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News briefs

University of North Texas

Girls in science

UNT's National Science Foundation-funded program, Bringing Up Girls in Science, recently completed a successful first year, helping 73 fourth- and fifth-grade girls learn more about science.

During the 2001-02 academic year, students from UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science mentored the BUGS participants, and Sam Houston Elementary School in Denton provided an outdoor science lab. During the summer, the Elm Fork Education Center held a two-week summer camp for the girls.

Initial analyses of the data gathered indicate that the participants gained in science achievement and self-concept. The project received NSF funding of $900,000 for three years. Its second year began in September 2002. Tandra Tyler-Wood, Ph.D., associate professor of technology and cognition, is the principal investigator.

Girl looking at bugs in a soda bottle terrarium
UNT's Bringing Up Girls in Science program received $900,000 from the National Science Foundation. In its first year it helped 73 fourth- and fifth-graders learn more about science.
[Photo by Mark Mortenson]


Disaster response

Private businesses made significant contributions to the emergency operations center, support of search and rescue teams, communication and infrastructure repair following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. They played a larger role than they do in natural disasters, says David McEntire, Ph.D., assistant professor of emergency administration and planning.

McEntire and two other researchers in UNT's emergency administration and planning academic program — Robie Robinson, J.D., assistant professor, and Rich Weber, M.P.A., professional development coordinator — traveled to New York City two weeks after the disaster to study businesses' response. Their research was supported by a National Science Foundation Quick Response Grant.

Quality survey

Victor Prybutok, Ph.D., Regents Professor of business computer information systems and director of the
Center for Quality and Productivity, has developed a survey based on Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria that gives companies an inexpensive method for continuously assessing productivity and quality. Originally developed in conjunction with the Baylor Health Care System, the survey is being modified for use for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Prybutok is exploring applications of the survey and adding new scales to better measure the importance of organizational functions such as information technology. The survey could save a company up to $100,000 per use by reducing the need for human auditors.

Success for Life

Success for Life, a comprehensive program of curricula, staff development, teacher mentoring and family education, helps children from birth to age 6 gain the skills needed for learning and school success. Under the direction of George S. Morrison, Ed.D., Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education, the program is implemented at seven public and private preschool programs in Texas and involves 800 low-income children and 70 teachers.

A yearlong study of the effectiveness of the program showed significant gains for infants and toddlers in social development, fine motor skills and perceptual discrimination.

Funding sources include the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, Texas Ready to Read grants, Denton Benefit League grants and collaborating school districts.

Fossil finds

Reid Ferring, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Geography, is conducting studies of human fossil discoveries at Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia that may pose challenges to prevailing scientific theories of human evolution and human migration out of Africa.

Ferring is a member of an international scientific research team that unearthed an early human skull in August 2001 from the same strata in which it previously discovered other significant human fossil remains. The team reports that the new skull is closely related to Homo habilis, an early human species never before found outside of Africa.

Among the 1.75 million-year-old human fossils previously unearthed, the team has identified specimens that resemble Homo ergaster and Homo erectus. Ferring says until now, prevailing scientific views placed habilis, ergaster and erectus into an evolutionary sequence, but individuals showing traits of all three species appear to have been living at Dmanisi at the same time.

More information about the Center for Environmental Archaeology and Reid Ferring in this issue

Online learning

Many different learning styles exist, and not all of them are suited for Internet classes. To understand what learning styles are most successful online, Carol Simpson, Ed.D., assistant professor of library and information sciences, studied the comfort and learning levels of students in her Internet courses.

Simpson, who teaches completely online, found that students who learned by participating in the learning process were far better suited for online courses than those who learn by observing. She will expand her study to observe a variety of students and include computer literacy as an element for success or failure in online courses.

Science star

UNT environmental science graduate student Jason Conder, who is studying ways to prevent TNT from affecting the environment, is among 100 students selected nationwide for an Environmental Protection Agency graduate fellowship known as Science to Achieve Results (STAR).

Brian Gorman  
UNT graduate student Jason Conder was selected for an Environmental Protection Agency fellowship. He is studying the effect of TNT contamination near military facilities.    

As part of the fellowship, Conder receives $90,000 over three years to study the effect of TNT contamination near military facilities.

"The results of Conder's research will ensure that our military operations comply with environmental regulations," says Jeffery Steevens, Ph.D., Army Corps of Engineers research toxicologist. "Without this compliance, military bases and training grounds would be shut down."

Conder works with a research team from the Army Corps of Engineers to rank contaminants for their toxicity to fish, insects and other invertebrates.

