Visualizing Research Competition

The Visualizing Research competition allows graduate students the opportunity to interpret their intriguing research or creative scholastic activity through the creation of visual representations. Original, imaginative and captivating, these images represent the hard work and passion of students from across all disciplines throughout the university. This contest is a valuable outlet for students to celebrate their thought-provoking work via visuals.

Here are the top submissions from the 2020 Visualizing Research contest.

First Place

Testimonios: Acknowledging the Silenced Voices of English Language Learners

By Cindy Peña, Adult, Professional, and Community Education


The current political climate, hailed by President Trump, invokes a dangerous dichotomy of race relations between Latinos and Whites by targeting this minority group (Reilly, 2016). Immigrants, particularly Latinos in the Southwest, are often the subjects of discrimination because of their culture, education, race, low socioeconomic status and gender.

Discriminatory practices often target groups and impose their dominant ideologies. Such was the practice in the early twentieth century on immigrant Latinas because they were believed to be best to assimilate into US American culture (Sanchez, 1994; Ruiz, 1991, 2006). The consequences for these women are to have papelitos guardados (documented/hidden away words/messages), and carry silenced stories and voices (The Latina Feminist Group, 2001). Educational research, voiced testimonios, or counternarratives, give insight into the learners’ educational journey and the opportunity to co-construct knowledge for their educational needs (Lee, 2013). This lead to empowerment and sheds light on adult language learners’ immigrant educational experiences (Lee, 2013).

My educational research focuses on what the testimonios of immigrant Latinas are in relation to their US educational experiences after studying English as a second language. My interest is in the effect language learning has on their subjectivities during this negatively charged political climate.

Runner Up

The Messages They Sea

By Jenn Idema, Aquatic Resources


Dive below the surface. What do you see? Brightly colored fish nestled amongst corals, rays that fly like birds through the water, toothy grins from sharks – beneath the waves exists a world of wonder vital for sustaining all life on Earth.

But our oceans are in trouble. As our populations continue to grow, human-driven pressures like climate change, pollution, and over-fishing intensify burdens placed on marine resources. Aquariums play an integral part in protecting our seas by providing visitors with opportunities to connect with marine life and learn about the wonders of our oceans without leaving the comfort of dry land. Through exhibits, aquariums can educate visitors about complex, controversial issues like climate change in non-threatening ways that inspire positive conservation actions.

My research examines the conservation messaging found in aquarium exhibits like this one, as well as how visitors interpret that messaging. Through the use of special glasses that record what they look at, I ask my participants to show me how they see and experience aquarium exhibits. By identifying the message and exhibit elements visitors focus on during their experience, my research helps aquariums in their quest to develop impactful exhibits that inspire visitors to save our seas.

People's Choice

The Sevillian Scene Where Poets Encounter Beauty and Tragedy

By Lauren Dungan, Spanish


Antonio Machado (1875–1939) and Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) are renowned poets from the Andalusian region of southern Spain. Depictions of Seville are prominent in the works of both Machado and Lorca. My research closely examines each poet’s representation of Seville and reveals the writers’ relationship with the city varies greatly.

Throughout his poetry, Machado holds Seville in high regard and expresses love and longing for his childhood city. He lived in Seville prior to experiencing loss and heartbreak while residing in other cities. Machado’s poems recreate the beauty of Seville to bring alive his fond childhood memories. Lorca’s sentiments towards Seville, which contrast with those of Machado, direct readers towards stereotypes associated with the city, including bull fights, orange trees, and gypsies. The tragic death of the famous Sevillian bullfighter Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, an intimate friend of Lorca’s, deeply influenced the poet.

As a result, my research demonstrates that Lorca finds it difficult to explore the unique beauty of the city and instead associates it with tragedy and stereotypes. Antonio Machado’s connection to Seville aligns closely with my own passion for the breath-taking city (pictured here overlooking the Guadalquivir river), a passion which led me to undertake this research project.

