Society

Society: Understanding Human Nature and Behavior

Puerto Rico’s Breaking Point

After Hurricane Maria swept across Puerto Rico in 2017, millions of people lost power — some for nearly a year. But the blackout wasn’t just the work of a powerful hurricane. Decades of debt, economic dependence, and bad financial deals set up the territory and its electrical company, PREPA, for failure. To get to the root of the catastrophe, UNC anthropologist Sandy Smith-Nonini and filmmaker Roque Nonini teamed up to create a documentary about the underlying forces of Puerto Rico’s energy crisis.

Eleftheria “Ria” Kontou

Eleftheria “Ria” Kontou is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of City and Regional Planning within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She uses transportation models to uncover whether ride-sourcing platforms like Uber and Lyft affect city road crashes, injuries, fatalities, and DUI rates to help urban planners identify solutions for safe, efficient mobility.

Juan Carlos González Espitia

Juan Carlos González Espitia is an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Romance Studies within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. In his historical study of syphilis in the Spanish-speaking world, he explores the ways the disease affects private and public life, literature, the arts, medical discourse, politics, and public policy.

A Dual Focus

After a 21-year career in the U.S. Army, John Bechtold is now a PhD student in UNC’s Department of American Studies, using photography as a means to discuss American public memory and cultural perceptions of war.

Tuned into Neuroscience

There are a host of ways neuroscientists can study the brain. Some analyze its chemistry, others its structure. UNC researcher Flavio Frohlich examines its electrical system, what he calls the "language of the brain," and investigates how miscommunication in these signals can play a role in psychiatric illnesses.

One Size Won’t Fit All

Nearly 35 percent of Americans are considered obese — a diagnosis that has become so common the American Medical Association recognizes it as a chronic disease. While the diagnosis is the same for all, the treatments vary; what works for one person typically doesn’t work for another. In response, researchers from across UNC have joined forces to tackle this ever-growing problem.

Soldering Learning Leaks

New research from Carolina Demography shows how students “leak out” of the postsecondary educational pipeline and examines education outcomes at North Carolina public schools, identifying where interventions could be implemented. UNC researchers have long been at work to close these gaps, from early childhood classrooms to public policy platforms.

The Known Unknowns

In 2016, a group of North Carolina researchers published evidence of high rates of PFAS in the Cape Fear River basin. While this unregulated family of chemicals is used in the production of everyday goods, its impact on human health is largely unknown. For the past year, scientists from UNC-Chapel Hill, five other UNC system universities, and Duke University, have researched these potentially dangerous chemicals found in drinking water sources across the state.

A Father for Social Science

The Odum Institute, the first social science research center in the world, has trained and supported hundreds of researchers specializing in everything from anthropology to city and regional planning to public health for the past 95 years. And it all exists thanks to the determination of one eccentric man.

Military Mindset

Before 2001, the use of prescribed psychoactive medications in U.S. Army warzones was restricted. But an increase in mental health awareness, low recruitment numbers, and longer deployments during the War on Terror — the longest-running conflict in American history — has shifted the rules and regulations for military mental health treatment. UNC medical anthropologist Jocelyn Chua speaks with active duty service members, veterans, and health care providers to learn more.