Volume 17 - 2008
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Science, Scholarship &
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New Leaders Set Visionary Course

Vishwanath 'Vish' Prasad

Photo by: Angilee Wilkerson

Vishwanath "Vish" Prasad joined UNT in fall 2007 as vice president for research and economic development.

While the breadth and depth of a university's research is determined by the talent and energy of its faculty, the direction and vision for the future of scholarship, research and creative activities is the purview of its leaders.

In fall 2007, University of North Texas President Gretchen M. Bataille appointed two proven administrators, who also are respected researchers. Vishwanath "Vish" Prasad, vice president for research and economic development, and Wendy K. Wilkins, provost and vice president for academic affairs, are working together to engage the faculty in expanding UNT's strengths in science and technology while continuing to grow the university's nationally recognized programs in music, the arts and the humanities.

To do this, UNT's Office of Academic Affairs will make a major investment in faculty by adding new faculty positions to enhance its already outstanding academy. During the next two years, more than 100 faculty will be hired.

To foster inventive, collaborative research projects and substantially enhance UNT's research profile while adding depth to faculty representation and areas of study, Wilkins and Prasad are working with current faculty to determine the allocation and alignment of those new positions based on what kinds of "research clusters" can be created. The clusters will allow UNT to build its research capacity in strategically selected areas.

At the same time, Prasad is implementing a plan to develop Discovery Park, UNT's 285- acre research park, into a destination where industry can collaborate with academics. These partnerships will increase the capacity for new discoveries while helping fuel the economy and providing high-quality hands-on opportunities for students who will be tomorrow's researchers and industry leaders.

Inventive cross-discipline collaboration and student experience are key drivers for the future plans of research expansion at UNT.

Prior to joining UNT, Prasad grew the research profile of Florida International University, establishing the Motorola Nanofabrication Research Facility and the IBM-sponsored Latin American Grid System. He did so while attracting a highly diverse body of engineering and computing students — making FIU a national leader in producing Hispanic engineering graduates and African American and women engineers. He received the 2007 Educator of the Year Award at the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference.

Prasad's research interests include thermo-fluid sciences, energy systems, electronic materials and micro-electronics. A fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, he has directed or co-directed several multi-disciplinary programs and centers supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Prior to his roles as executive dean and distinguished professor of engineering and computing at FIU, Prasad served as an academic administrator and faculty member at Stony Brook University — State University of New York, Columbia University, Clemson University and Patna University in India.

Wilkins is a linguist whose primary research training is in syntactic theory. Her research interests include the evolutionary biology of language, cognitive science, language acquisition and comparative linguistic and musical cognition. These interests have provided her with a natural background in working collaboratively across disciplines in research clusters.

Fluent in Spanish, Wilkins previously was professor of linguistics and director of graduate studies at Michigan State University and served for six years as the dean of the College of Arts and Letters there. She has served in academic and administrative positions at Arizona State University and as a faculty member at the University of Washington and several institutions in Mexico City, including both the Centro de Estudios Lingüísticos y Literarios, El Colegio de México, and Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Ixtapalapa.



NSF CAREER Awards

Rada Mihalcea

Photo by: Courtney Corley

Rada Mihalcea's NSF CAREER award supports her research in the semantic interpretation of text for language-processing applications.

Two UNT faculty members — Rada Mihalcea, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, and Pamela Padilla, assistant professor of biological sciences — have received National Science Foundation CAREER awards, the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of researchers and educators.

Mihalcea's five-year $500,000 grant will support her research in the semantic interpretation of text for language-processing applications. Anyone who has used a search engine to find information or translate a web page knows that understanding the meanings and similarities of words is important for effective information retrieval and translation. These language-processing applications use lexical resources such as dictionaries or thesauruses to understand word meanings, but distinctions in meaning differ from one resource to another.

