Faculty Research Interests: Opportunities for Undergraduates

BSPP students: Each year we ask the faculty to provide short descriptions of their major research areas or current specific projects. The list below tells you who is doing what. Use this list to learn about your professors and, if interested, decide whom to approach about working on a research project.


School of Public Policy
Faculty Research Interests
Summer-Fall 2008

Richard Barke

Students are invited to talk to me about research projects related to my interest areas.

My interests are generally in science and technology policy, particularly questions regarding to the intersections between science and policy in areas related to research, environmental issues, and higher education. Two current or recent projects are an examination of how representation occurs in environmental policy and S&T policy, and a study of how policy institutions respond to different forms of uncertainty about science and risk in human subjects research regulation. A longer-range project will look at how political concepts such as power, legitimacy, and resource allocation apply within the practices of science.

I co-taught a course for several years with a civil engineering professor, focusing on the implications for education and professional behavior of the similarities and differences in how engineering projects and policy projects are framed and designed. I have worked with the GT College of Engineering on studying and designing improvements in the undergraduate engineering curriculum, particularly regarding the sociotechnical “crossover” zones in which many engineering projects occur.

I have a small exploratory NSF grant (with Alan Porter, Lisa Yaszek, and Jud Ready), and a larger grant pending, to look at how ideas and images about active nanostructures move between the realms of scientific discourse, mass media (fiction and news), and policy debates. We hope to learn more about how the benefits and risks of nanotechnology are framed and discussed by scientists, the public, and policy makers. Several students have worked on related topics (such as the lessons that can be learned for nano regulation from experiences with the risks of genetically modified organisms).

Roberta Berry

a) Developing (what I call) a “navigational approach” to policymaking regarding (what I call) “fractious problems”—problems posed by advances in science and technology that are novel, ethically fraught, complex, divisive, and of unavoidable public concern. These problems might arise, for example, in neuroscience and neurotechnology, nanoscience and nanotech, third party (insurer, employer, criminal justice system) use of genetic information, human embryonic stem cell research, research involving the creation of human-nonhuman chimeras, and human genetic engineering.

(b) Developing approaches to science and engineering ethics education regarding “fractious problems” that focus on skills suited to addressing the characteristics of these problems (novel, ethically fraught, complex, divisive, and of unavoidable public concern).

(c) Examining ethical and policy issues in translational science—the translation of research into clinical medical applications.

(d) Examining ethical and policy issues in global bioethics and biomedicine and in international bioethics education.
Danny Bresnitz (joint faculty with International Affairs)

My areas of interest include:
• Rapid innovation-based industrialization, especially science and technology policies and the role of the state under the constraint of the global economy.
• State-society interactions.
• Methodological issues regarding social structure and historical based social science research.
Marilyn Brown

My current research focuses on the design and impact of policies aimed at accelerating the development and deployment of sustainable energy technologies. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandates the development of a report describing the national strategy to promote the deployment and commercialization of greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity reducing technologies and practices. The U.S. Department of Energy has asked me to lead the development of this report. Steps in this process include the development of an inventory of current deployment policies and programs, an inventory of GHG-intensity reducing technologies suitable for deployment, a literature review on barriers to the commercialization and deployment process, and interviews with approximately 30 experts.

In late 2006, I was asked to be Vice-Chair of the U.S. Government Review of a draft report developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change titled: “Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change.” Drawing on my interest in climate friendly built environments, I am also one of several contributing authors from around that world who are preparing the chapter on Mitigation Options for Residential and Commercial Buildings.

In addition, I continue to work in the field of energy policy scenarios and have developed an energy sustainability index to measure progress and to develop state and international comparisons that would allow progress in Georgia (for instance) and the U.S. to be benchmarked against activities in other states and key economies (Japan, U.K., India, China, etc.).

Finally, as the newly elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (www.seea.us), I am an active participant in the development of policies, programs and initiatives to make energy efficiency the most important resource to meet the growing energy demand in the Southeast.
Marco Castillo

My research area is behavioral economics. In particular, I study rational non-selfish behavior and social interactions. I mainly use highly controlled lab experiments to discern among confounding effects, but recently I am using more naturally occurring experiments, such as catastrophes, wars, and policy experiments.
Jennifer Clark

Areas of Interest:

  • regional economic development (incl. innovation policy)
  • industrial restructuring
  • firm networks
  • inter-regional and intra-regional competition
  • political economy of regional innovation systems

Current Projects:

I. Flexibility or Coordination? The Effects of National and Regional Innovation Strategies on the Photonics Industry in U.S. and Canada

This study examines how variations in national innovation policies shape the growth of high technology industry clusters.

The proposed study addresses the following research question: to what extent do the organization of regional and national innovation systems (public investment in industry-specific research and development) affect the growth of innovation-based industry clusters?

