Research in Mechanical Engineering

Harbor seal vibrissa morphology inspires comprehensive computational simulations and experiments studying footprints left behind moving hydrodynamic objects for online database


By Sarah Dulac


Portrait of Sarah Dulac


My OUR project was rewarded with a grant this summer 2020, from the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) to conduct research via Remote desktop due to the recent pandemic under supervision of Dr. Banafsheh Seyed-Aghazadeh. My OUR research project was entitled ‘Harbor seal vibrissa morphology inspires comprehensive computational simulations and experiments studying footprints left behind moving hydrodynamic objects for online database’.

The objective of the research is to experimentally and computationally quantify the left behind footprint from different hydrodynamic objects at varying velocities, to help better understand how the harbor seal’s whisker reacts to these stimuli like a sensor. Using both the experimental and computational data collected, another goal was to create an online platform that would provide valuable data to numerous other research projects and educational purposes to anyone looking to learn. This was a fully remote project and some of my tasks are yet to be completed due to my limited access to the needed campus facilities. This project depended heavily on self-reliance, which allowed me to gain new skills including literature review to Computational Fluid Dynamics.

In order to understand how the harbor seal whisker detects the hydrodynamic pattern from a fast-starting fish, investigating the flow response of stationary cylinders with different cross-sections is principal. The information about possible flow characteristics of a left behind footprint is not available in literature, which is a crucial step to better understand the mechanism behind this “sensing”. The first step towards better understanding of these footprints left behind, is to investigate the flow response of the cylinders with different cross-sectional geometries using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Flow past a circular cylinder is the foundational start to a path for studying more complex shaped bodies and their footprint’s produced. The case of flow past a circular cylinder has a great deal of attention in research due to its simplicity of flow results and it is a very common phenomenon in engineering applications.

Starting with building and running computational simulations on COMSOL Multiphysics simulation software was a challenge considering my first step was to learn how to use the fluid flow module before successfully modeling my application. I found numerous resources online that allowed to me build my knowledge on how to correctly model my simulation. In order to verify my simulation is running correctly, data including RMS lift CL, mean drag coefficient CD, and Strouhal number St were gathered and analyzed to verify quantitatively.

Where L, D, ρ, U, A, ƒ, and d are lift force, drag force, density, inflow velocity, area, frequency of vortex shedding, and diameter, respectively. A computational model was constructed using the laminar flow module under fluid flow on COMSOL Multiphysics. The governing equations are the incompressible Navier-Stokes equation(1) which represents the conservation of momentum and the continuity equation(2) which represents the conservation of mass.

The domain was computed using laminar flow model in COMSOL Multiphysics because of the flow being in the range of Reynolds number equal to 100, characterizing the flow as laminar. Reynolds number is a dimensionless quantity that predicts whether the flow of a fluid on a surface is laminar or turbulent.

Where, ρ, U, d and μ are density, inflow velocity, diameter and dynamic viscosity, respectively. The domain and the constructed mesh is shown in Figure 1. Experiment[4] and simulations[1,2,3] of flow past a circular cylinder were used to compare my results. Simulations[5,6,7] of flow past a square cylinder were used to compare my results. Experiment[9] and simulation[8] of flow past a triangular cylinder were used to compare my results. Results of mean drag coefficient for circular, square and triangular cylinders are all plotted in Figure 2. Results of RMS lift for circular and square cylinders are all plotted in Figure 3. Results for the triangular cylinder were not plotted in this figure due to the reference literature using mean lift coefficient alternatively, which resulted in a value of zero because of the symmetry of the geometry. Strouhal numbers were also plotted for all cylinders as shown in Figure 4. From comparison of my resulting values and what is found in literature, I was able to confirm my simulation was running correctly.

Along with gathering and analyzing RMS lift, mean drag coefficient and Strouhal number qualitative methods of visualizations were used as well. The post processing tools offered on COMSOL Multiphysics have allowed me to plot the vorticity of the flow past the cylinders as shown in Figure 5. A tutorial of how to set up the CFD simulations and post process important data will be created to serve as an educational tool for MNE 332 – Fluid Mechanics and for an online library with open access.

There was one other task I was able to complete due to the needs of the task being accessed remotely. This task consisted of designing and constructing a three dimensional (3D) model of the whisker geometry using solid modeling computer-aided design program (SOLIDWORKS), which was available through UMassD remote access. The final design of the whisker has been completely modeled using SOLIDWORKS (Figure 6) and it ready to be 3D printed. For my future with this project, it consists of experimentally investigating the flow response of stationary cylinders with different cross-sections including the whisker geometry designed. The data gathered from all CFD simulations and experiments will be organized in a way, so it is easy to navigate and access via the online library.


[1] Park, J., Kwon, K., & Choi, H. (1998). Numerical solutions of flow past a circular cylinder at Reynolds numbers up to 160. KSME International Journal, 12(6), 1200-1205. doi:10.1007/bf02942594

[2] Singha, S., & Sinhamahapatra, K. (2010). Flow past a circular cylinder between parallel walls at low Reynolds numbers. Ocean Engineering, 37(8-9), 757-769. doi:10.1016/j.oceaneng.2010.02.012

[3] Tezduyar, T., Mittal, S., Ray, S., & Shih, R. (1992). Incompressible flow computations with stabilized bilinear and linear equal-order-interpolation velocity-pressure elements. Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, 95(2), 221-242. doi:10.1016/0045-7825(92)90141-6

[4] Tritton, D. J. (1959). Experiments on the flow past a circular cylinder at low Reynolds numbers. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 6(4), 547-567. doi:10.1017/s0022112059000829

[5] Sohankar A, Norberg C, Davidson L. Low-Reynolds-number flow around a square cylinder at incidence: study of blockage, onset of vortex shedding and outlet boundary condition. International Journal for Numerical Methods in Fluids 1998; 26:39–56.

[6] Sahu AK, Chhabra RP, Eswaran V. Two-dimensional unsteady laminar flow of a power law fluid across a square cylinder. Journal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics 2009; 160:157–167.

[7] Singh AP, De AK, Carpenter VK, Eswaran V, Muralidhar K. Flow past a transversely oscillating square cylinder in free stream at low Reynolds numbers. International Journal for Numerical Methods in Fluids 2009; 61:658–682.

[8] Bao, Y., Zhou, D., & Zhao, Y. (2009). A two-step Taylor-characteristic-based Galerkin method for incompressible flows and its application to flow over triangular cylinder with different incidence angles. International Journal for Numerical Methods in Fluids. doi:10.1002/fld.2054

[9] Seyed-Aghazadeh, B., Carlson, D. W., & Modarres-Sadeghi, Y. (2017). Vortex-induced vibration and galloping of prisms with triangular cross-sections. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 817, 590-618. doi:10.1017/jfm.2017.119


Research in Marine Science and Technology

Southeastern New England Marine Science and Technology Workforce Gap Analysis


By Salvador Balkus



Portrait of Salvador Balkus


Recent research by the UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Center has demonstrated that Southeastern Massachusetts, also known as SENE, has been largely excluded from the thriving Greater Boston innovation economy. Meanwhile, the traditional maritime-related economic drivers of the region have encountered many economic challenges in recent years. As a result, UMass Dartmouth has risen to the task of developing a Southcoast Blue Economy Corridor in order to strengthen the region’s maritime sector. New technologies in blue economy-related industries will be imperative to the success and revitalization of the maritime sector in the region, and as such, an initial goal of this project is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the Marine Science and Technology (MST) sector in and around the region. This portion of the project has been taken up by the Public Policy Center.

Working at the Public Policy Center with support from the Office of Undergraduate Research, I spent this summer completing an important component of this research project: conducting a gap analysis for the SENE Marine Science and Technology regional workforce. My job was to analyze the occupations most relevant to the sector, create a profile of the “high priority occupations” which are critical to the operations of MST firms and pose a great challenge to attract and hire, and determine the gaps between the educational programs currently offered in SENE and the education necessary for MST workers. To analyze the Marine Science and Technology sector workforce, I relied on an inventory of Marine Science and Technology firms, survey data, and key informant interview notes from the Public Policy Center, as well as economic data from Emsi, an economic modeling software. This workforce assessment will help the university inform policy decisions and succeed in their endeavor of successfully creating a Blue Economy Corridor.

