Volume 20 - 2011
UNT - University of North Texas - Discover the Power of Ideas

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

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Student Researchers

Adrian Cadar

Cardiovascular systems

Adrian Cadar

All photos on this page by: Mike Woodruff
except where noted

Adrian Cadar is a senior biology major and a scholar in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which encourages undergraduates who are the first in their families to attend college to pursue doctoral degrees.

Cadar works with mentor Edward Dzialowski, associate professor of biological sciences, in the developmental cardiovascular lab. Cadar is studying the effects of environmental stresses to see how a lack of oxygen interferes with the development and closure of the ductus arteriosus in the chicken embryo. The study of these blood vessels, which allow blood returning to the heart to bypass the developing lungs, will lead to a better understanding of congenital heart defects in infants.

Cadar has presented his work at national and international conferences and was selected to intern at the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Science at the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He plans to enroll in an M.D./ Ph.D. program and pursue a career in academic medicine.

Christopher Conlin

Prostate cancer

Christopher Conlin

Christopher Conlin, a biology major with minors in chemistry and mathematics, is a senior in the Honors College. Working under the guidance of Pudur “Jag” Jagadeeswaran, professor of biological sciences, he has presented evidence that although zebrafish do not have a prostate gland, they possess cells functionally equivalent to those of the prostate and can be used as a model for prostate cancer research.

Conlin is attempting to express prostate cancer symptoms in the zebrafish as proof. The research has the potential to reduce the costs associated with current prostate cancer research, allowing for the rapid development of new treatments. Conlin, who was awarded a Newman Foundation Scholarship, plans to attend graduate school to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in bioengineering or biophysics.

Adriana D’Alba

Virtual learning

Adriana D'Alba

Adriana D’Alba, a doctoral student in learning technologies, is using an Autonomous University of the State of Mexico-UNT research grant to create a 3-D virtual museum environment for an exhibit on permanent display at UAEM’s University Museum in Toluca. The virtual museum is an exact replica of the UAEM exhibit of murals, The Minotaur in the Labyrinth by Mexican artist and sculptor Leopoldo Flores, which is set up as a maze on three floors.

D’Alba will recruit two groups of UAEM students. One group will take the virtual tour of the exhibit, “walking” through the virtual museum while listening to and reading explanations of the pieces of art and the concept behind them. The other students will tour the exhibit in person. D’Alba will compare user satisfaction, learning and preferences of the two groups to determine if the virtual museum can provide a similar educational experience.

She works with major professor Greg Jones, associate professor of learning technologies, who developed the software she is using to create the 3-D multiuser virtual environment.

Anupriya Gangal


Anupria Gangal

Anupriya Gangal was one of three UNT students named 2010 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars for her groundbreaking research. She explored developing oligodendrocyte progenitors, cells that insulate axons in the central nervous system.

Using a technique called immunohistochemistry, a way of staining or dyeing certain organelles in the cells different colors, Gangal found that the progenitors have primary cilia, which are akin to antennae that sense the chemistry of the cell's environment. The research could have implications for treating and preventing diseases such as multiple sclerosis and transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. Gangal worked with mentor Jannon Fuchs, professor of biological sciences.

Gangal is a 2010 graduate of the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at UNT, the nation's first accelerated residential program for talented teens who take university courses to complete their first two years of college while earning high school diplomas. She is studying neuroscience and behavioral biology at Emory University.

Sahil Khetpal

Cancer treatment

Shahil Khetpal

Peter Tobia

Sahil Khetpal was one of 10 students nationwide and the only Texas student to win a $100,000 Proton Energy Scholarship at the 2010 National Hydrogen Association Hydrogen Conference and Expo.

He designed and synthesized a novel carbon nanotube-based drug delivery system for tumor-targeted chemotherapy and thermal ablation of cancer cells, which would decrease the side effects of conventional chemotherapy. He also investigated the use of a special carbon nanotube as a means to detect cancer at an earlier stage. His research, conducted with Iwao Ojima at Stony Brook University in New York, earned him recognition as a finalist for the national Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

Khetpal is a 2010 graduate of TAMS at UNT. He is majoring in finance and chemical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rebekah Kopsky

Capital punishment

Rebekah Kopsky

Rebekah Kopsky, a senior political science major and McNair Scholar, researches factors that may influence the pace at which executions are carried out on Texas' Death Row. Using a linear regression model, she examines the race of the offender and victim to measure whether the state more quickly executes offenders in interracial crimes. She also is analyzing if the relationship of the victim and offender, such as if they are strangers or not, correlates with execution rates and whether certain types of capital cases trigger faster rates of execution.

She works under the direction of Kimi King, associate professor of political science. Kopsky, who is the UNT Moot Court Team captain and has twice been named a national finalist in American Moot Court Association competition, plans to pursue a law degree and a doctorate in judicial politics.

Maria De La Luz Leake

Material culture

Maria De La Luz Leake

Maria De La Luz Leake, an August doctoral art education graduate, was one of 16 U.S. teachers selected for a FulbrightHays Seminar Abroad Program to Mexico in summer 2010. Leake met with teachers, artisans and specialists in several areas of Mexico to focus on her material culture studies research, analyzing human-made objects that reflect the social and cultural traditions, values and beliefs of people from the region. Leake, who was mentored by Christina Bain, associate professor of art education, is in her 18th year as an art teacher. She plans to use her research to give students the opportunity to explore the influences of Mexican material culture in their own communities and create art that reflects this understanding. Leake previously was selected for two Fulbright programs in which she traveled to Japan.