The research design used to evaluate this research question includes both fieldwork and quantitative analysis. I plan to undertake a comparative case study of four regional photonics clusters located in Montreal, Quebec; Ottawa, Ontario; Atlanta, Georgia; and Rochester, New York. This study builds on my previous research on the Rochester, NY photonics industry where I found that innovation strategies in the US are organized, and often financed, using traditional economic development practices as a model. By contrast, Canada has developed explicit and coordinated national and regional innovation strategies. This research assesses the effectiveness the US model as compared to the coordinated strategies in Canada through case studies of the photonics industry.

The study has implications for innovation policies and the role of the state in supporting innovation-based industries. It also contributes to the development of a coordinated US and Canadian innovation strategy for developing emerging technologies in North America.

II. The Atlanta BeltLine: On the (Re) Construction of Urban Public Spaces

Urban public spaces have long served as a focal point for neighborhood gatherings and recreational activities for both adults and children. As recreational, environmental, and cultural amenities these spaces profoundly affect patterns of urban development, provide economic value, and promote the physical and social health of communities. When poorly planned, they also amplify existing inequalities by limiting the access of marginalized groups to the shared assets and infrastructure of the city. Planning access to virtual communities thus presents the same set of considerations that shape policies for the built environment.

Although much research has studied the contribution of urban public spaces to different aspects of quality of life (e.g., public health, urban economics, economic development), relatively little effort has gone into studying the provision (and continued reinvention) of public urban spaces as both virtual and physical places.

The provisioning and construction of urban public spaces is even more crucial in a vision of community that includes virtual spaces. While internet communities seem to transcend space, the infrastructure that defines their scope and access is physically constructed. Planning for virtual public spaces parallels the same processes and considerations that have long defined the deliberative provisioning of physical public spaces.

This project, On the (Re) Construction of Urban Public Spaces, takes a multidisciplinary approach to understand the construction of urban public spaces—virtual and physical—in cities and regions. This project integrates a multidisciplinary team of faculty, researchers, and students to understand how urban public spaces are constituted, governed, contested, utilized, and maintained.

The project is currently focused on a number of sites of inquiry including the Atlanta Beltline Project, the emerging popularity of urban dog parks, municipal internet systems, and the role of art spaces in regional economic development.
Susan Cozzens

My current research is on the connections between science and technology policies and inequalities. This work includes exploration of science and technology policies in the development process as well as connections with inequalities within countries, in particular by gender and ethnicity. There are many specific research topics to be explored in this wide-open area, and I expect to be working in it for quite a while.
Michael Elliott (joint faculty with City Planning)

My research interests include the impact of collaborative and consensus building processes for resolving environmental and other public policy disputes, the impact of such processes on the quality of environmental decisions, and the design and evaluation of dispute management systems. Particular projects include an examination of deliberative democratic processes used in the city of Chattanooga and their effect on revitalization of the city and an examination of urban development politics and policy on urban design systems in six cities.
Mary Frank Fox

My research focuses upon the study of women and men in academic and scientific organizations and occupations.

My research projects are: 1) study of undergraduate programs for women in science and engineering; 2) study of careers among academics in computer science; 3) study of entrepreneurship and advancement among academic women in computing; and4) the research program of the NSF ADVANCE initiative, focusing upon organizational factors that operate among faculty, and provide a a model of best practices, in academic science and engineering.
Diana Hicks

Current projects in policy for research and innovation:

Data oriented – Can we find super-innovative firms and get an early glimpse of emerging industries (so we can attract them to Atlanta before others realize what is going on)?
Theory oriented – If people want to give out money pretty equally to everybody, won’t this mess up research (because research is about superstars)? Perhaps prizes are the answer.

Michael Hoffmann

As a philosopher, I am doing research on the role of visual representations for stimulating creativity, learning, and cognitive change, especially in the area of public policy; and as a conflict researcher, I do research on how parties to a conflict “frame” what their conflict is about, its history, their own role in it, that of others, and how it could be resolved. In both areas, my main objective is to develop methods that can be used for analyzing and visualizing the structure of complex debates and knowledge areas, and for the construction of arguments.
Gordon Kingsley

My current research projects explore the growing use of public-private partnerships and how this organizational form influences the management of scientific and technical human capital in service of the public interest. This work is being conducted in three policy domains examining the following: 1) the impact of educational partnerships between K-12 schools and institutions of higher education on the professional development of teachers offering math and science instruction; 2) patterns of outsourcing professional services among state transportation agencies and the strategies for integrating engineering work drawn from the public and private sectors; and 3) the development of hybrid organizations and network organizations designed to channel resources from the public and private sectors to stimulate technology-led economic development.
Robert Kirkman