NAICS, which stands for North American Industrial Classification System, is a standardized, code-based classification for industries. My first task was to determine an appropriate NAICS-based definition of the Marine Science and Technology sector that would include all of the private MST companies in the region. To do this, I obtained two different lists of NAICS codes. The first was compiled by the UMass Donahue Institute, while the second came from the NAICS codes of all businesses contained in the PPC inventory of Marine Science and Technology firms. I performed an analysis of the MST sector using both of these codes to obtain as accurate a picture of the sector as possible.

Using the Emsi Staffing Patterns tool, I compiled a list of all of the occupations employed by businesses in the MST sector. However, even if an occupation is employed within one of the industries that makes up the sector, it is not necessarily an important occupation to the sector as a whole. In order to identify the high priority occupations – those which are both critical to the operation of MST firms and also pose a challenge to attract and hire – I used data science techniques to rank the importance of each occupation to the sector. A high-priority occupation is defined by one or more of the following metrics:

  • High number of jobs in Marine Science and Technology industries, indicating that many workers of this occupation are needed in the sector.
  • High ratio of Marine Science and Technology jobs to total jobs for the occupation in the region, indicating that this job is relatively unique to the sector.
  • Large difference between growth in Marine Science and Technology industries and growth overall, indicating that the occupation’s employment is growing faster than normal.
  • Low Location Quotient (LQ), indicating that the region has a low concentration of workers in this occupation compared to the rest of the country.

For presentation, I decided to select the top 25 occupations as the high-priority occupations; these are shown below. These occupations fell into three neat categories: engineering, production, and natural science, each of which requires different types of education and preparation. Further research was also performed using Emsi to get a sense of the tasks that these occupations perform, as well as analyze commuting patterns within these occupations.

     Figure 1: Priority Occupations for SENE Marine Science and Technology sector, 2018

Next, I analyzed PPC survey data. This data allowed me to examine the importance of various worker qualifications to MST employers, see what type of degree one would need to work in Marine Science and Technology, and explore the relationship between MST businesses and universities within Southeastern New England. This informed me which educational areas I should focus on researching. I also used text-entry responses from the survey, which asked which skills and types of worker were most difficult to find for MST firms, as well as notes from key informant interviews conducted by the Public Policy Center to inform further research.

From the survey, I found that an education in engineering is the most important qualification for workers in MST, along with related skills such as lab experience, qualification in advanced manufacturing or precision machining, and quality control experience. Companies typically require 4-year or graduate degrees. The biggest workforce-related challenge is finding workers with the right technical skills for the job. Despite the importance of engineering education, less than half (40%) of respondents considered universities in the region a source of skilled labor for the business. Free response survey questions and interview data also indicated that the most difficult workers to find were software engineers and skilled manufacturing workers.

An example of the survey data was shown below.

     Figure 2: Sample chart created from the PPC survey data

After going over the survey and interviews, I researched available programs in engineering and production, the two groups of occupations found to be of the greatest priority to the sector. These were compiled into list graphics for the final report. A chart showing the available engineering degrees is shown in Figure 3. The region offers a wide selection of traditional engineering degrees, including computer science, the field with the most bachelor’s degree programs. The engineering field with the lowest number of degree programs is software engineering. Furthermore, the region offers five programs that teach advanced manufacturing, machining, or welding skills, though the Massachusetts side of SENE includes an abundance of high-school programs offered through vocational schools across the region.

     Figure 3: Engineering programs available in the SENE region

One of the scarcest and most highly sought-after occupations in MST is that of the software engineer – specifically, the occupation of “systems software developer” as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite the abundance of computer science degrees, my research found that most do not teach the hardware and software engineering skills necessary to work as a software engineer in the sector. These skills are mostly found in computer engineering and software engineering programs, two of the least abundant engineering programs in SENE. An adequate education for a systems software developer to fix this educational gap would include aspects of both computer engineering and software engineering.

In addition to software engineering, the other occupation type facing a significant workforce gap is that of the skilled production worker. In other words, the region needs to train more welders and machinists. As well as receiving an education in the necessary skills for the job, these workers also must go through an apprenticeship in order to be ply their trade. My research found that apprenticeships in the region are scarce, and access to those that do exist is controlled by unions, which may be hard to enter if one did not have the foresight in eighth grade to attend a vocational school. Furthermore, interest in production jobs among middle and high school students has been waning over the past eight years. If unions developed a new strategy to attract workers, or if new businesses arose that allowed welders and machinists to gain experience as apprentices and go on to work at an MST business, this educational gap in production may be eliminated.


Through this summer research project, I was able to practice my data analysis skills while also improving my writing ability and collaborating with other researchers. In the future, when I go on to work in the data science field, these skills will make me a more well-rounded employee and increase my employment prospects and work quality, for which I am very glad. Likewise, I am also prepared to do further research during my undergraduate career. I would like to thank the Public Policy Center for giving me the opportunity to work on this project, and specifically research associate Michael McCarthy for providing valuable report-writing advice. Thank you, Office of Undergraduate Research, for allowing me to work on such a valuable project!


Research in Fine Arts

Allegorical Representation: Objects of Grief


by Addi Catarina

Throughout this artistic exploration of grief and loss, I have learned a lot about myself and others. I began this journey by painting various objects that remind me of my sister (Fig.1), who passed away in 2016. I was able to communicate my own experiences and emotions through metaphor in those paintings, but knew that I would have to reach further if I wanted to understand grief and loss more completely. Over the past two semesters, I began to reach out to others and incorporate their stories into the narratives of my paintings. The result is the completion of the first phase of my series Objects of Grief: ten paintings that depict my personal experience and that of two of my close friends.

Throughout this process, I have been able to identify and share objects that remind me of my sister and have them serve as the vehicle for my investigation of loss and grief. However, my goal was to expand my series to include the experiences of others. I hoped that this would capture a more complete representation of grief and begin to facilitate a dialogue on a subject that is not always easy to discuss. In my search for stories, I decided to start with the people who I had a comfortable, trusting relationship with. I interviewed my friends and family in an informal, conversational format. I felt that a survey or list of interview questions would make the conversation too impersonal and sterile. I wanted show respect to the interviewee, and allow them to be in charge of what they shared and what they kept private. Many of those who I reached out to were willing and eager to share, and the fluid nature of the conversation brought out much more than I think could be captured in a rigidly formatted interview.

While interviewing my friends and family, it became obvious that their objects evoked many different emotions, that were sometimes conflicting. Like my experience with the dresses, the people I interviewed also saw these objects as simultaneous reminders of the good memories and tragic loss.

My friend Tess, who lost her mother many years ago, instantly identified an old Christmas ornament that her mother made when she was young. She chuckled while telling me about it because although she described it as “hideous” and falling apart, it reminded her of her mother’s beauty and humor. When she told me about the ornament and her mother, I saw both joy and sadness in her eyes. I felt like, for a moment, I had a glimpse of who her mother was and how much Tess missed her. It felt special to share that moment, and I asked her if I could paint the ornament. This will be my next painting in the series.

My best friend Michaela was also willing to share her story, but expressed very different emotions than Tess. Michaela also lost her mother, but their relationship was strained due to alcohol abuse and other tensions in their family. She identified two beautiful items that her mother left behind- a pearl necklace and a book of Jane Austen’s novels. She explained that these items reminded her of the good parts of their relationship, however difficult they were to see at times. When painting Michaela’s items, I wanted to use the beautiful objects as a metaphor for what could have been. Buried under the stress of their relationship, there was the potential for reconciling and building a good future. Now that her mother has passed away, that chance is no longer there. In the triptych (Fig. 3), the necklace is slipping away, leaving emptiness and uncertainty behind.

