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There's nothing like a bowl of hot soup to warm yourself on a cold winter's day. So why is it that a can of soup at the grocery store costs less, on average, in winter, when demand is highest? Avery Haviv, Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Simon School, offers an explanation that includes use of a cyclic-successive approximation algorithm, part of the proof of which is shown at right.

What 'purchase without search' tells us about the price of soup

Basic economic theory tells us to expect that an increase in demand should lead to an increase in price. However, just the opposite occurs with certain seasonal goods, such as canned soup.

Avery Haviv, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Simon School, finds an explanation for this "counter-cyclic pricing" in the fact that consumers behave differently when buying seasonal goods — depending, not surprisingly, on the season.

In a recently finished paper, Haviv demonstrates that consumers are more likely to "purchase without search" — that is, they're more likely to pick an item off the shelf without first comparing the price to competing brands — when their need for a seasonal item is lowest, in this case soup during summer.

Why? "First, the average purchase size is smaller, and so the expected savings resulting from finding a lower price are lower," Haviv explains. Also, because consumers are less attentive to the pricing of seasonal goods during periods of low demand, stores have less incentive to put them on sale. This keeps the overall price higher. And the lack of discounting, in turn, reinforces the consumer's tendency to not bother searching for lower prices.

Conversely, consumers are more likely to compare prices, or "search," during winter when they have a higher demand for soup, because the expected savings from finding a lower price increase when more soup is being purchased.

Researchers and industry analysts have been reluctant to include these seasonal factors in their studies of consumer behavior and retailer inventories, because of the additional computational burdens that would result when using existing models.

Haviv, however, uses a "dynamic, structural inventory model" to verify his findings, including a "cyclic-successive approximation algorithm" he devised to remove undue computational burdens. "Other researchers might consider adding seasonal variables to their dynamic models because seasonal variation might be important to their problem, and . . . can be added to the state space (the set of all configurations that a given problem and its environment could achieve) with no additional computational burden using the CSAA."

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Larson coauthors second edition of 'Making Literacy Real'

Joanne Larson, the Michael W. Scandling Professor of Education and Chair of the Teaching and Curriculum Program, along with Jackie Marsh, professor at the University of Sheffield, U.K., has produced an updated edition of Making Literacy Real: Theories and Practices for Learning and Teaching (Sage Publications, 2015), which examines a variety of literacy theories that challenge current skill-based models and the relevance of these theories in the elementary classroom.

As a resource for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in primary education courses, the revised edition offers new chapters on digital literacy, space and play, and multimodality, as well as sharing examples and contributions from a range of international contexts.

Each chapter uses a real-life case study to explore the application of theory in practice, followed by a detailed discussion of the case study material by a leading name in the field. The book includes a case study of Warner School alumna and faculty member Lynn Gatto's former elementary classroom in the Rochester City School District.

Larson's ethnographic research examines how language and literacy practices mediate social and power relations in literacy events in schools and communities. Read more . . .

Bleich: Universities need to widen access to language in all its forms

When David Bleich, Professor of English, accepts the 2015 Outstanding Book Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication next month, he'll deliver a paper about Linda Brodkey as an all-too-recent example of the way universities have historically limited access to language in most of its forms — and the toll this has taken.

In 1990, Brodkey, a faculty member at the University of Texas, proposed a first-year writing course that included U.S. Supreme Court Civil Rights cases in the instructional material. Her department strongly endorsed the course, but the university refused to offer it on political grounds. It was the most egregious of several such instances of censorship of university faculty nationwide, Bleich said.

"It was very disturbing to me that faculty members who were professionals in writing pedagogy were being censored by people who had no knowledge of writing pedagogy, who didn't know what was happening in the field, and who weren't in contact with the populations of students that were coming into the schools," Bleich said in an interview about his book, The Materiality of Language: Gender, Politics, and the University (Indiana University Press, 2013) for which he is receiving the CCCC award.

This is nothing new, Bleich notes. For centuries, "Groups of men, and not groups of men and women, have argued, threatened, fought, and made rules about the uses of language for whole societies," Bleich writes in his book. That has especially been true in universities.

For example, he traces in his book how the first church-controlled male-dominated universities allowed instruction only in Latin. And woe to anyone who thought otherwise. Lorenza Valla was a respected 15th-century professor of rhetoric who took an unusual interest in ordinary "vernacular" languages. He viewed language "as something living in a variety of social situations," Bleich writes. Valla's expertise in language enabled him to discover that certain church documents claiming that the emperor Constantine bequeathed his lands to the Church were forgeries created 400 years after the fact. Valla was forced to flee his professorship because of violent persecution from other faculty members; "his extended familiarity with languages and how they have been used led to results that challenged theological and bureaucratic orthodoxies."

"So, when a female faculty member in Texas is censored regarding a writing program it is simply a repeat of a very long history," Bleich said.

Today, science is the "language of knowledge" as Latin had been for six centuries. Because such a "universal" language exists, other languages are deemed less valuable, Bleich notes. In addition, the teaching of writing in universities "occurs in narrow, restricted modes, often limited to teaching one kind of language, which is argument. The true richness of language is not available to students who are learning to write," Bleich said.