For example, an English dictionary may define the word "plant" as "flora," "factory" or "an actor in an audience," while an English-Italian dictionary may translate it as "stabilimento" (factory) or "impianto" (machinery). By combining a number of these one-language and multi-language resources, Mihalcea will create rich, flexible word meaning representations that can be adapted to specific language-processing applications. She plans to explore the use of these representations in a number of areas, including word and text translation and text-to-text similarity. She also plans to integrate the models for word meaning interpretation into educational applications and use them to build a tool to help Spanish-speaking students comprehend English texts by providing simpler English synonyms or translation into Spanish.

Pamela Padilla

Photo by: Vinita Hajeri

Pamela Padilla's NSF CAREER award will fund her studies of oxygen deprivation in Caenorhabditis elegans.

The goal of Padilla's research is to understand the molecular mechanisms animals use to respond to and survive environmental stress, particularly the stress of oxygen deprivation. She will use the five-year $640,000 NSF award to continue her studies of oxygen deprivation in Caenorhabditis elegans, or nematodes, identifying the gene products required for oxygen deprivation survival and genetically manipulating the organisms so they can better survive the stress. One of her recent studies showed that nematodes with fewer offspring better survive oxygen deprivation, and she and the students in her lab are working to identify the underlying mechanism that regulates that phenomenon.

Oxygen deprivation is central to human health conditions such as myocardial infarction, pulmonary disorders, solid tumor progression and trauma because of blood loss or drowning. Padilla's research will begin to explain at the genetic level why some organisms or tissues are more resistant to oxygen deprivation and may one day lead to better treatment for organs, tissues or cells that have been deprived of oxygen. The research also may aid in understanding how organisms respond to the environmental changes that lead to oceanic "dead zones," areas of water deprived of oxygen.



Fulbright Scholars

Three faculty members representing history, business and art were named Fulbright Scholars in 2007.

Ted Farris, associate professor of marketing and logistics, will be based in Austria in spring and summer 2008, researching cash-to-cash financial flows of European business as the first key measurement of the supply chain. He will speak at top universities throughout Europe.

Constance Hilliard, associate professor of history, is spending the 2007-08 year teaching African American cultural history at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan. Her research interests include the legacy of slavery in contemporary American society, race science, and African and African American spirituality.

Nada Shabout, assistant professor of visual arts, will spend fall 2008 in Amman, Jordan, teaching contemporary Arab art history while conducting research on the topic for a book and continuing her efforts to document missing Iraqi modern art. She is teaching at MIT this spring.



Air Force Young
Investigator Award

Guido Verbeck

Photo courtesy of Guido Verbeck

Guido Verbeck earned a U.S. Air Force Young Investigator Research Program award for developing new ways to use preparative mass spectrometry instrumentation for nanofabrication.

Guido Verbeck, assistant professor of chemistry, was one of 29 scientists and engineers from across the United States to receive a three-year, $300,000 grant through the U.S. Air Force's Young Investigator Research Program last fall. The program supports scientists and engineers who have received doctorates or equivalent degrees in the last five years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. The program seeks to boost research in areas of major interest to the Air Force. A total of 215 proposals nationwide were submitted.

Verbeck will use the grant to develop new ways to use preparative mass spectrometry instrumentation for nanofabrication and the development of new materials such as smectic material or a type of "liquid crystals."The new materials may be used to create lighter, thinner and more flexible video monitors, or to develop new thin coatings on materials or new catalysts.



'Most Valuable Professional'

For the fifth year in a row, Ian Parberry, professor of computer science and engineering, has been selected a "Most Valuable Professional" by Microsoft. Parberry was recognized for his work in game development. In addition to computer gaming, his research interests include experimental algorithmics, computational complexity theory and neural networks. He is currently working to develop a system to incorporate real time video processing with gaming graphics.

Microsoft MVPs are experts in online and offline technical communities who share their expertise. They range from authors, artists and technology enthusiasts to professional developers, business managers and academics.



World-class Opera

Richard Croft

Photo by Nick Heavican

The role of Gandhi in Satyagraha marked Professor Richard Croft's return to the Metropolitan Opera. He also performed in the Met's productions of Cosi fan tutte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Barbiere di Siviglia.

