Undergraduate Award Funds Analysis of Crime in Guyana
Phillip Accetturo BS'16
Phillip Accetturo BS’16, a geospatial information sciences (GIS) master’s student in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, recently published a study examining the prevalence of crime in the South American country of Guyana.
The study appeared online in the academic journal Deviant Behavior.
The research aimed to create a baseline for measuring crime in Guyana because the country’s crime statistics aren’t publicly available. Accetturo and his co-authors reviewed newspaper records on crime in Guyana from 1997 to 2016 for the study. Based on that data, they conducted a geographical analysis that discovered that most of that nation’s crime happened along its coastline.
“By evaluating locational data, we can get a model of the distribution of crime in certain areas,” Accetturo said. “We can look at how crime changed over time and what might be some of the driving factors.”
The researchers found that crimes involving guns increased over the 20-year period and that crime fluctuated with changes in gold prices.
Accetturo completed the project as a GIS undergraduate at UT Dallas. He received support from an Undergraduate Research Scholar Award from the University. As an undergraduate, he also received a scholarship from Pioneer Natural Resources, where he now works full time.
Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards give students the opportunity to learn how to solve intellectual challenges in a structured and supervised research environment. The award provides students with financial support and a faculty advisor.
Accetturo’s paper was published with co-authors Dr. Alex Piquero, Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology and associate dean for graduate programs, and Dr. Anthony Cummings, assistant professor of geospatial information sciences.
Accetturo said the project gave him a better understanding of the research process.
“It was definitely a learning experience and an eye-opening experience,” Accetturo said. “It was an education in and of itself of how that process works and what the stumbling blocks will be.”
“The Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards incentivize and reward undergraduates like Phillip who proactively seek out the personal and professional development that participating in research provides.”
Courtney Brecheen MPA’09, associate dean in the Office of Undergraduate Education, said 128 students participated in undergraduate research projects this academic year, an increase from 105 the previous academic year.
“I often hear the misconception that undergraduate research only occurs in our STEM disciplines. Phillip’s publication is one of many examples of the increasing number of UT Dallas undergraduates making scholarly contributions in social science disciplines,” Brecheen said. “The Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards incentivize and reward undergraduates like Phillip who proactively seek out the personal and professional development that participating in research provides.”
Publishing research as an undergraduate is a rare opportunity that gives students a clear advantage.
“It is the exception and not the rule that an undergraduate student has the opportunity to publish a peer-reviewed paper,” Brecheen said.
Piquero knows firsthand that undergraduate research can establish students’ career paths.
“It is these kinds of experiences that really are what a leading research and teaching institution strives to provide for its students,” Piquero said. “In fact, I was fortunate enough to have that same experience when I was an undergraduate and I know how it transformed my career trajectory. Dr. Cummings and I are so grateful that UT Dallas’ Office of Research provided support for Phillip.”
Cummings, Accetturo’s faculty advisor, said that the University’s support made the project possible.
“The support they give to students makes a huge difference,” Cummings said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].