Foreign languages are not taught on a large scale on our campuses — not even the Asian languages of countries that are challenging our economic and scientific dominance, he said. And even as students from these countries arrive on our campuses in growing numbers, most universities make very little effort to "put ourselves in the shoes of these speakers of other languages, or attempt to learn from them," Bleich said.

"Universities, with privileges and time to study everything about our society, have the additional privilege of being able to enlarge the custody of language radically; of being able to listen to everyone's language; of being able to search out hidden constituencies, languages and interests, of being able to report these again and again in their growing list of conferences and publications," he urges in his introduction. "Universities have access to the public and can make themselves accessible to this public. It is a matter of mobilizing the widespread action begun by our love of language, and by the desire to see how the language of all people matters to all other people."

AS&E offers workshop on NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program

The AS&E dean's office is offering a workshop for young faculty interested in applying for the NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. The workshop, to be held from 9 to 11 a.m. April 20, 2015, in the Gamble Room of Rush Rhees Library will provide:

1. insight into the program's unique mission and special features
2. information about solicitation and guidelines.
3. best practices for developing a proposal.

A faculty panel of recent CAREER winners and reviewers will share their experience and tips for competitive proposals. All eligible UR faculty in NSF-supported disciplines and administrative staff who support faculty in proposal preparation are welcome to attend.

RSVP by April 14, 2015. For additional information contact Debra Haring or Cindy Gary.

Introducing a new faculty member

Sevak Mkrtchyan has joined the Department of Mathematics as an assistant professor. He works in probability and related areas of mathematical and statistical physics. His research interests include the area of random tilings, determinantal point processes and random matrix theory, asymptotic representation theory, and asymptotic combinatorics. Mkrtchyan, who received his PhD from Berkeley in 2009, came here after serving as a postdoctoral associate at Carnegie Mellon.

Congratulations to . . .

Harriet Kitzman, Senior Associate Dean for Research at the School of Nursing, who is a recipient of a Rochester Business Journal 2015 Health Care Achievement award, recognizing individuals and groups whose contributions to health care have been deemed outstanding by their colleagues, patients and supervisors. Read more . . .

University research in the news

Emma Ciafaloni, Professor of Neurology, is part of a team of researchers who found that approximately one in 5,000 young boys in the U.S. have Duchenne or Becker muscular dystrophy, two of the more common inherited neuromuscular disorders. The hallmark of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a condition found almost exclusively in boys, is muscle weakness beginning at a young age, progressing rapidly, and leading to significant disability. Becker muscular dystrophy is similar to DMD, but tends to appear later and the progression of symptoms is usually slower and more varied. The study, published in Pediatrics, examined medical records and birth and death certificates from 1982 to 2011 in six states: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, and New York. Results were analyzed in five-year increments. Hispanic youth had a higher prevalence in all but the last time period, while African-American children were least likely to be affected for all time periods. DMD was by far the more common of the two, consisting of three-quarters of the 845 total cases included in the study. Read more . . .

PhD dissertation defenses

Chi-Sheng Chang, Materials Science, "Plasmonics for Improved Thin-Film Photovoltaic Cells and Enhanced Light Extraction from Organic Light Emitting Diodes." 2:30 p.m., March 24, 2015, Hopeman 224. Advisor: Lewis J. Rothberg.

Prabha Nagarajan, Biology, "Double Strand Break Repair and Genetic Analyses of Rad27p in Mitochondria of Sachharomyces cerevisiae." 9 a.m., March 25, 2015, Dewey Hall 2162. Advisor: Elaine Sia.

Kathryn Phillips, Philosophy, "Towards an Empirically Adequate Virtue Ethics." 1 p.m., March 25, 2015, Goergen 109. Advisor: William FitzPatrick.

Mark your calendar

March 1: Deadline for most faculty and other investigators to file annual reports of outside compensated activity, as required by the University of Rochester Faculty Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest and their School/College. Eastman School, School of Medicine and Dentistry, and School of Nursing faculty and investigators should use a web-based reporting system supported by their School/College. Links can be found at Laboratory for Laser Energetics, and Warner and Simon school faculty and investigators should use this form. Questions? Contact Gunta Liders or your School/College administrator.

March 3: i2B2 Fundamentals: i2b2 is an open-source software system that allows users to query clinical data to estimate the size of clinical cohorts available for specific studies, allows for the creation of "data marts" to support the requirements of particular studies, and supports an efficient mechanism to transfer clinical data directly to REDCap. Training is strongly encouraged before a new user may access the system. 3-4 p.m., TLL Classroom (2-8513).

March 4: i2B2 REDCap Integration (see previous listing): 3-4 p.m., TLL Classroom (2-8513).

April 20: AS&E workshop on applying for the NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. 9 to 11 a.m. Gamble Room of Rush Rhees Library. RSVP by April 14, 2015. For additional information contact Debra Haring or Cindy Gary.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. You can see back issues of Research Connections, an index of people and departments linked to those issues, and a chronological listing of PhD dissertation defenses since April 2014, by discipline.

Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.
Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter for all faculty, scientists, post docs and graduate students engaged in research at the University of Rochester. You are receiving this e-newsletter because you are a member of the Rochester community with an interest in research topics.