Tenor Richard Croft, professor of music, sang the lead role of Gandhi in the New York Metropolitan Opera's Satyagraha, a co-production with the English National Opera. The 1980 opera by Philip Glass, inspired by the formative years of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, opened April 11 in its Met premiere.

Croft, a Grammy-nominated singer, has performed to critical acclaim with leading opera companies and orchestras around the world. After he sang the lead role in the Salzburg Festival's production of Haydn's opera Armida last summer, the publication Salzburger Nachrichten noted that he "again demonstrated that he is in a league of his own."












World Champions

The Knapsackers@UNT — a student computer programming team representing UNT's Department of Computer Science and Engineering — beat 129 other teams from 33 countries to win the second annual IEEExtreme 2008 24-hour Programming Challenge. IEEExtreme, which includes 15 problems to solve, is sponsored by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an international professional society that also sponsors student branches on college campuses.

The team includes computer science and mathematics majors John Rizzo, Michael Mohler and Robert Burke. Coaches from the department are David Keathly, lecturer, and Ryan Garlick, visiting assistant professor.



Excellence in Computational Chemistry

Chemistry model

Wes Borden, professor and Welch Chair of Chemistry, and Tom Cundari, professor of chemistry, are part of a group of 50 researchers nationwide sharing a five-year $15 million National Science Foundation grant to research chemical catalysis. UNT's selection was a result of its recognition as a national center of excellence in computational chemistry.

Working in UNT's Center for Advanced Scientific Computing and Modeling (known as CASCaM), Borden and Cundari will supply most of the expertise and training in computational chemistry for the Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis, the first NSF chemical bonding center to receive this funding. CENTC includes chemists and biochemists from 10 universities and labs who are pooling their knowledge to tackle real-world problems related to catalysis.

Specifically, Borden and Cundari will look for an environmentally friendly way to convert benzene and ammonia directly to aniline, a chemical used to synthesize the polyurethane foam that insulates refrigerators and freezers. Helping with the work is Zhuofeng Ke, who is spending a year in Denton in part thanks to a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council.



Preserving a Language

four generations of Klallam language teachers and learners

Photo courtesy of Timothy Montler

Timothy Montler is pictured with four generations of Klallam language teachers and learners. He is creating a Klallam dictionary and electronic text archive to help preserve the native language.

Timothy Montler, Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of English, received a $317,502 Documenting Endangered Languages grant through a joint program of the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a Klallam dictionary and electronic text archive. Klallam is the native language of the Klallam tribes in northwest Washington and southern Vancouver Island.

Montler's work, which includes the development of tools to teach Klallam, will ensure the survival of the language, which was rapidly disappearing 15 years ago because few tribal members grew up speaking it. Montler began working with Klallam in 1992 and already has created computer games for schools in Port Angeles, Wash., near the Lower Elwha Klallam reservation, to teach the language. After he developed teaching materials, Port Angeles High School began offering Klallam language classes for foreign language credit, and several elementary schools also teach Klallam.

The dictionary and electronic text archive are two other tools for teaching the language. Montler says the dictionary must be done now while there are still native-speaking elders to help with the project. According to the NEH, experts estimate that more than half of the about 7,000 currently used human languages will stop being spoken in this century.



Chile Field Station

arctic canoing

Photo courtesy of Robert Frodeman

The UNT-Chile Program at Cape Horn is an international network for interdisciplinary environmental research that integrates science, philosophy and policy.

The UNT-Chile Field Station at the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve provides students with the opportunity to study biocultural history, natural history, biology and field philosophy, and provides an outstanding location for researchers to test philosophic claims with real-world challenges. The information and insights brought back to the classroom for analysis from the field will help determine how to develop the Cape Horn region in a sustainable fashion.

The mission of the station is to incorporate a broad range of perspectives, including those of the members of the indigenous Yaghan tribe, members of the Chilean government and military, citizens of Chile, non-governmental organizations such as UNESCO, an international team of science and humanities researchers, and tourism managers. The UNT Chile Program at Cape Horn is supported by a $15 million grant from the Chilean NSF (CONICYT).