This series has given me time to reflect on my own loss, while learning from others. I hope that these paintings will help pave the way for real, open conversations about grief and loss. In these unprecedented times, many people are experiencing sudden loss simultaneously. Though it is tragic, I believe this collective experience of loss will begin to shift the perception of grief and encourage people to embrace their own emotions, share their experiences without fear, and support each other through loss.

So far, I have shared the works from my initial series online with a national support group called “The Compassionate Friends,” and in the Conversations exhibition at the CVPA Campus Gallery, November 6 – December 5, 2019. I am excited to share the expansion of the project soon. I spoke to an administrator for the Compassionate Friends support group, who suggested I display my artwork at their annual convention. I believe this would be a great place to show these works, surrounded by those who can directly relate to the message. Although that will not happen this year due to Coronavirus restrictions, I certainly plan to continue my work on the series. By the time the next convention can be held, I will have even more to share with my audience. I would like to also exhibit the series in additional venues, including galleries and public spaces, in order to further the very important and necessary conversation about loss and grief.

“Objects of Grief” Series

Fig 1:   Absence (Diptych), 2019. Oil on Panel, 48” x 24” each

Fig 2: Necklace (study), 2019. Oil on Paper. Approximately 10” x 8”

Fig 3: Necklace (Triptych), 2019-2020. Oil on panel.  14” x 8”, 16” x 12”, 14” x 8”

Fig 4: Fragments, 2019-2020. Oil on panel.  6” x 6” each

Future paintings:

Tess’s mother’s ornament

Michaela’s mother’s book

Research in Bioengineering

Optimum Design of 3D Printed Polymeric Composites: Biomedical implants


By Zachary Herrera


Portrait of Zachary Herrera


In summer of 2018 I was rewarded with a grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) to conduct research within the Bioengineering and Mechanical engineering Labs under Dr. Lamya Karim and Dr. Vijaya Chalivendra. I collaborated with Mechanical Engineering student David O Okide to conduct a research project pertaining to the development of 3D printed polymeric composites, studying the process and properties of our biomaterial of interest. This was an interdisciplinary project allowing me to gain new technical skills from the bioengineering and mechanical engineering fields. Since I entered this field of study my dream has been to produce a device or product that will someday improve the lives of patients who suffer, and this has driven my interest in investigating new innovative materials such as thermoplastics to replace bone. Through this OUR-funded project I was able to apply my interests through in-lab experiments and research.

As recent studies show, diseases such as arthritis and diabetes have become more and more common raising the number of skeletal fractures that occur and operations required to heal damaged bone, thus indicating a need for bone replacements. In this study, I looked into ways to combine different thermoplastics and nanoparticles to increase biocompatibility and mechanical properties of the material. By combining plastics and nanoparticles together the overall strength of the material can be improved and continue to be biocompatible compared to using each polymer individually. Looking towards 3D printing allows us to produce custom-made products and replacements using our desired composite. In order to use 3D printing the desired material must first be created into a filament with specific parameters in order to construct a product for further testing.

Starting with thermoplastic ABS and Carbon nanotubes (CNT) that were readily available, our first step was to determine a process of mixing each material. I chose to use a multi-stepped process using Solvent Casting to dissolve ABS and sonication along with shear mixing to combine 1% CNT within the solution. I used a sonicator and shear mixer to complete this task while adding acetone as my solvent. This was done for 2hrs maintaining a constant temperature of about 55℉. Once materials were done mixing, the mixture was poured onto a sheet of aluminum foil and allowed to dry overnight, shaping our composite into a film (Figure 1)

Figure 1: ABS+1%CNT film used to create filament

The second aim of this project was to create a viable filament with a constant diameter of 2.85mm. In order to carry out this step we assembled our first extruding machine in lab, which was purchased from a 3D printing company called Filastruder (displayed in Figure 2). Once our film was dry, we cut each filament into small squares in order to feed them into the extruding chamber, we then drilled a 2.7mm hole into the nozzle of the extruding machine before extruding to test the change in diameter.

Figure 2: Extruding machine assembled in lab used to create filament

We then maintained a temperature at about 195℃ and the pieces were slowly fed into the extruder through the hopper to create a filament (Figure 3). As the extruder was running we observed a change in shape and texture of the filament from a grainy squeezed shape to completely solid usable filament, by the end becoming bubbly and warped as the material was depleted.

Figure 3: ABS+CNT filament

By examining the texture we found that the filament was not solid enough to be used for further experiments. This simply may be due to the amount of our starting material and by scaling up, could grant us with enough solid filament to use the 3D printer. From the results gathered on the diameter we did not have a constant size suitable for the 3D printer, averaging a measured 3mm. This may be due to the large nozzle size, allowing the filament to expand giving us a larger measurement. One way proposed to fix this issue is to use a type of winder to apply constant tension force onto the filament as it feeds through the tip of the nozzle. Although we did not move onto the 3D printing stage, great progress was made:

  • First filament extruding machine (Filastruder) has been assembled and properly used to create a filament.
  • CNTs within a polymeric composite were successfully mixed and dispersed, acquiring a working method.

Furthering my work in the bioengineering department, I was able to repeat my method using a tougher polymer called Polylactic acid (PLA). Specifically, I used PLA as my thermoplastic and Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) as the nanoparticle but because PLA is tougher to dissolve chloroform was used as my solvent. This process was moved to a fume hood to contain the toxic fumes also aiding in the drying phase of the solvent casting step. After obtaining a small sample of PLA/TiO2 composite (Figure 4) I was able to test the effectiveness of the process using superior materials.

Figure 4: PLA+1% TiO2 composite

Since this process and ground work laid out shows promising results, further work is needed to integrate our filaments into the 3D printer for testable prints. Therefore, the next step of this project is to confirm the correct amount of PLA combined with chloroform and TiO2 and create a usable filament meeting the required diameter. Next step would be to print dog-bone shaped tensile bars for further mechanical testing and circular disks to test cellular activity and biocompatibility to ultimately be placed within the body. My long-term goal for this project is to determine a usable mixture of thermoplastics and nanoparticles to reach similar mechanical and biological properties as cortical bone to fabricate load-bearing implants.

My research allowed me to explore my interests and different aspects of engineering that I otherwise would not have been able to. I learned about the amount of work that goes into planning, organizing and actually conducting my own research. I am thankful for this opportunity to work with such intelligent professors and peers developing these types of skills in my undergraduate career. I would like to thank the Office of Undergraduate Research for making my research a reality with this opportunity. I would also like to thank Dr. Lamya Karim, Dr. Vijaya Chalivendra, Dr. Jun Li and David Okide for all the help and guidance carrying out this project.

Zachery Herrera.


Research in Fine Arts

Picturing the Defiance of Street Vendors Against the Rise of Industrialization and Corporatization in the Philippines

By Bhen Alan


Portrait of Bhen Alan at work in the Philippines

I am a Senior Art and Design Major with a Painting concentration in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at UMass Dartmouth. My passion for painting is not just for aesthetic reasons. I want to use art to give a voice to the voiceless. I also want to address current socio-political events. Last spring I was a recipient of a (2018) summer stipend from the Office of Undergraduate Research. The goal of the research was to create a body of work about the rising tension between different classes due to rapid corporatization and industrialization in the Philippines. This topic has become a politicized issue since I moved away from the Philippines. Until I was a teenager, I lived in the Philippines and then moved to Canada before settling in the United States. I feel fortunate, because immigration has given me the opportunity to skip the economic crisis that has affected my hometown. However, the culture of the people who make a living in the Philippines is something that I have always loved and respected.

