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UNT System: Resource magazine >> News Briefs

University of North Texas

Sensing metals
   The computer and photography industries may benefit from a new invention developed by a UNT research group led by Oliver Chyan, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry.
Researcher Oliver Chyan    A patent was recently granted for the ultra-sensitive chemical sensor that detects minute metallic impurities. In the semi-conductor industry, the silicon-based sensor can be used in integrated circuit production to prevent losses due to unpredictable contamination. In the photography industry, the sensor can help determine that photo-processing chemicals have been purified before they are released into the environment.
    Chyan's work was funded by Texas Instruments for more than $300,000 over a six-year period and by Kodak for $150,000 over two and a half years.

Improved searches
   Research conducted by William E. Moen, Ph.D., assistant professor of library and information sciences and a fellow at the Texas Center for Digital Knowledge at UNT, will make retrieving information from library catalogs and other online databases easier. It involves the use of the American National Standard Z39.50, a computer communications protocol for information retrieval. The protocol is widely used in the software of libraries and other organizations that provide online searching of their databases.
    To improve how Z39.50-accessible systems work together, Moen received a $280,000 National Leadership Grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant, along with contributions from OCLC, SIRSI Corp. and Sea Change Corp., funds the research and demonstration of a Z39.50 interoperability testbed. Vendors, developers and libraries will use the testbed to assess how well their Z39.50 systems are configured.

Opera premiere
   Students and faculty members in the College of Music are preparing the score of Hans Schaeuble's opera Dorian Grey for a full-scale world premiere production and recording in February 2003.
    The Swiss Schaeuble Foundation awarded UNT a grant of $65,000 to fund the production, which is being mounted as a partnership between the college's opera division and the UNT Center for Schenkerian Studies.

Smoke out
   A team of faculty members and students from the School of Community Service and the School of Visual Arts is hard at work creating a multimedia CD-ROM for sixth- through ninth-graders that will help them understand why they shouldn't smoke.
    The project was funded by a $355,573 grant from the Nursing, Allied Health and Other Health-Related Education Grant Program, established by the Texas Legislature with proceeds from the 1998 Texas tobacco lawsuit settlement. Free copies of the CD-ROMand accompanying manual will be provided to every middle and junior high school in Texas this year.

Technology grant
   The Texas Center for Educational Technology within the College of Education is now entering the second year of a multimillion-dollar grant supporting teacher education in technology.
    State funds exceeding $5 million are allocated to UNT for the Intel Teach to the Future project, a worldwide initiative training classroom teachers to integrate the use of computers into their curriculum to improve student learning. Microsoft Corp. and other technology-related companies also provide support.
    Over the four years of the project, 400,000 classroom teachers in 20 countries will be trained. A recently approved grant from the Texas Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board will help UNT and Texas A&M University double the impact of the effort in Texas.

Lunch menus
   Priscilla Connors, Ph.D., nutritionist and assistant professor of merchandising and hospitality management, is profiling school menu writers to better understand their food choices. In collaboration with the Texas Department of Human Services Special Nutrition Program, she is determining if the menu writers' training, attitudes toward reducing fat and familiarity with food safety techniques influence school menu selections.
   She found that although many menu planners were avoiding high-fat foods in their own diets, the menus they wrote for children were high in fat despite U.S. Department of Agriculture mandates to reduce fat in school meals. The study will be used to help menu writers become better educated in nutrition and safe food handling.

Churches and race
   Caucasians who are racial minorities in their churches are more supportive of tax breaks for businesses in minority areas, legal immigration and interracial marriage than Caucasians who attend churches in which they are the racial majority, according to research conducted by George Yancey, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology.
Picture of multiracial church members    Yancey received $484,884 from the Lilly Endowment to investigate whether Americans who are members of multiracial churches have less racial prejudice than those who are not members of multiracial churches.
    He also discovered that African Americans were more supportive of immigration if they were the minorities in their churches and more supportive of interracial marriage if they attended multiracial churches.

Gender equity
   UNT's College of Education, Elm Fork Education Center and Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science initiated Bringing Up Girls in Science, or BUGS, this fall.
   Funded by the National Science Foundation for $900,000 over three years, the program is designed to increase elementary school girls' knowledge of scientific skills, improve their confidence in academic pursuits, provide mentoring, and increase awareness of gender issues in science. Partners include schools in Denton, Decatur, Wichita Falls and Bernalillo, N.M.

