Studying Heat Mitigation and Engaging in Science Communication Lead to Outstanding Research Award: Halley Hughes, '23

May 2, 2023
Halley Hughes

Halley Hughes

Halley Hughes, who is graduating with a 4.0 and a double major in urban and regional development and in natural resources and the environment, is the recipient of the SBS Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award for spring 2023. This award recognizes a graduating senior in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences who has demonstrated academic achievement, originality, and creativity in an independent, undergraduate research project.

"Halley is one of the most talented, dynamic, and enthusiastic undergraduates that we have had the pleasure of working with at UArizona," wrote Professors Mark Kear, Ladd Keith, and Elizabeth Oglesby, who nominated her for the award.

A student in the W.A. Franke Honors College, Halley completed an Honors thesis on heat mitigation and climate resiliency in vulnerable communities. Instead of a traditional final paper, Halley created three highly detailed infographics, a feature article for a public audience, a brochure, and an academic poster.

"Halley wanted to work with my team to better understand the social, environmental and financial factors that make it so hard for mobile home residents to keep their homes cool in the summer," wrote Kear, professor in the School of Geography, Development & Environment. "But, she wanted to do more than that – she wanted to communicate our findings to the public, policymakers and affected stakeholders. In all this work, she is working to re-center disadvantaged communities at the heart of our research."

"Science communication is an increasingly important field because there are high barriers that continue to exclude the public from understanding science that deeply affects them," Halley wrote. "The stories of mobile homes residents and the barriers they face deserve to be told as it has the potential to save lives."

Halley presented her Honors thesis work at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting. In addition, Halley was the lead author of a paper published in PLOS Climate, “Household energy use response to extreme heat with a biophysical model of temperature regulation: An Arizona case study.”

In one of Professor Elizabeth Oglesby's courses, Halley also produced high school curriculum on the causes of Central American migration, fusing academic and multimedia sources to engage students. The Center for Latin American Studies is using the materials Halley prepared in their K-12 outreach.

"She not only has an unparalleled capacity to create original work, she is also a skilled communicator of her research, with the ability to engage others," wrote Oglesby, a professor in the School of Geography, Development & Environment and the Center for Latin American Studies.

In 2022, Halley was a National Storyfest Winner for Best Use of Science and Data, and in 2023 she was a Storyfest Winner in the Most Creative Story category. Since 2021, she has been a national Storytelling Correspondent for Planet Forward. She was in Diana Liverman Scholars Program, which prepares students to be communication leaders. She is the co-director of UArizona Students for Sustainability and the co-founder of the UArizona Coalition for Sustainability and Justice.

"My department is full of phenomenal educators and incredible opportunities,” Halley said. “Through them I was able to make my undergraduate experience interdisciplinary, creative, challenging, and most importantly fun!"

Next year Halley will begin her Masters of Science in Communication and Community Innovation at CALS's Agricultural Education, Technology & Innovation program.