Ricardo Rozzi, assistant professor of philosophy and religion studies, is the director of the Chile program. Also involved in the interdisciplinary research are Robert Frodeman, associate professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies; J. Britt Holbrook, philosophy and religion studies research assistant professor; and James Kennedy, professor of biological sciences.



Global Software Development Teams

students

Photo by: Victor Lopez

Middlesex University students in London teleconference with UNT students as part of a global software development team study by Kathleen Swigger.

In the modern global economy, companies are looking for ways to make global teams more effective as increasingly employees must work in teams and on projects with people located in different countries. The National Science Foundation awarded a $499,252 grant to Kathleen Swigger, professor of computer science and engineering, to study the performance of student teams working on a large software project at UNT, Middlesex University in the United Kingdom, Middle East Technical University in Turkey and the University of Panama.

Students in advanced programming courses at the four universities will use computer-supported collaborative tools to work together to develop large software applications. Researchers will examine how factors such as differences in time, geography and culture affect the students and then create strategies to improve collaboration.

Swigger says the research will have implications for geographically distributed collaborative learning teams in general. An industry advisory panel for the project includes representatives from Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Travelocity, Motorola, IBM (in the United Kingdom) and AGEIA. Other UNT researchers involved in the project are Robert Brazile, associate professor of computer science and engineering, and Randall Schumacker, professor of educational psychology.



Urban Flooding and Watersheds

Two computer science and engineering faculty members are using an optical remote sensing technology called LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, to develop a flood model for urban watersheds. Learning how flood waters migrate over low-relief terrain in urban environments can help predict flood damage and assist local, county and state governments with pre-disaster planning and post-disaster damage assessment.

Bill Buckles, professor of computer science and engineering and associate dean of the College of Engineering, and Xiaohui Yuan, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, received $125,000 from the National Science Foundation, including $50,000 to produce 3-D renderings of flood-prone areas. Because the research is addressing signal processing and data fusion issues, the Department of Defense also is supporting the project with a $420,000 grant.

The UNT researchers, who are collaborating with researchers from Hefei University of Technology in China, have data renderings for parts of New Orleans and expect to publish their first paper on the flood model this summer. Visiting scholar Liangmei Hu from Hefei is in Denton for one year to help with the research.



Plant Physiology

mutant plants

Photo courtesy of Brian Ayre

Brian Ayre uses genetic analysis to study plant productivity, which ultimately could improve harvest yields. Pictured are two mutant plants (1/4 inch in diameter) unable to transport the products of photosynthesis, surrounded by wild plants with robust growth.

Increased crop yields may be a future benefit of the research of Brian Ayre, assistant professor of biology. He is studying cotton, an important fiber crop, applying principles of plant architecture gleaned from other systems to modify its growth and developmental processes and improve productivity.

Ayre was awarded a $390,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation to study the transport of sugars in plants. He and postdoctoral researcher Avinash Srivastava have learned that manipulating a sucrose transporter protein in different parts of the plant affects sucrose distribution and plant growth. In one of their experimental systems, the leaves accumulate much more simple sugar than normal, results that may have important implications for generating biofuels from plant material since simple sugars are required for fermentation to ethanol.

In another line of NSF-funded research, Ayre is working to alter the sugar composition of the plant. By altering sugars produced in the leaves and simultaneously altering the capacity of a particular region of the plant to digest those sugars, Ayre believes he can target specific regions to receive the majority of nutrient-rich sap, thus improving harvest yields.



Net-centric Software Consortium

To meet the technological needs of the 21st century, the U.S. Department of Defense and other agencies are transforming the way they share and use information by moving from their current system-oriented computing to a new era of net-centric software and systems. The new approach will provide users with the ability to access applications, information sources and services and customize them to meet their needs through the Internet.

To develop the necessary research and new technologies, UNT and other institutions have formed the Net-Centric Software and Systems Consortium. UNT, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Dallas each received $10,000 from the National Science Foundation to explore the formation of an Industry/University Collaborative Research Center, which would lead to more research funding opportunities and industry collaborations. A February meeting included more than 20 industrial participants.