Honorable Mention

A Brother's Fight to #FreeRodneyReed

By Nicole Kinbarovsky, Criminal Justice


In the photo submitted, Roderick Reed leads a mass of protestors down Congress Avenue during the global #FreeRodneyReed rally on Nov. 9, 2019, in Austin, TX. This rally is the culmination of the Reed family's activist efforts from over 20 years, and less than two weeks before the scheduled execution of their brother, Rodney Reed. The historic public outcry of support for the Reeds, and their cause, helped garner a stay of execution, giving the family more time to prove Rodney's innocence.

The Reed rally was one of seven observed during my study, "Discovering the Support Networks of Those Caring for Loved Ones on Texas Death Row." The image represents the powerful potential of public support when used to back families of capital offenders often ignored and stigmatized by their communities.

Additional Top Submissions

Submissions are listed in alphabetical order by the participants' first names.


Let Our Body Art Do the Talking

By Amanda Young, Adult, Professional, and Community Education

Ideas are changing about what appearance is acceptable in the workplace. Organizations must stay competitive in this rapidly changing world and to achieve this, therefore, they must hire the best people for the job. However, continual stigmas and discrimination regarding employee appearance, specifically of women, are still present in the corporate work environment.

With the increase in popularity of tattoos all over the world, this will undoubtedly have an impact on the way organizations and people within those organizations react to individuals with visible tattoos. This study revealed two themes: using tattoos as a positive communication device and confidence in job ability. Participants saw their tattoos as a way to connect to others, either through the stories behind the tattoos or as a common connection with others who also have them. Results also revealed that the women’s confidence about their abilities to perform their jobs did not deter them when applying for or working in a corporate environment with their tattoos revealed.


Public space as global classroom: Representations of women in Chile

By Amy Biedermann, Adult, Professional, and Community Education

My research explores the ways in which public spaces tell stories.

I recently visited the Chilean coastal city of Valparaiso, famous for its colorful street art, and captured this image of a large, vividly painted mural. The woman depicted here gazes out in the direction of the observer, protectively carrying a variety of plants over her shoulder. The scene is vibrant and full of life, perfectly reflecting the energy of the beautiful spring day this photograph was taken.

My research in Chile focuses on the educational power of public spaces to communicate the relationship between women's experiences and important social issues. For example, this mural inspired me to reflect upon the powerful role women play in being stewards of the environment, a particularly important issue in Chile. Data collection for my research includes cataloging images like this that feature representations of women in spaces that are accessible to everyone.

My research also includes interviews with over a dozen Chilean women about their experiences of harassment in daily life. The goal of this project is to weave together these visual and oral narratives in order to amplify Chilean women’s voices and highlight the social causes for which they advocate.


A Choice As Big As Texas

By Anisa Elizondo, Integrated Agricultural Sciences

People make choices every day of their lives. Those choices are influenced by the world around them and the potential impact it will have on their lives. This is important when it comes to the food that fuels people. Food is a life source that brings people together in different ways for different occasions. In those moments, the taste, appearance, and quality of the food is a major factor, but one thing that some people don’t consider is safety.

In the past couple of years, the number of reported food-borne illnesses has increased and has stirred up concern among consumers. The goal of the research is to determine the current knowledge and preferences of consumers on food items and the relationship to their willingness to pay more for safe food products. The image of Texas with different food items in the center and outside are to showcase the area of study as well as types of produce, meat, seafood, and cheeses. The center of Texas has money and terms, which are used to represent possible government regulations, labeling, or technology. Both of those together show what type of intervention might be needed for people to pay more for safety.


Starving for Change

By Catherine Till and Mark Chavez, Student Affairs in Higher Education

With more than 42 million individuals identifying themselves as food insecure, the lack of access to nutritious food, also known as food insecurity, has become a leading contributor to the health crisis in the United States. This epidemic is linked to an increased risk of mental health problems, obesity, diabetes, and overall poor health.

College students are more likely to struggle with food insecurity than any other population in the United States and due to recent changes to the meal plan on campus, it has become more challenging for students to access adequate and nutritious meals. The transition into college along with a new sense of independence and increased financial burdens can magnify a student’s risk of food insecurity.