Like clockwork
   Studies show that teen-agers and young adults tend to be most alert and have their best work performances in the afternoon, since their changes in body temperature, hormones and other functions related to circadian rhythms contribute to morning sleepiness.
   Craig Neumann, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, says understanding the "time-of-day" effect on performances caused by circadian rhythms could be particularly helpful in the treatment of patients with schizophrenia, who tend to have attention deficits with and without medication and who have cognitive defects.
   Neumann received $60,000 from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression to conduct time-of-day studies on 50 patients at the Dallas Veterans Affairs hospital.

   Past research has shown that people with depression often complain about not understanding others' speech. This may be caused by low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in stimulus reactivity and sensory reception that produces feelings of calm and well-being.
   Kamakshi Gopal, Ph.D., associate professor of speech and hearing sciences, is testing the hearing and speech perception skills of people who have been medically diagnosed with depression. She plans to test the subjects before and after they are on medication to increase their serotonin levels, and compare the results with subjects who do not have depression.
   The research is being conducted with a $100,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Advanced Research Program.

VA computers
   Leon Kappelman, Ph.D., professor of business computer information systems and director of the Information Systems Research Center, is studying and revamping the computer systems for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs through a federal grant.
   Veterans often have to repeatedly fill out multiple forms as they deal with each part of the department's systems in each state. The ISRC is working with VA information technology personnel to formulate a new system for tracking and maintaining veteran information nationwide.

UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth

Tumor assassins
   Understanding how the body's immune response helps protect against spreading cancers is the focus of intensive research at the Health Science Center. Ronald Goldfarb, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Cancer Research, and his team of researchers demonstrated how a specific type of white blood cells, aptly named natural killer cells, travel through the body to invade advanced secondary tumors.
   The researchers have been able to stimulate these natural killer cells to enhance their lethal effect on malignant tumors and improve their effectiveness in hunting cancerous cells with quick and deadly accuracy. Since the initial discovery, the team has focused on using its findings to develop new drug therapies for advanced cancer.

DNA evidence
   Arthur Eisenberg, Ph.D., director of the DNA Identity Laboratory, is leading his research team at the lab on a quest to automate the process of extracting DNA from evidence.
   Successful DNA analysis can mean the difference between an unsolved crime and a closed case, but too few trained specialists and too many cases have led to a national backlog of unsolved cases. Crime labs currently analyze only 25 percent of the sexual assault cases reported to authorities in the United States.
   An automated extraction system will produce better and faster results and is essential to solving more crimes based on DNA evidence, Eisenberg says.

Minority model
   The UNT Health Science Center excels in recruiting minority students while many other institutions are struggling with diversity issues. Its efforts have earned the center national recognition as a role model institution.
   Outreach efforts of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences contributed to an increase in minority students while national enrollment figures were declining. Thirty-six percent of the students entering the graduate school in Fall 2001 are under-represented minorities.
   The center also leads all other health science centers in Texas in the percentage of minority students seeking graduate degrees. Robert Kaman, J.D., Ph.D., is the director of the Minority Outreach office.

   Fast food and little, if any, physical activity have contributed to a growing rate of diabetes and signs of heart disease among young people. A research team led by Ximena Urrutia-Rojas, D.P.H., assistant professor in the School of Public Health, and pediatrician John Menchaca, M.D., is working with local families to reverse the trend.
Ximena Urrutia-Rojas meeting with kids at the Health Science Center    Initially, researchers found that nearly a quarter of Fort Worth fifth-graders surveyed were at high risk for developing diabetes. Now the team is encouraging individual families to adopt healthy lifestyles. Solutions that involve the whole family tend to be the most successful since family members often share similar eating and exercise habits, Urrutia-Rojas says.

Family practice
   Nearly half of all Texas counties need more health care providers, and UNT Health Science Center graduates are helping alleviate the shortage. The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine actively encourages its medical students to enter family practice.
   A third of the graduates from the center's class of 2001 entered family-practice residencies. No other medical school in Texas topped the 25 percent mark. Samuel Coleridge, D.O., chair of family medicine, says the school is committed to producing the family physicians of tomorrow.

Osteopathic study
   Osteopathic physicians will be better able to measure the effectiveness of manipulative treatment, the hallmark of their profession, as a result of research being conducted at the Health Science Center. With support from the National Institutes of Health, the center is training osteopathic physicians in how to conduct clinical research in osteopathic manipulative medicine.
    Scott Stoll, D.O., Ph.D., chairs the Department of Manipulative Medicine. This expanded and improved program allows the center to continue to develop future researchers capable of competitive clinical and basic science research in osteopathic manipulative medicine.


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