The universities have one year to recruit at least five industrial members each to pay annual dues to establish the I/UCRC. The institutions then will join Arizona State University, the University of California at Irvine and Southern Illinois University to expand the consortium capabilities. Krishna Kavi, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is the founding director of the consortium. For more information, contact him at kavi@cse.unt.edu.



Nanophotonics

Winter School on Nanophotonics

Photo by: Angilee Wilkerson

Arup Neogi, right, served as chair of the "Winter School on Nanophotonics" sponsored by UNT and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and UNT conducted a "Winter School on Nanophotonics" at UNT in February. In addition to leading researchers in the field, Japanese students from Shimane and Tsukuba universities visited as part of a National Science Foundation-funded research project that also allows for UNT students to conduct summer research in nanophotonics at the Japanese universities.

Arup Neogi, UNT associate professor of physics who served as chair of the conference, is researching how to use optical effects or photons in nano-sized material for optoelectronic and biomedical applications. He is developing new nanoscale multifunctional materials that can be used for ultrafast optical switches, transistors and lasers. Based on new photonic principles, his group has developed hybrid optical materials for microscale biomedical devices such as liquid flow controllers, photonic sensors and nanoscale mechanical pumps. The JSPS and the Japan Analytical Spectroscopic Co. are among the groups supporting Neogi's work in addition to the National Science Foundation.



Historic Newspapers and Genealogists

historic newspapers

With grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the UNT libraries are digitizing historic Texas newspapers and helping digital libraries improve usability for targeted groups such as genealogists. The two projects are led by Cathy Nelson Hartman, assistant dean of libraries for digital and information technologies, and Mark Phillips, head of the Digital Projects Unit.

A $397,552 NEH grant will be used to digitize 100,000 pages of historical Texas newspapers dating from 1880 to 1910. An advisory board of Texas historians and archivists will select newspapers that reflect the political and economic history of the state, provide coverage for major regions and have a broad chronological span. The public will have access to the newspapers at UNT's Portal to Texas History, which brings together searchable digital images of Texas-related documents and photos, and at a web site of the Library of Congress.

The libraries' $448,548 IMLS grant will be used to explore how people interested in genealogy use digital libraries. Researchers will determine what information the genealogists use and develop a user interface for them to the Portal to Texas History. The project will provide a model for future studies of other targeted groups who use digital libraries with humanities collections.



Fingerprinting Film

Brian O'Connor, professor of library and information sciences, and Richard Anderson, information security coordinator in the Computing and Information Technology Center, are working on a method to analyze film structure in much the same way that text is analyzed, despite the lack of a rigid grammatical structure.

In their approach, numerical data from each pixel in each frame of film is analyzed and graphically displayed. For instance, instead of referring to a scene in general terms such as dark lighting or fast editing, a computerized graphic numerically defines patterns of change in colors. Calculations on so many pieces of data from a film have been possible for several years, but the researchers have established a new way to match the measurements with the models developed by film theorists.

They say their work would allow film scholars to take a more scientific approach to film study and would open the door for film producers to map film structure to the message they are creating. Fingerprinting film in this way would also lead to a more precise method of labeling and cataloging photographs, films and recorded images of all types.



Mapping Medieval Churches

Maillezais Abbey in western France

Photo by: Hillary Turby

Mickey Abel is analyzing the Maillezais Abbey in western France, founded in the late 10th century. Her research proposes a reconstruction of the monastic church's western portal (the wall pictured).

Mickey Abel, assistant professor of art history, is analyzing about 50 12th-century churches built after the Christian reconquest of the Soria region of Spain. Her research combines the technology of a global information system from the geography department with the architectural analysis common to art history. With a Hispanic Global Initiative grant, she will take three students to Spain to study the orientation of the churches' portals in relation to topography and cultural developments. She is collaborating with Bruce Hunter, director of the Center for Spatial Analysis and Mapping, and Lisa Nagaoka, associate professor of geography.

Abel says although the main portal of Christian churches is typically on the west end, in Soria the portals are generally on the north or south. Her mapping of ninth- and 10th-century Christian churches in the region showed that, while they also had north or south portals, they were oriented in relation to the Duero River and surrounding castles — regardless of whether the castles were occupied by Islamic or Christian forces. The question now is whether the 12th-century orientations are simply following local tradition or if other factors are involved.