My primary research interest is environmental philosophy. On the theoretical side, my project concerns the phenomenology of moral experience, that is, investigation into the lived experience of making decisions within particular environmental contexts. I am currently delving into Hegel’s take on moral life, on the way from Kant’s ethics of autonomy to twentieth-century phenomenology. Recently, this line of research has also branched out into political theory, particularly the question of how people may legitimately make decisions together through social and political institutions.
To bring all of this into the practical realm, I have for some years been investigating the value judgments and value conflicts that are in play in debates over metropolitan growth (a.k.a. “sprawl”) in the United States. I am especially interested in the perspectives of ordinary citizens in American metropolitan areas and the context within which they make decisions about their own environment and their lives within it. Currently, I am focused on the problem of constraints on choice and action in the context of the built environment; I am collaborating on a project to discover such constraints in relation to the Atlanta BeltLine project.
As an extension of my teaching and service responsibilities, I have also been involved in efforts to understand how ethics education programs at Georgia Tech can be made more effective, and how it might be possible to measure their effectiveness. I am currently engaged in a collaborative project to develop and test assessment instruments for ethics education in science and engineering.
Hans Klein

My current research seeks to explain the surprisingly meager social impact of public, educational, and governmental access television in terms of their institutional structures. The research seeks insights into how to design better community media institutions and how to make use of the opportunities presented by new digital technologies for community activism.

I also continue to work on global Internet governance. My focus is on global public policy and the nature of legitimacy of global institutions.

1. Community Media Research
This research will examine how local activists use public access television and the Internet to effect social change.
2. Online Association
This research will design and possibly develop tools by which dispersed individuals can come together and share experiences for collective learning. It will explore use of email lists and on-line “wikis” (similar to wikipedia.org)

Cheryl Leggon

My current areas of research are: underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. This includes designing, conducting, and giving advice on program evaluations.

Aaron Levine

Dr. Levine’s research interests focus on the interplay between public policy and biomedical research. His current research focuses on understanding how government policy affects the development and diffusion of contentious biomedical technologies, such as embryonic stem cell research. He is the author of numerous papers on the science, politics, and policy of stem cell research and a book Cloning: A Beginner’s Guide (May 2007). Two current projects may offer opportunities for undergraduate research either during the summer or academic year. The first focuses on understanding how, if at all, ethical controversy influences scientific collaboration and asks, in particular, if the unusual policy environment surrounding human embryonic stem cell research is increasing or decreasing scientific collaboration. The second focuses on the emergence of state support for scientific research. This state support focused initially on stem cell research, but has expanded into other fields as well. This project focuses on comparing different state approaches for funding and regulating scientific research and understanding the impact of these state efforts on the geographic distribution of science and the career plans of scientists.

Julia Melkers

My research is in the area of public management and science and technology. In science and technology, I am interested in the structure of how scientists work, and the outcomes of science. My current work focuses on understanding how the structure and composition of social and research networks affect the career outcomes of scientists. Here, we are paying special attention to issues facing female scientists. In the area of public management I have been mostly concerned with understanding the outcomes of government programs and how programs can be better structured to achieve those outcomes. For this topic, I have conducted research addressing the development and use of performance measures in public organizations. I have covered general organizational issues but also worked in particular areas of publicly-funded science and technology programs and state-level economic development programs.

Helena Mitchell (adjunct professor in Center for Advanced Communications Policy)

Dr. Mitchell and her staff create programs and services to stimulate movement into new and advanced technology areas by institutions of the University System of Georgia and its partners. OTP contributes to the national dialog on regulatory and technology policy issues. In tandem, she is the Principal Investigator on several major grants including the National Science Foundation, state agencies, the private sector and the U.S. Dept. of Education “Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Mobile Wireless Technologies for Persons with Disabilities.” Her areas of specialty include spectrum management, educational technologies, regulatory and legislative policy, DTV, emergency/public safety communications, and universal service to rural and vulnerable populations.
Nancy Nersessian (joint faculty with Computing)

Her research focuses on the nature and processes of conceptual innovation and change in science; specifically, investigating the role of analogical and visual modeling and thought experimenting (simulative modeling) in conceptual change, both in science and in science education.
Doug Noonan

I plan to run some undergrad research course(s) for students who want credit this summer.

My research currently includes:
–“Spare the Air” and smog alert programs in cities around the country

–Atlanta’s BeltLine Project {surveying residents about the project, city politics and process of the project, park construction and transit, gentrification}

–Air quality in Atlanta {air quality effects on outdoor activities and driving, impact of smog alerts, nonmarket valuation of air quality, abatement costs for Atlanta airshed, locational equilibrium models, inspection and maintenance compliance}.

–Environmental justice {measurement, definition of, and research design; spatial scale effects; EJ of flood risks in Louisiana; neighborhood dynamics and environmental change; neighborhood dynamics and EZ/EC cleanup, geographic barriers between residential clusters}.