I conducted my research in Tuguegarao City, located in the province of Cagayan. The region is a 12-hour-drive from Manila. This is the city where I was born and raised by my grandmother who is a vendor. Although, Tuguegarao City is not a big municipality in terms of geographical area, the rise of industrialization, corporatization, and globalization is affecting its economy. During the administration of the former mayor, Delfin Ting in 2011, he re-built the old public market in downtown Tuguegarao. He named it the “Mall of the Valley.” This establishment was meant to organize all of Tuguegarao City’s street vendors. It was meant to provide protection and to fix the problem of traffic congestion. Unfortunately, in order for the street vendors to have access to a retail space in the building they had to pay a monthly retail space, provide a business permit, and register at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for business taxes. However, the street vendors who sell seafood, meat, produce, flowers, and other goods are incapable of paying these high taxes. Moreover, they cannot afford to own a retail space. For these reasons, street vendors still gather on the sidewalks of the streets of Tuguegarao City. As a result, most retail spaces in the “Mall of the Valley” are now abandoned, and street congestion still remains a big issue because of this situation.


Street vendors flock beside the Mall of the Valley building


As of 2017, large mall operators have emerged throughout the city proper. SM Supermalls and Robinsons Malls, which are the largest malls in the Philippines and Southeast Asia have also entered Tuguegarao City’s territory. The rise of corporatization, industrialization, and globalization in the city is very important for the economy because the city is becoming the center for commerce, industry and service for the Cagayanos. Globalization and industrialization is largely a good thing since it lifts both actual and imaginary boundaries. It brings us closer to each other. However, globalization also makes it hard for a culture to maintain its identity. So, how does a culture maintain its identity while keeping up with the advancement of the modern world?

Robinsons Place Mall under construction for a 60,000 sq. m. floor area making the biggest mall in Tuguegarao City


That is the question I kept asking during the course of my painting research, which involved ethnographic work. The body of work I produced focuses on the city’s lively and energetic streets because of hardworking locals who work from dusk to dawn to bring liveliness and dynamism to the city. My paintings showcase the street vendors who sell their locally grown goods, thus competing with the rise of globalization and corporatization in Tuguegarao City. The local vendors are able to maintain our tradition and practices through local marketing while the city is able to keep up with the modern advancements. The duality our city is offering is very important for the economy. Despite this idyllic description, Tuguegarao faces many multi-dimensional challenges of poverty. During my first excursion to the public market, I unexpectedly met Elsid Natividad who is a Capitol officer who gives “arkabala” or a cash ticket that serves as a market fee to the street vendors. Since a new mayor, Jefferson Soriano, is now running the city, one of his policies is allowing vendors to sell their goods and products in certain areas. They do not need to have a business permit or apply to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, they just need to clean up their spaces at the end of the day and pay “arkabala” which costs 10 pesos or .20 cents (USD). This serves as their daily tax for using a 1×1 meter space. The tax goes to the government for public funds. If they exceed a 1×1 meter retail space, their “arkabala” will be doubled or tripled. Unfortunately, since large malls and big supermarkets are  competition, some street vendors are unable to pay the market fee because of lack of customers. Their last resort is to pack up their products and leave the space before the officer gives them a ticket. But some street vendors are also successful as the informal sector of the society.

Cash Ticket or Arkabala serves as the daily taxes of street vendors. It cost 10 Philippine pesos of .20 cents U.S. dollars


Products like garments, accessories, and even appliances may not sell well in the streets, but any kind of edible material is a big hit. Filipino customers bargain their prices to get a product cheaper, which is why they prefer to buy their meat, seafood, and produce outside supermarkets according to Alice Rioja, a seafood vendor in the street of Tuguegarao. She proudly claimed that customers buy more of her seafood products and reject the supermarkets because of their fixed and expensive prices. In their street space, which is one of the biggest spaces in downtown, customers can bargain the prices even lower and  get the fish almost for free. The process may not look as clean as the supermarket’s but the quality of the product is the same. Filipinos generally gravitate to a greater quantity that fits the budget rather than buying expensive products that is packaged cleanly and safely yet have a smaller quantity.

Bhen Alan during a work in progress of 4×5 feet painting

Alice Rioja posing in front of her seafood products in Downtown Tuguegarao

Unlike Alice Rioja who is a successful seafood street vendor, Filomena Iquin, an 84-year-old produce vendor, struggles to sell her vegetables. By her own account, she harvests some of the vegetables in her backyard and brings them to the market to sell. She sometimes buy vegetables from another vendor then sells them at a higher price. Unfortunately, she is not always able to sell everything because of her competitors, and then she is unable to pay the market fee. She said if she couldn’t pay the market fee the day I interviewed her, she will be temporarily banned for three days to sell her products.

How can we maintain our cultural identity | oil on canvas| 4 feet by 5 feet

I also met a lone bamboo shoot (rabung) vendor who refused to give her identity. She struggles to sells her product. The drama of her posture and the colorful background against the greyness of the drugstore building is the reason why I chose to paint the scene. A family of mango vendor accepted my request to take their pictures amidst the busiest street in the Philippines, Edsa. By their own account, they are not allowed to place their cart in the streets but they have to do it to earn a living. This is a good contrast between conformity versus rebellion. I love how they bring color to the crowded and dullness of the street even though they know the consequences if they get raided.

Left image: Drugstore at Del Rosario Street. Right image: Fresh Harvest | oil on canvas | 3feet by 4 feet


Industrialization, globalization and modernization may be happening around the city but these street vendors bring visual vibrancy and maintain the cultural practice that the Filipino people has been practicing. The flow of traffic might be congested under the brisk bare light of Tuguegarao, but people are getting used to it. The government is still fixing the traffic problem as vendors are taking over some parts of the streets, but at least there is now a law that protects these vendors. Street Vending is legalized under the Executive Order 452 as part of the Social Reform Agenda of Government.

Three Umbrellas | oil on canvas | 2 feet by 3 feet

A cultural forum was held during my stay in the Philippines. It was a whole day program held in Tuguegarao City to talk about the preservation of the culture of Ybanag (people of Tuguegarao) while modernization is taking over. I was invited as a guest speaker to talk about how my paintings maintain the culture of Ybanags, how it touches industrialization, and how it promotes the Filipino culture in the United States. Other guest speakers talked about the roles of indigenous people, the significance of local cultural heritage, issues and concerns about tangible and intangible heritage, and promotion of local heritage. All the themes were very relevant to my research. The event gave me an opportunity to dig deeper in my culture. Sadly, my culture, Ybanag and Itawes, is slowly vanishing because of rapid industrialization. The cultural forum did not only give me resources to finish my research, but it also allowed me to use it as a platform to present my paintings and promote my heritage.

Left image: coordinators, guest speakers, teacher of Linao National High School after the cultural forum. Right image: Bhen Alan during his art talk about promoting culture through visual arts


My project was divided into two parts: the first part was to accomplish my research about the rising tension between classes due to industrialization, and the second was to visit local schools to introduce the exciting possibilities of contemporary arts. I chose schools that lack resources necessary to teach a hands-on based studio project. Also, because of poverty, most students do not have opportunities to see an art show or to listen to a local artist. A lot of students are really talented in art, they have potential, but being an artist in the province is not considered a serious profession.

Students of Linao National High School during their 2-day art workshop


Art offered me a platform to give students the experience and information about our cultural heritage. The Philippines is very rich in visual arts but not everyone can access it. People living in the barrio do not have a chance to experience visual arts or even use any artistic materials because of poverty. Food is prioritized over expensive art supplies. Given this, I provided all the materials needed – paints, brushes and hand stretched canvas – so that students would not spend any of their allowances. The first school that I visited was at Linao National High School in Tuguegarao City; it was my 2009 Alma Matter. Going back to conduct a workshop is my way of giving back to the school and the community. A 2-day workshop was held to grade 12 TVL (technical-vocational-livelihood) students. I chose this group because they specialize in hands-on based activities.  It was an all-day workshop from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. During the first half of day one, a power point presentation about my life abroad, my purpose on going back to the Philippines, being a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a slide-show of my portfolio and examples of contemporary artworks and artist were presented. Mr. Alejo Cambri, Art and Design Teacher, divided the class into 4 groups since there were 40 students. Each group had their own painting category to create: still life, plein air, silhouette painting, and illustration focusing on tropical designs about localization. The students started gathering their ideas, photographing, sketching and started painting on the second half of day one. The morning of the second day was intense because we only had the half day to finish the works. We even made it more intense when we decided to make it a competition to motivate students to take the workshop more seriously. I saw how they were collaborating to mix colors, they were helping each other to render shapes and forms and to finish their projects. It was challenging for them because it was their first time using acrylic paint on a canvas. It was also their first time to collaborate. I had to roam around the room and help each one with how to apply paints; some students have their own techniques and styles, but others did not know the proper use of the materials. It was challenging but rewarding when we finished the projects. A fun program was made as we concluded the workshop. I provided snacks to the kids and we set up the room as if it was a gallery. We invited teachers to judge the paintings, the principal and the head teacher were also present, and other students were also invited to observe the program and they interviewed me for their school paper. My objective for the closing program was to teach students how to critic: how to present their artworks and critic their peers in basic yet artistic and an academic way. Each group had a representative to present their artworks as the judges and other students gave their insights and opinions. I also displayed my paintings beside the students’ outputs. I had the chance to present my research and answer a few questions about it. To close the program, a certificate of participation was given to all participants, a certificate of recognition and a print of my artworks were given to the winners, and a certificate of appreciation was given to Mr. Alejo Cambri and to all judges. Their final paintings went on display throughout the campus to serve as public art.