Abel also is analyzing the Maillezais Abbey, originally located on an island off the French coast. She will map the ancient canals the monks built to drain the surrounding gulf away from the island and analyze their topographic relation to the abbey's western portal.



HIV/AIDS in Togo

Ami Moore in Togo

Photo courtesy of Ami Moore

Ami Moore, right, traveled to the West African nation of Togo for six months to conduct research funded by a Fulbright grant.

As a college student in the West African nation of Togo in 1990, Ami Moore says she witnessed the emergence of HIV/AIDS at a time when most people thought it was a disease of the West and most African countries were reporting prevalence rates of less than 1 percent. Five years later, doing graduate work in the United States, Moore learned that an increasing number of deaths in Togo were due to AIDS and a growing number of the victims were poor females.

Now a UNT assistant professor of sociology, Moore primarily focuses her research on HIV/AIDS-related issues. In some of her latest work, funded by a Fulbright research grant, she returned to Togo for six months to collect data on informal caregivers of children living with HIV/AIDS. She developed formal measures of the caregivers' experiences, including financial difficulties and family support, and identified resilient qualities such as problem-solving skills and a sense of mission. She will present a paper about how the caregivers manage stigma — strategically selecting people to whom they disclose the status of the child — at the International Sociological Association meeting in Barcelona, Spain, this fall.



Online Auctions in U.S., Korea

U.S. and Korean college students use eBay and related sites for different reasons, according to a study conducted by HaeJung Kim, assistant professor, and Sua Jeon, lecturer, both in the School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management, and Eunju Ko of Yonsei University in South Korea.

A survey of 341 UNT students indicates U.S. consumers using online auction sites are motivated by functional and extrinsic factors such as product value and transaction costs. But a survey of 405 students from Yonsei, Seoul National and Han-Yang universities indicates Korean consumers are motivated by social and intrinsic factors emphasizing interaction with other auction users, such as forums that provide a social networking aspect beyond buying, selling and bidding. The researchers presented their findings in January at the Academy of Marketing Science's 2008 Cultural Perspectives in Marketing Conference.

Jeon, Kim and Christy Crutsinger, professor of merchandising and associate dean of the School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management, also presented a study about online auction users at the 2007 American Collegiate Retailing Association conference. Jeon, who received her master's degree from UNT, won the Graduate Student Best Paper award at the 2006 International Textile and Apparel Association annual meeting for her thesis on the effects of consumer shopping motivations on online auction behaviors.



Emergency Manager Network Structures

network structures of emergency managers

Simon Andrew is studying informal network structures of emergency managers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The graphic shows ties among key individuals.

Simon A. Andrew, assistant professor of public administration, received a junior scholar research grant from the Paul A. Volcker Endowment for Public Service Research and Education to investigate informal network structures of emergency managers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He and research assistant Pamela M. McGehee surveyed emergency managers to examine the frequency of interactions between them, how they communicate and why they communicate with some people and not others.

Preliminary results suggest that a close-knit network structure exists among key emergency managers when planning for future disasters. Andrew says using network analysis to study emergency managers' contacts is necessary to increase predictability about the roles local emergency managers play, with whom they form ties and for what purpose they develop and maintain their relationships.



PACCAR Foundation Gift

PACCAR Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., acting through its foundation, announced a $1.5 million donation to benefit research and teaching in the UNT College of Engineering. The gift from the multinational transportation and technology company — the parent company of Peterbilt Motors Co., headquartered in Denton — created permanent endowments to establish the PACCAR Technology Institute at Discovery Park and the PACCAR Professorship in the UNT College of Engineering.

About $1 million of the gift is endowing multidisciplinary research at the new institute that UNT is supplementing by furnishing state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms. The remainder of the donation is endowing the PACCAR Professorship for a full-time, tenured engineering professor.



Virtual Classrooms

3D environment

Greg Jones researches 3-D online learning environments, which include outside environments (screen capture above) and avatars (below right). Students can choose from several hundred combinations of faces, bodies and clothes to represent themselves online.