Our research addresses the issue of food insecurity as it relates to first-year students with a meal plan living on campus and looks into aspects such as frequency of skipped meals, availability of options, distance, and pricing. We hope the results of our study will draw attention to the reality that there are many students who lack access to adequate and nutritious food during their first year at Texas State University.

Field of multicolored tulips on the bank of a lake

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Smelling Viruses Can Save You Too.

By Fabiola Mancha, Aquatic Resources

What first comes to mind when viewing this image? The aroma of tulips? The smell of fish from the pond? What about…a virus? Did you know that fish can actually smell viruses? Smell is an important physiological process that allows fish to detect food, avoid predators, and reproduce. Smell occurs when chemical molecules, called odorants, interact with cells within the nose. This interaction produces an electrical signal that travels to the brain and signals the individual the presence of an odorant.

My work centers around the visualization of the interaction of a virus with the cells in a fish's nose. Moreover, I’m studying how the immune system is activated following exposure to a virus. The immune system is activated when immune cells detect viruses within the blood, in order to prevent an infection. However, this traditional process is significantly slower compared to smell, which is an immediate process that takes seconds to be activated!

The nature of the interaction between a virus and nasal cells is a relatively novel field of research and my results could help in the development of future nasal vaccines in order to prevent future infections and disease.


Heart of the Desert

By Joy Cathryn Tatem, Anthropology

Agaves are one of the most common plants found across desert landscapes in North America. Agave lechuguilla dominates the western half of the continent and was an essential food and fiber resource to the native people of the Southwest, particularly within the archaeological region of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwestern Texas where my research is focused.

These desert hearts had to be trimmed with stone tools and roasted within earth ovens for a minimum of two days before they were edible. The photograph shows a raw lechuguilla heart split open to reveal the delicate rosette spiral of the inner stem. The experimental stone tool in the lower right corner was used to trim this plant. A high-power magnification microscope was used to document minute wear patterns associated with use, and this evidence was then compared to the wear patterns on artifacts from collections of archaeological sites in the Lower Pecos.

My research aims to understand what kinds of stone tools these native peoples used in order to harvest and cook such an important food and fiber resource, and how this relates to the cultures of the greater southwest.


Collaborative Critical Practice: Designing a Children’s Picturebook with Resettled Refugees

By Kelsey A. Johnson, Communication Design

Young children benefit from a variety of multicultural stories that serve as “mirrors” (to reflect back their own experiences) and “windows” (to imagine the experiences of others). Yet, even as unprecedented numbers of displaced people resettle across the globe, an inadequate number of children’s picture books feature refugee protagonists.

Storytelling can support the perspectives and experiences of refugees, as well as promote social inclusion among their peers. In an increasingly hostile atmosphere of anti-migrant policies and rhetoric in the United States, multicultural stories are all the more necessary as tools of agency and empathy.

At the grassroots level in Houston, Texas—a hub for refugee resettlement and one of the most diverse cities in the U.S.—a team consisting of a designer, an immigrant artist, and five resettled refugee youth co-created a children's picture book. The collaborative making process was rooted in participatory and equity-centered design where each team member contributed creative input and helped determine the design outcome.

This locally published children’s book will supplement the slim inventory of contemporary stories told by refugees and hopefully inspire more stories to be shared with the world.


From the Border to the Boardroom - An Autoethnography

By Raul Trevino, Interdisciplinary Studies

My autoethnography will describe the extensive transformation required to successfully navigate the gap between Texas-Mexico border culture and the corporate business domain, focusing on the personal price of acculturation.

I took this photograph of myself standing at the border fence near the Sabal Palms Nursery in Brownsville, Texas while conducting genealogical research to better understand my own roots as part of the context of my beginnings in South Texas. The connection to my research or my thesis is that the very existence of this barrier is a reminder to all of us descendants of immigrants that no matter how hard we work to achieve the American dream, even if it takes multiple generations, there is still fear, suspicion and even hate against immigrants.

