The University of Massachusetts Amherst


Jonathan Wynn, 2017 PEP Fellow, comments in a story about the high cost of concert tickets, with shows featuring stars like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift commanding thousands of dollars for some seats

The sociology professor is quoted in an article discussing the “dynamic pricing” model which increases prices with demand in real-time. With concert tickets for big-name artists now rivaling the median monthly mortgage payment in Massachusetts, certain live music experiences will again become a pastime for the affluent. Wynn says tickets to see lesser-known artists at smaller venues can be had for much less. “You’re going to spend $5,000 on a ticket? How many Tuesday night shows could you see for that at a local club?” Wynn says. Read more here.

Amanda Paluch, 2023 PEP Fellow, is quoted in an article reporting on research she led that found significant health benefits in taking 6,000-9,000 steps compared to the often-advertised 10,000 steps

The common metric of 10,000 steps is a completely arbitrary figure, one that originates from a successful Japanese marketing campaign in the mid-1960s. Paluch, kinesiology, recently authored a meta-analysis of eight studies that concluded among older adults, taking 6,000 to 9,000 steps per day was associated with 40 to 50 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with taking 2,000 steps per day. “For those who are at 2,000 or 3,000 steps a day, doing a little bit more can mean a lot for their heart health. If you’re at 6,000 steps, getting to 7,000 and then to 8,000 also is beneficial, it is just a smaller, incremental improvement,” Paluch says. Read more here.

Lucy Xiaolu Wang, 2023 PEP Fellow, co-authored an article in The Conversation on the end of the 10-year Human Brain Project

The 10-year, $1.33 billion Human Brain Project initially sought to simulate the entire human brain in a supercomputer within a decade, yet the project faced skepticism and controversy among neuroscientists worldwide. The project, now coming to a close, has been re-vamped and its goals adjusted throughout its duration. “While the long-term impact of the project may not be fully understood, the Human Brain Project Summit 2023 from March 28 to 31 is set to provide a venue for open discussion with the broader community on what the HBP has achieved,” Wang writes. Read more here.

Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, 2018 PEP Fellow, is quoted in an article about the gender inequality at the top of companies in industries dominated by women

Tomaskovic-Devey, sociology professor and executive director of the Center for Employment Equity, explains that long-term change will require changing how we run businesses, not just confronting personal biases. “Culture matters,” he says. “To reduce male preferences in high wage and leadership positions requires fundamentally changing organizational routines.” Read more here.

Peter Haas, 2016 PEP Fellow, is featured as a guest columnist to discuss The ‘thorny issues’ of enacting reparations to descendants of American slaves

The political science professor affirms the “strong ethical case” for reparations to descendants of American slaves given the enduring and pernicious multi-generational effects of slavery. “Helping a large number of disenfranchised citizens from poverty would benefit American democracy and also stimulate the economy” he states. However, issues remain for those committees responsible for reparations including limited budgetary resources for municipalities. “Transparent measures are necessary to determine who is to receive reparations and how much.” Read more here.

Michael Rawlins, 2015 PEP Fellow, is quoted in an article from Western Mass News presenting findings from the Climate System Research Center at UMass

“The statewide winter average, December to February, meteorological winter, was tied for the warmest on record with 2015, 2016,” said Professor Michael Rawlins, associate director of the climate research center. Rawlins broke down the data and said that from December to February, temperatures averaged above freezing at 33.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which is approximately eight degrees above the 20th-century average, which has brought on more rain. “There were quite a few days that saw above-freezing conditions interestingly for Amherst during the period from the last week of December to the third week in February. There were only two days where the low temperature fell below the normal low for that date, so it’s really a profound shift in our environment,” Rawlins added. Read more here.

Devon Greyson, 2021 PEP Fellow, is quoted in an article discussing the misinterpretation of UK Covid-19 vaccine data

Articles claim public health data indicate fully vaccinated people in England were far more likely to die from Covid-19 in 2022 than those who had not received the shots. Experts have warned that the articles, published by a news site that has been previously fact-checked for publishing inaccurate health information, contains "highly misleading interpretations of that data." "We would expect the percent of deaths that are unvaccinated to shrink as the population of unvaccinated people decreases," said Devon Greyson, an assistant professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. Read more here.

Erin Baker, 2017 PEP Fellow and industrial engineering and director of the Energy Transition Institute, is quoted in an article about the debate over the construction of a wind farm in Del Rio, Texas.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is backing efforts to box out wind and solar development from economic incentives in Texas, which critics say would undercut renewables and boost fossil fuels. “I think there also, unfortunately, is a little bit of — and you are not supposed to say it — but NIMBYism,” Baker says, referring to not-in-my-backyard opposition to the project. “People don’t want change.” Read more here.

Elizabeth Krause, 2015 PEP Fellow, is featured on a special section on “Authenticities” in the Spring 2023 edition of Gastronomica, a peer-review journal of critical food studies

Krause, Anthropology, co-authored the introduction and published a research article in the issue, “Authentic Possibilities: Uncommon Lessons from Slow Figs and Fast Fashion.” Krause, Anthropology, highlights how authenticity is an agent in a cultural process – how it defines, it draws boundaries, it supports identity and how it excludes. “All the authors in this special section tackle big questions in critical food studies, including forms of modern exclusion, definitions of authenticity, and multispecies connections in craft production,” they write in their introduction. “Indeed, exclusion weighs heavily not only on those studying craft production, but also on those engaging in it.” Read more here.

Debbie Felton, 2023 PEP Fellow, writes about the origins of Cupid, a character commonly associated with Valentine’s Day

Felton, a professor in the department of Classics, explains that the holiday originally began as a Christian feast day honoring the “Valentines”, several early Christian martyrs. “The original Cupid was the son of Venus, Roman goddess of love and beauty. He himself was a Roman deity associated with lust and love, based on the Greek Eros. In Greece and Rome, both figures were depicted as handsome young men, not as winged infants,” she says. Read more here


In appreciation of their generous support, the UMass Public Engagement Project would like to thank the Office of the ProvostUniversity Relations, and the Colleges of Natural SciencesSocial and Behavioral Sciences Humanities and Fine ArtsEngineeringPublic Health and Health Sciences, and Education.  The UMass Public Engagement Project also recognizes and appreciates in-kind contributions and collaborations with the Center for Research on Families and the Institute for Social Science Research