LEWISBURG, Pa. — These are Bucknell University story ideas that may interest you in November.
HOLIDAY RETAIL OUTLOOK — ’Tis the season for holiday shopping ads on TV and the massive media build-up for the biggest days of the holiday shopping season in Black Friday, this year on Nov. 24; and Cyber Monday on Nov. 27. Professor Matías Vernengo, economics, is a macroeconomist and noted scholar in the area of inflation. While he anticipates the nation’s economic recovery will continue and many Americans will go about their normal holiday shopping ways, they may not consume at quite the same rate. “I can say that macroeconomic forecasts suggest a mild slowdown of the economy in the fourth quarter, and that might have a small impact on sales,” Vernengo says. “The same could be said of a new increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve and a possible shutdown of the government.” But in principle, Vernengo says the expectations are of a continuing recovery, and similar consumption patterns, noting that the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index seems flat. For these reasons, Vernengo believes holiday shopping may be a bit slower, impacted by economic fluctuation and changes. He anticipates prices this holiday season should be around the same,with lower inflation than what consumers experienced at the same time last year. Though it seems unlikely inflation will go back to the inflation target of 2 percent, he points out that where we stand now is not too far off. “There is no reason to expect inflation will accelerate much more from 3.5 percent,” he said. “Which is not incredibly far off target.” CONTACT: Vernengo, 570-577-1939, email@example.com
POSITIVE SUMMIT SIGNS — Wednesday’s anticipated summit between China’s President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden will represent Xi’s first U.S. visit since 2017, and optimism is high for some improved relations between the two superpowers. Professor Zhiqun Zhu, political science and international relations — a noted scholar on U.S.-China foreign policy and a member of the National Committee on United States–China Relations — concurs that there is reason for some optimism. “The recent flurry of high-level diplomatic exchanges are positive signs that bilateral relations are improving and the two sides are warming up for the expected Biden-Xi summit in San Francisco,” says Zhu, author of the 2019 book A Critical Decade: China’s Foreign Policy (2008-2018). He cautions to not expect too much from the summit and other bilateral exchanges because of differences over the nature of the relationship between the two countries — that the U.S. aims to “outcompete” China, while Beijing emphasizes win-win cooperation. “The two sides also need to rebuild trust and take specific measures to manage the relationship beyond just talking,” he says. CONTACT: Zhu 570-577-2050, firstname.lastname@example.org
STUDYING MUSCLE FLUIDITY — Professor Ben Wheatley, mechanical engineering, was recently awarded a $200,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant through May 2025 for a research project that will contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms of muscle stiffness. “We’ll look at what contributes to overall muscle stiffness and how do those things work together,” Wheatley says. The research will have applications for muscle injuries and diseases such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. “We think the reason they may have a muscle injury is that the muscle is not contracting right,” Wheatley says. “It may be from muscle stiffness, which is really detrimental to mobility.” Wheatley points out that muscle tissue is approx. 70 to 80% fluid. “Nobody talks about it [fluid in muscle tissue],” he says. “There are passive structures in tissue. We’ll look at the role of collagen and how the muscle is built. There is less of an understanding of how the muscle works as a passive structure.” Wheatley plans to use pressure microsensors that will be able to measure fluid pressure in post-mortem muscle tissue. CONTACT: Wheatley, 570-577-3883, email@example.com