontarget language representations. Previous research has shown that language membership information is available early enough during lexico-semantic processing that it can serve to restrict the depth of processing in a nontarget language. It is unclear, however, how language membership information accumulates upon stimulus presentation. The present experiment, which benefited from ISS support, aimed to investigate the role of sublexical form information in language membership identification.

Bilinguals viewed Spanish and English words and pseudowords with an orthographic bias toward one language or the other during electroencephalogram recording. The probability of encountering words in each language was manipulated in an oddball paradigm in which participants only responded to real words in the rare language category. In half of the experiment, words had an orthographic bias consistent with language membership (Bias blocks), and in the other half of the experiment, words were not orthographically biased (Non-Bias blocks). Words in the rare language category elicited a typical oddball P3 in both Bias and Non-Bias blocks. Pseudowords resembling the rare language category also elicited a P3 in the Bias blocks only. Finally, lateralized readiness potentials for words in the rare language category began significantly earlier in Bias than Non-Bias blocks. These results suggest that the bilingual brain is sensitive to orthographic bias information even in the absence of lexical information and that orthographic bias aids in language membership identification during bilingual word recognition.

Rebecca Larke

I was given $500 to support a series of experiments looking at the epigenetic effects of developmental antidepressant exposure in prairie voles. The funding helped to cover the costs of assays which measure methylation levels of the oxytocin receptor gene in blood, and of oxytocin receptor gene expression in several brain areas. The results from these experiments should help to explain the link between early antidepressant exposure and changes in behavior and neural oxytocin receptors found in prairie voles.

Kristine Christianson

Mediation analysis can help to identify underlying psychological processes while suggesting temporal precedence for placement of variables in a model. Despite evidence to suggest that cross-sectional mediation analysis may lead to biased estimates, many researchers continue to carry out analyses at a single time point. My current research concerns the differences and similarities between cross-sectional and longitudinal mediation models. Specifically, the goal of my research is to uncover when it may be appropriate to estimate a cross-sectional mediation model in the absence of longitudinal data. Our findings have suggested substantial differences between the models, with cross-sectional estimates diverging most from cross-lagged panel and latent growth curve models.

Thanks to the support of the Institute of Social Sciences, I was able to attend the Center for Advancing Longitudinal Drug Abuse Research Summer Institute on Longitudinal Research in Marina del Rey, CA. At this institute, I attended two full day workshops on longitudinal data analysis, and introductory and advanced topics related to mediation. Dr. David MacKinnon, who is the leading expert in mediation analysis, taught the latter topic.

Thanks to this opportunity I was able to discuss my research with Dr. MacKinnon, and gained his insight on the longitudinal mediation models I used in my study, as well as how best to estimate confidence intervals in order to compare results across models.

This experience helped me to become more informed about mediation analysis and contributed to a better quality manuscript that we hope to publish soon.


Sarah Kahle

The funds from this award were used to pay two undergraduate research assistants for short term assistance with processing the data I will use for my dissertation. I trained them on a behavior-coding scheme looking at self-regulation in our preschool participants, and we made good headway on this project over the summer. I am continuing to look at similar behaviors in different kinds of challenging tasks to see if they can be linked with changes in autonomic physiology.

Katie Kennedy

I am a 4th year Ph.D. student in developmental psychology studying children's and adults' understanding of mental states. The summer funding I was granted this year allowed me to get a jump-start on my dissertation work, research on interpretive theory of mind and social categorization in 4- to 10-year-olds and adults. It enabled me to purchase important research supplies and to pay for more participants to come in. The ability to run participants sooner and more often has been a great opportunity!

Amber Sanchez

Thanks to the funds provided by the Institute for Social Sciences, I was able to attend the Summer Institute in Social and Personality Psychology (SISPP), held at Boston’s Northeastern University. This two-week summer program was an incredible opportunity to expand upon my research interests and learn from some of the most influential academics in my field.  By offering courses designed to diversify social psychological research and encourage collaborations with other graduate students, this program gave me the opportunity to collaborate with graduate students from across the country. For example, I worked with other graduate students to put together a research project examining how person perception influences moral judgments.  This was a collaboration that may not have occurred otherwise in our field.  

During these two weeks I was also able to expand upon my skills as a researcher through workshops that emphasized important techniques for data analysis and best research practices. Overall, SISSP was a unique opportunity for me to broaden my research interests and expand my social network.  The people I met in this program have become an important resource for help with my research and general career issues.  This was an experience that would not have been possible without the opportunities provided by SISPP and the funds provided by the Institute for Social Sciences.

Grant Shields

I used the funding to purchase assay kits for salivary cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). With that I was able to determine a selective association between DHEA and the effects of stress on decision-making. The funding thus allowed me to analyze the effects of stress on multiple hormones and how those effects differentially contributed to some cognitive effects of stress.

Psychology Summer Travel & Research Awards were also presented to Adam Goldring, Hannah Kramer, and Andrew Rivers.



Kelsey Meagher

In recent decades, large-scale outbreaks of foodborne illness have prompted growing concerns over food safety. Outbreaks have occurred in almost every industrialized nation, and contaminated foods have expanded beyond the “usual suspects” of meat and dairy to include fresh vegetables and fruit. Despite the seemingly universal desire to eradicate foodborne illness, institutional and public responses to outbreaks have varied substantially across national contexts.

My study seeks to explain cross-national differences in risk perception and governance in the context of two major E. coli outbreaks (U.S., 2006; and Germany, 2011). I use mixed methods to explore how stakeholder groups defined and pursued food safety following each outbreak. Despite initial similarities between the outbreaks, institutional responses in each nation diverged; regulatory reforms took different forms and represented different conceptions of institutional responsibility and risk management priority. I draw on three sources of data to understand these differences: (1) semi-structured interviews with experts, regulators, industry representatives, and consumers; (2) newspaper articles and archival materials; and (3) survey data on consumer perceptions of foodborne risk. My dissertation highlights the role that governance processes and public expectations play in both consumer health policy formation and public debates about risk.

Support from the Institute for Social Sciences allowed me to conduct 6 weeks of fieldwork in Germany. I met with regulators and scientists in the federal and state ministries as well as consumer health advocates, doctors, and academic experts. The opportunity to visit the site of the outbreak and make connections with key informants in person has greatly facilitated my research.

Angela Carter

My dissertation assesses the relationship between adolescent engagement in delinquent behavior and adult economic outcomes. Specifically, I am interested in the role that less formal sanctions (e.g. school discipline, curtailed access to common job search strategies) may play in transmitting the effect of delinquency on occupational attainment.

Funding from ISS has permitted me to familiarize myself with propensity score weighting techniques and to complete much of the analysis for the first dissertation chapter.

ISS summer funding also allowed me to dedicate time to a paper (with Bill McCarthy) on paternal incarceration and child occupational outcomes, which we plan to send out this quarter.

A Sociology Summer Travel & Research Award was also presented to Joanna Hale.


Center for Regional Change

CRC Summer Travel & Research Awards were presented to Ingrid Behrsin, Rebecca Campbell, Elizabeth Christensen, Jonah Cox, Megan Kelso, Xijia Li, Brandon Louie, and Jessica Smith. For details on the projects supported by the awards, visit the Center for Regional Change website.