Some of UNT's distance learning courses in computer education and cognitive systems use a 3-D online learning environment created by the same graphics interface found in video games. Students "walk" into class from the comfort of their homes by controlling a mouse, keyboard or other device. They are denoted as a graphical figure on the screen and can physically interact with others on the screen.

Greg Jones, assistant professor of learning technologies — whose research focuses on emerging technologies for learning, including virtual communities and telementoring — has used the 3-D online learning environment in some classes since 2003. His research shows that a majority of students report having higher satisfaction, better rapport with faculty and better overall experience with courses that use the 3-D environment over only web-based or e-mail course delivery. The technology also can be used beyond the typical university classroom for virtual training or in other areas in which engagement and immersion assist with learning, Jones says.

3D avatars

Jones and Scott Warren, assistant professor of learning technologies, are collaborating on a number of projects related to 3-D online learning environments and their use in education and information settings. The two won an award at the 2008 Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference for a presentation about the use of such environments to improve middle school literacy.



Marine Fish Research

Ione Hunt von Herbing

Photo courtesy of Ione Hunt von Herbing

Ione Hunt von Herbing researches the effects of the environment on the bioenergetics of developing vertebrates, specifically marine fish, at UNT.

Ione Hunt von Herbing joined UNT in fall 2007 as an associate professor of biological sciences after serving as a National Science Foundation program director in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems in the Biological Sciences Directorate. Her work focuses on the effects of the environment on the bioenergetics of developing vertebrates, specifically marine fish.

Prior to coming to UNT, she also spent 11 years at the University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences, conducting research funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NSF on the growth and metabolism of Arctic fish as well as commercially important food fish. Research on cod revealed an unusual trait similar to sickle cell anemia in humans, and her research is ongoing to characterize the importance of this finding in other marine fish species.

At UNT, she will continue her bioenergetics work by selecting fish relevant to Texas, such as striped bass, redfish and cobia, as well as beginning new studies on Antarctic fish affected by changes in global temperatures. She intends to develop some of these species as new alternative model organisms for research in areas as diverse as medicine, global climate change and aquaculture.



Vanity Sizing

Women shopping for clothes have long realized that the fit of a labeled size is dependent on the brand. Tammy Kinley, associate professor of merchandising and hospitality management, found through examining more than 1,000 pairs of pants that as much as an 8-inch variation in the waist measurement exists in pants labeled the same size.

But how does the labeled size affect body image and self-esteem? Her research shows that while a smaller size has a positive effect on body image, particularly for younger women, the need for a larger size does not have a significant effect on either self-esteem or body image. Her findings contradict a concept promoted by some fashion magazines that standardized sizing is the answer. She says the "chaos" of garment sizing allows a diversity of women to fit most sizes and is preferable to having all women fit into a single vision of what size they should be.



Safe nonstick cooking

chart

In his polymer research, Witold Brostow is working to develop a nonstick cooking surface that's scratch resistant and free of a toxic adhesive. This chart shows how the addition of various metals (silver, aluminum and nickel) as micropowders decreases the depth of a scratch in polyethylene. In each case there is a composition at which the depth is the shallowest. Thus, Brostow says, the rule "the more the merrier" does not apply to metal powder addition.

If today's nonstick cooking surfaces — polymers made with the element fluorine — are scratched or exposed to high heat, an adhesive between the polymer and the pan can be released that may cause cancer. And it doesn't require much cooking experience to know that current pan or pot coatings are easily scratched. Witold Brostow, Regents Professor of materials science and engineering who is leading the research at UNT's Laboratory of Advanced Polymers and Optimized Materials, was cited in the London journal Chemistry and Industry for his work to develop a new, safer nonstick cooking surface.

Several years ago, LAPOM developed a polymer with low friction and wear resistance using an additive originally developed for NASA, but it costs $1,000 for one-third of an ounce. The focus now is on polymers with similar properties that are less expensive to produce. Brostow predicts one possibility is to develop polymers that directly bond to the pan itself, without an adhesive in between, and with scratch and wear resistance much better than current coatings on metals. His work is conducted using nanotechnology as well as other scientific techniques such as irradiation and magnetic field application.



