Volume 18, No. 1 - Spring 2009
UNT - University of North Texas - Discover the Power of Ideas

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

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New Faculty

David Itkin

Director of orchestras

David Itkin

Photo by: Jonathan Reynolds

David Itkin, an internationally celebrated conductor, joined the College of Music as director of orchestras last fall. Replacing Anshel Brusilow, who retired after 35 years, Itkin says he looks forward to continuing and expanding the tradition of excellence enjoyed by the UNT orchestras and bringing new perspectives and ideas to the graduate conducting program.

"The UNT College of Music is one of the most important institutions in the country, and it has a fabulous reputation," he says. "An opportunity to work at UNT doesn't come around every day."

Itkin is in his second season as conductor of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and his fourth as conductor of the Abilene Philharmonic. He is in his 16th year as music director and conductor of the Arkansas Symphony. He will leave that position after the 2009-10 season to focus more of his time at UNT, where he oversees the orchestral studies program and conducts the orchestras. He also teaches orchestral conducting, continuing to develop UNT's internationally prominent master's and doctoral programs in that area.

In 2007, Itkin was a featured lecturer at the Arkansas Governor's School for the second year.

"I lectured to 300 of the brightest students in the state on how to integrate music into the rest of the world and how we learn as a culture," he says.

Itkin also is a composer of note. His first film score, Sugar Creek, was recorded by the Arkansas Symphony for the film's 2007 release. His most recent major work, Exodus, an oratorio he wrote in Italy, premiered in 2005 in Little Rock.

"I had been interested for a while in a large work based not only on Old Testament texts, but also on other spiritual and historical texts," he says. "This piece was the result."

Valerie Martinez-Ebers

Professor of political science

Valerie Martinez-Ebers

Photo by: Jonathan Reynolds

Valerie Martinez-Ebers — who has a national research reputation in public education policy, Latino political behavior and women in politics — says the political influence of Latinos and Hispanics was evident in the recent national election.

"After providing the votes to keep Hillary Clinton in the primaries and making the difference in the outcomes for Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada in the general election, Latinos proved they could be really important players at the national level," she says.

Martinez-Ebers was one of the principal investigators for the Latino National Survey project in 2006-07. The state-stratified survey of 11,064 Latinos in the United States was the largest and most comprehensive study of Latinos ever conducted.

With a research focus on Latinas as community leaders and elected officials, Martinez-Ebers co-wrote Politicas: Latina Public Officials in Texas with four other Latina scholars. When the work was featured in November at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, the book panel discussion took place in the Texas Senate chamber.

"It was exciting and also ironic, sitting in the lieutenant governor's seat that is more than 100 years old, talking about Latina political leadership — especially since only two Latinas have ever been elected as Texas state senators," she says.

Martinez-Ebers, who received her Ph.D. in political science from Ohio State University, earned her bachelor's degree in education and master's in public administration from UNT. She served on the UNT faculty from 1989 to 1997 and returned last fall after teaching at Texas Christian University.

She was elected the first Latina president of the Western Political Science Association in 2006.

"I am delighted to be back in the political science department at UNT," she says. "I think it is a real 'center of excellence.'"

Ernest J. Moore Jr.

Professor and chair of speech and hearing sciences

Ernest J. Moore Jr.

Photo by: Jonathan Reynolds

Tinnitus is a persistent ringing in the ears that affects 10 million Americans, including Ernest J. Moore Jr. The noted researcher is working to understand the underlying biology of this hearing condition, thought to occur when sensory hair cells in the cochlea malfunction because of heredity and external factors such as excessive noise or drugs.

"It appears the cells attempt to remain viable by changing the sensitivity of the cochlea or brain to sound input," says Moore, who edited the first textbook on auditory brain-stem evoked responses. "Alterations in these sensory structures, we believe, result in the perception of tinnitus."

Moore earned his bachelor's degree in speech-language pathology and audiology from Tennessee State University, his master's in audiology from Northern Illinois University and his doctorate in communicative disorders with a specialization in experimental audiology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Joining UNT from Northwestern University, he is investigating multiple drug treatments and organizing a clinic for those who have tinnitus. This branch of the UNT Speech and Hearing Clinic, anticipated to open this spring, will focus on treating former soldiers deployed to the Middle East.

Moore and colleagues at Northwestern discovered they could induce tinnitus-like symptoms in zebrafish and administer drugs to control them.

"We determined that perhaps a specific ion channel or channels (small pores in cells) are responsible for uncontrollable firing of nerve impulses," says Moore, who has received more than $490,000 from the National Institutes of Health, various foundations and now UNT to support his work.

"If we are lucky — and it takes luck and serendipity in science — we hope to have some answers about the fundamental nature of ion channels and their role in tinnitus in two to three years."

Alan Needleman

Professor of materials science and engineering

Alan Needleman

Photo by: Jonathan Reynolds

Alan Needleman's fascination with computational modeling and fracture pro­cesses in materials has led him through a wide range of research, including the mechanical behavior of thin films in micro-electronic devices, the speed of propagation of cracks in engineering structures and the frictional sliding associated with earthquakes.

"I'm interested in understanding the basic processes and mechanisms of the mechanical behavior of the materials over a variety of size scales, from the micro scale to the macro scale," says Needleman, who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and was elected last year to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A longtime faculty member at Brown University, Needleman has served as a visiting professor at UNT since 2007 and will join the university full time next fall.

He says the developing world-class research and educational program in the College of Engineering drew him to UNT. He will be heavily involved in UNT's new Institute for Science and Engineering Simulation, where a research team will assist the U.S. Air Force in obtaining the knowledge base needed to develop more durable jet engines.

Needleman earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and master's and doctoral degrees in engineering from Harvard. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship and was awarded the Prager Medal by the Society of Engineering Science and the Drucker Medal by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Needleman also will be involved in the university's materials modeling cluster, supported by UNT's Center for Advanced Scientific Computing and Modeling. This collaboration will develop tools for applications such as reducing greenhouse gas and discovering new therapies for battlefield injuries.

"I like the people and the atmosphere here. UNT is full of exciting possibilities," Needleman says.


President's Note

Emerging strengths, expanding expertise


Research funding, Discovery Park, new deans


Honors for research and creativity

News Briefs

Solutions and scholarship across disciplines

New Faculty

Experts in conducting, Latino political behavior, tinnitus, materials science

Student Researchers

Projects in education, science, social science, art, business, music

Faculty Books

Poetry, justice, Aztec history and more

End Note

A growing research agenda

Web page last updated or revised: February 2, 2009
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