–Atlanta’s Park System {dog parks, park resources around the metro area, who pays for parks? who uses parks?}

–Energy efficiency in residential heating and air conditioning technologies

–Open source software {international policies, national policies, open source and open standards}
Bryan Norton

In my current research I am working on the problem of spatial and temporal bounding of environmental problems. Whenever someone–scientist, activist, stakeholder, or citizen–attribute a problem to an environmental system, they implicitly or explicitly “bound” that problem and “model” that problem as involving certain causal and policy factors. Working with a research team assembled under an NSF grant from the interdisciplinary Human Social Dimensions program, we are working on both political and cultural aspects of this problem as an important aspect of environmental problem formulation as a part of public processes of participation in environmental management. At present, I have no external funding to support undergraduate research.
Georgia Persons

Dr. Persons is doing research on: the implementation of the faith based initiative; how churches define themselves as organizational types in taking on roles beyond the sacred; and a planned project on Hurricane Katrina and the constraints on the federal role in emergency preparedness.
Alan Porter (joint faculty with Industrial and Systems Engineering)

Text Mining of Science & Technology (S&T) Information Resources. Pursuing
technical intelligence via these means in support of technology forecasting and
assessment. Much of my research applies VantagePoint software to downloaded search
results on particular S&T topics from major research publication or patent databases
(e.g., MEDLINE, Web of Science).

VantagePoint software was developed partly at Georgia Tech. It provides a powerful
tool to help analyze search results (e.g., 1000’s of paper or patent abstract
records). Our “Tech Mining” approach converts such analyses into innovation
indicators to aid in S&T policy formulation or management. We would like to
explore better ways to represent these analytical results with Geographical
Information Systems (GIS).
Juan Rogers

My current research interests include modeling the R&D process, assessment of R&D impacts, especially in the formation of scientific and technical human capital, technology transfer, R&D policy and evaluation, the interaction of social and technical factors in the development of information technology, and information technology policy.
David Sawicki (joint faculty with City and Regional Planning)

My specialties include methods of policy analysis and planning, demographic and economic analysis, and forecasting. Most of my advisees work on urban policy questions, many with an economic development focus. However, as Editor of the Journal of the American Planning Association, I am widely read and able to guide students in quite a number of different research directions.
Jan Schmidt

My areas of research encompass the philosophy and history of science and technology, ethics and political philosophy, and philosophy of interdisciplinarity. I write on sustainability theory, nanotechnology, bionics, chaos and complexity theory, cognitive sciences, and technology assessment. My specialty is the historical and systematical analysis of conceptual changes of natural sciences due to Nonlinear Dynamics, Chaos and Complexity Theory, Synergetics, Dissipative Structures, Fractal Geometry, and Catastrophe Theory. Despite the success, these theories pose challenging problems for scientific methodology in general. The core of the problems lies in the dominant role of instabilities and, consequently, the lack of predictability, reproducibility, and control. For the conceptual changes of the knowledge production in the context of physics he coined the term “late-modern physics”. More recently, I have extended my philosophical and historical focus towards a “philosophy of interdisciplinarity” while trying to disentangle and to critically clarify the semantic contents of this most popular catchword. Here, the main goal is to methodologically improve and scientifically strengthen the quality of interdisciplinary research projects.
Philip Shapira

The Georgia Tech Program in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy – A Collaborative Program of the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy and Georgia Tech Economic Development and Technology Ventures – offers PURA and other undergraduate research opportunities in innovation policy and regional innovation systems. Current projects include assessing innovation in mature and emerging industries, assessing creative knowledge environments in science, and research systems assessment and mapping in nanotechnology. Individual assignments will be matched with student interests. Undergrad researchers will receive mentoring, training in analytical and datamining techniques, and opportunities to be engaged in “hands-on” policy research projects and to work as part of an international research team based in Technology Square. We are currently interviewing undergrad students, and will welcome SPP applicants. For further information, contact: Professor Philip Shapira, Georgia Tech School of Public Policy, Email: pshapira@gatech.edu
Valerie Thomas (joint faculty with Industrial and Systems Engineering)

My research interests are the efficient use of materials and energy, sustainability, industrial ecology, technology assessment, international security, and science and technology policy. Current research projects include strategies for increasing reuse and recycling, strategies for reducing use of petroleum, and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Georgia.
John Walsh

Economic sociology of innovation, with an emphasis on comparative policy analyses (US/Japan) and the roles of universities in national innovation systems. Recent work includes studies of university-industry linkages in the US and Japan, the effects of research tool patents on biomedical researchers and country and industry differences in the role of patents in firm strategy.

I am currently interested in hiring undergraduates who are interested in working on one of my new surveys on innovation and inventors. In addition to getting practical experience in survey methods and archival research, they will learn about science, technology and innovation policy in comparative perspective. I am very much interested in having one or more students, starting soon and working this spring and summer (and possibly next fall).

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