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University of North Texas Resource Magazine online

Research, Scholarship & the Arts at the University of North Texas

Alumni spotlight

Photo by Robert Paz

Elizabeth Lester

Doctoral student
California Institute of Technology

For a few weeks in October 2001, many Americans were afraid to open their mail. Anthrax bacterial spores had been distributed via letters sent to different locations. The five people who died from pulmonary anthrax did not show symptoms for several days.

Elizabeth Lester, a 2000 graduate of UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, is currently researching a way to detect bacterial spores early enough that people who are exposed to them can receive treatment before they show symptoms. Lester is part of a team of researchers using new technology to record the presence of bacterial spores within 15 minutes to a few hours of their release.

During the summer of 2002, she began work with Adrian Ponce, Ph.D., a chemistry faculty member at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on the Anthrax Smoke Detector, or ASD. The detector senses a molecular marker of bacterial spores called dipicolinic acid, or DPA. Using an anthrax surrogate harmless to humans, the researchers simulated an anthrax attack using an aerosol. The machine identified the presence of DPA within 15 minutes of the release.

A second prototype of the ASD with higher sensitivity for detection was to be tested this summer. Lester says the technology can also be used to pinpoint other spore-forming organisms, such as those that cause tetanus and botulism.


Photo by Travis Schiebel

Sanjay Mehta

Associate professor of marketing
Sam Houston State University

Sanjay Mehta, Ph.D., uses his expertise in global marketing management to collaborate with authors throughout the world to help others better understand business practices within and around the United States.

Mehta, who earned his master's degree in management science and a doctorate in marketing from UNT, conducts research that spans a wide range of topics, from the evolution of franchising to relationship marketing by global banks.

"I believe that understanding other cultures, values, economies, etc., can help the United States become more competitive," says Mehta, an associate professor of marketing at Sam Houston State University.

His research in global marketing management set the foundation for his interest in small business management and, more specifically, the franchise industry.

As a leading authority on international franchising, Mehta has conducted executive development seminars on e-commerce in Singapore, and he recently traveled to the Universidad Iberoamericana in Puebla, Mexico, where he taught seminars on international marketing research and business practices in Latin America.

"The business world today is global," says Mehta.

"If you do not understand the competition, you will never be able to develop strategies to be competitive."


Photo by Greg Kozawa

M. Susan Smith

Professor of physiology and pharmacology
Oregon Health and Science University

M. Susan Smith, Ph.D., who earned her bachelor's degree in biology from UNT, studies ways to improve human health and our knowledge of the brain.

As director of the Oregon National Primate Research Center and a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the Oregon Health and Science University, Smith is studying with her colleagues how the brain regulates food intake and energy balance, actions which stem from the hypothalamus.

She says these studies have important implications in light of a dramatic increase in juvenile diabetes and obesity during the past 10 years and recent data reporting that two out of three Americans are overweight.

Smith also serves as a member of the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science, appointed by the president to evaluate nominees for the award given for outstanding contributions to physical, biological, mathematical, engineering or social science.

"The award is very important because it is the only national recognition of science in the United States," Smith says. "This type of recognition plays a large role in attracting the best people into science and in keeping our prominence throughout the world in scientific discovery."