We are living proof that given a mere generation or two, we can become successful parts of the American tapestry despite the heavy price of acculturation. And yet this wall and everything that went into its construction remain.


Faculty Perceptions of Diversity and Justice in the University Classroom

By Reba Loret Fuggs, Adult, Professional, and Community Education

In higher education, faculty maintain a position of authority and are established as the experts in the classroom. Faculty also serve as a driving force within academia through education, research, and service. Because of these positions of power, their perceptions, experiences, and views of the world color how they see, interact with, and educate students on diversity and justice in the university classroom.

Research shows that faculty, especially those most aligned with dominant White culture, face personal and professional barriers such as fear of losing classroom control, the emotionally charged nature of the topic, lack of preparation to engage in dialogue around diversity and justice, and a general discomfort that may lead to avoidance altogether. Students, however, continue to ask for more education and dialogue in these areas. This is especially critical in 2020 and beyond with increasing globalization and graduating students who will enter an extremely diverse workforce.

My research explores faculty perceptions on diversity and justice education in the university classroom in hopes of better understanding if the intersecting identities embodied by members of the faculty impact their views and classroom practices.


Glowing Mushrooms Light the Way for Hikers

Sara Mitschke | Communication Design

The beauty of inspiration is that it can come from anywhere and it can be as simple as a tiny mushroom. After 3.8 billion years of evolution, it would make sense for a designer to be inspired by nature to solve complex design challenges. Designers are constantly asking the question, “How might we…” in order to understand how to solve a challenge.

For example, how might we solve the problem of longterm low light visibility to guide hikers when navigating trails at night in the national parks? Bioluminescence is the answer to how nature solves for low light visibility. There are over 80 species of glowing mushrooms and Panellus Stipticus is one of the brightest.

The goal is to imitate the bioluminescent process and apply it to a marker system as a way to guide hikers on the trail. The solution could provide a truly sustainable answer to nighttime navigation and could have even further applications across the world.


A comparative study of parental perspective and urban planners' view on child-friendly neighborhood structures

Shadi Maleki, Geographic Information Science

As the structure of neighborhoods have changed, with mobility becoming more dependent on cars, children’s independent movement within their neighborhood environments has become more limited. Indeed, despite the health and environmental benefits of walking and biking, of the 50 million children who travel to school every day in the U.S., only a small portion of them walk or bike to school.

In 1970, 10 percent of children arrived at school by a private car, while in 2010, this number increased to over 40 percent, and to over 50% in 2017. Increased use of private cars and traffic safety are some of the main reasons behind this change. Considering that children’s agency flows mainly through their parents (especially in younger ages) when it comes to matters such as walking independently to school or playing outdoors without adult supervision, my research examines children’s ability to walk or bike as a form of transportation based on different structures of neighborhoods.

My research will examine this problem from two viewpoints: parents and expert urban planners. The comparison of expert urban planners’ approach with parental perspective leads to a more diverse and comprehensive understanding of this problem.


All are Welcome Here

Sonia Rey Lopez, Adult, Professional, and Community Education

A shoe.

A pair of shoes.

Several pairs of shoes.

Several pairs of shoes at the front door.

Several pairs of shoes at the front door of a home.

Several pairs of shoes at the front door of a refugee home.

Several pairs of shoes at the front door of a refugee home in a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood.

~Cultural fusion~


According to the U.S. Refugee Processing Center, over three million refugees have resettled in the US since 1975. The purpose of my ethnographic research is to explore the link between homeownership and Burmese refugees. I am particularly interested in studying the Karen and Karenni people, two ethnicities particularly understudied. Croucher and Kramer describe cultural fusion theory as a process that occurs when newcomers assimilate behaviors from their adopted culture while maintaining elements of their native identity and in the process, their adopted culture is also transformed. Shoes. Zapatos. Ka dare pa. As I look at the many ka dare pa at this front door, I can’t help but think of my family’s zapatos that now reside near ours.

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