Plein Air group and Still-Life group with their final paintings

Tropical Illustration group and Silhouette group with their final paintings


The second school that I visited is Cagayan National High School in Tuguegarao City. There were 61 art and design students who participated. Unfortunately, I ran out of funds to provide materials but the art and design department helped me. We created a simplified self-portrait using black and white acrylic paint. I was inspired by my design class projects and decided to pass the knowledge onto the students. My objective in this workshop was to teach them how to control their use of shading and gradation. Also I aimed to introduce portraiture on a simplified form where details aren’t the important part of the portrait but the general shape and plane are what  makes a portrait sophisticated. Also to show them a different approach to teaching art and to reciprocate our knowledge with each other. A certificate of appreciation was given to me by the department during the closing program.

Cagayan National High School Students during their art workshop working on a simplified self-portrait


Subsequently, I traveled a 12-hour-bus ride from Tuguegarao City to Manila, then a 2-hour-plane ride from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol where the third school that I visited is located. Another 4-hour-bus ride from Tagbilaran to Talibon City was needed to reach the school San Isidro Elementary School. My colleagues and I decided to visit this school because of their lack of art classes and poverty. They were very hospitable despite their poverty. We coordinated with Ms. Frozen Abedejos, a grade 4 teacher to accomplish the workshop. She gathered 20 students from kindergarten to grade 6 to participate in the program. Later on, most of the population of the school joined us to experience our watercolor lesson. I decided to teach watercolor to the students because they did not know what the material was; they had not touched a watercolor set before. My objective for this workshop was to introduce the possibilities of the medium and let students experience the watercolor itself. There weren’t any rules that they needed to follow, I just showed a few techniques and let them enjoy the workshop. Later, I learned that the schools wanted to join an art contest. So I taught the competitors the proper use of watercolor; the techniques and styles that can be used to prepare the students for the competition were employed. Because of poverty, an outreach program was also made for the kids. Since we do not have enough fund to provide school supplies, we solicited Procter and Gamble employees in Manila. We bought papers, notebooks and pencils to give to the students. They thought they had to pay for these materials, but when their teacher explained that it was a donation, they were all excited and grateful.

Students of San Isidro Elementary School during their watercolor workshop


During the process of my research, I was invited for a solo art exhibition that took place in conjunction with the celebration of Aggao Nac Cagayan, the annual province’s festival. Since there are no galleries in the Tuguegarao City, it was held in a mall; at SM Tuguegarao Downtown. It was ironic how my paintings dealt with the rise of the corporatization, and then they were exhibited at one of the largest malls in the Philippines. However, the exhibition gave me the opportunity to display and talk about my artworks to a larger audience – to show the millennial audiences how this culture is battling for its sense of identity. The show was exhibited at the center of the mall so that everyone would see it. It was displayed for a day during the festival. I used this pop-up exhibition as a platform to interact with the people and communicate with them about the issues that I am concerned about. Most people told me that industrialization and corporatization is a good thing for the city because it provides a lot of resources for the people. They are able to use transportation that is easy to access like Uber and Grab and there are also increasing business profits that are happening in the city. I also asked people how to maintain our culture since industrialization and corporatization is rising to ensure our values, practices, heritage and sense of continuity is preserved. Most answers that I received were related to the theme of keeping customs alive and helping organizational methods that protect the culture. It was heartwarming when most people appreciated the visual presentation of the street vendors in my paintings because it is a valuable asset for the city.

Bhen Alan’s Artworks in the center of the SM mall in during a pop up exhibition


My research allowed me to explore a different style of painting. Before this research I used to paint only photo-realist works. I romanticized overly detailed paintings as I meticulously rendered every single micro detail of a subject. The paintings that produced for my research is a huge leap from photo-realism. I allowed myself to be free, loose and painterly. I show my underlying structures, my brush strokes are visible and uncontrolled. I even moved my body as I painted on a large sized canvas. These paintings are very spontaneous. This research improved my skills as an artist as well as a researcher. I am grateful to the OUR and to my advisor, Professor Suzanne Schireson, for helping me throughout the course of this research.


To learn more about my work, click on the following images to see footage made during my OUR funded fieldwork in the Philippines:


Research in History

To Counterfeit is Death: Exploring Benjamin Franklin’s Methods

By Daniel W. Everton


Portrait of Dan Everton, historian and artist

My OUR project focused on Benjamin Franklin and the methods he helped develop in the creation of anti-counterfeit measures as he and his colleagues were commissioned for printing paper money. In 2012, the Delaware County Institute of Science discovered in its collections a set of metal blocks that appeared to be used for printing currency. They approached Jessica Linker, who was working on her dissertation at the time and a long-time fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia, who has been studying them since. Upon seeing the blocks, I immediately thought of 3D printing a copy. While I was initially going to venture off by myself to attempt to 3D print the blocks, I was approached by Jessica Linker and readily pulled into her team of undergrads to work on their Digital Scholarship Summer Fellows project from Bryn Mawr College. The Fellows are Umma Tanjuma Haque, Shuang Li, Linda Zhu, and Eleftheria Anagnostou. My focus was to learn photogrammetry from the students, assist in the project, as well as document the process through photography and film.


Figure 1 – Photo of the sage leaf block, Photo by Daniel W. Everton



What is photogrammetry? Specifically, it is the ability to take measurements from series of photographs. These measurements allow one to measure a surface. A non-profit named Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) trained individuals at Bryn Mawr College, in which they trained the Digital Scholarship undergraduate students how to do the process. The sage leaf block, pictured above, has a very shallow or “low” relief. The image on top of the leaves is hard to see. This proved to be the hardest thing to photogrammetry since the photographs could not provide the software enough surface points. It wasn’t until Matthew Jameson, PhD candidate in Classical Archaeology, suggested putting the leaf block at a tilted angle with the assistance of an ingenious piece of Styrofoam. After that, our team was able to successfully capture the surface points. While there were two other blocks with the sage leaf block, the sage leaf block is fundamentally the one I am most interested in as it relates to my argument which I will explain later.

Figure 2 – The sage leaf block positioned on a Styrofoam wedge, within a lightbox. Photo by Daniel W. Everton


The software we used to compile all our images and put them on the XYZ planes is Agisoft. Within Agisoft and the work between all the students, we were able to capture up over 120,000 points within 184 pictures. Pictured below shows how the pictures are “situated” in space and reflected onto the anchor which is the ball. The Fellows taught me how to use Agisoft, take the circuits of photos, and how to follow the workflow.


Figure 3 – Screenshot of Agisoft with Leaf Block photos, totaling 184 photos and 126,586 points. Screenshot taken by Digital Scholarship Students and Jessica Linker


The result of all these, leads into a stunning 3D rendering of the blocks with a successful mesh that shows the details of the sage leaves on the block.

Figure 4 – Mesh showing the detail captured through the rendering. Screenshot taken by Digital Scholarship Fellows and Jessica Linker.


