UT Dallas Pair to Present Research at State Capitol
Student and Recent Alumna Selected To Participate in Undergraduate Showcase

Two UT Dallas-trained scholars are heading to Austin to showcase their work for Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol on Feb. 14.

The event will spotlight undergraduate research from throughout Texas in poster presentations detailing the students’ discoveries.

The event, to which legislators and the public are invited, is designed to demonstrate how research at the undergraduate level benefits the state.

Undergraduate Research Day logo

UT Dallas’ presenters will be Shweta Arya, who graduated in December with an economics degree from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, and Ryan Cheung, a senior who is majoring in neuroscience in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Arya’s presentation will focus on research conducted in the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Economic Science (CBEES). She found that credit scores reflect elements of people’s preferences and personalities that affect their financial behavior. Based on these results, it might be possible to argue that using FICO scores for employment screening or on dating websites could be a helpful technique for selecting applicants (or potential partners) who are likely to be less impulsive, more trustworthy and more future-oriented, she said. 

“Economics always fascinated me,” Arya said. “In its simplest form, it’s about the ways we  do our daily business, and in its most complex form it’s about how these ways define and impact the world around us.”

Arya was actively involved in Student Government and Student Ambassadors, as well as the UT Dallas Mock Trial and Model United Nation teams. She now works at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., where she previously spent a semester as a UT System Archer Fellow. Arya plans to pursue a PhD in public policy.

Cheung will present research on neural motor plasticity in rats induced by vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). This research shows that it is possible to condition the brain to enable recovery from strokes or other traumatic brain injuries. The lab team also is using VNS to develop a possible treatment for tinnitus, a common condition that causes ringing in a patient’s ears.

Cheung said he plans to attend medical school after graduating this spring. He received a four-year AES scholarship and the Anson L. Clark Scholarship twice during his summers at UT Dallas. He is a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-health honors society, and the UT Dallas Photography Club.

“UT Dallas has given me and so many other students so many opportunities to pursue our dreams and goals,” Cheung said. “The professors are very supportive, and they teach us skills that are very applicable in the real world. They have been great mentors, enabling and encouraging me to come up with new ideas and see where they lead.”

Each public and private university in Texas was invited to nominate up to two students. The dean of Undergraduate Education invited faculty to recommend students for nomination. The Office of Research and Undergraduate Education chose the nominees and sponsored their participation in the poster event. Both of UT Dallas’ participants earlier benefited from the UT Dallas Undergraduate Scholar Research Program, which provides funding for promising student projects.  Selected undergraduates also benefit every year from participation in the Green Fellowship Program.

Dr. Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, dean of Undergraduate Education, said, “UT Dallas is proud to showcase the research promise of its undergraduates and opportunities afforded them to challenge the boundaries of their knowledge. These two students are a representative sample of the quality of research and projects that exist throughout all seven schools at UT Dallas.”

The Feb. 14 conference was coordinated by the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors and the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas. Judith Zaffirini, chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, and Dan Branch, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, are helping support the event.

Dr. Catherine Eckel, director of CBEES, has worked closely with Arya on her research.

“Shweta is one of the most creative, energetic and engaging students I have worked with,” she said. “Her reliable enthusiasm and cheer contribute enormously to the effectiveness of the research teams in the lab and in the field. ”

Dr. Michael Kilgard, director of the Cortical Plasticity Laboratory, praised Cheung as a hard worker and innovative thinker.

“Ryan has been a huge asset to my lab,” he said. “He is a talented and dedicated young scientist who never seems to lose sight of how much fun research can be.”

Shweta Arya's work found  interesting links between personality traits and FICO scores.


Ryan Cheung will present  research that holds promise for the treatement of strokes and brain injuries.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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