Innovative Electrical Engineering Curriculum

 Transmitter and Receiver

Photo courtesy of Murali Varanasi

Electrical engineering students demonstrate their project, "FM Transmitter and Receiver." The innovative curriculum was created with a $1 million NSF grant.

With a $1 million National Science Foundation grant, faculty members in the College of Engineering and the College of Education are partnering to create an innovative curriculum for the electrical engineering program. The curriculum, serving as a model for secondary school teachers and UNT's new mechanical and energy engineering program, focuses on project-oriented courses team-taught by industry instructors beginning at the freshman level.

Collaborations with industries such as Texas Instruments, Nortel, Lockheed-Martin and PACCAR/Peterbilt are helping students integrate theory, practice and business sense. Students also study learning styles and problem solving skills to promote lifelong learning. The grant is led by Oscar Garcia, founding dean of the College of Engineering, with co-investigators Murali Varanasi, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering; Reza Mirshams, professor of engineering technology and associate dean; Kathleen Swigger, professor of computer science and engineering; and Jon Young, professor of educational psychology.



Venezuelan partnership

UNT and the Universidad Nacional Experimental de Guayana in Venezuela have been collaborative research partners for 10 years in the areas of environmental sciences, applied ecology and applied geography, with particular interests in tropical forest dynamics. Rector Jose Tarazona, president of UNEG, visited UNT in October to discuss expanding the partnership to include engineering, culture and the arts. UNEG was involved in National Science Foundation grants led by UNT in 1996 and 2002, and a general memorandum of agreement was signed by the two universities in 2003 and updated last year. UNT is the only U.S. university with which UNEG has signed such an agreement.

While on campus, Tarazona met with members of the School of Library and Information Sciences, the Institute of Applied Science, the College of Engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Public Affairs and Community Service, and the College of Visual Arts and Design. He also met with a group of research scholars visiting campus from the Universidad de Alicante in Spain, Universidad de Los Andes in Venezuela and Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México to explore the possibility of expanding UNT's agreements with these universities to include UNEG.



Next Generation courses

UNT's Next Generation course redesign program is leading the way in the nation's efforts to transform traditional large enrollment lecture courses by blending online and high-impact classroom lessons to improve student learning. The work to redesign these courses, which cover a variety of disciplines in the arts, humanities and sciences, is supported by nearly $2.5 million in grants from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the U.S. Department of Education.

As part of the state-legislated Texas Course Redesign Project, a redesigned UNT history course is being taught at other universities and community colleges. A version of the course materials is being created for use with high schools as a dual credit course to allow students to earn college credit before starting at a university. The state project has also awarded funds to UNT to build a learning objects repository, an online database that can store and make these course materials accessible to faculty at public universities and colleges across the state.



Professional science master's degrees

A $45,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to President Gretchen M. Bataille is supporting an effort to develop professional science master's degree programs in biotechnology, environmental science, industrial chemistry and applied economics at UNT and other UNT System institutions. The degree programs, three of which will be offered beginning in fall 2008, are designed to provide science-trained professionals with business/management, communication and policy skills so they may fill the next generation roles in industry and government that will require both technical and practical skills.

Project coordinators Art Goven, professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, and Jean Schaake, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, are working with private sector executives to tailor degree programs to meet their current and future workforce and employment needs.


Departments

President's Note

Exploration of ideas provides the foundation for a bold research agenda.

News Briefs

New leaders set a new course, and awards and grants help develop materials, save endangered languages, protect the environment.

New Faculty

Researchers bring work in accounting, photography, plant pathology and thermal-fluid sciences to UNT.

Student Researchers

Student research covers medical physics, human rights, computational chemistry, music education, ethics.

Faculty Books

UNT authors write about higher education, cost control, police patrol, copyright law.

End Note

Interdisciplinary collaborations advance the greater good.



Web page last updated or revised: April 25, 2008
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