Radio Series Highlights UTEP’s Range of Research

By on December 19, 2014

In honor of the University’s Centennial Celebration, KTEP-FM (88.5 FM) hosted a special series in 2014 called 100 @ 100: Research for Our Next Century.

The biweekly radio segment highlighted 100 University of Texas at El Paso faculty members and their unique research efforts. Hosted by UTEP chemist Keith Pannell, Ph.D., the series aimed to showcase a broad range of studies, revealing that research can go well beyond advances in the fields of science and engineering.

Keith Pannell, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, hosted a radio series that examined the broad range of research that goes on within the UTEP campus. KTEP’s Norma Martinez helped as the show’s producer and engineer. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

“Even though I’m a scientist, I’ll be the first to admit that research doesn’t just occur in science, technology and engineering,” said Pannell, who had the idea to start the series. “The University resides not just in that type of research, but philosophy, history, English, theater, music –  all of these.”

Some of Pannell’s most memorable interviewees were members of the College of Liberal Arts who have looked into some surprising topics.

In a 100 @ 100 episode that aired in March, UTEP Professor of English Tony Stafford, Ph.D., discussed how he had examined the role of wine in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.

Scholars often dispute one particular scene in the play that focuses on a drunken porter rambling on about alcohol. Some contest that the section was not written by Shakespeare because it seems out of place; it has nothing to do with the rest of the story.

Stafford’s study proposes otherwise. While examining the text, he noticed that there are multiple innuendos referring to alcohol in the rest of the piece, suggesting that the porter scene is not out of line with Shakespeare’s style and story.

“I discovered that the Macbeths do quite a bit of drinking themselves,” he explained to Pannell on the radio show. “There are just a lot of references by them [to] drinking… and lots of adjectives and verbs that talk about drinking a great deal.”

Research by UTEP historian Michelle Armstrong-Partida, Ph.D., also was featured in the series.

Armstrong-Partida, an assistant professor of history, specializes in the medieval period with a particular focus on the violence and concubinage in which Spanish priests engaged.

“By concubinage, I mean these long-term … marriage-like relationships the priests had with women in their parish villages,” Armstrong-Partida explained on the show. “In some cases, they even made vows to each other, which by the (Catholic) Church’s standard, were illegal.”

By sifting through thousands of archival documents and studying these forbidden activities, the historian hopes to better understand priestly masculinity during the Middle Ages.

Norma Martinez, the behind-the-scenes engineer and producer of 100 @ 100, enjoyed learning about the surprising range of research taking place at UTEP.

“The interests of these academics are really fascinating,” said Martinez, who sat in on every interview. “Our series showed how broad the spectrum of research is on the UTEP campus; it’s not all about cell growth and chemical reactions.”

But faculty from all the colleges, including science and engineering, had their chance to speak on air, too.

Throughout the 100 episodes, listeners learned about how UTEP geologists are training NASA astronauts, how engineers are studying means to make automobiles more autonomous, and how physicists are trying to improve the performance of fuel cells.

“The researchers that we interviewed seemed to like participating a lot,” Martinez said. “They seem to really appreciate that we were taking the time to highlight them, and all these different topics.”

With the close of the Centennial, 100 @ 100 came to an official end on Tuesday, Dec. 16 when the 100th researcher participated in the final interview.

Pannell is glad the series occurred and that it brought attention to the active minds and imaginations of individuals who work on campus. He hopes a similar series that delves further into UTEP’s research will be created in the next year.

He said, “100 @ 100 was created to honor UTEP’s birthday, but also to look ahead and celebrate the research that will be useful in the future.”

Listen to the entire series at http://ktep.org/programs/100-100-research-our-next-century.

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Nadia M. Whitehead is a former writer for UTEP's University Communications office.