Unlocking Knowledge for Public Good

The UT partnership with The Conversation helps faculty share their research and expertise with the public. In 2021, faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences published 15 articles, two of which were translated for an international audience. Here, we include the 15 published in 2021, as well as three additional articles our faculty have published this year.

Geography Professor Derek Alderman and his colleague from Penn State published How Black cartographers put racism on the map of America, February 23, 2021. They explain their research on counter-mapping, which refers to how groups normally excluded from political decision-making deploy maps and other geographic data to communicate complex information about inequality in an easy-to-understand visual format. Alderman co-authored Veterans Day: How crosses and mementos help these Marines remember fallen comrades, with Katrina Stack Finkelstein, a doctoral student in geography; and most recently Plantations could be used to teach about US slavery if stories are told truthfully, with a colleague from Georgia Southern University.

When tornadoes tore across the country in spring 2021, editors with The Conversation pulled together articles from faculty who write about tornadoes, including Kelsey Ellis, UT associate professor of geography. Read her contribution to Wild weather: 4 essential reads about tornadoes and thunderstorms, published March 17, 2021. Ellis returned with Why the southern US is prone to December tornadoes in December 2021 after a devastating outbreak of tornadoes across the South. It was republished in Spanish the next day.

Deadric Williams, assistant professor of sociology, contributed to an article when the Derek Chauvin trial began, lending his expertise to how bad police interactions hurt Black families. Read the roundup: Derek Chauvin trial begins in George Floyd murder case: 5 essential reads on police violence against Black men, published March 29, 2021. It was republished in Spanish a few weeks later.


There are many hypotheses about where the Indigenous ancestors first settled in Australia tens of thousands of years ago, but evidence is scarce. A collaboration of researchers, including Devin White, a research associate professor of anthropology at UT, advances our knowledge about the most likely routes those early Australians travelled as they peopled this giant continent in their article, We mapped the ‘super-highways’ the First Australians used to cross the ancient land, published April 29, 2021.

Anthropology Professor Alex Bently published a research brief on his latest work using existing socio-demographic data from early COVID-19 hot spots, where there was a lot of information, to show how officials could have predicted how COVID-19 would spread through society. How to use statistics to prepare for the next pandemic, was published May 18, 2021.


Assistant Professor of Chemistry Constance Bailey outlined the need for support of green chemistry research to compete with fossil-based products in her article, Oil companies are going all-in on petrochemicals – and green chemistry needs help to compete, published May 25, 2021.



Ecology Professor Karen Hughes answered “Why are some mushrooms poisonous?” in a Curious Kids segment June 7, 2021. It was republished in Indonesia a month later.



Kathryn Cunningham, assistant professor of theatre, wrote a piece about an annual recruitment event that went viral on TikTok in which she observed the fixation on women’s Southern accents. She asks “What’s behind this enduring fascination with – and thinly veiled disdain for – some Southern American accents?” in TikTok, #BamaRush and the irresistible allure of mocking Southern accents, published August 27, 2021. She returned to The Conversation in March 2022 with a piece on What’s behind the obsession over whether Elizabeth Holmes intentionally lowered her voice?

As the country waited for the next session of the US Supreme Court to begin in October 2021, Political Science Professor Richard Pacelle offered his expertise about the Court in The Supreme Court’s immense power may pose a danger to its legitimacy, published September 28, 2021.

Anthropology Professor Jan Simek wrote about his research on ancient cave art in North America September 29, 2021, in Ancient Americans made art deep within the dark zones of caves throughout the Southeast and answered “When and how was walking invented?” in a Curious Kids segment November 1.

Shortly after publishing her new book, Surviving Collapse, Assistant Professor of Sociology Christina Ergas wrote about permaculture and its benefits in An environmental sociologist explains how permaculture offers a path to climate justice, published November 17, 2021.

Cameron Cook, a graduate student and researcher in the UT mathematics department, blended his love for running with his research showing, mathematically, how to use nutrition and training to run an optimal race, to write How math – and eating while running – can help you complete your best marathon, published April 13, 2022.