Figure 5 – Final 3D render of the sage leaf block. Screenshot taken by Digital Scholarship Fellows and Jessica Linker.



As part of Bryn Mawr College Digital Scholarship Fellowship, Jessica Linker developed a project with the Library Company of Philadelphia where they would create a digital exhibit about the blocks. Using the Unity software, the rendering made in Agisoft can be put into a digital “landscape” where individuals can visit the website and explore the blocks. The mesh for the blocks will eventually be open sourced, and a 3D print of it will be attempted later.


My Argument/Thesis

While I am a Historian, I am also an artist. I fell into printmaking and printing, which are understood currently as two separate disciplines but seem to have been very enmeshed during the time of colonial printing. I argue that Benjamin Franklin and his team used printmaking methods and other very innovative technologies that I feel should classify Benjamin Franklin as an artist. I think his prints should be taken into consideration amongst fine artists, and his subsequent bills printed by himself and those within his printing company to be examples of art. To make his bills anti-counterfeit, Franklin had to innovate on current technologies and create new ones.  The colonial bills I encountered at the Library Company have utilized monotype printing, intaglio plate processes, and of course, the nature-leaf print blocks that were custom made. I hope to explore the process further in the fall, where I try to recreate the theorized methods of how the leaf blocks were made to make my own print editions.

My documentation of the project will be within a “vlogumentary”, utilizing a YouTube and traditional documentary style methodology to discuss what I learned, some history about colonial printing, and the process of photogrammetry. I hope to release it in late Summer.


Figure 4 – Two Dollar Bill for Massachusetts-Bay, March 1780, Printed by Hall and Sellers for a “Peter Boyer”. The bill uses intaglio, monotype printmaking, unique registration, and a nature/leaf print block.



A special thanks to Bryn Mawr College and their Digital Scholarship team on campus, Jessica Linker, Umma Tanjuma Haque, Shuang Li, Linda Zhu, Eleftheria Anagnostou, Matthew Jameson, Anne McShane and Jim Green and other staff at the Library Company of Philadelphia, Dr. Amy Shapiro of UMass Dartmouth, Professor Len Travers of UMass Dartmouth and Dr. Paula Rioux for igniting my love of public history again, Professor Elena Peteva for answering all my weird questions about printmaking and teaching me printmaking, and to UMass Dartmouth’s OUR Grant program and the review committee for the opportunity and their work and allowing me to do this.

Research in Bioengineering

An Investigation into the Effects of Inverted Growing on Development and Strength of Basil

By Megan Scribner

My OUR research project was entitled ‘An Investigation into the Effects of Inverted Growing on Development and Strength of Basil’. The objective of the research is to determine if growing basil upside down influences the plant’s development and the mechanical strength of the stems. The initial plan to grow basil plants from seeds was modified for the sake of time; instead, adult plants were purchased and used for experimentation.

Portrait of Megan Scribner

Fifteen mature basil plants were purchased, numbered, and transplanted into larger pots. Plants 1-7 were planted traditionally, upright (displayed in Figure 1a), and plants 8-15 were planted in pots fashioned so that the plant would hang upside down (displayed in Figure 1b). Stalks that had a second set of true leaves, and sufficient space between the pairs to make a cut, were pruned.

Figure 1a (left): The upright basil plants
Figure 1b (right): Some of the upside down basil plants on a garment rack


After four weeks of growth, it was observed that stems of upright plants that had been pruned on Day 1 had established pairs of offshoot stems with two or three sets of leaves. Stems of upside-down plants that had been pruned on Day 1 had established pairs of offshoot stems with only one or two sets of leaves. This suggests that the upright plants experienced increased growth compared to the upside-down plants. Figures 2 and 3 display this growth difference.

Figure 2: Pruned stem of plant 6 (upright) with 3 sets of new leaves. The black circle on the left highlights the location of the pruning cut. The red circle highlights where the new offshoot stems and leaves grew from the main stem. The sets of leaves are numbered on the right.


Figure 3: Two pruned stems from plant 11 (upside-down), each with 2 pairs of new leaves.


Several obstacles were encountered in trying to maintain healthy plants. Challenges included: growing basil during the late winter/early spring months (which is not basil’s typical growing season for this region), securing an indoor location that met the environmental needs of basil, and the presence of insects.

Due to the complications with maintaining consistently healthy plants, no formal measurements with the experimental plants have been taken at this time, but there have been several practice measurements including extracting chlorophyll and measuring the wavelengths with a spectrophotometer, staining stem cross sections with toluidine blue and observing the plant vasculature under a microscope, and experimenting with different grip set ups for tensile testing. Images of the practice stained samples have been included below in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Two basil stem cross sections stained with toluidine blue and examined under a microscope



Chlorophyll wavelength measurements were taken using a spectrophotometer. I am currently reviewing published literature for additional information about the effect of a plant’s health on its chlorophyll production.

Apart from the plants being used for experimentation, an additional basil plant was purchased in order to conduct practice tensile tests and find the most effective grip set up for successful testing. Due to the available pieces of testing apparatus not having fixtures suitable for botanical samples, there were no successful practice tensile tests. In the majority of the practice tests, the stem sample slipped through the grips. Examples of this are shown in Figures 5 and 6. In Figure 5, the stem slips from the start of testing. In Figure 6, the stem starts to deform as desired, but the sample begins to slip in the middle of testing. A successful tensile testing graph would look more like Figure 7. This graph was the result of one of the practice tests; however, the sample broke right at the bottom grip (displayed in Figure 8) which is not desirable. The sample should break more towards the center of the gage length. Breaking at the grips occurs due to improper stress concentrations through the sample; the grips are exerting too much force on the sample and weakening it at the grip points. Various materials such as sand paper and rubber were used to try to create more friction between the sample and the grips without applying too much force but these attempts were not successful.

Figure 5: Load vs extension graph of a stem tensile testing sample that slips throughout testing


Figure 6: Load vs extension graph of a stem tensile testing sample that starts to deform and then begins to slip around 2mm


Figure 7: Load vs extension graph of a stem tensile testing sample. The sample deforms until breaks at about 1.9 mm


Figure 8: A stem tensile test sample that broke at the bottom grip


An alternative idea for tensile testing has been investigated but not yet tested. It involves wrapping the ends of the stem sample around hooks instead of compressing the ends in grips. This is a method commonly used for testing the tensile strength of string samples. This set up does not have all the necessary components, but the available components have been gathered as seen in Figure 9. There may be some need for manufacturing in order to complete the testing set up. This will be explored further during the fall 2018 semester.

Figure 9: Top hook for future tensile tests. A bottom hook needs to be properly fashioned for this testing set up



The current plans for the continuation of this project consist of obtaining and maintaining a new set of plants over the summer months in order to establish a healthier set of samples. Measurements from this healthier set of plants will be collected in the fall 2018 semester.
The research grant provided to me by the Office of Undergraduate Research allowed me to obtain many necessary materials including the plants and the various materials needed to care for them. While no conclusive measurements have been collected, these funds and materials provided me the opportunity to conduct valuable troubleshooting for this project. I would not have been able to pursue researching this unique application of mechanical engineering without the support of the grant. I would like to acknowledge my advisor Dr. Tracie Ferreira for her support and guidance with this project.

Research in Phychology

The Effect of Race-Related Words on Categorical Perception of Race

By Anna Sullivan


Categorical perception (CP) refers to the psychological phenomenon that occurs when we perceive a stimulus existing along a continuum as a set of discrete categories (for a review, see Fugate, 2013). One way to conceptualize CP is to think of a rainbow and the colors it produces. While we see a range of different colors, the physical composition of the rainbow is in fact a continuous range of visible wavelengths of light (Goldstone & Hendrickson, 2009). Due to the fact that we are unable perceive these wavelengths as they are, we counteract this by forming discrete categories in order to divide such objects, or in this case colors, occurring on a spectrum. From there, we can then differentiate the colors we see based on how we perceive their differences (e.g. Bornsten, Kessen, & Weiskopf, 1976). When this happens, the differences of colors in separate categories become more prominent while the differences of colors in the same category are less pronounced (Goldstone & Hendrickson, 2009).


