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UTSA Fulbright Scholars to study climate change, music in Iceland, Taiwan

UTSA Fulbright Scholars to study climate change, music in Iceland, Taiwan

APRIL 18, 2024 — Two faculty members have been inducted into the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program this year: Hongjie Xie, a professor in the UTSA Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Steven Parker, assistant professor of music in the UTSA School of Music.

The program will take the two researchers to different regions to achieve distinct aims. Xie will study snow cover changes in Iceland to better understand the effects of climate change, providing data that may inform policy decision-making. Meanwhile, Parker will travel to Taipei to construct novel musical instruments incorporating electronic and classical components from the East and the West.

Overseen by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers U.S. nationals opportunities to teach, conduct research and carry out professional projects in over 135 countries. Scholars also develop greater mutual and cultural understanding, an expanded network, and new and enhanced skills in their field.

The program is open to college and university faculty, artists and professionals from a wide range of fields and industries.

Fulbright Scholars also play a critical role in U.S. public diplomacy. Since the Fulbright program's inception, over 400,000 people have participated, including 62 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 80 MacArthur fellows, and leaders from many fields and industries.

Hongjie Xie

Xie received the Fulbright-NSF Arctic Distinguished Research Scholar award and will work at the University of Iceland (Reykjavik) for five months examining snow cover changes in Iceland as they relate to climate change.

Titled, “Icelandic Snow Cover Changes and Impacts under the Warming Climate,” the project will focus on monitoring water and cryosphere changes using satellite remote sensing, in situ observations and modeling approaches.

“The project aims at quantifying the snow cover and pattern changes at the watershed scale, identifying driving forces for such changes, and assessing the consequences of such changes,” he said. “My hope is that this study contributes to the knowledge base required for informed decision-making and the formulation of adaptive strategies to mitigate the effects of changing snow cover in Iceland.”

Xie’s research has taken him around the world to study snow cover, sea ice, ice sheets, glaciers, and glacier lakes in the Arctic, Antarctic, Tibetan Plateau, Andes, Rockies, and Alaska. His research examines climate change as a phenomenon and its effects on the communities and ways of life in those regions.

“The issue of snow cover changes in Iceland is of paramount importance, with far-reaching impacts on the environment, economy, tourism and society of Iceland,” said Xie, adding that he hopes the findings of his study will inform future policy decisions and contribute to positive change.

“It is a great honor to have the opportunity to stay in Iceland for five months for this research project,” said Xie. “I give my deep thanks to the Fulbright Commission in Iceland and the U.S. Fulbright Program for the selection and funding of my research.”

Steven Parker

Parker, who was designated a Fulbright Senior Scholar, will research instrument craftmanship and innovation in Taipei. Entitled “Sound Construction,” the project calls for Parker to invent hybrid musical instruments that merge American and Taiwanese instrument craftsmanship with electronics and new technologies and to document the body’s response to these improvised musical performances.

Over the course of six months, Parker will construct instruments from an eclectic mix of materials, including reclaimed brass instruments and copper plumbing from the U.S. and salvaged traditional instruments from Taiwan.

Parker plans to use electronic equipment, such as a portable EEG monitor, to translate biological data into sound. He will then invite collaborators to use the devices to respond to changes in their brain activity and movement in space. Parker chose Taiwan “because of its history of instrument craftsmanship, materials and its dynamic DIY/experimental music community.”

After his time in Taiwan, Parker plans to share his research and newfound connections in his UTSA classes and to teach his students about the opportunities for careers that blend research and music.  

“I'll be collaborating with a wide range of sound artists from Taiwan,” he said. “My goal is to invite all of the collaborators to perform and lecture at UTSA, presenting our new work together and working with our art and music students.”

Parker teaches a range of subjects including new media, sound art, entrepreneurship and the music industry.

This marks Parker’s second tour as a Fulbright Scholar. He traveled to Germany in 2004-2005 to study avant-garde brass performance and create a program of new works by German and American composers that incorporated video, electronics and other techniques.

“It's an immense honor to be named a Fulbright Scholar,” Parker said. “I can't wait to embark on new creative projects in Taiwan and share this work with UTSA students and colleagues. I'm grateful to UTSA and COLFA for providing me with the support to apply and take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. I'm also so very happy to be bringing my family of four with me.”

⇒ Learn more about the Fulbright Scholar program.
⇒ Discover the UTSA School of Music.

Since 2018 UTSA has had nine Fulbright U.S. Scholar awardees: Krystel Castillo (sustainable energy), MariaVeronica Elias (public administration), Joycelyn K. Moody (literature) and H.R. Rao (infrastructure insurance and security) in 2022; Jose Iovino (mathematics) in 2021; Brian Hermann (neuroscience, developmental and regenerative biology) in 2020; Whitney Chappell (modern languages and literatures) and Michael Cepek(anthropology) in 2019; and Martha Sidury Christiansen (bicultural-bilingual studies) in 2018.

Audrey Gray

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