Elisha Oliver

Homeless health care

Elisha Oliver

Elisha Oliver participated in the Department of Anthropology's National Science Foundation Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates. Under the direction of Beverly Davenport, assistant professor of anthropology, she researched the culture of South Dallas street vendors in a study that could counter ethnocentric assumptions about the population.

Oliver's purpose was to understand the vendors' attitudes and behaviors, examining how they define and regulate their spaces and how their relationships and hierarchy affect conflict resolution in the group. In the course of her research, Oliver discovered that a large percentage of street vendors in that location are homeless, that many have been diagnosed with mental illness, and that they do not have adequate access to health care facilities, half-way houses, treatment or intervention.

Her long-term goal is to assist government agencies in developing initiatives that provide equal access health care and treatment options for homeless populations worldwide. She earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology from UNT in August 2010 and is pursuing a doctorate in anthropology of health and human biology at the University of Oklahoma.

Katie Schniebs

Aviation safety

Katie Schniebs

Courtesy of Katie Schniebs

Katie Schniebs was one of only 20 undergraduates nationwide to receive a NASA Aeronautics Scholarship in 2010. She conducted research as a summer intern in the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center. Her team developed an approach for detecting anomalies in distributed aviation datasets. One of the goals is to identify problems with components and systems in order to prevent aircraft failure.

Schniebs is a senior in a dual degree program, majoring in electrical engineering at UNT and mathematics at Texas Woman's University. She works with Christopher Heiden, associate director of academic services in UNT's College of Engineering, and Don Edwards, chair of the TWU math department. She plans to pursue a master's in an electrical engineering field such as telecommunications or renewable energy sources.

Katheryn Shi

Computational chemistry

Katheryn Shi

TAMS student Katheryn Shi was named a 2010 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar for her research. Her work under the direction of Angela Wilson, professor of chemistry, involved the theoretical prediction of two new rare-gas compounds or molecules consisting of rare-gas elements — elements that, before 1962, were thought to be unable to form any bonds.

Using computational chemistry, a discipline that incorporates mathematics, chemistry and computer science, she performed a series of calculations on more than 80 molecules to determine if they could be stable. Rare-gas species have uses ranging from lighting and laser applications to medicine.

Shi also was a 2009 Siemens Competition Semifinalist, a 2010 Intel Science Talent Search Finalist and a 2010 National Merit Finalist. She is studying engineering and computer science at Stanford University.

Anthony Tran

Vietnamese film

Anthony Tran

Courtesy of Anthony Tran

Anthony Tran, a master's student in radio, television and film with an emphasis on critical and cultural studies of TV, film and media, received a U.S. Student Fulbright Grant to conduct research on Vietnamese film in Hanoi during the 2010-11 academic year.

Tran is concentrating on reviewing fictional-narrative Vietnamese films funded and approved by Vietnam's government, studying how these socialist realist films evolved in Vietnam and how they imitated, rejected, reinterpreted and interacted with Hollywood and Western styles and ideologies. His research, conducted under the direction of Harry Benshoff, associate professor of radio, television and film, will reveal not only how Vietnamese citizens perceive themselves and American citizens and culture, but also what stereotypes and conceptions in film led them to these perspectives.

Tran received the 2010 Graduate Student Academic Excellence Award in Radio/ Television/Film at UNT and plans to pursue a doctoral degree in film and media studies.

Heriberto Urby Jr.

Emergency management

Heriberto Urby Jr.

Supported by a grant from the Hispanic and Global Initiative Fund, Heriberto Urby Jr. conducted research in Latin America with David McEntire, associate professor of emergency administration and planning. Comparing the emergency management systems of Costa Rica, Paraguay, Peru and Mexico, Urby examined factors such as the countries' historical view of disasters, emergency management policy developments, organizational structures, response and recovery initiatives, and future challenges. He presented his research on Paraguay's emergency management system at the Emergency Management Institute's 13th annual Emergency Management Higher Education Conference in Maryland last summer.

Urby, who earned his doctorate in public administration and management from UNT in August 2010, is an adjunct professor at Texas Woman's University and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Kathy Wang

Heart disease

Kathy Wang

Kathy Wang was named a 2010 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar for her research on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Mutations in the protein myosin lead to the inherited heart disease, the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people.

Wang, working with Douglas Root, associate professor of biological sciences, used computational molecular modeling techniques to investigate how the structure of myosin and its mutations respond differently to applied forces. She found new evidence that point mutations in myosin could have long-range effects on its structure as it uncoils, and these may be the basis for the disease. A May 2010 TAMS graduate, Wang is studying at Harvard University.


President's Note

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NSF CAREER award, Powe award, Fulbrights

News Briefs

NASA robots, emergency response, peace studies

Faculty Researchers

Experts in jazz, environmental ethics, information science, computational chemistry, education

Student Researchers

Studying heart defects, 3-D learning, cancer treatments, homelessness, aviation safety

Faculty Books

Architecture, radio, the Middle East

End Note

Expanding research activity

Web page last updated or revised: January 11, 2011
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