Portrait of Anna Sullivan

Early psychological empirical research studied how speech sounds were perceived categorically (Liberman, Harris, Hoffman, & Griffith, 1957). Due to advancing technology and computer software, work on CP has also been extended to the human face. CP has been found to be present in the perception of facial expressions (Etcoff & Magee, 1992), familiar facial identities (Beale & Keil, 1995), gender information (Campanella, Chrysochoos, & Bruyer, 2001), and emotion (Fugate, Gouzoules, & Barrett, 2010). CP has also been studied in terms of race. For example, Levin and Angelone (2002) found that similar to gender, CP was stronger for different race facial morphs than for facial morphs of the same racial group.

In addition, categorical perception of social constructs, including emotion and race, are affected by a perceiver’s conceptual knowledge, including his/her language (see Barrett, 2006; Fugate, 2013). Specifically, when the meaning of a word is activated, people show more willingness to accept non-target emotional stimuli as a category member (Fugate, Gendron, Nakashima, & Barrett, 2017). Said another way, they are less “accurate” at matching images because their categories for that item have increased to include more instances. In this manner, people are becoming more “open-minded” and flexible with what constitutes a category member.  Directly related to the current project, Tskhay & Rule (2015) showed participants perceived racially ambiguous faces as belonging to different categories when they are preceded with either the words “Black” or “White”. Therefore, semantic information (i.e. top-down information) can interact with the stimulus characteristics (i.e. bottom-up information) to create differentiated judgments.

Poster of Anna Sullivan’s research project


The research question for this project was: how do different race-related words affect the categorical perception of race? This study sought to further expand what is known of CP of race as it is affected by race-related words. To date, no research has directly studied the categorical perception of race and language (for a review, see Timeo, Farroni, & Maass, 2017). This type of research is important because it can provide more knowledge of how race-related words (and language more broadly) can affect our perceptions of important social categories, such as race.

The objectives of this project were to examine the ways in which certain race-related words affect an individual’s processing in categorizing racially ambiguous faces. This study examined how these cognitive processes are influenced by top-down information, such as language, and work to establish an individual’s perception of race within individuals. This work can lead to a better understanding of how people “see” race in the world and how the words used to describe race can shift perception and ultimately change biases. We are all affected by external sources of information, and therefore need to continue to explore the ways in which they affect our categorization of others into social and racial groups.

Categorical perception was tested through a typical two-stage paradigm (reviewed by Fugate, 2013). The first paradigm, classification (or identification), defined a participant’s categorical boundary (i.e. the point at which an individual distinguishes an image as either one race or another). The second paradigm, discrimination, was used to test for the hallmark of CP which is an increase in the ability to discriminate between pictures previously assigned to different categories compared with pictures previously assigned to the same category, even though the physical difference between the pictures is always held constant.

Detail from Anna Sullivan’s study


During the classification stage of this research, participants were presented with an array of racially ambiguous face stimuli that have been created using computer software (FantaMorph). These faces were created from combining two photos of different race individuals and creating systematic blends (known as morphs) which depict iterations between the two pictures Participants were then be asked to identify each stimulus as belonging to one of two categories, anchored by the picture endpoints or race-related words in different trials. We used several different race-related words to see whether a person’s threshold changes when evoking different race-related words and from when no words are evoked (match to picture condition).

During the discrimination stage of this research, participants were presented with two sequential morphs, which either span the threshold (established in part 1) or do not span the threshold (but constitute the same structural difference between the faces). The former trials were the “between-category” trials. Participants’ increased accuracy to discriminate better the “between-category” trials from the within-category is the hallmark of CP.   We predicted that when participants match to race-related words (compared to pictured endpoints), they will show increased thresholds (steeper category transitions). Moreover, the steeper transitions translated into enhanced CP, as demonstrated by participants having increased accuracy to the “between-category” pairs compared to the “within-category” pairs.


Although similar types of studies and experiments have been performed, this project is unique in several key ways. First, no one has performed the full CP task (both identification and discrimination) on racial morphs. Second, the facial morphs are unique and were created specifically for this study from professional face sets. Third, no one has varied how (that is to what endpoint) participants match their choices. Words are almost always used as anchors. However, in a related CP study of emotion in the lab, Dr. Fugate and her students showed that matching to pictured endpoints (rather than words) increased the transition between categories but did not change CP. In addition, we will vary the type of race-related words (e.g. “African American” and “Black” and “not White” vs. “European American” and “White” vs. “Not Black”) to see if specific identifiers affect race perception differently.

Results from the identification portion of this research showed that language produces significant effects on race perception. Data analysis is still underway for the discrimination task, as well as the survey participants completed. This project was presented at both the UMass Amherst Undergraduate Research Conference and the PSI CHI Research Conference. It was also awarded second place at the 2018 OUR Undergraduate 3 Minute Thesis competition. I am grateful to my advisor Dr. Jennifer Fugate for her guidance and to the OUR for the financial support needed for this research.



Barrett, L. F. (2006a). Are emotions natural kinds? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 28-58.

Barrett, L.F. (2006b). Solving the emotion paradox: Categorization and the experience of emotion. Personality and Social Psychology, 10, 20-46.

Beale, J.M., & Keil, C.F. (1995). Categorical effects in the perception of faces. Cognition, 57, 217-239.

Bornstein, M.H., Kessen, W., & Weiskopf, S. (1976). Color vision and hue categorization in young human infants. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 2, 115-129.

Campanella, S., Chrysochoos, A., & Bruyer, R. (2001). Categorical perception of facial gender information: Behavioural evidence and the face-space metaphor. Visual Cognition, 8, 237-262. doi: 10.1080/13506280042000072

Etcoff, N.L., & Magee, J.J. (1992). Categorical perception of facial expressions. Cognition, 44, 227-240.

FantaMorph. (2017).

Fugate, J.M.B. (2013). Categorical perception for emotional faces. Emotion Review, 5, 84-89. doi: 10.117/1754073912451350

Fugate, J.M.B., Gendron, M., Nakashima, S.F., & Barrett, L.F. (2017). Emotion words: Adding face value. Emotion. doi: 10.1037/emo0000330

Fugate, J.M.B., Gouzoules, H., & Barrett, L.F. (2010). Reading chimpanzee faces: Evidence for the role of verbal labels in categorical perception of emotion. Emotion, 10, 544-554. doi: 10.1037/a0019017

Goldstone, R. L., & Hendrickson, A. T. (2010), Categorical perception. WIREs Cogni Sci, 1: 69–78. doi:10.1002/wcs.26

Levin, D. & Angelone, B. (2002). Categorical perception of race. Perception, 31, 567-578. doi: 10.1068/p3315

Liberman, A.M., Harris, K.S., Hoffman, H.S., & Griffin, B.C. (1957). The discrimination of speech sounds within and across phoneme boundaries. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 54, 358-368.

Timeo, S., Farroni, T., & Maass, A. (2017). Race and color: Two sides of the same story? Development of biases in categorical perception. Child Development, 88, 83-102. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12564

Tskhay, C. & Rule, N. (2015). Semantic information influences race categorization from faces. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41, 769-778. doi: 10.1177/0146167215579053

Research in Fine Arts

I.D.: Research and Exhibition on African-American Students at UMass Dartmouth

By Erick Maldonado


I am a senior Fine Arts major in the Department of Art and Design.  I also minor in Art History in the Department of Art Education, Art History and Media Studies. The goal my OUR-funded project was to highlight African-American student life on campus. I used the fund to do research, purchase painting materials, and organize a solo exhibition, featuring portraits of African-American students on campus. Every portrait is accompanied by a short narrative, describing the thoughts of the student models I chose to paint. My project was supported by Professors Pamela Karimi (Art History) and Bryan McFarlane (Painting) and I am extremely grateful to both of them for their guidance.

Erick Maldonado presents his thoughts on art and issues of displacement to a large crowd of audience at the New Bedford AHA! Festival. 



