Hall, Brent to receive Roy C. Buck awards during annual celebration

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Two faculty members in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have been named the recipients of the 2018 Roy C. Buck Faculty Award, which recognizes exceptional articles accepted or published by refereed scholarly journals in the social and human sciences within the past two years.

Molly Hall, assistant professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, will be recognized for her work in human sciences, while Daniel Brent, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, will be recognized for his work in social sciences.

They will receive their awards, which includes a $2,500 stipend and plaque, during the Gamma Sigma Delta Celebration of Excellence to be held on Thursday, March 28, in 112 Forest Resources Building. The celebration begins with a reception in the atrium starting at 4:30 p.m.; the award ceremony begins at 5 p.m.

In her paper, titled "PLATO Software Provides Analytic Framework for Investigating Complexity Beyond Genome-wide Association Studies,” published in Nature Communications in 2017, Hall looked at infrastructure to support complex genome-related analyses, with a goal of improving knowledge about the genetic and environmental foundations of human disease.

Molly Hall, assistant professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences. Credit: Molly HallAll Rights Reserved.

Specifically, her research team studied “PLatform for the Analysis, Translation, and Organization of large-scale data” -- PLATO for short -- a software tool that can explore complexity using genetic interactions, environment-wide association studies and gene-environment interactions, phenome-wide association studies, as well as copy number and rare variant analyses.

Hall joined Penn State’s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences in 2017, having earned a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University in 2015. She also holds a master's degree in neuroscience and education from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in human development from Cornell University.

Her research focuses on human genetics, the exposome, genetic and gene-environment interactions, and precision medicine. The Hall laboratory investigates the genetic and environmental underpinnings of human disease by integrating genetic and exposure big data, with the goal of understanding the mechanisms leading to disease and providing methods to identify those most at risk for adverse health outcomes.

As an author of the paper, “Traffic and Crime,” which was published in the Journal of Public Economics in 2018, Brent studied the connection between crime and extreme traffic congestion to estimate the psychological costs of traffic. The team’s analysis combines police incident reports with observations of local traffic data in Los Angeles, California, from 2011 to 2015.

Daniel Brent, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education. Credit: Daniel BrentAll Rights Reserved.

Their identification relies on deviations from normal traffic to isolate the impact of abnormally high traffic on crime. Results of the study demonstrate that most drivers stuck in traffic do not commit domestic violence, although they still bear some emotional costs. However, during incidents of extreme traffic, there was a rise in the incidence of domestic violence.

Brent’s primary field of study is environmental economics with a focus on water resources. His research also incorporates elements of behavioral economics, such as the impact of social information and cognitive failures. A related line of research studies externalities and dynamic tolling in the transportation sector. He hopes to expand to interdisciplinary research that focuses on stormwater, green infrastructure and other water resource management topics.

Brent holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master’s in economics and doctorate in economics and political science from the University of Washington. He joined the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education in 2018.

Roy C. Buck, a professor of rural sociology, retired from Penn State in 1981. In 1999, he established the Roy C. Buck Faculty Award because he felt it was important to support nontenured faculty members to encourage their good work.

Last Updated March 26, 2019