Calcium for lunch

A major public health concern is the long-term consequences of Americans' calcium-poor diets. Part of the problem lies in the declining popularity of milk, a major source of calcium. Priscilla Connors, Ph.D., assistant professor of hospitality management, is studying factors that influence the milk-drinking behaviors of schoolchildren as part of her ongoing investigation of children's attitudes about milk. Factors include role modeling by adults and product characteristics.

In the coming year, Connors will study the relationship between food service staff attitudes and the willingness of children to consume milk at school to find ways to increase calcium consumption during childhood.

Computer systems

Krishna Kavi, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Computer Sciences, is creating innovative ways to make faster but less complex computer processing units. Named the Scheduled Dataflow (SDF), Kavi's improved units can outperform modern computer systems but require much less complex hardware. Less complex hardware translates into cheaper and more energy-efficient systems.

In a different research project, Kavi and his graduate students have been exploring how memory for complex programs can be managed more efficiently. They have been investigating the design of intelligent memory systems called IRAM for this purpose.

Cyber security

Leon A. Kappelman, Ph.D., Farrington Professor of Business Computer Information Systems and director of the Information Systems Research Center, is leading projects for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help it establish an incident command center and a project management office for cyber security. The VA awarded research contracts of $1.6 million for the projects, which will protect veterans' medical and financial information.

Kappelman has already assisted the VA in changing the ways it manages and uses technology to serve veterans, their widows and orphans. In March 2002, he testified before a congressional subcommittee about the VA's progress on integrated enterprise architecture and several other major technology initiatives.



UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth

DNA database

A new statewide DNA database offers closure for Texas families who have missing loved ones.

Forensic scientists from the UNT Health Science Center's DNA Identity Laboratory analyze DNA samples from unidentified bodies and compare the results with samples from missing persons or their family members.

The results are also included in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's national database.

"We hope that our efforts will bring closure to many unsolved cases from Texas and the rest of the country," says John Planz, Ph.D., assistant director of the lab.

Osteopathic center

Leading organizations in the osteopathic profession — including the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, the American Osteopathic Foundation and the American Osteopathic Association — have selected the UNT Health Science Center as the primary site for the new national Osteopathic Research Center.

Through the ORC, the Health Science Center will collaborate with other colleges of osteopathic medicine to investigate the clinical effectiveness of osteopathic manipulative medicine in a variety of medical conditions, including arthritis, back pain, pregnancy and pediatric ear infections.

The Health Science Center will receive approximately $1.1 million over four years to fund research projects. Scott T. Stoll, D.O., Ph.D., chair of osteopathic manipulative medicine, is the director of the ORC.

Health promoters

A network of trained volunteers is bringing the message of how to prevent heart attacks and strokes into the homes, churches, community centers and other nerve centers of local Latino culture. The volunteers are part of a national community-based heart-health education program called Salud para su Corazón, or Health for Your Heart.

The School of Public Health coordinates the program in the North Texas area. The program uses volunteer lay educators, called promotores, to teach individuals and families how to prevent and control heart disease.

Science education

Chris Littler and Tony Golding
UNT Health Science Center graduate student Sue Yi, right, and Francis Brown, a teacher at Eastern Hills High School in Fort Worth, bring science to life in the school's biology class.  

Health Science Center graduate students are working with biology teachers to bring science to life in high school classrooms in Fort Worth. The hope is that they will inspire more students to enter science-related fields.

"Many scientists trace their interest in science to an enthusiastic, knowledgeable science teacher who sparked a fascination for the field by bringing the subject to life in the classroom," says Rustin Reeves, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and anatomy and a former high school biology teacher.

The graduate students provide additional help for the teachers and serve as role models for the students.

For its mentoring efforts, the Health Science Center received the 2001 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The award is administered and funded through the National Science Foundation.

Glaucoma research

A protein usually linked to cardiovascular disease and hypertension may lead to a new type of glaucoma drug.

The research team of Thomas Yorio, Ph.D., discovered that the protein endothelin has an ocular connection. The team then began looking at the protein's role in glaucoma. Based on its findings, the team has filed a patent for a new type of drug for treating the disease.

Yorio is dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and professor of pharmacology and neuroscience.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials help prove the effectiveness and safety of new treatments for today's diseases and disorders. Each year, the Health Science Center participates in more than 20 clinical trials for leading pharmaceutical companies. A clinical research team of physician researchers, basic scientists, epidemiologists, statisticians and students conducts this type of patient-based clinical research.

A $1.5 million endowment from Osteopathic Heritage Foundations supports the clinical research program and provides stipends for students who are simultaneously earning medical degrees and doctorates in biomedical sciences as they conduct clinical research projects in their final years of medical school.

































































































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