As a Dominican-American on campus, I see women and men with different complexions living in complex environments. As students of color, we sometimes feel the barrier of living and communicating within our Institutions of education. At the same time, the African American culture has grown a sense of resiliency against the old racial assumptions. And this is largely thanks to the efforts of those protagonists who made America a better place for all of us. During the Harlem Renaissance, many African-American artists created works that resisted the racial oppression of their time. These artists wanted Black voices and Black stories to be heard, and by doing so they vocalized their own stories to stand up for their rights, by empowering a community and continuing to provide a dialogue, many musicians, artists, writers, and scholars gathered together to make a difference.

It is important to note that during this time there was also a demand for African-Americans to be proud of their racial heritage. In later decades many African-American artists continued to voice their perspective regarding racial oppression. For example, Betye Saar made The Liberation of Black Jemima. By creating an image of Aunt Jemima inside of a frame with a Caucasian child on her hip, Saar used iconographic imagery to state and comment on African-American women and their labor in American history. Romare Bearden, an African-American painter, developed a vocabulary with sudden burst of bright hues that at the time helped depict African-American men and women. His portraits represented black commonalities and helped address African-American living conditions. Lastly, our contemporary, Kara Walker, uses silhouettes and folklore to frame the complex social and living conditions of slaves and slave masters. These artists continue to inspire me to turn history into art and to use the beautiful language of art to address important issues in Black communities.

The ongoing political and racial issues that continue to develop mayhem in this country is what I planned to comment on through this research project that led to a solo exhibition, titled ID. In particular, I wanted to be able to give a strong voice to those UMD students who feel incapable of expressing themselves.



Erick Maldonato’s solo show, I.D., at the 224 Gallery, UMass Dartnmouth.


Facing the everyday horror of trying to communicate stories, purposes, and lives, my exhibit is a reflection of my identity. My subjects include students from campus who have succeeded in bringing awareness to blackness, continue to inspire and change the frame of blackness on campus, and who elude and conspire a tradition of black representation that also emits the beauty of the community on campus. My overall vision of my project was to unite a group of people in the common goal of embracing culture. As evident due to our country’s divide, Black students are easily more targeted. This OUR-funded exhibit allowed me to create a dialogue where students were able to use their voice to express their identity and culture. Through my paintings and the interviewed that ensued students were able to communicate who they are. Black students are now more than ever are afraid to submerse themselves in a controversial dialogue. Therefore, I wanted to create paintings that would help project their narratives.

Details of Erick Maldonato’s paintings at the 224 Gallery, UMass Dartnmouth.


It was truly an honor to be offered an OUR grant in Spring 2017. This successful experience gave me the courage and confidence to apply for external grants. And I am particularly grateful to my professors Pamela Karimi (Art History) and Suzanne Schireson (Painting), who encouraged me to apply and supported my application. The following summer, I applied and received a Mellon Summer Internship at RISD Museum.  My position at the museum was with the Contemporary Art department, where I worked closely with Richard Brown Baker, Curator of Contemporary Art, Dominic Molon and Nancy Prophet’s fellow Amber Lopez.

Some of my tasks included overseeing works and maintaining files of nearly hundreds of objects in the collection and preparing research of works for future exhibitions in the galleries. I learned so much from this program. RISD Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon summer internship program introduced me to museum work, the professional skills necessary to work in the arts, and the functionalities inside a museum. This experience shifted my perspective of how I view myself as an artist. The busy, continuous and challenging cycle of distributing art and curating work is one where it’s diligent, practice is valued, and production is a priority. One of the most exciting experiences in the museum was creating my own program for RISD’s Third Thursday. Third Thursday, is an open night where the museum audiences engage more with the collection. My program consisted of learning about color relationships and how they impact shape, form, line, symmetry, and space. It was rewarding working with such a community. I value my time in Providence and the exposure to such programs.



In conclusion, the Office of Undergraduate Research provided the special skills and tools that I needed to enhance my knowledge of painting, curation and above all African-American life experience. Learning, exploring, and sharing stories of African-Americans in my community has been an advantage; it has helped me provide other students with an opportunity to find a space to express themselves. This project enabled me to become a better curator, painter and even artist. Above all, it helped me become a critical thinker; it allowed me to appreciate the importance of art historical and anthropological research and to want to encourage others to question the world we live in and instill a sense of pride in black communities.

Research in Rhetoric and Communication

Evolution of the Princess Culture: Discourse Analysis of Film and Merchandise Reviews

By Morgan Banville


I am a senior English Literature and Criticism, and Writing, Rhetoric and Communication major.  This research was partially supported by the OUR created for my Honors Thesis at UMass Dartmouth.  My project was advised by Katherine DeLuca and Caroline Gelmi.  Their hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated.

Portrait of Morgan Banville

The purpose of this study was to describe the ways in which film and merchandise reviews for Disney princess films such as Pocahontas, The Princess and the Frog, Brave, and Moana, depict Disney’s attempts at becoming progressive in their representations of female role models for young children.  The study was conducted in response to the ongoing discussion surrounding the Disney films and their inability to represent realistic and attainable role models for viewers.  The basic design of the study was conducted through coding and discourse analysis.  The study focused on how stereotypically racial and gendered rhetoric is used to describe the princesses, as well as the reliance on a male figure and various sexual innuendos.  Despite some progress, there are a few issues that remain with how Disney princesses are portrayed.  Both film and merchandise reviews continue to use coded rhetoric, which creates unrealistic expectations for young children as well as inadequate role models.



When one hears the word “princess,” more often than not the image of a Disney Princess comes to mind.  The image of a Disney princess is usually standard throughout the line:  the women are heteronormative, accompanied most often by a prince, and oftentimes descendants of royal blood or married into royal blood.  The stereotype associated with the princess line are women who display incredible beauty, have skinny waists, sleek hair, and perfect clothing.  Although the flawless features of the princesses are a distinguishing feature, this also poses some issues for those seeking women who are not “perfect.”  In my research, I analyzed film and merchandise reviews because these mediums are primarily where the audiences are being influenced.  Both children and adults alike are highly influenced by visual rhetoric; an adult is more inclined to watch a film with their child and comment on it rather than a child going online and writing a review.  In this way, the data I gathered allows for an analysis of the perceptions parents have of the culture that is impacting their children.

Merida from Brave representations & Pocahontas Film versus Merchandise


In my research I found that Disney merchandising and films have racially charged rhetoric that impacts audiences’ perceptions of the princesses.  The film and merchandise reviews displayed terms relating to stereotypical racism in regard to expectations of that particular race, as well as terms demeaning the race.  Disney merchandising and films also perpetuate specific beauty standards.  The inclusion of demeaning physical descriptions of the princesses also serves to weaken their characters and perpetuate sexist ideals for women.  These perceptions, it seems, can lead to internal biases when examining the films and even could be a contributing factor to the disagreements regarding whether or not princesses are negative influences for young girls.



I applied the methodology of Discourse analysis and coding method to the film and merchandise reviews.  Discourse analysis examines how language is used to construct “ways of being in the world.”  Coding categorizes language to make sense of dominant trends.  Using the coding method, I categorized the rhetoric of film and merchandise reviews into categories associated with racism/racial terms, gender ambiguity, sexual innuendos, and stereotypically feminine/masculine terms.  To categorize and code the films and merchandise, for example, I documented the typical masculine traits such as athleticism, bravery, or independence, as well as the feminine rhetoric such as any action or trait relating to showing emotion, physical features (pretty, beautiful, gorgeous), or being submissive.  After studying the merchandise and film reviews of the Disney princesses, the reviews, and thus the films, I found the merchandise and reviews reinforce traditional gender roles for the princesses and the negative portrayals of Disney princesses in reviews have the potential to impact the creation of positive role models for young girls by misrepresenting the characters that children often admire and emulate.  This research on the princesses could be extended to analyze the portrayal of other female characters in Disney movies, therefore contributing to the ongoing research on gender in media and the discourse between merchandise and films.

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