keith murphyAn economist and an anthropologist have been named 2018 recipients of research awards from the School of Social Sciences. Each honor carries a $5,000 prize.

Vellore Arthi, economics, is the Social Sciences Assistant Professor Research Award recipient. Established in 2005, the honor recognizes research excellence accompanied by a strong project proposal from a junior faculty member in social sciences.

Arthi is a health economist and economic historian who studies how early-life experiences impact later-life outcomes such as labor market success, health, and well-being. She also focuses on migration and public health, looking at how a better understanding of migration patterns can give us insight into the broader health effects of economic shocks. With research funding from social sciences, she’ll be able to access new administrative data providing insight into the use of health and human service programs over the life-course. Using economic modeling, she’ll work to link prenatal environment and the receipt of anti-poverty interventions in utero and in early childhood to cognitive and non-cognitive performance from pre-k through high school. Ultimately, she’s interested in understanding the extent to which these interventions have lessened racial inequalities in human capital accumulation. Arthi joined the UCI faculty in fall 2018 after spending two years on the faculty of the University of Essex. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oxford.

Keith Murphy, anthropology, is this year’s recipient of the Social Sciences Associate Professor Research Award. The award was established in 2011-12 to recognize research excellence and project proposals by newly tenured faculty in social sciences.

Murphy specializes in linguistic anthropology and studies the use of both verbal and non-verbal language in social interaction. With funding through the social sciences research award, he’ll be conducting an ethnographic study of the people who design and deliberate typography – the fonts and typefaces we see everyday on things like product packaging, signs, cellphone messages and websites. His work will take him to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles where he’ll interview the creators and practitioners of typography to learn their practices, values and discourses to better understand how typeface is made to give shape and meaning.

Murphy joined the UCI faculty in fall 2008 after completing his Ph.D. at UCLA. He’s the author of Toward an Anthropology of the Will, which explores from an anthropological viewpoint how peoples’ choices and decisions are impacted by culture, emotion, cognition and imagination, and Swedish Design: An Ethnography, a 10-year study of how furniture design in Sweden – home of IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer – has come to represent the country’s social democratic views. In 2016, he received the School of Social Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching award and was named UCI’s Professor of the Year.

-pictured top to right: Vellore Arthi, Keith Murphy 


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