Society

Society: Understanding Human Nature and Behavior

The Formula for Reform

Jessica Smith is a professor within the UNC School of Government and director of the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab. Her decades-long career at Carolina has evolved alongside the state’s criminal justice system, which she has helped transform using an evidence-based formula for reform.

Expecting the Unexpected

After Myron Cohen watched the first patient at UNC Hospitals die from AIDS in 1982, he knew it was a disease to be reckoned with. He spent the next 40 years helping to recruit the most promising infectious disease experts from across the nation to build a program that’s become a leader in HIV. Today, UNC excels in understanding all aspects of HIV, from prevention to a potential cure — expertise that is now being used to tackle COVID-19.

Seth Noar

Seth Noar is a professor within the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and a researcher at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He studies how people can effectively use communication to change behavior and improve health.

For the Love of Language

Since 1984, over 100,000 Karen refugees have fled their homeland of Myanmar to escape civil war. Since then, more than 40,000 have resettled in the U.S., and more than 5,000 live in North Carolina. Such displacement greatly affects lives, and even language — within just three generations their native tongue is barely spoken. Linguistics PhD students Amy Reynolds and Jen Boehm strive to understand this shift and hope to preserve the Karen people’s histories in the process.

Sounding the Alarm

Racial discrimination is not only a matter of sight — sound can also be racialized. Petal Samuel’s research traces colonial bans on drums and horns included in slave codes to modern-day noise abatement efforts in black communities.

Emily Hynes

Emily Hynes is a PhD student in the Department of Music within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She studies women who made music within prisons of the American South from the 1930s to '40s and creates interactive digital maps to convey this information.

Machine Morality

As machines become more autonomous, humans must define the limits of their decision-making. UNC postdoctoral researcher Yochanan Bigman addresses this topic, suggesting where to draw the line when self-governing technology is required to make life-or-death decisions.

Editing Along Ethical Boundaries

Imagine a tool that could cure thousands of genetic illnesses by replacing faulty strands of DNA. What if that same invention could enhance traits like height and intelligence in children through the manipulation of DNA in embryos? CRISPR, a gene-editing technology, is tricky business — and geneticists at UNC are addressing the ethics surrounding it.

Navigating Ethics in Animal Research

How do people distinguish between what’s right and what’s wrong in the world of animal research? It’s not simple, says UNC bioethicist Rebecca Walker. Like most complex issues, this topic has a lot of gray areas — which Walker explores using the ancient philosophical approach called virtue ethics.

Rachel Despard

Rachel Despard is a senior majoring in music with minors in public policy and social and economic justice within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She studies how recorded music boosts community collaboration, affects visibility for vulnerable populations, and addresses systematic inequalities.