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Scholarship winners

Several recent graduates were awarded national scholarships this spring. Timothy Patuwo of Houston, who graduated from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science in May, received a $4,000 scholarship for being named a regional finalist in the 2005 Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation competition. Established in 1989, the foundation provides scholarships to high school seniors based on academic excellence, motivation, leadership and character. Approximately 1,500 to 2,000 students throughout the nation are chosen as program semifinalists each December. In February, 250 of these students become finalists. Two other May graduates of TAMS, Andrew Maloney and Annette Li, were named semifinalists in this year's competition.

Ian Haken, a May TAMS graduate from Plano, received a $5,000 scholarship as one of 40 high school students in the nation selected as finalists in the 2005 Intel Science Talent Search, the nation's premier program recognizing high school student research in science, mathematics and engineering. For his Intel project, Haken worked in the laboratory of Angela Wilson, UNT assistant professor of chemistry. His research was in the field of computational chemistry, in which computers are used to study chemical properties numerically. May TAMS graduates Yike Lu and Zach Zhang were named semifinalists in the competition.

May TAMS graduates Amy Chuong, Jennifer Feng and Ankur Patel from Plano received Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, which will provide each student with $15,000 for two years. The students were chosen on the basis of their scientific research and grade point averages. Chuong was honored for her research on apoptosis or programmed cell death. Feng researched a material for possible use in transistors of cell phones, digital cameras and laptop cameras. Patel conducted neuroscience research. The Goldwater scholarships are considered to be the country's most prestigious awarded to students planning careers in mathematics, science and engineering. UNT had more Goldwater Scholars this year than any other college or university in Texas, and has had 29 Goldwater Scholars since 1996.

In April, Anisa Coates ('05) of Weatherford became the third UNT student to win a James Madison Memorial Junior Fellowship for graduate study. Founded by Congress in 1986, the James Madison Memorial Foundation provides the fellowships to college seniors who plan to earn master's degrees with majors or concentrations in political science or American history. The two-year fellowships provide up to $24,000. Coates had a career in insurance before she entered Weatherford College, then UNT, to earn her bachelor's degree in English. She plans to stay at UNT to earn her master's degree in history while gaining teacher certification.

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Microscopes unveiled

Two highly advanced electron microscopes were unveiled in March at the UNT Research Park. One instrument is a dual-beam focused ion beam/scanning electron microscope, performing at the nanometer (one billionth of a meter) level. The other is an analytical high-resolution transmission electronic microscope, performing at the atomic level. Both instruments were manufactured by the FEI Co., which has entered into a formal partnership with UNT researchers.

According to UNT President Norval Pohl, the combined capabilities of these two instruments are unique in the southwestern United States and place UNT in an exclusive position regionally and nationally. The microscopes were purchased with $3.1 million earmarked by the U.S. Congress in the 2004 Defense Appropriations bill.

Using the microscopes separately and together, UNT researchers aim to transform their academic research into actual products. They say potential products that may result from this new capability include lightweight armor for humans and for vehicles for the military, national defense and homeland security; new bonding materials for NASA spacecraft and the aircraft industry; new, longer-lasting materials for hip and knee replacements; and new materials for the automotive, aerospace and construction industries.

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Toothless find

The recent excavation of a toothless Homo erectus skull in the Republic of Georgia dating from 1.7 million years ago could make scientists rethink the idea of survival of the fittest. Reid Ferring, professor of geography and a member of an international team unearthing fossils from the Dmanisi site since 1993, is featured in discussions about the new discovery in the April issues of National Geographic and Nature.

Ferring says the individual -- who at over 40 was old for that time -- lived a few years after his teeth fell out. If others provided food for him, then social cooperation and traits like compassion may have played a role in survival.

The Dmanisi discoveries continue to contradict theories that either physical changes in height and speed or advances in stone technology were necessary for humans to leave Africa for Eurasia.

"Dmanisi fossils show evidence of primitive tools, short bodies and small-brain ancestors," he says. "If bodies, technology or brains weren't essential in getting out of Africa, then perhaps social behavior was the key."

Ferring is working on research grants from the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

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